Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Swann

(Please join the T(ea) is for Tuesday party hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth).


Swann is a 1987 mystery novel by Carol Shields. I've read several of her books and always enjoy them. I read The Stone Diaries before I started blogging, because it won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. More recently I've read Unless and Larry's Party. I'll continue picking up her books as I come across them. I'm never disappointed by her.

You can read an excerpt from Swann at the author's website.

from the back of the book:
To her neighbors, Mary Swann was a simple, hardworking farm wife; her delicate poems are discovered only after she is brutally murdered. The strange, evocative verses attract the attention of an earnestly self-absorbed feminist scholar, a pompous literary biographer, a virginal small-town librarian, and a curmudgeonly retired newspaper editor. But as interest increases, all traces of Swann's existence -her notebook, the first draft of her work, even her photograph- mysteriously vanish.

In solving the puzzle of Swann's disappearing legacy, Carol Shields explores the larger mysteries of the nature of art, as well as the powerful forces that motivate us all.
Tea shows up a few times in this book. For one woman it's a comfort measure:
Oh, she loves her Friday nights. During the week she's too tired to read, and it's all she can do to keep her attention on the television. But Friday nights: a pot of tea by her bedside, the satin binding of the blanket at her chin, the clean cotton-and-Fortrel-blend sheets moving across her legs, her book propped up in front of her.
...
Rose's bedside clock says 2:00 A.M. The hour and the grey chill of the room augment the airlessness that enters her throat. Just one more chapter, she promises herself, but she can't stop. Through a crack in her curtains she can see the moon, shaved down to a chip. The tea in her cup has been cold for hours, but she sips a little anyway...
In other places it's used as a distraction, as in "May I get you some tea?" as a way to change an uncomfortable subject. It's interesting to think about how tea and coffee rituals can provide solitary comfort and how they can serve as a social tool. It doesn't just taste good; it's useful! Now I feel all justified and righteous!

The book provides an almost snarky look at academe. The researchers know what they want to find and find it, ignoring all evidence that doesn't support their view. The people being interviewed who knew the poet being researched either provide deliberately one-sided views of the subject or they make up stuff trying to please the researchers.

I loved this book. You can just imagine this actually happening. Biographies just aren't as trustworthy if you question the author's agenda. And posthumous works? Well, I've always been a bit suspicious of works published posthumously.

favorite quotes:
Habit is the flywheel of society, conserving and preserving and dishing up tidy, edible slices of the cosmos. And there's much to be said for a steady diet. Those newspaper advice-givers who urge you to put a little vinegar in your life are toying, believe me, with your sanity.
.....
Guilt has the power to extract merciless sacrifices.
.....
Clever men create themselves, but clever women, it seems to me, are created by their mothers. Women can never quite escape their mothers' cosmic pull, not their lip-biting expectations or their faulty love. We want to please our mothers, emulate them, disgrace them, oblige them, outrage them, and bury ourselves in the mysteries and consolations of their presence.
.....
...women carry with them the full freight of their mothers' words. It's the one part of us that can never be erased or revised.
.....
...a life lived, as the saying goes, in the avoidance of biography.
.....
...perhaps men have a tendency to overlook what is perfectly obvious to women.
.....
The hold most married people have on each other tends to dwindle fairly quickly, but occasionally accident and temperament, so strangely mingled, keep it buoyant.
Publishers Weekly opens its review with this:
Viking has wisely decided not to publish this fascinating novel as a mystery, as it was designated in Canada, where it earned excellent reviews. While two (rather bland) mysteries animate the plot, the book's considerable impact is as a combination of psychological novel and satirical comedy of manners that wittily dissects the pretensions of academia.
Kirkus Reviews says, "... this novel is the triumphant introduction of a mature artist to American readers."

Monday, July 21, 2014

Don't Go Into That Barn

Don't Go Into That Barn:



by Tom Waits. There's a Memphis mention towards the end.

lyrics:
Don't go into that barn, yea
Don't go into that barn, yea

Black cellophane sky at midnite
Big blue moon with three gold rings
I called Champion to the window
I pointed up above the trees
That's when I heard my name in a scream
Coming from the woods, out there
I let my dog run off the chain
I locked my door real good with a chair

Don't go into that barn, yea
Don't go into that barn, yea

Everett Lee broke loose again
Its worse than the time before
Cause he's high on potato and tulip wine
Fermented in the muddy rain of course
A drunken wail a drunken train
Blew through the birdless trees
Oh, you're alone alright
You're alone alright
How did I know
How did I know

Don't go into that barn, yea
Don't go into that barn, yea

An old black tree
Scratching up the sky
With boney, claw like fingers
A rusty black rake
Digging up the turnips
Of a muddy cold grey sky
Shiny tooth talons
Coiled for grabbing a stranger
Happening by
And the day went home early
And the sun sunk down into
The muck of a deep dead sky

Don't go into that barn, yea
Don't go into that barn, yea

Back since Saginaw Calinda was born
It's been cotton and soybeans, tobacco and corn
Behind the porticoed house of a
Long dead farm
They found the falling down timbers
Of a spooky old barn
Out there like a slave ship
Upside down
Wrecked beneath the waves of grain
When the river is low
They find old bones and
When they plow they always
Dig up chains

Don't go into that barn, yea
Don't go into that barn, yea

Did you bury your fire?
Yes sir
Did you cover your tracks?
Yes sir
Did you bring your knife?
Yes sir
Did they see your face?
No sir
Did the moon see you?
No sir
DId you go cross the river?
Yes sir
Did you fix your rake?
Yes sir
Did you stay down wind?
Yes sir
Did you hide your gun?
Yes sir
Did you smuggle your rum?
Yes sir
How did I know
How did I know
How did I know

Don't go into that barn, yea
Don't go into that barn, yea

Don't forget that I warned you

Don't go into that barn, yea
Don't go into that barn, yea
Don't go into that barn, yea

No shirt no coat
Put me on a flat boat
Dover down to Covington
Covington to Louisville
Louisville to Henderson
Henderson to Smithland
Smithland to Memphis
Memphis down to Vicksburg
Vicksburg to Natchez
Going down to Natchez

Put me on a flat boat
Dover down to Covington
Covington to Louisville
Louisville to Henderson...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July Flowers at the Dixon Gardens


On my most recent visit to the Dixon Gardens, we had just a few days before had thunderstorms and straight-line winds that had taken down power for a number of Memphians, and yet the gardens looked great. How do they do it?


I spent about an hour walking over the grounds. There are a lot of flowers, including Surprise Lilies scattered through the woodland garden:


There are benches placed throughout the property but I didn't sit today. Here are three of these inviting rest spots:


See the man painting in the next photo?


They have a few water features, and these had water lilies in bloom:


People enjoy the flowers while they stroll in the garden, of course, but the flowers can also be enjoyed inside the museum in the form of flower arrangements on display there. I didn't go inside, so I don't know whether or not there were flowers in there on this day, but here are some more of the flowers I saw in the garden:



What a delightful place to spend some time!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

42 Mural


There are several 42s in this mural, which is located on a wall bordering a parking lot in the Cooper Young neighborhood in midtown.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Persona

Persona is a 1966 Ingmar Bergman film. Perhaps a horror film, but definitely a psychological drama. The characters are intriguing, and that's a good thing since character is what you get here. The IMDB synopsis: "A nurse is put in charge of an actress who can't talk and finds that the actress's persona is melding with hers."
"Don't you think I understand? The hopeless dream of being. Not seeming, but being."
It's available to watch online at Youtube.

trailer:


The book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die includes it. Empire includes it on their list of 100 Best Films Of World Cinema and says it's "visually stunning, intellectually challenging and emotionally wrenching". TimeOut concludes, "Not an easy film, but an infinitely rewarding one". MOMA writes,
In many ways, Bergman is questioning the medium itself, to which he devoted his life (in spite of forays into opera and theater). How much truth or reality can the camera show? How much can an artist reveal? And the question always with Bergman: how much “universal pain,” as Robin Wood puts it, can the audience stand and understand?
DVD Talk calls it "perhaps Ingmar Bergman's most abstract picture". Roger Ebert has it on his Great Movies list and says, ""Persona" (1966) is a film we return to over the years, for the beauty of its images and because we hope to understand its mysteries. It is apparently not a difficult film: ... I think I understand that the best approach to "Persona" is a literal one." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 92%.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Age of Innocence


The Age of Innocence is a 1920 Edith Wharton novel. In the public domain, it can be read online. It has been adapted for film in 1924, in 1934, and in 1993. I haven't seen any of the movies. I honestly thought I had read this, but it didn't take me but a page to realize I hadn't.

I had forgotten how wonderful Wharton's writing is, and I will be looking to buy whatever the local stores have in stock. She paints a perfect picture of life in early 20th century high society New York during the time my mother was growing up in working class Memphis. A fascinating contrast. The scenes are perfectly set, but the characters are well-drawn, too, and interesting in their own right. Multiple characters are so well-described that there's never a danger of confusion. I felt myself truly drawn in, and I cared about them even in their least sympathetic moments.

from the dust jacket:
As the scion of one of New York's leading families, Newland Archer has been born into a life of sumptious privilege and strict duty. A sensitive, intelligent young man, he still respects the rigid social code by which his class lives; and as he contemplates his forthcoming marriage to the striking and equally well-born May Welland, he gives thanks that she is "one of his own kind." But the arrival of the Countess Olenska, a free spirit who breathes clouds of European sophistication, makes him question the path on which his upbringing as set him. As his fascination with her grows, he discovers just how hard it is to escape the bounds of the society which has shaped him. Edith Wharton's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is at once a poignant story of frustrated love and an extraordinarily vivid, delightfully satirical record of a vanished world.
Edith Wharton's home is now a museum. There is a biographical introduction of Wharton and an overview of the house's history at youtube:


and a short virtual tour of the home:



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Southern Folklore Museum


The Daughter and I were downtown one day and wandered through the Southern Folklore Museum. There's a lot of folk art on display, but the main attraction is the music. In addition to frequent concerts on site, there's an annual music festival. This year's festival will be in August. The description from their website:
Each Labor Day Weekend we produce the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival. It is the Center's signature event. With urban Memphis as our backdrop we showcase and celebrate of the music, culture, arts, and rhythms of the Memphis/Delta region. On five stages we present musicians, dancers, cooks, talkers, poets, folk artists, workshops, and craft vendors allowing festival-goers to celebrate Memphis' musical roots and also enjoy many contemporary twists to our musical heritage. As one first time festival goer said, "The Festival fits the entire spirit of the city into a few downtown blocks. It feels like we're in some big metropolitan city, It's really refreshing to see people who are warm to each other, just listen to music and relax." That's the way it's supposed to be. After people leave the Festival, they see each other differently. Their lives change, and for the better.

There are pictures of the interior of the museum and the store here, here, here, here, here, and here

There is a cafe, but we didn't see anybody serving. You can buy items from their store online.

Trip Advisor has mixed reviews of the store. Yelp gives it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars with 14 reviews. They have a Facebook page.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Happy Anniversary, Tea Tuesday!


A year ago, Bleubeard and Elizabeth began an organized, weekly, Mr. Linky sign-up, tea-inspired party. I've loved all the new blogs I've found through it. Even though most of the bloggers there are craft mavens and I'm a craft drop-out (or maybe because of that), I've enjoyed the beautiful work I've seen. I've learned about new kinds of tea and coffee, learned quite a bit about gardening, enjoyed some virtual tours through other people's yards and neighborhoods, and "met" some very nice people.

Elizabeth asked that we
"Dig Deep into your T Tuesday posts, and pick ONE POST you consider a favorite"
and the request sent me looking back over all my posts with the tea/coffee tag. There's actually not too much to them... just photos of cups and mugs and beverages mostly, with occasional outings to local restaurants and a random few videos. The post that saw the most views was Sweet Coffee, I Adore Thee: an Ode to Coffee (with 108 views) back on 9/3/13. The one that got the most comments was Lemon Curd (with 19 comments not counting my responses) on 6/10/14. My very first post with this tag was way back in 1/2007, which had a photo I didn't take and a mention of National Hot Tea Month. I posted on tea and coffee every few months that year, but between 4/2008 and 1/2013 I had no posts at all with that tag. It's interesting to look back every once in a while.

It's hard to pick a personal single favorite from my T Tuesday posts, but right now I lean towards The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock from 4/15/14.

Or maybe Tea and Turnips from 1/23/13 before Elizabeth added the Linky to the weekly posts at her site. Or maybe my post on the Belz Museum of Asiatic and Judaic Art from 6/3/14. See? I couldn't do it!

It's been a fun year in terms of "T", and I'm already looking ahead to the coming parties. Thank you Bleubeard! Thank you, Elizabeth!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Summer Celebration


A friend of mine offered me the opportunity of riding up to Jackson, TN, and participating in the Summer Celebration Lawn and Garden Show. I am so glad I said, "Yes." The schedule is here.  I went to "Plant This, Not That" presented by Troy Marden, "Got Something to Hide?" presented by Carol Reese, "Southern Belles" by Sue Hamilton, "A Melee of Plants and Garden Art" by Felder Rushing, and "Cutting Back" by Amy Fulcher. When we weren't in formal sessions, we wandered around the test gardens, enjoyed the garden art, and ate hamburgers sold by the 4H group. There was a plant sale. I didn't buy anything, but my friend and her husband bought a bald cypress to train in their quest for bonsai perfection.

Felder Rushing had his world famous truck garden on display:


The emphasis, as you might've guessed from the photo at the top of the post, was bottle trees. There were bottles everywhere:


There was a cute display of tiny bottles transformed into fireflies with not much more than yellow antifreeze:


Most of the gardens had art features:


This event was great fun!