Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Real Book Share: Doubling Up on Dickens

Tonight the Colville Branch AAUW will meet for its annual Book Share. We'll exchange recommendations for books we've enjoyed this past year. My list includes Joan Didion's Blue Nights and half a dozen other books I've found engrossing. It concludes with Claire Tomalin's excellent new biography, Charles Dickens: A Life.

After I compiled my list I noticed I'd not included anything by Dickens himself. If there's anybody in the group who is not familiar with Dickens' novels, and I were forced at gunpoint to recommend just one, I'd elect his eighth.

You can win bar bets with this question: what was the full, original title of Charles Dickens' novel, now commonly alluded to as David Copperfield?

Take a deep breath, because you'll need it to repeat the answer:
The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account)

In the preface to the 1867 Charles Dickens edition, he wrote, "… like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield." It's my favorite, too, and I'm beginning to reread it this year for the Dickens Bicentennial. I've got it on my Kindle, and read a chapter a day. Then I flip over to Dombey and Son, and read a chapter there. These are the two Dickens books currently being discussed on the Yahoo Group, The Inimitable Boz, which I recently joined.

I'm looking forward to attending The Friends of Clark Park's 200th Birthday celebration in Philadelphia on February 5, where actors and musicians will recreate Dickens' world with songs and excerpts from his novels, and will parade to the famous bronze statue, crafted by Frank Elwell in the late nineteenth century, to sing Happy Birthday to The Inimitable.

I'll also be taking in the Free Library of Philadelphia's Rare Book Department. It's home to one of the finest collections of Dickens works in the world, as well as his stuffed pet raven “Grip,” said to be the inspiration for Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem.

On February 7 I'll be dining in the Azalea Room of the luxurious Omni Hotel at Independence Park, where the Philadelphia Dickens Fellowship will stage a birthday banquet.  The Omni is at 4th and Chestnut, the site of the United States Hotel where Dickens stayed in 1842 and where he met with Edgar Allan Poe.

(For those who puzzle over Lewis Carroll's famous unanswered question, "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" it wasn't only Poe who wrote on did Dickens in Barnaby Rudge, which Poe reviewed!)

During the week I'll also visit the Philadelphia Art may remember its steps from the movie "Rocky." It's featuring an exhibit of Vincent van Gogh's later works. No, the artist and Dickens never met...Van Gogh was just seventeen at the time of Dickens' death. Dickens wasn't widely translated in those days.

It's a shame Vincent couldn't have read David Copperfield. I think it would have given him hope. I know it did me when I first read it at seventeen.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Lunatic Alarm!

There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls. ~George Carlin, Brain Droppings, 1997

When I stepped outside to photograph this last night it was just before midnight, right on time. American Indian tribes called this the Full Wolf Moon. Amid the cold and deep snows of mid-winter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. I didn't hear anything ulalating in the surrounding hills of the Colville National Forest last night. Nonetheless, I could understand why any wolf would want to bay a bit...I had to muffle an inclination to do so myself, so stunning was this sight.

I'm inspired to write a story about winter solitude today for a new anthology collection on seasons. So since I was born under the sign of Cancer, I appreciated this information, gleaned from the Cleveland Examiner:

Today’s full moon expresses itself at home through the Goddess moon, a dynamic lunar cycle in the 18th degree of Capricorn and Cancer. This cardinal pair places the spotlight on effective communication, available resources and overall home security with emotions attached of course. Because cycles have a tendency to create déjà vu types of feelings, old familiar experiences may spring up for a little attention and or a lot of attention.

What are your reoccurring themes?

It may have roots in early childhood--during a time when the emergence of the martyr archetype, shifting and evolving in a patriarchal ruled society--dominated plenty home environments, as an intense tug-of-war between the Capricorn sun and Cancer moon suggest, or a home environment that tend to shape and mold emotional buttons to eventually become all too familiar. However this homebound full moon is played out, those with a Cancer moon sign may feel the effects of this full moon cycle, as well those with planets in the 4th house of the moon or sun sign in Capricorn.

It's clear I have to abandon that martyr archetype!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Steaming it Up

Back in the late '70s and early '80s I held the title of social welfare editor for Uncle Jam, a tabloid published irregularly (whenever we had enough people in one room to do it, publisher Phil Yeh used to claim) via the Cobblestone Gallery, a popular hangout for writers, artists and general societal misfits in Long Beach, CA.

The magazine covered arts, travel, books, health and author interviews, so I was given wide leeway in what I could write about. I mean really wide. My friend Chris Statler and I covered such activities as a Grand Prix wet T-shirt contest, floating in a sensory deprivation tank, and the Beatles tribute band, Rain. I wrote about Jackie Sorenson's aerobic dancing classes, and a Phillip Marlowe tour of downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica sponsored by a San Fernando Valley mystery bookstore. I interviewed the late Alduous Huxley's spouse, Laura, about her Project Caress. I attended novelist Carolyn See's three annual literary conferences at Loyola Marymount and interviewed such writers as Herbert Gold, A. Scott Berg and Alice Adams. I wrote about New Year's Eve in New York City, seeing in the '80s, what we wrongly predicted would be the "New Renaissance." I covered my first trip to England, and seeing the ghost of Dr. Samuel Johnson. I even had a ball writing about how, from a child development stance, balls are the perfect toy choice for toddlers.

Not long ago, Phil resurrected this publication as a glossy full-color quarterly. I'm pleased to have rejoined the crowd, contributing such pieces as how to prepare to attend the University of Cambridge International Summer School, an interview with Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, and, for the 100th issue, online soon, why I love to sip cider in Somerset.

Last night Phil sent me a message on Facebook to let me know that the next Uncle Jam would be devoted to steampunk. Would I be interested in writing about its roots in Victorian literature? You bet. So I'll be revisiting H. G. Wells and Jules Verne...full steam ahead.

Uncle Jam 99 has been posted on line, and UJ100 will be coming soon: