Monthly Archives: June 2010

Songbird alarm clock

Nothing quite like waking up, pre-dawn, to the sound of robins and meadowlarks, Tetons in the distance out the open window….

The effect of music (albeit recorded) on our spirits and memories constitutes *the* theme of The Song Is You by Arthur Phillips. More hip than much I read in tone and prose! And longer-lasting than a sunrise… 

This poetically-written story, of a New York man who feels he’s lost himself, traces his interactions with a young Irish rock star and how her music (and she as a muse) put him on a particular path of rediscovery. His I-pod serves as a character in the action, much the way the setting does in James Galvin’s The Meadow (another favorite).

Phillips deftly weaves personal memoir, character development, and introspection in a playlist of thought and sound that echoes throughout the book, from his father’s voice on a Billy Holiday album in the ’50s, the song the main characters uses in the TV commercials he produced, to singing in the park, the Jeopardy theme, and what and who controls our voice-mail.  

Personally,  it brought to mind the emotions auto-triggered by a specific tune when I hear it….  and that I share his reverence for the  importance of recorded sound. (It’s a goofy fact that I always keep a message from Peter while he”s traveling so I can relisten to his voice whenever I want;  I also still have a “how ya doin’?” call from an old friend who left it on my cell when my mother passed several months ago….)

Peter loved Prague, also by Phillips, but this was the first novel I’ve read by him. It won’t be the last.

Now I’m deeply immersed in The Last Girls by Lee Smith, another prolific writer I’m excited to discover. 

The hardback’s on loan from my friend Cort Conley of Boise, who provided a quote in the frontispiece materials that is as perfect for this morning as my songbird wake-up: “Sometimes life is more like a river than a book.”

More about the river of life and this book next time. Until then, happy reading!

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Cousin Cathy’s Gingersnaps

I just came back from the “Uphoff Girls Only” reunion — 12 of the 14 Uphoff cousins of my generation — plus Aunt Marge — in one house — for four days.  You better believe we did a lot of giggling — and laughing — and crying together. And yes, EATING.

My cousin Cathy Raymond of Wichita brought some of these awesome cookies for us all to share. She said the recipe was from Better Homes and Gardens but I think they’re good enough to deserve HER name on ’em.

This is the batch I made today — to keep the soft texture of her cookies, I reduced the cooking time from 15 minutes (as she originally stipulated) to only about 11 – 1/2 minutes (the first panful was DEFINITELY crunchy — maybe my oven needs recalibrated?) Also, I decided to roll using less dough as the smaller they were, the better. Enjoy! 

¾ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
¼ cup light molasses
1 beaten egg
2 cups sifted enriched flour
2 teaspoons soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger

 Cream shortening and sugar; add molasses and egg; beat well.  Sift dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture; mix well.

 Roll in small balls; dip into sugar; place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet.  Bake in moderate oven (375°) 11-12 minutes.  Makes 3 to 4 dozen cookies, depending on size.

PS. More about the UGO in future posts!

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Book Club books

People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, was recommended to me at least a couple years ago, by Janna Rankin,  a good friend who is always reading something GREAT. So why hadn’t I picked it up before now? Who knows….

But it IS July’s selection for the Teton Valley Women’s Book Club, and since we meet Monday, July 5th — right after the busy Independence Day weekend here, between Glenn Beck’s appearance at Huntsman Springs on July 3rd and Widespread Panic at the Spud Drive-In on July 4th — Janna and I might be the only ones there!  

Over the weekend, I picked it up and it knocked Mary Queen of Scots by Margaret George right off the top of my reading pile.

People of the Book is *definitely* worth reading; thank you, once again, Janna! The story revolves around an actual medieval manuscript (the Sarajevo Haggadah).  Brooks fills in the blanks about its five-century history and travels from Spain to Bosnia, exploring all through the eyes of a contemporary Australian researcher. Pick it up — you won’t be sorry!

At the June meeting, we chose the slate of books to finish off the year. The selections, authors, and the dates we’ll plan to meet are:

* August 2nd: The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland, by Jim DeFede (a look at what happened when all the planes coming from Europe that couldn’t land in the United States went to this airstrip); 

* September 6th (that’s Labor Day, date might be changed): The Glass Room, by Simon Mawer (another Janna recommend, which I reviewed in May);

* October 4th: The Female Brain, by Louann Brizendine (another book I’ve started but haven’t completed — comes highly recommended by book clubbers Isabelle Waddell and Kris Giger;

* November1st: Amagansett, by Mark Mills; one more recommend by Janna, a murder mystery centered around a group of well-established Long Island fishermen and their interactions with the “summer people” who come into their place (might hit a number of cultural chords for us here in Teton Valley, you think?)

and * December 6th: Half Broke Horses: A True Life Novel, by Jeannette Walls, author of a previous book club choice (megaseller The Glass Castle), told in the voice of her grandmother.

Sounds like a wonderfully literary and entertaining lineup! See you there, Dark Horse Books, 7 p.m., the first Monday of the month.  

Until then, happy reading.

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10 June ’10

A fascinating expose of corruption, typhoid and the art of the daguerrotype in 1840s New Orleans; the well-known 12th-century tale of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Thomas Becket; and a comparison of a group of Oregon Trail pioneers with a modern-day family retracing their route — my reading has been quite varied since last I posted.

And it’s been a whirlwind several weeks, traveling, working, worrying (about my sister Joan, who’s currently encountering some health issues) and learning….. always learning.

Since this “department” focuses on books, however, here’s to these, in brief:

Yellow Jack, the debut novel by Josh Russell, was recommended by the manager of Faulkner House Books in New Orleans — as her favorite look at the French Quarter pre-Civil War. Yes, Peter and I took a last-minute jaunt there to celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary (neither of us had been there since our honeymoon). An incredible, thought-provoking trip — honestly, I’m still processing it but will likely write more about it soon (so stay tuned.)

Time and Chance is by Sharon Kay Penman; I’d read nearly ALL of this author’s books about England, Wales and France, but had somehow never acquired this one. While I knew the “outcome” (a little bit like watching the movie Titanic and knowing the ship will sink) it was  still a most-satisfying historical novel.

Not sure why I’m so fascinated with all things English, but… might as well feed the hunger. And of course the book inspired me to some serious research in our library, looking at entries in Who’s Who in British History: Early Medieval England, 1066-1272, by Christopher Tyerman; The Lady, in Medieval England, 1000-1500, by Peter Coss; and the Cambridge Illustrated History of the Middle Ages, 950-1250, edited by Robert Fossier.  As the song says, “One thing leads to another.”

And I’m not through yet: this morning I just started Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George, another tome of nearly 900 pages.

Ghosts of the Pioneers by Twain Braden was the book club book we talked about at Monday’s get-together at Dark Horse Books. It was a good discussion — Bev Charette suggested the title originally, brought a map of the trails through Wyoming, and facilitated the interchange. Plus, at the end of the meeting, we chose our next slate of book club books — will be posting those soon, too.

This coming week I head to Denver for a long-awaited reunion with the girl cousins of my generation from my dad’s family.  Many I haven’t seen since the early 1990s (!) so probably won’t take much time to read.

My Weekly Reader is become something less frequent, but still rewarding as a journal of  my literary journey.  I hope you enjoy it, too — happy reading!

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