Saturday, March 14, 2009

Books, Bunnies, and Breaking News

I have lots to share this week, including the fascinating journey planned by my new friend, Loreen Niewenhuis. Loreen in a writer in love with nature, and Lake Michigan in particular. She is addicted to books and bookstores - in particular, indie stores. Loreen in trekking around Lake Michigan, and stopping at indie stores along the way. Her blog chronicles her adventure as she makes her bookstore stops, highlighting her hoofing with photos of cityscapes, breathtaking sunsets, and smiling faces. You can follow along at A recent postcard from her promises a stop at LaDeDa sometime this summer. I'll keep you posted.

**********Last week, I started reading Jane Hamilton's new book, Laura Rider's Masterpiece. It's a skinny little thing, only 214 pages, easy to read in a dedicated afternoon or two. So why am I only on page 82? I'll tell you. I do not want this book to end. At first, I thought this was quite a departure for one of Wisconsin's most respected writers, but I'm not so sure I agree with myself on that any longer. Although the cover, and the initial scenes hint at a pulpy style work of fiction, the truth is, this is Hamilton at her best. Some passages are so visually stunning that I can hardly believe I am reading a book, and not viewing a painting. She weaves these episodes meticulously amid a teasingly provocative plot that she has sprinkled with some uncharacteristically whimsical passages. What's she's saying with all this, I haven't yet deduced; after all, I am less than halfway through.

Here's what I know so far - Jenna Faroli, a renowned, and somewhat enigmatic public radio host, is married to a judge who knows just about everything. My favorite passage blames his erudition on an "abuse of literature." Hamilton writes " His addiction was a joke in the family - Frank the user - the biblioholic - and it was also something of a problem. He read, his wife thought, pathologically. It was fine to read the Russian novels again and again, fine to read criticism, the belletristic essay, military history, science, biography, collections of letters, and occasional grocery-store mystery. It was not fine that early in the marriage they had had strife when Jenna banned him from reading at dinner ... and that she had once caught him in the shower, one hand thrust from the curtain, reading her father's first- edition copy of Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy. She likes to tell her friends, and on occasion, her radio audience, how frightened Frank became if there wasn't printed material near his person." This wittiness is new, fresh and welcome.
Maybe I will finish this week. KT, the director of Midwest Booksellers Association sent an email about a a book I "just have to read." It was followed shortly thereafter by a package containing a copy of The Moonfloweer Vine," by Jetta Carleton. The cover calls it a rediscovered classic. I'll read that next.

**********Emily update...Our Emily made a quick spring break/rest stop in Manitowoc this week. I can hardly believe she is nearly done with her first year at Yale. Two more to go, and then she will have her MFA in Theatre from the country's most prestigious theatre training program...the same program that gave us Meryl Streep and Glen Close, among other notables. She just finished performing in "Jelly's Last Jam" a show celebrating the music of Jelly Roll Morten. Emily was the only Caucasian in the show! If you go to YouTube and punch in the show title, you will find a nice rehearsal reel, and a bit of an interview with ET. Anyway, she had to do a handstand in the show She fell on her head during rehearsal and wound up with a concussion. The show must go on, I guess, so she didn't attend do it until after the run. The delay led to some other issues, but she's fine now.

This is Emily as Opehlia in Hamlet in the UShakes '97 season. She teamed with the same actor last year at the Milwaukee Rep last season, and be will playing opposite him in Henry V this summer.

The day after her semester ends, Emily flies off the Utah, where she will be performing with the Tony Award winning Utah Shakespeare company. She has leads in The Secret Garden, and Henry V. Her second year at Yale begins the day after her Utah season closes. I fear we won't be seeing too much more of our Emily until she hits to boards on Broadway.

This is one of my favorite Easter books. The story is charming and a little silly, and the illustrations are by the talented Barbara Cooney of Miss Rumphius fame. Check it out. Every year, when we put together our Easter display, we spend time giggling at this book. Look at the third bunny from the left. She is totally accessorized - Easter bonnet, bright, stylish bag, modest (albeit ill-fitting) high heels - totally accessorized, and totally naked! How fun!

*********The subtle signs of spring have arrived - runny nose, burning, itchy, and stinging eyes. If truth be told, that's the real reason I haven't been doing too much reading. If the severity of these signs are any indication of anticipated foliage, we are in for a beautifully lush spring display.

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