Sunday, March 31, 2019

Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty

by Eudora Welty
Harvest Books, 339 pages
originally published: 1946

Motivation for reading: This was my first book for the Back to the Classics Challenge (in the classic by a female author category)...  and also a read-along with Audrey.

Source: personal copy (ebook and audiobook)

Publisher's summary:
Set on the Mississippi Delta in 1923, this story captures the mind and manners of the Fairchilds, a large aristocratic family, self-contained and elusive as the wind. The vagaries of the Fairchilds are keenly observed, and sometimes harshly judged, by nine-year-old Laura McRaven, a Fairchild cousin who takes The Yellow Dog train to the Delta for Dabney Fairchild's wedding. An only child whose mother has just died, Laura is resentful of her boisterous, careless cousins, and desperate for their acceptance. As the hour moves closer and closer to wedding day, Laura arrives at a more subtle understanding of both the Fairchilds and herself.

Opening line(s):
The nickname of the train was the Yellow Dog. Its real name was the Yazoo-Delta. It was a mixed train. The day was the 10th of September, 1923 - afternoon. Laura McRaven, who was nine years old, was on her first journey alone. She was going up from Jackson to visit her mother's people, the Fairchilds, at their plantation named Shellmound, at Fairchilds, Mississippi. When she got there, "Poor Laura, little motherless girl," they would all all run out and say, for her mother had died in the winter and they had not seen Laura since the funeral. Her father had come as far as Yazoo City with her and put her on the Dog. Her cousin Dabney Fairchild, who was seventeen, was going to be married, but Laura could not be in the wedding for the reason that her mother was dead. Of these facts, the most persistent one in Laura's mind was the most intimate one: that her age was nine.
My thoughts:

A large extended family gathers on the Mississippi Delta in 1923 for a wedding... and that's about it. Not much happens, but the story is not the main attraction. Instead, Welty examines the setting and her characters.

As I've learned from previous experience with this author, it's all about the writing. Welty's words are beautifully, almost magically, put together. Her lush descriptions bring the southern landscape to life and I've also come to expect a keen psychological exploration of her characters.

Delta Wedding  should ideally be read when in a patient, contemplative mood. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me this month. While I should have been focusing on the beautiful quotations, I found myself wishing something -- anything -- would happen.

I decided on a read/listen combination for this book and must give credit to the audio version narrated by Sally Darling. Her southern accent provided additional atmosphere to Welty's words but, in the end, I even ended up listening at a faster speed.

Could this be a case of the right book at the wrong time? It's entirely possible. I shared my thoughts on The Optimists's  Daughter  in 2011 and, overall, preferred that novel to Delta Wedding.

My rating:

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Current Reading: Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman

The Grateful Class of '68
For a few weeks after my mother's death, I was in possession of the painstakingly annotated high school yearbook that had been dedicated to her by the grateful class of 1968. 
Yes, she'd been their English teacher and yearbook advisor, but that didn't explain her obsessive collecting of signatures and tributes next to every senior's photo. I could picture her - age twenty-three, her first job after college, roaming the corridors of Pickering High School, pen and book in hand, coaxing the shyest, least engaged boy or girl to sign - Write anything. I want to remember every one of you. Could you personalize it, just a few words?

Good Riddance
by Elinor Lipman

Part of my plan to ward off an impending reading slump included borrowing a stack of books from the library and sampling them until one "stuck." The first one I picked up was Elinor Lipman's latest novel, Good Riddance ... and I haven't put it down yet. A few reviews suggest this may not be one of her best, but I'm enjoying it so far.

Here is a portion of the goodreads summary:
Daphne Maritch doesn't quite know what to make of the heavily annotated high school yearbook she inherits from her mother, who held this relic dear. Too dear. The late June Winter Maritch was the teacher to whom the class of '68 had dedicated its yearbook, and in turn she went on to attend every reunion, scribbling notes and observations after each one—not always charitably—and noting who overstepped boundaries of many kinds. 
In a fit of decluttering (the yearbook did not, Daphne concluded, "spark joy"), she discards it when she moves to a small New York City apartment. But when it's found in the recycling bin by a busybody neighbor/documentary filmmaker, the yearbook's mysteries—not to mention her own family's—take on a whole new urgency, and Daphne finds herself entangled in a series of events both poignant and absurd. 

What do you think? Are you tempted to continue?

First Chapter/First Paragraph/Tuesday Intro is hosted by Vicki at I'd Rather Be At The Beach.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sanibel Sunday: St. Patrick's Day Edition

Happy St. Patrick's Day from Sanibel! My father-in-law is coming over for dinner as usual but, other than adding green tint to the icing on the cake, we don't have anything special planned. How about you?

It's been a busy couple of weeks for us. Twin B was here for five days last weekend so I never got around to posting. We've been up to Sarasota twice to see friends, attended a couple of neighborhood gatherings, plus the usual steady stream of activity. I do love our Florida winters!

Reading time, once again, has been minimal and most of it has been on audio. I only managed to finish one book.

Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty

I read this with Audrey for the Back to the Classics Challenge and plan to post a review within the next couple of weeks. For now, let's just say that I've enjoyed several of Welty's short stories and at least one of her novels, but this won't go down as a favorite.

I'm beginning to worry about a reading slump... so many books have been set aside lately. Yesterday I biked over to the library, came home with  five titles that caught my eye, and then downloaded two more ebooks from another library. I'll wait until one of them "sticks" before naming names ;-)

In the kitchen//

It feels like we've gone retro this week. This Slow-Cooker Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken from Budget Bytes  was easy, flavorful, made enough for leftovers, and my daughter loved it. I've had good luck with recipes from this site, so made this exactly as written. I wouldn't change a thing next time either.

It's Girls Scout Cookie season again. I'm not sure how I stumbled across this recipe for Thin Mint Chocolate Poke Cake from Life in the Lofthouse, but this is about as retro as it gets. The recipe calls for a Devil's Food cake mix, a box of instant chocolate pudding, and Cool Whip flavored with peppermint extract, in addition to the thin mint cookies. It reminds me a cake my mother might make! Add a few drops of green food coloring to the whipped topping and it's perfect for St. Patrick's Day. I would suggest letting cake with the pudding on top chill as long as possible before adding the Cool Whip. The recipe says 2 hours to overnight, but I only had two hours. The cake tasted even better the next day.

Finally, this Pan-Roasted Lemon Broccoli Pizza featured on a Weekend Cooking post over at Beth Fish Reads has become a new favorite. I've made it at least three times in the last couple of months using Whole Food's frozen cauliflower pizza crust. All three of our daughters love it, but my husband is still not sold. He wants his pepperoni and sausage!

That's all from Sanibel this morning. I'll let you know what I'm reading soon, but in the meantime tell me which books you're enjoying this weekend.

The Sunday Salon blog link-up is back! Deb at Readerbuzz is the new host.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Sanibel Sunday: March 3, 2019

March, at last. That seems to be the sentiment of everyone stuck in the throes of winter this year. Spring can't come soon enough. Here in Florida, the weather has been just about perfect - plenty of sunshine with cool gulf breezes.

Last week we took an overnight trip across the state to visit my cousin who is renting a condo in Miami Beach. I'd never been there before and, to me, it seemed like Manhattan with a beach! Very exciting, but quite a change of pace from this quiet island which is two thirds wildlife refuge.

Our plan was to hike a couple of trails in the Everglades the following day, but spontaneity ruled and we ended up in Key West instead! No regrets.

Finished last week//

by Ruth Bader Ginsburg,  with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams
narrated by Linda Lavin

"My Own Words  is a selection of writings and speeches by Justice Ginsburg on wide-ranging topics, including gender equality, the workways of the Supreme Court, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera, and the value of looking beyond US shores when interpreting the US Constitution... This book contains a sampling selected by Justice Ginsburg and her authorized biographers, Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams. Justice Ginsburg has written an introduction to the book, and Hartnett and Williams introduce each chapter, giving biographical context and quotes gleaned from hundreds of interviews they have conducted."
What a wonderful follow-up to Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life. I borrowed the ebook from the library and used an audible credit for the for the audio, but realized almost immediately that listening was the way to go. The audio version includes recordings of Ginsburg delivering speeches, lectures, and of course, her now famous dissents, as well as husband Marty's 2003 speech introducing Justice Ginsburg at the Women's Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program at Georgetown University Law Center.

I thoroughly enjoyed these selections, though a few were less interesting and more technical. There was information on the court's history, as well as fun facts about past justices. The Justice on Judging section included a breakdown of both the court year and the typical workday. Ginsberg's lecture on the role of dissent was fascinating... especially her remark that a dissent involving constitutional interpretation "appeals to the intelligence of a future day."

As I said above, this was an excellent follow-up to the Ginsburg biography I read earlier this year, and that biography likely enhanced my overall appreciation and enjoyment  of My Own Words.
My rating:

Current reading//

Some Prefer Nettles by JunichirĊ Tanizaki
I spent almost no time reading physical books last week, but continue to enjoy this classic. 

Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty
narrated by Sally Darling

I started listening to this audiobook on my walk this morning. It's so southern and atmospheric... it kind of feels like the story is just washing over me. A family is preparing for a wedding and, though I have no idea where the plot is headed, it promises to be an interesting journey.

In other news//
I have a new bike! Sanibel is a very bike-friendly community, with 26 miles of shared use paths. For now, I'm mostly riding in the early morning or around sunset... my handling skills are rusty and high season traffic makes me nervous.

The week ahead//
Twin B is coming to visit! She'll fly down Wednesday night, then "work from home" on Thursday and Friday. We'll still have dinners and evening beach walks,and then the entire weekend. We haven't seen her since Christmas, so we're all pretty excited.

I'm considering signing up for a birding class at the Sanibel Sea School... not sure if I want to attend just the seabirds portion or the woodland birds section, too. I'll make a decision later today.

So how was your week? What are you reading today?


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