Category Archives: Books

the quiet light

Poet John O’Donohue writes that there is a quiet light that shines in every heart.  “It draws no attention to itself, though it is always secretly there.  It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty, our desire to seek possibility, and our hearts to love life.”

O’Donohue’s poems are beautiful and in the preface to his book of poetry entitled To Bless the Space Between Us, he writes that . . .”A blessing is a difficult form to render.  I have endeavored to write them as poetically as possible, but they are not poems.  A poem is an utterly independent linguistic object.”

He further writes that each of us can bless.  “When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere.”

One of his lovely blessings below, contained in the poem MATINS:

May I live this day

Compassionate of heart,

Clear in word,

Gracious in awareness,

Courageous in thought,

Generous in love.


May my mind come alive today

To the invisible geography

That invites me to new frontiers,

To break the dead shell of yesterdays,

To risk being disturbed and changed.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, written by Allison Hoover Bartlett, is the “True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession.”

Book Lust.  Now and then, one reads of someone who has stolen books from libraries or museums.   John Charles Gilkey stole a fortune in rare books and author Bartlett has written a compelling story about this book thief.  He primarily stole from sellers of rare books.  A quote from the book jacket by Larry McMurtry: Bartlett has written a meticulous and fascinating book about a serial book thief and the persistent sleuth who dogged him for years and finally caught him.  It is especially gripping for those of us who trade in antiquarian books, who owe much to Ken Sanders’s persistence.  A fine read.”

An excerpt:

A few days later, on April 21, Detective Ken Munson struck gold.  Search warrant in hand, he decided to investigate the Treasure Island address Gilkey had provided.  Munson rang the bell, but no one answered.  He used a key he had obtained from the apartment’s management office, and as soon as he opened the door, he knew he was in the right place.  The address was indeed Gilkey’s, and every surface was covered in books.  Moving through the dreary, government-subsidized three-bedroom apartment, Munson and his three accompanying officers found books in the kitchen, on the bookshelf, in the bedroom, on counters, on dining room chairs.  Some of the oldest items were an illuminated leaf from a Book of Hours, circa 1480, encased in a plastic sleeve; a land deed from 1831; and a signature of Andrew Jackson.  Along with the books were coin collections, stamps, documents, baseball cards, posters, and autographed photographs.  There were also books, advertisements, and articles throughout the apartment related to these items and their value.  The officers found what appeared to be shopping lists of book titles and authors.  They also found receipts for hotels, and cards and papers with the names of auction houses and bookstores, several of which Munson recognized as having been victims of fraud within the past three years.  Receipts for various hotels and travel documents were also among the goods.  It appeared that both John Gilkey and his father, Walter Gilkey, were living in the apartment and in John’s bedroom they found a manila envelope with Saks Fifth Avenue credit receipts and pieces of paper with credit card holders, credit card numbers, and expiration dates handwritten on them.

Teaser Tuesday

Now in November, written by Josephine W. Johnson, was first published in 1934.  My edition was published in 1991; I’m just now getting around to reading it (“so many books, so little time!”).

The teaser:

It was an old place and the land had been owned by Haldmarnes since the Civil War, but when we came no one had been living there for years.  Only tenant farmers had stayed awhile and left.

Josephine W. Johnson’s 1990 obituary:

Josephine Johnson, a novelist and nature writer whose first novel, ”Now in November,” won the 1935 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, died of pneumonia on Tuesday in Clearmont Mercy Hospital, Batavia, Ohio. She was 79 years old and lived in Mount Carmel, Ohio.

Miss Johnson wrote 10 books of fiction, poetry and essays. ”The Inland Island,” published in 1969, is a month-by-month record of nature’s year on her 37-acre farm in Ohio. It was praised by Edward Abbey in The New York Times for its ”delicate marvels, compassionate observations and – strangest and lovliest of all – passionate denunciations.” The work has been credited with helping to popularize ecological concerns.

Miss Johnson’s other books were ”Year’s End” (1937), ”Wildwood” (1946), ”Jordanstown” (1937), ”Winter Orchard and Other Stories” (1935), ”The Sorcerer’s Son and Other Stories” (1965), ”The Dark Traveler” (1963), ”Seven Houses: A Memoir of Time and Places” (1973) and ”Circle of Seasons” (1974).

In an essay in The New York Times in 1969, Miss Johnson wrote angrily of those she saw as despoilers of the environment: ”A vast throng of people are working night and day, destroying all they still call their native land. Who are these people. . . . Who pollutes the air? Who cuts down the trees, builds houses on the stripped hillsides? Who poisons the sheep, shoots the deer, oils the beaches, dams and rivers, dries up the swamps, concretes the counyrysides?”

In recent years Miss Johnson wrote for Country Journal, McCall’s and Ohio Magazine.

She married Grant G. Cannon, editor in chief of the Farm Quarterly, in 1942. He died in 1969. Miss Johnson is survived by two daughters, Annie Cannon of Camptonville, Calif., and Carol Cannon of Philadelphia; a son, Terrence Cannon of Hoboken, N.J., and two sisters, Majorie McConnell of Fanwood, N.J., and Florence Johnson of St. Louis.

The Red Tent

Although The Red Tent was published years ago and my Reading Friends encouraged me to read it, I never did.  Recently, I borrowed the book from a New Friend (a delightful and spiritual friend) and can’t imagine why I had passed it by all these years (The Red Tent was first published in 1997).

Anita Diamant did her research about the Jewish culture and daily life.  It was a great read.  James Carroll (author of An American Requiem) writes that “The oldest story of all could never seem more original, or more true.”

An excerpt, describing Dinah’s grandmother, Rebecca, wife to Isaac and mother of Jacob:

I do not remember my father’s formal greeting or the ceremony to present my brothers, one by one, and then the gifts, and finally my mothers and me.  I saw only her.  The Grandmother–my grandmother.  She was the oldest person I had ever seen.  Her years proclaimed themselves in the deep furrows on her brow and around her mouth, but the beauty of youth still clung to her.  She stood as erect as Reuben and nearly as tall.  Her black eyes were clear and sharp, painted in the Egyptian style–a pattern of heavy black kohl that made her appear all-seeing.  Her robes were purple–the color of royalty and holiness and wealth.  her head covering was long and black, shot through with gold threads, providing the illusion of luxurious hair, where in fact only a few gray strands were left to her.

The book is fiction as Anita Diamant tells readers; however, Diamant has studied Jewish culture and history and her descriptions are quite vivid.  The ‘red tent’ itself is a piece of fiction that the author invented, an illustration of the separation of women.

Susan Jaslow, in her review of the book, writes:

The story is fiction, and while it differs from the scriptural account in many ways, it was true to the essence. There are two very marked differences, one of which I won’t reveal. The other is that Dinah doesn’t disappear after the events at Shechem, as she does in scripture.

I think that anyone interested in either religious or social history would find this book fascinating. I found it involving and evocative. I liked all of the characters, except for those who were decidedly unlikeable, and would most enthusiastically recommend it. It’s a heck of a good read.

Anita Diamant, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, was born on June 27, 1951, in New York City. She spent much of her early childhood in Newark, New Jersey, before moving to Denver, Colorado, at age twelve. She attended the University of Colorado for two years, then transferred to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where she received a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature in 1973. She went on to earn a master’s degree in English from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1975. She settled just outside Boston, where she lives with her husband and teenaged daughter, Emilia.

Diamant began her career as a freelance journalist in the Boston area in 1975. Over the years, she has written for local, regional and national magazines and newspapers, including the Boston Phoenix, the Boston Globe, and Boston Magazine, as well as New England Monthly, Yankee, Self, Parenting, Parents, McCalls, and Ms. In 1985, she began writing about contemporary Jewish practice and the Jewish community, publishing articles in Reform Judaism magazine, in Hadassah magazine, and on the webzine She has also written seven handbooks on contemporary Jewish life and lifecycle events.

Motivational Monday – live as if we are dying

Interviewers ask famous writers why they write, and it was (if I remember correctly) the poet John Ashbery who answered, “Because I want to.”  Flannery O’Connor answered, “Because I’m good at it,” and when the occasional interviewer asks me, I quote them both.  Then I add that other than writing, I am completely unemployable.  But really, secretly, when I’m not being smart-alecky, it’s because I want to and I’m good at it.  I always mention a scene from the movie Chariots of Fire in which, as I remember it, the Scottish runner, Eric Liddell, who is the hero, is walking with his missionary sister on a gorgeous heathery hillside in Scotland.  She is nagging him to give up training for the Olympics and to get back to doing his missionary work at their church’s mission in China.  And he replies that he wants to go China because he feels it is God’s will for him, but that first he is going to train with all of his heart, because God also made him very, very fast.

So God made some of us fast in this area of working with words, he gave us the gift of loving to read with the same kind of passion with which we love nature.  My students at the writing workshops have this gift of loving to read, and some of them are really fast, really good with words, and some of them aren’t really fast and don’t write all that well, but they still love good writing, and they just want to write.  And I say, “Hey!  That is good enough for me.  Come on down.”

. . . My deepest belief is that to live as if we’re dying can set us free. Dying people teach you to pay attention and to forgive and not to sweat the small things.

~ Anne Lamott

Thought for the Day

It has been years since I’ve read William James‘ lectures which he delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902. These lectures were compiled and printed in THE VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE A Study in Human Nature BEING THE GIFFORD LECTURES ON NATURAL RELIGION DELIVERED IN 1901-1902.

I purchased this book in the 1950s and some of the pages are fairly dog-eared so I obviously spent some time with the book in those days.


In the chapter entitled Lecture VIII THE DIVIDED SELF, AND THE PROCESS OF ITS UNIFICATION, James writes that

There are two lives, the natural and the spiritual, and we must lose the one before we can participate in the other.

James went on to quote one Billy Bray:  “I can’t help praising the Lord.  As I go along the street, I lift up one foot, and it seems to say ‘Glory’; and I lift up the other, and it seems to say ‘Amen’; and so they keep up like that all the time I am walking.”

always learning

Yesterday the Delphian Study Club heard a most interesting talk by Dr. Bruce A. Glasrud.  We are  fortunate in Seguin to have talented writers, artists, craftsmen/women – living amongst us!

Dr. Glasrud spoke about African Americans and the Presidency The Road to the White House which he edited with Cary D. Wintz.  Bruce Glasrud resides in Seguin (as I wrote above: we are so fortunate).  He is an independent historian and has authored or co-authored more than thirteen books including Black Women in Texas History, The African American West: A Century of Short Stories and Buffalo Soldiers in the West.

Black Women in Texas History was awarded the Texas State Historical Association Liz Carpenter Award for the Best Scholarly Book on the History of Women and Texas, 2008.

Initially (at the beginnings of the Delphian Study Club), members read and studied books (and would be tested on what they read and studied!).  Now, club members have the good fortune to hear learned speakers such as Dr. Bruce A. Glasrud.  Thus, the members are still always learning!

What is Nick Hornby reading?

Even writers have piles of unread books, it seems.

My pile (in one of the rooms!) has dwindled.

Literary Orange and author Ron Carlson

Having discovered Ron Carlson (only this year), I am anxious to read his next novel . . . and his next . . . and his next.  The Signal and Five Skies are books I borrowed from our Seguin library and which I will be reading again (so quite likely, these books will grace my bookshelves in the future – over Hubby’s objections, I might add).

Literary Orange started in 2007 as a joint venture of OC Public Libraries and UC Irvine Libraries. Our goal is to enhance an appreciation of reading and literature by connecting writers and readers for a day of panel discussions, keynote speakers and book signings.

Literary Orange 2010

Saturday, April 10, 2010

UC Irvine Student Center

Keynote Speaker: Dean Koontz

Quote of the Day

he done
what he could
when he got round
to it

from: Appalachian poem “Epitaphs for Two Neighbors in Macon County No Poet Could Forget” by Jonathan Williams