Books and Beauty

Thank you all so much for your book recommendations last week. Many of us have similar (and I would say GREAT) taste, and I have loved some of the same reads you have.

I was surprised by the enthusiasm for Annie Dillard (thank you Hanna, Macaroni Heather, Moonshine Heather, Milla and Rachel), as I hadn’t heard of her and I began to realize I must really be missing out on something here. When I went to the used book store, as luck would have it “The Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek” was the only book available out of all the recommendations I had written down. So I happily tucked it in my bag and giddily trotted home, eager to crack the spine.

Friends…I don’t know what to say…how did I not know about her? I read the first chapter with shivers running all down my back and arms. I didn’t know…I didn’t know that you could write about all those things…those secret, quiet, non-verbal happenings that take place in communion with nature. Reading Annie Dillard is like letting a bird in my chest out of its cage and watching it fly around the room. Everyone who reads, and loves, her books must belong in an unspoken secret club. And indeed, since purchasing her book I have been taking it everywhere with me, and regardless of where I go, some shy soul will come up to me and say “I just couldn’t help noticing what you are reading. I really love that book.”. I was reading an excerpt to Jeff at the park on Saturday, and I could feel the girl sitting next to us listening in. Finally she spoke up, gushing with her love for Dillard and telling me all about the other good ones I must read.

So thank you for leading me into her world. In return, it occurred to me that maybe I have a read a book or two that you haven’t, so I will offer a few of MY favorites here, in the hope that one of them will light you up. Click on the pictures for link to more info on the stories.

Cross Creek by M.K. Rawlings.

“We were bred of earth before we were bred of our mothers. Once born, we can live without mother or father, or any other kin, or any friend, or any human love. We cannot live without the earth or apart from it, and something is shrivelled in a man’s heart when he turns away from it and concerns himself only with the affairs of men.” 

Where have you heard that name before? Rawlings wrote “The Yearling”. “Cross Creek” is about her bonding with the place she finally called home…a citrus grove in the 1930s. Full of stories of a homesteading life, quirky neighbors, racial tensions, encounters with wildlife and a soul’s journey. All of you who recommended Dillard will love this.

“The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts” Louis de Bernieres.

Like Marquez, it’s magical realism, but it is far more rollicking and cheeky and clever and ridiculous and real and beautiful and terrible and enchanting. Latin American politics combining with indigenous shamanism. Magical pumas. Class tensions. Descriptions so real you can taste the dust on your tongue. And I have never laughed so long or so hard at a book. The first of a series, all of which is wonderful, except for the third, which is still wonderful but also horribly horribly violent.

“His Dark Materials” trilogy. Phillip Pullman.

We have to be all those difficult things like cheerful and kind and curious and patient, and we’ve got to study and think and work hard, all of us, in all our different worlds, and then we’ll build…’

‘And then what?’ said her dæmon sleepily. ‘Build what?’

‘The Republic of Heaven,’ said Lyra.
Ok, you’ve probably read this already. But if you haven’t…WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? If you saw “The Golden Compass” and thought it was terrible (I did) don’t let that sway you…as is usually the case, the book is far different, and far better, than the movie. An incredible story and world to disappear into, like Tolkien, Pullman draws you so far in that you feel in your bones you must be somewhere real. Fantasy, religion vs. spirituality, dogmatism vs. experience, animal familiars, Gaia theory, Christianity, life after death, parallel worlds…all written with such love and compassion that rather than feeling isolated by the concepts, you feel like someone just gave you a very important gift.

“The Hummingbird’s Daughter” Luis Alberto Urrea.

“What do you think our work is here on earth?” he asked. 

“Love for God, love for each other. Reconciliation. Service.” She poked him with a finger. “Joy!”  

Teresita, the real life Saint of Cabora, was a distant relative of the author, who spent two years researching her. Teresita grew up in horrible poverty, was abused, raped and abandoned. But she was taken under the wing of the town’s curandera, literally rose from the dead, and grew up to be a miracle worker of such fame that pilgrims came from all over the country to receive her blessing. Aside from the beauty of the true story, is the way that Urrea writes about her and the world he paints. Anything I can say would be lame in comparison to the stunning quality of his writing. I’ll just shut up and say this is one of my top five favorite books EVER.

“Sexing the Cherry” by Jeanette Winterson.

Even the most solid of things, and the most real, the best-loved and the well-known, are only hand-shadows on the wall. Empty space and points of light.

So it’s about this boy who washes up on a river bank and is adopted by the monstrous dog woman who has pit scars in her face so deep that fleas live in them. It’s also about bananas. And the real story of Rapunzel and the Twelve Dancing Princesses. And existentialism. And miracles and the fantastic.

Wow. I have never written book reviews before and I think I’m realizing it’s not my cup of tea. Just trust me, ok? This book is really amazing and fun. *cringe*

So there you go, kids. I hope I just dropped a penny in your lap. To end, I have some random bits of beauty and joy to share.

This is worth every second. In regards to yesterday’s post on the fae folk…he is one, don’t you think?

Egg man. Finnish. Ridiculous. I love him.

Love to you all.


2 thoughts on “Books and Beauty

  1. Hi! I’ve been peeking in at your inspiring blog since Milla recommended it, and thought I’d say hello from just up the way in Santa Rosa 🙂

    I just discovered Annie Dillard recently too, through her book The Maytrees (which I read for a book club and fell in love with). Pilgrim at Tinker Creek has been next on my list, so I’m even more excited about it now after reading your thoughts!

    Also, just last night I finished the most amazing book called Into the Forest by Jean Hegland that I think would be right up your alley. Check it out, I can’t recommend it to you enough!

    Thanks for your recommendations, they all sound wonderful!

  2. oh beauty, yes and wildness true! so glad you are loving annie dillard. i like the idea of a secret club. that’s my kind of club alright. all the shy girls who trip out on insects get in!

    i’m excited to check out some of your recommendations as well. i’ve read others by winterson and i own Sexing the Cherry but haven’t gotten to it yet; it sounds fab. As for the Hummingbird’s Daughter that is also one of my favorites that I enjoy giving away to friends. It sweeps through all kinds of hearts.

    Have you read Opal Whiteley’s diaries? Your fairy post reminded me of her. A brilliant girl child who could see into the enchanted heart of nature; I think you might like to share her tales with little Fern. Let me know if you’d like a copy, I’ve got an extra I just picked up at a flea market that i’d love to send you. love and may madness to you!

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