Author's web site
I listened to the audiobook and loved it so much, I purchased the book.
In essence, it is a memoir of a young woman's grief journey after the sudden death of her health-concious mother who died at forty-five from late-stage lung cancer. Cheryl was only 22 and the loss was devastating.
I am reminded once again of the catharsis that occurs when one reads of the suffering of others. It brings your own pain to light which is paradoxically both painful and beneficial.
Written from the depths of her soul, Strayed is brutally honest and authentic with her thoughts, feelings and emotions, both funny and sad, making a raw and emotional read interspersed with humor.
I listened to a good chuck while on a business trip from Washington DC to Norfolk, VA and found myself chuckling as well as moved to tears.
On her quest to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl met various people whose interactions impacted her in some way. One particular woman, Lou had picked her up hitchhiking. She had a picture of her little boy, Luke, hanging from her rearview mirror. He had died five years ago, at eight years old, after after being hit by a truck while riding his bike. He held on for a week before succumbing to his injuries.
Lou told Cheryl that "after that happened, I died too. Inside. I look the same but I'm not the same in here. I mean, life goes on and all that crap, but Luke dying took it out of me. I try not to act like it, but it did. It took the Lou out of Lou and I ain't getting it back."
I can relate.
2012 Man Booker Award
After reading Wolf Hall, I downloaded the ibook so as to continue the saga of Thomas Cromell's life in Henry VIII's court.
I found this to be a quick read, being familiar with Mantel's writing style and with all the characters surrounding Henry and his queen, Anne Boleyn.
As I reflect on the book now, it seems apropos to sum up all the drama and deaths depicted as "bad karma begets bad karma."
Anne is unable to produce a male heir for Henry and as her stature and worth decreases, she becomes more out of control in speech, manner and behavior causing Henry to bemoan his marriage and fix his gaze on a courtier whose personality is the complete opposite of the queen: young pious Jane Seymour.
No surprise, Henry turns to his "magician" Thomas Cromwell to get him out of the marriage so he can marry Jane.
This involves turning hearsay into fact resulting in the deaths of the queen, her brother and several other unfortunate souls.
There are several quotes about death that ring true:
Death is your prince, you are not his patron; when you think he is engaged elsewhere, he will batter down your door, walk in and wipe his boots on you.
Between one beat of the heart and the next it is done. She knows nothing. She is in eternity.
Author's web site
The need to take a break from recent forays into memoir and historical fiction coincided with a timely article in the Washington Post (Apps for Reading Could be Your Netflix of Books) and a long weekend trip to Vermont over July 4th.
The article said an easy way to borrow from your public library was by using the Overdrive app which I had not heard of before.
In no time, I was connected to my local library, borrowed the e-book and was hooked. I read on both my iPad while at the condo in Vermont and on my iPhone while on the way home (had to be connected to the Internet).
A very quick engrossing read as a typical Dan Brown scavenger-hunt, thriller/mystery with the familiar Robert Langdon in the center of a whirlwind of intrigue set in both Florence and Venice, Italy.
I have never been to Italy nor have read Dante's The Divine Comedy but after reading this book, I would like to do both.
Ted Talk video of him sharing his poems put to animation.
Taken from the inner flap of this wonderful collection:
"Playfulness, spare elegance, and wit epitomize the poetry of Billy Collins. With his distinct voice and accessible language, America's two-term Poet Laureate had opened the door to poetry for countless people for whom it might otherwise have remained closed. Like the book's title, Collins's poems are filled with mischief, humor, and irony….and is a window through which we see our lives as if for the first time."
I have a poetry journal which houses my favorite poems, my own fledgling creations and my notes about the art of writing poetry. The title poem is one of several from this collection that I copied into my book.
The Trouble With Poetry
by Billy Collins
The trouble with poetry, I realized
as I walked along a beach one night -
cold Florida sand under my bare feet,
a show of stars in the sky -
the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry,
more guppies crowding the fish tank,
more baby rabbits
hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.
And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,
and there is nothing left to do
but quietly close our notebooks
and sit with our hands folded on our desks.
Poetry fills me with joy
and I rise like a feather in the wind.
Poetry fills me with sorrow
and I sink like a chain flung from a bridge.
But mostly poetry fills me
with the urge to write more poetry,
to sit in the dark and wait for a little flame
to appear at the tip of my pencil.
And along with that, the longing to steal,
to break into the poems of others
with a flashlight and a ski mask.
And what an unmerry band of thieves we are,
cut-purses, common shoplifters,
I thought to myself
as a cold wave swirled around my feet
and the lighthouse moved its megaphone over the sea,
which is an image I stole directly
from Lawrence Ferlinghetti -
to be perfectly honest for a moment -
the bicycling poet of San Francisco
whose little amusement park of a book
I carried in a side pocket of my uniform
up and down the treacherous halls of high school.
This short account of a young man's NDE (near death experience) was lent by my daughter-in-law while on Cape Cod for vacation. I brought it to the beach and read in one sitting. The foreword is by Dr. Raymond Moody, the author of Life After Life, the classic book on NDE's.
George Ritchie died in an army hospital and came back to life nine minutes later. He was only 20 years old. After recovering and completing his time in the army, he went to medical school and after practicing for 13 years as a medical doctor, he went back to school to become a psychiatrist.
- Out of body - he saw a physical body on the table, not realizing it was his.
- Conscious - he knew who he was; all his memories were intact.
- Unbound by space and time - was able to travel instantaneously
- Bright light
- Presence of Jesus who was all powerful and unconditional love
- Life review - in rich detail. He was asked, "What did you do with your life?" At first, he did not understand the question as he was only 20 years old and had not experienced much. But then he saw the real question was about love: "How much have you loved with your life? Have you loved others as I am loving you? Totally? Unconditionally?"
- He saw disembodied beings following physical people begging forgiveness. These, he learned, were suicides, "chained to every consequence of their act."
This last point was painful to read. My daughter-in-law told me that after she read the book, she told Josh that we are all OK and he should be at peace.
On my beach chair, at the water's edge, while looking across the expansive ocean, I said, "RIP Josh. We are okay and so are you."
On vacation, I spent most of my reading time immersed on the wonderful, eclectic, innovative, accessible poetry of Billy Collins. Two poems from this collection were transcribed in my poetry journal, including this short one.
by Billy Collins
My pen moves along the page
like the snout of a strange animal
shaped like a human arm
and dressed in the sleeve of a loose green sweater.
I watch it sniffing the paper ceaselessly,
intent as any forager that has nothing
on its mind but the grubs and insects
that will allow it to live another day.
It wants only to be here tomorrow,
dressed perhaps in the sleeve of a plaid shirt,
nose pressed against the page,
writing a few more dutiful lines
while I gaze out the window and imagine Budapest
or some other city where I have never been.
What I love about Collins's poems is how he takes an ordinary human experience like falling asleep while reading and makes it extraordinary.
Reading Myself to Sleep
by Billy Collins
The house is all in darkness except for this corner bedroom
where the lighthouse of a table lamp is guiding
my eyes through the narrow channels of print,
and the only movement in the night is the slight
swirl of curtains, the easy lift and fall of my breathing,
and the flap of pages as they turn in the wind of my hand.
Is there a more gentle way to go into the night
than to follow an endless rope of sentences
and then to slip drowsily under the surface of a page
into the first tentative flicker of a dream,
passing out of the bright precincts of attention
like cigarette smoke passing throughout a window screen?
All late readers know this sinking feeling of falling
into the liquid of sleep and then rising again
to the call of a voice that you are holding in your hands,
as if pulled from the sea back into a boat
where a discussion is raging on some subject or other,
on Patagonia or Thoroughbreds or the nature of war.
Is there a better method of departure by night
than this quiet bon voyage with an open book,
the sole companion who has come to see you off,
to wave you into the dark waters beyond language?
I can hear the rush and sweep of fallen leaves outside
where the world lies unconscious, and I can feel myself
dissolving, drifting into a story that will never be written,
letting the book slip to the floor where I will find it
in the morning when I surface, wet and streaked with
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2000
I listened to this interview with Lahiri and wrote the following in my book journal:
- creative process is like a leap of faith off a cliff - one is creating something out of nothing
- she does not know where her stories come from except they emerge from a place deep within
- works on her stories for years
- the process of creating - trying something to see if it works, discarding, trying something else, refining to make it better - is what she loves. The by-product is the finished story.
- Very thoughtful author - of her own work and the work of others.
I would like to read her other books:
- The Namesake
- Unaccustomed Earth
- The Lowland
Her 6 favorite reads on the Barnes and Noble web site.