On Gifts That Last Forever

Sometimes a book just appears in our lives — a delightful langniappe that stays with you, one that just might change your life. I happened upon Nuala O’Faolain’s Are You Somebody years ago – a chance encounter at the High Point Library, long before I ever dreamed that I could actually be a writer. I thought, reading her memoir, that if I ever wrote, that’s how I would want to do it. Her searing honesty stayed with me, and in every word that I put to paper, I endeavor to be as honest, as authentic, as she.

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Another chance encounter, shortly after I moved to Greensboro, came again in a library, this time a tiny branch that was soon to be replaced by a modern, up-to-date location. This branch still had catalog cards, and was a delightful escape from the pressures of my very modern job. And there I discovered Miss Read, a sort-of 1950s answer to Alexander McCall Smith. Her tales of an English village where nothing really ever happened proved just the ticket to an evening of unwinding from a job where my brain was full-wired and ever-alert.

 

Barbara pym chronologically:

And then there are the lovely suggestions of friends, those who know more about you than you imagine. One such friend, from my Chicago days, looked at me shortly after we met and said, “I’ll bet you’d like Barbara Pym.” And was she ever right. Those stoic women-of-a-certain-age and their quiet courage certainly influenced me personally and in the characters I portray in my novels.

And now toStoner. Ah…John Williams’s book reached down into the depths of my heart, and I am ever grateful to dear Jane for recognizing that resonance.

 

And from my Raleigh days, I learned about E.F.Benson and Mapp and Lucia. Kathy, a quilter, a knitter, and a reader, opened my eyes to this writer and his fictional band of characters. I even visited Rye to walk the bricks that Miss Mapp and Mrs. Lucas had fictitiously trod.

Alice Steinbach passed away on Tuesday.

And finally Alice Steinbach’s Without Reservations. This recommended by a distant relative, whose reading menu I respect impeccably. I thought that it would be a worthwhile read, but was delighted to read of Steinbach’s honest insights on being on one’s own, of learning, digging deep, to find just who she really is.

So, this are just a few gifts that have made my reading life, or rather my life, my soul, fuller, deeper, more committed. I pass these few on to you with the hope that some, maybe even all, will do the same.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Gifts That Last Forever

Sometimes a book just appears in our lives — a delightful langniappe that stays with you, one that just might change your life. I happened upon Nuala O’Faolain’s Are You Somebody years ago – a chance encounter at the High Point Library, long before I ever dreamed that I could actually be a writer. I thought, reading her memoir, that if I ever wrote, that’s how I would want to do it. Her searing honesty stayed with me, and in every word that I put to paper, I endeavor to be as honest, as authentic, as she.

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Another chance encounter, shortly after I moved to Greensboro, came again in a library, this time a tiny branch that was soon to be replaced by a modern, up-to-date location. This branch still had catalog cards, and was a delightful escape from the pressures of my very modern job. And there I discovered Miss Read, a sort-of 1950s answer to Alexander McCall Smith. Her tales of an English village where nothing really ever happened proved just the ticket to an evening of unwinding from a job where my brain was full-wired and ever-alert.

 

Barbara pym chronologically:

And then there are the lovely suggestions of friends, those who know more about you than you imagine. One such friend, from my Chicago days, looked at me shortly after we met and said, “I’ll bet you’d like Barbara Pym.” And was she ever right. Those stoic women-of-a-certain-age and their quiet courage certainly influenced me personally and in the characters I portray in my novels.

And now toStoner. Ah…John Williams’s book reached down into the depths of my heart, and I am ever grateful to dear Jane for recognizing that resonance.

 

And from my Raleigh days, I learned about E.F.Benson and Mapp and Lucia. Kathy, a quilter, a knitter, and a reader, opened my eyes to this writer and his fictional band of characters. I even visited Rye to walk the bricks that Miss Mapp and Mrs. Lucas had fictitiously trod.

Alice Steinbach passed away on Tuesday.

And finally Alice Steinbach’s Without Reservations. This recommended by a distant relative, whose reading menu I respect impeccably. I thought that it would be a worthwhile read, but was delighted to read of Steinbach’s honest insights on being on one’s own, of learning, digging deep, to find just who she really is.

So, this are just a few gifts that have made my reading life, or rather my life, my soul, fuller, deeper, more committed. I pass these few on to you with the hope that some, maybe even all, will do the same.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Permission to Do Nothing

thinking-woman-clip-art-at-clker-vector-clip-art

On Permission to Do Nothing

Week two of sabbatical – and I’ve done nothing but read. Nothing! And I must say that it’s delightful, and a bit alarming, how quickly, how easily, I have slipped into self-awarded, self-induced indolence – if you call lying on the sofa reading indolence. (At one time I had hoped that it would be named an Olympic sport.) And, surely, there must have been a time where I did not have a book in my hand, though I don’t remember it.

I read with the World Series playing in the distance. These games make me nervous, so sad always am I  for the losers. And, as happy as this former Chicagoan is for the Cubs, my heart goes out to Indian fans, and Cleveland, a city that could certainly use a break.

I’m staying away from TV as much as I can these days – no news and no talking heads – and I will not deign to comment on the political ads polluting the airways. How many millions of dollars wasted, flying into the pockets of media outlets and political opportunists, while bridges and schools crumble, and ordinary people worry about the future of our country.

There must be a better way. Can we not look to Europe, where politics, though as vicious, plays for less cost, in so many ways? Norway, now my ideal of campaign reason, has banned TV and radio political ads. Can you imagine such a return to sanity here? And their voter turnout is 81%.

I voted early this election. I had always relished going to the polls on election day, loved that sense of this one day that was set aside to play our role in maintaining our democracy. But this year, the stakes are too high to take a risk – a flat tire, a broken toe, who knows?

We’ll have a new president when I post my next blog. Would that our wounds could heal.

www.cynthiastrauff.com  Another Sunday

 

On My Year of Yes

year of yes

On My Year of Saying Yes

I must be honest – I have not read Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes yet, BUT I am third on the list at the library. Now I did see her on Oprah, so I am not totally ignorant of her message. Basically, it is to step out and say yes to opportunities presented.

Over the years, I’ve developed a pretty good mechanism for saying no, so, I thought, with the beginning of a new year, this “yes thing” might be just the ticket.  I realized that opportunities presented themselves to me all the time – movies, exhibits, parties, classes, lectures. And my first reaction in most cases was “that sounds nice.” But then (and isn’t there always a but then…) somehow life always got in the way- it was too far to drive, I didn’t feel like getting dressed, I told myself that I’d follow up on it later – and if I remembered it, most times it was too late – the exhibit had closed, the lecture had passed, the movie had left.

So it’s not the yes I have trouble with. It’s the actual doing that presents a challenge. Yes, I’d love to see that play. Then, on that afternoon, it just felt too cozy to stay at home. My book called to me with a louder siren call than getting dressed and heading out. Well, one time that may be just fine, but it is a slippery slope and I had slid way past the Angle of Repose (which is also the title of one of the books I chose to stay home and read rather than go out).

But no more – or at least not so much. Since my declaration, heretofore only to myself, that this would be my year of following up on that YES, I’ve gone to two parties, attended a showing of the Bolshoi’s Lady of the Camellias, bought tickets to see Beautiful, seen an exhibit of Bodies Revealed, as well as an exhibit of American Impressionist paintings on the day before it closed and enrolled in a class on History and Identity on Screen. And it’s still January!

Now I’m not saying that I’ll keep up this pace of actually doing things that “sound nice.” My life has other focuses that don’t fall into that “say yes” category. But these few weeks have made me realize that once I take that second step, the rest is easy, or at least not impossible.

And now I must close; I’m on my way to see Spotlight.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com  author of Another Sunday