Category Archives: Reading

Books, magazines, newspapers

Let the Triduum begin

Six weeks ago, I wrote about eating pancakes before the beginning of the Christian season of Lent.

Some 40 days have passed and we are now at the Holy Triduum—the three days preceding Easter, beginning today with Maundy Thursday, which commemorates, among other significant happenings, the Last Supper.

Our Jewish friends and family are in their season of Passover. It is indeed a holy week for those of Judeo-Christian faiths.

I thought about refraining from writing during this period so that I could fully observe the holy days, and I might still.

As I mentioned on Shrove Tuesday, I am following a daily devotional (On the Cross Road by Joan Trusty Moore) and  I have fallen about a week behind, so I hope to do some catching up. Also, I plan to be in church every day for the next four days–Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Great Vigil of Easter and Easter Sunday. If something strikes me, I’ll write. If not, I’ll be back soon.

In the meantime, whether your tradition involves observing holy days, taking your kids to Disney or on college tours for spring break or, if you live in the nation’s capital, enjoying having the roads to yourself, I invite you to share your comments on what this time means to you.

Happy days.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Holidays, Reading

By the book

About 10 years ago I realized that, as a society, we parents read way too many books about pregnancy and infancy and not enough about parenting. It was much longer ago that I marveled at the amount of energy and money we pour into infants, equipping ourselves and them with nursery furniture and fixtures, clothes and equipment, when everything is outgrown in the blink of an eye—and, in our case, occupies space in the attic for another 20 years.

As I glance at my bookcase, I count more than a dozen books about the first years of life. Were those really needed, when what we focused on at that stage was putting food in one end and cleaning up at the other? The loving came naturally.

By the time our children are adolescents, we are too busy pulling our hair out to read books. I did have one or two that helped in a pinch, but wouldn’t it have made better sense to read those in advance of onset?

Then came the dreaded Empty Nest Syndrome, for which I was completely unprepared—most likely because I was consumed with the here and now of the high school years. Then came the college years, during which parenting happens long distance. And then, the post college era.

Just weeks after our son graduated from college last spring, I struggled with identifying my role as a parent. You’d think your work is done, but isn’t your role just being redefined yet again? As the parent of an only child, I am the very model of the modern helicopter parent, always hovering. When is it time to fly out of the picture? How is my adult child going to navigate the adult world? Where are the books for this stage?

Well, it turns out there are plenty of books on parenting your adult child. I just never thought to look. I spent some time on Amazon.com this morning, when my son and his girlfriend went back to North Carolina after spending a week here, exploring possible relocation. Yes, we are inviting him back to the nest, so that he might have a better pad from which to launch the second year of his adult career. And I see there are nearly a dozen books on the subject.

Again, we contemplate our role as parents. We taught him what the cow says and where his nose is. Surely, 20 years later we can be of help in punching up a resume, crafting an elevator pitch, sharing advice on networking techniques, working up sample budgets and helping in the clarification of goals. But whose goals, his or ours?

I know the answer is this: we have an adult son who has matured into an outstanding man, caring and talented, in spite of us.

Now what?

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Filed under Family and Friends, Reading

Year of the Nymph

On March 31, 2010, I wrote my first blog post, questioning the value of blogs. My premise was that no one wants to read anyone else’s innermost thoughts—and blogging seemed to be the place where innermost feelings become outermost feelings. But I went ahead and started Word Nymph anyway.

My one-year anniversary post isn’t going to be anything spectacular, so if you’re reading this blog for the first time today, please dig deeper into the archives before you form a first impression.

If you’re among the small but potent community of regular readers and commenters, thank you. Thank you for your faithfulness, even on days when your basket is brimming with reading matter. Thank you also to the four or five people who advised me in the beginning of this undertaking. And thank you to my husband, who kisses me good night as I sit in the late hours staring at a blank screen and panicking about what I will write about the next day. Three hundred nine times, so far.

Over the course of the year, I’ve heard from people that they want more personal stories of my childhood or of the careless foibles of my adulthood. Others believe I should stick to my knitting; one reader said he was going to unsubscribe because I wasn’t doing enough on language and grammar. At times I’ve wondered how I might satisfy everyone in this regard. But, as Ricky Nelson once sang, “You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.”

Some readers tell me they can’t keep up with my six-days-a-week schedule,  that they get behind and struggle to catch up. I don’t want people feeling like they’re drinking from a fire hose, so maybe I should slow down, pace myself so I don’t run out of ideas, or worse, generate forced content for the sake of adhering to a self-imposed schedule. On the other hand, some readers call me when I’ve posted late or missed a day, wondering where their Word Nymph is.

As I struggled with these questions, a friend and supporter sent me a link to another blogger’s ideas. These very usefully address my very conundrums. If you’re contemplating starting a blog yourself, or if you’d like to join me in contemplating Word Nymph’s future, you’ll find these thought-provoking—and a good read all around.

I know one thing for certain. Your comments–good or bad, serious or funny–are what make it worth the effort.

That’s it for today. Still thinking about the future. I welcome your ideas.

Thanks again for reading. Must find cake.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, Foibles and Faux Pas, Reading, Technology and Social Media

Famed phobia

Do other Vanity Fair readers out there read the last page first? As soon as VF comes in the mail, I flip to the back, to the Proust Questionnaire, a regular feature in which celebrities are asked to reveal their true selves–even if their true selves drive them to provide flip answers.

The questionnaire is fashioned after a list of queries developed by French writer Marcel Proust, who believed that, in order to know others, we must first know ourselves. It asks things like “What is your idea pf perfect happiness?” and “What is your greatest achievement?” as well as “What do you consider the most overrated virtue?” and “How would you like to die?” Every month I read the responses of the featured celebrity and imagine what my own might be.

When asked which talent they’d most like to have, it’s surprising to me how many would like to play the piano. I would too, though being smarter and being able to sing would be higher on my list.

One of my favorites—an example of a flip response—was, when asked “What do you value most in your friends,” Dustin Hoffman replied, “private planes.”

We all relate to those who deplore cruelty in others and admire hard work. I’ve never related more to any answer than I did to one this month by New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter. To the question, “What is your greatest fear,” he said “Being unprepared.” Bingo.

We’ve all had that dream about going into a final exam after forgetting to go to class for a whole semester. Or being out in public without a stitch of clothing. I also have one in which I’ve neglected a pet too long. Gruesome, I know, but it reflects the depth of this fear I share with Jeter.

Perhaps it comes from showing up at Catholic school without my homework or permission slip, or not taking some of my college courses seriously enough. Somewhere along the way, these experiences of my youth led to some pretty compulsive behavior in my later years: packing three pairs of pantyhose for a one-night trip or leaving the house in perfect order, just in case something happens to me while I’m at 7-Eleven. Never running out of milk or floor wax or Q-tips. Reading the whole paper in the morning, not necessarily because I want to but because someone might ask me about a column or an obituary or the Dow. Getting my car inspected before it’s due and filing my taxes three weeks early. I can’t sleep at night if I don’t have at least an inkling of what I’ll blog about the next morning.

I know nothing whatsoever about Derek Jeter, or the New York Yankees or baseball for that matter. I do know, though, that Jeter’s favorite hero is The Incredible Hulk, that he would come back as an elephant, that he thinks he overuses the word “obviously” and that he hates bullies and his own skinny legs. I’d like to know how he overcomes that fear we both share and if he’s anywhere near as neurotic as I am in compensating for it.

What’s your greatest fear and, just to make me feel normal, what quirky compulsions do you throw at it?

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Filed under Foibles and Faux Pas, Reading, Sports and Recreation

Double trouble

Exactly when, or how, did Doppelgänger spring into popular consciousness?

For a word that originated as early as the 17th century, hovering below the radar for hundreds of years, it seems to have crashed back in to popular language quite suddenly.

When I first noticed people on Facebook putting up pictures of their celebrity doubles a year or so ago, I should have picked up on the Doppelgänger phenomenon, but didn’t. I sat that one out anyway, not because I was unfamiliar with the Doppelgänger (which I was), but because I don’t think I have a celebrity double necessarily. I’ve been told I look like Mary Crosby (She shot J.R.), Marsha Mason, Helen Hunt, Laura Linney and Stockard Channing, none of whom look at all like each other.

Since the time Celebrity Doppelgänger Week was last celebrated on Facebook, I’ve been hearing this quirky word all over the place. It was kind of like kerfuffle, which seemed to lie low for years before becoming a fad.

Doppelgänger has come to be synonymous with evil twin, alter ego and clone. But where did it come from? It’s not easy to say exactly, because there are many meanings and, as best I can tell, many origins. In fact, it seems even the Doppelgänger has a Doppelgänger.

It can mean an omen of danger or death; a hallucination of one’s own image out of the corner of one’s eye, sometimes as a result of electromagnetic stimulation of the brain; looking in the mirror and seeing two faces; a mythological apparition of evil or just someone who looks very much like someone else.

There are references to Doppelgänger in poetry and literature, as well as historical references going back hundreds of years in the United States and Europe.

If you’re interested, I encourage you to go out and learn about each culture’s interpretation. Or perhaps you already know all this and I am the one who is late to the party.

Make mine a party of six—my five Doppelgängers and me.

 

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Movies, Television and Radio, Reading, Technology and Social Media

A wicked good read

In December, I received the book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West for my birthday. I had just seen the play and had heard the book upon which it was based was excellent.

It’s now March and I’m on page 28. At this rate, I’ll do well to finish the book before my next birthday.

This isn’t because I’m not enjoying Wicked. On the contrary, it’s because I am.

I like to read, but I don’t finish more than about two or three books a year. The better the book, the longer it takes me. Sure, I can polish off a Nora Roberts trilogy in one beach vacation. That’s like slurping up a triple scoop hot fudge sundae—no chewing involved, except for the crunchy sprinkles of guilty indulgence.

Newspapers, magazines and online news and opinion consume a healthy share of my reading.

Books are different. For me, a really good read isn’t always a page-turner. It’s not always a sundae. It’s a protracted dinner composed of superbly seasoned courses, savored slowly to appreciate each nuance. Like a good dish, a well-written sentence might hit the cranial taste buds with a burst of garlic, and leave a hint of smoked poblano on the back side.

The reason it’s taking me so long to read Wicked is that I am re-reading—and re-re-reading—each sentence. I enjoy each one so much that it pains me to move on.

To say author Gregory Maguire has a way with words is akin to saying Julia Child made a decent bowl of onion soup.

Let me feed you a few bites, just to whet your appetite:

“In the kitchen yard Malena floated gently, not with the normal gravity of pregnancy but as if inflated, a huge balloon trailing its strings through the dirt. She carried a skillet in one hand and a few eggs and the whiskery tips of autumn chives in the other.”

“In the minister’s lodge, Malena struggled with consciousness as a pair of midwives went in and out of focus before her. One was a fishwife, the other a palsied crone.”

“’Look, a rainbow,’ said the senior, bobbing her head. A sickly scarf of colored light hung on the sky.”

“After the double blow of the birth and his public embarrassment, he was not yet up to professional engagements and sat whittling praying beads out of oak, scoring and inscribing them with emblems of the Namelessness of God.”

“Malena, groggy from pinlobble leaves as usual, arched an eyebrow in confusion.”

Hungry?

Watch for a full review, likely around year’s end.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Food, Reading

Feed me

I’ve been at this blog experiment for almost 11 months now and I’ll be honest, there are times when utter panic sets in.

Within my six-days-a-week writing schedule, anxiety over coming up with a topic takes hold about three times a week. Usually, after taking a pause and deep breath, sometimes walking away, the light bulb comes on—sometimes a really dim bulb—and the writing flows.

One of my greatest concerns about writing so frequently is that the content will become diluted or seem forced. And often it does.

When Word Nymph was born in March of last year, it was fun. It was new. The ideas and the writing flowed effortlessly. Today, I’ve sat here for hours, staring at a blank screen, having scoured newspapers, magazines, my bookcase, my imagination and all my online sources. Nada.

Just as my palms got clammy and my heart raced to a frightening clip, I remembered a blog post my cousin pointed me to earlier in the week. It made me feel better and worse at the same time.

This remarkable blogger, writing under the name of The Digital Cuttlefish, articulated graphically the challenges of keeping up with a daily blog. In a post entitled The Care and Feeding of Dragons, the writer first puts forth an unattributed quote:  “A blog is like a dragon. You have to feed it all the time and sometimes you get burned.”

In the post, Mr. or Ms. Cuttlefish hit the nail on the head. Blogging is easy at first. But, like the dragon, this beast must be fed, preferably a meaty and steady diet, or it will eat you alive.

I took a tiny bit of comfort in Cuttlefish’s words because I no longer felt alone in my anxiety. Also, Cuttlefish put a face to my fear with this hungry dragon.

Once I finished reading the Dragon post and scrolled down to get a feel for Cuttlefish’s other writings, my jaw dropped. I could no longer put myself in the company of this blogger. Yes, he/she too posts about six days a week. But every post—every single post—is written in rhyme.

I must know: What does the Digital Cuttlefish eat for breakfast?

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Reading, Technology and Social Media