sunday salon: when it snows, it pours edition

The Sunday Salon

Weekend Update:
I spent part of the afternoon with The Boy at Children’s Express Care. He’s had a headache, low-grade fever, dry cough, fatigue and very little appetite for the last couple days. At first I attributed this to a simple cold, a touch of something, but I started suspecting pneumonia last night after over-the-counter meds weren’t doing much. A chest x-ray later, turns out I was right. Fortunately, the doctor said he isn’t contagious, so that’s something.

While we were at Express Care, The Husband texted me to say that he noticed the hot water heater leaking …so now that is shot. We had just been talking about getting tickets for Paul McCartney in Philly for our anniversary in June, but I guess we’re getting a new hot water heater instead.

The Reason for This Blog Post Title:
Like a lot of places, spring is taking its good old time getting to Pittsburgh already. It’s been cold, blustery and is making everyone just downright miserable. Yesterday it snowed a little bit. On April 25! I had to work in the morning and I was wearing a wool sweater, blazer, boots, and my winter coat (which I had put away – as in, hung up in the closet) last weekend. Such bullshit.

Readathon - Day and NightRead-a-Thon Recap:
For me, yesterday was The Read-a-Thon of Tiny Books. I finished Deep Lane by Mark Doty; My Sunshine Away, by M.O. Walsh; Acorn, by Yoko Ono and We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The first two were already in progress; the second are both very small books. I wound up reading for 6 hours or so, including an hour of audiobook time. For whatever reason, I wasn’t in the Read-a-Thon spirit of things this time around. (That has NOTHING to do with the event and everything to do with my reading slump.)

Book Slump Broken?
Ironically, the Read-a-Thon may have ended my latest book slump. Thank God. I’ve been recommending My Sunshine Away to everyone. Loved it and won’t soon forget it.

I’m currently reading Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, who I have tickets to see on June 1 when she comes to Pittsburgh.  I started this while in the waiting room at Express Care today and I am immediately hooked. On audio, I’m listening to Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss.

The Week Ahead
A few fun things happening this week.

Tuesday, April 28
I’ll be reading the first page of … uh, something … as part of PAGE 3, a gathering of confirmed writers, those who “just enjoy writing,” and those who want to listen. All are welcome to attend and it is FREE! There will be food and wine, I’m told. 

Borelli-Edwards Gallery in Lawrenceville
3583 Butler Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201

Wednesday, April 29
I have tickets to see Richard Flanagan, who won the Man Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North.  

And a blog milestone is imminent.  A a few posts from now, I will publish my 2,000th post!  I never imagined that I would be blogging for almost seven years. To celebrate this event, I am planning a special announcement. So, whether this happens sometime this week or next (most likely next, but you never know), stay tuned.

Hope you had a great weekend!

we now return to the 24 hour read-a-thon, currently in progress

Readathon - Day and Night

We’re in the middle of … what, Hour 11? Hour 10? … of the spring edition of Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon. (As stupid as it sounds, I never know how to keep track of the time for this event. I mean, is Hour 1 when we first start reading or is it after we’ve completed our first hour?)

I swear, after more than a few go-arounds with this, I should know this by now.  Whatever.

Had to work for a few hours this morning, so I joined this Read-a-thon while it was already in progress. (OK, truth be told, I started last night because it had been a stressful day.)

Here’s my Hour 11 update (at 6:15 p.m. EST)

Stash of books I started with:

Readathon - Spring 2015

TOTALS (I’ll continue to update this post throughout the rest of the Read-a-thon. Maybe.)

Pages Read:  360 (updated, Hour 13)
this total is misleading, as Acorn is 216 pages but is a very small book with sometimes only a few words per page

Time Spent Reading: 5.5 hours (updated, Hour 13)

Books Finished: 4 (updated, Hour 13)
Deep Lane, by Mark Doty
My Sunshine Away, by M.O. Walsh
Acorn, by Yoko Ono
We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Now … what to read next? 

Ready … Set … READ-A-THON!

Readathon - Day and Night

Friends, it has been A. DAY.

I mean, for real.

If there is any possible way that a Friday could feel like a Monday, today was IT.

This, in a week when yesterday included getting two crowns at the dentist.

And snow.

On April 23.

When the crowns are among the highlight of your week, you know it is time for serious measures.

Hence, an executive decision.

My participation in the spring Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon begins ….


(Hey, it’s the start of Readathon somewhere, isn’t it?)

In reality, all I’m going to do tonight is read the book I’m currently reading, and that doesn’t really a Readathon make. But it will make me feel better, and that’s all that matters.

I also have to work tomorrow morning, so I’m thinking the time will somehow even itself out.

Here are the books I’ve rounded up for this year’s Readathon.

Readathon - Spring 2015

Acorn, by Yoko Ono
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott (in progress)
We Are All Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Tampa, by Alissa Nutting
Deep Lane, Poems by Mark Doty (in progress)
Happy are the Happy, by Yasmina Reza
Looking for the Gulf Motel, Poems by Richard Blanco
Letters to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries, by Ander Monson
My Sunshine Away, by M.O. Walsh (in progress)

Others not pictured: Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng; My Mistake, by Daniel Menaker, and a pile of cookbooks.

A few Read-a-thons ago, Florinda had a great idea: use these 24 hours to finish books already started. I love that, so I’ve started incorporating some unfinished books into my Read-a-thons. I also like to use this time to make a dent in the books that I already own.  This year is a combination of both of these as well as a few library books.  (I really need to start restraining myself from checking a book or two out every single day. I wish I was exaggerating; I’m not. Such are the occupational hazards of my job.)

Of course, I’m not going to read all of these … but it will be fun trying.

Happy Read-a-thoning, everybody!

you will feel a little pinch

I’m stuck in a dream when I awake  – disoriented amid the imprint of clingy cats with sharp claws, a lingering kiss, the domestic violence shelter, some of the friends we once shared, a long car ride through a depressed neighborhood and on darkened roads.

Another vivid dream, so real I believe I was really there – and in a sense, I was. Mark Doty’s latest before bed has led my nocturnal wanderings down my own deep lanes, it seems.

Madonna is singing about ghost towns as I drive to my morning dentist appointment – she’s still kicking ass, still leaving all these wannabe divas in the dust with their crappy songs, still singing the soundtrack to my life just like she did in those long ago years. I am in fierce immediate love with this new song. (“When it all falls, when it all falls down/  I’ll be your fire when the lights go out/ When there’s no one, no one else around/ We’ll be two souls in a ghost town.”)  The credits of my unshakable  dream scroll to the theme song.

I distract myself from the drilling by composing a poem, wishing for paper. I’m a perfect patient, my dentist says. So relaxed. Poetry will do that to you, I think. Two hours and two temporary teeth later, I have something I think I can work with. you will feel a little pinch …. I try not to step on Pink Floyd’s toes.

The Novacaine dissipates as I alternate between sleeping and reading. I’m engrossed in M.O. Walsh’s stunning debut novel My Sunshine Away, a fantastic title with a story I cannot put down because of writing like this.

“But for every adult person you look up to in life there is trailing behind them an invisible chain gang of ghosts, all of which, as a child, you are generously spared from meeting. I know now, however, that these ghosts exist, and that other adults can see them. The lost loves, the hurt friends, the dead: they follow their owner forever. Perhaps this is why we feel so crowded around those people who we know have had hard times. Perhaps this is why we find so little to say. We suffer an odd brand of stage fright, I think, before all those dreadful eyes.”

These lines take hold of my soul. I return again to my numbed ghosts – my lost loves, my hurt friends, my dead who follow me forever. The ones I still see as an adult. The ones who crowd my dreams.


You will feel a little pinch

–and I see the needle

before I close my eyes.

 You give me the play-by-play

–we’re going to remove all the decay

as if it was that easy.

 I’m back in last night’s dream

–the claws, the cats, that long kiss ….

 Tell me if you’re feeling any of this.


Thoughts on Poems from the Women’s Movement

Poems from the Women's MovementPoems from the Women’s Movement, edited by Honor Moore
American Poets Project (Book 28)
Library of America

224 pages

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.” ~ Muriel Rukeyser

In this collection of poetry, one woman doesn’t tell the truth about her life. Many women do.

And if the poets represented in this collection aren’t speaking about personal experience, they’re writing about the collective experience of so many women throughout the generations.

These poems are raw but truthful. Uncomfortable but honest. They take no prisoners and have a no-holds-barred mentality. They deal with subjects that today are still, in some circles, taboo to discuss.

This is not an easy collection of poems to read, but for those interested in women’s history and women writers, it’s a worthy one.

From the blurb on the back of the book:

“The Women’s Movement of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s forever changed American culture, inspiring poetry that captured an age of expectancy, defiant purpose, and exuberant exploration. Here, in a landmark new collection assembled by poet and memoirist Honor Moore, is the unforgettable poetry that gave voice to a revolution, including poems by Sylvia Plath, Muriel Rukeyser, Adrienne Rich, Anne Sexton, Sonia Sanchez, Lucille Clifton, May Swenson, Alice Walker, Audre Lord, Anne Waldman, Sharon Olds, and many others.”


Going Backstage to Meet Our American Cousin

I select all of my husband’s reading material.

He’s perfectly capable of choosing a book by himself, of course. It’s just that I happen to work at a library. And after being together for 25 years, I’ve gotten incredibly good at knowing what his preferences are … um … between the covers.

In the bookish sense, that is.


Backstage at the Lincoln AssassinationOne of the books that I brought home recently for the husband’s consideration was Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination: The Untold Story of the Actors and Stagehands at Ford’s Theatre, by Thomas A. Bogar.  Which prompted my beloved to ask me – in the course of his reading and during what passes for two-plus-decades old marital conversation fodder these days  – about some ancestors who are buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery, a well-known Philadelphia resting place steeped in history.

“Your Hess relatives are there,” I answered, mentally dusting off some genealogical research I’d conducted years ago.

“Huh. Well. You won’t believe this and I’m not 100% sure, but I think two of them might have been at Ford’s Theatre the night Lincoln was shot.”

“Please don’t tell me we’re related to John Wilkes Booth, for God’s sake,” I said. “We have enough problems.”

Now, everyone knows all about the main characters who had a starring role in the first-ever presidential assassination, which occurred exactly 150 years ago. We know about the President and Mary Todd Lincoln and the infamous John Wilkes Booth. We’ve heard of Ford’s Theatre, and some of us might even know that the play being performed that fateful night was Our American Cousin. 

But there haven’t been many accolades for the people who were actually onstage and those assisting with the production itself.

Until now.

In Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination, theater historian and author Thomas A. Bogar tells his reader about the 46 actors, managers and stagehands who found themselves in the spotlight during one of history’s defining moments.

And among them? Courtland V. Hess, a 25-year-old singer and actor from Philadelphia who was not feeling well on that ill-fated evening and who was scheduled to play the role of Lieutenant Vernon in Our American Cousin.  Also at the play was William Heiss, who was at the performance to see his brother Courtland (who had, apparently, thought it prudent to drop the pesky family “i” on his quest for fame and glory). William Heiss was somewhat of a Big Deal with the telegraph service; it seems that he was involved with the decision to shut down the commercial telegraphs immediately following Lincoln being shot.

(My husband, who earned a masters degree in American history, is physically cringing that I am writing this post from his memory and without double-checking the actual source for myself. I get that, but, well … Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination is, as of this writing, currently checked out of the library. To keep a modicum of nerdy peace in the family, my husband is making me promise you – and especially Mr. Bogar – that I’ll go back and make sure I know what the hell I’m talking about.)

Regardless, this intriguing tidbit of information – along with my putzing around on the Internet and my previous findings while climbing our family tree – is more than enough to pique my curiosity about our family’s potential connection to the Lincoln assassination.

There is the small matter of the differing last names. If all of our relatives spelled their name as Hess while this side of the family originally went by Heiss and if Courtland remained a bachelor … then there’s probably not much to go on.  But it’s definitely worth looking into, especially since our library has quite an extensive genealogical collection focusing on Pennsylvania history.

It’ll be interesting to see if these folks really are our American cousins.


dustin’ off that english degree, joining the classics club

The Classics Club

While catching up on blog reading today, I noticed several posts where people mentioned joining The Classics Club and referencing The Classics Club Spin #9 as being a good time to join the aforementioned club.

So of course I had to check out what this was all about.

I’ve known about The Classics Club since it started in March 2012 (how can that be three years ago already?) and truth be told, I’ve often wished I’d joined back when it was initiated and several times since. So, why not now?

Yes. Why not now?

Well, since this sort of thing constitutes my idea of fun, consider me in.

To participate, all one needs to do is post a list of at least 50 classics that you plan to read within the next five years, which I’ve done below. What I love about The Classics Club is that short stories, novellas, and poetry can be included – and re-reads are allowed, too. And it is somewhat flexible. I don’t do well with challenges or reading games where one needs to adhere to a list that’s set in stone until the end of time since preferences change and have no qualms about declaring a book DNF.

I’m trying very hard to make a dent in the books I have on my shelves and on my Kindle, so as with many of the challenges I join, those will be considered “priority reads.”

So. Without further ado, here’s my list of books for The Classics Club that I plan to read by April 6, 2020. At its current total of 111 books, this averages out to 22 books per year if I did all of these, which would be nearly half of all my annual reading. I’m under no delusions that this is going to happen. Consider this a work in progress of sorts, my Classics Club Master List as compiled from The Big Book List on The Classic Club blogvarious Goodreads lists, and a perusal of my own shelves (real and virtual). The classics I most want to read and hope to sooner rather than later.

Note: Those listed in bold are my 20 selections for The Classics Club Spin #9, all books currently sitting on my shelves waiting to be read.

  1. Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi: Half of a Yellow Sun
  2. Alcott, Louisa May: Little Men (Kindle)
  3. Allende, Isabel: The House of the Spirits
  4. Allison, Dorothy: Bastard Out of Carolina
  5. Anderson, Sherwood: Winesburg, Ohio
  6. Angelou, Maya: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  7. Atwood, Margaret: The Blind Assassin 
  8. Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice (Kindle)
  9. Austen, Jane: Sense and Sensibility
  10. Baldwin, James: Giovanni’s Room
  11. Baldwin, James: Go Tell it on the Mountain
  12. Bronte, Charlotte: Villette
  13. Bronte, Emily: Wuthering Heights
  14. Calvino, Italo: If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler
  15. Cather, Willa: My Antonia
  16. Chopin, Kate: The Awakening
  17. Collins, Wilkie: The Woman in White (Kindle)
  18. Dickens, Charles: Bleak House (Kindle)
  19. Dickens, Charles: Great Expectations 
  20. Dickens, Charles: Tale of Two Cities 
  21. Dickens, Charles: The Cricket on the Hearth
  22. Dickens, Charles: The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  23. Dickens, Charles: The Pickwick Papers (Kindle)
  24. Eliot, George: Adam Bede (Kindle)
  25. Eliot, George: Middlemarch
  26. Eliot, T.S.: The Complete Poems
  27. Emerson, Ralph Waldo: Self-Reliance and Other Essays
  28. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: Flappers and Philosophers
  29. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: Tales of the Jazz Age
  30. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: Tender is the Night
  31. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Beautiful and Damned
  32. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby
  33. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Love of the Last Tycoon
  34. Fitzgerald, Zelda: Save Me the Waltz
  35. Flaubert, Gustav: Madame Bovary
  36. Foer, Jonathan Safran: Everything is Illuminated
  37. Foer, Jonathan Safran: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Kindle)
  38. Forster, E.M. Howard’s End (Kindle)
  39. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins: Herland
  40. Giovanni, Nikki: The Selected Poems 1968-1995
  41. Hawthorne, Nathaniel: Selected Stories
  42. Ibsen, Henrik: A Doll’s House
  43. Irving, John: A Prayer for Owen Meany (Kindle)
  44. Irving, Washington: The Complete Tales
  45. Jackson, Shirley: Just An Ordinary Day: The Uncollected Stories
  46. Keats, John: Poems
  47. Keller, Helen: The Story of My Life
  48. Keyes, Daniel: Flowers for Algernon
  49. Kingsolver, Barbara: The Poisonwood Bible
  50. Kundera, Milan: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  51. Lawrence, D.H.: Collected Short Stories
  52. Lawrence, D.H.: Lady Chatterley’s Lover
  53. Lawrence, D.H.: Sons and Lovers
  54. Lawrence, D.H.: Women in Love
  55. Mansfield, Katherine: The Garden Party & Other Stories
  56. Mansfield, Katherine: Selected Stories
  57. McCarthy, Cormac: The Road
  58. McCarthy, Mary: The Group
  59. McCullers, Carson: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
  60. Millay, Edna St. Vincent: Collected Poems
  61. Miller, Arthur: Death of a Salesman
  62. Mitchell, David: Cloud Atlas
  63. Morrison, Toni: A Mercy
  64. Morrison, Toni: Home
  65. Morrison, Toni: Jazz
  66. Morrison, Toni: Love
  67. Morrison, Toni: Paradise
  68. Morrison, Toni: Song of Solomon
  69. Nabokov, Vladimir: Lolita
  70. Henry, O. : Collected Stories
  71. O’Connor, Flannery: A Good Man is Hard to Find
  72. O’Connor, Flannery: Everything that Rises must Converge
  73. O’Connor, Flannery: Wise Blood
  74. Plath, Sylvia: Ariel
  75. Plath, Sylvia: The Colossus and Other Poems
  76. Plath, Sylvia: Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short Stories, Prose and Diary Excerpts
  77. Plath, Sylvia: The Journals of Sylvia Plath
  78. Poe, Edgar Allan: Collected Stories and Poems
  79. Poe, Edgar, Allan: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket
  80. Poe, Edgar Allan: The Raven and Other Writings
  81. Pound, Ezra: Personae: The Shorter Poems
  82. Proulx, Annie: The Shipping News
  83. Rhys, Jean: Wide Sargasso Sea
  84. Robinson, Marilynne: Housekeeping
  85. Salinger, J.D.: Nine Stories (TBR)
  86. Salinger, J.D: Franny and Zooey
  87. Shakespeare, William: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  88. Shakespeare, William: Much Ado About Nothing
  89. Shakespeare, William: The Taming of the Shrew
  90. Shakespeare, William: The Tempest
  91. Silko, Leslie Marmon: Ceremony
  92. Smith, Betty: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  93. Wharton, Edith: Summer
  94. Wharton, Edith: The Age of Innocence
  95. Wilde, Oscar: The Importance of Being Earnest
  96. Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray (Kindle)
  97. Wollstonecraft, Mary: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
  98. Woolf, Virginia: A Haunted House: The Complete Shorter Fiction
  99. Woolf, Virginia: A Room of One’s Own
  100. Woolf, Virginia: Between the Acts
  101. Woolf, Virginia: Flush
  102. Woolf, Virginia: Jacob’s Room (Kindle)
  103. Woolf, Virginia: Melymbrosia
  104. Woolf, Virginia: Night and Day
  105. Woolf, Virginia: Orlando
  106. Woolf, Virginia: The Common Reader 1st Series
  107. Woolf, Virginia: The Common Reader 2nd Series
  108. Woolf, Virginia: The Voyage Out
  109. Woolf, Virginia: The Waves
  110. Woolf, Virginia: Three Guineas
  111. Yeats, William Butler: Collected Poems