Hello to all! Miss me? I have just returned from ten days traveling in Paris. The journey was arduous, not on the scale of trekking to a mountain and fighting a dragon for jewels, but still very tiring.
My journey started with my husband and I arising on December 11 at four a.m. We drove three hours to Dallas, deposited our car at a hotel and took the shuttle to the airport. We flew three hours to JFK in New York, and endured a four hour layover made worthwhile with good conversation over dinner with a very nice young man from San Fransisco on his way to scuba dive in the Canary Islands. Eric and Josh and I disagreed on everything we talked about from religion to politics but developed a firm, if temporary friendship. We hugged goodbye and I told him I was going to pray for him and he said, "Good! I want you to!"
And I am. Josh said that Eric fulfilled his man hug quota for the year, but I think he enjoyed the conversation as well.
The flight to Paris was eight hours. I read several books on my Kindle. I will be writing more on my adventures in Paris (the most magical week of my life-that's your teaser!) but suffice to say, that after walking over eight hours a day sight seeing, I fell asleep every evening around seven p.m., woke up wide awake at midnight, read for two or three hours before finally falling asleep around three a.m. then waking up again around six a.m. starving. Unfortunately Paris does not wake up before nine. More reading since I can't sleep with my stomach growling.
At the end of our trip we flew back, with all the hours of flying and driving in reverse.
In conclusion, I read eleven books in ten days on my Kindle. None of them were very long, and my reviews here will be quite short as well.
Trivia by Logan Pearsall Smith
This is a collection of essays by Smith about his personal observations about his life, society in London, religion, and socio-political thought from the eyes of a Victorian/early Twentieth century man.
I thought his essays, were lucid, thought-provoking and charming. I recommend this short book to anyone who likes to read the inner thoughts of a man who combines humor with realism.
The Mouse and the Moonbeam by Eugene Field
This very short book is a Christmas story told by a mouse and then a moonbeam. A good children's book that has a moral about the consequences of the lack of faith as well as the actual purpose of Christmas.
My one complaint: I know that at one time (perhaps still is), it was popular to take some license with Bible stories. In this story the moonbeam shares something he saw many years ago. Jesus as a child is friends with another boy who winds up being the thief on the cross who finally remembers Jesus and surrenders his heart and soul to spend eternity with Him.
This never happened, the author just thought it would make a nice story.
To me, reducing profound Biblical history to a children's story trivializes it into some sort of sentimental tale and robs it of its true power.
The Story of My Heart: an Autobiography by Richard Jefferies
I don't know much about Jefferies, I'm not sure how this book ended up on my Kindle. Probably an impulse buy since it was public domain and free.
Apparently Jefferies is one of the transcendentalist writers. His reflections basically consider our aesthetic reaction to nature as the ultimate experience. The supernatural is only the ecstasy our senses receive as they drink in the wonder the sky, the stars, earth, trees, etc blah, blah blah...breath into us.
There is no God, no metaphysical. Anything created by man...art, books, architecture, whatever... amount to nothing and living as a jungle beast alone in the forest is vastly to be preferred.
Whatever. I read this in one setting, which is a good thing for the author because I wouldn't have bothered to pick the book up again.
Three stars for the quality of writing, not the substance.
Perpetual Light: a Memorial by William Rose Benet
Benet wrote the poems throughout his lifetime for his beloved wife whose life was cut tragically short.
Hence the evolution of these poems are wonderful to read, beginning with the ones he wrote in his youth, expressing the first giddy excitement of being in love, mellowing with a rich enjoyment of being married to the love of his life and ending finally with the stark and barren wilderness that he finds himself thrust into as he endures his loss and loneliness.
Even in his darkest moments, there are undercurrents of strength and hope. I enjoyed these poems and yes, I also read these in one sitting, which allowed me to better appreciate the transition of his life journey.
Poems and Ballads of Heinrich Heine
Our first morning in Paris, which was very early because the sun hadn't risen and our hostel room wasn't available yet, we walked to Montmartre Cemetery. It was peaceful, though cold, as the sun rose, slowly illuminating the gravestones and chapels.
While we walked among the tombs looking for famous graves a French woman walked up to us and pointed to a grave we were standing near.
"That is Anrish Ann. He is a German poet."
We looked at the grave which had a bust of the poet on top. The poet's name was Heinrich Heine, which I would pronounce differently than the French woman, but who am I to correct others?
When I woke up the next morning around two a.m due to Jet Lag, I opened up my Kindle and discovered that I had a collection of Heine's poems.
This is a beautiful set of poems by a preeminent 19th century German poet. He writes of love, of longing, of spiritual fulfillment in excellent verse. Another book I refused to put down and read in one sitting.
The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories by Algernon Blackwood
The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers
Another book I'd been reading for several months but finished in Paris.
The King in Yellow is a series of short stories written in H.P. Lovecraft style. The common thread is horror and a mysterious set of letters, documents, or other metaphysical phenomena that leads to the death or tragic conclusion involving the narrator.
The stories are in turn suspenseful, scary and sometimes funny as a few of them turn out to be merely dreams.
The writing is style can be a little archaic and after the fashion of a lot of Steam Punk or lesser known authors of the time period, which can be seen now as somewhat melodramatic and sentimental.
Women are described after the fashion of many late Victorian writers in poetical turns. There are often depicted as goddesses, often unattainable or if attainable, not sustainable because of a tragic ending. Oh, those Victorian writers.
The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley
In a nutshell, a little chimney sweep who experiences nothing but abuse and neglect finally, in a panic, runs away but finally collapses at the edge of a spring. There the Queen of the Fairies turns him into a Water Baby.
When he wakes up, he finds himself only a few inches high with gills on the sides of his neck. The rest of the story is filled with his new discoveries of his environment and the various animals and sea life.
There is also a moral tale of the wrongness of child abuse and also redemption for even the most hardened heart.
This is a sweet Christmas story, very old fashioned and Victorian but also a timeless message of how hard-heartedness can impact the ones we should love the most, the need for forgiveness as well as to forgive.
On the flight home I was sitting next to a young woman from Tunisia. She was staying in New Jersey for a couple of months with relatives. She asked where we were going.
I told her how many hours we had before us. I added that the day after we arrived, my in laws were coming in from North Carolina. When they left, the day after Christmas, my parents would be arriving.
After New Year's my son and I will drive them back to Florida and stay with them a week.
So it is lively at the Wilfong home.
Which is how I like it!
I pray you all have a similarly blessed time. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!