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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

“I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.” — Philip Marlow as created by Raymond Chandler in Farewell, My Lovely

Crows: Their flock name is A Murder. — Watercolor by Pat Bean

So Many Lists, So Little Time

I frequently come across lists of recommended books to read, from 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die to The 50 Best Travel Books. There is even a book about book lists, aptly titled A Book of Book Lists: A Bibliophile’s Compendium,

Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep was on one of these lists, so I checked it out of the Library. The book, published the year I was born, with its cynical private eye Philip Marlow, was made into a movie in 1946 starring Humphrey Bogart as Marlow and Lauren Bacall as the leading lady.

As a sample of Chandler’s Marlow character, here are a few bits of his dialog:

“She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”

“It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.”

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep.

           “A really good detective never gets married.”

           “The kind of lawyer you hope the other fellow has.”

           “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.”

“The streets were dark with something more than night.”

Chandler wrote seven and a half Marlow novels with the eighth finished by Robert B. Parker (whose Spenser books I also love) after Chandler’s death. Parker died in 2010.

Perhaps because I picked up Sue Grafton’s D is for Deadbeat (published 1987) to read right after I finished The Big Sleep, I decided Grafton probably had might have been influenced by Chandler’s books because I saw similarities between Grafton’s protagonist Kinsey Millhome and Philip Marlow. Both are no-nonsense characters with a strong sense of morals, their own if not society’s, and fiercely independent.

Says Kinsey in V is for Vengence: “I know there are people who believe you should forgive and forget. For the record, I’d like to say I’m a big fan of forgiveness as long as I’m given the opportunity to get even first.” And in F is for Forgiveness: I pictured a section of the ladies’ auxiliary cookbook for Sudden Death Quick Snacks… Using ingredients one could keep on the pantry shelf in the event of tragedy.”

Grafton, meanwhile, was more prolific than Chandler, getting all the way up to Y in her alphabetical murder series before she died two years ago. But even she wasn’t as prolific as another of my favorite dead mystery authors, Agatha Christi. Her characters, the egotistical Hercule Poirot (“Hercule Poirot’s methods are his own. Order and method, and ‘the little gray cells.” – The Big Four), and the old pussy Miss Marple (“Everybody in St. Mary Mead knew Miss Marple; fluffy and dithery in appearance, but inwardly as sharp and as shrewd as they make them.” — 4:50 from Paddington) have enthralled me almost as long as I’ve been reading, which is well over half a century.

So, what are you reading?

Bean Pat: To all the authors, dead and alive, whose characters and thoughts and knowledge have enriched my life. Thank you!

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

 

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Western Kingbird: Along with reading books on writing, I also love to read books on birding. Kenn Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway is one of my favorites.

“Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.” – Agatha Christie

Morning Chat

          I’m a big fan of books about writing and the writing life, beginning with E.B. White’s 100-year-old classic The Elements of Style.

Among my favorites are Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life; On Writing by Stephen King; Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg: and The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr.

These writers have offered me some very good advice, but also lots of other advice that doesn’t work for me. I thought about this as I finished reading Dani Shapiro’s book, Still Writing. It was full of good writing tips, but as one who has been writing for the past 55 years, I know only about half of her advice would work for me.

For one thing, she’s a lock yourself in the room and stay there and write kind of person. I’m more like Barbara Kingsolver, who calls herself a writer who does other things. Staying active and busy, but with some time for thinking and writing, works best for me.

Even so, the best writing advice of all times is simply: Butt in chair. Well, unless you write standing up.

What’s your favorite book on writing? Inquiring minds want to know.

Bean Pat: A blog about a western kingbird http://www.10000birds.com/a-western-kingbird-at-jones-beach. If you’re a birder, check out Kenn Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway. I once birded with Kenn (at the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival) and the first bird of the day was a western kingbird.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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I was in my 40s when I got hooked on white water rafting, a passion that I indulged in for the next 25 years. I also learned to ski in my 40s. — Photo by Pat Bean

          Live now; make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.” Jean-Luc Picard, from the episode “Inner Light”

A Page from My Journals

One of the eye-openers of rereading my journals is the footnotes I sometimes want to add to the bottom of a page when I come across an entry that has a new, or expanded meaning in my shifting brain.

I had quite a few boyfriends beginning in my 40s, even married one of them — for eight months. We parted friends. When Willie and Julio sing about all the girls they’ve loved before, I think of all the boys I’m glad came along. 

For example, on May 9, 1998, I quoted Katharine Butler Hathaway, whose memoir, The Little Locksmith, was first published in 1943, and then reprinted in 2000 by The Feminist Press. Though disabled, Katharine made a full life for herself.

Wrote Katharine: “It is only by following your deepest instinct that you can lead a rich life … if you let your fear of consequence prevent you from following your deepest instinct then your life will be safe, expedient, and thin.”

My 1998 response to the quote was to recall a Star Trek episode in which Picard realized it was his foolish youth that gave him the necessary confidence to be the captain of the Enterprise.

Thinking back now I realize that it was my own wild 40s, when I was truly on my own for the first time in my life, that was my version of a foolish youth. I don’t think I would be the happy, confident, satisfied, old-broad I am today without those years. And I kinda like this old broad. Whatever it is, my life is not thin.

     Bean Pat: I recently got hooked on this site: poem-a-day@poets.org A poem comes to my email every day in both type and audio form. I listen to the audio. It’s a great way to get my brain juices rolling in the morning.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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          “I woke up today with a challenging bump. Whom do I trust? Is it Bannon or Trump? … Should I stick with The Times, for reliable views, or is Twitter the place to keep up with the news … I had no reply, so went back to my sleep. To hell with it all. It will keep, it will keep.” – Day 178, Jan Morris at the age of 92.

Jam Morris’ daily thoughts often had a bit of squirreliness about them. Have you ever watched a squirrel running from here to there? They’re fun to watch — and Jan’s words were fun to read, sometimes serious,  full of unanswered questions, and often laugh-provoking. Life can be thoughtful and fun at any age. — Photo by Pat Bean

In My Mind’s Eye by Jan Morris

          Sadly, this morning I finished reading Jan Morris’ book of daily thoughts, In My Mind’s Eye. It ends on Day 188 – but I wanted it to go on forever. I’ve enjoyed her books for years – she has written over 40, mostly travel and history genres. This book, however, is about the journey of aging, a trip that I am now taking.

Jan Morris, who lives and writes these days from her home in Wales.

Since Morris has 13 years on me, I figured she had lots to teach me about the route. I was right. We both regret what the years have done to our bodies but like having this late time in life to reflect forward and backward.

While I’m blessed to be in good health for my age, I do suffer a bit from back pain that has considerably slowed me down.

Thinking about it last week, I cried after finally accepting that I would never again be able to take day-long hikes. But self-pity says Morris — and I agree. – is not attractive. So, like her, I tell myself: “Oh do shut up!”

Morris and I also agree that kindness is the most important of attributes, and preaching it is, at our ages, the best we have to offer the world in this time of chaos.

Writes Morris about kindness: “…it is the ultimate virtue, embracing all others, understood by everyone, recognized by most religions and a pleasure to practice.”

I’m so going to miss my morning thoughts with Morris.

Bean Pat: Viewpoints https://forestgardenblog.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/sunday-dinner-viewpoint/#like-27331 Photos with quotes to match. I loved this.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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          What a newspaper needs in its news, in its headlines, and on its editorial page is terseness, humor, descriptive power, satire, originality, good literary style, clever condensation, and accuracy, accuracy, accuracy!” — Joseph Pulitzer

Reporter, one of the books I’m currently reading. I give it five stars plus.

It was my Era, Too

          “I’m a survivor from the golden age of Journalism,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning author Seymour M. Hersh in his memoir Reporter.

Me, too, was my first thought. While Hersh, who like me is in his 80s, was a big fish swimming upstream in search of truth, I was a small fish in that same stream. As reporters before the year 2000, we were given time to search out the truth, not pressured to put unchecked information out to the public before it was researched and verified.

Reading Hersh’s book, I learned that both of us had started our careers under the thumb of hard-boiled editors who told us that if we thought our mothers loved us, we should still check it out.

Better yet, back then we weren’t pressured to respond to every rumor put out on the internet – because there was no internet instantly available to rumormongers, malicious gossips, bullies, political liars, or simply misinformed individuals.

I believe there are still responsible media outlets out there that are dedicated to facts and context. But we’ve lost a lot of them because they couldn’t survive in today’s world. The big display ads and classified ads that once supported strong newsrooms have disappeared from print pages to web sites and online advertising.

Online seems to be where the world, including myself, does business these days. I submit articles for publication online. I keep up with my far-flung family members and get to see my great-grandchildren grow up online. And the internet brings the world to my small apartment.

I love the internet. The downside, of course, is that we users are left to determine what’s the truth, and what’s fictional garbage.

Just the facts, Ma’am,” as Sgt. Joe Friday used to say on the TV series Dragnet. Instead, we too often have what Hersh calls the two deadliest words in journalism: “I think.”

Bean Pat: To all the media outlets surviving today that still put accuracy ahead of beating the competition – or biased agendas.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining .

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Pure fakery fun! Me in 2012 standing on The Circle in the Grand Ole Opry House during the last of my RV-ing years. 

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours.” — J.D. Salinger

The Write Words

          Author Dani Shapiro compares writing to music.

“When you have written something … listen to it,” she says in Still Writing, which Terry Tempest Williams calls “a wise, pragmatic soulful guide to the writing life.”

“What instrument does your language call to mind? A cello? An electric guitar? An oboe?“ Dani asks.

Hmmm!

Dani’s words, of course, made me ask what instrument my writing calls to mind. I’m not a musical person so coming up with an answer took a good bit of thought.

First drafts, definitely a fiddle, I finally decided. If the editing goes well, and my efforts to make my words sing succeeds, perhaps a flute. It would be nice to feel like my writing floats harmoniously across the page.

But then I realized I also wanted my writing to have a drummer lounging in the background, one who sounds off enough to echo the beat of myself walking to Thoreau’s different pace.

It was a fun question to answer, perhaps because there were no right or wrong answers.

Bean Pat: Top 10 of the Decade https://lithub.com/the-10-best-debut-novels-of-the-decade/ Lit Hub’s choices. I find I usually agree with only half of any such lists, but these books are worth checking out if you’re looking for something to read.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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I’m currently reading this book — and loving it.

          A love of books, of holding a book, turning its pages, looking at its pictures, and living its fascinating stories goes hand-in-hand with a love of learning.” – Laura Bush

What I’m Reading

          I’m reading In My Mind’s Eye, a collection of short essays written by Welch author Jan Morris when she was in her nineties. Jan is one of my favorite authors, and I’m loving her unvarnished look at the world through the lens of age.

Dr. Johnson’s Dicitionary, first published in the 18th century is still lurking around in book stores.

Jan, who was once James and served in the military and climbed Mount Everest in the 1950’s, has written almost too many travel and history books to count. In My Mind’s Eye is a kind of daily diary, however. Topics range from talking to your cat to her idea of a smile test.

On Day 59 in the book, Jan talks about looking through her vast collection of books for Dr. Johnson’s dictionary, fifth edition, 1788. As he picks up the book, Jan notices the damage on the spine and remembers that it was put there by her “darling daughter,” 50 years ago when her pram was parked by the bookcase.

Who in the heck is Dr. Johnson? I stopped reading and looked him up. He was Samuel Johnson, considered one of the best writers of the 18th Century, and best known for his Dictionary of the English Language. I love reading a book in which I learn something new.

Meanwhile, another of my favorite days in Jan’s book is the one in which she rewrote the words to the battle hymn Onward Christian Soldiers.

Onward friends and neighbors, into the kindly sun,

          Where we are paid-up members, each and every one.

          We need no theologians, no doctrinal guff,

          No military idioms, no sham repentance stuff –

          We take the worthy with the nasty, the gentle with the rough.

          The absolute of absolutes. Kindness is enough.!”

Kindness is my word for the year.

  Bean Pat: To all the many, many authors who have challenged my mind and broadened my horizons.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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