Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Gentleman in Moscow

What an absolute joy this book is! It had been languishing on the TBR pile since a friend left it for me months ago. I'm not usually a fan of books about Russia -- all those difficult 
names and generally unrelenting grimness -- but I finally gave it a go. 

And how glad I am. The names are manageable, the characters memorable, and most of them quite engaging. And, despite being set during very grim times indeed --  1922-1954 -- the novel is amazingly light-hearted. All of Moscow, it's said, passes through the Metropol, and the reader is kept aware of the momentous events beyond the walls, as the protagonist interacts with a varied cast of characters. 

It's an amusing (perhaps far-fetched) premise. An aristocrat -- a Former Person in the jargon of the times -- is put under perpetual house arrest in the still grand Metropol hotel is Moscow.  Fallen from the former glory of a lavish suite, the gentleman learns to make do with a tiny attic room and contrives to lead a gentlemanly existence within his roomy prison.

Under the tutelage of a fellow inmate of the hotel, a young girl as at home there as Bemelmans' Madeleine is at the Ritz, he comes to know the below stairs as well as the public areas and learns to value the staff as fellow humans.  And when a crisis eventually arises, he uses all that he had learned to bring the book  to a most satisfactory conclusion.

The writing is exquisite; the pace is measured, as it should be to allow the reader to savor each delicately limned moment. I am contemplating getting it on audio to enjoy all over again.

Highly, highly recommended. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Primrose Promise

Primroses always say Spring to me. And though it's still January and snow is in the forecast, this bright little flower and the hopeful green of its leaves are spirit-lifters.

A bonus is that if I plant them outside, once the weather moderates, they will come back next year -- always assuming the deer don't eat them.

Re yesterday's Birdie story -- it's a bit of a first draft but I wanted you to know I'm working on the collection of her stories -- I've got the ones from the blog in some kind of order and have some ideas for adding a few more. I've also started looking into how to publish it as an ebook . . .

And I've written the dread query letter and the even more dreaded synopsis for the Civil War novel and have begun submitting it to a number of small presses.  

Just so you know . . .

Monday, January 28, 2019

Miss Birdie and the Power of Prayer

Why, look who’s here! How glad I am to see you on this sorry day. Come on in, honey and git you a chair. Let me turn that TV off—it ain’t doing one thing but to make me low in my spirits.
No, it ain’t my story – I was watching it and it was going along and just when Brad was about to tell Helen the truth about him and Ashley, the news people broke in telling about all them folks shot somewhere – another mass shooting, they said, looking so solemn. 

Then come another somebody talking about how many of these shootings there has been and how many has been killed and I tell you, honey, it purely made me sick to my stomach.
And I stayed put watching and then there was all these folks talking about praying for the folks out there.
And then the mother of one of them what died in still another shooting come on and says as how prayers ain’t enough, that the government need to do something about all these powerful guns and all these crazy folks getting ahold of guns.
Now, there ain’t nothing wrong with praying, if it makes a body feel better, I reckon. But it seems to me that if the Lord wanted to stop all of this, He would. Just like He could stop stop war and cancer and children dying of hunger . . . And I don’t believe He’s up there laying back on a cloud and waiting for a certain number of prayers before he passes a miracle. No, I don’t believe that, not of a loving father. But if He is a loving father, like the preachers say, why don’t he just fix things, once and for all?
I reckon I sound plunb ungrateful. I remember, and you do too, back when I was took so bad after Cletus passed and the doctors had near bout give up, then Belvy and her church came and laid hands on me and prayed fit to beat the band. And I got better, didn’t I? But was it the Lord done it or the power of all those folk around me making me believe I could be healed? Back then I asked my doctor that question and all he would say was that the human body was a mysterious thing and that there was something called spontaneous emission, or some such, that doctors liked to point to when they didn’t have all the answers.
Some folks loves to pray for every little thing – Lord, help me find my car keys; Lord, make my husband remember my birthday; Lord, stop that groundhog from eating my garden . . . and I think, why, if the Lord ain't saving people from war and hunger and sickness, what makes you think he'll find your keys for you?

It puts me in mind of a woman I knew a good many years back of this. She was a great one for prayer and leaving everything in the Lord’s hands. So much so that when her young uns took sick, all she would do was to pray, saying that if she took them to the clinic, the Lord would think she didn’t have enough faith. I was by her house one day and her youngest was in bed, just struggling to breathe. She and the other young uns was all on their knees, weeping and wailing and begging the Lord not to take little Joey.
I took one look at the poor little feller and grabbed him up, covers and all. “It’s me is going to take little Joey – straight to the clinic. You can come with me or not, Leonie.”
Well, she prayed all the way there and all while the doctor was looking at Joey. He said the young un had pneumonia and if she’d waited much longer to bring him in, he might have died before morning. As it was, he put the young un in the hospital with the right medicine and in a few days, Joey was almost back to himself.
I carried Leonie to the hospital to see him everyday and every day she told me that she thanked the Lord for sending me to her house when He did. “Birdie,” said she, “you are an answer to prayer.”
Law, I don’t know, honey. Maybe I was. But Leonie got better about taking her young uns to the doctor. She still prayed a-plenty too.
I’m just a rambling, ain’t I? But what I think is that, just like a good mommy or daddy don’t do everything for their young’uns, lest the young ‘uns never learn to stand on their own two feet, what if the Lord is leaving things up to us? And ‘stead of praying for things to get better, maybe folks had ought to take hold and do what they can to fix them theirselves. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

A Good Day

It was a very good day: waking to the news of Roger Stone's  arrest (and his Nixon tattoo too -- really, what was he thinking?)

Then came 45*'s concession speech and the presumed end (albeit temporary) to the mind-boggling stupid government shutdown. Now the Coast Guard can cancel those bake sales and government workers can quit negotiating with their local grocers for food. And perhaps we won't have to hear anymore tone deaf suggestions about simply taking out loans. Or any assertions that unpaid government workers are patriots, happy to go without pay for the greater good.

And what a pleasure to know that 45* was forced to back down in the face of Madame Speaker Pelosi! Fierce old women everywhere should be rejoicing --I certainly am. Perhaps we need an action figure -- she could join the notorious RBG on the shelf. I only hope that those Dems who campaigned against her as Speaker realize what an asset she has been in this particular battle. For whatever reason, 45* seems cowed by her.  

We're not out of the woods yet -- but at least there are these occasional bright spots.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

My Zen Garden . .

 I dreamed of white sand
Raked in watery ripples,
Embracing black stones. 

Awaking, I found
 Winter, that sly old Zen monk,
At work in my pond.