"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Books of two cities, and more

Stamped inside my  copy
Reading goes in spurts, for me, even with a goal of at least one a month.
After reading seven in the first two months of the year, the drought set in--much like the last month of my non-blogging blog, which was broken yesterday. The first seven are listed in The pages of February.
But our June trip to England and Scotland broke that dry spell, and in the summer months I consumed another 12 books.
The book that got me reading again, as we headed to London, was fittingly, Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities." I bought my copy 11+ years ago in Paris in the renowned bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. Other than the famous first few pages though, I'd never managed to get through it. But I finished it on the way home over the Atlantic. It also helped that we visited Dickens' home while we were there.
Since that time I've read four other novels, a book of short stories, three books of poetry,  and three non-fiction books. Some were terrific and two were pretty bad. By the way, I think I bought all of these at our two local bookstores, Best of Books and Full Circle, though a couple may be been purchased online.
Here they are.
Novels-- Three favorites and one much less so:
  • Harper Lee, "Go Set a Watchman. I don't care what others say, this is an intense, good book. Here's what I wrote:  "Childhood is Gone".
  • Craig Johnson, "Dry Bones," the latest Longmire novel. Back in February I read his short stories, "Wait for Signs," and while I love Longmire, Craig's short stories  are even better. 
  • Anne Hillerman, "Rock With Wings." This is the second of her novels, following in her father Tony  Hillerman's
    steps, with the same characters. Set in New Mexico and Arizona, it's a good mystery.
  • One not so favorite, Clive Cussler, "The Jungle." Actually an audio tape for driving across the expanse of West Texas. Forgettable. I know, he makes a bunch of money with these, so wish I was too. Suspense, yes. But too perfect, implausible. Rambo in print.

Poetry--There is a resurgence of poetry in Oklahoma, not fancy stuff, but with red clay on its boots. I am writing an article on the current Poet Laureate, Ben Myers, and you have to read a poet to even know what questions to ask. I had already read his most recent book, "Lapse Americana." And, I have met and reviewed the previous Poet Laureate, Nathan Brown, and picked up two of his books. As Ray Bradbury once wrote, reading poetry exercises muscles you don't usually use.  
  • Myers, "Elegy for Trains."
  • Brown, "Oklahoma Poems and their poets"; "Karma Crisis."
Short stories
  • David Sedaris, "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk." I'd never read Sedaris, and couldn't get into longer books, so this was funny, and sometimes disturbing.
 Non-fiction--Two favorites and one not at all.


  • Helen Macdonald, "H is for Hawk." This English woman's personal journey training a Goshawk, coping with death and the past. It helps that we visited Cambridge where she taught. 


  • Gary Lantz, "Morning Comes to Elk Mountain." If you're an Okie, you should read this month by month tour of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. I thought I knew a bit about that area, but the book is stunning. Lantz knows the name of every plant, bug and more as he takes you through the seasons. Reminds me of the writing of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas who knew all that kind of information in his nature writing.
  • David Archibald, "Twilight of Abundance." I gave up on this doomsday book because of the irrational political hatred and anger in it. The author's thesis that the world is near collapse because our age of abundance is over seems somewhat supported, but it descends into a blame game.

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