Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Good Reads

I’ve read more good books this week: Sue Monk Kidd’s The Mermaid’s Chair and Adriana Trigiani’s Milk Glass Moon were the answer
to “What to read next?”

I became a Kidd fan after reading The Secret Life of Bees a few years ago. I like her strong, powerful writing, her use of metaphor, her quirky characters, and her craftsmanship. The protagonist in The Mermaid’s Chair was an artist. (Lately, I seem to be reading a lot of books with artist protagonists.) The setting was an island off the coast of South Carolina. Since I’d lived in Charleston many years ago, I could “see” and appreciate the setting.

Milk Glass Moon was the final book in the Big Stone Gap trilogy. I’d enjoyed the previous two—Big Stone Gap and Big Cherry Holler—so I was primed to like this one. I did. I’d probably never have read Trigiani’s first book if I hadn’t been to Big Stone Gap a couple of times for the John Fox Literary Festival. The last time I went, I’d won first place in the Lonesome Pine Short Story Contest for the fifth time (I was retiring from competition) and my writer buddy Marion Higgins, a die-hard Trigiani fan, went with me. The day before the festival, we explored the streets of downtown Big Stone Gap and a few of the tourist attractions. So, I could “see” the setting in Milk Glass Moon, too. (If I have one complaint about the book, it’s the time frame. If the setting is anytime after the late-90s, why isn’t the teenage Etta emailing like most teens do?) Anyhow, now I’m primed to read the next Big Stone Gap book, Home to Big Stone Gap. Hmmm. Four books: not a trilogy anymore?

After Milk Glass Moon, I read some early (1980s!) Sharyn McCrumb, Bimbos of the Death Sun, that I’d found at a used book store a couple of years ago. I liked this murder at a fantasy-con mystery, but I like her later work a lot more.

On Sunday, an article on the front page of the Roanoke Times’ Virginia section proclaimed tha
t my favorite book, Lee Smith’s Fair and Tender Ladies, has been banned in Washington County schools because two paragraphs contained some improper words that teenagers shouldn’t know (Note: the middle-schoolers I used to teach knew these words pretty well). The article also said the book was published ten years ago; it was actually published in 1988. One trade paperback version was published in 1993. It really isn’t a kids’ book, although I know a lot of young people who’d enjoy it. I couldn’t find a link to the RT article, although I did find Lee Smith’s mother’s sweet potato biscuits recipe on the RT website. The Richmond Times-Dispatch, however, had an article about the proposed banning back in October.

I'm now half-way through a memoir, Voices from the Hollow, that I bought when Ibby's bookstore had its going-out-of-business sale. After I finish it, I think I'll reread my favorite book again. It's been almost five years since I reread it last time.


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Blogger Marion said...

I've ordered a copy of Lee Smith's book from Wonder who got her panties in a twist enough to suggest banning the book? I figure it was a "her" as most males wouldn't be reading it. And thanks for the sweet potato biscuit recipe; I'll try it with gluten-free flour. It is definitely hot ham biscuit weather!

4:08 PM  
Blogger Amy Hanek said...

Today I read a book about Santa Claus to fourteen pre-schoolers. You've inspired me to delve into a more adventurous read tonight!

4:14 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Want to come over and read some history for my exam next week? Thomas Paine's Common Sense is rich! LOL

5:12 PM  
Blogger Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl said...

I LOVED The Secret Life of Bees, so I had high hopes for The Mermaid's Chair. I'm sorry to say I didn't care for it--I had a problem in that I strongly disliked the protagonist. I found it difficult to feel any sympathy for her situation. But I still eagerly look forward to Sue Monk Kidd's next novel--she is a terrific writer.
But I adore every single one of Lee Smith's books. I especially like her short stories.

1:00 PM  
Blogger CountryDew said...

Reading is FUNdamental, as some commercial used to say. I can't imagine *not* reading, it would be like trying to fly without a sky for a me. I haven't read The Mermaid's Chair yet; I must put it on my list.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

Which is the best book that has an artist as a protagonist? That would make a good Christmas gift for my daughter who is an artist.

When I hear they want to ban them, that makes me automatically want to read them.

10:55 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

I so agree with Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl. I loved Secret Life of Bees, and I didn't like Mermaid's Chair for the very same reason.

I saw the Fair and Tender Ladies mentioned in the paper too and picked it up from the library today.

My daughter and I will begin tackling Henty tomorrow. We've not read him before, and I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully we picked a good one to start: In Freedom's Cause: A Story of Wallace and Bruce.

I've loved reading ever since I was very little, and I probably still read two books a week.

11:17 PM  

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