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Saturday, January 24, 2015

{read aloud} The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

Our last book club selection was a Civil War era tale that wove together history, adventure, laugh out loud humor and the horrors of war. The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg is a quick read, packed with the unbelievable shenanigans the protagonists find himself in as he searches for his illegally conscripted brother - from helping a Quaker abolitionist, working in a medicine show, flying an untethered silk surveillance balloon to actually participating on the battle field. The battle scenes are not sugar coated and reveal the brutality and cruelty of warfare, but there is a tidy, happy ending. We recommend this book, especially if you are studying the 150th anniversary of the Civil War's end this year. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

{read} The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them. Whenever I'm sad I'm going to die, or so nervous I can't sleep, or in love with somebody I won't be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say, "I'll go take a hot bath"

I meditate in the bath. The water needs to be very hot, so hot that you can barely stand putting your foot in it. Then you lower yourself, inch by inch, till the water's up to your neck. 

I remember the ceiling over every bathtub I've stretched out in. I remember the texture of the ceilings and the cracks and the colors and the damp spots and the light fixtures. I remember the tubs, too: the antique griffen-legged tubs, and the modern coffin-shaped tubs, and the fancy pink marble tubs overlooking indoor lily ponds, and I remember the shapers and sizes of the water taps and the different sorts of soap holders. 

I never feel so much myself as when I am in a hot bath. 

...I guess I feel about a hot bath the way those religious people feel about holy water. 

I recently revisited The Bell Jar 20 years after I first read it when it was mentioned in my reader's tribe. Not only does it retain its power, but it was even more poignant the second time with the benefit of age and experience.

To read Esther Greenwood's story of one year in her life - from her highs of success, to her mental breakdown and the barbaric treatments available in the mid 20th century to her final rebirth - is to read (ash experience) the story of what it means to be an educated woman in America. Her story is recognizable in the women I know and talk to today.

The tragedy of Plath's life as experienced in this semi-autobiographical novel is right at the surface and as tangible and electric as it was 45 years ago. I was moved and highly recommend a rereading if it has been while for you too.


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