Thursday, November 30, 2017


A few  days ago, when I posted about re-reading Good Omens, my Facebook friend Jayna pointed out its similarity to J.B., the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Archibald McLeish.

As it happens, I read that play back in college and was quite moved by it. And what's more, fifty-some years later, I still have my copy -- with notes in the loopy backhand I affected at the time.

J.B. is an interpretation of the Book of Job -- one of the most beautifully poetic, as well the most perplexing (not to say downright annoying) books of the Old Testament. MacLeish uses elegant blank verse and a spare stage setting to tell the story -- setting it in the modern day (Job becomes J.B., a wealthy banker) and allowing God  (Mr. Zuss) and the Devil (Nickles) to comment and argue on the action.

And what a story it is! I have a vague feeling that I might have seen it performed while I was in college but I'm not sure -- just reading it with the stage directions brings it vividly to life. The poetry reads easily -- lots of internal rhyme and alliteration make it poetic but still allow it to sound like natural speech.

The dilemma remains -- why does God allow the Devil to inflict suffering on this "perfect and upright man" (not to mention his wife and children) -- and MacLeish, while not solving the dilemma, at least offers a pretty good attempt at dealing with it.

Just as Good Omens led me to J.B., now I'm thinking I need to reread the Book of Job (King James Version, of course -- nothing can touch it for poetry.) 

Where wast thou
When I laid the foundations of the earth...

When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for

And then maybe I'll give Robert Heinlein's irreverent JOB: A Comedy of Justice a re-read - it's on my shelf too...

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Monday, November 27, 2017


Carol Shields was a wonderful writer -- illuminating all the corners of quiet, unregarded lives. I wrote about The Stone Diaries some time ago and have just now finished The Box Garden.  It is the story of a woman whose husband left her long ago and who has built a quietly happy life for herself and her son. Her mother's impending wedding sets a number of events in motion and I found myself reading eagerly to see what would happen.

Would she find happiness with Eugene, the orthodontist? Would she ever come to terms with her relationship with supremely unlovable mother. (The mother is an unforgettable character.) And what about the mysterious Brother Adam, with whom she has carried on a correspondence for years? Suffice it to say that all the questions are dealt with in a satisfactory way.

I can't quite put my finger on what it is I like so much about Shields' work -- heaven knows that the thumbnail sketch I've just given wouldn't tempt me to read.  

Perhaps it's the crystalline quality of the prose -- the prose that makes the most ordinary things shine with an inner light of their own. 


And then there's Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. This is a re-reading -- or re-listening -- and it only gets better each time. The audio book is excellent- a bravura performance.

Essentially, it's the story of the Apocalypse, complete with the Anti-Christ,  the Four Horsemen, showers of frogs, the rising of Atlantis, and assorted other signs of portents. The Battle of Good and Evil was never so well imagined -- nor so well resolved.

Pratchett and Gaiman's antic humor has free rein here -- the Hell Hound that is sent as a companion to the Antichrist becomes a scruffy little mongrel who finds he really enjoys chasing rabbits more than lost souls. An angel and a demon who have been on Earth for thousands of years, attempting to influence mankind to the Good or the Evil, often have lunch together and compare notes on their respective employers.

It's a big, sprawling, wild ride of a book -- and I'll probably listen to it again before long, just to savor again all the many good bits.  

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Evergreenss Light Up the Dark Season

When we built our house on a bare slope that had been a tobacco patch, I was eager to get some landscaping around it. Having little money and not much gardening experience, my first thought was to get some shrubs that would bloom.

Several friends and neighbors gave me offshoots from their own forsythia, mock orange, lilacs, and shrub roses and I scattered them about with a lavish hand.  

But come late Fall and Winter, my landscaping shrubs were mostly collections of gray-brown sticks -- not especially inspiring sticks. 

It wasn't till we'd been here almost fifteen years that I had access to plants at wholesale prices and, at the same time, discovered the wonderful varieties of evergreens available

I went a little wild.

But those evergreens -- all of which have  grown taller than I thought they would and need a lot of pruning -- are still a source of delight at this time of year, lighting up the front of the house with green and gold and silver.

Soon I'll begin cutting branches from them to decorate the house for Christmas . And I'll fill empty pots in our entryway with greenery -- to pull the eye from all those bare shrubs that are resting up for their big moment in the Spring.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Feast

It was a fine feast and I completely neglected to take pictures of the amazing food.

The rolls were good but a lot of trouble and not the acme of perfection that I remembered. Ah, the elusive butterflake by Nagles. 

We were too many for our small dining room so the living room furniture got shoved back and a door on sawhorses became our table.

Josie was at the table but was confined to her own special pureed sweet potatoes. She seems to suspect that she's missing out on the good stuff. 

One of the nicest things about the day was seeing how smitten our nephew Jack (he of the blue hair) was with his little cousin. As are we all.

It was a good day  . . . with much thankfulness.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

And may you have a comfy chair awaiting you after the feast!

Friends and family are gathering here today. I'm doing the turkey, gravy, dressing, rolls, pumpkin chiffon pie, and my grandmother's cranberry-celery-pineapple-pecan gelatin salad. Friends and family are bringing starters, sides, and more desserts.

I've been pecking away at various things since Sunday -- getting as much as possible done in advance. 

In a fit of nostalgia-inspired hubris, I decided to attempt butterflake rolls -- the rolls John and I both remember from the Thanksgivings of our youth.  They came from Nagles' Bakery in Tampa and were sublime. I hope this recipe will turn out to be something like what we both remember. (As I posted this Wednesday night, I'll have to let you know in the comments how they were.)

I am SO thankful to be here for Thanksgiving rather than incarcerated in a nursing home as I was last year!

And, of course  we're thankful for Josie!
What a joy it is to have her in our lives!

May your Thanksgiving be as you would have it! I'm thankful for your friendship.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Begging the Question

Recently I was helping a friend with a manuscript she was preparing and she had used the phrase "begs the question"  -- but it didn't sound right, not in that context. She had used it in the sense of "demands that the question be asked" but I was pretty sure that wasn't what  the phrase really means. Kinda like the judge who said, "I can't define porn but I know it when I see it."

So I went to Mr. Google HERE  and found that my instinct was right -- Begging the Question is a logical fallacy -- also known as Circular Reasoning or petitio principia.

Here's a fine example from an old Burns and Allen sketch.

Gracie: Gentlemen prefer blondes.
George: How do you know that?
Gracie: A gentleman told me.
George: How did you know he was a gentleman?
Gracie: Because he preferred blondes.

Or this:

Alas, since looking it up, I've seen example after example in the press or on the internet of people using the phrase as my friend did. I have a real feeling that this incorrect usage is on its way to acceptance. Which isn't surprising as to beg the question certainly sounds like it means to ask for the question.

Our changing language . . .

Be on the lookout for circular reasoning if you find yourself at the Thanksgiving table and involved in one of those arguments that your irascible uncle or your holier-than-thou mother-in-law is likely to prompt.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Flowers in Late November

The pansies and violas will persist throughout the winter (if nothing don't happen) but this is the roses' last hurrah. 

Monday, November 20, 2017


For the past few weeks, Josie has been very interested in this eating thing she sees her family doing. She's watched us and moved her mouth as if she were chewing and even made grabs at plates of food. Now that she is six months old, she is getting introduced to solids and Saturday night was the first time. 

She was more than ready.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Lights in Dark Places

The glory of full Autumn is past but a few trees are still holding to their bright leaves -- and they are spectacular as they flare up amidst the gray trunks and dark bare branches of the woods.

How far that little candle throws its beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.

It's a naughty world, all right. Maybe we all, not just Boy Scouts, should try to do a good deed every day.

Call a Congressman, volunteer, smile at a stranger, help someone somehow, support a charity, pick up a piece of litter,
put the shopping buggy back thoughtfully, be patient with someone who makes you impatient, make something for someone . . . there are so many good deeds waiting to be done . . .  waiting to make our world shine bright.