A poet’s call to arms on the 100 anniversary of U.S. entering WWI

I was married in November of 1995 and my wife and I went went to England for our honeymoon.

While in London, we came across the remnants—flowers at war memorials, paper poppies left singly and in piles—of Armistice Day celebrations. I was surprised, and impressed, by the number of somber ceremonies honoring the dead. It wasn’t until later that I realized how many British lives were lost in that war, and that the people at ceremonies were often mourning not just some hypothetical soldier “who gave his life for our freedom” but very real brothers, fathers, grandfathers and friends. It sparked an interest in World War I and, while I’m no expert by any means, I find myself drawn to the war and the era, constantly stunned by the casual slaughter of so many.

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Wisdom and wit come with age and poetry

This week’s poem post is actually about two poems, written 70 years apart, by two different men and both about getting older.

Milne, Now We Are Six copy.jpegIn 1927, A.A. Milne published “Now We Are Six,” a collection of 35 poems for children, some about his most famous creation, Winnie-the-Pooh. Many feature Milne’s son, Christopher Robin and all the wondrous discoveries and flights of fancy that occupy the minds of young, active boys.

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In England, during WWII, ‘Everyone Brave is Forgiven’

brave.jpegSeveral years ago a friend of mine breathlessly begged me to read a novel she had just finished. “I’m not going to tell you what it’s about except to say you have to read it.”

So I picked up “Little Bee” by Chris Cleve. Here’s the quote from the flap inside the dust cover: “We don’t want to tell you too much about this book. It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this: It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific. The story starts there, but the book doesn’t. And it’s what happens afterward that is most important. Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.” A little too clever, but, OK, they had me.

Then I started reading this tedious, untidy novel peopled with stupid characters I didn’t care about entangled in a plot that had little point. It’s memorable to me only in that I wished I had stopped reading after the dust cover, as it was the most interesting aspect of the book.

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Mma Ramotswe: Still revealing the mysteries of a happy life

precious and grace.jpegI have written many times about Alexander McCall Smith and how he has charmed his way into my list of favorite authors.

In “Precious and Grace,” the 17th(!) novel in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, Smith takes a stray dog, a naive friend of Mma Ramotswe who unwittingly becomes part of a pyramid scheme, and a Woman of the Year contest (no, neither Precious Ramotswe nor Grace Makutsi are nominees) to paint a picture of a gentle world where everything comes out right. This being a mystery series, however, there is a case of a woman who returns to Botswana to reconnect with her past. She hires the agency to locate her old nanny, a woman she only knew as Rosie some 30 years before, with only a blurry, faded photograph to help.

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My summer of reading crap – Part 2: Some novels

We’re well into fall and I’m still behind in my reviews of books I slogged through this summer.

Every night, exhausted from work and family, I fall into bed and stare at the ceiling, guilty that I haven’t saved you, my devoted, gentle reader(s) from picking up a book that looks interesting only to discover it’s crap.

Here are brief reviews of some of the crap. Hold your nose.

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Classics Challenge gets mysterious

When I was moving from children’s books to more adult fare, I cut my teeth on Agatha Christie.

baskervilles.jpegI was 11 years old in 1976 when she died. The Detroit Free Press, which we had delivered at home, devoted the back page of the last section (the one with the comics) to a photo spread and story about the woman who essentially created a genre of fiction.

I asked my mother whether she would let me check one of Christie’s books out of the library and she said she’d have to think about it, not being familiar with Christie’s work. She got back to me a few days later, saying she had read or heard a minister say he let his children read the books because they were, at the core, very moral.

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On the difference between liking a novel and reading it

To my great shame, two of my four children are not readers. Our oldest and our youngest would read anything anywhere, but the middle two read only what they have to when they have to.

bleak houseI tried and tried to find books they might find interesting, to no avail. Even when they liked a particular book, they still had no problem not reading them. “If you like it,” I would ask them pointedly, “why do I have to force you to read it?”

That’s a question I’ve been asking myself since I started reading Dickens’ “Bleak House,” my choice for the Classics Challenge 2016 category of a book that had a place in its title.

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