October 27, 2010

A Woman's World

Do I read mostly books by and about women? I guess so. Maybe as this blog unfolds I'll know for sure. About a month ago I picked up A Woman's World at the library. This is one of the Travellers' Tales series. I've read quite a few in that series - I can't really remember which but according to my usual habits, they'd be Tuscany, Provence, India, Ireland, Cuba, Italy and Greece, and I know I read one about the Equator. They are always books of true stories written by travellers, and there are actually nine in the series that are written entirely by women about their travels.

It's pretty rare for me to be reading a book for a month, but A Woman's World and most of the Travellers' Tales books really lend themselves to that sort of leisurely pace. They're rich in detail and the quality of writing is outstanding, often with stories by well-known travel writers like Pico Iyer and Paul Theroux. There are about 45 stories in this particular book.

My favourite was by Jan Haag about a walk she took in California's Salinas Valley. She got very hot and thirsty and thought about the travellers of long ago - how they were greeted so eagerly and offered hospitality and their stories were listened to with such interest - and she wished for a miracle like that. And it happened, in a most interesting way.

There are other great stories, about a couple trekking in Bhutan and finding a unique peace in a remote village, a twenty-year-old girl finishing a two-year solo sailing trip around the world and encountering a horrendous storm, a mom and daughter who go back to Mexico to visit the place where their father/grandpa was shot half a century before, and many more.

If you like travelling, even vicariously by armchair, be sure to pick up some Travellers' Tales sooner or later.

October 14, 2010

the day i ate whatever I wanted

I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Berg - I think she's a really good writer in the vein of Anne Tyler, whom I used to read a lot. The latest Elizabeth Berg book I read was the day i ate watever i wanted And Other Small Acts of Liberation. It's a book of short stories, fiction, about women break an unhealthy or problematic pattern in their lives with a "small act of liberation." In the title story, the protagonist has been on a wicked diet and has been doing quite well,but she decides she's had it, buys a whole box of doughnuts and tucks into them, and splurges a few more times that day. Her husband's been on the same diet but much more disciplined which really bugs her. The ending is sooo redemptive. I loved almost every story in this book.

October 3, 2010

Rhapsody in Blue

The first community concert of our fall series featured pianist Sara Davis Buechner. She played a Haydn sonata and another Sonata by a contemporary of Haydn's named Dussek, neither of which grabbed me particularly but then after the intermission she played The Cocktail Suite by Dana Suesse who also wrote "You ought to be in pictures" and other famous songs. I loved this whole suite; the four parts were named after cocktails - Old-Fashioned, champagne, Bacardi and Manhattan and the music was playful and challenging at the same time. I'm not that familiar with cocktails, except for champagne and that one was about as perfect a musical description of champagne as I could imagine. She saved the best for the last: George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which pretty well transported me and tapped into my huge love of what I call show tunes, and most of the rest of the audience must have liked it too because at the end she got a big standing ovation and even some whistles and cheers from the almost entirely over-60 audience of about 900 community concert ticket holders. Buechner is very dry and funny and she's great in her teaching mode too, sharing all kinds of music history to give context to the pieces she's playing.