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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd

Overheard in Cooperstown:
When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd
Time: spring at very long last
Place: the smoking corner for health care workers

Generously-proportioned nurse seated on the curb near Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital, across from the Summers house: "What's with these purple flowers all over town?"

Chubsy-ubsy friend: I guess somebody planted them.

Note: The version I heard first was "purple shit." Later, I heard it again as above: cleaned-up version? Mis-remembered? Made a better story the first way.

"Ah Bartleby. Ah humanity." Or "Alas, poor Yorick." Something.

Alternative point of view on the subject from famous deceased author

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” --Iris Murdoch

Picture credit: R. B. Miller. Note the original to the Val/Orson cover/jacket directly behind my head. You can also note something editor John Wilson once said about me--that one side of my face looks like the nice woman behind you in the post office line, and the other side like a poet or a murderer. It's that wayward, bold eyebrow, I believe. The cracked look is emphasized by a little star of light on my glasses--or maybe it resides in my eye.
First week of Val/Orson

My lovely painting by Clive Hicks-Jenkns arrived from the Ystwyth Valley. We thought it had been lost, but whatever it was doing out there in Lala-Limpopo-Limboland of the International Postal Employees, it is now found. And has not even the slightest hint of bat crap, despite the batty Welsh studio in which it gestated.

And there are a number of blog posts about and reviews of the book. My old friend Robbi Nester (who I am pleased to say is four inches shorter than I am and so makes me feel like a model or a giraffe or maybe even a model giraffe or an extremely large giraffe model) wrote a piece on her blog, Shadow Knows. I can't offer it as a review because we know each other too well, but I recommend her blog, especially if you like to read about one woman's struggles with the Torah, weird-but-touching elderly parents, teaching and writing, and more. She also has been writing formal poems lately, some of which are on the blog, and likes to get comments on them.

"Somehow Youmans manages to tightrope along that margin between the real and the surreal in this book to create a tension that harkens back to classic fantasy novels like W.H. Hudson’s Green Mansions and the works of Jules Verne.... As always, Youmans’ writing is something beyond mere prose. It’s near-poetry." --Greg Langley, Baton Rouge Advocate, 24 May 2009

I was not allowed comic books as a child, but in sixth grade (way back when when comics could be found at the corner drugstore) I did have a Classic Comic of Green Mansions. Back then (way back then) I liked the book as well, but I especially loved Far Away and Long Ago. I read that one several times in childhood. Perhaps I ought to read it again and see if it was as wonderful as I thought way back when. Think I liked The Purple Land, too. Childhood: such a rich and horrible time!

"From the first chapter to the last, this novella delivers on all points." --Kelly Jensen, SF Crowsnest

Hey, and she liked "Rain Flower Pebbles" as well.

"Val/Orson is ambitious and multifaceted, definitely a literary read that is both faithful to the form and groundbreaking." --Charles Tan, Bibliophile Stalker

What next?

Well, let's see: braces for my youngest and in-laws and an overnight birthday party with rampaging boys! See you after.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


15 in 15: Books that Stick

In my case: written in English, translations excluded

A certain interesting books editor challenged me to name 15 books that "stick" with me. I chose from books in English because otherwise too many are left out. However, too many are still left out. I also misunderstood his offer of one bonus book. Thought the "1" was a "12." I was always weak in math.

Some of these are books that lured me to reread when I was a child, and I am unsure whether they would be vital to me now. (Alice, always.) Some meant much to me in my 20's. A few I would choose not to read again. But all, I believe, have been visited more than once, and some I still reread in whole or part. I have chosen them without regard for era or sex of the author or whether they are "literary" or not. In one or two cases,

Update: The sheer criminality of forgetting the Brontë sisters in my fifteen minutes! Jane Eyre. Villette. Wuthering Heights. And Russell Hoban, too! And much more. Ah well. One gets only fifteen minutes, after all. Apologies to Deb for cheating on Shakespeare (and leaving out the sonnets.) Don't forget to tag 15 of your own.

Update no. 2: One isn't even safe after a book is admired, edited, and distributed! Righteous book-burning: And there are even more books I forgot in the comments...

Herbert, The Temple
H. G. Wells, Long Ago and Far Away, Green Mansions (a childhod passion)
Marvell, Collected Poems
Woolf, Orlando, Mrs. Dalloway
Burgess, Nothing Like the Sun
Yeats, Collected Poems
Shakespeare, Plays
Fielding, Tom Jones
Carroll, the Alice books (read hundreds of times in childhood)
Powys, Wolf Solent and A Glastonbury Romance (strange, incomparable Powys)
Melville, Moby Dick
Durrell, Alexandria Quartet
White, Voss
Hawthorne, Collected Stories and The Scarlet Letter
Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon (thank you, Professor Russom!)
Austen, Pride and PrejudiceDickinson, Collected Poems
MacDonald, Stories and Phantastes (yes, a childhood love)
Toomer, Cane
Peake, Gormenghast Trilogy
Frost, Collected Poems
Dickens, Bleak House and others (a childhood love, an adult love)
Tolkien, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
Davies, The Deptford Trilogy
Kipling, Kim
Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom and others (a great passion in my teens)
The King James Bible and The Book of Common Prayer

It does seem strange that Isaac Bashevis Singer isn't rubbing elbows with the Americans, but he didn't write much in English, alas. And there are so many great writers missing. I don't think I approve of lists! I could've added Narayan, I suppose; he writes in English.

All right, I shall restrict myself to tagging 15 people. The instructions (hope you can follow them better than I did) are to make your own list of 15 books that "stick" with you, taking no more than 15 minutes and 1 bonus book (that's o-n-e, I note.) Post the list here and on your blog, facebook page, or other time-frittering vehicle. If you're not tagged, come back and read the lists... Or consider yourself tagged and join in.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Meeting Phil at last - Philip Lee Williams

Philip Lee Williams has been a penpal of mine since 2001. We were scheduled to appear on a panel about our then-new novels at the Nashville Festival of the Book, but Phil injured his back and spent the time in a horizontal position at home, alas.

Nevertheless, we struck up a correspondence that has lasted eight years. When we finally met on Sunday, I felt that I knew him, and that he was just as generous and kind as in his letters. Here we are in front of the Madison Chophouse Grill in Georgia. I regret putting on the one jacket I had with me because there's a bit of overgreening, a kind of leprechaun effect, but perhaps there was a dusting of fairy luck--we hadn't expected to meet at all, at least not this year.