Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: "The Curious Incident Of the Dog In The Night-Time"

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a different book. The narrator, Christopher, is a fifteen year old special needs kid who is a math whiz, but who has a lot of difficulty understanding other people, and dealing with them. When he discovers his neighbor's standard poodle dead in the yard, he decides that he will do detective work and discover who the killer was.

I knew this book would be offbeat--and that I would probably love it--when it started off with chapter 2. The book turns out to be one that Christopher is writing about his investigation, and he numbers his chapters with all prime numbers. His narrative wobbles from trying to find out who killed Wellington the dog, to all sorts of random subjects such as life in outer space, or lists of things that interest him. Sometimes his skewed observations are weirdly on target, seeing everything as he does from a very unusual perspective.

Christopher is hampered a great deal by his inability to filter out unnecessary information. If he sees cows in a field, he knows how many there were, what colors they were, and can recreate the spot pattern on a particular cow by drawing it. Unfortunately, this overload of information often causes Christopher to become overwhelmed, and then he can barely cope.

One thing I should probably mention is that to my American mind, the Britspeak was hard to follow sometimes. Yards are gardens, cookies are biscuits, tea is a meal, and so forth.

It's a quick read, and certainly a unique and entertaining one. For a novel about a boy who doesn't really understand humanity very well, this book has a great deal of it. Recommended.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Army Wife

When I met her she was enlisted--
a serious chick soldier turned out in
army surplus

Take off your damn boots, I told her.
I don't want it looking like Napoleon came tromping across
my precious Persian

On a rainy afternoon, we walked to the mm yum bakery--
me in a white jacket like a ski trooper,
but she detected me with kiss

In September she moved in, when the sky was that spectacular blue.
We're cat and commander, redeploying this and that
to make basic barracks accommodate my girly curl

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review: "Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 1, 1884-1933"

Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol 1, 1884-1933Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol 1, 1884-1933 by Blanche Wiesen Cook

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After seeing the PBS series about the Roosevelts, I wanted to find a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt that would tell me about the human being more than the public figure, and this was the book I was looking for. However, though it is well written, extremely well researched, and informative, I have to say it was very hard to get through, and I had to set it aside for a while when I was half way done; I just didn't want to know THAT much about anybody, and Blanche Cook never met a detail she didn't like. She appears to be writing for posterity, which is fine--but I really didn't care that ER had lunch with this one and that one, who was married to some other one, and what organization each one was from, and what they had to eat and every word that was said. It wore me out, quite frankly.

ER herself was clearly an incredible woman, even more so for having overcome so much in her life: her adored father's alcoholism, the early death of both her parents, Franklin's betrayal of her with Lucy Mercer, and having to live in the fishbowl of public life when she very often would have liked to go her own way. She was a woman of great courage, compassion, foresight and dignity. All of that is shown here. The feminist viewpoint suits the subject and Cook brings to life a flesh and blood Eleanor, not just some classroom cut-out.

My favorite chapters were near the end of the book, when she describes ER's close relationships with Earl Miller and Lorena Hickok. Like Janis Joplin, ER seems to have been a woman of prodigious talent but also, a hungry heart.

Even though ER was a mold breaker who showed that a woman's place doesn't have to be in the home, I still found it extremely odd that Cook could go into such teeth-grindingly minute detail about a great many things, but had very little to say about ER's relationships with her five children. Daughter Anna gets a handful of pages, while the sons get barely a mention beyond going off to Groton boarding school at the appointed time. Call me quaint, but I don't think you can know a woman very well without knowing how she is with her children, and Cook barely goes into that at all.

Great subject, tireless biographer, but dear God, I thought I would never get finished with it. (And this is only Volume 1, events through 1933). I'm glad I read it, but I'm glad it's done; I can't really recommend it except to the truly dedicated.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015


"Here are my teas," you said,
fingers light on the smooth white 
inside of the cupboard door.

Tucking red hair behind your ear,
you recited them:
"Darjeeling," (drawing out the "ing")
"Mood Mender," (stressing the "M"s)
and "China Black...?"

You carefully fold back the little flaps
of one lucky box.
"Mmmm, smell that," you almost whisper.

Then, the kettle whistling,
the pretty, empty teacups on the table,
and you, with a cat's cool,
serving tease.

Exactly 75 words for Margaret Bednar's "Play It Again, Toads #15. The photograph at top is hers.  I selected Mama Zen's Words Count from last December 10th, asking for the use of homophones. (Are they some kind of specialty cell phone? I've got to get my hands on one!)


Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Here is a lily, love.
See that y'never doubt me.

I have things to do this morning--
I can't confess them, and even if I wanted to,
they have burned the churches down in Belfast and in Derry.

Here is a kiss, love.
Do you need a promise, to know that I am true?

Bodies are fragile things,
and that is why I touch yours so tenderly,
as if you might be torn away from me in an instant.

You might, love.
There are still snakes everywhere, no matter the fairy stories.

In her palace sits a queen, and she has everything.
Still, her fingers are never satisfied unless they make a rope
to fit my sweet white throat.

I am a banshee, love,
and so I must scream. For you though, for now, I whisper.

God made everything in seven days--
that's what a good Catholic girl can do.
I have inscribed little crosses on the pipes and in the powder.

Remember me, if I should fail.
I have cut a lock of my red hair where your lips have been,
and nested it in a silver locket for you to keep.

Here is a lily, love.
A sticky for the Easter rising. 

I am not much, love, but I'm yours, no matter what happens today.
I am just red hair and some spit for the Union Jack;
a prayer for Mary and the thing that I must do.



Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lies Looking For Girls To Tell Them

Lies looking for girls to tell them
gather in groups--
little ions looking for a charge.

Girls grow up greedy to spout the wildest stuff
about each other
or boys
or all the things they will do.

Girls spend hours in front of mirrors
telling lie upon lie.
I'm ugly/ I'm pretty/ that's enough/ never enough.

Girls grow and haul a whole hope chest stuffed with lies
behind them to college,
to the altar,
to the nursery.

Lies looking for girls to tell them are never lonely for long.
Diogenes ran a girls' school until he lost his mind.
The students lied and said he went sailing.

Sit with me. Talk.
Our mothers did the best they could.
We'll always be like sisters.
This tea is good.

Lies looking for girls to tell them
don't stop when friends go home.
They circle when you're

At sunset I shake all my gathered lies from my apron to the sky,
and when they work together,
oh the storm
oh the storm.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Hospital Food

It takes a certain kind of woman
to make me give up a perfectly good spot out on the ledge,
but your voice was soft,
and you were wearing those cute glasses.
The rest of your clothes were all in the laundry, and so,
I folded my wings and came back to bed,
true as a swallow.

The Spanish established missions all over the west,
and brought with them rosaries and refried beans--
all the things that they loved best.
You'll say it was the native tribes
with the best recipes for every sort of hunger, 
and that the Spanish can claim only diseases and Catholicism;
still, you kiss my silver cross
where it rests between my breasts,
and you whisper that I am the nicest nun this side of St. Anyplace.

I was blue all day until you got here, honey.
I was fidgety and cross and off my feed.
But now, here you are,
your glasses on the side table.
I love it when your knees find east and west,
your fingers curl around my ears as if they were Indian jewelry,
and you say "Eat. It's good for you."
Well yes it is, sweetheart.
Yes it is.

for Karin's mini challenge at Toads.