Friday, February 20, 2009

Orbis Terrarum Challenge 2009

I've decided to join in the Orbis Terrarum Challege 2009 which involves reading 10 books from 10 different countries between March 1 and December 31, 2009, and posting reviews of them here. It only makes sense, as I'm reading a fair number of books from different countries, anyway. Here is my tentative reading list, in no particular order:

March: Sweet and Sour Milk by Nuruddin Farah -- Somalia
April: A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr -- England
May: Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth by Naguib Mahfouz -- Egypt
June: Iceland's Bell by Halldor Laxness -- Iceland
July: Spring Torrents by Ivan Turgenev -- Russia
August: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch by Dai Sijie -- China
September: Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa -- Peru
October: The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa -- Italy
November: A Woman in Jersualem by Yehoshua -- Israel
December: A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines -- U. S.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ten Things About Me Which May or May Not Be Interesting

I was tagged by Charmaine to do this.  I take no responsibility as to whether any of them are "interesting" or not.

1.  I have a pathological fear of needles, as a result of having had the entire series of 14 rabies shots at the age of 3, including those in the stomach.

2.  Although I've only done it a couple of times and those were 40 years ago, I absolutely love flying in a glider; the serenity and quiet (except for air rushing around the cockpit) have to be experienced to be believed.

3.  Aside from a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas with my family many decades ago, my only trip outside the U. S. was to Edmonton, Alberta, in 2005.  I fell in love with the landscape of the prairies which I found totally awe-inspiring -- there's so much sky. Of course, that was late summer, and the weather was beautiful; I can't even begin to imagine what winter there is like.  I do hope to go back eventually.  In the summer.

4.  Back in the  70s, I was a member of a 4-person improvisational comedy group.  We created and performed our own material for a number of years semi-professionally.  The situation was a remarkable one:  the four of us fit together and worked together perfectly.  If one of us got an idea, we could take off and riff on it for hours at a time, each of us contributing pretty much equally.  It was the most wonderfully and profoundly creative experience of my life.  

5 & 6.  I am strongly left-dominant; I'm lefthanded, my left eye is my stronger, my left leg slightly longer than my right.  I also cannot remember peoples' names.  The first truly thorough scientific study of lefthandedness which was performed about 25 years ago found that the single strongest correlated characteristic among lefthanded people is difficulty with remembering names.  That's my excuse; I'm sticking to it.

7.  For 3 1/2 years, my African Gray parrot and I walked every day the weather was decent about 2 to 3 miles along our local Riverwalk.  He became fairly well-known as a result, and appeared in both the local newspaper and on one of the local tv newscasts.  Probably our most interesting experience was once when we ran into the members of a local camera club who were helping a number of mentally challenged individuals learn to take photographs; they asked if they could photograph him, and we spent over half an hour with them taking every imaginable kind of picture of him.  They very obviously enjoyed the experience a great deal; so did the bird, because he's a lil' ego-glutton who loves attention.

8.  My undergraduate collegiate career was rather checkered; I was, at various times, a pre-ministerial student, a physics major, and an English major.  After dawdling about for some time, at my parents' insistence I finally graduated,  with a degree in English but minors in physics and math.  I was only one course short of having another minor in history.  

9.  I was born and raised in the hills of Tennessee.  That officially makes me a hillbilly.  However, since I was fortunate enough to receive an education, I have been formally promoted to the status of a Mountain William.  

10.  I am considering the possibility of greeting my arrival at the age of 65 later this year by going skydiving for the first time.  I'll let you know how that one works out.

The End

Monday, February 16, 2009

Take a Walk on the Beach

with Some Seaside Poems over in The Jackdaw's Nest.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

"Twelve 12-Line Poems"

Thursday, February 05, 2009

CRC 1: "Masters of the Dew"

My first book for the Caribbean Reading Challenge.

Masters of the Dew by Jacques Roumain, published 1944, translated from the French by Langston Hughes and Mercer Cook.

Masters of the Dew is concerned with the story of Manuel Jan - Josef, a Haitian peasant who has been absent from his native village for 15 years working in the canefields of Cuba, who returns home to find the life he knew radically altered by two devastating changes.  First is a serious drought the effects of which are compounded by years of poor agricultural practices which have led to serious erosion of the fields and the drying-up of the streams which watered the area.  Second is the splintering of the village into two antithetical factions as the consequence of a blood-feud which occurred shortly after  Manuel had left the village.  The villagers are on the brink of starvation, and those who can are beginning to leave the area; it appears that the village is fated to die.  

Manuel realizes that both problems will have to be solved if the village and its life are to be saved.  He begins to search in the nearby mountains for water; he also begins to talk to some of the villagers about the need for concerted action, based on his experiences and involvement in Cuba in workers' strikes against the sugar companies.  The local authorities hear of his statements about how powerful the peasants can be if they combine their efforts, are worried lest he turn his ideas to political actions, and warn him not to pursue such ideas.  After much searching, Manuel locates a large reservoir of fresh water in an unexplored valley; he tells only one person where the water is located, Annaise, a young woman he's fallen in love with but whose family is on the opposite side of the feud from his own; she returns his love, and takes up the challenge of trying to bring the factions together by getting the women of her faction to convince the men to work with the other side to build the canals and waterways necessary to bring the water to the fields.  

He himself attempts first to convince the men of his own side, then finally asks Larivoire, a respected elder of the other faction, to call a meeting which he attends and attempts to persuade those men to work with those of his family's faction, to create a coumbite, a united group of individuals who work together to achieve goals no individual alone could achieve.  (The coumbite is an old tradition which has been abandoned in the wake of the feud.)  He is opposed by Gervilen, a drunken bully who wishes to keep the feud going and who is also jealous of Manuel because of Annaise; Gervilen angrily leaves the meeting but attacks and stabs Manuel afterwards.  Manuel reaches home and dies shortly afterwards, but not before asking his mother to keep secret the cause of his death because he knows that only if the feud ends can the village survive and says to her, "Tell Larivoire the will of my blood that's been shed -- reconciliation -- reconciliation -- so life can start all over again, so that day can break on the dew."

After Manuel's funeral, his mother carries out his dying wish and asks Larivoire to call a meeting of the men of the opposing faction; addressing them, she tells them of Manuel's last words and his wish for the feud to end so the villagers can indeed once again work together to build the irrigation system that will save the village.  Both factions finally agree, and Annaise reveals the location of the reservoir. The novel ends with the coumbite completing the irrigation system and, as the first water beings to flow to the fields again, Annaise tells Manuel's mother that Manuel isn't really dead because she is carrying his child.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I Have Four Poems

in the new issue of  "Soundzine" now online.