Monday, December 14, 2015

"Would you like anything to read?"

"Where's the fire?
Fire engine menorah arriving on the scene."

~ Michael Lipsey ~
I love everything about this picture
of my friend Michael's favorite menorah,
right down to the reflection of the row of flames,
along the edge of the counter top -- what a great touch!

But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house and Mr. Prothero got out just in time before they turned it on. Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim's Aunt, Miss Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said: "Would you like anything to read?"
from A Child's Christmas in Wales
by Dylan Thomas


If you'd like something to read amidst all the year - end household chaos, or if you're simply looking for some good holiday gifts, here are a few ideas from my recent reading, giving, and receiving:

1.Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir

& What I Hate: From A to Z

both by Roz Chast

A Brush with Greatness! Marguerite writes:
"Roz Chast signing your book. She signed your copy first!"

Can you imagine my surprise when I received the very book you see in this photo, totally unaware that Marguerite had been to a recent Roz Chast lecture, or met her afterward, or purchased a copy of Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant for me, or had it autographed -- none of that!

I have been a Roz Chast fan since forever (1980 or so)! Last year, she visited Purdue, but at a time when I was out of town. Regretfully, I felt that I had missed the chance of a lifetime -- until the moment when I discovered in my mailbox not only her latest book but her autograph!

I was overwhelmed, star - struck, and tear - struck by the kindness and generosity of this amazing present, and I had to sit right down, right then and there, and read Chast's memoir and every cartoon from cover to cover -- and then immediately order another copy to send to another friend, who I just knew would love it as much as Marguerite and I did. It's a most timely text for anyone dealing with the unpleasant realities of aging and parental issues -- which, these days, is practically every one I know, even my own dear children!

I couldn't be more thrilled that Marguerite got to meet and visit with Roz. Nor can I imagine that any gift I receive this season is going to top my very own autographed copy of Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant! Thanks again, Marguerite!

Update ~ October 2017
Great interview with Roz Chast!
And Epilogue ~ July 25, 2016

Upon re-reading recently, I was reminded of
many similarities between her situation and mine,
even though Brooklyn is so far away from rural Kansas.

Particularly this:
"From 1990 to 2001, I had not set foot in Brooklyn ONCE"
[for me it was 1991 - 2007].

Then she talks about
"the Brooklyn of people who have been left behind
by everything and everyone"

-- just like small - town mid - America!

"If you pick up a sponge and start cleaning
it will not necessarily be perceived as helpful"
as I learned the hard way a couple of years ago!

And so forth! Such a great book!

2. The Notebooks of Lazarus Long
by Robert A. Heinlein

My oldest brother Dave and I have been Heinlein fans from way back, but I didn't know about this beautifully illustrated / illuminated gift book until just a couple of months ago when Dave passed his copy on to our brother Bruce. I took an introspective hour to read through and admire it and knew that I would be ordering more copies to share with like minds.

3. Franzlations [the imaginary Kafka parables]
by Gary Barwin and Craig Conley

The perfect gift for anyone who loves Kafka, especially the parables.

A few of my favorite franzlations:

"There are more stories than could be read in a single lifetime. And even if you, dear reader, began reading, by the time you read even a fraction of them, the meanings of the previous stories would have changed. . . . Now all we need to create is more time, more memory, and a few more infinite readers like you." (57)

"Everyone carries a TRAIN about inside of him. Sitting across the table from someone, when all is quiet, sometimes you can hear the whistle blow."

"We were SNAKES. Around us the jungle sighed. A woman offered us fruit. We ate and knew that we were not naked, nor human. She and her companion left. We remained."

"'We are old friends,' I said. 'We do not need a destination.' . . . 'The journey is so long that I must go hungry. No provisions can help me. It is, fortunately, a terribly long journey.'" (44, 62)

"If you were walking across a barren plain and had an honest intention of walking on, then it would be a desperate matter, but you are flying, gliding and diving, SOARING and swooping, high above the plain, which, seen from above, is a tiny blot on a vast and various landscape." (85)

4. A Cat's Little Instruction Book
by Leigh W. Rutledge

Plenty of great advice, for cats -- and humans!

Thanks Megan!

5. Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors
[for little kids]

& What The Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings
[for medium kids]

both by poet Joyce Sidman & illustrator Pamela Zagarenski

"But we still believe in the power of the words themselves. . . .
Finding phrases to match the emotion inside us still brings
an explosive, soaring joy

"See how many other hearts are burning,
burning as brightly as yours."
"When Death Comes"

6. Christmas on Jane Street: A True Story
by Billy Romp

Rural, urban, and seasonal!

7. The Flair Annual 1953
by Fleur Cowles ~ Editor

Those with a true flair for giving and receiving, might like to peruse this fabulous book given to me last summer by my friend Nikki:

For more on these last two titles,
see my current Fortnightly Blog: "A Story About a Tree"