The Seventh Seal

This book, the screenplay for The Seventh Seal, by Ingmar Bergman, has been sitting on my bookshelf for over 45 years! It’s traveled with us through many moves, and has always held a secure place on our shelves even though we’ve culled our collection of books many times.

I reread it the other day for Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-thon, and I was once again blown away by the excellence of the writing, the depth of the ideas, and by Ingmar Bergman’s understanding of the human condition. I’m talking about the screenplay…the film itself is absolutely incredible because of the visual story-telling power of Bergman!

The story is as simple and as complex as life. It takes place during the Middle Ages, specifically during the time of the Crusades and the plague (the Black Death). A weary knight is returning home from the Crusades, and he meets Death outside a village. In an attempt to delay his inevitable death, he challenges Death to a chess game. If he wins, Death must tell him his secrets and let him go. If he loses…Death is right there to take him.

Everything else that happens in this story is related to what humans do and the questions they seek answers to in the face of inevitable death. There is humor, kindness, and love. There is fear, cruelty, and selfishness. There is faith and hope and despair. And there are no answers and no escaping death, but there is also a very human need to do something meaningful with one’s life. It is a fascinating and ultimately hopeful story. A story told by a genius!

 

 

This was one of my “alternate” choices for my Classics Club 50-books-in-5-years list.

SaveSave

Dipper of Copper Creek

Lithograph by Joseph Wolf, 1867

Dipper of Copper Creek, by Jean Craighead George, is part of her American Woodlands Tales series, a very interesting set of books for young people about the animals that live in the American woodlands. I love this series, and have read several of the books already. You learn so much about nature and about those individual animals from her stories. And I enjoy her beautiful descriptions of the woodlands.

The entire land had suddenly come into bloom. It was not the bloom of the lowlands, a season for the avalanche lily, the iris, the buttercup, the columbine, lupine, sun flowers, asters, and goldenrod. It was an upsurging of all of this at once. The days and weeks were not long enough for separate seasons: they were short, so that each subseason telescoped the others.

Each story also includes a variety of human beings and their interaction with and impact on the woodlands environment. In Dipper of Copper Creek, the story of the Dipper family is complemented by the coming of age story of a young boy spending the summer with his aging grandfather, a miner still living a very simple life in the woods. Both stories give you an honest look at the connectedness of all life in the woods. I think these would be wonderful stories to read and discuss in homes and in classrooms. They are kind tales and gentle reminders of the important environmental issues of our time.

 

This book was one of the books I chose to read for my 2018 TBR Pile challenge!

October Readathon Wrap-Up

Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-thon for this Fall is over and I am already looking forward to the next time–April 6, 2019! There were so many years when I wasn’t able to participate, so it is especially sweet for me to be able to give myself a day to do nothing but read. It’s a fun event, so nice to meet up with other readers online and hang out together sharing our mutual love of books. THANK YOU SO MUCH to all the organizers and everyone who helped to make this a very special event!

My approach for this read-a-thon was to simply enjoy whatever I read. I didn’t want to count pages or go for a specific goal of how many books to get through. I just wanted to savor the freedom of having a whole day set aside for reading. I started with some quick reads–two lovely children’s books–then listened to the audiobook versions of two short stories by authors I really like. I read a graphic novel and the screenplay to an old classic movie. And I finished a book that I had started earlier in the week. I almost finished another book that I really wanted to read for this event but I got too tired to keep my eyes open any longer. That’s okay. I’m finishing it up today!

What a great day!

October Readathon Morning

This morning begins the Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon! I’m up early, have my big mug of morning tea, my pile of books and my Kindle all charged up. Ready to go! So I will start with the “Getting to Know You Survey” while I’m drinking my tea, and then it’s on to a day full of reading!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I’m reading from Forest Grove, Oregon, a college town about 27 miles west of Portland. Lovely town surrounded by agricultural fields and wineries. Lots of beauty to see on my daily walks!

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
I’m excited to read any and all of them!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
I’m most looking forward to the coffee I will treat myself to today. We have a new coffee shop in town, Black Rock Coffee Bar, and I’m going to head over there a little later and do some of my reading there while having a great cup of coffee.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
Avid reader, grandma of one bright and articulate eleven year old boy, former elementary school teacher, walker, knitter, gardener. Enjoying my retirement!

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
Read more books than last time!

HAPPY READING, EVERYONE!

RIP XIII: The Keeper of Lost Causes

I read The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen, a few weeks ago and it is one of those books that stays with you long after you finish it. The plot is complex, the characters very interesting, and the suspense keeps you turning pages long into the night.

When the story begins, Carl Mørck, a brilliant detective with an anti-social personality, is just coming back to work from medical leave after recovering from a tragic attack on his investigative team that resulted in the death of one of his partners, a crippling injury to his other partner, and a bullet wound that came very close to killing him. He recovered from the bullet wound, but he has not recovered from the emotional wounds.

Carl lay there a long time, as if he’d fainted, with his head full of desperate thoughts. They took his pulse and then drove off with him and his two partners. Only at the hospital did he open his eyes. They told him that his eyes had a dead look to them. They thought it was the shock, but it was from shame.

His return to the police department was not welcome. He was a difficult leader, a real loner, and nobody wanted to work with him. Fortunately, a new grant had just been given to the Chief to open up a new department that would investigate cold cases. It was to be called “Department Q” and Carl was given that job, with an office in the basement, and a huge backlog of unsolved cases, or “hopeless cases,” as the police chief called them.

The first case Carl chose to look at involved a popular politician who went missing five years earlier. Merete Lynggaard, had disappeared while on a ferry ride with her younger disabled brother. The case had been poorly investigated, no clues were found, the case had been shelved and everyone assumed she had fallen overboard and perished. She had not. She was still very much alive, but being held captive in very cruel conditions by an unknown assailant.

The course of solving this mystery was intricate and fascinating. Carl was given an assistant, Hafez el-Assad, a Syrian immigrant, to help him with the case. The two of them, both brilliant detectives, became quite an effective team. You got to know all the characters well enough to know why they each did what they did in the story. And it was one of those “unputdownable” books that kept you anxious and on alert until the very end.

Somewhere inside of him, where cause and effect were not weighed against each other, and where logic and explanations never challenged consciousness, in that place where thoughts could live freely and be played out against each other—right there in that spot, things fell into place, and he understood how it all fitted together.

This book is the first in a series by this author. I will definitely be reading more of them!


I read this book for the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII challenge.

Katherine Mansfield

Today is Katherine Mansfield’s birthday. She was born on this day in 1888 in Wellington, New Zealand, and died very young, at age 34. She wrote wonderful short stories, but years ago I read the book, Journal of Katherine Mansfield, and enjoyed it every bit as much as her stories. As I read through her journal, I copied down many quotes into my notebook (that was before computers!), and this is one of my favorites:

“Grownupedness”

Four o’clock. Is it light now at Four o’clock? I jump out of bed and run over to the window. It is half-light, neither black nor blue. The wing of the coast is violet; in the lilac sky there are dark banners and little black boats manned by black shadows put out on the purple water.

Oh! how often I have watched this hour when I was a girl! But then — I stayed at the window until I grew cold — until I was icy — thrilled by something — I did not know what. Now I fly back into bed, pulling up the clothes, tucking them into my neck. And suddenly, my feet find the hot water bottle. Heavens! it is still beautifully warm. That really is thrilling.

Katherine Mansfield having tea at her work table, at the Villa Isola Bella at Menton, in the south of France. (Photograph by Ida Baker, 1920)

Death in the Castle

The Classics Club issued a DARE for the month of October. Choose one book from my list of classics to be read in five years, and dare myself to read it.

“Simply read a CLASSIC book from your #CClist that you classify as thrilling, a mystery, or Gothic. It could even be a book or author that SCARES you (because of it’s length, it’s topic, it’s reputation etc).”

This sounded like a lot of fun to me, and it was a perfect blend with my RIP XIII challenge, as well as my 2018 TBR Pile challenge! So I chose to read Death in the Castle, by Pearl S. Buck, for both the Classics Club Dare 2.0 and for the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII challenge.

The old castle is a thousand years old, and although it has been in the family for generations, SIr Richard Sedgeley and his wife, Lady Mary, can no longer afford to keep it. The National Trust will only agree to take it over if they can turn it into a prison–not an acceptable option for the aging Sir Richard. However, a young and wealthy American is interested in it and wants to buy it. But he also wants to move the castle, stone by stone, to Connecticut! What a difficult dilemma for the aging owners of the castle!

He let the reins lie slack as he went and his eyes roved over the mellow landscape of field and forest. The afternoon light lengthened the shadows and deepened the gold of the willows and the green of growing wheat. In the distance the castle stood against the sunset in all its stately beauty. It was his home, his inheritance, and how could he give it up?

Lady Mary has always believed in “others who had lived in the castle and until now she had accepted the possibility of the persistence of the dead beyond life.” Not ghosts, but the life forces of those ancestors who lived there before her. And Lady Mary is quite sure that the Others can show her where some treasure is hidden so that they will have the money to save the castle.

“There’s no such thing as death, not really,” Lady Mary said. “It’s just a change to something—I’ve told you—another level of whatever it is that we call life. It’s only a transfer of energy. Can you understand? Please try, Kate! It would mean so much to me.

This was a story that involved mystery, intrigue, suspense. A gothic-type mystery is not the usual subject matter for a book by Pearl Buck, but it was, as always with her books, well-written and enjoyable to read. The suspense definitely worked for me because I couldn’t stop reading until I found out what would happen to the castle and the different characters. A fun read!

Books About Books

Isaac Israels – Girl Reading on Sofa, 1920

My early Saturday morning reading is fun! I am reading two books about books, and both came into my possession without any planning at all. My husband preordered one of the books as a lovely surprise for me, and it arrived in the mail this week. 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List, by James Mustich,  weighs a ton and is filled with wonderful information about authors and books. It’s like an encyclopedia for readers, a wonderful resource to have and an enjoyable read! With 948 pages and small type, I don’t know when or if I will ever read it all the way through, but I will certainly use it a lot over the years, if I can wrestle it away from other family members!

The other book is from the library, found while perusing the shelves this week. A serendipitous find, considering that I didn’t know my husband had ordered the other book for me. This book is called Vintage Reading: From Plato to Bradbury, A Personal Tour of Some of the World’s Best Books, by Robert Kanigel. For many years, the author wrote a newspaper column for the Baltimore Sun called “Vintage Reads.” This book is an extension of those articles, and is full of fun and very readable essays on classics that appealed to him.

I love reading books about books, and these two are both fun reads and excellent resources!

RIP XIII: The Seer of Shadows

If you are interested in reading a good ghost story for the season then you must read The Seer of Shadows, by Avi. I know this book would have been a popular book to have on my classroom bookshelves for my 6th graders. My students always loved Avi’s books so I know this one would have been a popular choice for them to read. Eerie, fascinating, well-written and informative. It was easy to get caught in it and read it straight through.

From the  publisher, Harper Collins, 2008:

The time is 1872. The place is New York City. Horace Carpentine has been raised to believe in science and rationality. So as apprentice to Enoch Middleditch, a society photographer, he thinks of his trade as a scientific art. But when wealthy society matron Mrs. Frederick Von Macht orders a photographic portrait, strange things begin to happen.

Horace’s first real photographs reveal a frightful likeness:  it’s the image of the Von Machts’ dead daughter, Eleanora.

From the book:

It was like the process of developing a photograph I have described: as if the shadow were coming from some mystic depth, emerging from another world, taking, little by little, bodily shape and form until that shadow becomes . . . real. Exactly what I’d done for Eleanora’s spirit!

…The facts of the matter were perfectly clear—though surely not normal. My picture taking had summoned a ghost, and not just any ghost, but one bent on murder!

Avi is a wonderful writer and storyteller! This was a spooky and fun read for both middle grade readers…and us older folk!

Click here to visit Avi’s web site.

 

This was my fifth book read for Readers Imbibing Peril, XIII.