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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Summer at Tiffany

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

Do you remember the best summer of your life?

For Marjorie Hart, that summer included romance, New York City, the end of World War II and a summer job at Tiffany. The store was known for its fine jewelry, its robin's egg blue boxes...and its policy of only hiring men.

Despite the odds against them, Marjorie and her best friend Marty, both college students from Iowa, charged into the store with a notable recommendation and emerged as Tiffany employees. The summer that followed remained with Marjorie for more than 60 years until she told the story.

I assumed that I would enjoy the book because, well, it has my name in the title. I'm also rather fond of the three Tiffany pieces I own (hey, it's a start). However, I didn't expect to be quite so impressed with this charming memoir. It's a story you might hear from your grandmother...if she's a good story-teller.

Hart really does have a talent for describing details and situations, many of which are humorous. It's fun reading the letters she sent home to her family (and reading the way the events actually took place), getting a glimpse of the celebrities who came into the store and spending a vicarious summer in New York. But it's also incredibly poignant to get her perspective on this period in history--1945--just at the end of World War II, a war that, truthfully, affected many more people on a daily basis than any war since.

That summer, Marjorie seriously dated a man who was in the service. She also had seven cousins who were part of the fighting, one of whom died. Not to mention the sacrifices average Americans made. She describes the scene in Times Square of waiting for the news of Japan's surrender...

No one was a stranger in that crowd. We had all heard FDR's "Fireside Chats" and Edward R. Murrow's "This is London"...planted victory gardens...sent care packages, gathered phonograph records for the USO, given up nylons for parachutes, saved bacon grease for explosives, and turned in tinfoil, saved from gum wrappers, for ammunition. Most of all, we'd prayed that our loved ones would be safe.

By the end, I cared about Marjorie and what life would hold next for her. There were even a few surprises in her future, as there are for all of us, but I was glad to know she always remembered her summer at Tiffany.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Literary Travels

I was going to do a book review of Something More by Sarah Ban Breathnach, but it turned into a review of her philosophy, which I thought would be more appropriate for my other blog. You can read it here if you're interested.

Meanwhile...that left a giant gaping hole for this blog! What?! How could I fill the empty space? ;) I wasn't quite ready to review Summer at Tiffany, even though that's coming soon. Didn't have any particularly inspiring, humorous or informative quick links to pass along. What would I do?

Then along came my friend, Heather, with a "top five places I want to see" post I could copy. Yay.

So, I've modified this into the top five literary places I want to see. Enjoy, comment, and feel free to make me jealous if you've already been there.

In no particular order

The Strand in New York City. As if NYC weren't great enough already, here you have 18 miles of books. Wow. As many times as I've been to New York, I've never made it there--probably because that's all I would end up doing for the whole trip. Someday...

The British Library in London. Just because it's so big and so cool and in London, which is just a magical city.

Texas Book Festival in Austin. Now that I'm close enough to actually go, I'm dying to visit Austin. I've heard the festival is phenomenal. Might be the perfect November retreat this year.

Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference in Oxford, Mississippi. I've heard great things about this as well, and with my newly-discovered love of Faulkner, I'd like to sit in on some discussions. Of course, I'll have that opportunity at our next library book club meeting in February. We're discussing As I Lay Dying.

Seminar at the Anne Frank house. Like most people, I have always been captivated by her story, but one of my library school professors visited here and raved about it. They conduct anti-Semitism workshops that look interesting, too. OK, it's not exactly literary...but close enough.

Happy weekend!

Something More or Less

After getting a lot out of Simple Abundance a few years ago, I was excited to see that Sarah Ban Breathnach had written Something More. (Even though it's not exactly new, it was new to me.) I was pumped when I got it for Christmas and thought it would be a great way to start the new year.

However, it left me wanting...well, something more.

The book is all about a search for the "Authentic Self." Through a collection of personal observations, anecdotes and field exercises, Breathnach tries to show us how we can find, keep and cherish this authentic self, which we apparently had as inhibition-free children but lost due to said inhibitions, stress, experiences and just everyday "busy-ness."

The book is not all bad. The exercises at the end of each section are actually lots of fun. She also has some good insights, and it's fairly well-written and easy to read. My problem is that I totally disagree with her basic premise. However, this is not really a literary criticism, which is why I've posted it on this blog instead of my other one, where I normally do book reviews.

Breathnach talks a lot about how you have to love yourself before you can love others, how you should make sure you're putting yourself first, how not to sacrifice for others at the expense of your authentic self, how not to lose yourself.

But I believe something drastically different. I subscribe to the teachings of someone who said things like:

Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.

What good is it for you to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit your very self?

But Breathnach praises one example after another in the book of people who "found themselves," who left marriages that had become dull or stifling, who found a "soul mate" (at the expense of their original spouse). She bemoaned those who stayed trapped in loveless relationships, who stayed "for the sake of the children," who gave up fulfillment (i.e. careers) to spend quality time with their kids.

Now, I'm not advocating staying in a bad or abusive relationship, and I know sometimes divorce is necessary--no judging here! I'm simply saying that divorce is not the easy answer that Breathnach and so many others seem to suggest that it is. True fulfillment doesn't come by simply changing your circumstances or your spouse.

Neither am I suggesting that true fulfillment comes from the opposite--being a martyr...and constantly reminding everyone of how much you are sacrificing. Reminding your husband every night that you are staying home changing diapers instead of using that master's degree. Telling everyone in your small group how you refuse to buy yourself even the occasional latte because you're saving up to buy something for someone else. You know--pointing out all those wonderful, selfless acts just in case no one is noticing.

But to me, being self-less is not thinking about and focusing on how much I'm doing for others...but instead just thinking of others and, thus, doing things for them. Honestly, though, I think I struggle with this more than anything else in life--and it's not like I'm even sacrificing that much!! But there is the temptation to point out the good things I'm doing because that brings the focus back to me instead of where it actually belongs.

Anyway, Breathnach does admit that true fulfillment does not come with possessions, relationships or other material things. However, she does believe true fulfillment can only be found within yourself--your authentic self. And that is where our opinions continue to differ.

I believe true fulfillment only happens when we "put to death...whatever belongs to our earthly natures" and "put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."

Fulfillment comes naturally when we realize our purpose--that we were "created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Think about that for a second. Let's just say for the sake of this discussion that I'm right--that you were created for a certain purpose--yet you spent the rest of your life pursuing other things, doing other things, focused on things other than what you were created for. Of course you would come to some point in your life where you realized you were not fulfilled!

Breathnach seems to believe that, down deep, we are all righteous and holy. But again we differ. I think that actually no one is or ever has been truly righteous and holy...except one person. And he was so righteous, so holy and so self-sacrificing that he can take away the unrighteousness and unholiness of the rest of us...if we let him do that. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, feel free to e-mail me.)

So, that's what I thought of the book. That's a little of what I think about life. Hope I wasn't too preachy. :) Enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Friday, January 18, 2008

And the awards go to...

Caldecott and Newbery Awards are out...(as if you didn't already know)...and, thankfully, no scro-huhs(?) in sight. ha
One article...,0,1829647.story?coll=bal_sports_baseball_util

Meanwhile...a pretty cool edition of Library Journal's Academic Newswire...

And an article about Semantic Web

Happy weekend! Here's to lots and lots of reading!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Beard's Life

Jason grew out his beard during the holidays...a first for our time together. He shaved it off yesterday, but I wanted to document its progression...regression?...first. It was fun. And a little creepy to see him in the moustache for some reason. Oh, but I don't want to spoil the pictures. ;)

Wednesday Puzzle

Why is it that, at home, I can make grilled chicken with green beans, corn and carrots that is cheaper (and tastier) than that at Cracker Barrel?

Similarly, I can whip up a mean turkey deli sandwich that far exceeds Subway in taste and is much more economical.

However, by the time I buy all the chocolate chips, cocoa, oatmeal, peanut butter, sugar, vanilla flavoring and other such ingredients to bake cookies...I've spent about three times as much $$ as I would have for a pack of chewy Chips Ahoy! Not to mention the baking time!

And, seriously, the Chips Ahoy still taste better than my homemade cookies!

OK, that's all the ranting for now.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fort Worth

Caught an article from MSNBC about 25 Things We Love About Fort Worth.

Jason and I have only checked out about five of the 25 so far, but we're sold! (And it sounds as if we have plenty to keep us busy through the spring...when we're not working, taking classes and being lazy.)

Happy Monday!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Book Club & Quick Links

I had intended to write a review of The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty after reading it (of course) and meeting with the new book club at the library where I work. However, I now feel it would be more appropriate to write a 10-15 page paper and submit it to one of my college English professors.

Let's just was an overall sad, but optimistic, book, filled with melt-in-your-mouth descriptions of characters and the South, providing several humorous episodes, lots of imagery, metaphors and allegory (complete with a few frightening bird episodes), and you should read it. The End.

Oh, I will include my two favorite quotes...
The mystery in how little we know of other people is no greater than the mystery of how much.

Memory lived not in initial possession but in the freed hands, pardoned and freed, and in the heart that can empty but fill again, in the patterns restored by dreams.

Meanwhile...a few quick links for your Friday.

Librarian as Couch Potato

Maine library controversy

An encouraging article about library use

Another article about library practices

And, finally...yet another installment of my presentation--the Expanding Awareness section. It was kind of the opposite of the Know Thyself section. Several of these books are controversial and espouse the complete opposite of my beliefs. That's why they're important to read! Anyway, remember, the red ones are on my to-be-read list, and, as always, I welcome your comments!

Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell
The Secret by Michael Berg
A House of David in the Land of Jesus by Robert Berman
The War: An Intimate History by Ken Burns
What's So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D'Souza
The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner
God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
The Children of Men by P.D. James
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
Become a Better You by Joel Osteen
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
The Golden Compass by Philip Pulman
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Wedding Photo Essay-Pt. 1

My husband reminded me that I haven't gotten permission from my dad yet to post the wedding pictures (way to spoil the fun, Jason--just kidding). Anyway, here are the ones that I know are OK. Stay tuned for more...I hope. :)

By the way, it was a lovely ceremony...except for the part where the smoke detectors went off. (The eight-year-old me thinks that was pretty funny actually.)


This was Jason and me goofing around the day before the wedding.

Dad and me on the big night

This was a cool one Jason took of the bubbles blowing as Dad and Curly left.

This is me continuing to goof around after it was all over. Don't was only
non-alcoholic grape juice--scout's honor!

And one more...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Nuns and Soldiers

Iris Murdoch dives into and explores a variety of relationships in Nuns and Soldiers. The plot concerns several characters; however, it centers around Gertrude, a woman whose husband has recently died.

Gertrude's somewhat estranged friend, Anne, has recently left her convent, and the two rekindle their friendship at the point when they need each other the most.

It doesn't take long until they both fall in love, Gertrude with a starving artist and Anne with a man who happens to be in love with Gertrude. Between family interventions, conniving mistresses and religious epiphanies, things just get more and more complicated.

Murdoch's descriptions are painstakingly detailed, giving the reader much more than a glimpse into the thoughts and motivations of the different characters. Because of this, the book is quite long, and the plot can be a bit slow at times.

However, consider your reading time a worthwhile investment into the lives of these characters. Spend some energy meditating on Murdoch's literary devices, and you'll come away with a better sense of her nuns and soldiers.

Favorite quotes:

They had always been very close to each other, united by indistinguishably close bonds of love and intelligence. They had never ceased passionately to crave each other's company. They had never seriously quarrelled, never been parted, never doubted each other's complete honesty. A style of directness and truthfulness composed the particular gaiety of their lives. Their love had grown, nourished daily by the liveliness of their shared thoughts. They had grown together in mind and body and soul as it is sometimes blessedly given to two people to do. They could not be in the same room without touching each other. They constantly uttered even their most trivial thoughts...I shall die without him, thought Gertrude.

Can anyone who has once had it really give up the concept of God? The craving for God, once fully established, is perhaps incurable.
The desire which he felt now, and which he had never felt so clearly before, was for a life of simplicity, an open honourable life where the expression of love was natural and truthful and direct and easy: as somehow in his own experience it had never been.

This was not great, but it was a good deal better than a slap in the face with a wet fish.

That was real ingenuity on the part of the malicious imp that ran his life.

What's In a Name?

I wasn't sure about taking on a new challenge this year, but this one was too good to pass up.

A couple of these might be pushing it a bit, but I tried to choose books from my stacks and my TBR lists. Hope that's OK!

So, here's my list of books from the following categories:

1.) A book with a color in its title.
My Life in Orange by Tim Guest

2.) A book with an animal in its title.
Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

3.) A book with a first name in its title.
Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

4.) A book with a place in its title.
Alabama by Kay Cornelius

5.) A book with a weather event in its title.
When Breaks the Dawn by Janette Oke

6.) A book with a plant in its title.
Jonah's Gourd Vine by Zora Neale Hurston

Friday, January 04, 2008

Going to the Chapel

Ready for my dad's wedding! Wow.

Read from the beginning...