Reading aloud is good medicine for all

Here are two books about books, one aimed at amusement, the other at instruction. Or so they were written and published. Personally, I found them both amusing and instructive.

A worthwhile book on raising children

Much is made these days of “snowflakes,” slang for some of our young people. One online source defines snowflakes as individuals with “an inflated sense of uniqueness, an unwarranted sense of entitlement, or are over-emotional, easily offended, and unable to deal with opposing opinions.” Some commentators even speak of a “Snowflake Generation.”

Falling in love with a writer

Valentine’s Day is almost here, and I have fallen in love. Again.

Three years ago, Nina George entranced me with her novel The Little Paris Bookshop. Ah, Nina, Nina, Nina: she won my heart, and I still open that fine tale once a month or so, rereading certain passages and always delighted by her romantic take on life and the ways of the human heart. 

A poet offers thoughts on life and death

When someone dies, we look for words to assuage our grief and the grief of others. We deliver eulogies, we offer prayers, we console those left behind, we sing hymns or other songs beloved by the deceased, we read from various books — the Bible, poems, bits and pieces of prose — to send the departed one into the earth. Often, too, we gather after the funeral for food and drink, and recollect our dead by sharing memories of their deeds and words while they still lived.

When the fault lies in ourselves

I used to teach seminars in composition, history, literature, and Latin to homeschool students. One day a bright young man who later entered Brown University asked me what I thought of the Harry Potter books.

“My kids loved them,” I replied.

A master in our midst

Michael Revere grew up here in these mountains. He went to college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He hung out with the elite literati there in the 1960s, had a book of his poems published by a press in the Triangle and then hit the road Kerouac style as a rock and roll drummer and headed west. 

His life story is an adventure worthy of a biopic that resulted in his eventual return to his geographic roots where he has been now long enough to raise a couple of children who are now approaching middle age. During all this time he has maintained his allegiances to his first two loves: poetry and his wife Judith. Hence the title of his new book of poems just out by Milky Way Editions titled Hey Jude in honor of his wife and after the Beatles song of the same name. 

The unbelievable kindness of Mr. Rogers

My online dictionary defines hagiography as “the writing of the lives of the saints, adulatory writing about another person, or biography that idealizes another person.” The dictionary adds that the last two terms are “derogatory.”

While reading Maxwell King’s The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers (Abrams Press, 2018, 405 pages), that word kept coming to mind. Sometimes it seems Mr. Rogers, the host of television’s Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, floats off these pages wearing a halo and wings, strumming a harp and singing “It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood.” Was Maxwell King, former editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, former CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation, and one-time director of the Fred Rogers’ Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, mesmerized by Rodgers? Could a nationally known figure, a star, really be this kind?

Graham Greene, redemption, and us

Let’s start the new year with some old books.

We begin with two suppositions.

First, you are a good person who abides by a moral code. Whatever its source, this code serves as your set of principles, an ethical standard you cannot violate without damaging your soul. The code is your Ten Commandments, your Constitution, the offering on the high altar of all that you hold true and good.

Making a small dent in the book pile

So many books, so little time.

Many booklovers may have uttered that old saw with a sigh, but in my case these words have never been truer. On my spare desk a stack of books sits waiting for review, three more wave to me from a bedside stand, and two are calling to me from the steps leading from my apartment to the upstairs. Here are books from three different libraries, books sent in the mail for review, books picked up from the library sale. In addition, I am still working my way through Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization, trying to read at least half an hour every day in order to finish the 11-volume series by the end of the year.

Playing with a net: ‘Formal Salutations’

When I was teaching homeschool students in AP Literature, I would on occasion ask them to write a sonnet. The first time I did so, I promised to write a sonnet with them. The writing of that sonnet hooked me, and I eventually composed around 30 such poems. Below is one of them, “To My Errant Cousins.” Robert Frost, who famously said that free verse is like playing tennis without a net, provided my inspiration.

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