Friday, September 22, 2023

So Many, So Little

 Last year, I participated in Victober--when people read Victorian literature in October and discuss on youtube and Goodreads. When I was reading some of the threads, I learned about the Serial Reader app, which I had never heard of. I immediately went to learn more about it and within a few minutes, I'd downloaded it and started going through the options. I haven't looked back. I've been using the app daily for almost a year and I love it. They send the books you choose in installments that they estimate will take between 10 and 20 minutes to read.The books are all in the public domain so it's all older books. There are well-known books and authors available, as well as obscure and unknown (at least to me) books and authors. There are long books (The Complete Sherlock Holmes, for example is over 250 installments) and short stories that are two or three installments. There is a wide variety of genres, which is cool. I've read books in genres that are among my favourites, like old mysteries and I have read work that is old sci-fi, a genre I normally don't read. Some of the latter have been truly strange, but I find them fascinating nonetheless. It's interesting to see what people thought life would be like in the future. I read a book published in 1894, written by a French astronomer, about a comet that was going to hit the earth. He forsaw the EU. Another, published in 1836, was about a guy who was transported 300 years into the future, which put him close to the present day, if I remember correctly. There were all kinds of things the author imagined life would be like, but in the story, large blocks of ice were still being transported to China by ship. Mary Griffith, the author, who is considered the first female utopian writer in the US, couldn't foresee freezers, apparently. Some of the books I've read have been wonderful, some have been weird, some have been not my cup of tea. But because it's just a short installment each day, it's easy to keep reading. There has only been one book that I decided not to finish after reading a couple of installments and that was a Willa Cather book, the name of which escapes me at the moment. I've tried a different book of hers in the past and didn't finish that, either, so I've concluded that she's just not for me. Anyway, if you're into classics, I highly recommend this app.

Besides that, my reading plans were recently upended, but in a good way. I was at the point where I had about 300 pages left to read of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens. Then I got this in the post:
Several weeks ago, I reviewed Davis' new book, Our Strangers. I loved that book so much that I wanted to read her previous work, so I went to the library website and requested The Collected Stories. Bill found a copy online and bought it for me, so I cancelled the library request. I'm thrilled to have my own copy, because it's the kind of book that is great to read in chunks.

Shortly after that, the postman dropped off another book parcel. Bill had found this book at Kenny's and bought it for me:
What a fabulous book it is, too! I am almost at the halfway point and I am loving it so far! But I ended up having to set that aside, too, because suddenly books I'd requested from NetGalley weeks ago got approved all at once and a couple are close to publication date by now. I already had a few others on my shelf, so those 4 got added. I've been reading those books for the past week or so. And the icing on the cake is the new Agatha Christie autumnal short story collection that appeared on the 'new ebooks' list at the library website. I reserved it and although it said it would be available in October, it came in the other day. 

I am not complaining, mind you. I think that an abundance of books is not a bad thing. I have a pin that says, 'so many books, so little time' and that about sums it up. If only there was somewhere I could click to request more hours in a day. 😀😁

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Sunday Spine-ku

Here are a couple of spine-ku, as I call these short spine poems, on a Sunday morning. Now back to coffee!
A natural curiosity
family album

Books are A Natural Curiosity by Margaret Drabble, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and Family Album by Penelope Lively--all happen to be published by Penguin.

literary women
to the lighthouse

Books are Five by Doris Lessing, an old Penguin collection of 5 of her short novels, Literary Women by Ellen Moers a nonfiction work published by the Women's Press, and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Wordsworth Edition. 

Although I got this one in a charity shop, Wordsworth Editions are my favourite for classics and when I am looking for a classic online at Kenny's I try to get those--they always have good informative introductions (which should always be read after reading the book because there are spoilers) and good notes. Penguin and Oxford are good, too, but I like Wordsworth best.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Making Lemonade

 Yesterday I posted about the obnoxious harvest fair and the accompanying noise. It's the same sort of crap we've had to deal with periodically through the summer--same old noise, same old songs, same old garbage. In order to try to hang on to some bits of sanity when the same annoying noises are invading my home, I came up with a poem using the song titles and lyrics that we have heard over and over and over and over and.... throughout the summer. I think the story reads like a country western song. Here it is:

Bar Music 1
The rhinestone cowboy rode into town,
the doors were closed and the shutters were down.
He was looking for his Sweet Caroline,
wondering if he would run out of time.

He'd been to Folsom Prison, you see,
but once he got there, he decided to flee
and falling into a burning ring of fire,
was not quite enough to quench his desire.

Down the country roads he went,
kept going when all his money was spent.
He sped towards his home in that dirty old town,
but when he got there, he could only frown.

Sweet Caroline had not long waited--
another man's dinner was already plated.
He begged, he pleaded, he sank to his knees,
while she and her new love ignored all his pleas.

So he drew on some lessons he'd learned in the past--
know when to hold 'em, fold 'em, then walk away fast.
'I know when I'm beaten,' he said to himself,
,'I won't stay here to be put on the shelf!'

He jumped into his car to speed into the night
seeking paradise by those dashboard lights.

Who knows where he landed, who knows where he went, 
while Sweet Caroline built a new life with her gent.

August 2023

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Time Marches On--I Limp Instead

 A few weeks ago, I was just starting my walk home from the museum when I suddenly found myself on the sidewalk on my right knee. I have no idea what happened, but I suppose I must've tripped. I don't recall any such thing, but there I was. I didn't stumble or anything--just went down. I gathered up my bag and was thinking, 'Well now I have to get up.' There were probably some cars passing by but no other pedestrians, so I shifted to my left knee, already damaged from previous falls, and stood up, surprised at how easily I was able to do this, considering there was nothing to grab onto. I checked my pants, assuming they were ripped. They weren't, but when I got home I discovered that my knee was. I limped home, washed off my knee, put some antiseptic cream on it, and plunked myself down and my leg up. That was how I spent the next several days, pretty much--thank goodness for books and yarn! Sleeping was not coming easy because I had to stay on my back all the time, so I was having trouble falling asleep and then waking up after a few hours in pain. My leg was puffy and all kinds of colours. Still, I was moving better after a few days and able to do necessary tasks, although stairs aggravated things. Mainly, I wanted to sleep more.

A couple weeks later, we had some summery weather and it was hot and uncomfortable. I was still having to sleep on my back. Not a good combination, so I got even less sleep. That was a shame because I'd really wanted to get some good sleep before last weekend when the dreaded Harvest Fair Festival began--or as I call it, the Annual Mega Noise Pollution Event. I knew that I would get very little sleep for the 5 days this crappy thing was going on so wanted to go into it rested. Oh well.

It was as bad as I expected. Last year was our first here and we were appalled at what it turned out to be. On the last day, they close Main St and vendors line either side. The street is crammed with people walking around. We thought there would be artists and craftspeople, but there were only a handful--mostly it was people with cheap plastic junk. Once I got home from that, I knew I wouldn't be going ever again and this year, I didn't.

Worst of all though is the noise. This year they put speakers on Main St. We don't live on Main St, but off of it and we were located between speakers, so we heard the bad music all day and then when they had live performances on Main St (also bad music) we heard that, too. The biggest disruption came from a nearby bar with a 'beer garden.' Music there was supposed to start at 9, but of course they were always late so sometimes didn't start until 10. The same songs were being repeated over and over again on the same night and on consecutive nights. If I have to hear Sweet Caroline complete with drunk Irish people singing, 'So good, so good, so good' and 'whoa-oh-oh' I think I will scream. Also some maudlin song about how 'this is my homeland, the place I was born in...' They seem to wait until everyone is good and toasted before they sing that one for the first time. Sometimes the singers clearly get drunk along with the audience because they start slurring their words when they scream into the microphone.  When the gigs were done after 3 or 4 hours, the drunk people would hang around outside and yell (they think they're singing), laugh, and scream. Since it was hot, we had to keep the windows open so we heard everything--against our will. We would hear it even with the windows closed, but it is worse with them open. On Sunday, I heard one of the stragglers say, 'It's 5:02' before the group broke up. I didn't get to sleep until 4 or 5 in the morning each of the 5 nights of the 'festival.' We have nights like this through the summer, but they're usually more spread out. When they're concentrated into one long period of time, it gets on my last nerve even more. There is a wee bit of humor--I find it funny how some of these people, who are country-western singers, have their little twang. I wonder if they practice as they pretend to be from Alabama or someplace. The laughter never lasts long--I can't stand country western music. Whatever the genre, the music is so loud that it disrupts our life. A friend sent me ear plugs, which do almost drown out the drunks, but not the music. I can sometimes add my large headphones, which cover my ears, and turn up certain things to the max, but sometimes even that doesn't work and all I can hear is the cacophony from the beer garden. Wandering drunk people in the middle of the night is a very Irish thing. We've heard them in every place we've lived, but this place is the worst for that. 

Publicans are always whining about things--taxes, drink driving laws, outdoor smoking--and saying their business will fail. It's true that many pubs have closed, but there are still plenty left. The market was clearly over-saturated. This is a village of 800 people. There are 4 standalone pubs, a bar inside a hotel, and another inside a restaurant on Main St alone. I am told there used to be 14 pubs in town.

Anyway, I woke up yesterday to the first day post-fair. It was chilly and raining. I was thrilled. Last night I slept well. I hope there's plenty more of that kind of thing in my near future!

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World by Naomi Klein

A Trip Into the Mirror World
by Naomi Klein
ISBN 9780241621301

Naomi Klein (author of The Shock Doctrine and No Logo) thought it was a little weird when people started mistaking 'Other Naomi' (Naomi Wolf) for her. After all, although they share a first name, had brown hair and at one time had views that seemed at least somewhat similar on the surface, Other Naomi had since fallen deeper and deeper into the world of right wing conspiracy theories. As confusion about which Naomi was spouting this stuff grew more widespread, and she received nasty comments online and overheard conversations criticizing her for comments Other Naomi had made, Klein became more distressed. She started to think about the doppelganger idea and decided to find out more about what hers was saying and doing. She began to watch and listen to media where Other Naomi appeared, looked through her website and writings, and began to wonder how Other Naomi went from what she was to what she is. As she got further into this journey, she saw patterns emerge that are relevant to all of us and to society at large, making connections between the idea of the doppelganger and how we live our lives online, doppelganger politics, economics, and more. For example, Klein points out that anyone who has an online presence is, in a sense, their own doppelganger. She discusses a 'Mirror World' of conspiracy theories in which genuine issues are given bizarre explanations and there is an attempt to create a false equivalency of victimhood. The ideas in this world are often contradictory--the point is not to create a coherent narrative or to convince anyone who is actually paying attention, but is a tool to distract and encourage denial both inside this world and outside it. 

This book is not a simple criticism of the Mirror World, but also shows the ways in which those outside it, who are not mired in right wing media and conspiracy theories have their own issues-- in the 'Shadow Lands' where people who are critical of the inherent racism of the far right, for example, don't see the ugly reality underneath the comforting mythologies colonial countries like the US, Canada, and others are built on.

Klein is doing what she does so well here--investigating deeply, going where her findings take her, pulling various threads of thought and observation together, and making connections. It's a book full of insight, keen observation, and critical thinking and one that is definitely timely and important. I highly recommend it.

I thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for a digital advanced review copy.