September – the end of summer – and still busy like summer. A handful of books read but nothing in the audio book list. I bought a lot of music this month.
The books I read:
Dogsbody – Diana Wynne Jones (1975/2012)
A pleasant young readers book. Not nearly as simplistic as some of the stuff being churned out today. You’ll have to do some thinking to follow along. It also helps if you know a little about dogs. The dogs here are very doggie, even if the dog at the center of the story is actually a star that’s been sentenced to live a dog’s life on earth until he manages a seemingly impossible task. The child at the center, Kathleen, is a young Irish girl billeted unhappily with her uncle’s family somewhere in middle(class) England. No one is happy about the situation. Kathleen’s rescue of a near drowned puppy only makes the situation worse.
This is one book that manages to violate my number rule one about dogs in books (thou shalt not kill the dog) without making me want to throw it across the room. Yes, I just spoiled it for you. Except that the dog doesn’t really “die”, he… well it’s complicated. Though I have to admit that Kathleen’s reaction at the end of the story is a little hard to comprehend. I think it’s just a slight weakness in the writing that makes Kathleen’s reaction seem so blank.
Really though, if you need a little something to kill off an afternoon of couch slouching while slightly ill you couldn’t do better than Dogsbody. (Or almost any Diane Wynn Jones book.)
* All dogs are stars fallen to Earth *
The Poet, The Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, A Wedding in St. Roch, The Big Box Store, The Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All – C. D. Wright (2016)
Wherein one of the most influential poets of the 20th century and beyond lays out her theory of poetry in a series of prose poems and fragments that examine not only her own work and that of her collaborations but also the work of a handful of poets who influenced her. For a woman who died so suddenly it seems prescient that she would have written a last book that so much serves to indicate the way for future readers and scholars to consider her work. If you are concerned with the poets mentioned or the act of making poetry it’s a worthwhile read. The Questionnaire of January that ends the work will provide you with a lifetime’s worth of inquiries onto the ways and means of making poetry. It also the longest title of any book that I have read. (That does not include titles that use a colon to make two separate titles appear as one. Which I consider cheating in the truest sense.)
* Wright’s Ars Poetica *
The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish – Linda Przybyszewski (2014)
What can I say… it’s a history, mostly, of the Home Economics movement and the powerful influence it had in early 20th century America seen through the lenses of a handful of women who taught, wrote, and lectured about the art dressing well on a reasonable budget. Here is where I have to admit that I am an absolute sucker for old Home Ec pamphlets and such. (Did you know that there is an entire digitized library of them?) This book is about the women who created them. And I would have loved it for a historical survey. If the author had left it at that. But it feels as if half the book is taken up with her histrionics of the “modern women are shameless and ill-dressed” type. Yeah, I know – I have some pretty dire opinions on the matter myself, but I’m not writing a history of the women who wrote about and influenced the lives of millions of middle and lower class women in the first half of the 20th century.
I’m glad I read the book, it’s right up in there in one of my favorite guilty pleasures but I’d have liked it a good deal more if it had stuck to its stated topic. If you’re a fan of all things dress and dressmaking you’ll enjoy it. If you looking for history you’ll find the author’s constant insertion of herself and her opinions unbearably unprofessional.
* Yeah, I’m old enough to have made that apron in Home Ec *
13 Clocks – James Thurber (Marc Simont – Illustrator) (original 1950)
I like Thurber. There I said it. I like the man with the funny dog cartoons and a lot more. This little gem of a fairy tale is either a fairy tale or a satire of a fairy tale or some lovely combination of the two, containing as it does an enchanted princess, a brave prince, and evil duke, and something that might be a fairy tale troll, or the weirdest fairy god mother ever. Whatever it is we are assured that it is the only one of its kind. Full of lovely mumblety-pumbelty language that begs to be read out loud.
* Fairy Tales never go out of style *
Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither – Sarah Baum (2015)
Two books with dogs in them in one month. That’s just not something that should happen. Two books with dogs in them that I actually liked (well maybe not “liked” but appreciated) in one month is a miracle of some sort. I can’t say I liked this book. Liked would imply that it was a pleasant light-hearted read. This isn’t. It is anything but happy and light-hearted; it’s a dense, beautiful, lyric, tragic thing. In all the meanings of tragic. The protagonist has a tragic flaw that will guide and perhaps ruin his life. So does the dog. It’s odd to think of a dog as a tragic hero. But this one is. Perhaps through no fault of his own.
The writing is lyrical. In the mode of poetry. In fact she uses a number of poetic devices. There are many melodically composed sentences, varying line length, alliteration. I even found pleasing examples of slant rhyme. There is also a great appreciation of the natural world filtered through malaise – is that the word that I want? The protagonist is some how very damaged and that damage colors his interactions with the world in a fearful and awed way. His relationship with the natural world is something that he’s build himself. No one taught him about the birds and the plants that he so admires and that seem to bring him into touch with the only flow of time that he encounters. All the rest of his life is a long, dull, fear-tinged now.
* A challenging book to read but rewarding in so may ways *