Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bags of books

It's difficult to resist sifting through tables of books when, for one dollar, you can fill a bag. 

And I didn't, when I stopped by the local library to return a book and discovered this sale. Those pictured actually filled two plastic shopping bags because two of them were quite large and heavy. 

Would I have purchased them at their regular used book price? Maybe not. But here's the reason for the choices I made:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt - I have read this book recently but it was stored on my Kindle reader, which is now "gone" because I inadvertently placed it in the washing machine. I bought this for my sister. 

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - read it decades ago but don't own a copy. I may want to reread it someday. 

The Cat who Came for Christmas by Cleveland Amory - Sounds like a fun read. Gave it to my brother-in-law. 

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher - I have this one in paperback and have read it more than once. Love it and wanted a hardback copy. 

Perrine's Literature - am not familiar with this college textbook but noticed it includes several authors' stories/poems I want to read. Very heavy book, in both weight and content!

Eat More Weigh Less - contains some good low-fat recipes. 

Fortune's Favorites by Colleen McCullough - have never heard of this book. Picked it because my sister loved The Thorn Birds by this author. It's hers when she's ready for it. 

I came home with lots of books for $2. Have you read any of these?  Do you ever buy second-hand books?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Going to the Fair

Does anyone still go to the Fair? Apparently they do, as they continue to be held each year.

I saw a billboard along the highway last week announcing the upcoming yearly event. I wonder what it’s like going to the Fair now. I haven’t been in years.

It once was the highlight of early Fall, kids saving up their money and going to the Fair. It was such a big event that one afternoon was designated “School Day” and the fairgrounds were closed to all except for the schoolchildren who were bused there from all over the county. That was great fun, going to the fair with your friends.

But the best time to go was at night, when the lights were bright and the place seemed magical. And our family always attended one night during the week. It was something daddy always dreaded but mother enjoyed it as much as her two daughters.

Here’s a side note you may not be able to imagine: Saturday night was designated “Colored” Night at the Fair, meaning that was the only time African-Americans were allowed to attend. Of course, this was the result of Jim Crow laws in place in the Southern United States up until 1965.

The crowds were huge at the Fair, as I remember, and in the eyes of a child, there was so many things to do there! 

The Midway was where all the activity was going on.

The rides: Merry-Go-Round, Bumper Cars, Tilt-a-Whirl, Roller Coaster and of course, the Farris Wheel. I’m sure there were other rides whose names I cannot even recall.

The Music: It seems it was always organ music playing as you wandered over the Fairgrounds. Sawdust covered the ground to keep down the dust from so many feet stomping through.

The Games: Toss a coin and try to make it land on a glass plate and you could take it home with you. Toss balls to hit an object and take home a teddy bear. Pick up a rubber duckie floating past in a trench and claim some little insignificant prize.

The Sideshows: For an admission behind a curtain you could see a goat with a woman’s head, a child with two heads and all sorts of tricks devised to take money from gullible people. Fortune Tellers. Hoochie-coochie shows (we were instructed to turn our heads as we passed by those!)

The Food: Candy Apples, Cotton Candy, Pronto Pups (also now known as Corn Dogs), greasy hamburgers and hotdogs, popcorn, peanuts. And I wanted to sample all of it! I don’t recall ever getting sick, but the odds were I should have!

The Exhibits: An entire hall was given over to displays that reflected the skills of area homemakers: homemade jam, jelly, pies; sewing; handwork. These were judged and ribbons given to winners.

Livestock: A barn with all manner of cows, horses, pigs, chickens and I don’t even remember what else. Prizes were given for the best specimen raised.

And finally there was the Grandstand Act, for a separate admission. Seated in the bleachers, you saw flying trapeze acts, clowns, tigers jumping through flaming hoops, girls performing tricks on horseback.

Many things have changed. Going to the Fair is no longer the highlight of a rural child’s Fall life. The lights and delights of the Fair are overshadowed by many other exciting activities. But I’m glad I got to experience County Fairs back then.

What is your experience, past or present, with Town, Village, County or State Fairs?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I write this post not because I have knowledge or any particular interest in mules. I have never owned or lived with an owner of mules, although I’ve heard many stories told by ancestors who once owned them.


I present this excerpt from William Faulkner's Flags in the Dust to illustrate how a skilled writer pens words that grab you and won't let you go; captures a solid sense of time and place; explores the deep strata of history and legend.

The fiction of William Faulkner is populated by unforgettable characters caught up in the brutality and tenderness of the human condition, during a tragic time in our nation's history. His themes are universal, however: tradition, family, community, the land, history, race and the passions of ambition and love.

Sometimes, he gives us a slice of downplayed humor, as in his discussion of mules.

“Some Cincinnatus of the cotton fields should contemplate the lowly destiny, some Homer should sing the saga, of the mule and his place in the South. He it was, more than any one creature or thing, who, steadfast to the land when all else faltered before the hopeless juggernaut or circumstance, impervious to conditions that broke men’s hearts because of his venomous and patient preoccupation with the immediate present, won the prone South from beneath the iron heel of Reconstruction and taught it pride again through humility and courage through adversity overcome, who accomplished the well-nigh impossible despite hopeless odds, by sheer and vindictive patience. Father and mother he does not resemble, sons and daughters he will never have; vindictive and patient (it is a known fact that he will labor ten years willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once); solitary but without pride, self-sufficient but without vanity; his voice is his own derision. Outcast and pariah, he has neither friend, wife, mistress nor sweetheart; celibate, he is unscarred, possesses neither pillar nor desert cave, he is not assaulted by temptations not flagellated by dreams, nor assuaged by visions; faith, hope and charity are not his. Misanthropic, he labors six days without reward for one creature whom he hates, bound with chains to another whom he despises, and spends the seventh day kicking or being kicked by his fellows..”

In typical Faulknerian style, paragraphs and sentences are long, the punctuation at times irregular. The above is only a portion of a paragraph that runs on for approximately 430 words!

If you want to learn interesting facts about mules, information is at the American Mule Museum. There are fascinating facts here, most of which I didn't know. It gives one a new appreciation of the humble mule.


If you regularly read this blog, you know I am on a quest to read all Faulkner major works by the end of 2014. And I am making good progress. So far I have completed (and thoroughly enjoyed):

The Sound and the Fury
The Unvanquished
Flags in the Dust
There Was a Queen (short story)
Today I will begin reading Light in August.

Monday, August 25, 2014


“The topmost covering of a bed, often functioning as a blanket; a coverlet”

I added a new word to my vocabulary last week: Counterpane.

Mother said while her day sitter was getting bedsheets from a drawer, she pulled out an item, which she calls “counterPIN,” that mother made more than sixty years ago.

It is simply a white topsheet onto which a large design is stamped in the center and four corners. The designs are then embrodiered with brightly colored floss.

Mother said she remembered both her mother and grandmother making them, and she herself made one shortly after she was married.

Traditionally, it functions as a bedspread during hot summer months, something to dress up a bed but without much weight.

Seeing it on her bed brings to mind hot summer days when there was no air conditioning, when windows were thrown open to bring into the house whatever breeze existed on those sultry Southern days. The colorful handwork reminiscent of flowers cut from the garden and brought inside to adorn tables.

Her bed now sports the counterpane. When I asked if in all these years if she’d ever used it she said no.

Surely, at 93 years old, it was high time she uses this beautiful heirloom to adorn her bed in lieu of it lingering in the bottom drawer of bedsheets.

I'm very glad it was "found" and I was able to learn the "history" of counterpanes in general, and this one in particular.

Are you familiar with the word counterpane?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Lost Art of Conversation

Have you noticed? Most people, at least many of those I come in contact with, are narcissistic.

We see it everywhere. People almost totally focused upon themselves, their activities, their interests, their need for attention (read this as the definition of the entire social media realm).

You meet up with someone and ask how they’re doing or what they’ve been doing. Fifteen minutes later they’re still prattling on, with never a thought of asking you one thing about yourself.

Even worse, you share some personal story with a friend or acquaintance, and without even acknowledging what you said, they launch into their own story, seeming to want to “top” your story with a better one of their own.

Some otherwise very nice people are guilty of this. I wonder if they're even aware of how selfish their actions are perceived by others. 

Has it always been this way? I think not. I can remember the day when a real conversation was possible. The give and take of sharing ideas and opinions. 

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the way folks interrupt you when your’re talking! This is the one thing that most irritates me.

Talking over someone else has reached epic proportions, especially on television, which is the main reason I can no longer bear to watch anything other than a straight news broadcast.

I used to enjoy turning on tv in the morning while having breakfast, to catch up on the latest news. I no longer do that because of the cutesy tv personalities sitting around the news desk, five people talking at once, to the point that viewers don’t hear a word any of them said. Yikes, why do they do that?

So now I get my morning news from radio, thank you very much.

People who do this, are they conceited? vain? emotional need for attention? think they are clever/cute? Yes, probably all, plus narcissistic -- both the tv personalities and also the people we come in daily contact with. Just sayin'.

Can we do anything about this trend? Probably not. I used to be surprised and disappointed that a person didn’t want to get to know me or know anything about me. Now I just expect less.

Some psychologists attribute this current excessive narcissistic behavior to being raised in a family so lacking in parental attention that they play out in adulthood an unquenchable need for others to listen to them and make them feel significant.

Wow, all I can say is there must have been a great many bad parents out there who didn’t listen to their kids. But still, I cannot totally accept this explanation, because for at least the past 25 years parents (most) have done nothing but spoil, pamper and dote on children/grandchildren, to the point of ridiculousness. And we still see this narcissistic behavior in that group as well.

Anyone will tell you the secret to the Art of Conversation is Being a Good Listener. But wait, I'm already doing that! And what I get is constantly listening to someone talk about themselves ad nauseam.


Tell me your experiences with this subject. And if you haven’t experienced it I’d sure like travel in your circle!  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Faulkner, Finally

For more than 30 years I've kept a list of the order in which the writer William Faulkner's books should be read, thinking "one day I'll get around to reading these."

The list was shared by a college professor who was a bit of a Faulkner scholar himself. And while there may be some disagreement among experts on where to start, my old list looked good to me.

So I'm on a quest to get all the major works of Faulkner read before the end of 2014. (Admission: I'm actually reading The Sound and the Fury first, simply because the local bookstore didn't have The Unvanquished in stock. I'll be using the local library or Amazon to secure the remaing books).

I've read around the edges of Faulkner for years, dipping into his short stories here and there (A Rose for Emily is a good place to begin if you're new to him). But I've never been serious about reading and understanding him. Until now.

Faulkner is not an easy read. His stream of consciousness narrative (think James Joyce in Ulysses and Virginia Wolf in Mrs Dalloway) can be tough going.

His prose often sounds as if someone sat down with a piece of paper and wrote everything that went through his mind with no worry about grammar or form; extended sentences, descriptions and details; actions in one scene that then recall a past or future scene; complex sentence structure. 

But there is a point to it all. It mimics the human brain and we're being placed inside the various characters' heads.

One critic has suggested that Faulkner be read as if the reader were sitting in a courtroom listening to and sifting through various testimonies of a parade of witnesses and knowing he'll have to make up his own mind about what actually happened and who is and who's not telling the truth.

Another has suggested reading Faulkner's stories as if they were a detective novel, each piece of information not complete or understandable but becoming a part of the larger whole as more information is revealed. The reader must rely on emotional instincts to embrace and unravel the ambiguities woven into each passage.

If all this sounds like to much effort to -- like work instead of reading pleasure -- let me say that the effort expended is well worth the work!

He evokes a sense of place and time like no other; he's brutally honest and truthful; his characters are so real you feel like you know them.

He is one of the most important writers in American literature generally and Southern literature in particular. Although his work was published as early as 1919, and in the 20s and 30s, he was relatively unknown until receiving the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature. 

In 1998, the Modern Library ranked his 1929 novel, The Sound and the Fury, sixth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Also on the list were As I Lay Dying (1930) and Light in August (1932. Absalom, Absalom (1936 is often included on similar lists.

Here are a few Faulkner quotes from his books:

From As I Lay Dying

From Requiem for a Nun

From As I Lay Dying

From Requiem for a Nun

From The Reivers

From The Wild Palms

From The Sound and the Fury

From The Sound and the Fury

From The Sound and the Fury

From The Sound and the Fury

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Meandering:  following a winding course; to wander aimlessly; ramble; a direction or route taken; a particular manner of proceeding.

On a day's outing, driving leisurely though southern Tennessee, one doesn't expect a castle. Or is it?

There were no signs or markings to identify the structure, but a quick Google search on the town -- Sherwood, Tenn. -- indicated these castle-like ruins are of The Gager Lime Manufacturing Company, which was established in 1892 and operated until 1949.


From Wikipedia:

The castle-like ruins of the lime production facilities and silos, which are unusual for their Egyptian Revival and Gothic Revival styling, remain in the community. The Tennessee Preservation Trust included them on its Ten in Tennessee Endangered Properties List for 2002–2003, citing their architectural distinctiveness and expressing concern that a "continued lack of maintenance" threatened their survival.

Wow, such an unusual thing to see on a leisurely drive through the countryside.

If you want to read more about the town and the Gager ruins, visit this page

Monday, August 11, 2014

In the gazebo

My first blog post on iPhone. The first one disappeared and I don't have the heart to re type each word!

The gazebo is our little outdoor retreat. A place to share a meal, a cool refreshing drink or rest from garden chores. 

It's covered in late summer with Sweet Autumn Clematis. We enjoy it's delicate blooms and faint scent. Sadly, when it blooms we know summer will soon be gone. 

Where do you take a break to rest outdoors?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lost in the '60s

The past week has been one of reminiscing with old friends and acquaintances. The class reunion was held Aug 2 and was a great success -- far beyond my expectations.

I wore my black dress and shoes, black stockings and my real pearls. I was the only woman there in a dress. It is indeed a casual world we live in today. Oh, I know that trousers are perfectly appropriate at any given venue these days, and some attendees looked perfectly stylish in their trousers. Call me old fashioned, but I think some occasions call for a dress. Please feel free to disagree with me on this point!

Fortunately, no one was dressed in the style of the 60s, as in the image above.

I saw classmates I had not seen since our graduation day. In my memory, they had remained as they looked in the 60s, so yes, in some cases their appearances were, well, shocking. I am sure the same was the case for them as well!

I also spent a lovely afternoon with two other high school friends, a  couple of my closest friends who were not in my class. We recounted some of the crazy and fun things we did when we were 16 and 17 years old. For instance:

We were three of five friends who called ourselves "The Deadbeats." We thought that was such a cool thing! Each of us had a number and we would count off each time we met up. We had charms on our charm bracelets with our "number" on it.

We tooled around on Sunday afternoons in one of our group's little yellow Ford, checking out the normal spots where teenagers hung out: the Dairy Dip at the River; the Elk River pier; Joe Wheeler State Park picnic grounds. We rolled down the car windows and called out to friends, acted so silly and laughed our heads off at everything and nothing.

One time, one of our number was mad at her boyfriend and she had the idea we would break into the "boy cave" he shared with his friends. It was a little hut they had built themselves down on the creek bank. The boys used it as their hangout -- a fishing cabin and a place they could go to drink beer!

We drove there one Saturday night when we were fairly certain they wouldn't be there. Yes, we broke out and climbed in through a window. We didn't really destroy anything, just messed things up a bit. We felt so big and brave that we'd been so naughty.

The "break in" was the talk of the school on Monday morning. It remained our secret. In fact, one of our group eventually married one of the boy cave members, and we believe she never told him of our "crime." Alas, she departed this life way too early, a victim of cancer, in the 1990s.

Another incident we discussed was the cold winter night at a spend the night party where we tried beer the first time. We we being REALLY naughty here. A little dab will do you! At least it did me, as I had the bright idea to go across the street and "beat up" the girl who had "stolen" my boyfriend. I took off in my pjs and robe, onto a snow-covered lawn, intent on my mission. My friends, fortunately, had the good sense to run out and save me!

Ah, so many things we did when we were young and stupid. But it has felt good to remember these times. And I'm reminded of the saying, "there's no friends like old friends." 
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