birth/place project launch at Defining Place

A few weeks ago I asked for your help with a project. That project has now gone live: I’m calling it birth/place, and you can visit it here. I want to thank those of you who have offered to contribute, and I invite the rest of you to do so. Also, of course, you are invited to follow birth/place at that link. New images go up every Tuesday morning, so you’ll get just one ping a week (unlike the five-day schedule I keep here).

defining place
I’m having a fabulous time exploring place, and I just hope some others out there find it as fascinating a conceptual journey as I do. Thanks as always for reading, friends.

states project: can you help?

Call this a break in our regularly scheduled programming: I’d love a little help, readers. I am working on a class project that involves making contact with people born in each one of the 50 United States, as well as Washington, D.C. and protectorates like Puerto Rico and Guam. As you can imagine, I know lots of native Texans, and am doing all right with some larger or heavily populated states like California. (I am surprised at how many people I know who were born in Michigan. Why Michigan?) I could use help with some of the teenier states in New England – hello, Rhode Island – and others. I won’t list them here because I’ll probably take all comers: I am accepting multiple submissions.

Where were you born? (image credit)

Where were you born? (image credit)

I am asking for volunteers to receive an email request from me for your participation. If you choose to play, it could take as little as five minutes or so for you to contribute to my project. (There is also room, if you feel so moved, for you to spend more time on your submission, but that is entirely up to you.) If you’re intrigued, please shoot me an email at juliasbookreviews at gmail dot com, and I’ll get back with you. Of course you can always back out, too.

For my readers who were born outside of the United States (& territories etc.), if you’d like to participate, you’re welcome to drop me a line as well. I’m not sure in what form such submissions will make it into the final project, but I’d love to hear from you. It would be great to be able to expand this concept on a global scale, but as an issue of scale & simplicity, I’m beginning with just the one country.

Thanks for helping, if you choose! And always, thanks for reading.

“Landspeak” by Robert Macfarlane

Here is another that I cannot improve upon by commenting. Words and places, beautifully composed? I am sold. I’ve heard a lot about Robert Macfarlane but this short piece is all of his writing that I’ve actually read. Clearly I’ll need to find more.

Please enjoy



my anniversary in history

This post is somewhat related to a an ongoing series.


Today is the 7th anniversary of my marriage to this handsome, supportive, bike-riding, brewing Husband.

wed

On a far more sober note, some reading I did several months ago yielded these surprising coincidences. Also on April 19, in 1937:

  • Picasso began to conceive & sketch his theme for a commissioned mural that would become Guernica;
  • Canadian Norman Bethune resigned from the revolutionary blood transfusion organization he had founded & shaped in republican Spain; and
  • sent by the Nazis, twelve newly designed Messerschmitt Bf 109s arrived in northern Spain to support Franco’s forces.

These are momentous events that shaped the Spanish Civil War and its place in history, and I was struck that a day so meaningful in my life would have such larger implications. I just wanted to share.

…Thanks to Hell and Good Company, a fine book by Richard Rhodes, for these timely details.

John Vaillant at Village Books

Way back when I interviewed John Vaillant – in, I think, September of 2014 – I was living in Houston and getting ready to move to the Pacific Northwest. He mentioned that he’d be speaking at Village Books in February. And here we are: I went to hear him read and talk with Husband and Pops.

You know that I enjoyed his book; and I’ll tell you now that our interview was one of the most enjoyable (and moving) that I’ve ever done.

What I learned from this event is still more to his credit. It’s incredibly rare for an author who is this good with words – no, wait. First of all it’s rare for an author to be this good with words. But for an author like that to also be this composed a speaker; this articulate about the writing process; this calm and easy with an audience, this engaged with the people he’s speaking to; to have a strong speaking voice, read his own work beautifully; and then to be extremely funny to boot… well. I’ll cease raving and tell you just to go see him if you get the chance.

Also, I’m well convinced that his two earlier books, The Golden Spruce and The Tiger, would be up my alley. Sadly, as ever, my reading schedule is booked (ha), so we’ll see when I get around to them.

“Total Eclipse” by Annie Dillard (from Teaching a Stone to Talk)

I began by thinking I could review this essay, but I can’t. Annie Dillard and the force of these words here are too much for my limited powers of communication. Read this and wonder.



(As usual from that excellent source of excellent things, Liz.)

Christmas Day in book history

This post is part of a series.

To celebrate Christmas, let’s take a look at today’s date in authorly history.

reader's book of daysAs usual, I consulted A Reader’s Book of Days for today’s happenings, and found births and deaths of some literary figures unfamiliar to me.

Born in 1924: Rod Serling (Stories from the Twilight Zone), Syracuase, N.Y.

Born in 1925: Carlos Castaneda (The Teachings of Don Juan), Cajamarca, Peru

Died in 1938: Karel ńĆapek (R.U.R. [Rossum’s Universal Robots]), 48, Prague

Died in 1956: Robert Walser (Jakob von Gunten), 78, Herisau, Switzerland

But of real interest I found one anecdote. In 1956,

Kept from going home to Alabama for Christmas by her job as an airline ticket agent, Harper Lee spent the holiday in New York with Broadway songwriter Michael Brown and his wife, Joy, close friends she had met through Truman Capote. Because Lee didn’t have much money they had agreed to exchange inexpensive gifts, but when they woke on Christmas morning the Browns presented her with an envelope containing this note: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.” Given the humbling gift of “paper, pen, and privacy,” Lee quit her job and set to work, and by the end of February she had written a couple of hundred pages of a manuscript that was first called Go Set a Watchman, then Atticus, and finally To Kill a Mockingbird.

That’s the stuff right there. I had heard (or rather read) this story before, of how Lee got the chance to write her novel, the only one she’d publish and one which has made such a difference in this country and the world over a number of years now. But the detail I hadn’t heard or at least hadn’t retained was that she had the bulk of her manuscript completed by February of a “year off” that started at Christmas. Now that’s impressive! For all those who were frustrated by NaNoWriMo last month, chew on this: Harper Lee’s masterpiece was written in two months. Whew.

And on that inspiring note… happy holidays, friends. Stay tuned for my annual “best of” and “year in review” posts in the next few days.

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