"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Salon from Whistler

Weather in Whistler: HOT. The time-share where we are staying is very warm, too. The unit is built for cold weather, not hot.

Over and out. For four days this past week I made my way to the library to finish up and fulfill my added contract hours before I was willing to say I was fully retired. On Thursday I spent four hours with the new librarian going over everything I could think she'd need to know to make her start-up as easy as possible. I am pretty sure all I accomplished was scaring her to death. Right before I locked up the library for the last time I took a telephone call from an angry parent about a fine. And when I say angry, I mean off-the-charts angry. As I reflected on it later, I couldn't believe that my last parental interaction was so awful, one of the worst I've ever encountered in my 37 years of teaching. I think there was a subliminal message in it probably. Something like, "this is one of the reasons you are leaving." Sigh. Anyway, I made it. I cleaned up my spaces, turned in my keys and school credit card. I am done. Retired! Over and out.

Sunburned: On my first day (Friday) of full retirement, after an early morning dental appointment, I decided to lay in the sun for ten minutes, just to gt a little color on my cheeks. Instead, I fell asleep and when I awoke my head fortunately was in the shadows of a tree but not my feet. First day of retirement and I burned my feet. Oh brother.

Whistler: We just arrived at Whistler, BC for a week of happy vacationing and communing with nature. We love it here. The place is so gorgeous, surrounded by mountains and lakes, with bike trails, golf courses, and lots of things to do. Our eldest daughter is joining us for a few days. She just called after having her car battery die on the trip up, so she is a bit delayed.

Reading: I realized this week how deeply I was affected by my impending retirement the past month. A sort of malaise descended on me and I was just drained emotionally, crying at a drop in the hat. This really impacted my reading time. I just didn't have the attention span to read much more than a few poems at night before going to bed. This week the cloud of malaise lifted and I found my way back to books and was even able to finish a few of them.

  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor---a favorite author of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. This book is the first book in a new series set in a magical land of Gods and monsters and one really precious person, Strange the Dreamer. The book ends on a cliff-hanger so I don't recommend it until the second book of the duology is published. Audiobook.
  • Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin---another blogger recommended this book to me and it has been sitting on my bedside table literally all school year. I finally finished it in time to turn it in with my school laptop and iPad. I had to return everything. Finally I had the incentive to finish the book and enjoyed it quite a lot. I hope to review it soon. Print.
  • The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking---what makes Danes the happiest people on earth? Why hygge, of course. This book tells the reader all about it. Though the point was belabored I did enjoy it and the concept of making one's life and interactions more cozy and comfortable. Print.
Currently reading:
  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur---a book of poetic prose about sexual abuse and learning to love oneself. Very touching. 90% complete. Print.
  • The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez---I downloaded this book last summer as part of the free audiobook summer giveaway at SYNC Audiobooks. I am finally getting to it. 20% complete. Audiobook.
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead---This Pulitzer Prize winner came available on my library account so I had to jump or go back in the queue for another long wait to listen to it. Don and I started it today for our trip to Canada. 35%. Audiobook.
In my book bag as possible reads for the week. Now that I don't have an iPad, I am back to print or audio books only, no ebooks. I stuffed a laughable number of books in a bag this morning to see what fits my fancy this week:
  • The Four Things that Matter Most by Ira Byock, MD.---my mother just gave me and my siblings this book and wants us to read it. It really touched her.
  • A Girl Called Vincent by Krystyna Goddu--- a junior book about the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • American Street by Ibi Zoboi--- one of my student readers highly recommended this book to me. Thought I should honor her and read it.
  • Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre edited by Traci Chevalier--- I like reading short stories on vacation.
  • Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy---this coming month's book club selection.
  • The Dead Inside: a True Story by Cyndy Etler--- a new memoir about the horrors of the drug treatment program called Straight, Inc. I read these types of books with horrified fascination.
Go ahead and laugh. Even I didn't realize how many books I brought until I started listing them here.

I'm off to make spaghetti dinner, a vacation staple.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

The little of what? Hygge?

Yep, that is correct, hygge. In this little book by Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute of Copenhagen, we learn all about hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) and how it almost single-handedly makes Danes the happiest people on earth (or at least in Europe.) Hmm. I guess that is worth exploring. I don't necessarily need to be the happiest person on earth, but I could always bump up my happiness factor a few degrees. Couldn't you? With that thought in mind I purchased The Little Book of Hygge while I was exploring the bookstore in Cannon Beach, Oregon a few weeks ago.

To begin with Meik Wiking defines or rather explains what hygge is by using examples:
  • The art of creating intimacy
  • Coziness of the soul
  • The absence of annoyance
  • Creating an atmosphere and an experience
  • Being with people we love
  • Feeling safe, shielded from the cares of the world so we can let our guard down
  • It is NOT about things, though some things like fireplaces, candles, and certain types of lamps will increase the feeling of hygge
  • The word hygge originates from a Norwegian word meaning "well-being"
Throughout the book Wiking talks about the way that Danes work at creating spaces which are cozy, comfortable, and homey. They even do this is the corporate world where stores and shops will advertise that their space or product will increase hygge or it is hyggelig[t]. Danes use the word as both an adjective and as a verb. A person my exclaim, "Oh, what a hyggelig living room!" which translates to mean, what a nice, cozy space that is hygge-like, where we can be comfortable and talk. Or they may wonder if their guests hyggede (past tense) themselves after a party. Danes will also use hygge in compound words, like hyggespreder, a person who spreads hygge, or refer to a warm pair of wool socks as hyggesokker. It is all a bit confusing, really, but I can go with it. In fact, I think I am learning a bit of Danish along the way.

But since I do not live in Denmark, how do I increase my hygge here is America, and consequently my happiness? Wiking suggests that we can do it by creating cozy spaces with the use of candles, lighting, comfortable pillows and throws, and serving cake. We can host intimate dinner parties where the goal is to cook something delicious but slowly, and doing it as a group effort. The goal is to create comfort and intimacy. I can work on that.

Some parts of the book seemed more about Danish culture than anything else. Cutting out paper hearts, making a particular rice pudding, risalamande, and wearing woolen scarves don't seem as important as thinking about being welcoming, gentle, warm, and open. The Danes have just incorporated things from their culture into the concept of hygge and it works for them.

As I read the book I thought about how I could work on making my life more hygge and in fact without realizing it, I have already started. For example, now that Don and I live alone, we have started preparing dinner together. Instead of me whipping up something quickly before he gets home from work, I wait for him to get home so we can prepare the meal together. Last night, for example, we had a very hyggeligt experience of cutting up chicken and vegetables together. Then we marinated them while the BBQ got up to temperature. We made the meat and vegetables into shish kabobs to grill. The whole affair took us over an hour before we could eat but the experience of doing it together increased our appreciation of the final product. It was a hygge dinner. 

My daughter hosted a pizza party at her home in New York. Twenty five people came, which doesn't sound very cozy. But she did a very hyggeligt thing. She made the dough ahead of time, because it needed time to rise, but otherwise she had everyone create their own pizza from the ingredients they brought to share. Soon a large party of 25 people became a cozy affair of people interacting, and making good food together. That was a hyggeligtpizza-party! (I made that word up.)

Now about the book. Though I enjoyed reading it, I honestly thought I could have gotten the concept easily enough in a magazine article rather than a whole book. But the pictures, recipes, and examples did add to the hyggeligt experience of reading it. Come to think of it, I am glad I read it. Now who should I share the book with next? We need to spread word about hygge around so we can increase happiness in the world. I guess I am the newest hyggespreder.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer is my latest audiobook. And what a magical experience it was listening to this story set in a fantasy world by a favorite author, Lanai Taylor.

Oh excuse me for a minute while I address my daughter.

Carly, don't even think about reading this book, Yet. It is the first book in a duology and it ends on a cliff-hanger to beat all cliff-hangers. I'll tell you when it is safe to start the series, once the last book in it has been published. You would be so mad at me if I allowed you to pick up this marvelous book knowing how it ends (or doesn't end, as it were.)

There, now I am back.  If you happened to read my admonition to my daughter, you will have noted that Strange the Dreamer is the first book in a new series. There is tremendous world-building, colorful (literally) characters, unique plots and twists, and a love story, to boot. The only problem--- it ends on a cliff-hanger. A big one, in fact. Argh! All I have been thinking about for the past few days is wondering how things are going to work out for Lazlo Strange and his love interest. Laini Taylor have you written the second book yet? If so, why don't you just go ahead and publish it right now? That would be really lovely and timely because I want to know what happens next and I want to know NOW!

We meet Strange as a young boy, a foundling. He is raised my monks and is given the surname Strange as a form of identification of his status as an orphan. When he starts work as a junior librarian he has time to research everything about the land of Weep, a land introduced to him through the stories of one of the elderly monks. His whole world view is shaped by Fairy Tales, where, though fiction, a kernel of truth always resides. When a delegation from Weep arrives in his city, he begs to go with them, to discover the reality of a city he has longed for since childhood. What he finds in Weep isn't what he expected.

I listened to Strange the Dreamer as part of my quest to find this year's Printz winner.  Even though I am now retired I hope to continue participating in my school's Mock Printz Workshop. This book came to my attention because of all the starred reviews it received. Here are a few things those reviewers had to say about the book:

While a cliff-hanger ending will certainly have readers itching for book two, make no mistake—this is a thing to be savored.---Booklist

While the pace is initially slow, momentum and tension build as love blossoms between two young people from warring factions, mysteries of identity develop, and critical events unfold in dreams...Gorgeously written in language simultaneously dark, lush, and enchanting, the book will leave readers eager for the next. ---Publisher's Weekly

There is a mythological resonance to her tale of gods and mortals in conflict, as well as in Lazlo's character arc from unassuming, obsessed librarian to something much more. ---School Library Journal

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention just how much I appreciated in the characterization of Lazlo as a librarian...a lover of literature and story-telling. Thank you, Ms. Taylor, for this, too!

“He read while he walked. He read while he ate. The other librarians suspected he somehow read while he slept, or perhaps didn't sleep at all.” 

“The library knows its own mind...When it steals a boy, we let it keep him.” 

My heart has been stolen by both a library (GKHS Library) and a book, Strange the Dreamer. 

Friday Quotes

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Book Beginning:

how it is so easy for you
to be kind to people he asked

milk and honey dripped
from my lips as i answered

cause people have not
been kind to me

Friday 56:

nothing is safer
than the sound of you
reading out loud to me

- the perfect date

Comments: I saw this title as the number one book on a list of suggested book-club books. I thought that was odd because it is a book of poetry. But perhaps, more than that, it is a story told using poetry. We'll see.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

TTT: My favorite YA books read so far in 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: My favorite YA books I've read in 2017 so far

1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This is by far my favorite book of the year. And I think this book will clean up come award season. In fact, it has already won the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award. (Pub. date: 2017)

2. Scythe by Neal Shusterman
This book won a Printz Honor in January. It is a uniquely, exciting book. (Pub. date: 2016)

3. When We Collided by Emery Lord
A realistic look at mental illness and a sweet new-love story. This one won the Schneider Family Award for books representing disabilities in a positive light. (Pub. date: 2016)

4. Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin
I learned so much about this uniquely talented American athlete. Sheinkin is a very strong writer. (Pub. date: 2017)

5. Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson
Plot twists make this book surprisingly good. (Pub. date: 2017)

6. Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
So well researched and written. (Pub. date: 2017)

7. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
The time-line of this love story is improbable but it is still sweet. It was also a Printz Honor book. (Pub. date: 2016)

8. City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie Anderson
A mystery set in Kenya. I found it fascinating and compelling. (Pub. date: 2017)

9. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Gaudin
An alternative history. What if the Axis powers won the second world war? What would you do if you were in a position to kill Hitler? (Pub. date: 2015)

*10. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
I am not quite done with this book yet, but close enough to know it deserves to be on this list. Another fantastic fantasy series opener by one of my favorite authors. (Pub. date: 2017)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday Salon: RETIRED!

Me and my retirement cake decorated with a librarian action figure and miniature books.
Weather: Overcast and chilling. Don's been telling everyone that it is Junuary. Highs yesterday were in the low 60s. Chilly for June, more like January.
This comic strip sums up exactly how I feel about leaving the library.

Retired: I am now officially retired. The last day of school was Friday. Now I have a few contract days to fulfill and I will hand in my keys and be finished with work. After 37 years of working in education it will be hard to leave it all behind, especially the library. But it was time.
Me and two colleagues, Joanna and Tanya, after my last graduation ceremony

A week of "lasts": Last graduation ceremony as a staff member; last iPad collection day; last time for submitting grades; last celebration of the end of a school year with other faculty at a luncheon on the last day. I walked the library several times saying goodbye to it, to the books. I sat at my desk and signed the teacher sign-out sheets and said goodbye to my colleagues. I shed a lot of tears. Yet, it is also a relief. Sigh.
Our family after Don's retirement ceremony. Yes, the flag was huge.
The BIG weekend: Last weekend was Don's retirement ceremony from the Army National Guard. It was a beautiful and meaningful ceremony and I am so proud of Don and his 42 years of service to our country. After the ceremony we hosted a reception for the 100 or so people who attended the event. Afterwards we went home and prepared for a family party at our home to celebrate both of our retirements. The next day, while family members were still in town, we hosted a baby shower for our daughter and son-in-law. What a wonderful weekend full of celebrations and loving support.
Sunset over Puget Sound at Titlow Beach.

And now? I have no idea how I will fill my time now that I am retired. I know I will continue to read and blog, though. I hope to begin exercising and gardening more, And I still have 21 visits to complete my 60 for my 60th. This week Don and I dined with a long time friend and past colleague, Kay. We met up at a retirement party hosted for another friend, Margaret. Then Friday Jean and her partner Chrissy, dropped in for a short overnight visit. They were in Oregon visiting family and head toward Vancouver Island to visit other friends and to see the sights. That takes my total of visits up to 39. The photo above was taken at Titlow Beach in Tacoma, not far from where we ate dinner at Spanky's Burgers and Brew, a new restaurant owned by Jean's cousin.

Books read the past two weeks: I've only completed one book this month, Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson. A serious, yet surprising YA tale about a teen involved in the juvenile justice system. It has lots of plot twists that kept me guessing. I will recommend this one for Mock Printz, if anyone cares what I think anymore.

Currently reading:

  • Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin...I have exactly one day to finish this book because it is due back at my library and I'll be turning in all my stuff tomorrow as I start to close up shop. 60%, print.
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor...a wonderful new series by a favorite YA author. 53%, audio.
  • The Little Book of Hygge by Wiking...why are Danish people the happiest in this world? This book tells us it is all about Hygge. 45%, print.
  • The Gift, poems by Hafiz. I picked up this volume of poetry again this week after abandoning it several weeks ago. Sometimes all I can read, or make myself read, are poems. This was one of those weeks. 60%, print.
Father's Day: With so much attention on us last weekend, we are celebrating a very downplayed Father's Day today with a dinner with Rita and her husband. Carly called from New York last night so she got honor her dad first today.  On the menu: steak and shrimp, potato salad, grilled veggies, and blackberry cobbler. A summerish meal for a unsummerish-weather day.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sunday Salon: Pentecost Sunday

Weather: Beautiful. Don is out cleaning the deck, getting ready for next weekend.

Pentecost Sunday: The day in the church calendar when Christians celebrate the in-filling of the Holy Spirit. Our church members all dress in red and today our sanctuary was decked out in red, too. We are reminded on this day that Go'd spirit lives within us and that means his power is available to us.

Two funny events related to Jane Austen:

  1. Two weeks ago the Bethel School Board recognized and honored the district employees who are retiring this year, with me among them. Nice things were said about each person by his/her principal or supervisor, then they were given a plaque of recognition. When it was my turn, my principal, Matt Yarkosky, had very nice things to say about me and about the programs I started in my library, like Jane Austen Week (that was the example he used, among others.) Next the district employee handed me my plaque and whispered in my ear, "Give it back after the program and we'll make sure your name is spelled correctly next time." I looked down and my name was misspelled:  ANNE BENNET. I couldn't help myself. I announced to the audience that though my name was misspelled it was an appropriate mistake since my favorite author is Jane Austen and her most famous character is Elizabeth Bennet, with one t, not two t's like my name. Everyone laughed.
  2. Today in church the responsive reading had a phrase that went something like this, "Lord forgive us for the pride and prejudice we feel toward others..." At that point Don elbowed me in the ribs. I leaned over to tell Carly, who was standing on my other side, what her father did and before a word was uttered, she elbowed me, too. Ha!

Matt Yarkosky (current Principal), Lee Ozmun (first Principal), Jennifer Bethman (10th Principal). In my 37 years in education I served under 13 principals.
Retirement Party: This week I hosted my own retirement party after school. Over 70 people came including three of my principals, several coworkers I haven't seen in years, lots of friends from my book club and church, and, of course, folks from my current school. I decided years ago that when I retire I wanted to do it up right, with a party and giving everyone a chance to say goodbye.  A lot of teachers seem to just slip away during summer vacation so we never get a chance to say goodbye. I had a lot of fun. Thanks for coming, everyone!

Hail and Farewell: This past week I also said goodbye to my Honor Society students and co-advisor in an event we call Hail and Farewell, where we send off the seniors and welcome in the new club officers. This year the club surprised me with a video show of the the seniors saying goodbye with an explanation of which of the four pillars of NHS I best represented. Tears were flowing freely. Thank you to Brad and everyone who participated.

Memorial Day at the Oregon Coast: I spent last weekend at Seaside, Oregon with my best college friend, AnneMarie. We nearly talked non-stop we had so much catching up to do! We stayed in the best Air B-n-B...we had the third floor to ourselves and spent a good deal of the time in the turret (they called it the wine bar) looking out over the Pacific Ocean. You see the house in the background but just a portion of the turret. We also took lots of silly pictures wearing our noses for Red Nose Week in support programs to eliminate childhood hunger.

Getting ready for next weekend: When Don will be retiring from the National Guard with a ceremony at Camp Murray; when we will lost a reception afterward; and then a party that evening. The next day we will have everyone in the family back for a baby shower for Baby Adams. Should be quite a weekend. We've spent this weekend doing chores in preparation: changing sheets and cleaning the guest rooms; hosing off the deck and the deck furniture; ordering catering, and shopping for paper products. Whew.

Books completed the past two weeks:

  • We Are Okay by Nina LaCour...a YA novel about a young coed who is trying to outrun her life and her memories which she can't escape. LGBT-themed. Audio.
  • City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson...set in Kenya and the Congo. Tina's mother was murdered and Tina wants revenge. She is 99% sure she knows who did it. But that 1% makes her pause. A good, international mystery. Audio. 

Currently reading:

  • Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin...an alternative history novel. The AXIS powers won WWII and now Yael wants to take down Hitler to end the regime. Print. 55%.
  • Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson...Mary was accused on killing an infant when she was nine years old. Now she is 16 and after spening seven years in jail and a halfway house she is ready to tell the truth. Audio. 75%
  • The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking...Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) is a state of well-being and Danes say it is why they are the happiest place in Europe. Print. 25%.

Old Turtle: An old turtle is called a mossback. I just learned this fact this weekend, just in time to rename our old truck. Our old truck has sat outside all winter and it was covered with dirt and moss like an old turtle. I was so grossed out about it, I forced my husband to run it through the car wash, which didn't get much if any of the moss of it so we had to wash the old guy by hand. Ha!

Have a wonderful week!

Monday, May 22, 2017

TTT: Summer-themed

Today's Top Ten Tuesday suggests that we create lists about books which are summer-themed. Instead, I am creating a list of books I of books I hope to read this summer. All of the titles are from my Goodreads to-read list.

I like reading short stories when I am on vacation.
  • Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre by a variety of female authors (I've heard good things bout this book and I own it.)
  • Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump. (I love the movie made from a story in this book: "Hunt for the Wilderpeople." But the book is out-of-print and my library doesn't have a copy, Not sure I will be able to make this reader's dreams come true.)
  • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. This short story collection was a Pulitzer Prize winner. I am challenging myself to rad as many of the past Pulitzer Prize books as I can.)
My book clubs both continue over the summer. I've read ahead for one group but these are the books I need to read this summer for my other group:
  • Philomena: a Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty-Year Search by Martin Sixsmith (I think there was a movie made from this book.) June.
  • Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy (I honestly know nothing about this book.) July.
  • Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larsen. (I've read several books by this author and like his approach to writing nonfiction.) August.
Young Adult. Just because I am retiring doesn't mean I want to abandon this genre. Here are some titles which excite me:
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. (I love this author and have heard great things about this books.)
  • City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie Anderson. (OK. Truth be told. I am already reading this one but I won't finish it until after  Memorial Day, so it counts as a summer read.)
  • Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. (Taken from a popular webcomic.)
  • The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Saenz ( I just got a notice that the library has checked out the e-audiobook to me remotely. Guess I'll be listening to this one next.)
Award Winner.
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. (I placed a hold on this award-winning book several months ago. I am tracking it and I know my turn will come sometime this summer.)
What will you be reading this summer?

Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman

Don standing looking at a van Gogh painting of a peasant, 1888, Simon Norton Museum, Pasadena, CA.
This is what I knew about Vincent van Gogh before reading Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman: He was Dutch; he was mentally ill; he was friends with Gauguin, another artist; he cut off his ear; and he died young from suicide. I also knew that I liked his paintings, especially "Starry, Starry Night." I thought I knew that he was considered to be one of the Impressionistic artists, but apparently that label isn't quite right.

After reading the excellent book Vincent and Theo: The van Gogh Brothers I know a whole lot more about this remarkable artist and I also know who made his art possible: his brother, Theo. Without Theo it is unlikely that Vincent would have ever become an artist or his art would have never been known by the world.
Mulberry Tree, 1889, Vincent van Gogh, Simon Norton Museum

The brothers were born into a large Dutch family. The father was a Protestant minister in a predominantly Catholic country. Vincent was named for a brother who died a stillborn and was buried in the churchyard not far from their home. Theo was four or five years younger than Vincent and they had several sisters. Vincent was always moody and liked to take long walks in nature. He didn't like school and so at a relatively young age he went to work for a friend of an uncle who owned an art gallery. Vincent was a terrible employee, finally getting fired. He tried a variety of other things to support himself but none of them "took": teaching, preaching, salesman. Though he would get grandiose ideas they usually came to nothing. But coming from a close-knit family, Vincent was always acutely aware of the many ways he disappointed his family, especially his parents.

Once when Vincent was nineteen or twenty Theo came to visit him and the two brothers took a long walk which ended at a mill (windmill). The brothers pledged to support one another for life. This walk and pledge seemed to be a life-altering one for both of them. From that time forward, Theo and Vincent did indeed seem bound together, for good or for bad, until their deaths.
Roses, van Gogh, 1890, MET

After Theo left school, he too went to work in the art business but unlike his brother, Theo was a good salesman and employee. This was very lucky because without the money that Theo was able to send to Vincent, he would not have been able to survive. At some point it was Theo who encouraged Vincent to abandon his life as a derelict preacher and to begin drawing and eventually painting. Vincent, who had little formal art training, would copy out pictures from books that Theo sent him, or would draw or paint from live models, if he could afford them. He would send his work to Theo for critiques and worked hard to improve. Theo told his brother about the new art, Impressionism, and encouraged Vincent to add more color to his paintings. By 1884/85 Vincent had made to switch and was using more and more paint and bright, happy colors. His brother got very excited about Vincent's art and would submit pieces at exhibitions in Paris, and, if his boss allowed, in the studio where he worked. A few pieces sold and Vincent was starting to get some recognition in the art world.

By this time, however, Vincent's mental health was getting very tenuous. He would have good weeks and then completely fall apart. For a while a fellow artist Paul Gauguin lived with Vincent in the South of France and their relationship wasn't very healthy. It was while Gauguin was with him that Vincent cut off his ear (or was it Gauguin who cut it off?) Theo's letters and money kept Vincent anchored for a while longer but eventually Vincent had to go live in an asylum where he was allowed to paint and draw on good days. Unfortunately, Theo's health had also taken a turn for the worst. Soon after Theo got married to Jo he began coughing and feeling run-down. He continued working, he had to to support everyone, but it drained him. Both men, now in their thirties, were not long for this world. Vincent died of a gunshot wound to the gut (self-inflicted?) at age 37 and Theo died from the symptoms of tertiary syphilis six months after his beloved brother died. It was Jo, Theo's wife, who doggedly brought Vincent's art to the world and ultimately made a fortune for herself. She also was the one who published the letters from Vincent to his brother, which formed the basis of this book.
Cypress tree, van Gogh, 1889, MET

The author, Deborah Heiligman, talks about the research she did to prepare herself for writing this biography. It is worth a look, especially if you are curious about the tremendous amount of work that goes into the research for a book like this. Check it out here.

Vincent and Theo has earned six coveted starred reviews from the likes of School Library Journal, Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, etc. It will certainly be a book to watch come award season in the fall and winter. It is being marketed to teens, age fourteen and up. Weighing in at over 450 pages, it is bit longer than the average teen would like, so I doubt it will ever be 'popular' with teens. But the writing is certainly accessible and interesting. So when the right reader comes along it will be ready and waiting.

btw- In case you are wondering, Vincent's art is considered to be post-impressionism. It seems like it is splitting hairs but the post impressionists weren't as concerned about light as their predecessors.

I listened to the audiobook of Vincent and Theo from Dreamscape and narrated by Phil Fox.  Fox is a British actor but he does an excellent job with the accents, making it seem like he is Dutch himself. He pronounced Theo's name 'Tayo" and Jo's name as 'Yo'.  I enjoyed listening to it and would recommend this format, but do get a copy of the print edition of the book because the center sections contains copies of several prints of Vincent's work which Heiligman describes or references in the book.

All of the photos of van Gogh's work I took at either the Simon Norton museum in Pasadena or the Metropolitan museum in New York. What a thrill to stand in from of the work of Vincent van Gogh.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunny Sunday Salon, May 21

Our backyard is so lovely this time of year.
Weather: Perfect. Blue skies, temperature warm but not hot.

Ear Infection: This whole week I have been suffering from a middle ear infection. My Eustachian tubes are plugged which has caused fluid buildup, which causes pressure on my inner ear, causing intermittent vertigo. Lovely. Wednesday I wasn't sure if I was going to make it home from school, I was so dizzy. Lucky for me the car knows the way. I've been stuck in the house since then, not wanting to go out in case I have another attack of the dizzies. I hope I can make it to school tomorrow, since Don is on a trip to Idaho and I am on my own.

The good part of being stuck in the house: I have finally started to catch up on my blogging. I am so far behind on my book reviews, it was good to have an excuse to write. So far I have written four book reviews and I anticipate another one done today once this dizzy spell passes. Check them out:

Books completed this week:
  • Vincent and Theo: The van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman. A biography of the famous artist and his brother, based on primary documents. Very well done but long.  Audio and print.
  • This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. A book club selection about a family who attempts to keep the secret of their child's sex/gender assignment not matching genitalia. Very thought-provoking. Audio and print.
  • The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang. A little fable recommended by a blogging friend, Deb Nance at Readerbuzz. Cute. Print.
Abandoned this week: (I decided I am no longer interested or just ran out of time)
  • The Girls from Ames
  • The Gift, poems by Hafiz
Currently reading: 
  • Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Gaudin---I am on a race to finish this book before the end of the school year and retirement. Another book recommended by a fellow blogger, Alicia of A Kernel of Nonsense. I just started. 1%. Print.
  • We Are Okay by Nina LaCour---a YA selection based on its starred reviews. Two friends separated by space and circumstances try to reconnect. LGBT-themes. Audio. 65%.
A bookish thought or two: Now that retirement is just around the corner, or even closer, I am starting to think of my life without a library at my fingertips. I know, I can still use the public library systems but it won't be the same. I think that will be the hardest thing about leaving the school for the last time in June.// I am also thinking about books as a finite thing. Let's say I live for another 25 years and can pull off reading say 60 books a year, which seems like a reasonable number once I won't be reading as much YA literature, that means I have about 1500 more books ahead of me. With a finite number like that to contemplate, it makes me think I should be more picky about what I read. If I am not enjoying a book I hope to give myself permission to abandon it or to just read a bit and set it aside without forcing myself to finish it out of some kind of inner compulsion. We'll see how successful I am at it. 

On that note: I checked out this list of books mentioned on the TV show "The Gilmore Girls" read by Rory Gilmore, after it was mentioned by another blogger at Utopia of Mind. It contains 339 books. I've read 94 of them. Many of the others are on my virtual reading list. How many have you read? My English teacher friends have all read more than me. Several of the book on the list are complete short story collections or complete volumes of poetry which I have read some but not all. I didn't count those. Since Rory read so much I am sure we all know why she was so brilliant!

Walk in the sun: Time to get out of the house and see how I do with a short walk around the block. Hopefully I don't get half way and get hit by a bout of the dizzies. Maybe I should plant flowers instead. I hate to be too far from a chair or coach.

Love you!