Report on My Second Book Reading

I am home from a book reading at MUGS Coffee House in Ripon, WI. If you’re a coffee shop person and you’re in the area, you ought to check this one out. I read from a tall stool in front of the fireplace, facing a cozy arrangement of leather couches and chairs. I had an audience of three people, which includes the employee (but she’s my cousin, so it counts). The other two were a former classmate of mine and his friend. It was, at times, awkward because my little speech seemed too formal. But when I actually read from my book, it was all good. So, I had a good time, we had a nice talk after the reading, and I’m not so sad about the lack of a big audience.

One discussion that came up had to do with short stories versus novels. Personally, I enjoy both. Some find short stories to be more accessible because they are short and don’t take a big commitment to read. Some prefer novels because they tell more. A short story may leave some readers hanging, wanting more information. What are your opinions on the matter?

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Sleep

Sleep is the prayer the body prays,

Breathing in unthought faith the Breath

That through our worry-wearied days

Preserves our rest, and is our truth.

— from Poem V in the 1990 section of A Timbered Choir by Wendell Berry

My world today was small and exhausting, peering out windows at the great outdoors, now too cold to explore. Thinking about those out there, working. My husband even wore a bright pink scarf to the barn. That’s how cold it was. He’s sleeping upstairs now. So are the kids. So will I, soon. This poem is comforting, especially on a night when my brain is as numb as my toes and fingers.

Klimt: Drained of Sparkle

Adele Bloch-Bauer's Portrait, Gustav Klimt, 1907
Adele Bloch-Bauer’s Portrait, Gustav Klimt, 1907

I’m feeling drained in general tonight. My daughter woke up with the flu. My husband bought another tractor today (debt makes me nervous). He seemed to be talking in some sort of secret code tonight and I couldn’t understand a thing he was trying to tell me. And I found out some information about Gustav Klimt that took all the sparkle out of his golden paintings. He was this weird womanizer, anti-Bible, has quite a collection of works that could be (and were) classified as pornography, and he exalted sexuality as something god-like. I used to think the golden sparkle magic of his paintings like this one and also The Kiss invited me into a beautiful, intimate world, different from any other paintings out there. Now, with this added information, I think it is way too intimate. The artist’s lifestyle doesn’t always affect the way I think of a painting, but in this case, Klimt’s lifestyle snuffed out the sparkle.

I think I’ll publish this post and then go back and cheer myself up with some of my old posts.

Delta Wedding

All this cold, cold weather has kept the kids and I indoors for the most part, and I’ve been dreaming of a vacation to a warmer place. Seeing as my husband and I aren’t much for vacationing, a book that takes place in the steamy South is my next best alternative. Enjoy this excerpt from one of the most interesting books I read this year, Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty, 1946.

In the Delta the sunsets were reddest light. The sun went down lopsided and wide as a rose on a stem in the west, and the west was a milk-white edge, like the foam of the sea. The sky, the field, the little track, and the bayou, over and over–all that had been bright or dark was now one color. From the warm window sill the endless fields glowed like a hearth in firelight, and Laura, looking out, leaning on her elbows with her head between her hands, felt what an arriver in a land feels–that slow hard pounding in the breast.

The Parasol

The Parasol, Francisco Goya, 1777
The Parasol, Francisco Goya, 1777

What a fun painting by Goya! I would adore having this on my wall. The facial expressions alone would cheer me up, not to mention the happy colors, the triumph of sun over storm, the sense of living contentedly in the moment no matter what may come. Face the day with a smile and a green parasol!

The Gift of the Magi

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

— from “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry, 1905

“The Gift of the Magi” is one of my favorite Christmas stories. It shows a right attitude for gift-giving. In my home (and heart) there is a strong temptation to give a gift that will in some way be handy for the both the giver and the receiver. This story points to the first Christmas gifts–those given by the Magi to the baby Jesus, all expensive luxury items purely meant to honor the new King. The story also shows self-sacrifice for the sake of giving something wonderful to the one you love. That reminds me of God giving His Son Jesus to us, His people, so we can enjoy the ultimate gift: eternal life in paradise.

The husband and wife in the story ended up looking rather foolish, but their intentions were beautiful. It makes me wonder what I have that I can foolishly give away in love.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Christmas Coach

The Christmas Coach, Norman Rockwell, Dec. 28, 1935
The Christmas Coach, Norman Rockwell, Dec. 28, 1935

The kids and I brought home a book about Norman Rockwell on our last library trip. I learned a few new things about him: he was a skinny stick of a boy with a bigger, athletic brother. His father read books out loud to the family–books like Oliver Twist and David Copperfield by Dickens. And the compositions of his paintings and illustrations direct the viewer right to the point of the painting. Looking at this lovely Christmas painting, I’d say Rockwell is commenting on the joy and wonder of Christmas as seen on the expressions of the mother and child in the coach. And surrounding that joy and wonder? Lots of expectation, fun, noisiness, and grandeur.

May your Christmas coach plow through the season without getting stuck!