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Oct. 18th, 2016

Cat Scan: All the Best From the Literature of Cats, compiled and edited by Robert Byrne and Teressa Skelton. Fawcett Crest, 1983

A compilation of quotes, poetry, fiction, odd facts, and what not written about cats through the ages – from ancient Greece to today (well, to the early 80s). Some are funny, some are sweet, some are sad. Not all are from cat lovers; some are quite disparaging of cats. One of those ‘pick it up and read a page or two whilst waiting for someone’ books. Probably was quite inclusive when published; I’m sure the editors could not have imagined the boom in the interest in cats in the 30+ years since!


Pantera caught his first (that we know of) mouse today! It was in the boxes of seeds. He played with it for a while and then Norris stole it and ran to the bathroom with it. Then Luna tried to take it from him... I've no idea of it's ultimate fate but I suspect I'll smell it in a few days.


The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin, by Stephanie Knipper. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2016

I love magical realism, and this book had the bonus of being set on a flower farm, so I jumped at it. Sisters Rose and Lily were very close as girls and teens, but when Rose’s unexpected pregnancy while in college led to the birth of a daughter on the autistic spectrum, Lily couldn’t deal with it. Having OCD with some aspects of autism herself, Antoinette was all her fears in human form: unable to speak, difficulty with movements, repetitive behaviors. It all reminds Lily of her own problems that made her constantly bullied at school, and in her mind threatens the ‘normal’ life that she’s built in the city where no one knows her. Lily and Rose haven’t spoken in years. But that has to change now: Rose has end stage heart failure, a complication of her pregnancy with Antoinette. She needs someone who will take care of Antoinette and her only option is Lily. Complicating their reunion is the ‘boy’ next door, Seth. He and Lily used to be an item, until he broke it off to go to seminary, breaking her heart. He dropped out and bought into the flower farm. Then there is Lily’s next door neighbor in the city who flirts constantly…. Also, Antoinette has this ability to restore wilted flowers and temporarily heal anything from birds to broken human hands.

I enjoyed the story, in large part because of the setting (at the nursery/flower farm) and the growing relationship between Lily and Antoinette. Lily is able to help Antoinette with some of her problems, having faced similar herself. The physical setting is described beautifully- the gardens, the lavender fields, the farmer’s market – although I do wonder how two people keep that many acres weeded and harvested alone. Where are the workers? But the story is like some fairy tale, where no one has any flaws (other than physical health problems). Seriously, everyone in this story is honest, giving, hardworking, pleasant natured, and just plain good people. I find it hard to believe in a town where *everyone* is this great! The ending is rushed; in fact, the whole story is in a way. A lot happens in a very short time. The ending also lacks an explanation; we are left guessing as to how Antoinette works her miracles and why one character makes the choice he does. I’d give the story four stars out of five.
Summerlong, by Peter S. Beagle. Tachyon Publications, 2016

This novel has some of the most beautiful prose. Everything is described with loving detail; I could smell the spring in the PNW and feel the damp air. (of course, I have been in the Pacific Northwest enough to have a head start on that, but still) Early in the book I started caring about the characters.

Joanna Delvecchio is the head steward on a regular Seattle/Chicago run, and counting the days left before she can retire. She’s had a 20-some year relationship with Abe Aronson, retired history professor, which she refuses to admit is a relationship. Her daughter, Lily, can’t seem to find the right woman. It’s a nice life, with great regularity to it. When they meet the new waitress at their favorite little restaurant, she rocks the lives of all of them.

Lioness Lazos, needing a place to stay, moves into Abe’s garage. She has nearly nothing and is fine with that. She is hiding from someone and traveling lightly. But things start changing the minute she arrives. Abe and Del start living out their dreams apart from each other. Lily falls in love with Lioness. The neighbor kids learn how to produce flowers from bare soil… instantly. Spring comes early and lasts all summer and fall.

It’s obvious pretty quickly that this is not your average novel but a fairy tale. I figured out who Lioness really was pretty quickly. While I knew what would have to happen with Lioness, I did not expect what she would do before giving in to it. And I do know *why* she did it. That’s one of my quibbles with the book: Lioness is a cypher. Everyone loves her on sight, but she does little and says little. Of course she’s a magical being, but still. She’s interacting on a human level, so I expected more humanity from her. She had to know that what she did would destroy Abe and Del’s relationship; did she think she was doing them some sort of favor? Or did she just not care, and was indulging herself? The ending left me angry at her and at Abe.

Still, even though I was not happy with the ending, I enjoyed most of the book too much to not like it as a whole. It was a magical read and I rushed through it, not wanting to stop reading. I guess I just expected a happy ending from a fairy tale like this!
I have danced! I found myself unable to keep my arms up all the time (spent the last two days digging and rooting) but I actually felt like I've made some progress! I may get this dance thing yet!


Yesterday it was after 11 before it got warm enough for me to want to go work outside. Out in the sun it was okay as long as I was working in the rocks. But apparently my body didn't like something about it because I'm flaring badly. I've gotten enough pain killers and gabapentin into me, though, so I WILL be dancing! I'm dying for it!

Also, I need a dancing icon. I think I said that before. Maybe tonight I'll remember to look for one.


Notwithstanding, by Louis de Bernieres. Vintage International, 2009

‘Notwithstanding’ is the name of a mythical English village, the name picked because the village life is notwithstanding. A set of interconnected stories show us the lives of the various village eccentrics as their way of life dies off. Some have the feel of fairy tale or fable; others are vignettes. Several characters show up multiple times; the most common is the boy Robert, who rescues and rehabilitates injured and orphaned birds, including a talking rook named Lizzie, and catches a legendary pike. Among the other villagers are the widow who goes everywhere with her husband’s ghost, the aging general whose mind is slipping and now goes to town with no pants on, a woman who realizes she’d best try and get on with folks, a Sixth Sense style ghost story, a maid who is seduced by her employer’s son, a ghost who summons the Rector, and more. The thread that binds them together is the erosion of village life by new people; people who complain about roosters crowing in the country, about ponds that aren’t fenced off, and the like. It’s nostalgia (de Bernieres grew up in just such a village and is most likely Robert) and it’s sweet in places, sad in many places, and funny in others. I don’t tend to go for ‘sweet’ or ‘cozy’ books but this one hit me just right.


City of Dreams: The 400-year Epic History of Immigrant New York, by Tyler Anbinder. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016

History professor Anbinder, himself a native of New York, traces the waves of immigrants that have built NYC into the behemoth it is today. From Peter Minuit and his deal with the Native Americans to today, the author follows wave after wave of immigrants and how they shaped the city. From the Puritans and fur traders to huge waves of German and Irish immigrants to the Italians, eastern Europeans, Asians, former slaves, South and Central American, and West Indies, all the big movements of people are here. It’s a fascinating read; every wave of people came over hoping for more opportunity and a new life. Nearly all faced prejudice of the already ensconced people, horrible living conditions, and endless hard work. They bore this steadfastly, all in the hope that their children would have better lives than they had.

This is not your boring history book. Anbinder frequently uses personal accounts to bring vivid life to the past. While this is a massive book- nearly 600 pages with another 100 of end notes, bibliography, appendices, and index- it was as gripping as a well-written novel. Here’s the Irish fleeing the famine, arriving as stick figures. Here are the people trying to take advantage of new immigrants. There were some parts that were less interesting to me- the section on the Civil War, for instance, because I never find war interesting- even those I read every word of. That is a first for me; I tend to skip the bits about fighting.

Every wave of immigrants seemed to follow the same routine: take the first jobs they could get, always the things natives (and previous immigrants) had risen above. They work 7 days a week (except for the Jews, who mostly didn’t work on the Sabbath). They live in cramped quarters. As soon as they can save the money, they start a business of their own. They also send amazing amounts of money back to their home countries, whether it be to support parents or to bring over other family members. They become citizens as fast as possible most of the time, unless they are hoping to make enough money to have a business in their home country. They almost always dislike the next wave of immigrants, feeling that next wave has a criminal element to it. Humans have remained the same for the 400 year span of NYC; they are filled with prejudice.

Excellent book; should be required reading. It’ll enlighten a lot of folks who want to build a wall.


Does anyone know if this is a particular breed of cat, or is this just a family of cats that's a little outside the standard deviation?


Oh, what the hell?!?!? There was just an ad for dog knows what playing 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas'!!

Of course, Tim says there are mountains of Christmas stuff already at Walmart, so I shouldn't be surprised.


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