Friday, February 25, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Books #8 and #9


With the aid of my trusty CD player (yes, I still use old, antiquated gadgets), I listened to Wendell Berry's A World Lost, another in his Port William series. I was rapturous about Hannah Coulter a couple months back, remember? Berry did not disappoint me in this book either. He writes with a beautiful simplicity and clarity about people I wish I knew. A World Lost is about a murder, but it's not a murder mystery; indeed, we know almost from the beginning who the murderer was. The story focuses on the nephew of the murdered man and his discovery over the years of what really happened to his beloved Uncle Andrew. Berry reveals few details about the incident; instead he shows the reader the imperfect but likable character of Uncle Andrew. If you're new to Berry, don't start with this book. Hannah Coulter is a better starting place. But you could read it second like I did. :-)


The Penderwicks is a children's book I've wanted to read since Girl of the House brought it home from the bookstore a few years ago. (I love children's literature!) The reviews on the back cover compare it to old-fashioned family stories like those of E. Nesbit, which I really like, but I found The Penderwicks lacking. The story was rather predictable and the writing lacked polish. Also, does anyone write children's stories anymore in which both parents are still living?? There were some clever aspects, such as the Penderwick daughter who works math word problems for fun, but I was expecting so much more. I'm guessing this book was written specifically for second or third graders, and as such it probably hits the nail on the head. Girl of the House told me she really liked it. I liked it but didn't love it and probably won't read the sequels. If your child wants to read it, by all means, let him. It is certainly superior to many children's books available today, but it does not live up to E. Nesbit.

What are you reading? Share your thoughts on your blog and then link here (if you don't have a blog, feel free to write something in the comments):

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Two Great Men

Two great men were born on this day: George Washington and Man of the House. One of them is famous and has had many books written about him. The other is obscure, ordinary, and unimportant in the eyes of the world but is so very significant, extraordinary and important to his family.

To My Husband~

I have watched you over the years forego many of your own desires in order to grant the desires of your wife and daughters. You have gone without and sacrificed many things for us. You have worked harder, longer, and more tirelessly than anyone should have to to provide so abundantly for us. Thank you.

You have kept your family at the center of your life (with Christ as the center of that center) and blessed us with your time, attention, and commitment. You have never let hobbies or work come before us, and I've never once doubted your love and faithfulness toward us. Thank you.

You have consistently and faithfully acted as the "house pastor" of our family. You've led us in prayer, the reading of the Scriptures, and weekly worship. We have grown in the Lord through your service, the result being an adult daughter walking with the Lord alongside her believing husband, another daughter about to be confirmed in the faith, and a wife who has grown greatly in the faith (I hope and believe!) under your leadership. Thank you.

You have taken difficult stands and made hard decisions. You have not caved in to the pressures of the world but stood firm for what is right and true and good, even when it wasn't easy and meant a more difficult path lay ahead. You follow the calling God has given you even if it means being misunderstood and undervalued. Thank you.

You are the best man I know, and I am very blessed and privileged to be your wife, as are our girls to be your daughters. Happy 47th birthday!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Book #7


Finally! I finished Jane Eyre! I didn't love it, but I liked it, liked it quite a bit, in fact. I liked the plot twists and surprises (though I wasn't surprised as I have seen a couple film versions). I liked Jane and Mr. Rochester, and I thought the author drew her characters fully and richly. I didn't always relish the amount of detail Bronte showers on the reader, though. At times it was tedious and I found myself impatient with it. It wasn't just the wordiness. I am used to nineteenth century English literature and the flow of many words in novels of that era. I thought she flooded us at times with details we didn't need to know and that didn't add to the story. And some conversations seemed nearly endless! How many times and in how many ways can Jane say no to St. John? Bronte explored them all. Nevertheless, I am glad I have finally read Jane Eyre, a book long in my mental TBR pile.

What I found most intriguing was Bronte's use of some words that we are used to seeing in one form but are presented in a form that is archaic to us. For instance, we hear and see the adjective "ruthless" in everyday speech, but Bronte gives us its noun form, "ruth," no less than four times! Or how about "debarrassed" and "disembarrassed"? "Encumbered" is common enough today, but "cumbered" and "cumbrous" are not. "Embruted" and "reft" are others. Probably my favorite was "veriest," the superlative form of "very." And a couple times she uses "Abigail" as a common noun equivalent, I think, to "maid." The English language is anything but dull! I was smart enough to keep a list of these words but not to note the pages where they were found, so don't ask for details. You'll have to read the book yourself! :-)

ETA: I forgot Mr. Linky! Here he is:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Interesting Links


Here are some bits and pieces from around the web~~

Around here, winter is weakening, and, wow, what a winter it has been! Just in case you aren't tired of snow, here are some neato winter pictures.

On a related note, here's an article that explains that the climate is not getting more extreme.

An oldie but goodie from Mark Steyn

Since my husband is a Latin teacher, I'm always on the lookout for articles extoling the virtues of the language.

Studying Latin and/or (preferably "and") studying the grammar~the nuts and bolts~of your own language will help you to avoid making this kind of error.

When you look at the origins of the cosmos this way, materialism makes little sense.

Archeologists in Israel have found the remains of a 1,500-year-old church. Amazing!

Eye candy: the world's most beautiful libraries

Ear candy: Tolkien Recites the Ring Verse

Saturday, February 12, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Book #6


Jane Eyre is not going as fast as I had hoped, so when I began to see that I was not going to get it finished this week, I began listening to an audio version of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. I spied it at the library, had heard of it, and thought it looked interesting. Unfortunately I didn't much like it.

Pollan makes some good, commonsensical points about what we should eat: fresher is better than foods that have sat around awhile, whole foods are better than processed foods, don't believe everything the nutrition and medical community tells you, for a few examples. The problem is, I already knew all this. His advice has been around for a long time; still it's good and helpful advice if you've never heard it before. On the other hand Pollan's suggestion that each nutrient has a context~that is, nutrients should be ingested as food, not as supplements, because the relationships among the nutrients in each food are symbiotic~was something I had not thought of before and makes sense to me.

Pollan could have cut the word count in half and still told us everything. From almost the beginning I was impatient with the wordiness. But worse than that was Pollan's scanty use of hard evidence to back up his claims. The book is mostly one assertion after another. I thought maybe the print edition was full of footnotes, so wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt, I went to Amazon to see what I could see, and what I didn't see was a single footnote with sources to shore up his assertions. Granted I could not see the entire book, but if there weren't citations in the first chapter, there likely aren't citations in subsequent ones either. His bibliography is lengthy, but he does not specifically point us to the studies, etc. that undergird his conclusions. Since Pollan is a journalist, not a scientist, this constitutes a significant defect. Why is he qualified to write on this topic? If he's done the research, he needs to tell us.

In addition, after Pollan goes to great lengths to dispell what he calls "nutritionism," which is the isolating of single nutrients in foods, identifying their benefit or harm, and then proscribing how to eat based on that information, he turns around and does that very thing! He waxes for page after page about the benefits of omega-3, for example, telling us why it's good for us and where to find it. He admits he is doing this, but that doesn't make it okay. He also decries (with good reason) the fad diets of past decades, but I continued to wonder why his food prescriptions wouldn't fit in that category.

I have many smaller complaints about the book, but I will keep those to myself except this one: On a few occasions Pollan disses the Puritans with the same old kill-joy stereotypes used by those who know little about them. If you want to understand why these stereotypes are wrong, read Leland Ryken's Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were.

As I listened I thought maybe I was missing the point, or my logic was as fuzzy as Pollan's, or my complaints were unfounded, so I read some of the one- and two-star reviews on Amazon and discovered that I am not alone in my assessment of this book. I realize that that's not conclusive, but I'm glad to know that I'm not alone, at least.

The most enjoyable part of the book was near the end where Pollan writes about the joys of gardening and the salutary effects of families eating dinner together. And he quotes Wendell Berry. :-)

About the audio version: Scott Brick, the narrator, was simply awful. His tone was sarcastic and condescending and not at all suitable to the material. I'm sorry to say that, but there it is.

Sooooo . . . not a stellar literary experience. I am enjoying Jane, however, and barring unforeseen catastrophes, I really should finish it this week.

Feel free to post a review of something you've read (or listened to!) recently. You don't have to be taking part in the challenge to post about a book. :-)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

On My Mind~~Waiting for Spring Edition



Who isn't waiting for spring (among us North Americans, that is!)? I bought these flowers a week ago as a winter pick-me-up. February is the hardest month for me because, though I enjoy many aspects of winter, by this time I'm tired of it and longing for flowers, green grass, and warmer temperatures, especially after the particularly frigid and snowy winter we are having. Next week promises to deliver a few days in the 50's. Now that is surely a sign that winter is loosening its grip! Hurray!

Thanks to Rhonda at the delightful Down to Earth blog for hosting this Friday feature! (Hey, it's Friday in Australia!)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Girl of the House Turns 14

A pile of presents~











Plus a birthday pie made by Girl of the House herself~








Plus a gaggle of girls. Two specimens~










Plus warm birthday wishes~







Equals a very happy birthday!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~Book #5


I knew this week would be a busy one with Girl of the House's 14th birthday at the end of it, so I opted for listening to an audiobook and beginning another ink-and-paper book to get a jump on next week. The book I listened to was The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse (Blackstone Audiobooks); the one I began reading was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

I first heard of P.G. Wodehouse back in the '90's, and then several years ago some friends lent us a season of the BBC's Jeeves and Wooster television series. Watching the young Hugh Laurie (whom I first encountered as Mr. Palmer in Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility) and Stephen Fry was hilarious! Since then I've listened to enjoyable dramatized versions of several books, similar to old-time radio programs, but I wanted to experience Jeeves and Wooster unedited and unabridged. The library had The Code of the Woosters, so off I went on a rollicking ride.

Bertie Wooster is a young, happy-go-lucky English gentleman of the 1920's who is surrounded by people who have the gift of involving him in their personal foibles, and Jeeves is his extraordinarily able valet, cool under pressure, foresighted, and brilliant. If it weren't for Jeeves, the inept but lovable Bertie would be in constant hot water with no hope of deliverance. Just about every one of Bertie's friends and relations also come to rely on Jeeves' considerable intelligence and ingenuity.

Poor Bertie has a knack for getting entangled in other people's messes, and fortunately for him, Jeeves has a decided talent for getting him out. But not before we are taken through a convoluted and uproarious maze of escalating predicaments (or predics, as Bertie would say). One thing leads to another, and by mid-book it seems impossible that all will be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. But Jeeves comes to the rescue and the (relatively) virtuous live happily ever after while the wicked get their just desserts.

This was another example of dry British wit that had me laughing out loud at times and smiling with pleasure all the rest. The narrator, Simon Prebble, was superb.

But after so much jocularity the past two weeks, it is time for more serious fare. Jane Eyre is a book I've long wanted to read, and that is my next choice for this reading challenge.

Here's Mr. Linky. I'd love to check out what you're reading!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy 400th Anniversary, KJV!


2011 marks the 400th anniversary of what is probably the greatest literary achievement of the English language: the completion of the Authorized Version of the Bible, a.k.a. the King James Version. Many people dislike the good ol' KJV, citing the archaic language, but listen to Leland Ryken, English professor at Wheaton College, and Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, extol its virtues and you may change your mind.

After quite a few years ignoring it and quite a few years before that actively (and foolishly) talking people out of reading it, my appreciation for the KJV has grown considerably the last few years. Just quickly off the top of my head, here are a few reasons to read the KJV:

1. It's a faithful translation of the Scriptures.

2. The language is beautiful and memorable.

3. Many allusions in English literature will likely be missed if the reader is not familiar with it.

Can you think of others?

In honor of this anniversary, though my usual translation of choice is the English Standard Version, I'm going to use the KJV for my devotional Bible reading this year. Anyone want to join me?

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