Monday, May 23, 2022

Lots To Do

 

I've got a really full week ahead with lots to do, so I'm taking a break. I'll be back soon to tell you all about it. Hope you're enjoying a good Monday!

Friday, May 20, 2022

Friday Letters: 5/20/22


Today I'm taking my virtual fountain pen in hand to tell you about an event, share some good news, and let you know about a deal you might not be able to resist.
 Let's open the mail ...

====


Dear Hawkeye Services,

John and I are not terribly social people, so you can imagine how excited I was to be invited to the above event. It turns out that the gala event had to be rescheduled and is happening today. You don't specify whether the dress is casual, formal, or maybe even black tie, so I hope we don't wear the wrong thing. 

====

Dear Mr. Nelson Bruce, 

The receipt of this mail did spur inquisition, but I have a few questions before I send you my details. First, I'm wondering why you might be sending me US $2 million from the compensation fund? I don't believe the British government owes me anything, but if you want to pay me my $2 million from the 1st category "A" of the payment manifest, as this has been ordered by the UK Supreme Court, please go right ahead. I would certainly welcome it, especially because I know you want to avoid possible impairment of the British image. I also wonder why you are forced to use a hotmail email address? I would have expected something a bit more official. But thank you for the offer and your sincere congratulations; I hope to see a deposit in my bank account any day now.

====


Dear Dead Japanese Maple Guy,

What a deal! I appreciate you offering this dead tree for free, but I'm sorry I won't be able to take advantage of your fine item. You describe it as used, fair condition, which seems a bit generous for a dead tree. I'm not a woodcarver, an artist that needs a dead tree, and I don't have a big birdcage to put it in to display my bird carvings on it, but I'm sure someone has already snapped up this beautiful dead Japanese maple by now. I can only hope you will have more dead trees or other valuable items to offer in the future. 

====

I hope you have some fun events of your own this weekend, a chance at an unexpected windfall, and maybe there is even a lovely dead maple tree in your future. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Unraveled Wednesday: 5/18/22

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday, with one final photo of my Antler cardigan (at least until next fall when I get it out of storage to wear to the NJ Sheep & Wool Show). 

The photo session didn't start out very well. I asked John to take a few photos, and technology isn't his thing (even though all I wanted was a few pictures with my phone). 


I was slightly disgruntled at the photographer, not the sweater. But here are a few other pictures where I look slightly happier.




It fits reasonably well, I love the buttons, and I'm happy with the sweater overall. Because I sort of fiddled with the sizing by using DK instead of worsted, I'm very pleasantly surprised. Maybe I'll even knit another sweater before three more decades elapse, but for the immediate future, it's back to Hitchhikers. 

I listened to Island of the Blue Dolphins after Kat's Museum of Me post last week and it was as wonderful as she proclaimed. My only regret is that I somehow missed reading this as a young girl. I read another book this week, a pre-publication copy of All the Living and the Dead. The book may not be for everyone, but I loved it. The author wrote the book because she wondered how people who have made death their work manage it on a daily basis. “If the reason we’re outsourcing this burden is because it’s too much for us, how do they deal with it?”

Hayley Campbell interviews many different people associated with death - a funeral director, the director of anatomical services at Mayo Clinic, an embalmer, a crime scene cleaner, a death mask maker, an executioner, anatomic pathology technologist, bereavement midwife, gravediggers, crematorium operator, and even people at a cryonics institute. I learned that there are many more people involved with death than I ever thought, and with their varied viewpoints, I also learned that it's far more than just a job to many of them. The care and respect they feel and show in their work is evident, even if it's work that most people will never see and may not be appreciated. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Get to the Root

In the garden of your life, I hope that thistles are few,


and that you can get the whole root out easily.


(Now does anyone have any tricks for getting thistle stickers out of my skin? I can't see them, but I sure can feel them!)


Monday, May 16, 2022

Happy Birthday!

Wishing a very Happy Birthday to the kid climbing into his engine bay! I'm now the proud mother of a twenty-nine-year-old wonderful young man.


(His father still thinks he needs to dispense fatherly advice, but I'm not sure how much Justin listens.)

I hope your week is off to a good start!

Friday, May 13, 2022

Museum of Me: May 2022

Hello and welcome to the May installation at the Museum of Me. The staff has been working hard on a new exhibit. This has involved some thinking, dusting, and checking through all the books in my collection. If you'll please follow the docent, she'll show you around this month's exhibit. This is a display near and dear to my heart - my favorite book as a child. 


That is a category that's too big for me to narrow down, so let's say it was my favorite book as a child, ages five to seven. It's Marshmallow written and illustrated by Clare Turlay Newberry. It was originally published in 1942 and the one I think my sister and I read every night might have been my mother's copy. I looked through all of the children's books that I have not been able to get rid of, but sadly, I don't have our copy. Some things exist quite comfortably in our memories


Oliver is a tabby cat who is the center of attention in his home. Marshmallow is a baby bunny who moves into Oliver's home. At first, Oliver doesn't welcome Marshmallow at all, but the bunny's charms are just too hard to resist, and (spoiler alert) they eventually become friends.


This was really the perfect book for my sister and me. She loved cats and I was partial to rabbits. Both of us loved the illustrations in the book. 



The book tells the story of how Oliver and Marshmallow become friends, along with some poetry interspersed among the pages. 


A Poem In Praise of Rabbits

A bunny is a quiet pet,
A bunny is the best thing yet,
A bunny never makes a sound,
A bunny’s nice to have around.

Puppies whimper, bark and growl;
Kittens mew and tomcats yowl;
Birdies twitter, chirp and tweet;
Moo-cows moo, and lampkins bleat;

Some creatures bellow, others bray;
Some hoot, or honk, or yap, or neigh;
Most creatures make annoying noises,
Even little girls and boyses.

A bunny, though, is never heard,
He simply never says a word.
A bunny’s a delightful habit,
No home’s complete without a rabbit.

I don't think I memorized poems when I was five years old, but I do remember telling my parents, "A bunny’s a delightful habit, No home’s complete without a rabbit" when lobbying for a rabbit. We already had an indoor cat and my sister and I explained how our cat Bitsy would be best friends with a rabbit, just like in the book. We did eventually get a bunny rabbit, but he lived outside in a hutch. He was named Marshmallow of course!



I'm not sure if this is the kind of book that would appeal to children today, but it was one of my favorites. I'm amazed that I managed to put together this Museum of Me post without buying a copy. It's still in print today, but I really like the older versions best, and they are pricey. 

Thank you for visiting the Museum of Me for one of my favorite books from childhood. The Museum of Me exhibits will be changed monthly on the second Friday of the month, so please stop by again in June for the next carefully curated installation. (The gift shop is on the right on your way out!)

I'd love to hear about your favorite childhood book in the comments, so please feel free to let me know about one or two (or more) titles!

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Poetry on Thursday

I wonder if you had hoped that I would forget about Poetry after April was over? (Not likely!) I've just read some excerpts from Ada Limón's new book of poetry, The Hurting Kind, and was deeply moved so I wanted to share while I wait for my own copy of the book to arrive. 

This is from the fifth stanza of the poem entitled "The Hurting Kind". It's a long poem with six stanzas, so I'm just sharing one. 

5.

Once, a long time ago, we sat in the carport of my grandparents’
            house in Redlands, now stolen for eminent  domain,

now the hospital parking lot, no more coyotes or caves
            where the coyotes would live. Or the grandfather clock

in the house my grandfather built. The porch above the orchard.
            All gone.

We sat in the carport and watched the longest snake
            I’d ever seen undulate between the hanging succulents.

They told me not to worry, that the snake had a name,

             the snake was called a California King,

glossy black with yellow
            stripes like wonders wrapping around him.

My grandparents, my ancestors, told me never
            to kill a California King, benevolent

as they were, equanimous like earth or sky, not

            toothy like the dog Chacho who barked
at nearly every train whistle or roadrunner.

Before my grandfather died, I asked him what sort
            of horse he had growing up. He said,

Just a horse. My horse, with such a tenderness it
            rubbed the bones in the ribs all wrong.

I have always been too sensitive, a weeper
            from a long line of weepers.

I am the hurting kind. I keep searching for proof.

My grandfather carried that snake to the cactus,
            where all sharp things could stay safe.

====

Limón, Ada. "The Hurting Kind." The Hurting Kind, Milkweed Editions, 2022.
You can read more about the poet here
====
It's not the grandfather, the fact that his house has been stolen for a parking lot, the snake, or the horse that spoke to me, it's the idea of the hurting kind. I think that going through the pandemic may have made us all more sensitive to the world’s pains and joys, the natural world and the human world, and the relationships between us all. I once had a person whose opinion I value tell me that they thought Justin was too sensitive to live in this world and I should seriously consider medication for him. I didn't medicate him, but I think I understand the hurting kind, and that each of us might belong to that group from time to time. 
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Unraveled Wednesday: 5/11/22

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday, with an Antler cardigan that's very close to being done. My buttons haven't arrived yet, but I'm happy to give the Hitchhiker some monogamous attention in the meantime.


I spent the afternoon on Sunday making buttonholes I was happy with and decided to block it on Monday. It's still drying, and I thought about taking it outside for a better photo, but it's oak catkin season and I did not want to spend another afternoon picking little bits and pieces off of the sweater. So ignore the blotchiness and shadows as they are artifacts from the dining room chandelier. I hope the buttons arrive this week and I can show you a final photo of a completely finished sweater (one where I'm actually wearing it) next week!

Last week, I finished The Winners, Remarkably Bright Creatures, Unwinding Anxiety, and The Book of Form and Emptiness; they were all three stars for me. I'm working on finishing Young Mungo (and taking notes as I read), and I started Bittersweet. Susan Cain authored Bittersweet so I was happy to be one of the first on the hold list at the library. Her book Quiet felt life-changing (or life-affirming at the very least) to me, and I'm finding Bittersweet to be much the same so far. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, May 9, 2022

It's a New Garden!

We've had lots of gardens. When we first moved to NJ, we tried to keep up John's father's garden in PA, but it was pretty big and it took almost two full days each week to take care of it and all the produce. We were both working full-time and had young children so that only lasted a couple of years.


In 2012, John tilled a large portion of the backyard in NJ where we had had an above-ground pool, and we gardened there for six years. We successfully grew peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, peppers, cabbage, popcorn, and some interesting carrots.





The garden in NJ started looking pretty bad during the summer of 2018.


Most of our plants looked dried-up and desiccated, no matter how much we watered. After some soil testing, we found out that the soil was infected with verticillium and fusarium wilt. They are serious fungal diseases that affect many plants, trees, and shrubs, and there is no fungicide available to successfully treat the soil. This is kind of a forever disease, so we won't be able to plant in this location again.

But we bought the house in MD in 2018, and John broke ground for a new garden down there. We had quite a productive patch for four years.  





But with the MD house sold, and the NJ garden soil infected with fungal wilt, what's a gardener to do?


Dig up Ryan's backyard! We've been working on this for about six weeks, and we now have a fully tilled and fenced garden planted with peas, turnips, carrots, onions, and dill. I've started tomato, pepper, and cabbage seedlings that are coming along nicely. The soil temperatures are still a bit chilly, but I'll plant them in the garden in the next couple of weeks. 




Ryan isn't really a gardener, but he's helped a lot, and he may come to enjoy it more now that there is a garden in his backyard. I've planted a row of mint next to his shed, and he's been making sure that it has enough water, so he should be able to make mint tea soon. At the very least he's got less lawn to mow! 

I hope your garden is coming along, whether it's full of flowers, vegetables, or you just enjoy and admire growing things wherever they happen to be growing. 

Friday, May 6, 2022

Friday Letters: 5/6/22


Today I'm taking my virtual fountain pen in hand to give you a long-awaited update, express some outrage, ask for a new, improved product, and tell you a secret. Let's open the mail ...

====


Dear Readers,

Remember this picture of the puzzling structure in my neighbor's yard from a few weeks ago? We had some good guesses in the comments - a place to store trash bins, a well cover, a smokehouse, but I finally have the answer for you. I was walking past their house last weekend, saw them standing outside, and marched up the driveway to ask them what it was. They laughed and said it was "The Snoopy House". They had built it a couple of years ago, decorated it with Christmas lights, and put speakers inside. At Christmas time, they played the soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas and broadcast it to the neighborhood. They said they meant to use it at Halloween, Easter, and whatever other holidays they could, but their interest had just fizzled. They were kind of apologetic, but I told them that several people have been wondering just what this interesting structure was and I was happy to finally provide the answer. I told them that I would make it a point to walk past at Christmas time and I hoped to hear music and see lights flashing!

====
 

To SCOTUS,

I have no words. (Well, I do have a few for you.) Dark days are upon us when you are more concerned about the leak of the draft than what the draft says. I find it incomprehensible that you have said the government does not have the authority to make people wear a mask, get tested, or get vaccinated against covid, but you are ready to say that it does have the authority to force women to give birth against their will. I'm not a constitutional scholar, but I am appalled at your decision.

====


Dear Celestial Seasonings,

My drink of choice this week has been Tension Tamer tea. It's soothing and sometimes I mix it with Peppermint for a different taste. This has been quite a week for many people and I wonder if you might have considered Extra-Strength Tension Tamer? I would buy it by the case. Thanks for your consideration. 

====


Dear Readers, 

I have a secret to share with you. While I'm waiting for my buttons to arrive, I decided to deal with the pesky underarm stitches. The directions said to graft them, and I gave it my best. After four attempts at grafting just 10 stitches on each side of the underarm, I was at my wit's end. Each try looked sloppy and the stitches were loose and uneven. I sat down with a cup of tea and checked out what else I could do. I was intrigued to find that Kay from Modern Daily Knitting suggested a three-needle bind off. I found several sites that said this should never be done as it would result in a sloppy, tight underarm area. But I finished my tea and with my tension tamed, I threw caution to the wind and did the three-needle bind off. It worked, much neater than my attempts at Kitchener stitch and it doesn't seem too tight. Hooray for 3NBO!

P.S. Please don't report me to the knitting police. 

====

I wish you a lovely weekend, one without tension, with a neat and useful shortcut or two, and a Happy Mother's Day if you're celebrating.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Unraveled Wednesday: 5/4/22

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday, as the Antler cardigan inches slowly towards completion. 

I've reached a stopping point, but it's for a good reason. I knit the non-buttonhole button band, then picked up stitches for the buttonhole side of the button band. As I approached the buttonhole row, I thought I should decide what type of buttonhole I wanted to knit. After trying a few two and three-stitch buttonholes and having them look fairly sloppy, I decided that it might be smarter to have buttons in hand, and then I could make an educated decision about what type of buttonholes would work. I'm favoring eyelet buttonholes (yo, k2tog) now because they look the neatest and hide nicely in the purl stitches of the ribbing, but we'll see.

I paused my knitting, took a piece of deer antler out to the shop, and tried to cut a slice of the antler for a button. It worked but it would have been the thickest button you've ever seen. I cut a few more slices and finally got one that looked okay. I used the Dremel to try and drill two holes in the slice, but the slice cracked. After several more attempts, I finally had a slice of the right thickness with two holes in it. Then it was time to polish it with some fine-grit sandpaper. Ninety minutes later I had one passable button that I had spent a total of almost four hours on. I think I'll need seven buttons, so I was feeling quite discouraged. (So discouraged I couldn't even take any photos of the mess I had made.) I came in and checked antler buttons on Etsy, and within 15 minutes I had ordered a set of 10 buttons from a guy in MT for $10.95. So the sweater is on hold until I get the buttons and can decide if they will work and what type of buttonholes will be best. I was kind of disappointed with myself for not being able to produce decent-looking antler buttons, but then I remembered I didn't raise the sheep or spin the yarn myself, and there wasn't any shame in buying buttons. People do that every day! :-) I'm not a person who buttons sweaters but it seems kind of silly to knit a cardigan but not have any buttons or buttonholes on it. 

In reading, I didn't finish any books this week but have been busy adding books to my pile and dipping into them occasionally. The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki, The Winners by Fredrik Backman, Unwinding Anxiety by Judson Brewer, and of course, Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart are all on my Currently Reading shelf. I need a good rainy day so I can stay inside and actually finish some books. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, May 2, 2022

I Really Need to Understand This ...

 ... or how calamari and gnocchi alla gorgonzola led to lots of reading about critical race theory. 


Last week John and I went out to lunch with two other couples. The men all worked together for 25 years or more, and the wives have all known each other for about the same length of time. John was the last person in the bunch to retire, so we got together for a celebratory lunch.

At first, we chatted about what everyone has been doing, their health, Ukraine, and the general state of the world. After we had ordered, one of the wives got a book out of her bag and said it was so good she had read it twice. The title of the book was Reasons to Vote for Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide. I know that all four of the others are Republicans, so my first thought was "How nice! This is a genuine effort to understand the other side." But when I opened it up, the book was blank, except for a Table of Contents, which listed chapters on Economics, Foreign Policy, Civil Rights, Education, etc. I chuckled, smiled, handed the book back to her, and wondered how I could break into the blank book market. 

The conversation then veered toward their grandchildren. They vary in age from newborns to teenagers, but most of them are in school. The woman who brought the book is involved in starting a school at their church because she doesn't want her grandchildren to be taught any critical race theory. I had already defended covid vaccinations and mask-wearing, so I poured another glass of wine and asked her what exactly critical race theory was and how they were teaching it to kindergartners. She couldn't give me an answer that made sense to me, but on the way home I thought "I really need to understand this." I've certainly heard the term but haven't really understood what it is and why everyone is so up in arms about it. Many people seem to try and label ideas as simply good or bad, but I think that critical race theory is more complex than that (as are many things!) The term seems to have become a catchall for conservatives for teachings about race that they oppose.

After reading this weekend, I'm still not sure I have a thorough understanding, but I think I know a little bit more. One of the best definitions I found comes from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund: "Critical Race Theory, or CRT, is an academic and legal framework that denotes that systemic racism is part of American society — from education and housing to employment and healthcare. Critical Race Theory recognizes that racism is more than the result of individual bias and prejudice. It is embedded in laws, policies and institutions that uphold and reproduce racial inequalities." I personally don't see this as untrue, but quite a few conservatives seem to have taken this as a personal affront and feel as if they are being accused, shamed, or labeled as bigots. “The problem is not bad people,” said Mari Matsuda, a law professor at the University of Hawaii who was an early developer of critical race theory. “The problem is a system that reproduces bad outcomes. It is both humane and inclusive to say, ‘We have done things that have hurt all of us, and we need to find a way out.’”

After protests over the police killing of George Floyd prompted new conversations about racism in the United States in 2020, Donald Trump issued a memo to federal agencies that warned against critical race theory, labeling it as “divisive". He issued an executive order barring any training that suggested the United States was fundamentally racist. The Biden administration has rescinded Trump's order, but many Republican state legislatures have latched onto the cause and an alarming number have passed state laws that restrict education on racism and bias. You can see some interactive maps here

From just a simple lunch, I can see how the topic has exploded, without people having an understanding of what it actually means. Several of the people at lunch told me that their grandchildren had been taught that Jim Crow laws prevented Blacks from voting and been forced to learn that Blacks are more likely to be killed by police. Well, Jim Crow laws did prevent Blacks from voting and minorities are still being prevented from voting; Blacks are more likely to be killed by police. I don't think banning topics in the teaching of history, English, literature, and even math (I'm looking at you, Florida) and quashing discussion of them is going to resolve anything, but I now understand what a hot topic it is. Maybe I'm sheltered and naive, and I don't often have political discussions with people, but I've been thinking about this discussion quite a bit (thus this blog post). Maybe we need to have lunch with acquaintances who are more open to ideas and more tolerant of others' viewpoints. (The food was good!)

I'm not sure I understand everything that critical race theory says, but I do know that we can't just make laws prohibiting it. Victor Ray, a sociologist at The University of Iowa points out, “Making laws outlawing critical race theory confirms the point that racism is embedded in the law.”

My Sources:

What Is Critical Race Theory, and Why Is It Under Attack?

Critical Race Theory

What Is Critical Race Theory, and Why Are People So Upset About It?

Critical Race Theory FAQ

Critical Race Theory: A Brief History

Why Are States Banning Critical Race Theory?

CRT Map

Thursday, April 28, 2022

National Poetry Month: Week 4

To wrap up National Poetry Month, Kym, Kat, Sarah, and I are sharing Poems for Your Pocket. Poem in Your Pocket Day is actually tomorrow, but maybe our posts today will inspire you to share some poetry tomorrow. 


I've been struck by how green things are getting in my neighborhood, so I'm going to share a short-ish poem that seems quite fitting for this time of year.

Instructions on Not Giving Up
by Ada Limón

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then, 
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

Limón, Ada. "Instructions on Not Giving Up". Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
You can find out more about the poet here.

Here are some suggestions about ways to participate in Poem in Your Pocket Day from Poets.org:

It's easy to participate in Poem in Your Pocket Day from a safe distance. Here are some ideas of how you might get involved:

  • Select a poem and share it on social media using the hashtag #PocketPoem. 
  • Print a poem from the Poem in Your Pocket Day PDF and draw an image from the poem in the white space, or use the instructions on pages 57-58 of the PDF to make an origami swan. 
  • Record a video of yourself reading a poem, then share it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or another social media platform you use. 
  • Email a poem to your friends, family, neighbors, or local government leaders.
  • Schedule a video chat and read a poem to your loved ones.
  • Add a poem to your email footer.
  • Read a poem out loud from your porch, window, backyard, or outdoor space.

Be sure to check in with KymKat, and Sarah for more poems for your pocket today, and feel free to make others' days a little bit more poetic tomorrow by sharing a poem at work, the grocery store, the bank, the post office, or around your own dinner table. (And remember that any time is good for poetry, not just Thursdays in April!)

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Unraveled Wednesday: 4/27/22

What do I have to share with Kat and the Unravelers today on Unraveled Wednesday? A little bit of Hitchhiker progress:

and some progress on the Antler cardigan:


It's raining outside so none of the colors are right, but this is the best I can do for now. I didn't get a lot of big things done, but I did finish the neck ribbing and bound it off, wove in all the ends, picked up the non-button side of the button band, and am knitting the ribbing there. I still have to do the button side of the button band, graft the underarm stitches, block, and sew on buttons (that I may try to make myself out of antler slices). I'm taking small steps, but I'll get there.

Last week's reading was a mixed bag. When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka was a three-star story about the internment of an unnamed Japanese-American family for three years during WW II. The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg was a two-star fill-in book I read while waiting for some holds from the library, but barely worth the time I spent reading it. Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason was interesting, original, and worthy of four stars. It's a story about marriage, motherhood, and mental illness. The protagonist, Martha Friel, suffers from an unnamed mental illness, in fact, it's just identified as —. I got completely wrapped up in wondering what Martha had until I realized that was beside the point. Meg Mason even told me to get over it in her Note:

"The medical symptoms described in the novel are not consistent with a genuine mental illness. The portrayal of treatment, medication, and doctor's advice is wholly fictional."

I'd like to think that by being so non-specific, Meg Mason wants us all to be able to imagine ourselves in the story somehow. Whether we are the ones suffering from mental illness or family members trying to be supportive (and often failing), we would do well to remember that “Everything is broken and messed up and completely fine. That is what life is. It’s only the ratios that change.” I would like to read more by Meg Mason but she's an Australian author and her books are difficult to find. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Why You Should Read With Us: Young Mungo


I'm here today to give you some reasons why I think you should Read With Us. I'm literally doing this with a list. Here, in no particular order, are five good reasons to consider reading Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart. 

1.  I don't mean to speak for everyone, but many of us loved Shuggie Bain so much that we were very anxious to read Douglas Stuart's second novel. I've read reviews that call Young Mungo "a followup" and to me that makes it sound like a sequel. It is most assuredly not, and you can read this one whether you read Shuggie Bain or not. 

2.  I have read very few bad reviews of Young Mungo. Yes, there are a few on Goodreads (55 one- and two-star reviews out of 58,365) but I disagree with some of the points they have tried to make. One said the "writing style was too wordy and descriptive", but Stuart's accomplished prose is one of the reasons I appreciate the book so much. Another complaint was that the characters speaking in their Glaswegian dialect was "too thick to read effortlessly." It may require a little more effort to intently read and/or listen, but I would argue that any extra effort required is worthwhile. Some readers have said that the book jumps around between two timelines too much. I'm not often a big fan of a story told in a non-linear fashion, but even I can figure out the timeline in Young Mungo, with chapters clearly identified as "The May After" and "The January Before".

3.  It's not another book about nuns! 

4.  Young Mungo is about much more than poverty and misery. Stuart has replied to critics who have called his writing "poverty porn" by saying, "That phrase tells poor people that they don’t deserve to write about their own existence truthfully. People from the middle classes never have that leveled against them. It’s never hummus porn, or baba ganoush porn, it’s just literature. All that kind of banter does is silence anyone who wants to write with clarity about poverty.” One reviewer said that Young Mungo was "nothing but non-stop misery". Stuart says, "I didn’t know people felt that way. I understand I’m writing about tough lives, but I don’t see my books as miserable at all.” While it's nice to imagine the world as a place filled with rainbows and cute puppies, not everyone gets to live there, and I would rather read something filled with honesty and truthfulness. 

5.  This quote from Nasim Asl from Books From Scotland may be the best reason of all: "Despite the hardships and horror, the fear and danger present in the novel, Stuart has captured what it is to love, in all its complex glory – and more importantly, what it is to hope."

Our Read With Us book discussion day is scheduled for Tuesday, June 7 (six weeks away so you've still got plenty of time). Kym, Carole, and I will each post discussion questions on our blogs that day, and then at 7:00 pm Eastern time zone, we'll be hosting a live book discussion on Zoom. I think the book is wonderful (so far) and the discussions are always educational and fun, so I hope you'll come along and Read With Us!