On The Pleasure of Reading

   

“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”  ~W. Somerset Maugham

Like many of you out there, I have always been a reader; started very young and was encouraged to read and write by my parents. All through school I read lots of books and wrote lots of poems and stories. As a teacher I would tell my students that the more you read, the better you read; and the more you read, the better you write. Reading and writing go hand and hand. I passed the love of reading onto my children, though my son fought it and didn’t become a reader or writer until later on…more so when a graduate student. My daughter took to it right away. Each child is different.  Currently, I just started “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, which has received very good reviews that I usually ignore. I’m not one to choose books by looking at book lists; only what strikes a chord as I’m reading the blurb. So far, so good, but I just started. I so enjoyed the last book I read, “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd, whose “The Secret Life of Bees” I truly loved 12 years ago, even enjoyed the movie, a rarity. Since mom is pretty much homebound, I am always looking for books for her to enjoy. She finds big books too big and too heavy to hold so now I’ve been getting her paperbacks like small mystery series set in England…nothing gory. Also, when I can find a good book set in WWI, like the wonderful, wonderful Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, I make sure to order those through my library. I refuse to buy books. No room. The latest WWI book that mom loved was “Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great War” by Jennifer Robson, which I may read too, after I finish “The Goldfinch.”  Reading brings joy. Reading distracts. Reading takes me places without moving one step! Gotta Love it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Renewal

 

“For as long as I can remember, the thing that gave me a sense of wonderment and renewal… has always been the work of other actors.”-Daniel Day Lewis

It has been just about 1 year since I started this WordPress blog and I just renewed today for another year. It has given me enjoyment and is, what I consider, a pleasurable way to spend my time. I do understand Daniel Day Lewis’s assertion that viewing the “work of other actors” inspires him. I get inspired by many of the blogs that I visit, follow, discover and by the many comments that I receive on my blog and the responses to comments I make on other people’s blogs.

The blog has given me all of the following things:

·        A congenial outlet for teaching and learning

·        A creative way to pass on information, new or old or revisited

·        An avenue for meeting like-minded and not so like-minded individuals

·        A place to vent hopes, concerns, aspirations, inspirations, good news, bad news

To celebrate my 1-year anniversary, let’s listen to Sam Cooke, gone too soon, born on this day in 1931.

 

 

  

 

 

 

Some Words On Rudyard Kipling

“If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”-Kipling

When my son was Bar Mitzvahed in 1998, at the end of my speech, I read this poem to the congregation. In addition, I think I assisted one of my children in research on a paper on Rudyard Kipling and got to know him very well, the good and the bad. Now that my son is living in India, revisiting Kipling seems just right. Kipling was born in Bombay (now Mumbai) and loved it as a child, but his parents sent him back to England for his education and due to their feeling of superiority over the citizens of India. Kipling, “for Indians, the man praised by George Orwell as “a good bad poet” remains a divisive figure.”Andrew Walker, BBC Today, 2/19/2010

Kipling was born today in Bombay in 1865. As a child, he loved India and hated to leave it when his parents sent him back to England for his education. His parents did not go back with him so you can imagine the trauma this caused on a little boy! There has been talk of turning Kipling’s home in Mumbai into a museum, but I don’t think that has happened yet. According to The Rudyard Kipling Society of Australia, “Rudyard’s colonialist reputation remains controversial for post-colonial writers in India and elsewhere. Orwell called Kipling as a “prophet of British imperialism”, a man so devoted to duty, service and empire that his writing was bound to be full of prejudice, racism and an absolute belief in Britain’s military correctness.”

I know I’ve read some very good biographies on Kipling and it was a complicated childhood that evolved into a complicated life as a writer and a family man. His poem, “IF,” has been appreciated by millions since it was first written in 1895.”John Gray

 

“I Got My Start By Giving Myself a Start.”-Madame C.J. Walker

As a young adult and classroom teacher, Madame C.J. Walker always fascinated me and was truly someone I admired and shared my admiration with my students. Her hair products changed the hair industry and she was the first African American millionairess. What a magical moment for African American women when their hair needs were addressed and they could find products made just for them! Her life story is very interesting and I would read any biography that came out on her and also on her daughter, her only child, A’Lelia Walker who conducted salons during the Harlem Renaissance. Oh to be a fly on the wall during those sessions!!!  I would recommend a book I read about 11 years ago written by Madame C.J. Walker’s great, great-grandaughter, A’Lelia Walker Bundles: On Her Own Ground.

“I really hope that they look at the totality of [Madam Walker’s] life, that it was great that she became a millionaire, but for me, what is really significant and memorable is that she used her wealth and her influence to make a difference: as a woman who advocated economic independence for African-American women, as a philantropist who gave the largest gift to the NAACP they had ever received on their anti-lynching campaign, a patron of the arts.”A’Lelia Bundles on her great, great-grandmother, Madame C.J. Walker

Madame C.J. Walker was born today in 1867.

This day in history contains more magic….The Drifters, This Magic Moment, was recorded today in 1959!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Who Has Seen the Wind?”-Christina Rossetti

    

“My Heart is Like a Singing Bird.”-Christina Rossetti

Didn’t you just love that poem as a child?  I know I did and I shared it with hundreds of students throughout my career. It’s a great poem to memorize, learn English, visualize, act out, read aloud, use for choral speaking, illustrate…Uh-oh, there’s the teacher in me!  

Italian-British poet, Christina Rossetti was born today in 1830 in London. She came from such a creative family of artists, professors, writers, critics. Her poetry wasn’t limited to poems for children; she wrote about love, death, pain (she suffered from neuralgia and Graves Disease and died from breast cancer) and other topics. “Almost every poem leaves on the mind a sense of satisfaction, of rightness and fitness; we are not led to think of art, but we notice, almost unconsciously, the way in which every word fits into its place, as if it could not possibly have been used otherwise.”Arthur Symons

Her older brother, Dante Gabriel was an artist; her dad was a poet; her mom and sister were very religious and Christina joined them in their charity work, especially after her dearly beloved dad died.  “Christina’s works were largely forgotten, until their rediscovery in the late 20 th century. She is now lauded as one of the greatest poets of the Victorian age.”Literary Worlds: Illumination of the Mind

 

Remember by Christina Rossetti

 

Remember me when I am gone away,

Gone far away into the silent land;

When you can no more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you planned:

Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

 

 

 

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”Eckhart Tolle

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE! I sat down at the computer with my morning coffee (for which I am thankful for) and just jotted down a few things I feel so grateful for. Here they are:

Thankful to hear my husband’s gentle snore as I rise another Thanksgiving morn.

Thankful for children who for years have been out the door; getting good educations, leading independent lives yet staying close to their grams.

Thankful that this life we’ve put together still stands; this life built on our unity and respect for each other.

Thankful that I had a solid career with a pension that enabled me to retire.

Thankful that I had a job that supported my creativity and gave me the opportunity to touch many, many lives for the better.

Thankful that I am, in my own way, still touching lives.

Thankful that I had parents and grandparents who were my biggest fans.

Thankful that my mom will be 90 next week and lives so close to us.

Thankful that I am still curious and still love learning and reading.

Thankful that I do not know boredom.

Thankful that I can sit still, read, take pleasure in the moment.

Thankful that I can still touch my toes, exercise and stretch my mind.

Thankful that my children have been given roots to do with what they may.

Thankful  for family near and far and memories of get -togethers where love abounded.

There is so much gratitude in my heart and much to be Thankful for…

Thankful my husband and I are in good health and can take care of my mom.

Thankful for THIS life, OUR life!

That’s it for now, Folks. Please enjoy a lovely Thanksgiving Day and know that I am thinking of you and your families!

My Second Home

The public library is my 2nd home, always has been, even as a child growing up in Brooklyn. I realize the internet has taken its place in the hearts and minds of many individuals, but it’s still so nice to enter a library. I love seeing people in the library sitting at the computers, browsing the shelves, lining up by the Reference Desk for inquiries. I love to see that…but it’s rare. Our libraries are underused by generations growing up where information is a click away. When my daughter was 3, she proudly walked into our library like a little prize fighter and asked for a library card. She got it since she could write her first and last name. The library was a special place that I frequented with my own 2 children; scheduled trips to with my students and visited several times a week as a teacher to pore over books and select just the right ones for my students. Now I research books that I think my nearly 90 year old mom will like, order them through the library and just pick them up when they arrive. My mom was a reader and as a child I was a voracious reader and so was my daughter. Educators, psychologists, researchers have written that if parents model reading, their children will read. Really?  My son didn’t like to read OR write, so I read to him and I also asked him questions and he dictated his answers for me to write down. I have such lovely memories when we would lie down and share books, I would read, he would read. He didn’t really become a reader until he was close to finishing his B.A. in of all things: ENGLISH!!!!   Then he immediately went onto an MA in Teaching Adolescents English Language Arts, so you never know the direction your children will take. The fact that mom was a teacher and a guidance counselor and I was a teacher made us very proud my son was following in our footsteps. Now he reads a lot, probably on his ipad. He left NYC teaching to teach in India and loves it.

The public library is an important resource in every community and I just wish more people would frequent it. Just go in, read the daily newspapers, say good morning to the people working behind the Circulation Desk, show your appreciation that there IS a library in your community.

“The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he is on.”-Joseph Heller

 

“Catch-22,” by Joseph Heller, is not an entirely successful novel. It is not even a good novel. It is not even a good novel by conventional standards. But there can be no doubt that it is the strangest novel yet written about the United States Air Force in World War II. Wildly original, brilliantly comic, brutally gruesome, it is a dazzling performance that will probably outrage nearly as many readers as it delights.”Orville Prescott, Books of the Times, NY Times, Oct. 23rd, 1961

Catch-22 was published today in 1961 when I was 9 years old; of course I didn’t read it then, but I must’ve read it at around 13 or 14 and I do remember loving it. I’m sure I was introduced to it by dear old Mom, who will be 90 soon. Throughout the years I would see Joseph Heller from time to time on TV (probably on Dick Cavett), especially with his cronies, other writers whose names I just can’t remember as of this moment, except for Kurt Vonnegut. Heller was an interesting fellow to say the least. When his daughter, Erica Heller, wrote her memoir about growing up with Joseph Heller in 2011, I read that…oh read it, it’s great, “Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller Was Dad, the Apthorp Was Home and Life Was a Catch-22.” For the 50th Anniversary of Catch-22, I saw Christopher Buckley (Yes, Bill’s son), Bob Gottlieb (Heller’s editor and friend) and Mike Nichols who directed the

film, Catch-22) a few times in various panel discussions on the relevance of Heller’s only book for quite a while. It took Heller over 10 years to write his 2nd book, Something Happened, which Kurt Vonnegut, a close friend of Heller’s, reviewed, “Is this book any good? Yes. It is splendidly put together and hypnotic to read. It is as clear and hard-edged as a cut diamond. Mr. Heller’s concentration and patience are so evident on every page that one can only say that “Something Happened” is at all points precisely what he hoped it would be.”NY Times Book Review, Oct. 6th, 1974

Six years after the publication of Catch-22, The Moody Blues released “Nights in White Satin.” It’s still beautiful after all these years. I do remember seeing them a few times in concert…probably at The Fillmore East in NYC.

What unites Joseph Heller and The Moody Blues?  


“You Think Your Pain and Your Heartbreak are Unprecedented in the History of the World, but Then You Read.” -James Baldwin, American Novelist, Essayist, Intellectual…

In 2013, the great thinker and writer, James Baldwin might (maybe not) add: “…but then you go on the Internet, or you download books onto your Kindle…”  We all experience pain and heartbreak of various kinds at some point in our lives. James Baldwin certainly experienced it as a Black man in America; as a homosexual in America; as a Black homosexual in America; as a thinker, writer, philosopher who spoke his mind in America. I loved his books (The Fire Next Time, Go Tell It On the Mountain, The Fire Next Time, Giovanni’s Room and so many more). his plays (“Blues for Mr. Charlie”), his interviews and admired him very much. Again, as I’ve previously stated in other postings, I probably have my mom to thank for she introduced me to a lot of writers and thinkers and musicians at a very tender age.  

James Baldwin was born today in 1924 in NYC. He attended De Witt Clinton HS (Class of ’42), where he wrote for The Magpie, the school’s literary magazine and The New School for Social Research.   For many years, Baldwin was considered controversial by some members of our society…he talked about race in very real terms and, though he loved his country, he couldn’t stay here and ended up moving to France where he found more peace living as a Black man and living as an openly gay man. Many Black artists and writers moved to Paris post WW II and found much more tolerance, but that’s a whole other posting for another time.

“When the protests of the late 1950s and 1960s that Baldwin wrote about brought the Paris expatriate back to the US, the connection between racial justice and democracy in America was once again at the center of the nation’s politics, asking every citizen to realize that his or her liberty was not freedom so long as other Americans were being denied their rights.”—Darryl Pinckney, The New York Review of Books, 11/25/10  It was in the early 60s that my mom schlepped me by train up to the Ethical Culture Society where we sat spellbound in the auditorium and listened to a Civil Rights Panel featuring Baldwin, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte and others I can’t remember.

Baldwin knew pain and heartache very well beginning from his childhood and throughout his life, but he continued to move forward and was not a pessimist and knew without a doubt, “The hope of the world lies in what one demands, not of others, but of oneself.”

Anyone who has heard James Baldwin speak, will never forget the tonal quality of his voice, it was mellifluous, unforgettable. His words echo so true today in the 21st Century  in a letter he wrote to his nephew, also named James. This letter was published in December, 1962 and here is an excerpt: “This innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish. Let me spell out precisely what I mean by that for the heart of the matter is here and the crux of my dispute with my country. You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits to your ambition were thus expected to be settled. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence. You were expected to make peace with mediocrity. Wherever you have turned, James, in your short time on this earth, you have been told where you could go and what you could do and how you could do it, where you could live and whom you could marry.”The Progressive, 12/1962

 Of course things are better here, no one is denying that but it is important that we know our history, which includes “pain and heartbreak” and injustices and man’s inhumanity to man. As Baldwin pointed out in the quote used to title this posting, “…but then you read.”  That quote continues, “…It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” We are all connected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Writer, Hermann Hesse On His Birthday

“Without words, without writing and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity.”-Hermann Hesse

I must’ve been around 12 when I read Siddhartha (first published 1922, I had the New Directions publication from 1951) for the first time. Probably read it after my mom and/or brother did, it was like that in my house…no matter the age, I read what they read. After that I read Steppenwolf, but don’t think I’ve read his other works. Hesse won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946 and you can read his bio in his own words here.

Hermann Hesse was born July 2nd, 1877 in Germany. How coincidental of me discovering that it is his birthday today and that his maternal grandfather was an “indologist,” scholar in all things pertaining to India; remember, I mentioned my son is leaving soon to teach and live in India for 2 years!!!!!  I also learned a new word, “indologist!” Both Hesse’s parents did some missionary work in India as well.

“Throughout his life, Hermann Hesse was a seeker. This is reflected not only in his outstanding literary works, which in 1946 won him the Nobel Prize, but also in his resume. In his home town of Calw, where he was born on July 2, 1877, he spent his youth in the bosom of his family – formative years that found their way into many of his books. Maulbronn, Tübingen and Basel were among the other places Hesse lived. In 1904, he moved to an old farmhouse in Gaienhofen on Lake Constance to embark on a career as a freelance writer. In 1911, he made a journey to India, and moved to Switzerland a short time later, living first in Berne and later in Montagnola (Tessin), where he entered his most prolific period as a writer, and where he also died in 1962. The task of overcoming personal crises is one of the defining elements of Hesse’s work, though other issues such as religion and politics also feature prominently.” http://www.hermann-hesse.de/en/biography