Monthly Archives: April 2011

Rediscovering Values

Jim Wallis’ Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery should be read by every person working on Wall St. and anyone who identifies with Main Street if you haven’t read any of Wallis’ previous books. Not all the ideas are that new, but it offers a needed reminder that Christians are called to eschew the “greed is good” ethos. Wallis exhorts readers to examine our society and attitude towards money.

Wallis reports that in the middle of the Great Depression, Americans gave a greater donated more (proportionally) than in our history and thus challenges us to change. He tells us that we have an opportunity to choose who we’ll be as a society as we move through this recession. A lot of the book is obvious e.g. how we can be more family oriented, more aware of the environment. He describes his appearance on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. It’s a good book if you’re not familiar with Wallis’ other books, then this is a good read. If you are, get the book at the library and skim the fresh parts.

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Posted by on April 26, 2011 in non-fiction


What Should I Do with My Life?

The non-fiction book I’m reading right now is What Should I do with My Life? and it’s engrossing. The author Po was at a crossroads in life (which I can relate to and decided to see how people dealt with this question. He interviewed dozens of people from all sorts of backgrounds:, gurus, college career counselors, investment bankers, ex-investment bankers, White House policy makers, and on and on.

He gets them to probe how they’ve dealt with this question and not in a superficial way that’ll produce a recipe for shallow contentment or big bucks. He really seems to listen and ask tough questions, while carefully challenging and encouraging them to eliminate the b.s. and really look at their lives.

Last night I read about three women who’d all changed careers frequently. One was a “Boom Wrangler,” who’d gone from one fast-paced trend-setting enterprise to another, the other worried that she was a “Change Junkie,” whose early life of constant moving and a rotation of fathers doomed her to impermanence and a “Phi Beta Slacker,” whose ability and expectations for achievement and success led her from one great opportunity to the next (great schools, cool, high-level jobs) but never touched her core.

As someone who’s changed a lot more than I ever expected, who’s constantly searching for my niche the question fascinates me. We must look at this carefully and honesty and Po Bronson, the author is so good at helping people do that.

He finds others who grapple with the “Where Should I do What I Should Do?” question as well. He tries to get a handle on the need for passion and discovers that lots of people who are passionate about their work have plenty of boring days and dissatisfaction with parts of their job, but the meaning or mission resonates and so they stay.

He sees the conventional success narrative with each “next step” offering more money, more success, while he offers an alternative narrative where each “‘next’ brings one closer to finding the spot where one’s not held back by [lack of] heart, one explodes with talent, where character blossoms, and gifts become apparent.”

Is there an HR address for that?

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Posted by on April 26, 2011 in non-fiction


For Our Times

by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay.
Want more of everything made.
Be afraid to know you neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery any more.
Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something they will call you.
When they want you to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute.
Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace the flag.
Hope to live in that free republic for which it stands.
Give you approval to all you cannot understand.
Praise ignorance,
for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium.
Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion–put your ear close,
and hear the faint chattering of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world.
Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable.
Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap for power,
please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head in her lap.
Swear allegiance to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and politicos can predict the motions
of your mind, lose it.
Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn’t go.
Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

This is the poem that Robin Williams’ character cited when he did his own closing remarks. Did he die at the end (Williams’ character)? I doubt it.

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Posted by on April 26, 2011 in poetry



My April selection for my bookclub is Moliere’s misanthrope. I had imagined the classic play in my head based on theatrical posters. It actually was quite a bit different from what I expected.

The main character wasn’t as misanthropic as I expected. Rather he was just rigid in his expectations of honest thought and deed. He abhorred anyone who was at all two faced. I can’t say I blamed him. Yet it was such a fake society that the result was he didn’t like anyone. There’s a romantic triangle and it’s all very comic. Also the whole play is done in rhyme, which got to me after awhile. It’s a quick read though and easily ups one’s list of classics read.

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Posted by on April 19, 2011 in classic, French Lit, humor


Angry Conversations with God

I just finished reading Susan Isaac’s funny, insightful Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir.The book chronicles Isaac’s ups and downs as she tries to make sense of the confusion and disappointment that she encounters in her life. She’d been told to consider God as her spouse and takes that imagery seriously so she goes off to couples therapy with God. (She lived in California at the time so finding a therapist to go along with that was possible.) The memoir is original, fresh, honest and insightful. I could feel for her as she copes with all kinds of disappointments and doesn’t get why things are not working out for her.

She’s got her own style, but does remind me of Anne Lamott. Isaacs is on the Act One faculty, which is how I learned of her.

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Posted by on April 18, 2011 in Christianity, humor


Women of the Silk

My friend Kimberley was wondering what book I’d recommend for her book club. They don’t want anything too dense or literary and please nothing with a lot of incest, drug use or slices of the bleak side of life. Hmmmm.

They do like historical fiction. The Girl with the Pearl Earring was a winner. With all this in mind I came up with the suggestion of Women of the Silk, which takes readers to China before the revolution and into the world of the girls whose families sold them off to silk factories. The life parallels Northeastern mill girls. The details were fascinating and I felt I understood this era and social strata better. It’s not sentimental like Memoirs of a Geisha is in spots. It’s actually the first in a trilogy so you may follow Pei’s life for decades more if you like.

Giving credit where credit’s due my friend Kasia told me about this book and lent me book two which I finished and will return – soon.

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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in historical fiction


10 Books On the Top of My To-Read List

  1. Dr. Zhivago
  2. Read Real Japanese
  3. Misanthrope
  4. Call of the Weird
  5. Neverworld
  6. Kristen Lavransdatter: The Cross
  7. The Discovery of Heaven
  8. A good graphic novel – suggestions welcome
  9. Team of Rivals
  10. Confessions by St. Augustine

Some have been there a long time.

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Posted by on April 10, 2011 in Uncategorized


Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don’t Float

Clever. But the concept gets old fast.

Sarah Schmeling’s Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don’t Float: Classic Lit Signs on to Facebook is a good way to hook high school kids into literature, but it’s not a satisfying read once you get the premise.

Schmeling creates possible facebook posts for literary characters and authors like this one for Poe:

While it’s fun to see these posts, they soon get predictable. It’s almost like a book of knock knock jokes for the Great Books set. So I really couldn’t sit and read through this book. It’s more something you skim and pass around.

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Posted by on April 10, 2011 in American Lit, British Lit, contemporary, humor


Suite Française

With a back story as compelling as this one, the novel could easily be overshadowed but Nemirovsky’s writing and vision holds its own.

As World War II unfolded around her, Irene Nemirovsky, a successful pre-war author, conceived a massive oeuvre with which she planned to illuminate the times in which she was writing. Alas, her grand vision was never to come to fruition, a fact she became increasingly aware of, due to the fragility of her own circumstances. A White Russian Jew living in France without French citizenship, Nemirovsky was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died in 1942. In 1990, one of her surviving daughters discovered the novel which she had saved without reading as a mememto of her mother.

While most books which I’ve read about World War II dwell on the Holocaust, this book does not. Nemirovsky writes of the ordinary French and how their lives were disrupted by, first, the German invasion and, then, the German occupation. She portrays the venal and the heroic with equal objectivity. In the first half of her book, which reads more like a collection of short stories, we become acquainted with a number of Parisians as they flee in the face of the oncoming Germans. In the second half of her book, we are presented with more of a narrative about a small French town in the midst of an occupying army.

The book ends with Nemirovsky’s transcribed and translated handwritten notes regarding her plans for the work and finally, with correspondence, both from the author and from third parties, regarding her situation, arrest and ultimate death.

A fascinating, poignant read.

By Bridget

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Posted by on April 10, 2011 in historical fiction



Do Not Interrupt: A Playful take on the Art of Conversation

Stephen Kuusisto ‘s slim Do Not Interrupt wasn’t quite what I expected or hoped. I thought it would go into depth on the art of conversation. Instead it makes a couple points about conversation throughout the ages, such as the Greek belief that conversations, as opposed to lectures or debates, bring about “simultaneous elevation.” In other words, when two or more people engage in true conversation they become equals.

It was fun to read some of the quotations, but really I don’t think this is a book as much as a long essay. A lot of the book was a collection of long quotations like the classic conversation on love in Plato’s Symposium and a long quotation from Johnson’s Life of Boswell. Some of the anecdotes were good, but others were ho hum. It’s a book you can read in a seating, but I think you can get more out of a good magazine. Glad I got this from the library.

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Posted by on April 7, 2011 in non-fiction