All The Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren

My Pulitzer goal has really suffered this year. This is only the first book I’ve read from that list in 2014. I need to pick up the pace if I am to make my goal of reading 12 of them this year.

All The Kings Men

All The Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren

All The Kings Men contains some of the best character development I’ve read. The path of self discovery taken by the book’s narrator, Jack Burden, is compelling and resonated with me in a way I don’t think it would have had I read this at a younger age. Truth be told, I kind of ended up with a crush on Jack Burden.

As Burden tells his story you come to know those around him as complex people, more of their “warts” than their good characteristics and it would be very tempting just to paint all of these characters as “bad people” if you were to just give the prose a cursory read. But Warren’s prose doesn’t really allow for a cursory read, at least it didn’t for me. I became curious about the motivations and thought processes of these characters. Willie Stark is fascinating, both Adam and Anne Stanton intriguing. Even some of the more peripheral players like Lucy Stark, Tiny Duffy and Sadie Burke were people whose motivations and actions lead to hours of thought.

And really, this is what happened for me. I thought about this story a great deal, during the day as I went about other tasks I would think about these characters and try to imagine why they would take the actions that they did, say the things they did. Because this story was filled with some many layered people I became emotionally connected to it. This story once again affirmed my belief that there aren’t many truly “bad” people in the world. Most of us are just people, doing the best we can, and we make mistakes. Some of them ugly.

This story also sent me down two “rabbit holes” Because it is believed that Willie Stark is based on Huey Long , I spent a lot of time reading about him. And then as I was reading about Warren himself I learned that he also won the Pulitzer Prize for his poetry, and therefore spent time reading his poems. But then, that is not really a complaint, the “rabbit holes” are one of the most enjoyable things about reading afterall :)

Beautiful book.

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Posted in All The Possibilities, Pulitzer Goal | Tagged All The Kings Men, book reviews, book-a-week goal, Pulitzer Prize Goal, rabbit hole, reading, Robert Penn Warren | 1 Comment

Learning To Be Kind

Does the desire to be kind, the intention, count for anything?

This thought has been on my mind a great deal today. It began earlier today when I read this post. I thought about (and cringed about) many unkind statements I’ve made in the past. And those that I’ve made recently too.

While I know that I truly have changed and grown in the past several years, sometimes I get overwhelmed by the shear amount of changing I still need to do.

I’ve been told all my life that I am a selfish person, by my mother and by my ex-husband. How much truth is there to that? I know that regardless of the truth I’ve internalized it as such. And that is mostly a good thing. I believe it has had a negative impact in that I beat myself up and am so hard on myself that I cannot feel good when I make some progress toward being a kinder person. But on the whole I feel like it is good to constantly be looking for ways to improve in this important aspect.

I would like to live in a state of kindness. I would like to be so focused on the needs and hearts of others that I never say or do anything unkind. I feel that is a worthy goal. Maybe the best goal that I have. Also probably the least attainable in reality.

Am I going to be apologizing for things I’ve said, done or written my entire life? Probably. But I DO need to acknowledge, and celebrate that I am making progress toward a kinder, less selfish me.

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Posted in Charitable Living, Relationships | Tagged good intentions, kindness, rationalizations, selfishness | Leave a comment

2014: The Year That Will Tell The Tale

Sometimes I feel pathetic. I set goals, make a bit of progress and then I let life get in the way and before I know it a month or two has passed and I’ve not made any more progress.

I desperately want to think that I can change this. And I guess that if I just continue to “try” every time I slip that I will continue to make progress. But that feels like a “cop out” and I know I am capable of better.

What do I want to accomplish in 2014?

Finally remove the extra weight

read 12 Pulitzers

read 61 books total (last year I read 60, so 61 it is)

learn PHP

knit or crochet 50 hats for the homeless shelter

move to a better place

Planning, planning, planning- no, wait…

I always spend too much time planning and not enough taking action.

Action, action, action

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I Made My Goal!

So I set a goal on the GoodReads website to read 52 books in 2013- and I made it! I am so excited to have accomplished at least one thing in the past year. I’ve not had a very good year in many respects, so to have this small success is kind of a big deal for me.

I wrote about this in an earlier post, when I was ahead of the goal. I didn’t make my Pulitzer related goal of 12 Pulitzer winners this year, but accomplishing this one feels good.

I am going to be a bit  more aggressive next year – 60 books in 2014, with 12 of them being Pulitzer winners. I get a great deal of joy from reading, and I know that I need to continue to look for ways to bring more pure joy into my life.

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Posted in All The Possibilities, Goal Setting, Other Reading, Pulitzer Goal | Tagged book-a-week goal, celebration, goal setting, goals, joy, Pulitzer Prize Goal, reading, successes | 1 Comment

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

I just finish A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley this week. This is my latest read for my Pulitzer Prize reading goal.

(SPOILER ALERT)

What I loved about this book:

Smiley’s writing style – she draws such clear, emotional pictures with her words, even when writing about difficult subjects

What I liked about this book:

The book took place in a time period that I remember vividly, and she wrote about it accurately

Having been raised by a farmer I enjoy reading about farming, so although the father in this story was NOTHING like my daddy (I don’t think I can stress that enough) there was much about the other farmers and the way of life itself that resonated with me

The people in the story were complex and every single one of them fascinated me. I wanted to get to know them all better, but felt that I knew them at the same time. Smiley is very good at writing in a character driven manner. She did not write in a way that was overly judgmental of her characters, especially Ginny and Rose. While many of the characters within the story make choices that might be viewed as “wrong” most of them never lose their humanity to that “wrongness”

What I disliked about the book.

Child sexual abuse is never easy to read about. And while I believe repressed memories do happen I don’t believe they happen the way they did in this book. I remember very well the repressed memory craze that went on in the 1990s, so many women were “discovering” that they were abused while they were in therapy.

All in all a deep story, beautifully written.

 

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Posted in Pulitzer Goal | Tagged A Thousand Acres, book reviews, book-a-week goal, family, goals, Jane Smiley, Pulitzer Prize Goal, reading | 1 Comment

The Song of Roland

The Song of Roland

I finally got around to reading this poem. It has been on my “to read” list for a very, very long time. Like…since high school? (My Goodreads to-read list just keeps growing and growing and growing)

the Song of Roland- image for Wikipedia

the Song of Roland- image for Wikipedia

Of course the story itself was known to me before hand. Based on the Battle of Roncevaux (the one that happened in 778) it is an epic poem that was finally written down in sometime in the eleventh or twelfth century, but was probably “sung” or performed for a long time before then.

It is the oldest surviving piece of French literature. This made me wonder how different the experience of reading it might be if I could read it in French.

The translation I read was done by Dorothy Sayers. I admit to loving her Lord Peter Whimsey stories, but I did not realize that she had done work like this. In going down  one of the “rabbit holes” that this particular poem provided I learned that she also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy. She was also a feminist, which I LOVE.

Not my favorite epic poem by any stretch, but still enjoyable and I was happy to cross it off my “list”

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Posted in Other Reading | Tagged Charlemagne, Dorothy Sayers, epic poems, French literature, poetry, rabbit hole, reading, reading goal, the Battle of Roncevaux, The Song of Roland | Leave a comment

The Way Of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

So, can I just say – LOVED this book :)

Seriously I’ve only two complaints, both minor really.

1- I felt there may have been too much time spent on world building, maybe…

2- This is the first book in what will eventually be a 10 book series, I will have some waiting, as the second one is not even due out until March of 2014

Rich characters- sort of have a bit of a crush on both Dalinar and Kaladin, and I am totally fascinated with the assassin.

I like the conflicts of the morality systems of the different characters and societies, that will make for rich story telling in the later books.

 

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Posted in Other Reading | Tagged book reviews, book-a-week goal, Brandon Sanderson, goals, reading, The Way of Kings | Leave a comment

Frankenstein

I finally read Frankenstein. It is odd that I could live this long and not have read it. Of course there are many more books I could say that about, classics that I’ve yest not taken the time to read, so maybe it is not so odd.

18490I LOVED this book. It is beautifully written. As I was reading I kept going back to the thought that Mary Shelley was only nineteen when she wrote this book. Nineteen.

I felt cheated by every adaptation Hollywood has ever produced from this work. (Okay, not every adaptation, there is the monumental awesomeness of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein) But nothing has ever captured the true horror of this book.

The anguish of both Victor Frankenstein and the creature were nearly palpable to me. Honestly, I felt much more sorrow for the creature, for his frustrations and loneliness. I found it contemptible that Frankenstein would create him and then do nothing to relieve his suffering. Not that I think creating a companion for the creature was the correct idea, but he himself could have provided friendship and understanding. He could have perhaps even have shared the presence of the “monster” with others he trusted. I found Frankenstein’s cowardice loathsome. It was not until the end of his life that he told anyone about what he had done, he never really took responsibility.

 

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Posted in Other Reading | Tagged book reviews, book-a-week goal, Frankenstein, goals, Mary Shelley | Leave a comment

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

There were two thoughts that kept occurring to me as I read Leaves of Grass. One ” Oh, that is just beautiful” and two ” This guy must have smoked a lot of weed.”

When reading a volume of poetry that contains all or most of a poet’s work you experience a certain amount of “uneveness” Moments of brilliance contrasted with things that feel “phoned in” or worse. I think that anyone’s life’s work, if displayed such, would show this.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Making it a goal to try to read at least one poem a day has brought a great deal of beauty into my life, and I am glad that this volume of Whitman’s work is one that I have chosen to read.

Whitman himself fascinated me much more than his poetry though. I’ve searched for a good biography, and I think I’ve finally found one. Most of what I’ve found has not really been biographical so much as critical assessments of his work.

I love that he believed in himself enough to self publish his work. I love how his outlook on life and politics were not so set in stone as to leave him less open to new ideas. I love how accepting he seems to be of himself and others.

That was really the only “rabbit hole” I ended up going down (still going down :) ) with this book. Learning more about this man, his motivations, his world. I wouldn’t say that he is among my favorite poets. Some of his poems, however, do reside on my list of favorites.

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Posted in Other Reading | Tagged beauty, book reviews, goals, introspection, Leaves of Grass, poetry, reading, sense of purpose, transformation, Walt Whitman | Leave a comment

The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty

The Optimist’s Daughter

This was a quiet story. A moving story. A story best understood by those who have lived a while. Who have  lost loved ones. Who have dealt with disappointment.

image of The Optimist's Daughter by Eudors Welty from en.wkipedia.org

The Optimists Daughter

I was delighted with the subtle way that Welty built the character’s of this story. As the story unfolded, the personalities became clearer and clearer. I could picture each one so easily, and thought of similar people I’ve known in my life. Which is, I guess, a bit unfortunate in some cases because some of the characters (Fay particularly) are not people that it would be fun to know. (OK, I’ll say it…Fay is a poo)

I felt Laurel’s loss of her father deeply. I related to Laurel more than anyone else in this story. Her disappointments. The amount of personal growth that it takes to finally stand up for one’s-self. That was my deepest connection with her.

Coming to terms with my own father’s death has been an ongoing journey for me. Had I read this before his death I am not sure that I would have even read the same book. That would have been an interesting experiment, to read something like this both before and after. But of course, such things never occur to us.

Loved this one.

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Posted in Pulitzer Goal | Tagged book reviews, book-a-week goal, death, Eudora Welty, goals, my daddy, Pulitzer Prize Goal, reading, simplicity, The Optimist's Daughter | 1 Comment