Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Chaos Theory

A friend once explained the Chaos Theory to me. In short, the premise is that the natural order of everything is chaos. We, as human beings try to make sense of it all by categorizing, sorting, making lists, naming. In other words cleaning our ever cluttered closets. It makes us feel better. Calmer. More in control.

Ha! Never have I felt the chaos and the resulting anxiety more than this holiday season. Why this is, I’m not certain. I think it might have something to do with having a baby in the mix. Nothing puts you more in contact with being helpless in the face of a whirlwind than an almost two-year old. Pure joy and exhaustion go hand-in hand. You know the saying, “men plan and God laughs?” Well, yes, exactly.

So here’s the thing. I realized that nothing matters except being in the moment. All my good intentions of the past year have been put to the test. Be here. Be now. That’s all that we have. It’s all that matters. Really notice. Savor. Breathe it. It’s gone in an instant.

Happy Happy Happy Holidays.



                                                             Joy... December 2017


Saturday, December 16, 2017

THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE- DECEMBER 2017 BOOK SELECTION

December’s book selection gets highest honors. It was another one of (what is becoming a constant companion) my Audible Book selections. The Beekeeper's Apprentice, or On the Segregation of the Queen by Laurie R. King takes place in the world of Sherlock Holmes as imagined by Ms. King.

A retired Sherlock Holmes has retreated to his country home in Sussex. He is literally stumbled upon by a fifteen year-old girl on the downs. This chance meeting  develops into an unlikely friendship. This young girl, Mary Russell, an orphan, turns out to have extraordinary skills. Skills very similar to those of the great Holmes. Holmes recognizes this and thus begins a mentorship.

The slow development of their friendship and eventual partnership is a fascinating character study. Their first assignment together is a hair-raising, breathtaking mystery that keeps you riveted. Apparently I’m not the only one. I have come to discover that it was named "One of the Century's Best 100 Mysteries" by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association.

I also came to discover that it is only Book 1 of a series of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes adventures. I will be reading and/or listening to more to be sure.


Highly recommend.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Ramanujan

Star Talk on the National Geographic Channel is one of my favorite programs. I  mentioned it before in my December, 2016 blog. It is hosted by astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson and is broadcast from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Most recently I watched an episode about Srinivasa Ramanujan, a mostly uneducated Hindu man from Madras, India who, at the turn of the twentieth century, was a self-taught mathematical genius.

A novel about his life by Robert Kenegal called, The Man Who Knew Infinity was recently made into a film of the same name. His story is fascinating. His obsession with Math caused him to actually drop out of college twice. He said his mathematical knowledge, theories, formulas and proofs came to him from his Kuladevata (Namagiri, a family deity) during meditation.

Ramanujan’s passion led him to contact several mathematical professionals who dismissed him as a crackpot. Finally, G.H. Hardy, renowned mathmetician and Trinity College at Cambridge professor, took notice and brought him to England. In a letter to Hardy, Ramanujan had included a pair of equations now called the Rogers-Ramanujan identities. Although he did not understand the equations, Hardy recognized the possible brilliance of this unlikely man. Tragically, Ramanujan died at thirty-two. He left behind three shabby notebooks containing thousands of equations. Among them were a series of special numbers which were the precursor of String Theory and Quantum Gravity (which were not known to exist) along with the identities which are still being studied a hundred years later.

Ken Ono, professor of Math at Emory University was an advisor on the film and had this to say, I paraphrase, “Math progress is usually the result of the work of thousands of people. But, occasionally, the fireball genius of one person propels thought forward.” He is at work with many other scholars trying to prove the Rogers-Ramanujan identities.


The thing that stays with me is how is this possible? Without education, without tutoring, how did this knowledge come to him? He knew things a hundred years before other scholars even dreamed of solutions. There is so much we don’t know. So much we don’t understand. It is a mystery of mind-baffling proportion. And beautiful, yes?

Srinivasa Ramanujan

Thursday, November 16, 2017

STILL LIFE & MAGPIE MURDERS- NOVEMBER 2017 BOOK SELECTIONS

I have two new literary passions: Audible Books and Mysteries. Audible books has added another layer to my reading/listening. As if I needed it. So far, I read normal hold-in-your-hands books and books on Kindle. I listen to books on tape or CDs in the car and now Audible books on my phone. Bliss. Tsundoku at its finest. (See my May 2017 blog).

I’ve always loved a good mystery but discovering new authors is a joy. My first Audible listen was Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. This novel is reminiscent of the wonderful Agatha Christie books. A London book editor stumbles on a mystery within her most famous client’s last, unfinished novel. The main character in the novel is a famous, fictional investigator, Atticus Pünd. She is then confronted with the mysterious death of that same client. We are taken into a novel within the novel as we follow the investigation in the manuscript as well as the editor's investigation of her client's suspicious death. We, the readers become sleuths. Well-written, enjoyable listen and delightfully creative.


Recommend.

Read in traditional book form, the second mystery this month was Still Life by Louise Penny. I am, I understand, woefully behind in discovering this author. She has written fifteen novels to date and has won six Agatha awards as well as many other accolades and awards too numerous to enumerate here. I began at the beginning with her first one and was instantly entranced. Her central, repeating character is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec. 

The action takes place in a rural village outside of the city where a beloved, elderly townswoman is found dead in the woods. Murder or an accident? This is a town where everyone knows everyone else. With deceptive ease, Penny shows how a small village is just a microcosm of the larger world. I am usually good at solving mysteries but this one had me guessing until the end. Inspector Gamache and Penny are divine. I’m hooked.

Highly Recommend.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

If It Doesn't Feel Right, It Probably Isn't

I believe in intuition. I believe we have a built-in failsafe regarding our actions, our health, our relationships and thoughts. Over time, we ignore this awareness because, let’s face it, it’s not concrete. We can’t actually measure it. It’s not only lost because of time and lack of pragmatic measurement, but also lack of nurturance, cultural bias and fear.

I invite you to stop for a moment and evaluate where you stand on this. How often have your “inklings,” your “feelings,” your “twinges” of doubt been spot on? Probably like me, you haven’t kept score. But these un-evaluated and undervalued notions are often correct.

We frequently pass it off as coincidence but science is beginning to show we know more than we realize and we control more than we think. The whole science of Quantum Physics is based on the concept essentially that the behavior of matter and energy occurs on an atomic and sub-atomic level. It may follow that as energy, we may source these abilities on a cellular level.  

Look, I’m not a scientist and I know I’m only explaining this in a peripheral way. And not very well, at that. I’m trying to understand this as well, in the most basic sense.


All I’m just saying is pay attention. You know more than you think you do.


There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES- OCTOBER 2017 BOOK SELECTION

I recently realized that in spite of being familiar with several well-known classics, there are many that I have actually missed reading. So in an effort to “catch-up,” so to speak, I began with Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

I believe I have heard of the story all my life but my first real exposure was with the 1985 television series based on the 1908 novel. I watched with my daughter and we both fell in love not only with the story, but the actors and the dramatically beautiful setting on Prince Edward Island.

I think what surprised me the most when reading was how well the novel holds up. While some of the concepts and language are somewhat dated, overall it stands up well. It is true to the time and place of the setting. The values and integrity of the characters are firm and timeless. If you are unfamiliar with the story, it tells the story of a young orphan girl who finds a family and her misadventures in learning to adjust to her new life. She is full of spark and vinegar, a sort of female Huckleberry Finn. It’s funny, touching and alive with character. Today the book would fall in the Young Adult genre. But truly,  it appeals to all ages. The definition of a classic.


Highly recommend.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Seize the Day

Last weekend I took a road trip to spend some time with my oldest brother and sister. My brother is relocating to be closer to his children and I won’t be able to see him as often as I can now. That being said, it has been a while since we all had time together. We talk on the phone frequently but face-to face doesn’t happen as often. The family is literally spread out from coast to coast.

We spent a lot of time reminiscing and laughing and it occurred to me how much I have missed them. We overall had a very fortunate childhood. Our family was unusually close and has for the most part remained so.

This year has reminded me how important these moments are. Recently, I have lost a lot of friends and acquaintances quite unexpectedly. Many were very young and in my mind, not finished. My friends and I have discussed the fact that the longer we live, the more frequently this will happen. I have had the belief that barring an accident (and maybe even then), when we are finished with what we need to do here, we leave. Maybe that’s a little too metaphysical for many but it makes perfect sense to me.


So seize the day. Now. Be with those you love as often as is possible. You absolutely never, never, never know. 


Saturday, September 23, 2017

FAVORITE BOOK OF 2017

I made my first choice for favorite Book of the Year in August two years ago. So for consistency, my year will continue to run from August to July. My book selections this year:

August 2016:  The Invention of Wings- Sue Monk Kidd
September 2016:  Prep- Curtis Sittenfeld and Goldberg Variations- Susan Isaacs
October 2016:  The Light of Paris- Eleanor Brown
November 2016:  Remnant Chronicles- Mary E. Pearson and Little Beach Street Bakery- Jenny Colgan
December 2016: The Chemist- Stephanie Meyer
January 2017:  The Art of Racing in the Rain- Garth Stein
February 2017:  Falling Together- Marisa de los Santos
March 2017:  The Goldfinch- Donna Tartt
April 2017: A God in Ruins- Kate Atkinson
May 2017: The Bear and the Nightingale- Katherine Arden
June 2017:  Death of A Liar- M.C. Beaton
July 2017: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats- Jan-Philipp Sendker

This has been another good year for reading. As usual, more books were read or listened to on tape than I reviewed, but the ones above made the cut. I decided a while ago that I was not going to disparage another author’s work. If I don’t like it, I won’t review it. 

That being said, my favorite book this year was, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Running a disturbingly close second was A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. Both of these novels have stayed with me and both authors are masters of their craft.


Friday, September 22, 2017

JUNE BUG VERSUS HURRICANE- SEPTEMBER 2017 BOOK SELECTION

This memoir is a hurricane in and of itself. It literally blew me away. Not for the faint of heart, it is written with such raw and uncompromising honesty, it will make you uncomfortable. 

On the surface, it seems to be a cautionary tale of the double edged side of privilege and power. But more than that, it is the tragic story of two children caught up in the “hurricane” of a multi-generationally, dysfunctional family. There is no question that these children were loved, adored even, but were given the reins of a life they couldn’t possibly navigate successfully at an impossibly young age.

The story jumps from one time frame to another but serves to parallel the brother and sister’s hectic back-and-forth lifestyle. Always looking for more. Always looking for the next big thing. Their uncompromising, unconditional love for one another and their family was their one touchstone. To watch one child spiral out of control and the other to barely hang on by their fingernails is heartbreaking to say the very least.

June Bug Versus Hurricane is a tour de force by an author Erin Chandler.


Absolutely recommend but gird your loins.




Friday, August 25, 2017

Gathering

Although the recent political climate seems to give lie to it, people clearly still have the ability to come together without rancor. Observing the recent events surrounding the Great American Solar Eclipse confirms this. What could have been the observation of an infrequently seen scientific phenomenon took on nearly magical properties. There seemed to be an almost organic response. People gathered in enormous numbers to celebrate and revere this event. From literally coast to coast, from Oregon to South Carolina, people gathered in harmony.

Being fortunate to have been in the path of Totality was special. Although there is a Total Eclipse in some part of the world every eighteen months, you are seldom, if ever, in its path.  Perhaps it is the realization that one rarely has this opportunity more than once in a lifetime, if that. I heard people say on the news that it was life-changing. I can’t say it actually changed my life, but it did enhance it. Good news is needed. Even if it lasts only two and a half minutes.

I have to say, it was spectacular. One distinctive impression was the change of the quality of light leading up to the event. The shadows became luminous and colors more vivid. The two and a half minutes of Totality were breathtaking.


I think we needed this.  

Beautiful shadows
2:41 PM
Just Wow

Sunday, August 20, 2017

COMMONWEALTH- AUGUST 2017 BOOK SELECTION

One definition of commonwealth is, “Any group of persons united by some common interest or objective.” This meaning fits the plot of the novel literally but also paradoxically, can be viewed tongue-in cheek. Ann Patchett is one of my longtime favorite authors. Her novel, Bel Canto remains on the list of top ten all-time favorites. Needless to say, I picked up her latest novel, Commonwealth with anticipation. I have to say this one was a slower burn for me but ultimately satisfying. It’s hard not to be drawn in by her wonderful writing.

The book opens with a man attending a party he has not been invited to. He simply doesn’t want to go home to his children and expectant wife. That decision alters the fate of two families. These two families are uprooted and the life trajectory of all involved, changed.

As with all of Patchett’s work, the characters are well-drawn and fascinating. In spite of their missteps and flaws, you find yourself saddened by their circumstances and choices and rooting for their ultimate enlightenment. Perhaps the common objective here was to survive without too much damage. The bigger theme may be the concept that a seemingly random event can trigger intense, irreversible change of all within its radius.


Worth reading.

Monday, July 24, 2017

AH... PARIS...

The City of Light. City of Love. I love Paris in the Springtime, Under Paris Skies, An American in Paris, French Kiss, Les Miserables, The Hunchback of Notre Dame….songs, movies, setting of famous novels and home at various times in their lives to great writers, artists, actors, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Henry James, Balzac, Simone de Beauvoir, Victor Hugo, Colette…. I could go on and on. 

We seem to have a fascination with this city more than any other.
What is it? It’s ancient, yes. It’s beautiful, yes. The language is romantic, yes. Its history is fascinating, yes. Its museums are vast and astonishing, full of treasures. The food is delicious. The cafes, sophisticated and friendly. The people, also friendly and helpful if you try to speak even a bit of the language.

But the truth is, these things could be said of almost any major cosmopolitan city across the world. Prague, Budapest, Rome, Cairo, Athens, New York, San Francisco. So what is it? Perhaps the poets and writers gave it cachet by describing it so often. Perhaps it has that magical, mystical something: It.

I saw it again recently after almost thirty years. In spite of the hordes of tourists (don’t ever go in the summer if you can help it), it still bewitches. My favorite things? Sitting in a café at the end of the day having a simple meal and a glass of wine. No one rushing you to fill your seat again to meet their overhead. Musée D’Orsay. The Shakespeare and Company bookstore. The Eiffel Tower at Night.


Inspiration comes in many forms. Not the least of which. Paris.

                                  Shakespeare and Company bookstore.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

THE ART OF HEARING HEARTBEATS- JULY 2017 BOOK SELECTION

Sometimes a book comes along that is unexpected. No fanfare. No preconceived notions. I can’t recall why I picked it up. It may be a bestseller now. It may have stellar reviews. I really don’t know.

What I can say is, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker was a pleasure to read from beginning to end. This is a gentle story, full of mystery and magic. A young woman from a prominent New York family graduates from law school. Her family celebrates with her. The next day, her beloved father, also an attorney, disappears with no explanation.

Four years pass with no word. She realizes she knows nothing of her father’s past. He is of Burmese descent, but all she knows of his life began when he arrived in America. A box is discovered by her mother and sent to her. In it, among other things, is an old letter. This letter compels her to go to Burma, hoping to find him.


Don’t miss this one.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

SHINRIN-YOKU -THE HEALING TREES

The Japanese culture has embraced some enchanting ideas. My latest discovery is the term Shinrin-Yoku. Literally translated, it means “Forest bathing.” The idea is to expose oneself to trees, to nature, for the purpose of healing. Imagine that as a prescription from a western physician. Well, maybe a doctor of Alternative medicine. Otherwise? I don’t think so. This is not a criticism. It’s that our culture is growing but has not yet embraced all ideas as more ancient ones. Makes sense, when you think about it. They have had centuries to get some things right.

Stay with me, here. Who of you has not experienced the quiet of a park, or a forest, or the mesmerizing calm of the ocean? Well, as it turns out, I’m behind the times. When I googled Shinrin-Yoku, it turns out there is an Association of Nature and Forest Therapy which promotes and uses Shinrin-Yoku. It has hundreds of guides here in the U.S. alone. I stand corrected.

The benefits have researchers amazed. It lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, increases concentration and mental clarity. It also increases the number of cancer fighting cells in the body. Just wow.

Years ago, when my children were little, and my stress level got high, I would go outside and sit on the back porch. We lived in a forested area so it was perfect. My fifteen minutes of “porch-time” never failed to calm me. My porch-time was Shinrin-Yoku. Who knew?

Leave your cell phone at home.


Monday, June 12, 2017

DEATH OF A LIAR- JUNE 2017 BOOK SELECTION

Quite unknowingly, I stumbled into the Cozy Mystery genre without realizing it. I was looking for an easy book-on-tape for traveling. I picked up an M.C. Beaton mystery because I seemed to remember the name from somewhere.

First to clarify, a Cozy Mystery generally features a talented, non-professional, mystery solver, such as Miss Marple of Agatha Christie fame or Jessica Fletcher from the popular Murder She Wrote series by Donald Bain. When I started researching this I remembered that Hallmark also has gained quite a following for their untrained female sleuths on several mystery series. So this genre is quite popular. Who knew?

I did read a few Agatha Christie novels in my teens. And in my mind, she is probably the master. But my first Cozy Mystery in adulthood is Death of A Liar by Beaton. I have to say, I may be hooked. For an easygoing, not-too-gruesome mystery fix it was great fun. The detective, technically a professional (although albeit an unconventional one) is Hamish McBeth (Great name, right? Turn around three times and spit over your shoulder!) It was entertaining to watch him work out the murder and navigate a score of beautiful women to boot. His greatest challenge may be his somewhat bumbling sidekick, Dick.

Beaton is extremely prolific. The Hamish McBeth books, thirty-three and counting, is only one of several popular series by her. If you indulge, you won’t run out of material soon.

Fun, easy, escapist.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Tsundoku

I am curiously relieved. It turns out there is actually a Japanese name for what I am. A name for one of my idiosyncrasies, anyway. I was just commenting to my husband the other day that I am not safe in a bookstore. I seem to be unable to leave without at least one purchase. Usually more than one. My bookcases are overflowing, my bookshelves likewise. My bedside table, forget about it. I also make frequent trips to the library for books-on-tape as well as any title that catches my eye. So here’s the thing. I’ll never read them all. I’m just not that speedy a reader. Somehow, that is a non-issue. Go figure.

For me, reading is not only important, it’s an integral part of life. Not as important as say, spending time with family or looking at the ocean, but right up there.  One of my favorite childhood memories was going with my mother to a little bookstore called The Cigar Store. I guess they sold cigars, I don’t know, but I do know they sold lots and lots of magazines and lots and lots of books. Browsing there was bliss.

Happy Reading!

The article from the Huffington Post is here:

The Old Butcher’s Bookshop, Paris.
Re-pinned by http://sunnydaypublishing.com/books

Saturday, May 13, 2017

THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE- MAY 2017 BOOK SELECTION

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is a breath of fresh air. This author’s first novel promises more delights to come. It is categorized as a fantasy but it is much more. It does indeed have fantastical elements, the main character having second sight and the ability to communicate with horses as well as house spirits, wood nymphs and all manner of mystical creatures.

It is set in fifteenth century Russia and brings forth all the richness, not only in dress and custom of that period but also the beliefs and superstitions. The book jacket tells us that Arden, herself has lived an unconventional, interesting life. She not only majored in Russian literature but lived in Russia and immersed herself in it’s culture.

The main character, Vasilisa faces challenges that are not unlike those faced by women today. She refuses to fit into the mold her patriarchal family, the church and society expect of her. Her mother, herself gifted, died in childbirth knowing what her daughter’s abilities and challenges would be.

Some critics have found Arden’s descriptions overdone, but I found her use of language beautiful and unique. Because of this, the world of Vasilisa comes vibrantly alive. Arden’s inclusion of Russian names and terms is done skillfully and add texture. A glossary of terms is also thoughtfully included.


Highly Recommend.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Bliss of Planet Earth II

It’s been hard to sleep. The political climate in this country is so explosive and disturbing it’s difficult to feel grounded, to feel safe. Instead of the news, which only serves to spike the fight-flight response, I seek other things. A good book always helps but sometimes I just want to watch TV.

My most recent discovery is Planet Earth II on BBC. There is something so sublimely comforting in watching the beauty and simplicity of animals in their natural habitat. I can’t describe the wonder of this program; it often leaves me breathless. It explores deserts, jungles, islands, oceans, mountains and the incredible animals that have adapted to and inhabit them.

I said simple, but often these adaptations are more complex than you would think possible. There is a fish that creates an intricate, perfectly symmetrical mosaic in the sand at the ocean bottom to attract a mate. It looks incredibly similar to a Tibetan mandala. There is a bird that clears the jungle floor not only of all debris but of any color that might detract from his mighty feather display when looking for a mate. The magnificent Snow Leopard found throughout central Asia at high elevations including the Himalayas, spends most of its life alone except when wanting to conceive. They are so solitary there is actually no name for a group of Snow Leopards. These gorgeous animals are endangered.


The life of the animals shown is not always pretty. It is often harsh and dangerous. Yet, this program with its marvels manages to soothe, astonish and inspire. If you can find it, watch it.

Happy Earth Day!

(Photo: SLF Pakistan/Snow Leopard Trust)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A GOD IN RUINS- APRIL 2017 BOOK SELECTION

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson was written as a companion piece to her novel, Life After Life. Atkinson won the coveted Costa prize for it as well as for Life After Life and also for Behind the Scenes at the Museum. This is a rare and unprecedented accomplishment.  I have been a fan of Atkinson since reading Behind the Scenes and her novels never disappoint.

A God in Ruins is told as the life story of Teddy, (brother of Ursula in Life after Life). The setting is during and after WWII. The story begins with Teddy as a child and ends with his death. Perhaps. He is a RAF pilot during the London blitz and the strategic bombing of Germany. The number of deaths of these boy-pilots (and they were boys) will astonish you. They were often sitting ducks for German counter attacks and they knew it. You meet not only Teddy but his bomber crews, his family, his friends, his wife, his lovers and his pets. You become deeply invested in the outcome of each life. Once again as has often been the theme of my recent reading, it explores the choices made and the paths taken and not taken.

My taste in literature rarely centers around war and certainly never RAF bombers. However, I trusted Atkinson to deliver. She tells the story forwards, backwards, present and past and often you know what is going to happen before reading about the event itself. How can this work? I have no idea, but it does. Each event threads its way through the narrative in a non-linear way…but there are no loose ends. Perhaps because I often live life in a linear way, I found this extremely satisfying.

I have yet to read Life After Life, but after this, I can’t wait.

Stellar.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Sandpipers

I’ve always loved watching sandpipers. “Sandpeepers” my children used to call them. They are exquisite little birds, determined and fleet. They rush down to the shoreline as the tide goes out,  their tiny feet a blur, pick a few morsels from the sand, then just as quickly turn and race back, just ahead of the waves. It’s a synchronistic dance; a never-ending, seemingly patient pursuit, always in the moment.      

They often seem to travel in a group, but not always. When in a group, they move like one bird, together yet not infringing on one another’s space. Alone, they are a single, perfect, zigzagging note.


Not dissimilar from our own pursuits. Their worries, if they have them, are different. No bills, no possessions to speak of. Something to think about. Watching them, I’m in the moment, too. 



Another gift from nature.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

THE GOLDFINCH- MARCH 2017 BOOK SELECTION

I just finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I initially picked it up at the library as a book on tape but quickly realized I wanted to read it as well. So for the first time, I read and listened to a novel at the same time. I have to say, I enjoyed every minute. Listening to the very accomplished actor on tape give each character a unique personality was simply a bonus. It also highlighted the beauty of the language.

This novel, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, is a masterpiece. I do not say that lightly. I was absorbed from beginning to end. The story begins with a catastrophic event which alters forever the life of the main character, Theodore Decker. A random choice made by his mother and his life changes course.

The book explores many themes, one of which is the random (or are they) nature of life changing events. But it also explores the complexity of relationships, coming of age, the nature of man and the role of beauty in life. This is done with breathtaking skill and finesse. These are big themes and there are no Pollyanna punches pulled here. Nothing is wrapped up in a tidy bow. Goldfinch sometimes is difficult, sad, and occasionally gruesome. Theo is so damaged and goes down so many wrong paths you are horrified and yet still yearn for his redemption.

I have to say also that one of the most enjoyable aspects of Goldfinch was the creation by Tartt of one of the finest characters I have seen in recent literature, Theo’s best friend, Boris. He is on a superlative par with Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The anti-hero. Wrong in so many ways, but still with a spark of human grace. He reminds us that no one is ever just one thing.


Off the scale.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Algorithm of Events

Perhaps it’s the reading I have been doing lately. The thing is, it has made me think. How do events shape our lives? Intentional events, certainly, but also unintentional ones. Random events.

An intentional event would be say a wedding, a party, lunch with a friend, a trip. We expect certain outcomes and often those outcomes occur in some expected form. Intentional or planned events shape our lives, more or less, in expected ways. We see loved ones, we get to wear a pretty dress, we have a good meal, good conversation.

So what interests me the most are the random events. A chance meeting on the street, attending a seminar where you hear a philosophy that changes your life, encountering a stranger in a class who becomes a lifelong friend because you happened to introduce yourself. And you almost didn’t. Tragic, unexplainable happenings that alter your trajectory.

Every event changes us whether intentional or not. The changes may be minuscule or major. An example for me would be something that happened many years ago. I happened to read in the newspaper about an acting class being held at a local theatre. (Just reading a newspaper at that time for me was something of an anomaly. I did not read it on a regular basis.) I was terrified at the thought. I had two small children, I was pathologically shy and I lived a substantial distance from the location of the class. I easily could have passed. But I did not. As a result I met my best friends in the world and satisfied a lifelong passion. Was it random? You could argue that there was intention and I put it out into the universe and the universe answered. But why did I happen to read that newspaper? That day?


You often hear, “Everything happens for a reason.” Or “It was supposed to happen.” Really? So here’s the thing. I do believe in intention. It does work. But which is more powerful, fate or happenstance? Is there such a thing as universal intention for us? Is there such a thing as fate? Would it benefit us to know? Interesting questions, yes?