Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Most Delicious Moment

You're wandering through shelves of books in the library. A spine catches your eye; you pull out the book and like the cover and title. On a whim, you check the book out.

You've never heard of the author. You didn't read the flap. You don't even know what genre the books is in; you found it in the adult section. Knowing absolutely nothing about the book, you begin reading.

You will love this book all the more because you met it separated from the world. It will feel like a secret friend, a buried treasure. Reading is an infinitely intimate act.

This sort of scenario rarely happens, at least for me these days. I read books by authors I like, or because a friend recommends them, or because the flaps are intriguing. In other words, I always have preconceived notions. But imagine sitting down with a book exactly as the author intended it: When the author started writing this book they didn't have a flap copy in mind; they weren't writing to an audience that had already read a review of the book. They were simply writing, letting their imagination play.

It's winter break so when I saw an intriguing title at the library, The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, I grabbed it. I read the flap copy and decided to check it out, but by the time I sat down with the book, I'd completely forgotten what the flap had said. I know nothing of this book but the title.

In the midst of reading the first chapter, I realized I was caught up in almost-painful suspense, wondering where this book could possibly be leading. An ignorant but pretty girl in petticoats who likes to take tea, then a train ride with people in feathered masks, then an operating room-cum-theater, a current of eroticism surfacing. It begins delightful and witty but turns macabre. I was only in the first chapter but there were maybe five hundred pages yet to go. I couldn't guess at a plot arc, I didn't know what genre this was, the book wasn't easily fitting into any category. My imagination sketched out smoky possibilities.

This is the most delicious moment. This is the peak of reading. No matter how good the book is, by the end it will not be as good the smoky lines of possibility. There is nothing as good as the tantalizing unknown. Savor this moment.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Breaking Dawn

Breaking Dawn

Stephenie Meyer


It seems when it comes to Twilight no one is impartial; you either love it or despise it, and many people despise it and make it the butt of their jokes without having even read it. So I'm here to take the middle ground.
Within the first chapter or two of the last book in the Twilight series I seriously considered not reading it after all. The Twilight books have a bad rep for a reason.

There's all together too much whispering in the book. And heartthrob Edward may be physical perfection, but it seems Meyer forgot to give him a personality. So bland. I won't even go into the sexism issue in the books.

Every time a character made a joke, I would be surprised to find myself laughing. Or if Meyer had a good metaphor, I'd be like Wow.

I stuck with the book, and about midway it switched from Bella's perspective to Jacob's. Jacob is a werewolf, and I am so down with the werewolves. Jacob has much more personality than Bella or Edward. Suddenly the book had me. I wanted to do nothing but read it. I realized I hadn't given Meyer enough credit. For all of her problems, she can spin a good plot. And she’s funny.

When it switched back to Bella's point of view, it bogged down again. Back into sappy teenage vampire romance. But after the first few pages of that, it picked up once more. I finished it feeling quite satisfied. I really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life (Review)

I was not abused, abandoned, or locked up as a child...I am not a misunderstood genius, a former child celebrity, or the child of a celebrity. I am not a drug addict, sex addict, food addict, or recovered anything... I have not survived against all odds. I have not lived to tell. I have not witnessed the extraordinary. This is my story.

So goes the Forward to Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. You could call the book an extra-long lyric essay, or an unconventional memoir. As is not difficult to assume from the title, it's a compilation of encyclopedia-like entries of Rosenthal's life, relating to the reader everything from her childhood memories to how she enjoys cleaning her ears with Q-tips. It's funny and endearing. It's easy to relate to and discusses some of the little moments in life people don't often talk about. It shows that the little idiosyncrasies of strangers can be interesting, and catalogs some of those odd serendipitous moments in life we all experience.
This book is like having a conversation with a friend, and Rosenthal encourages a feeling of community by asking for interactions from the readers. On page 101 Rosenthal says she dislikes fictional descriptions of moons, but invites the reader to send her good descriptions of moons, which she posts on her website. She mailed a homemade pie to the one hundredth reader to reply to such a prompt.
As I began reading the encyclopedia, I thought it was witty and brilliant. But it can be tedious; I sometimes felt impatient. Some sections lack a depth that I would appreciate. It being an encyclopedia of Rosenthal herself, it's quite self-involved. This can be annoying.

Conclusion: Worth reading, but best to consume in moderation, like candy.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Rainbows" from Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

From Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life
Amy Krouse Rosenthal


If rainbows did not exist and someone said wouldn't it be cool to paint enormous stripes of color across the sky, you'd say yes, that would be very cool--impossible, but very cool. Children are totally tuned in to the miracle of rainbows--that's why they are forever drawing them. There's even something divine about spotting a tiny rainbow in a puddle of water or a splotch of gasoline. Oh, look! A rainbow! It would be nice to have some universal ritual connected with rainbows, along the lines of stray penny equals good luck, and car with one headlight equals, say, piddiddle/make a wish. Maybe: See a rainbow, eat a sugar cube. Or see a rainbow, put a dollar in a jar; then when you leave home at eighteen, your mother sends you off with your rainbow money. A friend once told me a story about how he was going through his five-year-old son's backpack and he found a picture of a little boy standing under a rainbow crying. His first thought was, Oh God, my son is having some serious problems. When he asked his son about the picture, he told him that he had been playing at school and he saw a rainbow and it was so beautiful that it made him cry.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Housekeeping Part II

It was evening. The sky glowed like a candled egg...
I toyed with the thought that we might capsize. It was the order of the world, after all, that water should pry through the seams of husks, which, pursed and tight as they might be, are only made for breaching. It was the order of the world that the shell should fall away and that I, the nub, the sleeping germ, should swell and expand. Say that the water lapped over the gunwales, and I swelled and swelled until I burst Sylvie's coat. Say that the water and I bore the rowboat down to the bottom, and I, miraculously, monstrously, drank water into all my pores until the last black cranny of my brain was a trickle, a spillet. And given that it is in the nature of water to fill and force to repletion and bursting, my skull would bulge preposterously and my back would hunch against the sky and my vastness would press my cheek hard and immovably against my knee. Then, presumably, would come parturition in some form, though my first birth had hardly deserved that name, and why should I hope for more from the second? The only true birth would be a final one, which would free us from watery darkness and the thought of watery darkness, but could such a birth be imagined? What is thought, after all, what is dreaming, but swim and flow, and the images they seem to animate?

Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, the story of a girl whose grandfather drowned when his train slipped into the depths of a lake, whose mother drowned by driving her car into the same lake, is beautiful, subtle yet haunting. Each word is delicate yet heavy. I read it slowly, over a period of months, and I want to continue reading it, picking it up while at a lake, at night, on a train, or whenever the wind tells me to.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Know a Man

I Know a Man
Robert Creeley
(May 21, 1926 – March 30, 2005)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Apple Cake

From Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life
Abigail Thomas

"Apple Cake"

I am not a girl. I am the grandmother of six. I bake cakes for all my grandchildren. My name is synonymous with "cake." I have taught them this. Nana, Cake, and they clap their little hands. Apple cake, this is my specialty. In the past twelve days I have baked seven apple cakes for seven separate occasions. These cakes contain walnuts and raisins as well as golden oil and apples. You would beg me for a slice if you could see these cakes. You would beg for their perfume alone. They do well for holidays. Thanksgiving, for example. Anniversaries.
I have had my good times and my bad. This was long ago, my dears, before most of you were born. I was not a prudish girl. Nor was I wise. When I was young I gave myself away; it was all I had to offer. But not today. Today I will bake a cake. The cake is not a metaphor. Say the words "apple cake." Apple cake.
See how the mouth fills with desire.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake

Titus is seven. His confines, Gormenghast. Suckled on shadows; weaned, as it were, on webs of ritual: for his ears, echoes, for his eyes, a labyrinth of stone: and yet within his body something other--other than this umbrageous legacy. For first and foremost he is child.

is the second book in the same-titled trilogy. It is a fantasy of manners published in 1950, written by Mervyn Peake. Ah, Mervyn Peake. His work is like nothing else I've ever read, simply incomparable. His prose is florid but beautiful. His characters are so unique and exaggerated that they are more caricatures. My favorite is Dr. Prunesquallor, "with his hyena laugh, his bizarre and elegant body, his celluloid face...His cardinal virtue? An undamaged brain."
Sometimes Peake's purple prose and long-windedness get in the way of the story, and his punctuation is atrocious, but sometimes words like "genius" come to mind while reading. This second book contains a soiree that shows Peake at the height of his comic powers, as well as a flood of epic proportions that turns Gormenghast Castle into an intricate and eerie aqueous playground. Or should I say battleground?

Sunday, September 20, 2009


For my own pleasure, I write reviews of books and I've started making notes on literary journals I come across. I tend to put things of that nature in my journal, but why not share it here? Thus I am expanding this blog beyond poetry alone.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Stella Maris

Stella Maris
Arthur Symons

Why is it I remember yet
You, of all women one has met
In random wayfare, as one meets
The chance romances of the streets,
The Juliet of a night? I know
Your heart holds many a Romeo.
And I, who call to mind your face
In so serene a pausing-place,
Where the bright pure expanse of sea,
The shadowy shore's austerity,
Seems a reproach to you and me,
I too have sought on many a breast
The ecstasy of love's unrest,
I too have had my dreams, and met
(Ah me!) how many a Juliet.
Why is it, then, that I recall
You, neither first nor last of all?
For, surely as I see tonight
The glancing of the lighthouse light,
Against the sky, across the bay,
As turn by turn it falls my way,
So surely do I see your eyes
Out of the empty night arise,
Child, you arise and smile to me
Out of the night, out of the sea,
The Nereid of a moment there,
And is it seaweed in your hair?

O lost and wrecked, how long ago,
Out of the drownèd past, I know,
You come to call me, come to claim
My share of your delicious shame.
Child, I remember, and can tell,
One night we loved each other well;
And one night's love, at least or most,
Is not so small a thing to boast.
You were adorable, and I
Adored you to infinity,
That nuptial night too briefly borne
To the oblivion of morn.
Oh, no oblivion! for I feel
Your lips deliriously steal
Along my neck and fasten there;
I feel the perfume of your hair,
And your soft breast that heaves and dips,
Desiring my desirous lips,
And that ineffable delight
When souls turn bodies, and unite
In the intolerable, the whole
Rapture of the embodied soul.

That joy was ours, we passed it by;
You have forgotten me, and I
Remember you thus strangely, won
An instant from oblivion.
And I, remembering, would declare
That joy, not shame, is ours to share,
Joy that we had the will and power,
In spite of fate, to snatch one hour,
Out of vague nights, and days at strife,
So infinitely full of life.
And 'tis for this I see you rise,
A wraith, with starlight in your eyes,
Here, where the drowsy-minded mood
Is one with Nature's solitude;
For this, for this, you come to me
Out of the night, out of the sea.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Monday, September 7, 2009


From Housekeeping
Marilynne Robinson

Cain murdered Abel, and blood cried out from the earth; the house fell on Job's children, and a voice was induced or provoked into speaking from a whirlwind; and Rachel mourned her children; and King David for Absalom. The force behind the movement of time is a mourning that will not be comforted. That is why the first event is known to be an expulsion, and the last is hoped to be reconciliation and return. So memory pulls us forward, so prophecy is only brilliant memory--there will be a garden where all of us as one child will sleep in our mother Eve, hooped in her ribs and staved by her spine.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Trickle Drops

Trickle Drops
Walt Whitman


Trickle drops! my blue veins leaving!

O drops of me! trickle, slow drops,

Candid from me falling, drip, bleeding drops,

From wounds made to free you whence you were prison’d,

From my face, from my forehead and lips,

From my breast, from within where I was conceal’d, press forth red drops, confession drops,

Stain every page, stain every song I sing, every word I say, bloody drops,

Let them know your scarlet heat, let them glisten,

Saturate them with yourself all ashamed and wet

Glow upon all I have written or shall write, bleeding drops,

Let it all be seen in your light, blushing drops.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I Shall Keep Singing

Emily Dickinson

I shall keep singing!
Birds will pass me
On their way to Yellower Climes--
Each--with a Robin's expectation--
I--with my Redbreast--
And my Rhymes--

Late--when I take my place in summer--
But--I shall bring a fuller tuner--
Vespers--are sweeter than Matins--Signor--
Morning--only the seed of Noon--


Esme's poetry blog commences!

Here's the deal: Three or more times a week I will post a poem. I may also post quotations and excerpts from books.
The purpose: To keep me in a perpetual state of questing for awesome poetry. To have a record of my favorite poems that I can look back on. To share my favorite poetry with others.

The blog will likely start out slow. I'd rather not go against copyright, so until I figure out the do's and don't's of copyright law I'll be posting old poetry that is likely public domain.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Vegan Food and Recipes

Hot Summer, Cold Breakfast
Avocado Mango Salsa
Watermelon Quinoa Salad
Potluck Pasta Salad
Cowgirl Pizza
Grilled Cheese, Tomato Soup, Sweet Potato Fries, and "Chicken" Salad
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Smoothie Ingredients

Posts on Young Adult Literature

Reviews of YA Novels:

My Favorite YA
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Chemical Garden Trilogy (Wither, Fever, Sever) by Lauren DeStefano
The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Drink Slay Love by Sarah Beth Durst
Need by Carrie Jones

More posts on John Green:
A Letter to John Green
More TFIOS Quotes
green sharpie
NUVO Interviews John Green

More posts on the Confessions of Georgia Nicholson:
Georgia Nicholson Book Covers
Passage from Stop in the Name of Pants! by Louise Rennison
Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Homophobia

Posts on the Romance Genre

Romances I've enjoyed:

Nora Roberts and Katie Fforde—My Two Favorite Romance Authors
How Do I Love Nora Roberts? Let me count the ways.
An Interview with Nora Roberts
The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick
Duchess by Night by Eloisa James

Other posts you may be interested in:

Qualities of the Romance Genre That Keep Me Going Back for More
Chickflicks and Why We Love Edward Cullen
Going in Disguise to Read Wedding Magazines
Is Jane Austen Just for Chicks?
Sub-genres of Romance
Guidelines for Writing Romance from Harlequin

Hiking in the Palouse

Idler's Rest
Idler's Rest Part Two
Kamiak Butte

Gardening Posts

Gardening Tips:
Choosing plants for the growing season part 1
Choosing plants for the growing season part 2
Coffee Grounds
Native Pollinators

Gardening Diary:
April 25, 2012
May 2, 2012
May 9, 2012
June 6, 2012
July 25, 2012
September 8, 2012
October 13, 2012

Photos of my garden:
Spring flowers and a Cat
Photos from early May, tulips and daffodils
Photos from early August

More Camping or Hiking Posts

Vlog of Nehalem Bay State Park