Let children read the books they love ~ Neil Gaiman

I read this article in 2013 in The Guardian newspaper, it was written by Mark Brown their Arts Correspondent, and thought that it would be an interesting read to get this year off to a start.  Enjoy.

bookworm

Neil Gaiman believes well-meaning adults can destroy a child’s love of reading by giving them ‘worthy-but-dull books’.

Children should be allowed to read whatever they enjoy, the author Neil Gaiman has said as he warned that well-meaning adults could destroy a child’s love of reading for ever.

Gaiman was delivering a lecture on Monday night about the future of books, reading and libraries to an audience of arts and literary figures. In a wide-ranging speech he said the rise of ebooks did not mean the end for physical books and made an impassioned plea to stop library closures.
Gaiman, who has written books for children and adults, warned of the dangers of trying to dictate what children read at the second annual Reading Agency lecture, inaugurated last year by Jeanette Winterson.

He said: “I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book for children.” Every now and again there was a fashion for saying that Enid Blyton or RL Stine was a bad author or that comics fostered illiteracy. “It’s tosh. It’s snobbery and it’s foolishness.”

He added: “Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading. Stop them reading what they enjoy or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like – the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian ‘improving’ literature – you’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and, worse, unpleasant.”

Gaiman revealed that he too had been guilty, once telling his 11-year-old daughter that if she loved Stine’s horror books, she would absolutely adore Stephen King’s Carrie: “Holly read nothing but safe stories of settlers on prairies for the rest of her teenage years and still glares at me when Stephen King’s name is mentioned.”

Gaiman said physical books were here to stay. He recalled a conversation with Douglas Adams more than 20 years ago in which Adams said a real book was like a shark. “Sharks are old, there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs and the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar operated, feel good in your hand – they are good at being books and there will always be a place for them.

Earlier Gaiman said most of the publishing industry was trying to figure out what is going to happen in five or 10 years. “None of them know. All of the rules have changed … they are just making it up as they go along.”

Gaiman said reading fiction was one of the most important things people can do and he was passionate in his defence of libraries, the closure of which was stealing from the future, he said. “It is the equivalent of stopping vaccination programmes. We know what the results are. In order to remain a global power, in order to have a citizenry that is fulfilled and fulfilling their responsibilities and obligations, we need to have literate kids.”

Mark Brown

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Skating the Shaker Ponds ~ Dudley Laufman

Skating the Shaker POnds

Skating the Shaker Ponds

You know the Shakers have six ponds in the woods,
All within walking distance of each other
and from us as well,
Not to mention a seventh, mile and a half below.
All connected by ditches.

One day in December some time ago
before the snow came,
We had a spell of cold weather.
Mercury dropped to ten scratches
Beneath the hole for three nights running.
Morning of the fourth day
Snow was predicted by nightfall,
Fact was, the sky was yellow gray by eleven.
Gonna skate, gotta do it now.

Through the woods up to the North Pond.
Long and narrow, Glimmerglass smooth.
We skated the length in two minutes,
Off with skates and through some bony marsh
Onto Runaway, the largest of the seven
with an island to go around twice, then
Race down the middle to the dam.
Skates off and over a trail to the earth dam
east end of Fountain, putting in,
Skirting the shore to the spillway end.
Boots on and along the pine needled
woods road to the
Cluster of three ponds below the Village.

Snow starting.

Around the top one quick, then
Tip toe on skate points to the middle pond
where the swan lives year round now.
Over the dam dropping right onto the lower pond,
Skating into a snow swirl that skimmed the ice,
starting to stick to the shore.
We called it quits.

Inch of snow on the ground by the time we got home.
We buttered up hot rum and maple syrup
Sprinkled with cinnamon, sat by the stove saying,
We should do that again, take in Carding Mill too.

But we never have.
That was twenty years ago.

Dudley Laufman

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In our house it’s called chocolate season…

christmas7

With Halloween fast approaching, for many this marks the beginning of the Holiday season so I thought I would take the time to let everyone know of the posting schedule between now and the New Year.

The real changes are aimed more at November and December as there are no Family commitments that need to be fulfilled in October; with that said here are the posting schedules for those two months.

November:
There will be no, or at the very least only one posting during the week of 24th to the 30th of this month, as it is Thanksgiving and I know you would all rather be preparing for the feast, and out tackling Black Friday than sat reading a blog.

December:
Between the 22nd of this month and the 1st of January there will be only two posts made; one on Christmas Eve and the other on New Year’s Eve.  Again this is to enable us all to enjoy our Holidays with our Families if they are near, or just relaxing and doing our own thing if, as in my case, they are thousands of miles away.

I ask one thing of you all over the Holidays, and all it requires is a few moments; as you are enjoying your festivities please spare a thought for those who are not as blessed as we all are and who, for whatever reason, cannot participate in things we tend to take for granted.

Thank you all for your continued support and, as usual if you have any constructive criticism or suggestions for the blog, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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Love Poem for Wednesday ~ Sandra Beasley

hearttoast4

Love Poem for Wednesday

You’re the day after Tuesday, before eternity.
You’re the day we ran out of tomatoes
and used tiny packets of ketchup instead.

You are salt, no salt, too much salt, a hangover.
You hold the breath of an abandoned cave.
Sometimes you surprise me with your

aurora borealis and I’ll pull over to watch you;
I’ll wait in the dark shivering fields of you.
But mostly, not. My students don’t care for you

or your lessons from the life of a minor god.
Can you hit the high C in our anthem?
Can you bench press a national disaster?

I fear for you, Wednesday. Your papers
are never in order. Your boots track in mud.
You’re the day I realized I didn’t even like him,

and the day I still said yes, yes, yes.
Sometimes I think you and I should elope,
and leave this house of cards to shuffle itself.

You are love, no love, too much love, a cuckold.
You are the loneliest of the three bears, hoping
to come home and find someone in your bed.

Sandra Beasley

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Rory Gilmore ~ The First Thirty

rory gilmoreWhile browsing the internet with my coffee this morning I happened to come across a website bookreviews.me.uk, and was intrigued by a reading challenge the writer of the site was undertaking, The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge, which encompasses some 339 books.  After doing some more searching, I also found out that this is rather a popular challenge so I thought I would put it out there and see how many books on the following list people have read.

I have to admit that I have never seen an episode of The Gilmore Girls; I have no clue who Rory Gilmore is, but I can say it’s a pleasure to hear of such a bookish person being featured in, what I can only assume, is a popular programme.  Going through the list I have marked those books I have read, whether or not they are reviewed on this site, and am going to try and get through some more of them as there appears to be some very interesting books on the list.  Because there are so many books, I’m only going feature the first thirty in this post, and will add the remainder over the coming weeks.  The list is composed of some of the best traditional and modern classics out there in my opinion, so hopefully everyone can find a few they would enjoy reading to fill the upcoming winter months.

Books-to-the-Ceiling-illustration-Arnold-Lobel-Whiskers-Rhymes

1984 ~ George Orwell (read)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ~ Mark Twain (read)
Alice in Wonderland ~ Lewis Carroll (read)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay ~ Michael Chabon
An American Tragedy ~ Theodore Dreiser
Angela’s Ashes ~ Frank McCourt (read)
Anna Karenina ~ Leo Tolstoy
The Diary of a Young Girl ~ Anne Frank (read)
The Archidamian War ~ Donald Kagan
The Art of Fiction ~ Henry James
The Art of War ~ Sun Tzu (read)
As I Lay Dying ~ William Faulkner
Atonement ~ Ian McEwan (read)
Autobiography of a Face ~ Lucy Grealy
The Awakening ~ Kate Chopin
Babe ~ Dick King-Smith
Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women ~ Susan Faludi
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress ~ Dai Sijie
Bel Canto ~ Ann Patchett
The Bell Jar ~ Sylvia Plath (read)
Beloved ~ Toni Morrison
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation ~ Seamus Heaney (read)
The Bhagava Gita
The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews ~ Peter Duffy
Bitch in Praise of Difficult Women ~ Elizabeth Wurtzel
A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays ~ Mary McCarthy
Brave New World ~ Aldous Huxley (read)
Brick Lane ~ Monica Ali
Bridgadoon ~ Alan Jay Lerner
Candide ~ Voltaire

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‘Sit back and relax’

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
― Douglas Adams

 

writers almanacIt has been a while since I turned over the page to Garrison Keillor so, as a change, and as I think it  may interest people, I am going to hand over to those who actually know what they are about.  Today, Friday August 22, 2014, I am turning my blog over to “The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor”.  For those of you reading who may not be familiar with this website, it contains daily poems, prose, and literary history from Garrison Keillor, and other Authors.  Not only do these great folks keep this website full of wonderful tidbits, they also produce a podcast for us to listen to as we go about our day.  So, without further ado, take it away “The Writer’s Almanac”:

“You’re the Top
by Tony Hoagland

Of all the people that I’ve ever known
I think my grandmother Bernice
would be best qualified to be beside me now

driving north of Boston in a rented car
while Cole Porter warbles on the radio;
Only she would be trivial and un-

politically correct enough to totally enjoy
the rhyming of Mahatma Ghandi
with Napoleon brandy;

and she would understand, from 1948,
the miracle that once was cellophane,
which Porter rhymes with night in Spain.

She loved that image of the high gay life
where people dressed by servants
turned every night into the Ritz:

dancing through a shower of just
uncorked champagne
into the shelter of a dry martini.

When she was 70 and I was young
I hated how a life of privilege
had kept her ignorance intact

about the world beneath her pretty feet,
how she believed that people with good manners
naturally had yachts, knew how to waltz

and dribbled French into their sentences
like salad dressing. My liberal adolescent rage
was like a righteous fist back then

that wouldn’t let me rest,
but I’ve come far enough from who I was
to see her as she saw herself:

a tipsy debutante in 1938,
kicking off a party with her shoes;
launching the lipstick-red high heel
from her elegant big toe

into the orbit of a chandelier
suspended in a lyric by Cole Porter,
bright and beautiful and useless.

“You’re the Top” by Tony Hoagland, from Sweet Ruin. © The University of Wisconsin Press, 1992.   Reprinted with permission.

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On this date in 1864, 12 European nations signed the First Geneva Convention, marking the beginning of the international humanitarian law movement. The convention was initiated by Henri Dunant, the founder of the International Committee for the Relief of the Wounded, which would later become the International Committee of the Red Cross. He had been horrified by the carnage he witnessed during the war for the unification of Italy, especially the Battle of Solferino (1859), which resulted in 40,000 casualties, many of whom were just left to die on the battlefield. Switzerland agreed to host the convention for the “Amelioration of the Wounded in the Time of War.” The First Convention concerned itself mostly with setting ground rules to establish fair treatment of combatants, the obligation to treat sick and wounded regardless of what side they were on, and the protection of medical personnel, vehicles, and equipment. Subsequent conventions extended protection to prisoners of war, shipwreck survivors, and civilians during wartime.

Twelve nations attended the First Geneva Convention and signed the treaty on August 22; it was ratified by all the major European powers within three years. Clara Barton, a nurse in the American Civil War, led the drive for ratification in the United States; it eventually passed in 1882.

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It’s the birthday of Annie Proulx, born Edna Annie Proulx in Norwich, Connecticut (1935). As a young woman, she lived in Vermont, published a small newspaper, and supported herself writing how-to books about things like apple cider and fence-building. Some of her early stories were about hunting and fishing, since she was passionate about those pursuits; the only outlet for them was men’s outdoor magazines, though, and the editors made her publish them as E.A. Proulx, believing men wouldn’t read them if they knew a woman had written them. “The ones who suggested it were from a small Vermont publication,” she told Paris Review, “and I got back this awful letter, full of bad spelling and clumsy syntax, suggesting that I should change my name to initials. Very tiresome.” She put up with it for a while, but then started writing as “E. Annie” and then “Annie.”

Her freelance writing jobs taught her how to research almost anything, and she has since made a career writing fiction based on her extensive research. To write her first novelPostcards (1992), she traveled back and forth across America, stopping in all the places where her homeless main character worked and lived. After she finished that novel, she stumbled upon a map of Newfoundland. She said, “Each place-name had a story — Dead Man’s Cove, Seldom Come Bay and Bay of Despair, Exploits River, Plunder Beach. I knew I had to go there, and within 10 minutes of arriving, I’d fallen in love.” She explored the island, examined maps, and went to bed every night with a Newfoundland vernacular dictionary. The result was her novel The Shipping News (1993), which became a best-seller and won the Pulitzer Prize.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Host: Garrison Keillor
Technical Director: Thomas Scheuzger
Engineer: Noah Smith
Producer: Joy Biles
Permissions: Kathy Roach
Web Producer: Ben Miller”

Guest Article: How To Play Fantasy Football, Only With Authors ~ Greg Zimmerman

Greg Zimmerman

Greg Zimmerman

I came across this article by Greg Zimmerman from The New Dork Review of Books and thought is was just the sort of thing I needed to share with those who might not otherwise see it.  I’m not sure if I could rustle up enough friends to actually play this, but it’s not going to stop me trying.  This article first appeared on Book Riot on July 30th, 2014.

“Very soon, all over the country, in suites at the Bellagio, party rooms at Hooter’s, and your mom’s basement, groups of nerds will gather for a sacred annual autumn ritual: the fantasy football draft.

But what if you could play fantasy “sports” with something less concussion-causing? Like, for instance, books!? Gather your friends, because now you you can! What follows is an outline for a fantasy authors game that promises to be both fun and infuriating — just like real fantasy football (oxymoron alert!). Of course, you can tweak this general outline however you want. Let’s get to it!

Drafting: Your league should consist of you and your seven other biggest book dorkiest friends. (So that’s 8, right? Right.) To begin, draw straws, role dice, compare your moms’ ages, or employ some other system for determining draft order. Then, take turns picking authors in that order from each of the eight groups below. Your team must have one author from each group (similar to fantasy football where you can only start one QB, two RBs, etc.) Keep in mind, you don’t have draft in the same sequence as the categories. For instance, the player with the first pick is well within his/her rights to select David Mitchell from Group C (or Stephenie Meyer from Group H, or whatever hell s/he wants to do), but s/he cannot select any other authors from Group C for the rest of the draft. Continue taking turns drafting until all authors have been selected. There are 64 authors listed, and so if you play with eight teams, that’ll mean each team consists of eight authors — again, one from each group. (We may be bookish folk here at the Riot, but if pressed, we can hold our own in the maths.)


Group A — The Rookies: 2014 Debuts
Group B — The Wizened Veterans
Edan Lepucki John Irving
Stephan Eirik Clark Philip Roth
Andy Weir Toni Morrison
Roxane Gay Cormac McCarthy
Mira Jacob Alice Munro
Alena Graedon James Salter
Tiphanie Yanique Joyce Carol Oates
Anthony Breznican Alice Walker

Group C — Future Hall of Famers Group D — Hipster Delights (“Cool” before they were cool) Group E — Foreign Fantastics (writers in translation)
Jhumpa Lahiri Dave Eggers Haruki Murakami
Jonathan Franzen Zadie Smith Amy Yamada
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Emily Gould Paulo Coelho
David Mitchell Lydia Netzer Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Donna Tartt Joshua Ferris Kyung-sook Shin
Marilynne Robinson Teju Cole Herta Müller
Richard Russo Cheryl Strayed Orhan Pamuk
Neil Gaiman Jonathan Safran Foer Amos Oz

Group F — Young Adult Adults Group G — Genre Gigantics Group H — Series Heavyweights
Rainbow Rowell Stephen King George R.R. Martin
John Green James Patterson J.K. Rowling (Robert Galbraith)
Sarah Dessen Janet Evanovich Diana Gabaldon
Marcus Zusak Catherine Coulter Daniel Silva
Gayle Forman Danielle Steele Stephenie Meyer
Veronica Roth Nora Roberts Nelson DeMille
Stephen Chbosky Dan Brown Meg Cabot
Rick Riordan Brad Thor W.E.B. Griffin

Rules for Scoring: Agree on a firm start and stop time for the game — may we suggest, totally arbitrarily, August 1st through May 31st, 2015. Scoring is based on the system below — when an author on your team fits one of the descriptions, you get the designated number of points. As in real fantasy football, draft players whose situations fit best with the scoring system. Do research. Some of these events/things we know will happen. Most we don’t. Some are longshots (more points awarded for these), some may happen weekly. So draft wisely. (Also, add your own ways to score points. These are merely suggestions.)

All judgment calls (i.e., the exact definition of “major”, is this really a feud?, etc.) are left to the discretion of the league commissioner. (You designated a league commissioner, didn’t you?) So, without further adieu, here’s how to score:

Productivity

  1. Publishes a novel — 10 points
  2. Blurbs another author’s novel — 2 points
  3. Publishes/produces other major work (non-fiction, screenplay, poetry, etc.) — 5 points
  4. Appears in another author’s book trailer — 3 points
  5. Novel adapted to movie — 8 points
    1. 10 bonus points if author cameos in movie based on his/her own novel
    2. 10 bonus points if movie wins Academy Award (any)
  6. Novel adapted to small screen — miniseries or made-for-TV movie — 5 points
  7. Publishes book review in major online or print periodical — 5 points
  8. Publishes essay, article, or other journalism in major online or print periodical — 3 points
    1. 5 bonus points if article complains about a mainstream technology like ebooks or Twitter
    2. 5 bonus points if article is about the death of the novel/reading
  9. Performs commencement speech at university graduation —10 points
  10. Announces retirement from writing — 10 points
  11. Announces unretirement from writing — 15 points

Media, Awards, and Appearances

  1. Appears on Talk/Comedy/Variety Show (eg, The View, Colbert, etc.) — 15 points
  2. Appears in interview or as subject of short expository piece on news/morning show (eg. Today, CNN, etc.) — 10 points
  3. Appears as subject in profile piece in major online or print periodical — 10 points
  4. Appears in interview on major radio show or podcast (eg. NPR Books, etc.) — 5 points
  5. Appears in a photo with you from reading or other event, like BEA — 15 points
  6. Wins major literary award — National Book Award, Pulitzer, NBCC, or Booker — 15 points
  7. Wins Nobel Prize for Literature — 25 points
  8. Appears on year-end NY Times 100 Notable Books list — 5 points
    1. 5 points bonus if it’s in the “10 best” list
  9. Photographed in celeb rag like US Weekly or People — 10 points
  10. Author donates large amount of money to charity — 5 points
    1. 5 bonus points if that charity supports literacy
  11. Throws out first pitch, does honorary coin flip (etc.) to start a sporting event — 15 points
  12. Author’s novel selected for Oprah’s Book Club — 10 points
  13. Author opens bookstore — 20 points

 Feuds, Disruptions, and Ruckuses

  1. Purposefully begins a verifiable feud with another writer, via social media, the press, or other means — 15 points.
  2. Arrested for any reason — 20 points.
  3. Develops publicly acknowledged alcohol/drug addiction — 15 points
  4. Enters treatment – 5 points
  5. Author’s novel is ridiculously banned from a school for ridiculous reasons — 15 points
  6. Becomes embroiled in a plagiarism lawsuit for someone allegedly stealing his/her own material — 20 points
  7. Becomes embroiled in a plagiarism lawsuit for allegedly stealing someone else’s material — 10 points
  8. Becomes embroiled in a memoir scandal in which facts purported to be real life are shown to be inventions – 10 points.
  9. Publicly decries (in any form) Amazon — 5 points
  10. Dates a movie star or other celebrity — 10 points
  11. Fatwa issued against author — 30 points

 Death

  1. Dies — 25 points”

Greg Zimmerman is a contributing editor for Book Riot. He blogs about contemporary literary fiction at The New Dork Review of Books and holds down a full-time gig as a trade magazine editor. Follow him on Twitter: @NewDorkReview

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Monday Mornings ~ Claire Howes

happy-monday

Monday Mornings

Every day is the same; they wake up in the same bed, at the same ungodly hour, to the same monotonous ringing from the alarm clock.

They grumble their ‘good morning’s; whether they believe it is or not, rolling out of opposite sides of the duvet.

They dance around each other in the bathroom, the heat of the shower creating a fog through which neither of them can see; causing him to stub his toe on the toilet or the counter, and steaming up the mirror so she can’t apply her make-up.

They continue their ritual into the kitchen; flicking on the kettle, popping in the bread, pouring the orange juice; stirring the tea, catching the toast and spreading the butter and jam. Crunching and slurping together at the table, mumbling about what their days have in store; tapping texts on their phones, crinkling newspaper in their hands.

They peck each other a kiss goodbye and mutter a ‘see you later’ before going their separate ways.

But then Monday comes…

Mondays are different.

He knows she doesn’t like Monday mornings. It’s the very beginning of a new, long, tiring week. She never looks forward to Mondays.

So he changes that.

He sets the alarm on his watch a little earlier than other days; shutting it off before it can wake her.

He slips silently out of bed and tiptoes quietly into the bathroom to shower; leaving her smiley faces and love messages on the steamy mirrors.

He creates her favourite tea and makes her toast with raspberry jam; just the way she likes it. Picking a flower from the garden; whichever one looks the happiest and brightest, he places it all on a tray and pads back up to the bedroom to wake her.

She no longer sets her alarm on Mondays. She knows he’ll not let her oversleep.

He places the flower in her hair and drops delicate kisses; full of his love and affection for her, to the corner of her mouth, until she stirs gently.

She smiles on Monday mornings.

They eat breakfast in bed, covering the sheets in crumbs and giggling contentedly as the cat licks them up.

She hums in the bathroom while he clears away crockery, and always re-emerges with the flower tucked behind her ear.

It remains there ‘til night fall.

They never once look at their phones or the paper, far too focused on each other to pay anything else mind.

Their kiss as they part reminds them of their love for each other and of the good things in life; like strolls along the shore, strawberries dipped in dark chocolate, smiling sunflowers that open to a beautiful summer’s day, and of course, Monday mornings.

Claire Howes

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eBooks have lovers too.

Book fight
The continuing debate over which is better, the eBook or the good old-fashioned print copy (and I know most people who read my postings know where I stand in this argument), continues without any sign of letting up.

 To show I’m not 100% on the side of the “lets smash all eReaders” group, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what the reading public in the states I’ve covered so far in my ‘A Book from every State of the Union’ Reading Challenge are downloading to their electronic devices.  I’ve included WI as I am currently reading this, and the review will be posted within the next week.

Hawaii: 

The devil's StarTitle – The Devil’s Star: A Novel
Author – Jo Nesbø
ASIN: – B006IY9FEY

Description – A young woman is murdered in her Oslo flat. One finger has been severed from her left hand, and behind her eyelid is secreted a tiny red diamond in the shape of a five-pointed star – a pentagram, the devil’s star.

Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case with his long-time adversary Tom Waaler and initially wants no part in it. But Harry is already on notice to quit the force and is left with little alternative but to drag himself out of his alcoholic stupor and get to work.

A wave of similar murders is on the horizon. An emerging pattern suggests that Oslo has a serial killer on its hands, and the five-pointed devil’s star is key to solving the riddle.

 Illinois:

American GodsTitle – American Gods
Author – Neil Gaiman
ASIN: – B004YW4L5K

Description – Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.

Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.

Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, AMERICAN GODS takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You’ll be surprised by what and who it finds there…

Minnesota:

Labor dayTitle – Labor Day
Author – Joyce Maynard
ASIN: – B002HPRBZS

Description – With the end of summer closing in and a steamy Labor Day weekend looming in the town of Holton Mills, New Hampshire, thirteen-year-old Henry—lonely, friendless, not too good at sports—spends most of his time watching television, reading, and daydreaming about the soft skin and budding bodies of his female classmates. For company Henry has his long-divorced mother, Adele—a onetime dancer whose summer project was to teach him how to foxtrot; his hamster, Joe; and awkward Saturday-night outings to Friendly’s with his estranged father and new stepfamily. As much as he tries, Henry knows that even with his jokes and his “Husband for a Day” coupon, he still can’t make his emotionally fragile mother happy. Adele has a secret that makes it hard for her to leave their house, and seems to possess an irreparably broken heart.

But all that changes on the Thursday before Labor Day, when a mysterious bleeding man named Frank approaches Henry and asks for a hand. Over the next five days, Henry will learn some of life’s most valuable lessons: how to throw a baseball, the secret to perfect piecrust, the breathless pain of jealousy, the power of betrayal, and the importance of putting others—especially those we love—above ourselves. And the knowledge that real love is worth waiting for.

New York:

The BedwetterTitle – The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee
Author – Sarah Silverman
ASIN: – B003F1WMAW

Description – From the outrageously filthy and oddly innocent comedienne Sarah Silverman comes a memoir—her first book—that is at once shockingly personal, surprisingly poignant, and still pee-in-your-pants funny. If you like Sarah’s television show The Sarah Silverman Program, or memoirs such as Chelsea Handler’s Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea and Artie Lange’s Too Fat to Fish, you’ll love The Bedwetter.

Tennessee:

I hope they serve beerTitle – I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
Author – Tucker Max
ASIN: – B002MBD5V6

Description – My name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole. I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead. But, I do contribute to humanity in one very important way: I share my adventures with the world. —from the Introduction.

Wisconsin:

NeverwhereTitle – Neverwhere
Author – Neil Gaiman
ASIN: – B000FC130E

Description – Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

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‘Take it away Mr. Keillor’

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
~Thomas Mann

writers almanacIt has been a few months since I turned over the post of the day to someone else, but today, Wednesday January 22 2014, I am turning my blog over to “The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor”.  For those of you reading who may not be familiar with this web site, or have not read the previous post in August last year, it contains daily poems, prose, and literary history from Garrison Keillor, and other Authors.  Not only do these great folks keep this website full of wonderful tidbits, they also produce a podcast for us to listen to as we go about our day.  So, without further ado, take it away “The Writer’s Almanac”:

“It is Enough”
by Anne Alexander Bingham

To know that the atoms
of my body
will remain

to think of them rising
through the roots of a great oak
to live in
leaves, branches, twigs

perhaps to feed the
crimson peony
the blue iris
the broccoli

or rest on water
freeze and thaw
with the seasons

some atoms might become a
bit of fluff on the wing
of a chickadee
to feel the breeze
know the support of air

and some might drift
up and up into space
star dust returning from

whence it came
it is enough to know that
as long as there is a universe
I am a part of it.

“It Is Enough” by Anne Alexander Bingham. Reprinted with permission of the family.

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It was on this day in 1938 that Thornton Wilder‘s play Our Town was premiered at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. Our Town is about the fictional town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. In the first act, Emily Webb and George Gibbs are children together; in the second act, they marry; in the third, Emily has died in childbirth and is looking back from beyond the grave with other dead citizens of Grover’s Corners, and she decides to revisit the happiest day of her life, her 12th birthday.

Wilder had trouble writing the third act, but when he finally found inspiration, it came fast. He was in Zurich, entertaining a friend (and probably lover) named Samuel Steward. Steward wrote later: “He insisted we stay up until dawn to hear the bells of Zurich as Max Beerbohm has described them. That was in my drinking days and I kept going into every café we passed. My feet were getting wet and so was I, and I kept hollering for an umbrella. When daylight came I went home to dry out and fell into bed and slept all day, but Thornton went to his hotel and wrote the last act of Our Town,which begins with the graveyard scene with the umbrellas. He confessed later that he had ‘struck a match on me,’ and that the graveyard umbrella scene came from my complaining about my walk in the wet.”

Our Town was revolutionary for its time because Wilder decided not to use any scenery and almost no props. He thought that they got in the way of seeing the play as truly universal, and he wanted his play to be more like the great Greek tragedies. So he got rid of the excess visuals and he added the group of the dead people of Grover’s Corners, who commented much like a Greek chorus.

From Princeton, the play moved to Boston, where it was a flop. The Boston critics gave it poor reviews, it played to half-empty houses, and some audience members — including the wife of the governor of Massachusetts — walked out. But two New York theater critics, Brooks Atkinson and Alexander Wolcott, convinced the director and producer to give it another try and bring the show to New York. It did much better there, although some people found it inspiring and others depressing. But Our Town won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize for drama, and it is now estimated that, on average, Our Town is performed at least once every night somewhere in the world.

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Today is the birthday of Sir Francis Bacon (1561) . He was born in London, and he was, among other things, a philosopher, a statesman, an essayist, and a champion of modern science. He was born into a family with connections at court, but he criticized Queen Elizabeth’s tax levy and fell out of favor. When Elizabeth was succeeded by James I, Bacon’s career got back on track, and in 1618, he was named the Lord Chancellor. His glory was short-lived; he was convicted of accepting bribes in 1621, and banned from political office for the rest of his life.

He spent much of his intellectual life challenging Aristotle’s view that knowledge should begin with universal truths. He said, “If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.” InNovum Organum (1620), Bacon wrote that scholars should build their knowledge of the world from specific, observable details. His theory is now known as the scientific method, and is the basis of all experimental science.

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It’s the birthday of the man who founded the science of electrodynamics:André-Marie Ampère, born in Lyon, France (1775). Ampère didn’t have much in the way of formal schooling, but he was given free rein of his father’s large collection of books. Some say that Ampère was a math genius from the time he was young, working out complex mathematical formulas with crumbs of bread. When he was 13, he wrote and submitted his first mathematical paper, but it was turned down because he didn’t understand the principles of calculus. He immediately arranged to study calculus with a local monk. He loved it, and wrote that he was “animated with a new ardor.”

These were the years of the French Revolution, and when Ampère was 17, his father was arrested and guillotined. Ampère was so upset that for a couple of years he gave up studying mathematics. He came out of his depression when he fell in love with a woman named Julie. He wrote about a walk with Julie and two companions: “I sat on the grass beside her and ate some cherries that had been at her lips. All four of us were in the large garden when she accepted a lily from my hand. We then went to see the stream; I gave her my hand to jump over the little wall and both hands to climb up again. […] I sat again beside her as we four observed the sunset which gilded her clothes with a charming light.”

Ampère was not the most dazzling suitor; he wore unfashionable clothes, he was socially awkward, and his teeth were crooked. But he continued to woo Julie with constant attention and love poems. They were married in 1799 and soon had a son. Ampère was offered a job teaching mathematics at a school in a town 40 miles away, but just before he moved, Julie became sick, and he had to leave his wife and son behind in Lyon. He was able to move back after a year, but Julie died soon after, and he was once again miserable. He moved to Paris, but he didn’t fit in there and he missed his friends in Lyon. Feeling desperate, he quickly remarried, to a woman who married him for his money and stopped speaking to him after a few months; this marriage ended, leaving Ampère with custody of a newborn daughter.

Despite his rocky personal life, Ampère continued to make major contributions to mathematics, chemistry, and physics. He produced work on partial differential equations, discovered the chemical element fluorine, and wrote about the wave theory of light. In September of 1820, he attended a lecture about the findings of a Danish physicist, who had accidentally discovered that a magnetic needle was deflected when it was placed next to an electric current. Ampère was fascinated, and less than two years later, Ampère gave a speech on his theory of electromagnetism. He devoted the rest of his career to the subject. One of his great strengths was that he had the mathematical knowledge for the theoretical side as well as the scientific knowledge for the experimental side. His most important discovery, named Ampère’s Law, was a mathematical formula that could determine the relationship between the magnetism operating around a closed loop and the electrical current passing through that same loop.

In his final years, Ampère continued to teach, and he published his Memoir on the Mathematical Theory of Electrodynamic Phenomena, Uniquely Deduced from Experience (1827). It was in this work that he coined the word electrodynamics. His personal problems continued — he lived with his son, but the men were too similar, both with the tendency to suffer in silence and then explode into anger. This arrangement worsened when his daughter moved in with her abusive, alcoholic husband, a lieutenant in Napoleon’s army who frequently got drunk and terrorized the family with his extensive collection of weapons.

Ampère died at the age of 61. His is one of 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower, under the first balcony. The ampere — the unit of measurement for electrical current — is named after him.

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Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Host: Garrison Keillor
Technical Director: Thomas Scheuzger
Engineer: Noah Smith
Producer: Joy Biles
Permissions: Kathy Roach
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