Tag Archives: review

Campaigning for Punctuation

I was in the middle of one depressing novel and four books of nonfiction, and I needed some entertainment. So I turned to a book on–what else?–punctuation. If you’ve kept an eye on the bestseller lists at all over the past few years, you’ll have guessed that I picked up Eats, Shoots & Leaves by British author Lynne Truss. Continue reading

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Little Boats & Big Salmon: Fishing Adventures in Alaska

Fishing has never held exceptional allure for me. My grandparents frequently took me fishing during my childhood visits to Texas, and I found the novelty exciting. But as an adult I have never felt compelled to pack up my gear and head for the nearest fishing hole. So it wasn’t the subject matter of Erv Jensen’s book that attracted me. But in my ten years of acquaintance with my husband’s Uncle Erv, I too have come to regard him with respect and affection, and it seemed appropriate for a niece-in-law with a book blog to read and review Uncle Erv’s memoir. After all, there’s precedent for the topic to inspire great literary works, as demonstrated by Isaak Walton’s 17th-century classic The Compleat Angler (which I likewise have not read). I therefore dutifully embarked on Little Boats & Big Salmon, little suspecting I would be drawn in (and hooked) by the Alaska life, the fishermen’s banter, and mooching.

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The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years, by Chingiz Aitmatov

Chingiz Aitmatov’s The Day Lasts More Than A Hundred Years is one of the few books by Central Asian authors translated into English. The original text was published in 1980 and the English version in 1988. Appropriate to the Soviet ideal of the “brotherhood of nations,” this volume by a Kazakh author was originally published in Russian and is set in Kirghizstan.

The principal setting of The Day is a railroad junction in the middle of the desert. The central conflict involves the quest of railroad worker Yedigei to give his deceased comrade Kazangap a traditional religious burial in an ancestral cemetery some distance from the junction. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Russian and American negotiators are dealing with the discovery that cosmonauts on the Soviet-American space station have been contacted by extraterrestrials and have departed the station for an interplanetary visit. Continue reading

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Dwight Droz, Farmer Poet

If Robert Burns is the farmer poet of Scotland, Dwight Droz is the farmer poet of the rural community of Scandia, across the Puget Sound from Seattle. My husband, who spent several of his growing-up summers working in Droz’s commercial garden, tells stories of rock-germinating fields, hearty farm-style dinners at noon, and chess games before returning to the furrows. It is only in the past decade or so that Droz (now over ninety) has been publishing his books of poetry and memoir, but it appears that he has been writing–and, at times, broadcasting–since childhood. Continue reading

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Faith and Poetry of Madeleine L’Engle

I was sorry to hear that L’Engle passed away on September 8. I would have liked to meet her, slim though the chance might have been. L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was one of the first books I bought with my own money. My fourth-grade teacher had read it to the class, and I liked it so much I wanted my own copy. However, my big purchase precipitated buyer’s remorse, so I sold it to a classmate and returned to the bookstore for the title I had not yet read, A Wind in the Door. These two and their sequel, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, remained among my favorites throughout childhood and are still high on my list.

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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, Part II

Barbara Kingsolver ranks high on my list of authors with whom I would love to have a lengthy chat (along with Diana Abu Jaber and Khaled Hosseini). Besides the fact that I admire her literary artistry, I am intrigued by Kingsolver’s spiritual and religious views. I tend, for example, to think Nathan Price in The Poisonwood Bible so deranged that Kingsolver could not have intended anyone to take him seriously as representative of evangelical missionaries. … But does this character suggest Kingsolver perceives missionaries or evangelicals generally in a negative light?

In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Kingsolver frequently references her rural childhood and observes that many of the small farmers she writes about are probably church-goers (though she mentions appreciatively that they keep their religion to themselves) (204-05). I assume Kingsolver, having grown up in such an environment herself, had a fair amount of exposure to Christian spirituality, if not from her family, at least from her neighbors. Regardless, she is now an evangelist for evolution, with a graduate degree in evolutionary biology. Continue reading

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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, Part I

Barbara Kingsolver is #74 on the list of America’s most dangerous people, according to the author of a recent well-publicized book cited in Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (p. 236). I’m not sure how Kingsolver earned her stripes in that author’s opinion, but I would agree that her linguistic artistry, self-deprecating humor, and winsome enthusiasm for her cause impart a formidable ability to win converts to just about any position.Well, maybe not any. Actually, I was already in at least theoretical sympathy with Kingsolver’s commitment to local, organic food, so I didn’t need much convincing, but Kingsolver’s treatise broadened my understanding and deepened my convictions. (I just bought some bean and pepper plants for a nascent garden on the balcony of our condominium. So I’m a little late getting started … at least I’ll get a feel for container gardening.)

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When the Aardvark Parked on the Ark, by Calvin Miller

I must have bought this book for my sister sometime in the late ’80s, but the fact had been wiped from my memory until recently, when I ran across it in my parents’ home while looking for something to read to my daughter at bedtime. I find it remarkable that these whimsical poems reminiscent of Shel Silverstein could come from the author of such venerable and contemplative works as two series of poetic allegories (The Singer Trilogy and The Divine Symphony–which I have read) and The Table of Inwardness and Into the Depths of God (which I have not). Continue reading

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The Carpet Wars, by Christopher Kremmer

I usually am not fond of travel writing, but I found Christopher Kremmer’s work more interesting than some others of that genre that I have encountered. Kremmer’s wry wit accounts for at least part of the entertainment value of The Carpet Wars, even eliciting a few chuckles, a somewhat rare occurrence. (Don’t analyze that last statement–it isn’t meant to indicate anything except my appreciation of Kremmer’s humor.) For example, Kremmer (who does not otherwise give any indication of being particularly religious) relates an incident in which he became exceedingly frustrated with an Afghan taxi driver:

My hand was lifting, drawn up by the power of a psychotic urge to batter him, when suddenly a loud voice rent the sky above the stranded car:
‘Leave him to me!’ cried the voice of the Almighty. ‘For he is a driver and they are a stiff-necked people.’
So I heeded the word of the Lord and let him be (346). Continue reading

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The Gospel According to Matthew

In the absence of an established career (“freelance writer” doesn’t count–even if I could consider myself established), I have experienced some difficulty explaining my identity for much of my adult life. But this has recently been resolved. I now have a Master’s of Arts in Comparative Literature (don’t ask me what kind of prestigious profession comes with it), and, more significantly, I am a Mother (a recognized role, even if not a highly esteemed calling in certain circles).

But one of the points that impressed me during our most recent reading of Matthew is the difference between what God looks for in people and what I often look for. God is not interested in, for example, an advanced degree, my profession, how eloquently or wittily I express myself, how I look, how clean my house is, how many “constructive” tasks I have completed today, or how highly my peers regard me. Rather, God is more concerned with how I regard other people, whether I am willing to part with my money and possessions to meet a need, how ready I am to go out of my way for another, whether I am quick to forget an offense or whether I dwell on it for days. Continue reading

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