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"Good grief!" if I may quote Charlie Brown, the reading year is half behind us.  Time for a look back at the pages I've turned and the lines I've scanned to excavate the jewels among them so far.  In thinking about what I was going to write since I'm breaking a long silence, I decided to cast back to my last diary to appear, A-N-T-I-C-I-P-A-T-I-O-N New Books in 2013 to see if I'd managed to tackle any of the tomes mentioned therein, or if I'm just a book slut who readily forgets her resolutions to live well and selectively and instead picks up any old thing that passes by and reads it for simple instant gratification.

Temptation is a most titillating emotion, second only to anticipation.  I'm betting I'm a book slut.

Pick your head up and lift your eyes from the book you're reading.  Wipe the bibliodrool off your chin and proceed with me down the path and into the garden of earthly delights where all the books in the world dwell and let's have a look at what I've picked from my corner of the litpatch.  Then, not in a shy way, tell me some of the highlights from your reading life in 2013. What delicious novel or incredible work of nonfiction has led you astray from well intentioned reading goals?  With so many primrose paths, let's consider only the best biblioblooms of the bunch.

Please turn the page.

Arbitrarily, just because I can, I've made choices in numerous categories.  This way I can squeeze in more really goods than I'm probably entitled to if I only get to choose the best of the best from the bulk.  I'll include a few words from my Book Journal about each.

Best New Book of 2013
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

In the manner the title suggests, seemingly unrelated stories of Alcock and Brown, the first men to fly across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Ireland in 1919; Frederick Douglas, the American freeman who visited Ireland in 1845 at the beginnings of the potato famine; and Senator George Mitchell, who in the 1990s conducted shuttle diplomacy between New York and Belfast, negotiating the Irish peace ebb and flow into a novel united by four generations of the women who connect them.  McCann’s prose style is lyric, poetic, and hypnotic echoing the movement of the sea, seducing us into hearing buried, seemingly disparate stories unfold and reveal themselves in an epic novel about risk, perseverance, human understanding, and reverence for language.
Best Series Fiction of 2013
The Illegal Gardener by Sara Alexi (first volume)
At first, I thought this book would be a simple diverting read, but it turned out to offer much more than I expected.  Juliet is an Englishwoman who, after her nuclear family has both disintegrated and moved on into its adult phase, has bought a rundown home on an island in Greece.  Her need for a yardman leads her to employ Aaman, an illegal Pakistani worker who wants to earn his share of the funds his village needs to buy a tractor.  To do this, he has left his wife behind and traveled at great risk to Greece where he lives in the demi-light of all illegal workers.  This unlikely pair forms a close friendship that extends well beyond the traditional borders of worker and employer as Juliet struggles to “rescue” Amman from deportation and failure, instead, setting his feet on the path to success.  In the process, she realizes that her own character needs reshaping as she overcomes her defensive mechanisms and learns to make herself a true friend of both Aaman and her childhood best buddy.  Alexi writes simply but compellingly, and turns an “easy read” into a worthwhile and lasting experience.  Intend to read all the books in this series.
Best Literary Fiction by a New (to me) Author
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Harold’s hike reminds us of Christ’s stations of the cross.  Harold labors under the burden of his personal sins, the guilt of his inaction, the pain of facing his son’s suicide, and his heartbreak over his withered marriage.  The gentle beauty of the novel is in how Joyce brings Harold closer to Maureen as he walks further away from their home and how in facing the death of Queenie he is able to reconcile himself to his son, David’s, loss years ago and to return to Maureen with hope.
Best Literary Fiction by an Old Friend Author
Benediction by Kent Haruf
Haruf’s novel is a portrait of a man, a town, and compassion, celebrating “the precious ordinary” of these people’s lives that is regarded by all of them as a blessing.  While not a Christian novel, it is a deeply religious one in the sense that it is about thankfulness for the gifts of kindness we show to one another, for life itself, and the ironic power of giving when receiving.  Haruf’s prose is spare and lean, much like the environment of Holt; it is direct and without embellishment, much like the people of Holt; and it is also respectful and objective, which lends the text the dignity that suffuses the book.
Best Experimental Fiction by an American Author
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
A tour de force that reminds me of Umberto Eco’s Baudolino in its richness of adventure, political satire, philosophical tunneling, and sheer narrative power.  This is a darkly humorous yet richly expressed satire of North Korea, the brutish tyranny, unspeakable torture, and unimaginable mass agony of a people oppressed by a tyrannical, mad, dictator. . .
. . .What Jun Do's character symbolizes is the essence of man's yearning for personal freedom that can not be obliterated even in the face of the most horrific suppression.  Simultaneously tragic and uplifting.
Best Literary Fiction by an International Author
Daniel by Henning Mankell
A dark and uncomfortable novel about racism, betrayal, abandonment, suppressed sexual desire, man’s inhumanity to man, longing for home, and the impossibility of really knowing someone whether in your own family or from half a world away and another culture.  In the 1870s, Hans Bengler leaves the dark and frigid land of his birth and sails from Sweden to South Africa.  A man of meager abilities, he’s determined to make his mark on the world by discovering a new insect that he intends to name after himself.  But he encounters a native child, the boy he adopts and names Daniel, and along with him, a lucky find with 6 legs.  Bengler takes them back to Sweden where he intends to display them both and earn fortune and fame.
Best Experimental Fiction by an Unknown to Me International Author
The Blue Book by A. L. Kennedy
What an author!  I think she’s the reincarnation of Virginia Woolf.  Prose like a dream that carries the reader along on waves of internal dialogue suited exactly to a building mystery that is revealed as Elizabeth, her current lover, Derek, and her past lover, Arthur Lockwood, sail to America. . .This is a novel about love’s destruction by horrific events kept secret and the possibility for love’s resurrection if enough determination, force, and will lies within the lover’s heart.  Elizabeth tells herself that “. . .loving the unlovable is stupid, is self harm – loving the reasonable is what I need and I can have that.”  But does she want that, does she even believe it?. . .
. . .Kennedy has written a book so fine yet harsh, so fragile yet strong, so repressed yet overflowing with emotion that the tension of the lovers’ dance is unbearable and can only be broken by a painful confession that could destroy everything – the reason for the Blue Book.  It’s devastating.
Best Mainstream Fiction by Any Author
The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
Seldom do I read a page turner like this novel, so beautifully written and artfully constructed.  Marina is a young Russian woman who is a guide in the Hermitage when WWII and the advancing Nazis threaten.  She and her fellow workers must bundle all the hundreds of art-filled rooms’ objects into cases to be shipped out of the city for safe-keeping, leaving the museum bare to serve as a bomb shelter to the workers and their families.  In chapters that alternate between that past and Marina’s American present, in which she is deteriorating from advanced Alzheimer’s, we experience the beauty of the Hermitage through Marina’s interior reminiscences as she builds a memory palace of the exhibition rooms and peoples the now empty walls and frames with the paintings – so many of them various Madonnas -- and furnishings that have been whisked away.  Dean's novel is complete and satisfying, far-roving and domestic, a total examination of life, art, suffering, perseverance, and the meanings of love.
Best Genre Fiction by Any Author (Western)
The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
There is nothing wrong with an old-fashioned novelist.  Always a pleasure to read a book by this author whose voice is so open and ingenuous, perfect for his characters who retain a certain innocence I’ve come to associate with many Western characters.  In small town eastern Montana lives Oliver Milliron, a widower, with his three young boys who all attend a one-room school.  Paul is the eldest and the pov character.  His father is in need of a housekeeper and answers a unique ad for one that includes pertinent information: “Can’t cook but doesn’t bite.”  Thus Rose Llewellyn and her “brother” Morris arrive and become part of the family. . .
. . .All the characters are drawn with the sure but minimalist hand of Japanese watercolor, so alive and individual that you can hear their voices echo in your head as if from another room. This small, simple, and evocative novel reminds us of the wonder of childhood, and more the value of a free public education.  Doig is the master of warmth and the word artist of Montana’s landscapes and pioneers.

Best General Nonfiction by Any Author
What It is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes

Unable to finish Matterhorn, but recognizing the worth of this author’s voice, I decided to try his nonfiction explication of what we fail to do as a country and society and what we should do to prepare our warriors to go into battle and then to reintegrate them into normal life once their tour of combat is over.  In this collection of essays on aspects of warrior preparation and debriefing, Marlantes touches on subjects of loyalty, courage, spirituality, ethical killing, bonding, separating, and ceremony.  He spends a lot of time struggling with the morality of war and how to justify that, drawing on religious books, mostly from non-Christian sources.  His thoughtful approach to preparation and treatment of warriors is derived from personal experience on the battlefield, what happened to him upon his return home, and how he found his own path to “healing.”
Best Nonfiction on My Favorite Hobby Subject -- Modern Physics
The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
Probably the clearest most succinct explanation of the origin of the Universe from its quantum beginnings, the Big Bang and its inflationary instant, to its accelerating expansion.  Hawking and Mladinow work their way from the understandable physics of Newton through the theory of electromagnetism and the beginnings of unifying theories, to Einstein’s rethinking of space/time, to the discovery of the Cosmic Background Radiation that tells us so much about our origins.  In the final two or three chapters, the authors champion M-Theory and address the why questions, affirming that we are but one of many possible universes and that the physical laws that we know derive from the fact that the original conditions allowed for perturbation rather than complete smoothness.  The single topic they left uncovered that remains such a mystery is the dark matter/dark energy topic.  [But that's all right because the second best book in this category that I read is The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality by Richard Panek, which talks all about that.]  Otherwise this is a solid short presentation of the state of modern physics and a cogent defense of the lack of need for first causes, hence a god "explanation," for our known world’s beginnings.

I think I managed to get one of the anticipated books of 2013 in there.  But did I reduce my tree-book-owned-by-me TBR stack in all this reading, something I'd resolved to do way back in 2011?  Not by one volume.  Sigh.  This is why I am a book slut.

Get thee to a nunnery.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you for your recommendations (12+ / 0-)

    I was really happy to see your recommendation of 'the unlikely pilgrimage of harold fry'. It was a favorite of mine as well. I really enjoyed the quiet introspection and the genuine openness of harold fry's character. The author's name is Rachel Joyce though, not Debra Dean.

    'A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under whose shade they will never sit' Greek Proverb

    by janis b on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:34:35 PM PDT

  •  I love your categories (6+ / 0-)

    I do continue to read my challenge books and I enjoyed most of them.  I have finished 15 of the 20 so far and I am doing well on 3 more which leaves 2 for the fall.

    My favorites for non-fiction:

    Prague Winter by Madeleine Albright

    An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison

    The Night Country by Loren Eisely re-read

    The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn Saks

    and for fantasy fun:

    Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

    Otherwise, I have been reading mysteries galore by Julia Spencer-Fleming, C. J. Box, Spencer Quinn, and Donna Andrews.  

    I liked The Madonnas of Leningrad, too, a few years back, and I have The Illegal Gardener on my TBR pile thanks to you.   :)

    Thanks for an interesting diary!!!

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 02:18:11 PM PDT

    •  Want to Read Albright's Book (6+ / 0-)

      I read Madam Secretary avidly and thoroughly enjoyed it.  But that was pretty strictly her political memoir.  Is Prague Winter more a personal autobiography?

      A mystery that was pretty good but not good enough to make my jewels list was Hawkwood by James McGee.   It's set in the time of the Napoleonic Wars and features an ex-army man of extensive past who is now one of 7 Bow Street runners working for the British crown.  Some good historical context for urban London and cameo appearances by actual historical figures.  In this one, Robert Fulton.

      Haven't read any good books set either in MI of FL, though.  Hope you and yours have a very happy 4th chock full of the traditional treats and activities.  We'll be protecting the animals from the frights of the night.

      I'm off to Atlanta for a while later this month.  Don't know how much reading I'll get done since I'll be up to my eyebrows in grandsons' lives -- swimming, tennis, soccer, summer fun in general.  Hooray!

      Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

      by Limelite on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 02:55:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I love trying to stretch my mind with physics, but (5+ / 0-)

    the last book I remember reading was John Gribbin's In Search of Schrodingers Cat, back in the eighties. What I remember most wasn't just how compelling the ideas were, but how accessible the material was for someone who had no training in mathematics or physics. Is the Hawing work accessible to the layman, or do we need a physics background to understand and enjoy it?

    BTW, it is really great to read your work again around here!

    •  Most Definitely (4+ / 0-)

      No math.  No quantum mechanics.  No D-brane discussions.  IMO, this book is far more accessible than even A Brief History of Time was.

      As for the second book I mention -- The 4% Universe, is more a recounting of the people involved in the discoveries that led up to and include theories about dark matter and energy.  Good overview of the entirely human nature (rivalries, feuds, self-doubts) of the physicists who have been involved in that specialty of modern physics.  From astronomers to particle physicists.  Book puts a human face on the story of CMB and how our increased understanding and interpretation of the beyond ancient radiation traces from time's beginnings have led to new theories about the nature of the expanding Universe.

      My favorite writer in modern physics is Lisa Randall of Harvard.  She's a premier physicist on the subject of branes, multiverses, and higher dimensions.  A little more robust writing, but still accessible is her Warped Passages.  I love that book!

      Alan H. Guth writes a bit technically, but is interesting and clear in that he explains how he goes about thinking and attacking physics problems, telling the reader in anecdotal form about it -- who he talks to, what ideas he has and discards, how he wrestles with reconciling difficulties in a theory, etc.  In short, he tells you what it felt like to do the physics of his era, the 70s and 80s when all this CMB radiation was The Big Thing.  The Inflationary Universe is almost a classic by him.  

      Thanks for the compliment.  It's hard to find the time and get the cooperation from my testy computer that seems to choke on scripts with every s/w update, making utilizing all the features on DK (including diarying) impossible at times.

      Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

      by Limelite on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 04:04:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The amazing thing about Hawking (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Limelite, Brecht, RiveroftheWest

      is his ability to find ingenious analogies for things that would otherwise be very hard to understand.  He's really got a gift in that department.

      •  You're So Intellectual (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brecht, RiveroftheWest

        The amazing thing about Hawking, to me, is that he's still alive and communicating.   ;^)

        Seriously, I totally agree with you.  To me "Hawking" is a synonym of "lucid."

        When he published A Brief History of Time I bought the book and stayed up well into the night reading non-stop until I'd finished the whole thing in a single gulp.  Afterwards, I felt as if my very being had expanded to contain my new understanding.  Since I first heard of him, he's been my personal hero because his scientific imagination is so vast and his ability to communicate with those of us whose scientific imaginations are as near to nonexistent as can be while still being there, is so concrete.

        Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

        by Limelite on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 07:13:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Your Book Journal is high on my TBR list (3+ / 0-)

    I always enjoy your reviews, which wrap the quiddity of each book in a poetic envelope. All these books sound appealing, in your telling.

    Baudolino is a touchstone for you, you mention it a lot. It seemed colorful but scattered to me. But Name of the Rose struck me as deeper and more solid than anything of his I've read since.

    Thinking about books every week leads to many small epiphanies, and some big ones. A food critic once wrote that the hardest part of the job was the sense memory. If you're reviewing a Chinese restaurant, you should be able to compare their General Gao's Chicken with your memories of two dozen other instances of the dish, scattered across decades.

    This constant handling of material, this examining and comparing of books, makes me see how shallow my grasp of them often is. Perhaps I need a Book Journal. I read a lot of fantasy and, outside of fantasy, there's magical realism and there are books with quests. So I often compare books with my mental image of The Lord of the Rings. But that's a huge book, which I read once, in my teens. So I've forgotten many details of the colors and textures in that tapestry. Furthermore, I now read much more deeply and comprehensively than I did then - I'm sure I missed loads when I did read LOTR.

    It seems to me that, if I want to write a substantial review of a book, I ought to read it at least twice before I even know what I think of it. One reading will do in a pinch, in that I have pretty fast intuition, so I'll at least grok the gist of it, and some salient points worth discussing. And there's something to be gained from not obsessing in little circles, but rather getting through more books and grabbing insights on the run.

    Are there any books you've read more than three times, Limelite, and do you think that you se them more clearly and deeply than other books, because of all the attention you've pointed their way?

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 06:08:05 PM PDT

    •  Oh My! (3+ / 0-)

      What a personal question!

      Not really.  But its sincerity demands a considered response.  Probably a lengthy one, too.  And I'm not feeling up to either requirement.  So here's the short and bitter.

      No.  I don't believe I've ever read any book three times, much less more than. At least not as a consenting adult. Only rarely have I read one twice.  Probably most often that was by mistake, having forgotten I read it already.

      I have teased myself now and then with the intention of re-reading a significant book read when young to see if I found it as absorbing, compelling, or transporting as I did years ago.  I'm thinking War and Peace here.

      I don't think I'm a scholarly reader, even though I'm academically trained to be. I kicked all that aside some years back.  Now I'm strictly a pleasure reader.  I read for the thrill of it.

      But I find it necessary to talk to myself about what I've read because I have the kind of mind that can only find out what it is it thinks by writing it down.  And I like to know what I think in the vein of "know thyself." Also, I live a hermit-like existence in geographical isolation and "talking" to myself in my Book Journal about what I read is the only way I can enjoy literary conversation -- something I crave almost to the degree that I crave actual reading.

      Please excuse this reply.  I don't intend it to be dismissive, even if it appears facile.  It's unfortunately quick and dirty.  Your question is deserving of a more considered response.

      I enjoyed reading your revelations about your own thoughtful reading process.  Your comments are the kind I relish as they give me more to think about and to test my mind against.  Thank you.

      Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

      by Limelite on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 07:06:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Three Ways of Expressing Understanding (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Limelite, RiveroftheWest

        No facile in it. If there were: a) I've seen enough acuity and insight from you, that it would only add variety to my picture of your mind; b) It's a holiday. Happy Birthday US; and c) I'll read your diary-length answer in a moment.

        The Greeks thought speech was truer than writing - primary, closer to the wind of momentary inspiration. Some of them, anyway, thought that. Probably the windbags, like Homer and Socrates. I've often thought with my tongue, developing my ideas in mid-flight. Even when I was sober. So there's the first way of expressing understanding.

        The second is conversation. Those wonderful friends that know us well who, when we see them, we complete each other's sentences, and we find our ideas come out clearer and more complete than when we thought them in private. Or, as you mention, those we sharpen our wits against, friends who challenge us to make our ideas more solid and precise: Those we "test [our] mind against". All my best friends have done both of these things, supporting my brainstorming and spotting holes in my arguments.

        I really enjoy the ongoing conversation in R&BLers, the couple of dozen Kossacks who I chat with every week, and get to know better all the time. With that learning and sharing a trust develops, a group understanding. If we're feeling facile, or witty, or dour, or curious, or argumentative - it's all okay, there is room for that. We want each other to be fully human, to be our whole selves. Well, okay, there are parts of me that I don't show much in R&BLers - but there is room for a lot of personality in a community with so much sensitivity and understanding.

        Third, is the writing of essays. It was a positive and enlarging epiphany when I wrote my first (and still my best) essay for R&BLers: The Himalayas of my Bookcase. When I got to the end of the first draft, two things happened. I wanted to go straight back to the beginning and start editing and improving it. Very strange. Work had become play. Also, I had started with a sense of my whole theory of reading - I knew the story I intended to tell. By the time I finished writing it out, my theory was much better: Larger, more subtle, more precise. The work of writing made my ideas smarter.

        A very long comment. Off now to your diary. Thank you for founding R&BLers, and growing it up with a firm clear vision and hand on the tiller. My life is better now.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 09:42:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  One -- I Reread Your Himalaya Diary (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, Brecht

          Excellent and impressive and. . .Himalayan.  Far more intelligent, educated, and perspicacious than I can ever be.  I admire you and writers like you who take full advantage of the writing process to draft and re-draft.  You have the real brains and analytical minds on which a great deal of own thinking depends.  In contrast to you, I am a regurgitater of my mind onto the page.  I sit down in front of the computer, often with not an idea in my head, and start typing.  It's a monologue, really.  Like those Greek rhetoricians, I "speak" to readers via the act of blogging.  No working involved in my essays.  If there were, I wouldn't do it, being basically lazy.   ;^)

          About those Greeks. . .I think their love affair with rhetoric may, in part, derive from a) their type of government -- at least the Attic Greeks and b) their love of argument, a cousin of democracy.  If you're going to live in a democracy such as they did, it requires great skill in persuasion, which is best carried out at the personal harangue level, I think.  At least in those times.

          Conversation among close friends in my experience is so much expression of, "Yes!  Exactly."  "You read my mind!"  "How did you know what I was thinking?"  It gets scary.  I need more Verfremdungseffekt (thank you for that!) in order to come to know my own mind.  And less congenial clamor.  That's why I enjoy commenting in threads.  It allows me to write rather than speak, a condition in which I can formulate, then hear my own thoughts before spouting them.  Something I do less well in conversation.

          As you hint, R&BLers allows for greater intimacy of mind than real world contact.  I sometimes wonder if I would recognize the persons I "know" here if I ever attended a Netroots Nation convention.  Because I doubt that a personal encounter would be as gratifying, since I've envisioned each of my favorite R&BLers (you and many others included!) as characters in the novel of my virtual life, I avoid putting myself in the way of actually meeting any of you.  Sad but true.  Also, I am made uncomfortable when meeting "strangers" in large groups.  Too much stimulation; brain overload; shock and internal collapse!  No party animal, I.  

          Lastly, R&BLers arose (I have to admit to myself as I peel away layers to get to real honesty) because when Kos announced, "Let there be Groups," I immediately realized I could create a playground for myself.  The most magnificent playground where all the things I love most in life could come together -- books, talk about books, like-minded lovers of books, mindful people, the 'best and brightest' truly engaged persons who loved reading -- and play with me.  There you have it.  It isn't I who have made your (by which I mean all R&BLer participants) lives better by "imagineering" what has become R&BLers as we experience it.  It's the reverse.

          Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

          by Limelite on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 06:02:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You praise me too much, and yourself too little. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RiveroftheWest, Limelite

            But that's fine, because the compliments you give me are so precise, and so exceedingly apt ;~}

            I agree, about friends to challenge our wits against. Blake wrote "Contention is true friendship" - it's only part of the truth, but it's the part too many people don't get. I like the Greek ideal of Arete, of healthy competition for excellence. Paul and John helped each other with most of their songs - but each really enjoyed when one that was more theirs became the next A side of a single, and they strove to excel each other.

            This conversing, on the internet, is a different sort of intimacy: More intellectual than sensual. We can't see each other's expressions, or hear each other's tones. Which makes misunderstandings rife in, say, the heat of a pie-fight. But we have more time to frame our thoughts, and we can reread to be sure what others said. So, if people are on the same wavelength, or are being careful enough in their listening and speaking, they can reach an intricacy of talk which face-to-face flow rarely captures.

            However it came to be, R&BLers is my favorite playground on my favorite website. Big hearts, sharp minds, good taste and great conversation. It is a little like being in the Beatles. Not that we're competing for the A side, just that it's worth going to the trouble of writing a four paragraph comment in yesterday's diary, which I expect only you and RiveroftheWest will read - because I still trust my message will get through, and be heard clearly at the other end.

            Our conversation here, across the diaries, down through the months, it feels so human in my heart. :~}

            "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

            by Brecht on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 09:24:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  What a nice thing to say, Brecht... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Limelite, Brecht

              I've worked 7 of the past 9 days (no joke at my age!) and I'm way behind on reading my favorite diaries, but I'm glad to have caught this one in a timely fashion. A tourism-related job sometimes means a real slog when holidays roll around....

              I sometimes see DKos commenters (though R&BLers less than others) dash off a remark that just leaves you pondering, "Why did he say that?  Why would she write that, here in such a public place? I think there's always a reason, even if the commenter doesn't know what it is.

              A friend (and former DKos diarist) recently told me that he writes to discover what really happened in his life, and who he really is. Both of us read mainly non-fiction, and I found myself defending fiction as a means for writers who, being private people, need that layer of "plausible deniability" in order to to speak about themselves. I said that their experiences are no less valid for being shifted to a surrogate, and if doing so enables them to write of emotions they can't express otherwise... well, writing is just a tool sometimes, and not always literature!

              But we all learn something from the real writers here. Thank you, Brecht, and thank you, Limelite.

              •  "Why did he say that? Why would she write that, (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                RiveroftheWest, Limelite

                here in such a public place?" I think there's always a reason, even if the commenter doesn't know what it is.

                The armchair psychologist in me is always asking this, and I sometimes get sucked in to a whole rabbit warren of speculation. But people are pretty fascinating. Sometimes the pie-fights and dramas of DKos are my reality TV, though with more mystery and (usually) less trashiness. It is a strange kind of wisdom, when you sometimes glimpse the reasons behind a stance, more clearly than the person making it can.

                Writing is a vital means of self-discovery. Journaling is a clear and apparent first step - it points straight at the self you see. But fiction allows so many more angles, and ways to play, and combinations (e.g. when your bossy self in one character argues with your gentle self in another). It may be less direct, but it can lead to many hidden doors. You can write towards truths you cannot grasp or see, just breezes indicating a way out of one of your caves.

                "But we all learn something from the real writers here." We all are real writers here. We just have a lot more writing to do before we see where the real breezes will lead us.

                "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                by Brecht on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 11:36:13 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  I Am Often Guilty of the Slapdash Remark (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                RiveroftheWest, Brecht

                or sarcastic reply, especially in the political diaries where patience wears thin.

                Full disclosure: I do this in real life, too when confronted by The Stupid.  One of my faults.

                I think you put your finger on it when you said writers are private people.  Something difficult to be in this age of leaving one's guts all over the public arena.  But readers can be, too.  In some ways, fiction is the ultimate refuge of the private reading person because it provides an opportunity to live and be immersed in a world constructed by one other but imaginatively inhabited by one real "you" -- the reader -- whose "life in the book" is a solitary experience.

                It is the phenomenon of R&BLers that the private person readers can engage a community of similarly private minds in public discussion, yet still retain the sense of privacy.  Ironically, these conditions lead to much more revelatory exchanges, I think, than do the full exposure tell-all and show-all entertainments otherwise readily available to us.

                Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

                by Limelite on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 01:00:18 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Private people... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Limelite, Brecht

                  Exactly. ...leaving one's guts all over the public arena... the public weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, whether in social or political circles is exhausting and finally, disgusting. Thoughtful discussion yields a bit more light than heat, at least, displaying the best of ourselves rather than the worst.

            •  "The Reatles" (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RiveroftheWest, Brecht

              The damn frogs woke me up.  Living in the near tropics is LOUD at night during the rainy season.

              BTW, I'm grinning in a Ringo kind of way.

              Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

              by Limelite on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 12:44:43 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Look What I Found (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brecht, RiveroftheWest

      Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

      by Limelite on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 08:04:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This year, part 1 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Limelite, Brecht, RiveroftheWest

    Looks like the only thing I've read on your list is the Hawking, which I can't recommend enough.

    Best non-fiction I've read in the last 6 months is Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife.  Seife manages, through his concentration on 0, to cover a lot of history and a lot of science in a very short book.

    My favorite fiction so far was Europe Central by William T. Vollmann.  World War II through the 1950s through the eyes of German and Russian characters, many of them borrowed from real life.

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