dual personalities

Category: Books

“Besides, rereading, not reading, is what counts.”*


As you know, I am a great re-reader of books and poems and a re-watcher of movies.

The past and present wilt—I have fill’d them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day’s work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

–Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, 51

When daughter #1 visits, we like to re-listen to music, even old LPs from my parents’ house. But listening to a new Bob album is quite a treat.

I sing the songs of experience like William Blake
I have no apologies to make

Treat yourself.

I’ll keep the path open, the path in my mind
I’ll see to it that there’s no love left behind
I’ll play Beethoven’s sonatas, and Chopin’s preludes
I contain multitudes

*Jorge Luis Borges

What are you reading?

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The small things of life were often so much bigger than the great things, she decided, wondering how many writers and philosophers had said this before her, the trivial pleasures like cooking, one’s home, little poems especially sad ones, solitary walks, funny things seen and overheard.

–Barbara Pym, Less Than Angels

Today we celebrate the birthday of English author Barbara Pym (1913–1980) whose novels usually feature church ladies and are laced with irony. Quelle relateable, n’est-ce pas?

You can read more about her here. Guess I know what’s next on the docket.


It’s going to be hot here the next couple of days.

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I keep forgetting it’s June…so for Pete’s sake, of course, it’s going to be hotter. Somehow, it still feels like it should be March.

Well, hang in there.

“So here hath been dawning Another blue Day…”

So here hath been dawning
Another blue Day:
Think wilt thou let it
Slip useless away.
Out of Eternity
This new Day is born;
Into Eternity,
At night, will return.

–Thomas Carlyle

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My confused Christmas Cactus blooming again!

It was a beautiful weekend in flyover country and I was fortunate enough to be able to spend plenty of time outside soaking up the vitamin D. The boy came over for a chat on the patio on Saturday and shortly after he left to go to work, daughter #1 arrived from mid-MO in time for happy hour. There is nothing better, am I right?

If only, we could have beamed up daughter #2 and DN (a la Star Trek) for an hour or two!

Sunday was Pentecost, which I celebrated with my adopted Christ Church in Charlottesville, VA. My own Grace Church is supposed to start holding in person services next Sunday, but the Diocese has imposed a lot of rules (masks, no singing, social distancing, only 10% of capacity, and so on) so I may just stay home and continue to sing along with Sam Bush.

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I read quite a lot of The Accidental Tourist by Ann Tyler, curious to reread it after daughter #2’s negative review last week. I have to say, I am enjoying it and do not find all the characters to be “weirdos”! As I told daughter #2 when I talked to her on Sunday, clearly she was on edge and not in the right frame of mind to read this particular book. Indeed, I am actually enjoying it more than when I first read it nearly 35 years ago. There is actually a lot of humor in it. The main character, who is a member of a very introverted wasp-y family who really only feels comfortable with his own siblings, seems very familiar to me. On the other hand, a couple of months ago I tried to reread Breathing Lessons, for which Ann Tyler won the Pulitzer Prize, and I found it unreadable, so irritating were the characters. So go figure.

And true to form, the OM sent away and got me one of these very special face masks from the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City! ##HashtagTheCowboy #CowboyTim


Please keep daughter #2 in your prayers. She is still waiting for the newest wee babe to arrive, now past her due date. It should be an exciting week.

Thought for the day:

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The kindness of strangers

Well, the coronavirus finally hit close to home last week when one of our flyover institute students died. I had actually known this woman for over 30 years.

I was going to my class’s 10th reunion at Smith College. I had just found out that my mother was dying and I didn’t really want to go, but the plane ticket had been bought and arrangements made and everyone said go, so I went. I flew to Hartford, CT and planned to get on the Peter Pan bus to Springfield and then change to a bus to Northampton, as I had always done in college.

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But when I arrived at Bradley International Airport,  a well-dressed little lady came up to me and said, do you happen to be going to Smith College? I said, why, yes I am. She said, well, I’m going to my 30th reunion and I’m going to rent a car, but I don’t like to drive alone, so would you like to go with me?

I could have cried with relief. So Sally drove me to Northampton and we chatted amiably the whole way. I heard all about Charlie, her husband, and her three kids, her father who had been a professor at Yale, and so on. She was just the ticket for getting my mind off my troubles. I didn’t see Sally again until my first week at work in 2002 when she walked into my flyover institute and we re-introduced ourselves.

I never believed that chance meeting in the Hartford airport was a chance meeting at all. It was the unseen hand on my shoulder, the whisper from the wings assuring me that all would be well. Courage, dear heart.

Sally was 83 when she died and she had a happy life. Many people will miss her, me included.


Looking at the clouds

Daughter #1 came home for 24 hours on Saturday and we had a lovely time working on our puzzle, listening to music, taking a walk, drinking a margarita, sitting on the patio, and watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a top-five favorite movie. The boy came over to borrow a tool and he sat outside with us in the sunshine for twenty minutes.

I read a lot of The Long Goodbye. 

“There was a sad fellow over on a bar stool talking to the bartender, who was polishing a glass and listening with that plastic smile people wear when they are trying not to scream.”

It is pretty great but I will be ready for something else when I’m finished. It is too easy to fall into the slough of cynicism he describes so well. It is not a good time to be doing that.

I watched Robert Altman’s film version of the book and I hated it.

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I despise it when someone makes a movie based on a book, but all they really use are the names of the characters and maybe one aspect of the plot. What is the point of that?Elliott Gould is not Philip Marlowe by any stretch of the imagination. Gould’s Marlowe is a complete schlub with a cat. Philip Marlowe doesn’t have a cat.

Just terrible.

Well, chin up as we start week seven of our confinement. Onward and upward.

“Confusion to our enemies. Good luck to our friends.”*

Well, I have to say this telecommuting is not all it’s cracked up to be, especially considering we thought we could get into our offices on Friday, but now the situation is changed yet again and so on and so on. I am stressed to the max.

But what can we do but keep smilin’ through?

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So I will continue to self-medicate by watching my favorite movies and reading good books. Last night I watched My Darling Clementine (1946) which was on TCM. It is really a Top Ten best movie. (It was named the Best Foreign Film of 1948 by the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. They got it right.) Good medicine indeed. Right now I am reading Hilary Mantel’s new book The Mirror and the Light and it is terrific. It is also a timely reminder that times have always been crazy and politics has always been a cut-throat business (literally in the 16th century).

‘I neglect no precautions,’ he had said. ‘The times being what they are, a man may enter the gate as your friend and change sides while he crosses the courtyard.’

Also, I thought this quote from C.S. Lewis was awfully good:

The war [WWII] creates no absolutely new situation, it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with ‘normal life.’ Life has never been normal.”

Found here–read the whole thing.

So keep smiling. You have a nice place to telecommute from and Rice-a-roni in the pan.

*Thomas Cromwell in The Mirror and the Light

“And Joshua said, ‘Sanctify yourselves: for you have not passed this way before.’”*

Did you know that every year March is designated Women’s History Month by Presidential proclamation. The month is set aside to honor women’s contributions in American history. Here is President Trump’s proclamation from 2019.

Americans are so conflicted these days concerning who is a hero/heroine and who is a villain that it makes these honorific months problematic. Take, for instance, the case of  Hannah Emerson Dustin (1657–1736). Hannah was a colonial Puritan mother of nine living in Haverhill, Massachusetts when she was abducted by Abenaki Indians along with her week-old baby and nurse. When the baby would not stop crying, one of the Indians took hold of it and bashed its brains out against a tree. Later, while detained on an island in the Merrimack River, Hannah took an ax and killed and scalped ten Indians while they slept and took off with her friend and the 10-year old boy also being held by the Indians.

Hannah was considered a hero to the following generations and is believed to be the first American woman honored with a statue. There are two statues, in fact, one in New Hampshire and one in Massachusetts.

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But nowadays we can’t be proud of Hannah. No, we even doubt that the Indians killed her baby. Maybe it just died. We can’t hold her up as an example of female bad-assery, a woman who didn’t need a man to save her or wait for one to rescue her to wreck havoc on her kidnappers. No, we are just embarrassed by her wrath–remember this is a woman who has just given birth, her hormones were raging, her milk flowing–and the revenge she dealt to her murderous enemies. It is so typical that people are sympathetic to the poor Indians she “murdered” and not to the kidnapped and traumatized woman.

But no one understands context these days.

There are a couple of good stories based on Hannah Dustin’s story and others like hers, including “The Iron Shrine” by Conrad Richter and Hannah Fowler by Janice Holt Giles.



I recommend them. These authors understood context.

Meanwhile we are still in February through the weekend (leap year!) Daughter #1 is coming into town on Saturday to get the oil changed in her car, so we will be able to do a few things.

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Check this out: another good one from my favorite female priest. And in case you missed it, yesterday was the feast day  of George Herbert, priest an poet.

Our God and King, who didst call thy servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honors to be a pastor of souls, a poet, and a priest in thy temple: Give unto us the grace, we beseech thee, joyfully to perform the tasks thou givest us to do, knowing that nothing is menial or common that is done for thy sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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Watch a good movie this weekend! Since it is the last weekend of Black History Month, it might be time to view something from the Denzel Washington oeuvre. The Book of Eli (2010) is a personal favorite.

Have a good weekend!

*Joshua 3:4

“A lamp shining in a dark place”

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty…So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

–2 Peter 1:16-21

I read this scripture passage in church on Sunday. I wish it had been possible to underscore certain parts–no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation–but I am not that good a reader! (And we all know there is really nothing worse than a lay reader who tries to make a point.)

My weekend was pretty quiet. I went to four estate sales on Saturday and wore myself out. I didn’t even get anything! But it was fun to be out on a sunny day. On Sunday after church I puttered around the house, doing laundry, vacuuming and catching up on ‘desk work.’

I took a nap before the wee babes descended on us…but it turns out that we wore them out:

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They should have taken a nap!

I finished reading The Chain by Paul Wellman. I am definitely going to look into other fiction from the 1940s…

Screen Shot 2020-02-24 at 4.39.48 PM.pngI have actually read a few of these and some I have heard of because they were made into movies. But who has ever heard of Frank Yerby? Well, turns out he was actually the first African-American to have a book purchased for screen adaptation by a Hollywood studio, when 20th Century Fox optioned The Foxes of Harrow, which was the first novel by an African-American to sell more than a million copies!

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“Three women threaten to destroy Stephen Fox and his Louisiana empire in the passionate days before the Civil War.”

Why isn’t Yerby more famous? 

Anyway, before I check the above titles out, I am going to read the newest Adamsberg mystery by Fred Vargas, The Poison Will Remain. The plot has to do with brown recluse spiders!

And here’s some mid-week inspo from our pal Zach Williams:

Enjoy your Tuesday!

What’s playing at the Roxy?

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What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

–Philip Larkin

Another week flies by–the highlight of mine being Tuesday, when the wee laddie came over after work for a wee visit while his dad took Lottiebelle to her dance class. (Their mom was busy practicing with her varsity cooking team.) He was not thrilled about being left alone with Mamu, so we settled down in the den and watched quite a few truck/construction videos.

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This placated him. (Usually the den is off limits, so the mystery factor played a part in his acquiescence.) Trucks, as you know, are his passion. This is a subject he knows a lot about. And now I know more about it.

On another note I have been reading The Chain by Paul I. Wellman, a bestseller from 1949.

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Why? you ask. Well, I was prompted from something I read on the Mockingbird website:

Well, it turns out there are some conscious Christian masterpieces out there, which were very successful in their day but have been almost completely smothered, in the reception, by This World. I mean, who has ever heard of The Chain by Paul Wellman? Yet it is simply the most touching story of a young Episcopal minister in Jericho, Kansas, who preaches and acts out Grace in a stratified and complacent city with great sacrifice yet great success. The Chain is a must read! Yet it’s been almost completely buried, as have been many other works like it, by “the World, the Flesh and the Devil”.

Long out of print (and not available in my university’s library) I found a used copy online and bought it. Paul Wellman also wrote The Comancheros, so I had heard of him. The novel is pretty dated, especially when it comes to its female characters, but most everybody in the book is recognizable if you have spent much time in an Episcopal church. Times have not changed that much when it comes to power players in a church. I’m sure in 1949 it was considered to be quite risqué and sexy, but it is not in the least shocking by today’s standards. I’m sure you can imagine. Even though I would hardly call it a “Christian masterpiece,” it has held my interest and I want to see how the young minister fairs. I think I may check out some other mid-level fiction from days of yore. It beats most of what’s published today.

The OM and I watched Little Caesar (1931) this week. It is the movie that made Edward G. Robinson a star and typecast him forever. It also features a very young Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. miscast as Robinson’s friend. I can’t say the gangster genre is a favorite of mine–not now, not ever–but Robinson is unforgettable and his death scene is worth the price of admission.

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I could not find a clip, but here’s the Muppet reenactment–almost as good.

I have no plans for the weekend. What are you doing?

(The painting is by Hendrick Averkamp, b. 1585)

What are you reading (and watching)?


I received some good books for Christmas and have picked up a few since then. I just finished The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard, which won the National Book award in 1980. I like her and it is a joy to read her prose and this story, which takes place in the Far East right after WWII, is thought-provoking. I am also reading the story of Elihu Washburne, who was the U.S. minister to France during the siege of Paris in 1871. It is an amazing story–which I had all but forgotten (if I ever actually knew). Washburne stayed at his post while the Prussians laid siege to Paris and afterward when the revolutionaries of the Commune embarked on a reign of terror that filled the streets with blood. Zut alors!

I didn’t do much over my long weekend. I vacuumed and straightened and drove some flattened boxes to the recycling center. I went to church.

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ; who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (I Corinthians 1:2-9)

The OM and I watched some movies–Tall in the Saddle (1944)–which has a witty script and lots of action, not to mention a very appealing John Wayne.

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We also watched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) directed by Quentin Tarantino. This movie is two hours and 40 minutes long and full of problems, but I have to say I enjoyed it. And it wasn’t all that violent, at least until the end.

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The director has indulged himself–he could have (and should have) tightened it up, but most of the PC criticisms are groundless. The New Yorker called it “obscenely regressive”–please, it takes place in 1969 in Hollywood, what do  you expect? As if looking back and portraying a moment in history as he saw it is obscene. I guess the obscene part is reveling in it, rather than condemning it, right? I’m not sure what Tarantino’s ultimate point was, but my takeaway is (spoiler alert), if the Manson crew had broken into the house next door to Sharon Tate’s and instead attacked a stuntman, a fading western actor, a pitt bull, and an Italian actress, the outcome would indeed have been different. If this is glorifying white men, so be it.

We also re-watched Ford vs. Ferrari (2019) because it is the OM’s new favorite movie. I enjoyed it too. Matt Damon and Christian Bale were definitely overlooked by the Academy, but Big Surprise.

The wee babes were both sick so they missed taco night on Sunday, but the boy came over and talked about movies and other grown up stuff, which was a treat for me.

By the way, do you know how Martin Luther King got his name? I didn’t either. (I just assumed his parents gave him the name as an infant.)

Perhaps you know the story: In 1934 the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta sent its pastor Michael King, Sr. to attend a Baptist World Alliance Meeting in Berlin. The trip included a whirlwind visit to a number of other sites, but apparently the time in Germany (just as the National Socialists were starting their rise) had such an impact on Michael that he decided to rename himself and his 5-year-old son after the Great Reformer. Thus, father and son became Martin Luther King, Sr. and Jr.

That is cool and I thought this was interesting.

Today I am scheduled to have my last radiation treatment. So picture me ringing that bell for a second time. Praise Jesus.

Go tell it on the mountain

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Oh, weekends in December! There is always so much to do. I wrapped a boatload of presents and went to the “Holiday Sale” at my church. I bought some used books. (I had donated three cartons of books, so I came out on top of that equation.)

The OM and I bought our Christmas tree at the neighborhood Optimists’ lot. We found one right away and bundled it home where it is waiting in the garage to be set up and decorated at a later date.

We also went to see They Shall Not Grow Old (2018), a documentary film about WWI directed by Peter Jackson. My DP wrote about the documentary last year when she saw it. It was an impressive film, no doubt about it, but I have to say, after ten minutes I was thinking, “Why did I want to see this movie?” I stayed for the whole thing, but it was an extremely unpleasant experience. Trench warfare, bad. I get it. There are a lot of good things to say about this movie, but reading about it would have been enough for me. We came home and watched The Commancheros (1961) which made me feel much better.

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I went to the 8:00 service at church again and came home and finished A Serpent’s Tooth by Craig Johnson, a Longmire novel I had been re-reading. Speaking of books, I also read Terms of Endearment by Larry McMurtry last week. I admire McMurtry a lot, but this book, written in 1975, did not really grab me. I think it was supposed to be funny and I was not really amused. I read half and then skipped to the end. The movie you will recall, was a huge hit back in 1983. It won five Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay. You can’t say that about many movies! I had never actually seen it, so we watched it on Amazon Prime this weekend.

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Shirley MacLaine was very good, but I was not that impressed with Debra Winger, who I was not surprised to read was high on cocaine the whole time. It is a “funny” movie that turns tragic and then everyone cries and feels better. Standard stuff. Movies like this were a dime a dozen in the 1930s and 40s.

By the time the wee babes came over for dinner on Sunday night the OM and I were kind of exhausted. They ran circles around us as usual. Lottie wanted to have a dance party and was disappointed that daughter #1 was not there to spin the records. C’est la vie, Lottie; this indeed is life.

Last night we went to the Lutheran Church where the wee babes go to pre-school to see their Christmas program, which consisted of the 2-5 year old munchkins singing a few Christmas carols. It was chaos, but adorable. There was no way to take any pictures, because all we could really see was other grandparents holding up cell phones to record the occasion. This would have bothered me back in the day with my own children, but now I just go with the flow.IMG_4749.JPG

Here is a picture the boy took of them practicing last week. (They were a lot more dressed up last night.) Those 2-year olds in the front really have no clue! (Especially that wee laddie who is not even facing in the right direction.)

Go tell who on what mountain? Hang in there–only two weeks ’til Christmas!