Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive […]

The Girl Who Cried Flowers

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The Girl Who Cried Flowers by Jane Yolen is a book I have been searching for my entire adult life. While this book is a tiny one, holding only five short fairy tales, one of those stories was one my sister and I read as youngsters. The book in which it belonged was filled with many such folkloric tales, but somehow it was lost (along with an incredible illustrated folkloric Beauty and the Beast book that I weep having lost to this day), and has been impossible to find no matter how many times we Googled.

Well, my friends, I found that story. Finally.  A Google search was fruitful this time, pointing me to this book. I wish I could properly explain to you my whirlwind excitement. The rush as my fingers bolted to the library website, typed in the title and discovered the book was available at my local branch at that exact moment! My race to the car to get over there as quick as I could, hurrying along the shelves to pluck it up. I opened it up as I walked toward check out and came to a slow stop, reading the first few paragraphs that brought my fifteen year search to an end. I swear the smile I was wearing was the smile of a child who had gotten the best gift.

Best of all, the story is worth it. “Silent Bianca” is about a beautiful wraith-like woman whose words come out as frozen slivers of ice. The only way to hear her words is to catch them before they fall to the ground, or get blown away by the wind, then melt them by the fire to release their sound. The details remembered between my sister and I were all there, filled in with everything we didn’t. And it has a happy ending. I long feared that finding the story would mean that I would discover it was a tragic fairy tale, but I was so very pleased when it turned out to be a completely positive one!

The title story is also very good, albeit bittersweet, while the other three are lackluster.

Once I knew it was the right story, I was able to Google the story’s bibliography and found that it has only been in one other collection. By default, that has to be the one we’d had and lost. I now have two copies in my Amazon cart. One for me and one for my sister.

Maybe all little girls do need fairy tales.

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.

Rudyard Kipling, “If”

The Bizarre Truth

 I am a huge fan of Andrew Zimmern.  I could wax poetical about his incredible warmth, witty narrative style, and deep appreciation for the lost—but universal—truths about life and the world.  I think that his show ‘Bizarre Foods’ is one of my favorite shows of all time.  I excitedly pounce on new episodes as soon as I can get at them, because this man is an amazing one.  If he could be summed up in a single word—I said could, not is—then that word would be ‘genuine’.  He is absolutely the sort of person I wish that I could have around me, because who he is would invariably change me for the better.  He does it through a television screen, for crying out loud, how could he not be even more awesome as a friend?

 Clearly, because I love this guy, I was ecstatic about reading his book, but I ended up being, well… bored to tears.  The one and only problem with the book is that its material is 98% that of his episodes.  One could say there is some behind-the-scenes insight, but Andrew wears his heart—and stomach—on his sleeve at all times.  I feel like I know everything going on with the man because it shows in every glance, expression, and comment that he puts out.  He gives all of himself to other people, and the camera is just a minor detail between him and you on the other side.  He shares with you like a bosom buddy.  So, for me, the book was extraneous.

I would one-hundred percent recommend this book for anyone to read, his style is great and he’s a blast as always, and the message is an excellent one.  The exception to this are die-hard viewers of the series, where it’s highly likely that you already know these stories and revelations first hand.

Oh, and have I mentioned, I love Andrew Zimmern?

A Monstrous Regiment of Women

 ‘A Monstrous Regiment of Women’ by Laurie R. King is the second in a series of Mary Russell novels featuring Sherlock Holmes.  I read the first one early last year, although ‘read’ is a highly debated term among readers when one receives the story through audiobooks.  The narrator took certain facts too seriously and the depiction of Sherlock was rather sub-par to an otherwise all right narration.

 I decided to read this series because I’d been attracted to the title of a later installment of the currently ten book series (‘God of the Hive’) and found myself interested in the idea of Sherlock Holmes with a wife that went along on his adventures.

 The first book had its faults, such as the fact that the main character was first sixteen and then nineteen (I’m not a huge fan of teenagers), and I had a hard time believing that a sixty year old Sherlock would bother himself with a pubescent girl that I was not convinced was all that interesting yet.  Still, I decided to give the series a second chance and picked this one up in paperback.

I was right that this book was much improved by my own reading voice than listening to it.  It ended up being a rather good book, but it had its own faults to contend with.  Firstly, I have a hard time staying interested in period literature that depicts religion and feminism as main features of the story and this book was a hybrid of both.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s old hat here in 2012 that women should have rights, or that I have no interest in specific religion because I favor spirituality, or because I’m simply a heartless wretch over all, but I just wasn’t revved up by a story founded on these features.  I found myself really wanting to skip to the parts with Sherlock, since the dawning realization of man-woman between them in this book was vastly preferable to a feminist evangelist.

However, the last third of the book is brilliant.  King’s style is a rather good recitation of facts with occasional unique lines that are truly gems.  However, the writing seemed a tad grueling until the subject matter had absolutely nothing to do with the main plot.  Suddenly, I was very immersed in every moment, because the subject matter was now very fascinating and well-done, proving that King is actually a wonderful writer when I’m interested.  I am hoping that the next book will be wholly more interesting, even though I have since come to understand that the author is a feminist and, of course, the main character is not only Jewish, but majored in theology.  I will run into these subjects through out the series, but if I made it through this book then I can handle the others.

I mentioned before that I had a hard time believing their partnership in the first book, but I had no issues at all with their relationship in this one.  There is a deeply believable camaraderie between Holmes and Russell that I enjoyed, so no worries there.  There is only one fatal flaw in the series as a whole that will never change.  The age gap between Sherlock and Mary.

I am a big advocate of age gap romances, so when things happened between the two of them in this book, it was a natural and enjoyable.  Sherlock looks and acts much more like a 45 year old than a man of 60.  I’m agitated by the seemingly arbitrary age given to the man and strongly feel like he is this age merely because King wanted to write in this specific time period (1920+), not because the character actually follows this in any way.

I realize this review is going on and on, but I want to add in one last thing.  There is a miniature interview with the author in the back of the book and there was one thing she said that is absolutely true and I have long agreed with.  She pointed out a curious thing about writing historical books.  They are, typically, real or realistic.  She pointed out that if you find a book written in the time, there is virtually no reference to anything that distinguishes it from the time period; it is simplistic, ‘real’, and therefore timeless.  However, if a book is written now, but set in an earlier time period, readers crave validation and the author must throw in slang, historical details, and culture to do so, therefore it is ‘realistic’.  Just an interesting truth.

Over all, I liked this novel and will definitely check out the next book soon.

Spontaneous Happiness

 ‘Spontaneous Happiness’ by Andrew Weil, MD was a book I had high hopes for.  Prefaced with that sentence, you can imagine there’s a ‘but’ in there and there is.  However, while much of the book was an enormous bore, there are several things that made me feel like I’d had a concept put to me in a new way that helped it click a little better than before.

Filled with information I either already knew or didn’t care much about (by being overly technical and therefore lost my interest), the elements that I appreciated are the following concepts:

  •  Happiness is not a state that can be maintained constantly.  It is a high point on a natural algorithm.  Being sad, depressed, et cetera, are necessary mood points.  The true state we should actually be achieving is contentment, which is the mid-point on the wavelength that we should bounce back to most of the time.  Euphoria is nice but, like mourning, cannot and should not be maintained for extended periods.
  • Positive therapy to help condition the mind and body for contentment is made up of three major areas: pleasure, flow, and meaning. Pleasure from tasks such as the extremely positive feelings from eating good food or sex and intimacy.  Flow such as when you lose yourself in a task for a good period of time that is neither too easy or too hard.  And meaning, which seems pretty self-explanatory, but can be summarized as doing tasks that fulfill you by utilizing your personal talents towards a larger picture.
  • Our minds needs occupying like an elephant’s mischievous trunk.  He pointed out that during parade processions in India elephants are given a bamboo cane.  Because with their trunk preoccupied with the bamboo, they cannot pluck and grab at everything they pass.  He uses this analogy toward understanding how sometimes the human brain needs training back to a harmless focus so that we don’t get ourselves into emotional trouble.