Books, Documentaries, Reviews: Renata Adler, PITCH DARK review

Books, Documentaries, Reviews:  March 31, 2014

Renata Adler’s PITCH DARK


I promised I’d “let you know” what I thought about Renata Adler’s novel Pitch Dark,  published in 1983.


You may recall in an earlier blog post that I’d heard this novel recommended during a pre-New Year’s “Best Books of 2013” NPR program.

This novel is a very “modern” novel–in that it is challenging the very form of the novel itself.

You may recall that I also wrote recently about Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel The Marriage Plot, wherein Eugenides attempts to forge a novel that does not fall back on the “marriage plot” since with divorce, women are no longer tied to marriages they want to abandon.


But Renata Adler moves light years beyond the still-entertaining story of The Marriage Plot.  Adler does not have a plot at all.  This “novel” consists of a series of vignettes that are not even loosely held together and that are all mixed up in time.  There is no narrative flow.

Is it interesting?

Yes, some of the vignettes are.  And she does circle back to at least one so the reader gets some sense of the final outcome.  And I think she circled back to show just how deep the moral abyss can be in modern society.

I enjoyed the protagonists musings on social and historical events and on how some of our systems work.  These musings certainly provoke one to think a bit more deeply.

But, I do think Muriel Sparks, who wrote the Afterward, is correct:

This, I think is the vision of life reflected in Miss Adler’s fiction.  Nothing evolves, nothing derives.  Effects do not result from causes.  Episodes are recorded without any connection with each other.  Fortunately, they are fascinating episodes.

So, what happens to the moral fabric of society is one can no longer be certain that certain desired effects stem from causes, that if one does bad things they will be punished in some way?  Truthfully, bad people are not always punished.  Some of them make and enjoy a great deal of money.  And good can come out of bad, as we clearly see in Donna Tartt’s THE GOLDFINCH, also discussed on this blog.  What happens if we are all more adrift in society than we ever thought?  What happens if some of us are “disciplined subjects” and follow the rules, but others don’t.  And, prosper.

This novel is not for everyone.  It’s not an easy, enjoyable read with a pleasant narrative that takes us away from ourselves.  No, rather, it focuses on truths and questions most of us would rather avoid because there isn’t anything we can do about them at all.  And that’s not going to change in a modern world where people are so detached from one another, where a community is not viewing the actions of its individual members with an eye toward protecting the health of the community.



Books, Documentaries, Reviews: THE GOLDFINCH, Donna Tartt–and MORE

Books, Documentaries, Reviews:  February 5, 2014

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt


I promised several people I would report back on what I thought about The Goldfinch.

It’s a BIG novel–some 700 pages.

I loved it.  I loved every page of it.  I was sad to see it finished.

Many themes run through this novel.  Some are listed below:

The long-term impact of the sudden, violent loss of the mother for a child.

The long-term impact of being within a sudden, violent episode–being in close proximity of a bomb going off inside a building.

The long-term impact of having an irresponsible parent in charge of you–with no way out really.

The growing up, the life journey to maturity (whatever that is) wherein you come to grips with how much you are like the irresponsible parent you hate and how much you have refused to see that person’s good points.

The role of strangers in our lives–strangers who make a huge difference.

The depth of a friendship forged within situations that neither person can fully control and what is done to survive.  Or, to hide and just make it all go away.

The role of art, of a painting, in our lives.

Where is good really located in our lives?  And, where evil?   And can good come out of bad?

What does it mean to love without judgment?

I could go on.  And on.

* * *

So, I am reading Jeffrey Eugenides The Marriage Plot before going to sleep at night.  And, enjoying it so far.

Here’s a review:

I’m listening to Alice Munro’s Dear Life while I quilt.  I started it yesterday afternoon–I had to wait my turn to download it on the Maine Library Systems audio book downloads.  I sewed until almost 8 p.m. before stopping to organize some dinner as I was enjoying it so much.  I love Munro’s short stories.  They are brilliant.  And, warrant listening to more than once as they are like a movie, in that the first viewing is an assault and you can’t take it all in, so you have to see the movie–read the story–twice.

Dear Life is the book club’s selection this month–and our meeting is Friday, so I’m going to be sewing a lot today.

While waiting for Dear Life, I downloaded another library audio book:  a P.D. James–An Unsuitable Job For A Woman (1972)–one of the Cordella Grey mysteries.  The depth of James is a pleasure to read/hear.

Having someone read a book to me recalls the pleasure I felt when my mother read to us growing up–which she did constantly.  The all-time favorite was Gene Stratton Porter’s Laddie, which I love to this day.  I read it to my mother not long before she died, while she rested on her back porch, and we laughed and pleasured our way through it.

Turkey Tracks: Friday Night Update

Turkey Tracks:  January 17, 2014

Friday Night Update

It’s 4:04 p.m., and it is not pitch dark yet.

But, soon.

And, soon, spring will come, too, as the days are growing longer.

We have been having a January thaw for the past week.  We can see green grass again, and there is still lettuce in my cold frame.  Imagine that…  Beneath all that snow…


The chickens are laying again.  Rosie, the Copper Black Maran, laid her first egg since, I don’t know, October?  The Americaunas molted in the fall and started laying again a few weeks ago.  They are, once again, looking posh with all their new feathers.  Beauty, who is so ugly I called her Beauty, laid all winter–though the shell to her eggs is very thin.  She is so friendly and sweet.

The Diva, who I think is Queeny, is in the kitchen, resting, healing (one hopes).  Her neck still looks pretty bad, but her eyes are bright, and she’s eating.

The brother of my friend Linda, who house sits for me and cleans, was standing beneath the edge of a roof with lots of ice on it.  A slab broke loose and hurt his arm, side, and leg and broke his foot.  Last Tuesday, in the middle of our January thaw, Linda went to get into her minivan, slipped on hidden ice next to the van.  Her face is all bruised, and she broke her wrist.  She drove herself to the emergency room.

Of course she was not looking for ice; everything had melted off.  And that’s when the ice is the most treacherous.  When you think it’s gone.  Now she and her brother visit each other, each nursing a broken bone, and laugh wryly.

I talk to her every few days to see if she needs anything and to remind her to go slowly.  The loss of income is very serious for her, of course, and I will pay her same as always, work or no work.  She is so good to me in so many ways–I can’t even begin to tell you all she did for me when John was so sick and how she has cared for me this past year.

Today I went to Belfast (about 40 minutes north) to the big Coop for ground chicken for the dogs and green things for me.  AND to pick up this amazing herbal powder from Dr. Herzig, a holistic vet, that keeps Miss Reynolds Georgia bright and busy tailed.  She thinks she’s a puppy again, which is great since twice now I have been sure she was not going to live through the night.  For about three months this summer I had to gently force feed her.   Anyway, it was nice to get out a bit.

Celtic Solstice:  I put on the white border yesterday.  And got one triangle border on when I realized that I had TWO blocks with the orange going the wrong way.  Mercy!  I took the rows apart and turned the blocks, and the job was easier than I had expected.  When I finish here, I’m going to make a cup of tea and put on the other three borders.  Tomorrow I’m going to a big quilt fabric sale to get some green or blue to finish this amazing quilt.  And, the backing and binding.  There are so many seams that I do not want to piece blocks for the back.  It will be so hard to quilt if I do.

“Sails Up and Flags Flying,” the bright orange quilt,  is loaded onto Lucy the longarm, and the great yellow thread has come in the mail.  So….  Tomorrow, maybe…

Here’s a block to remind you…


And one of the really fun things I’ve learned from Bonnie Hunter is to take the time to “swirl” your seams on the backside of a block as it cuts down on bulk when it’s time to quilt the layers.  See the little tiny squares in the middle of each block–that “swirling” means two layers of bulk, not four.  Bonnie has detailed instructions under the four-patch unit “clue” of Celtic Solstice on her blog.  Look for the “Celtic Solstic” mystery information.


I have been hand-sewing blocks for this great quilt–pictures below–from Material Obsession 2 by Kathy Doughty and Sarah Fielke, both from Australia.  I have not decided which layout to use yet.



I am kind of leaning toward the second one, but maybe making it a bit bigger.  I have almost finished two blocks and have cut out pieces for the third and chosen fabric for a bunch more.  I am getting obsessed with the beauty of these blocks.  I’ll take some pictures tomorrow.

BUT, if I do the first layout, it might make a great quilt for the red guest bedroom…

Who knows?  It’s a work in progress…  And I’m just having fun.

It’s dark now.  I’m going now to lock up the chickens, fix dinner (stuffed green peppers and baked squash), make a cuppa, and sew.  And to listen to what is likely the final part of P.D. James’ Devices and Desires, which has been wonderful, wonderful.  James is a master of murder mysteries.  This book is so full and rich and so full of depth.

Tonight after watching two Castle episodes from season 2–which is really all about watching Nathan Fillion whose Firefly series got cancelled way, way too soon (Josh Whedon, and  the movie Serenity kind of finished off that series)–I’ll read another big chunk of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, which I’m really enjoying.

And, oh my gosh!, when checking spelling for Fillion, I realized he’s also in Buffy the Vampire Slayer just a bit, which Josh Wheden also did!!!  I’ve always wanted to check out that tv series…ever since Julie Powell wrote Julie and Julia (from her blog about Julie cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking) and spoke of her delight in Buffy…

If you don’t have dog-eared volumes of Child’s Mastering the Art of…, you might want to get at least the first one and cook around it a bit.

Life is so full of wonderful surprises some times…

Books, Documentaries, Reviews: Reading THE GOLDFINCH, Donna Tartt

Books, Documentaries, Reviews:  December 21, 2013


Donna Tartt

I read fiction mostly at night when I go to bed.

Last night I started THE GOLDFINCH.


Theo Decker is the opening narrator.  At 13, he loses his mother in a sudden accident, which he survives.

Here’s a titillating paragraph near the opening of the novel:

“Oh, drat!”  cried my mother.  She fumbled in her bag for her umbrella–which was scarcely big enough for one person, let alone two.

And then it came down, cold sweeps of rain blowing in sideways, broad gusts tumbling in the treetops and flapping in the awnings across the street.  My mother was struggling to get the cranky little umbrella up, without much success.  People on the street and in the park were holding newspapers and briefcases over their heads, scurrying up the stairs to the portico of the museum, which was the only place on the street to get out of the rain.  And there was something festive and happy about the two of us, hurrying up the steps beneath the flimsy candy-striped umbrella, quick quick quick, for all the world as if we were escaping something terrible instead of running right into it.

This novel comes highly recommended and is included in those holiday reading lists for gift-giving or for your own pleasurable reading.  Besides, old friend June Derr says its good.

Books, Documentaries, Reviews: New Books In The Mail

Books, Documentaries, Reviews:  November 14, 2013

New Books In The Mail

Look what came in yesterday’s mail?


And Stephen Kinzer’s THE BROTHERS, about the Allan and Foster Dulles, rolled in a day later.

I’ve never read Donna Tartt’s work, but listened to a really great review about this author and this novel.  It’s a big sprawling thing.

And, Jill Lepore’s work on Jane Franklin is also all over the media and is being reviewed really well.  I love it when women’s voices from the past get reclaimed and surfaced.

It’s going to be a good winter of reading.