Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1927-2014

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It is with sadness that RT notes the death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombian novelist and recipient of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature.

In his early twenties, RT ordered a Quality Paperback Club set of four Latin American novels, which included One Hundred Years of Solitude. Now, RT won’t claim that reading 100 Years was a breakthrough experience for him, but this epic novel did set certain memories in motion, memories of amazing landscapes spied in Costa Rica and Trinidad. The survival of many native peoples in Latin America, moreover, gives the cultures of Latin nations a richness and beauty that can scarcely go unnoticed. GGM’s novels convey a good deal of the magic and vitality to be found in Central and South America. RT was affected to the point of finishing 100 Years and the other novels in the QPB set and reading several novels by the Brazilian Jorge Amado. Now the memory of reading them reminds him of his unfulfilled desire to return at least briefly to the places of his birth and childhood, a poet in a land of great writers.

Thank you, Gabriel Garcia Marquez!  RT

Photograph: Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1984); author: F3rn4nd0, edited by Mangostar. WikiCmns; CC 3.0 Unported.

A Beautiful Memory from the WPA

April 14, 2014 3 comments

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Who was Nancy Blair? RT can tell you from his genealogy research, finding information on women before WWII is the veritable search for a needle in a haystack. The fine image of NB above, along with its accompanying information, gives the question a certain urgency: Nancy Blair was the state supervisor of South Carolina’s WPA Library Project. As such, she was involved in literacy efforts (aimed at improving one of those perennially underperforming statistics in the United States).

RT might call Nancy Blair an unsung hero. Here are a couple of links to more information and images concerning NB’s work: Blazing the Way and Library Project Pictures.

RT sends his heartfelt thanks to the New Deal‘s Work Progress Administration for enabling a noble soul to do noble work.

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PhotoNancy Blair, state supervisor of the South Carolina WPA Library Project, inspecting a model of a bookmobile. Author: WPA, South Carolina. Source: South Carolina State Library, South Carolina Public Library History, 1930 – 1945 collection. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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The Monarch Butterfly’s Spring Migration

April 9, 2014 6 comments

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The time is approaching for eastern Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) to return to the U.S. east coast from their wintering grounds in Mexico: a more beautiful visitor is hard to imagine. Though the population of the Monarch has declined significantly in recent years, a decline linked to several changes in the butterfly’s environment, the MB is not yet listed as endangered. Fortunately, several organizations are at work trying to protect the butterflies; RT offers links to a couple of them, Monarch Watch and Monarch Butterfly Fund. As is so often the case, the status of the most vulnerable members of a community is a good indicator of the community’s overall health.   RT

Photograph: A Monarch Butterfly on a Purple Coneflower (2007). Author: Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man). WikiCmns; License: GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 only. This image was selected as picture of the day on English Wikipedia, August 27, 2008.

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death and mourning

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As difficult as it is, each of us has to confront the reality of death in the most painful way: the loss of a family member, confidante, or other intimate friend. They are gone, suddenly or not, and we confront a gaping hole in our life. A year was the typical period of mourning dictated in more traditional times, and the process can take longer, depending on the strength of the bond with the person who has died.

Recently, one of RT’s friends lost her mother. To encourage the healing process for her and her family, RT made bold to write the following poem; he hopes it helps them in their grieving:

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The dead like gods

watch us, concerned,

listen to our pain,

confer, render judgment.

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Visit our dreams, we ask,

with your warnings and memories.

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Earth and heaven are one,

they reply, the path to

the shining souls rooted

in the sun’s deep night cradle.

The steps are sapphire, they say:

climb with us, like angels–

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******************************side-by-side

******************************soar and glide

******************************in the lapis and gold Heavens;

******************************climb down and

******************************wake in the

******************************day star’s

******************************light,

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their words humming and

*****singing in the dead

*****************dust–

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*****dust of seed and

******************************flower scattered far in

******************************inthe privilege of winds.

 

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Photo: Angel of Grief (1894); William Wetmore Story, sculptor. Protestant Cemetary in Rome. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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Moonlight and Vines–A Book Review

 


 


 

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A local friend turned RT onto Charles De Lint several years ago; he read De Lint’s short story collection Dreams Underfoot, and after finishing that book, bought a second-hand copy of another De Lint collection, Moonlight and Vines. He has been making his way through M&V at a leisurely pace.

RT, on a tight schedule with his domestic and literary obligations, doesn’t keep too many fiction works on his nightstand. Why has he made an exception for the writing of De Lint, whose work falls into the “urban fantasy” genre?

Part of the answer lies in the world that De Lint has created: the imaginary city of Newford, which lies, presumably, in the Great Lakes/southern Canada region. Newford, as far as RT has been able to ascertain, is not a mapped-out region, along the lines of Middle Earth, for instance. It is a modern city that offers layers of mythological history and a rather long list of mythological and fantastical creatures. On its human surface, it sounds rather like any other metropolis of the 199o’s, with businesses, nightlife, newspapers, bookstores, mental institutions, universities, and the like. If the population tend to be on the young side and have a bohemian feel, blame the 90′s. If various fictive creatures show up at least once in a story, well, they at least serve the story’s purposes (and are interesting as characters). After all, what is really important in De Lint’s world is the way that all Newford’s inhabitants help each other. If you want a less-than-50-word description of Newford’s atmosphere, imagine the opposite of an H.P. Lovecraft story, where everything, the people and their surroundings, is not just going to hell, but went there centuries ago without anyone realizing it. (And RT is not saying that HPL is anything less than a great fantasy writer.)

RT could take out his technical toolbox and give a scene-by-scene account of De Lint’s writing chops, which are plain impressive. But he will only note that CDL’s nuts and bolts are solid, thoughtfully crafted, and remain scrupulously behind the scenes, where technical underpinnings belong.

These stories are accessible, comfortable, and, on a regular basis, brilliant. In particular, RT will single out “The Big Sky,” which takes the reader over the great divide and into the land of the dead. The afterlife in this story is as dusty as it is often reputed to be, but there is hope arising from, of all sources, Buddhist teaching. RT will also point out that the story’s setting is an excellent description of the horrors of Major Melancholy, a demon by no means to be dismissed in our own waking world. And if you want sheer talent, in “Passing” CDL takes us into the world of Gracie Street’s girlbars to experience the difficulties and satisfactions of love seen in the Goddess’s mirror (and through the story of Excalibur).

In a literary culture that often focuses on the horrors of history (and the last century’s in particular), CDL gives his readers healing: happy endings, but maybe not of the old-fashioned sort. There are benign spirits at work here, God, gods, mermaids, nameless sweet fates, and the subtler therapies of music and poetry. It’s not that Newford never heard of the Atom Bomb, not that there is no pain or darkness, but rather that the city’s denizens are resolutely and convincingly working to put the Bomb and other, vaguer, terrors back in the Nameless Box they came from. De Lint has sifted the debris of contemporary despair to find a tender, surprising, and romantic world.    RT

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Painting: View of the Colesseum by Night (c. 1830). Carl Gustav Carus. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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A Blizzard of Bugs, The Great Transformation & Various Works in Progress: RT’s Latest Update

March 27, 2014 2 comments

 

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Of late, and perhaps out of sheer frustration, RT has been speculating that Martinsburg, WV, might be a world navel. How this might be true has offered our mind-boggled writer a means of escaping certain unenviable realities of the moment.

To wit: RT and his mom are facing an infestation of insects–not the biblical locust, but the altogether more quotidian and infuriating bed-bug. M’burg has apparently already endured one wave of these creepy crawlies, and now they are paying RT’s life a visit.

Give credit where credit is due: bed-bugs are tough, and the duplex is now undergoing the first of several treatments to get rid of the pest. Everything is a mess in the apartment, and the BBs have given both RT and his mom a case of the screaming meemees. But this too shall pass…

In the meantime, and by way of further escape, RT has been assiduously reading Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation. TGT follows the spiritual development of four major cultures–Greece, Israel, India, and China from early times through the development of an Axial Age culture, Axial here meaning societies that encourage moral behavior in their members. RT singles out the book’s clear language and logical organization as it reports and reflects on the historical and moral development of the greater part of the ancient world. He also notes the sidelining of Assyria and Mesopotamia as, he assumes, a dead culture that serves to establish the baseline for Axial development. Bye bye, Gilgamesh!

Which is not to say that KA has a tin ear for mythological development–her reporting of certain Ancient Greek festivals has RT convinced that some parts of the Exodus story have links to Greek myth. Which brings to mind the ever elusive Elohist, one of the several projects awaiting further development in RT’s distracted mind. On the other hand, mom’s memoir continues apace.

In the meanwhile, there’s always the Martinsburg library to escape to when the bugs get too biblical. Which returns us to RT’s initial speculation about world navels… (happy spring equinox!)   RT

PhotoA locust cloud over Juncus maritimus at Imililik, Western Sahara (April, 1944). Author: Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Source: Eugenio Morales Agacino’s Photographic Archive. Via Eugenio Morales Agacino’s Virtual Exhibition. WikiCmns; CC 3.0 Attribution/Share Alike Spain.

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Reading a Book

March 24, 2014 4 comments

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Reading a book is like visiting a city you’ve never been to before. The city must be glamorous in some way, if not overtly, than in the details of its construction and history, the beautiful building or courtyard that reveals itself via a quick glance aside from the street, and the story that glance implies of the building’s occupants. The city may be dirty, crime-ridden, a den of vice, but it must be intricate. It must be a navel of the world.

You are being born again. Forget whatever has come before; it’s been reduced to a reference chart, an album of old photographs. This is the best kind of culture shock; you chose it.

Reading a book is always true. You the child progress through the pages. You learn and you grow, you marvel and you despair. Situations arise that you can’t understand or even comprehend. The woman who tells you she runs the large school you attend may be your mother. The man wearing the jacket of a naval captain may be your father. He may be going to his death. He gives you a silver coin.

Reading a book is like falling in love. Serendipity. Somebody is waiting for you, someone who stops you in argument or conversation. Outside the chocolate shop, at the old library, in an empty room. Someone calls out from an open window, asking about the bicycle you’re riding or offering to take you where you’re going in their boat. They are the person you can’t believe is interested in you, so different, so crazy you wonder how they can exist at all. They are the one who brought you here.

You are dying. You have no family, no friends, no work. You have only this passion.

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MapGerman map of Venice (1888). This image comes from the 4th edition of Meyers Konversationslexikon (1885–90). WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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