When the world goes mad

An Ode to Summer Delights

I have frissons of existential fear every time I wander past the news headlines these days. There is only one explanation for what is going on today – either the world has gone mad or I have gone quietly insane and I’m the one hanging by a thin thread, gibbering into the void. The words “hell” and “handbasket” come to mind. Frequently.

But then, I went to Joe’s Garden.

We were introduced to it several years ago by friends who smugly knew what a treasure they were introducing us to. We’ve been in the orbit of this place for years and years and years.

You walk into the little building between their fields and their greenhouses, and you fall into punnets of flowers, into ranks of tin pots holding handfuls of scented bouquets of sweetpeas and daisies and lavender, you walk with an expression of silly ecstasy past tables bearing zucchinis twice as big as their puny brothers in supermarkets, past heads of lettuce still damp from their last watering and barely out of the ground, past stout heads of garlic and three different kinds of onions, past carrots which are just imperfect enough to let you know that they haven’t been factory-produced, past punnets of blueberries and strawberries and blackberries and strawberries, past (when they are in season) the best apples ever grown (the Gravensteins), past shelves of hand-bottled honey, of free-range eggs.

You walk past peaches which bear signs that say “Don’t squeeze me, I’m perfect!”

There is a story here, because this place is on the way to Hospice House, where my father spent his last days, the place where he ate his last perfect peach of the last days of his last summer, taken from these luscious piles of summer fruit straight to his bedside. This was, perhaps, his last taste of life. I do not forget this, I never can.
But life goes on, even after that. And then, today, there was a large tabletop above a sign that said “REAL tomatoes!”

And oh, there was a pile of them. And oh, they were.


Pile of summer tomatoesThey smelled real. They were ridged and misshapen and not always completely and uniformly red like their gas-ripened cousins always are. But oh, oh, oh, the smell of them.

Just smell that,” I said to a complete stranger standing beside me staring at the bounty on the table.

And she, holding a tomato, brought it up to her nose and inhaled, and we exchanged a blissful smile.

I bought more tomatoes than I probably need because I could not bear to leave any behind. My eyes devoured them way before my teeth could sink into them, before my taste buds could swoon, before the juices ran red and sweet in my mouth.
I brought them home and I sliced into them and we ate them, fresh and red and sweet and ripe with the sun of summer.

And for a little while I could close my eyes and let my soul unclench. It is summer. In this mad whirling world there is still a summer. And it existed in the bright slices of REAL tomatoes which reminded me that sometimes it’s just okay to take a moment… and live.

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The heroic reader

The top 10 bookworms’ tales

From Hamlet through Helene Hanff to the Very Hungry Caterpillar, novelist Niall Williams browses the best books that manage to make heroes out of readers.

Don QuixotesDon Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

In chapter one, Cervantes tells us that there is no Don Quixote. There is a man called Quexana who has read so many books about chivalry that he has lost his mind. He sells his land to buy books, renames himself Don Quixote and moves from Man of Reading to Man of Action. But he’s his own supreme fiction and part of the great joy of this astonishing book is that we know here is a bookworm who just happens to be now riding out on a horse with a lance.



Oscar WaoThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Perhaps the greatest recent addition to the humus of bookworms is Oscar Wao. Oscar’s family came from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey. He is a Casanova when he is seven and for one full beautiful week loves two girls, Maritza and Olga. But once his ménage a trois collapses, Oscar retreats from the known world and inhabits another. This one is found in the novels of Lovecraft, Wells, Burroughs, Howard, Alexander, Herbert, Asimov, and others, as well as the comic books that make up the Marvel universe. In Díaz’s brilliant narration Oscar’s bookwormery and general nerdiness are transformed into something utterly cool.


25 books to diversify kids’ reading lists

It can be easier to find talking pandas than characters of color, Aly Seidel says, noting that only six percent of children’s books published in 2012 featured diverse characters.

She has compiled 25 books that offer more choices.

The Christmas CoatThe Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve

As winter comes to Virginia’s reservation, she can’t wait for the charity boxes from the East, full of coats for the winter. However, her parents expect her to put other people’s needs before her own and she is devastated when her classmate takes the rabbit fur coat that Virginia wanted. This is a story about selflessness and the spirit of Christmas. Winner of the American Indian Youth Literature Award. (Ages 5+)

More diversity

The 23 Most Exciting Things To See In San Francisco During The Summer

The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Thanks, Karl the Fog.

Exciting views from Buzzfeed
Golden GateMarin County is nice this time of the year, too. Be sure to check out the Golden Gate Bridge while you’re there!

So much to seeThere’s so much to see in the summer.

Summer views

Drink the book

Chemist Theresa Dankovich wanted to tackle a global problem from which 3.4 million people die annually – lack of clean water. She has been experimenting with a ‘book’ whose pages can filter water, killing 99.9 percent of bacteria, making it comparable to tap water in most of the U.S.
Drinkable bookEach page also has information on clean water and sanitation tips. The text is printed with nontoxic ink and will be in different languages depending on where the books are distributed. The cover of the book serves as the filter box.

Drink the book

Famous Authors Who Hated Each Other’s Writing

Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman: “Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.'”

For every great author, there’s another great author eager to knock him or her down a few pegs. Although the writers on this map are typically deemed canonical by literary tastemakers, there wasn’t much mutual admiration amongst them.

Huffpost mapped out the rivalries and one-sided vendettas of many celebrated writers; just hover over an arrow between two authors to see a cutting insult directed by one to the other.
hate himAuthors hating authors

Quote of the Day

I’d rather go to an actual shop–preferably a small one–than to a harshly lit superstore, or, worse still, a website. I want beauty in my life. I want charm. I want contact with actual people. It is, for me, a large part of what makes life worth living.” ~ David Sedaris

Alma Alexander
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Comments welcome. What do you think?

Colorless green ideas

Greg Ross writes at Futility Closet that Noam Chomsky once offered the expression Colorless green ideas sleep furiously  as an example of a sentence that’s perfectly grammatical but is pure nonsense.

Naturally, some people took this as a challenge, Ross says, and students at Stanford set up a competition to show that the expression could be understood as a meaningful sentence. Here is one of the prize-winning entries:

Colorless green“It can only be the thought of verdure to come, which prompts us in the autumn to buy these dormant white lumps of vegetable matter covered by a brown papery skin, and lovingly to plant them and care for them. It is a marvel to me that under this cover they are labouring unseen at such a rate within to give us the sudden awesome beauty of spring flowering bulbs. While winter reigns the earth reposes but these colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

Futility Closet is a site filled with thousands of “entertaining curiosities in history, literature, language, art, philosophy, and mathematics.” Check it out.

An entertaining site

Also from the Futility Closet is this gem

Ancient Chinese encyclopedia wisdom:

“On those remote pages it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones, (g), stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel’s hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance. “

I LOVE it. I particulaily like the meta aspect of (k) – it’s an animal drawn by a brush from a particular animal’s hair – does camel hair have magic powers?

And then there’s the utter wonderfullness of giving up altogether that’s inherent in (l).

Summer Reading

Summer ReadingBoston Globe, David Goldin

Beach Reads: It’s that time of year when everyone has a summer reading suggestion or three for you, including:

Flavorwire‘s “20 new nonfiction books that will make you smarter

For example:Eating WildlyThe Boston Globe‘s “Summer reading suggestions,”

Vulture‘s “6 books to read this summer,

Six BooksBuzzfeed‘s “22 books you need to read this summer,”

For example:

Eleanor & Parkthatcovergirl.wordpress.com

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell: A love story about two people falling in love with each other and a book they both adore.

New Republic‘s “9 smart, entertaining new books to get you through the summer

For example:Rise and FallThe Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman leaps back and forth through time, and skips all across the globe. It’s a bookshop-lover’s book, and beautiful prose-lover’s book, and read-it-all-in-one-weekend book.

Imaginary Worlds

An exhibition of Mosaiculture Living Sculptures at the Atlanta Botanical Garden features a menagerie of magical creatures.orangutan-pairphoto via Atlanta Botanical Garden

Unicornphoto via Atlanta Botanical Garden

‘Living’ imaginary creatures

Quote of the Day

Wonder Women~~~~~
Alma Alexander
Check out my books
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Comments welcome. What do you think?