A Thousand Mornings

I admit it: I’m even less qualified to review poetry than I am fiction novels. But I’ve never let that stop me before, so why start now? Despite the fact that I’m deeply romantic at heart and love poetry, and that Mary Oliver is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet with an impressive body of work to her name, I’d not read her before picking up this title. It was the title that attracted me—A Thousand Mornings—those three words seemed to hint at the magic of ordinary things, the small wonders, the everyday marvels we too often take for granted or fail to notice, and I was intrigued. Well, contrary to popular belief, sometimes you can tell a book by its cover. This little volume is full of small jewels, written in a spare and very approachable style. No long flowery phrasing here, no opaque symbolism to struggle through. Just clear observations and introspections born of long experience. Among my favorites I’d have to count Green, Green is My Sister’s House, and The Mockingbird. But none more so than The Poet Compares Human Nature to the Ocean From Which We Came. Listen to this…or, I guess, read this, or better yet, read it aloud:

“The sea can do craziness, it can do smooth,

it can lie down like silk breathing…”

It can lie down like silk breathing…is that a great line or what? Everyone should have at least one Pulitzer Prize winning poet on their book shelf—you never know when it will impress the hell out of someone—might as well make it Mary Oliver.

 

 

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Other Observations: You know what would be great?

…if Arizona could stop being a giant douche-bag. First it was some pretty appalling anti-immigrant policies. Now it’s legislated discrimination in the name of religious freedom…coughbullshit.

At least that’s what I thought until I came across the scripture that says this: 

            Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination. Likewise thou shalt not bake them any cakes, nor serve them the flesh of any animal nor the fruit of any harvest. Thou shalt not dry clean, starch, nor press, their raiment. Thou shalt not pour out any libations for them nor sell unto them anything thou hast wrought with thy labor. Thou shalt not allow their children in thy schools nor clubs of any sort, nor permit them to teach the young, care for the sick, nor feed the hungry. 

…oh wait, actually, it doesn’t say that. Never mind.

Ok, yes, the above is quite tongue in cheek. I am aware there are passages in the Bible that call for ostracism of anyone violating the mandates of Leviticus, believe it or not I was once a Sunday School teacher. But it also calls for stoning adulterers, burning witches, putting all your enemies—men and women—to the sword and taking their children as slaves, and marrying victims of rape to their rapists (wow…huge ick factor there, but according to certain biblical text, that’s what God wants). Let’s see, what else? No wearing mixed fabrics or eating bacon. And don’t even get me started on the animal sacrifices! My point is this: if you’re going to choose your literal application of scripture à la carte, why not choose the things that don’t hurt other people, things that don’t lend themselves to hatred and intolerance?

Why not choose this: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; or this: Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor; or this: Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth?

Because—and pay attention, this is important—no one else’s sexual orientation abridges your religious freedom. Another person being gay—or bi, or poly—cannot prevent you from studying your Bible—or your Torah, or your Q’uran—and diligently meditating on how its lessons can bring out the best in you.  It cannot prevent you from attending the church—or synagogue, or mosque—of your choice. It cannot prevent you from praying or teaching your faith to your children. And if it can, then your faith seems a rather fragile and sickly thing, and maybe you ought to look inside yourself to find the reasons it’s so easily shaken and threatened.

Peculiar Children

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Just in case you’re part of that minuscule one half of one tenth of a percent of the reading population who hasn’t read either of Ransom Riggs’s Peculiar Children books…or hasn’t seen someone else reading one, or hasn’t heard anyone talking about them…I’m going to go ahead and review them for you.

Generally speaking I’m not a YA fan—and I mean the genre, not the actual people. Most young adults I know are pretty interesting once you pry the phones out of their hands and the ear buds out of their ears. Maybe the genre doesn’t appeal to me because I’m not a YA. I’m more of YAHA (or what some have called an IA…but to hell with them).

Anyway, back to these Peculiar Children. I can sum up my opinion in two words: read them. But two words does not a blog post make so let me elaborate. Don’t be misled—as I almost was—by the YA label and pass them over. These books are cleverly plotted and tightly crafted. Mystery abounds and the pace is urgent. The accompanying vintage and often bizarre photographs are more than just a gimmick, the grainy images serve to deepen the sense of mystery. In other words you’ll probably find yourself up late at night with the open book in your hands, looking at the clock and thinking Okay, just one more chapter but then I really have to get some sleep more than once.

Speaking of having an open book in your hand, I highly recommend just that, a Book with a capitol B and emphasized. The paper and print kind. I’m not a book snob…I love my e-reader for many reasons. It’s much lighter to carry around than 2 or 3 books—especially on a trip when I want to take not just whatever I’m currently reading but what I might want to read next in case I finish one (does anyone else do that?), it prevents even more books from stacking up on the floors of nearly every room in my house, you can shop for books in the middle of the night and get instant gratification. But in this case I’d go for the paper and print volume.

I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children on my e-reader and found myself wishing I had the Book. The pictures did not display all that well and I felt like I was missing out. When Hollow City came out I bought the Book—not the book, and a paper and print edition of Miss Peregrine’s etc, etc, to go with it. I’ve given them pride of place on my Bookshelf—with an empty space next to them just waiting for the third volume.

Yes Mr. Riggs, that is a thinly disguised hint.

Books 1 & 2 of Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards Series (I haven’t read #3 yet but plan to)

Thieves prosper, the rich remember. So goes the motto of the Gentleman Bastards, a league of Robin Hood-esque bandits who steal from the rich and give to…well, themselves. Each one of the Gentleman Bastards was plucked from the mean streets of Camorr as a young orphan and trained in larceny by Father Chains, a priest of the Crooked Warden. They aren’t ordinary thieves, but thieves on a holy mission. It’s their calling to make certain the rich stay humble, that they do not forget that even they are not safe from the ill chances of life, and should not forget those less fortunate. But after years spent successfully robbing Camorr’s elite upper classes blind, the Gentleman Bastard’s own luck takes a turn for the worse leaving the surviving members penniless and on the run. I’ve only read the first 2 of the series but loved both. Scott Lynch’s fast-talking and inventive thieves are intelligent, audacious, and endearing; criminals with hearts of gold as it were, and the scene crafting absolutely seamless and compelling. Full of both humor and pathos, balanced with plenty of action and swordplay, and a cast of engaging if slightly shady characters, this series could easily make the transition to the big screen (or medium screen) and be a hit. Seriously, are you listening Peter Jackson?…HBO?

Book 1 The Lies of Locke Lamora

Book 2 Red Seas Under Red Skies

Book 3 The Republic of Thieves

http://www.amazon.com/Lies-Locke-Lamora-Scott-Lynch/dp/055358894X