Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Your Vote Counts

Want to help choose The Best of the National Book Awards Fiction winner? You can place your vote HERE and enter your email address to win two tickets to the National Book Awards ceremony on Nov. 18.

And the nominees are . . .

The Stories of John Cheever

Invisible Man,
Ralph Ellison

The Collected Stories of William Faulkner

The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor

Gravity's Rainbow,
Thomas Pynchon

The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty

I voted. But I don't vote and tell.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thoreau Wannabe

Mondays are stressful days for me. All my classes this semester are on M/W/F, and on Monday afternoons, after I've taught all my classes, I also meet with a graduate student who's doing an Independent study with me (in Women's Lit & feminist literary theory, which I'm so excited about and enjoying thoroughly). Then, after we finish discussing the novel or essays of the week and she leaves for her next class, I have office hours until five, which I try to use as productively as possible.

Don't get me wrong. I love my job. It's just that by the end of the day, Mondays especially, I'm usually so wound up that it's hard to turn myself off. My mind just can't stop feeling like there's something I should be doing. It keeps running in circles.

So, last Monday I had an idea. After I got home, I put on my walking shoes and decided to go for a nice walk before I started supper, or washed a load of clothes, or did anything else that resembled more work. I resisted walking down the road in front of our house because that's where I run most every morning, and I didn't want this to feel like exercise. I wanted it to be relaxing.

"I've got it!" I thought. Our house is surrounded by pasture, and behind the pasture are some woods. We had them logged a couple of years ago, and my husband has been slowly clearing trails through the woods, beautiful winding paths that look like tunnels through the trees, decorated with fallen logs, misshapen mushrooms, mossy stumps. "That's it! Exactly what I need," I decided.

So I spent a little time walking through the fallen leaves, listening to the wind blowing through the tree tops, not worrying about time, or pace, or aerobic intensity. I watched the squirrels scamper, saw a rabbit or two, kept my eyes open for deer, although I didn't see any. I was just winding down, living in the moment. Practicing intentionality, I thought.

Only I didn't intend to get poison ivy on my left ankle and chigger bites in various places on my lower extremities. I mean, I had on long pants, thick cotton socks, and sturdy walking shoes.

I guess relaxing walks in the woods will have to wait until after the first frost. Any "unwinding" suggestions til then?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Booking It--Recent Sadness

What’s the saddest book you’ve read recently?

It's gotta be Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper. Sad, but wonderful. One of the best books I've ever read. But, yeah. Sad.

P.S. It's soooo much better than the movie.

"New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult is widely acclaimed for her keen insights into the hearts and minds of real people. Now she tells the emotionally riveting story of a family torn apart by conflicting needs and a passionate love that triumphs over human weakness.
Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate -- a life and a role that she has never challenged...until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister -- and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.

My Sister's Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child's life, even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less? Should you follow your own heart, or let others lead you? Once again, in My Sister's Keeper, Jodi Picoult tackles a controversial real-life subject with grace, wisdom, and sensitivity."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tyler Parten Memorial Fund

The donations to this foundation will be used to carry on Tyler's passion and heart to work with children and share his gift of music all over the world. His family will be using the money to send soldiers harmonicas, and other items Tyler used, to reach the children of Afghanistan, in addition to supporting missionaries and teachers in regions near to his heart, such as Africa and Morocco.

A tax-deductable foundation in Tyler Parten's name has been created to carry out his love and passion for children across the world. Donations can be made payable to the 1st Lt Tyler Parten Memorial Fund and mailed to C/O ARCF 1400 West Markham, Suite 206, Little, Rock, AR 72201.

1st Lt. Tyler E. Parten, 24, of Arkansas

The Department of Defense announced the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. 1st Lt. Tyler E. Parten, 24, of Arkansas, died Sept. 10 in Konar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire. He was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What I Just Finished

"Bass, a historian of the Christian tradition and editor of Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for Searching People, dissects the elusive concept of time within the realm of Christian theology and practices. Using rich personal stories, she shares how time is truly a gift to be savored, not a tempest to be tamed. Bass understands the societal stress men and women feel to produce and provide within ever-decreasing time slots. She also knows how liberating these daily 24 hours can become when we practice living in the now. Bass's eight chapters outline her basic premise in time management: receiving each day as a gift from God. She encourages readers to open their hearts every morning in quiet thanks to God for life, to learn to structure their lives with flexible regularity, to use their time for things that matter and to live today confidently, without fear. She also discusses the benefits of keeping the Sabbath (on the actual Sabbath day or not), observing the Christian year with all its special holidays and religious celebrations, and counting days and moments with an eye on eternity. Bass's perspective and message are indeed timeless."

"A profoundly useful book. . . . It reminds us forcibly that we are embodied creatures gifted by God with time too precious to fritter or work away. In its recommendations for healing our relationship to time it is often unsettlingly revolutionary, frequently subversive of our secular culture, and always full of Dorothy Bass's honest and generous reflections on her own life. It is a pleasure to recommend it." (Roberta Bondi, author, A Place to Pray: Reflections on the Lord's Prayer and Memories of God)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Poetic Soul

The other evening, my husband and I were sitting out on our patio, enjoying the cool evening breeze and the sunset.

As the sun slowly lowered, dipping behind the oak trees in the distance, the sky lit with colors hard to describe--pearly gold, purplish pink, neon magenta. It was beautiful.

"Look!" I said. "That huge cloud is an avenging angel, his stern, angry face looking over the earth, his wings outspread, on fire with the wrath of God."

Then "Look! Over there is a man in a wide-brimmed hat, smoking a cigarette, his back to the wind. The breeze is blowing the cigarette smoke straight out away from him."

Again "Look! Right in front of us is a horse . . . no, a prancing steed, his head up high and proud, his feet lifted in a high trot."

My husband just looked at me. After a moment he said, "There's a backwards L. With one wing."

Guess who has the poetic soul and who has the practical one?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Suggestions, Anyone?

This semester, I'm teaching a Critical Thinking and Speaking class for the Honors College. One of the assignments is to do a book review, and I gave the students a list of books from which they can choose. The list contains non-fiction, memoirs, novels, theological texts, philosophical texts, meditations; no limits on genre. The only criteria is that they are well-written and have caused me to think critically. I might agree with the author, and I might not. That's not the point. Expanding my mind is.

Here's the list for this semester. I have a few books on my nightstand, like Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickle and Dimed, and Stephanie Paulsell's Honoring the Body that I may choose to add after I've read them. Any suggestions for the future?

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Receiving the Day by Dorothy C. Bass
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
For The Time Being by Annie Dillard
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
She Who Is by Elizabeth Johnson
Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Walking on Water by Madeline L’Engle
Spiritual Direction by Henri Nouwen
Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
Technopoly by Neil Postman*
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
He is There and He is Not Silent by Francis Shaffer
How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer
An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor
Speaking of Faith by Krista Tippett
Night by Elie Wiesel

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Technology in the Balance

I'm no opponent of technology. I blog. I twitter. I Facebook. I'm thankful I didn't have to research my dissertation without the help of electronic databases, and being able to consult with my advisor by email saved me many trips to Oxford or at least many days waiting on snail-mail. And how would I make it without a microwave and a crockpot? (Not to mention those awesome technologies like electricity and running water. But I digress.)


I do worry sometimes what all this technology is doing to our culture. Doomsdayers prophesy the end of the printed book. Students would rather watch the movie than read the novel. Nobody writes real letters any more. We listen to music through plugs in our ears rather than in concert halls. We seem to be losing a sense of community.

I read Neil Postman's Technopoly last week, and in it he explores the effect technologies have on cultures, how they change them by their mere existence. He doesn't advocate going back to the Stone Age, but he does propose some strategies for "resistance fighters":

Those who resist the American Technopoly are people

--who pay no attention to a poll unless they know what questions were asked and why;

--who refuse to accept effiency as the pre-eminent goal of human relations;

--who have freed themselves from the belief in the magical power of numbers, do not regard calculation as an adequate substitute for judgment, or precision as a synonym for truth;

--who refuse to allow psychology or any "social science" to pre-empt the language and thought of common sense;

--who are, at least, suspicious of the idea of progress, and who do not confuse information with understanding;

--who do not regard the aged as irrelevant;

--who take seriously the meaning of family loyalty and honor, and who, when they "reach out and touch someone," expect that person to be in the same room;

--who take the great narratives of religion seriously and do not believe that science is the only system of thought capable of producing truth;

--who know the difference between the sacred and the profane, and who do not wink at tradition for modernity's sake;

--who admire technological ingenuity but do not think it represents the highest possible form of human achievement.

Wow. I think he's got something there.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Booking It--Recent Enjoyable

What’s the most enjoyable, most fun, most just-darn-entertaining book you’ve read recently? (Mind you, this doesn’t necessarily mean funny, since we covered that already. Just … GOOD.)

The best book I've read recently is probably Gilead, but I've already written about that novel. I think the most enjoyable novel I've read in a long time is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

“Traditional without seeming stale, and romantic without being naïve” (San Francisco Chronicle), this epistolary novel, based on Mary Ann Shaffer’s painstaking, lifelong research, is a homage to booklovers and a nostalgic portrayal of an era. As her quirky, loveable characters cite the works of Shakespeare, Austen, and the Brontës, Shaffer subtly weaves those writers’ themes into her own narrative. However, it is the tragic stories of life under Nazi occupation that animate the novel and give it its urgency; furthermore, the novel explores the darker side of human nature without becoming maudlin. The Rocky Mountain News criticized the novel’s lighthearted tone and characterizations, but most critics agreed that, with its humor and optimism, Guernsey “affirms the power of books to nourish people during hard times” (Washington Post).

Saturday, September 19, 2009

An Important Question

How are you supposed to take it when you run into someone you haven't seen since high school and the first thing out of her mouth is, "I would never have recognized you!"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What I'm Reading Now

"Postman (Conscientious Objections, 1988, etc.) once more cuts across the grain as an important critic of our national culture, this time arguing that America has become the world's first 'totalitarian technocracy'--otherwise known as a 'Technopoly.'' Postman starts out from the long view, showing that while every human culture becomes 'tool-using,' the use of those tools doesn't necessarily change that culture's beliefs, ideology, or world view.

In 'technocracy,' however (for us, this stage began to burgeon in the industrial 19th century), there's a change: tools (they're now called 'technology') begin to alter the culture instead of just being used by it: 'tools...attack the culture. They bid to become the culture.'' And technocracy becomes Technopoly when tools win the battle for dominance and become the sole determiners of a culture's purpose and meaning, and in fact of its very way of knowing and thinking--or of not thinking. The tools, in other words, come not only to use us but to define what we are--which is 'why in a Technopoly there can be no transcendent sense of purpose of meaning, no cultural coherence.'

So desolate a view of generalized inversion and ideological collapse fails to subdue either Postman's humane and faithful energy or his unflagging quickness of mind as he travels from Copernicus, Descartes, and Francis Bacon on through discussions of modern bureaucracy, concepts of worker 'management,' the intellectual hollowness of social 'science' and its monster-children of poll- taking and IQ testing--these and others (schools, TV, the computer 'culture') all being 'technologies' that in fact are 'without a moral center,' yet ones that we insistently revere and haplessly measure ourselves by, because 'we have become blind to the ideological meaning of our technologies.'

Amusing, learned, and prickling with intelligence, Postman easily outclasses the Allan Bloomians in the grave work of showing how it is that we've now stumbled our way into 1984--and offers, at end, some modest suggestions as to what to do about it. "

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

10 Most Pirated Books

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the ten most pirated ebooks of 2009 are:

1. Kamasutra

2. Adobe Photoshop Secrets

3. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amazing Sex

4. The Lost Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci

5. Solar House – A Guide for the Solar Designer

6. Before Pornography – Erotic Writing In Early Modern England

7. Twilight – Complete Series

8. How To Get Anyone To Say YES – The Science Of Influence

9. Nude Photography – The Art And The Craft

10. Fix It – How To Do All Those Little Repair Jobs Around The Home

What? No Jane Austen?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Calgon, take me away!

Only in Arkansas

. . . or maybe Mississippi.

We were out riding Saturday, enjoying the beautiful country around Searcy, turned down a gravel road and saw this:

Hard to get business that way.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Booking It--Recent Informative

What’s the most informative book you’ve read recently?

This is hard because a lot of the books I've read recently have been very informative, just in different ways. I guess if I had to choose one, it would be Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

"Michael Pollan is the crack investigator and graceful narrator of the ecology of local food and the toxic logic of industrial agriculture. Now he has a peer. Novelist Kingsolver recounts a year spent eating home-grown food and, if not that, local. Accomplished gardeners, the Kingsolver clan grow a large garden in southern Appalachia and spend summers 'putting food by,'as the classic kitchen title goes. They make pickles, chutney and mozzarella; they jar tomatoes, braid garlic and stuff turkey sausage. Nine-year-old Lily runs a heritage poultry business, selling eggs and meat. What they don't raise (lamb, beef, apples) comes from local farms. Come winter, they feast on root crops and canned goods, menus slouching toward asparagus. Along the way, the Kingsolver family, having given up industrial meat years before, abandons its vegetarian ways and discovers the pleasures of conscientious carnivory.This field—local food and sustainable agriculture—is crowded with books in increasingly predictable flavors: the earnest manual, diary of an epicure, the environmental battle cry, the accidental gardener.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is all of these, and much smarter. Kingsolver takes the genre to a new literary level; a well-paced narrative and the apparent ease of the beautiful prose makes the pages fly. Her tale is both classy and disarming, substantive and entertaining, earnest and funny. Kingsolver is a moralist ("the conspicuous consumption of limited resources has yet to be accepted widely as a spiritual error, or even bad manners"), but more often wry than pious. Another hazard of the genre is snobbery. You won't find it here. Seldom do paeans to heirloom tomatoes (which I grew up selling at farmers' markets) include equal respect for outstanding modern hybrids like Early Girl. Kingsolver has the ear of a journalist and the accuracy of a naturalist. She makes short, neat work of complex topics: what's risky about the vegan diet, why animals belong on ecologically sound farms, why bitterness in lettuce is good. Kingsolver's clue to help greenhorns remember what's in season is the best I've seen. You trace the harvest by botanical development, from buds to fruits to roots. Kingsolver is not the first to note our national "eating disorder" and the injuries industrial agriculture wreaks, yet this practical vision of how we might eat instead is as fresh as just-picked sweet corn. The narrative is peppered with useful sidebars on industrial agriculture and ecology (by husband Steven Hopp) and recipes (by daughter Camille), as if to show that local food—in the growing, buying, cooking, eating and the telling—demands teamwork."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

It Is Good She Did Not Know

I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.
--II Samuel 12:23

It is good
she did not know
the end
from the beginning.

For then,
how could she ever
have left the side of his crib?
counting the ticking minutes
through the numbered nights.

It is good
for then
how could she ever
have smiled and waved
as he boarded the yellow bus,
or said yes
to a sleepover,
or told him
just go outside and play.

It is good
for then
how could she ever
have counted
out the candles
and said make a wish
when she knew her own
would not come true.

It is good
for then
how could she ever
have shown him how
to fold his hands,
how taught him to pray
when she herself
was not quite sure
how God answers.

It is good she did not know.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Just Place Your Order

Latest student email, received after sending the student a warning about excessive absences:

"Sorry for missing so much class. I meant to inform you last week but I forgot. I was wondering if I could get 2 excused absences for being sick and 2 unexcused for missing the other 2 days. I will be in class today and will do my best not to miss another day."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What I'm Reading Now

"InWalking On Water, Madeleine L'Engle addresses the questions, What makes art Christian? What does it mean to be a Christian artist? What is the relationship between faith and art? Through L'Engle's beautiful and insightful essay, readers will find themselves called to what the author views as the prime tasks of an artist: to listen, to remain aware, and to respond to creation through one's own art."

Madeleine L'Engle

"Madeleine L’Engle (1918–2007) was born in New York City and attended Smith College. She wrote more than 60 books, the most famous of which is A Wrinkle In Time (1962), winner of the Newbery Award in 1963. L’Engle continued the story of the Murry family from A Wrinkle In Time with seven other novels (five of which are available as A Wrinkle In Time Quintent from Square Fish). She also wrote the famous series featuring the Austin family, beginning with the novel Meet The Austins (1960). L’Engle revisited the Austins four more times over the next three decades, concluding with Troubling a Star in 1994. The story of the Austins had some autobiographical elements, mirroring Madeleine’s life and the life of her family. Madeleine L’Engle’s last book, The Joys of Love, is a romantic, coming-of-age story she wrote back in the 1940s, and is being published by FSG."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Little Confused

I got an email from a student the other evening:

"On this assignment for tomorrow. I probably should already know this, but one inch margins is what Microsoft Word does, right? And double spaced, that means between the lines, right?"

Yeah . . . . right.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Acronym FAIL

Booking It--Recent Big

What’s the biggest book you’ve read recently?

Every summer I try to choose at least one long book from my "Should Have Already Read" list. This past summer it was Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook. I certainly wouldn't move it over to my list of all-time favorites, but it's an important book, and I'm glad I read it.

Much to its author's chagrin, The Golden Notebook instantly became a staple of the feminist movement when it was published in 1962. Doris Lessing's novel deconstructs the life of Anna Wulf, a sometime-Communist and a deeply leftist writer living in postwar London with her small daughter. Anna is battling writer's block, and, it often seems, the damaging chaos of life itself. The elements that made the book remarkable when it first appeared--extremely candid sexual and psychological descriptions of its characters and a fractured, postmodern structure--are no longer shocking.

Nevertheless, The Golden Notebook has retained a great deal of power, chiefly due to its often brutal honesty and the sheer variation and sweep of its prose.This largely autobiographical work comprises Anna's four notebooks: "a black notebook which is to do with Anna Wulf the writer; a red notebook concerned with politics; a yellow notebook, in which I make stories out of my experience; and a blue notebook which tries to be a diary." In a brilliant act of verisimilitude, Lessing alternates between these notebooks instead of presenting each one whole, also weaving in a novel called Free Women, which views Anna's life from the omniscient narrator's point of view. As the novel draws to a close, Anna, in the midst of a breakdown, abandons her dependence on compartmentalization and writes the single golden notebook of the title.

In tracking Anna's psychological movements--her recollections of her years in Africa, her relationship with her best friend, Molly, her travails with men, her disillusionment with the Party, the tidal pull of motherhood--Lessing pinpoints the pulse of a generation of women who were waiting to see what their postwar hopes would bring them. What arrived was unprecedented freedom, but with that freedom came unprecedented confusion. Lessing herself said in a 1994 interview: "I say fiction is better than telling the truth. Because the point about life is that it's a mess, isn't it? It hasn't got any shape except for you're born and you die."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What I'm Reading Now

"In this eloquent and persuasive book, Neil Postman examines the deep and broad effects of television culture on the manner in which we conduct our public affairs, on how "entertainment values" have corrupted the very way we think. As politics, news, religion, education, and commerce are given expression less and less in the form of printed or spoken words, they are rapidly being reshaped and staged to suit the requirements of television. And because television is a visual medium, whose images are most pleasurably apprehended when they are fast-moving and dynamic, discourse on television takes the form of entertainment. Television has little tolerance for argument, hypothesis, or explanation; it demands performing art.

Mr. Postman argues that public discourse, the advancing of arguments in logical order for the public good-once the hallmark of American culture-is being converted from exposition and explanation to entertainment."

Friday, September 4, 2009

Barbara's Back!

Barbara Kingsolver's one of my favorite authors. Her The Poisonwood Bible is on my all-time favorite list. She's finally coming out with a new novel, and I'm so excited. Maybe I'll have time to read it over Christmas break:

The Lacuna, described by London's Bookseller as "the first novel by The Poisonwood Bible author Barbara Kingsolver in nearly 10 years," is set for a November 2009 worldwide release. The book will be published in the United States by HarperCollins and via Faber in the U.K. Kingsolver is a 1977 graduate of DePauw University.

"Set in Mexico and the U.S. during the 1930s, '40s and '50s, the novel tells the story of fictional Harrison Shepherd, who works for Mexican painter Diego Rivera," notes Bookseller. "Shepherd becomes the confidante of Rivera's artist wife, Frida Kahlo, and then secretary to her one-time lover, Trotsky, until his assassination. Shepherd later flees Mexico for the U.S., where he becomes a bestselling author before coming under a McCarthy-style investigation. The Lacuna is told through Shepherd's diaries and letters, as well as newspaper cuttings," notes the publication.

Faber's Hannah Griffiths says the upcoming book is "without doubt the most extraordinary novel I have read for years. The interesting thing is the way she interweaves real documents and real lives into the story. The word ‘lacuna' itself has many different meanings and she manages to encompass most of them in the book: a cave, a missing text, a gap -- all these things are really relevant to the story."

Barbara Kingsolver's twelve books of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction include the novels The Bean Trees and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, which was listed among the ten best nonfiction books of 2007 by TIME magazine. Translated into nineteen languages, Kingsolver's work has won a devoted worldwide readership and many awards, including the National Humanities Medal.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Found Poem

Here's the latest tagging thing on Facebook--a Found Poem from your ipod. Here are the instructions:

1. Put your Mp3 player on shuffle
2. Write down the first line of the first 20 songs
3. Repost them in a poem
4. Play a 21st song, that is your poem title and what you title the journal.

Here's my Found Poem:

You Always Had an Eye for Things That Glitter

If it was in your mind to really cut me down
I am a pilgrim, a pilgrim of sorrow
Come on and dance.

That’s all I wanted, something special, something sacred in your eyes.
You say that somewhere over the rainbow . . .
Pardon me.

She would meet me in the morning on my way down to the river.
Has she got naughty eyes?
I am a man of constant sorrow.
I am living in danger.

I can hear your heels clicking on the sidewalk—
Oh what a dream, oh what a dream!
I fell, fell around the world.

How many of you people out there have been hurt in some kind of love affair?

I brought flowers to your door last night.
Don’t worry about me, I’ll get along
How do you solve a problem like Maria?

In the face of the unexpected, you never know what’s gonna happen tomorrow.
Long ago my heart and mind got together
When we come down we’ll be dreaming safe and sound.

Try it. And if you'd like, share the results.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Female Etiquette

Here in the English Department, we have a table in the hallway with a sign over it announcing "Free Books." Anybody can put books there that they don't want, and anybody who's interested is welcome to take them. There are usually a lot of old composition texts, old anthologies, and dog-eared paperback classics like Lord Jim, The Mayor of Casterbridge, or The Works of Goethe. It's a popular place because English majors are always interested in building their libraries.

I've put a few books there myself, and being the book lover I am, I can't help but stop and look when I see that someone has weeded their library. Usually, it's nothing of interest or something I already have. But not today. No, sir. Today, I snagged this beauty:

No Nice Girl Swears by Alice-Leone Moats, copyright 1933. It's a conduct book, and if the title makes you laugh, look at the chapter headings:

  1. No Nice Girl Swears
  2. Should She Ask Him In?
  3. You're the First Man I've Ever Kissed
  4. Keeping an Amateur Standing
  5. This Casual Era
  6. May I Call You Up Some Time?
  7. Out for No Good
  8. Joining In
  9. Launching a Belle
  10. Chaperons Do Exist
  11. Between Courses
  12. The Inevitable Details
  13. Lunches and Teas; or, Scarcely Worth the Trouble
  14. Coming Out to Music
  15. Cutting In and Sitting Out
  16. That Certain Something
  17. The Great Step
  18. In a Cloud of Tulle
  19. Twice Shy--?
  20. Travel Broadens the Mind
  21. Never Speak to Strangers Unless They Speak to You
  22. Out of Town
  23. Summer, Winter, Spring
  24. An Old English Custom
  25. In a Strange Bed
  26. Pity the Poor Working Girl
  27. Serious Business
  28. Hot Footlights
  29. The Hiccuping Fifties
  30. Our Plastered Friends

No, I'm not making this up. If it hadn't been published in 1933, I'd assume that at least some of those chapter titles were intended as double-entendres. And I can't help but wonder whose library this came from.

I'm thinking this book deserves to be prominently displayed in my office.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Classic Understatement

I was listening to the radio the other day and heard this news story. A British woman's house caught fire while she was away from home. Firefighters determined that the sun, beaming through a crystal ball on the window ledge, had caused the TV to get too hot and explode. The exploding television caught the sofa on fire, and the fire quickly spread to the rest of the house.

In an interview after the fire, the woman said (you have to imagine the British accent here), "I used to like watching the sun shine through the crystal ball into the room. Now, I'm sorry I ever bought it."

You don't say.