Book Corner 2020.33


Merchants of Truth by Jill Abramson

Jill Abramson offers a thorough overview of several major news organizations’ transition to the digital age, with a focus on four in particular: NYT, WaPo, BuzzFeed, and Vice.

This book is dense, with very few breaks in the very long chapters. Much was uninteresting to me, but I kept reading for the sake of the tidbits that offered me glimpses of what goes on behind the scenes to give me the news I consume every day.

I was least interested in Vice – the interests of its barely-legal male target demographic in no way coincide with my own. NYT & WaPo, OTOH, I read weekly and daily respectively, so those were the inside scoops I was really showing up for.  )

Book Corner 2020.32


The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar

I don’t know, I just didn’t really learn anything. The most exciting part was when she starts talking about the famous jam study, and how everybody seems to know about it but everybody gets it slightly wrong; and then she reveals that she should know because she’s the one who actually conducted the jam study. Mind blown!

[The jam study offered people a taste test of 24 different jams, then repeated the experiment with only 6 jams, and found that 24 jams attracted more attention but 6 jams resulted in more sales.]  )



There won’t be a real Fair this year, but there will be a virtual fair.  I’ve just been pleasing myself so far this year with the dyeing, but tonight I took inventory in preparation of making a virtual display.  Not shown are an orange topaz and a sapphire which are still drying.

Book Corner 2020.31


Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

This was amazing. “You got to go there to know there.”

Our protagonist Janie starts life at 17 with a brief loveless marriage to a good provider to satisfy her grandmother who raised her, but she only starts life for real when she’s pushing 40 and meets Tea Cake.

First, though, she runs off from the first husband to hook up with a big-talking passing stranger who’s going down to Florida to be a “big man” in an up-and-coming colored town. Big man he does become, and makes her the big woman; but that’s not who she wants to be.

After his death, when she’s pushing 40, another stranger appears to whisk her away – another sweet-talker, but this time, not someone who wants to be a big man, just an ordinary man. And at first he thinks he has to keep treating her like the big woman she’s become accustomed to being, but no, that’s not how it is at all. For the first time in her life Janie is loving and being loved, and she’s ready to live life. They move down south to the Everglades, to “the muck”, where Tea Cake is a farm laborer; and Janie dons overalls and works right beside him during the day, and parties with him at night, and thus do they live.

And the lesson is to live, and you can’t explain it or teach it to anyone else, because “You got to go there to know there.”

The writing was constantly blowing me away. Two quotes that I bookmarked:

“When the people sat around on the porch and passed around the pictures of their thoughts for others to look at and see, it was nice. The fact that the thought pictures were always crayon enlargements of life made it even nicer to listen to.”

And “It happened over one of those dinners that chasten all women sometimes. They plan and they fix and they do, and then some kitchen-dwelling fiend slips a scorchy, soggy, tasteless mess into their pots and pans.” Isn’t that TOTALLY how it is!  )

Sweet 16 Has Turned 51

I woke up this morning thinking about my life.  Being a tiny child, and my grandmother’s presence.  She would come stay at our house fairly frequently.  I’d get into bed with her and we’d have long conversations.  The bulk of her, the slight smell of her, her toothless mouth, her accent.  When we would visit her in the city, she would take me to the playground.  “Gon play” and she’d sit on a bench and watch me.  A black coat, a black hat with sequins on it, ever watchful.  The playground was all concrete.  There was a big concrete turtle, or maybe it wasn’t so big; with footholds molded out of it, so you could climb on top.  There were walls of concrete with footholds, handholds.  And the usual swings and stuff.

I remember being out of school, first job, first apartment, we were starting adult life but we were just children.  I was very much still being formed.  Margaret was always there.  Back then people talked on the phone, even me.  Hours, hanging on the phone, receivers tucked under our ears while we moved about, long phone cords so we could carry the phone around.  Me in Tarrytown, she in Brooklyn.  Yet we couldn’t keep apart.  I’d go down, in my cheap little white Mazda 323, sometimes stay the night, not always.  One night I headed back home in the rain and spun my car around on a BQE on-ramp.  I remember going into the turn and the car just kept turning, until I was facing exactly the wrong way.  I quickly and tremblingly did a K-turn and got back in the right direction and drove home slow and chastened and how in the world was it that nobody was speeding up that on-ramp right behind me?

Then I was living in Manhattan.  Hot, stinking Chinatown streets in the middle of summer; and in the dead of winter, the vast concrete in front of City Hall & the court buildings, making me feel the cold piece of rock that we live on hurtling through space.

Then things happened so quickly.  I met Xopher at the end of 93, he in Ithaca, my in NY, for over a year.  Then he was in NY for a year.  Then we were in VT, first it was just a vacation, then I was leaving everything, the job I loved & the city where I was happy, for the new life I’d been dreaming of since I was a teen, to strike out somewhere new, somewhere not NYC, somewhere clean where things were smaller and where I could maybe could be normal.  Then we were renting, but then 6 months later we bought this house, and a year later we married.  We had no idea what we were doing, couldn’t have known.

Sometimes lately I startle myself all of a sudden with the thought, “But I’m just a kid!”  Once recently I was walking through the mudroom and my eyes fell on some dirt, and I looked around at the mess and dirt and thought, “We are just kids!  We don’t know what we’re doing!  Living in this house making a damn mess of everything…”  And then the other night, I guess I was thinking of how I’d been touching or pulling up some weeds or something, and wondering if I’d washed my hands, and whether I’d touched food, and thought, “I’m just a kid!  How is it that I have not poisoned myself yet?  Or electrocuted myself?”

I am still the kid I ever was.  I play silly games in my head, sometimes in real life.  I hope no one realizes.  All the dumb things I do.  I’m the little girl with the older brother, bigger, smarter, snottier, but she wants his attention.  Wants him to think she’s smart, wants him to think she’s worth hanging around with.  Wants his love.  Except now that’s my husband over there.

How is it that I’m still here?  Because I’m in the universe where I happened to make it for 51 years.  I guess there is another universe where I got smacked into on that BQE on-ramp and was snuffed out at 22.  I suppose plenty of universes where I did poison myself, or electrocute myself.  The universe where I stayed in NYC and X drifted away.  The one where I married the HS bf and moved to Wichita.  The universe where we elected Donald Trump president and all got a new novel coronavirus.  Damn!  I end up in that one, seriously!?  But it’s also the one where we elect Biden in 2020 and end up shaking our heads like it was all a bad dream, and we swear we’re sorry and will never do it again…


My Life Is Just a Foolish Game

Sure, a worldwide pandemic, the worst civil unrest since the 60’s, barreling towards a presidential election half the country won’t accept as valid anyway…  and it is a sign of my utter self-centeredness that I still say 50 was a good year for me.  On the inside.

You are the sun,

You are the rain,

Your life is just a foolish game

You need to know

It’s all a flow

And it happens all again & again

Apologies to Lionel Richie.