Monday, September 24, 2012 | By: GirlsWannaRead

Waxing Poetic: The Trees by Adrienne Rich

The Trees

The trees inside are moving out into the forest,
the forest that was empty all these days
where no bird could sit
no insect hide
no sun bury its feet in shadow
the forest that was empty all these nights
will be full of trees by morning.
All night the roots work
to disengage themselves from the cracks
in the veranda floor.
The leaves strain toward the glass
small twigs stiff with exertion
long-cramped boughs shuffling under the roof
like newly discharged patients
half-dazed, moving
to the clinic doors.
I sit inside, doors open to the veranda
writing long letters
in which i scarcely mention the departure
of the forest from the house.
The night is fresh, the whole moon shines
in a sky still open
the smell of leaves and lichen
still reaches like a voice into the rooms.
My head is full of whispers
which tomorrow will be silent.
Listen. The glass is breaking.
The trees are stumbling forward
into the night. Winds rush to meet them.
The moon is broken like a mirror,
its pieces flash now in the crown
of the tallest oak.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 | By: GirlsWannaRead

Bookish Quotes #47

 “When you read a great book, you don’t escape from life, you plunge deeper into it. There may be a superficial escape – into different countries, mores, speech patterns – but what you are essentially doing is furthering your understanding of life’s subtleties, paradoxes, joys, pains and truths. Reading and life are not separate but symbiotic.”
    ~  Julian Barnes, A Life with Books

I collect books just as others store grain,
And bitterly complain I don’t have enough granaries.
In order to make space for a myriad ancient men,
I end up building three more rooms.
The books then ask the man who stores them:
“When will you have time to read us, sir?

~ Yuan Mei (1716–1797), Book Storage, tr. J.D.Schmidt

Sunday, August 12, 2012 | By: GirlsWannaRead

Housekeeping: Marilynne Robinson

   Housekeeping is on the Guardian Unlimited list of the 100 greatest novels of all time.  Time magazine also included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.  After reading it, I understand why.  I only wonder what took me so long to discover it.  The novel is like a intricately faceted jewel and Robinson's poetic language sets the mood for the beautifully haunting story about three generations of women.
     Ruth narrates the story of how she and her younger sister Lucille are raised by a succession of relatives in the fictional town of Fingerbone, Idaho.  First, they are under the care of their maternal grandmother, Sylvia.  When she dies, they fall into the care of Syvia's two bungling sister-in-laws.  They are spinsters who have no practice in or desire for caring for children.  Eventually the girls' aunt Sylvie, their mother's sister, comes to take care of them. Sylvie is a free spirit who has been living as a transient, floating through life.  Sylvie's stability as a caregiver is always in question because of her tendency to dream and wander rather than to engage the practical realities of day-to-day life.
     The novel treats the subject of housekeeping, not only in the domestic sense of cleaning, but in the larger sense of keeping a spiritual home for one's self and family in the face of loss, as the girls experience a series of abandonments as they come of age.  Ruth comes to accept this as an inevitable occurrence:   

Then there is the matter of my mother's abandonment of me. Again, this is the common experience. They walk ahead of us, and walk too fast, and forget us, they are so lost in thoughts of their own, and soon or late they disappear. The only mystery is that we expect it to be otherwise.

     But as Ruth says:   Families will not be broken. Curse and expel them, send their children wandering, drown them in floods and fires, and old women will make songs of all these sorrows and sit on the porch and sing them on mild evenings.
     The novel addresses the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.  Life for Ruth and Lucille was a constant shifting.  Nothing could be counted on; nothing was stable.  Ruth speaks of this limbo:  

I hated waiting. If I had one particular complaint, it was that my life seemed composed entirely of expectation. I expected — an arrival, an explanation, an apology. There had never been one, a fact I could have accepted, were it not true that, just when I had got used to the limits and dimensions of one moment, I was expelled into the next and made to wonder again if any shapes hit in its shadows.
      The small town of Fingerbone is set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck, and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a remote little town in which one is aware that the "whole of human history had occurred elsewhere."  The Fosters had always been a thorn in the side of Fingerbone:   

We had been assured by our elders that intelligence was a family trait. All my kin and forebears were people of substantial or remarkable intellect, thought somehow none of them had prospered in the world. Too bookish, my grandmother said with tart pride, and Lucille and I read constantly to forestall criticism, anticipating failure. If my family were not as intelligent as we were pleased to pretend, this was an innocent deception, for it was a matter of indifference to everybody whether we were intelligent or not. People always interpreted our slightly formal manner and our quiet tastes as a sign that we wished to stay a little apart. This was a matter of indifference, also, and we had our wish.
     Initially, Syvie and the girls become a close knit group, but as Lucille grows up she comes to dislike their eccentric lifestyle and she moves out.  When town reacts and Ruth's well-being is being questioned by the courts, Sylvie returns to living on the road and takes Ruth with her.
     But the past always haunts us and moving on isn't easy or maybe even possible.  Ruth tells the story years later and ends it wondering about Lucille who she hasn't seen since leaving Fingerbone.  Another loss in a long list, another memory:   

There is so little to remember of anyone - an anecdote, a conversation at a table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness not having meant to keep us waiting long.

     Housekeeping is worth reading for the language alone, but the story rich and engaging, as well.  An excellent read!

~ Frances
Saturday, August 11, 2012 | By: GirlsWannaRead

Translating the British, 2012 by Carol Ann Duffy

     In honor of the London 2012 Olympics, here's a poem by the British Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, from The Guardian.

Translating the British, 2012

A summer of rain, then a gap in the clouds
and The Queen jumped from the sky
to the cheering crowds.
We speak Shakespeare here,
a hundred tongues, one-voiced; the moon bronze or silver,
sun gold, from Cardiff to Edinburgh
by way of London Town,
on the Giant's Causeway;
we say we want to be who we truly are,
now, we roar it. Welcome to us.
We've had our pockets picked,
the soft, white hands of bankers,
bold as brass, filching our gold, our silver;
we want it back.
We are Mo Farah lifting the 10,000 metres gold.
We want new running-tracks in his name.
For Jessica Ennis, the same; for the Brownlee brothers,
Rutherford, Ohuruogu, Whitlock, Tweddle,
for every medal earned,
we want school playing-fields returned.
Enough of the soundbite abstract nouns,
austerity, policy, legacy, of tightening metaphorical belts;
we got on our real bikes,
for we are Bradley Wiggins,
side-burned, Mod, god;
we are Sir Chris Hoy,
Laura Trott, Victoria Pendleton, Kenny, Hindes,
Clancy, Burke, Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas,
Olympian names.
We want more cycle lanes.
Or we saddled our steed,
or we paddled our own canoe,
or we rowed in an eight or a four or a two;
our names, Glover and Stanning; Baillie and Stott;
Adlington, Ainslie, Wilson, Murray,
Valegro (Dujardin's horse).
We saw what we did. We are Nicola Adams and Jade Jones,
bring on the fighting kids.
We sense new weather.
We are on our marks. We are all in this together.
Saturday, July 28, 2012 | By: GirlsWannaRead

Shakespeare Goes To The Olympics

Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.

     At the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics last night in London, Kenneth Branagh recited these lines taken from Caliban's speech in one of Shakespeare's final plays, The Tempest. Branagh was dressed as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a famous British engineer known for building bridges, dockyards, and Britain's first major railroad, the Great Western Railway.