Saturday, February 3, 2018

Greetings--Permanent Payment Explanation

Welcome to the blog, 'zine, and bookstore of Priscilla King. Effective February 2, 2017, this web site has gone to a pay-per-view mode. Old posts, and keywords for new posts not yet visible here, continue to show up here. They can be found by using the site-specific search bar on your right. New posts can be seen for $1 and will become visible free of charge, in a graphics-friendly format here and a graphics-free format at Live Journal, when they've earned $5.

Find out why this site has gone to pay-per-view here:

To sponsor this site, click here:

Become a Patron!

To commission new posts on specific topics, click here:

Posts are currently visible to paid-up subscribers at Live Journal. Paid-up subscribers will see all posts at my Live Journal page, with a tiny padlock picture beside the titles of the posts not yet available to the public. Non-paying visitors will see paid posts and a timeline of my Tweets at:

To send payment directly to me (Patreon and Fiverr take out cuts, so this is recommended) you may use the Paypal button below if it works for you, or e-mail salolianigodagewi @ yahoo for the correct Paypal address.

Better yet, in terms of being more secure for you and also more profitable for me, send a U.S. postal money order to Boxholder, P.O. Box 322, Gate City, Virginia, 24251-0322.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Zhen Shan Ren Poem

Here's a more formal poem, also about Asia in a way, also generated by a writing contest. This one specified formal poetry for a collection, from which somebody would receive a cash prize, but the purpose of the collection was to be sent to the Chinese government on behalf of members of the Falun Gong whatever-it-is who claim to be facing religious persecution. So, a formal poem about the history of religious persecution seemed appropriate. Zhen, Shan, Ren sounded like terza rima in English... This poem wasn't written as comically Bad Poetry; it's serious, but "Bad Poetry" is the label this web site uses for verse by the writer known as Priscilla King and we're sticking to it.

I know very little about Falun Gong beyond what's posted on their web site; if members of the group are being prosecuted for something other than their stated teachings and practices, the world wants to know what that might be. Although this web site has no foreign policy, I think the Chinese government needs to know that it's being accused of religious persecution, and clear itself of those accusations in the Global Court of Public Opinion.

“Surrounded and outnumbered; how then can
God save me? Tell me, prophet,” said the king.
“Bow to the enemy as the common man
bows down to you,” the prophet said. “What? Fling
this prophet in the cesspit!” This being done,
the troops defined the forces in the ring
around them, and they fell before the sun
went down. The prophet suffered damp and cold
till, when a friend obtained consent to run
a rope down to him, his hands could not hold.
The enemy put the king to death in shame,
enslaved his people, melted down his gold.
The prophet lived, and honored is his name.

Some say his later prophecies foretell
a righteous man so wholly free from blame
his virtue saved the entire world from Hell.
Most said, “No mortal creature is so fine;
through some misdeed, alleged or real, he fell.
A perfect man would have to be divine,
and though our leaders are our gods’ own heirs,
perfection’s not found, even in their line.
This disagreement, tolerated, tears
away our leaders’ worship, which is wrong.”
Rejoicing in their freedom from all cares
the Christian Martyrs welcomed death with song
while Pagan Rome lost its collective mind
and crumbled from within, though ne’er so strong,
and the whole world rejoiced as Rome declined.

The Christian faith, like an imperial tree,
grew from the fame the martyrs’ death assigned,
but China, far away as land could be,
kept its own sense of duty to a Way
of truth past all that mortal eyes can see.
Once duty was to suffer pain, they say.
Now duty’s to keep bodies straight and strong
and fit for service, to their final day.
Even old bodies can do Falun Gong.
Grandchildren whose grandmothers’ feet were bound
stretch, flex, stand fit and tall: can this be wrong?
Grandparents, now, themselves, they rally round
the discipline of bodies well maintained.
They stretch with music, or dance without sound.
They seek to demonstrate they have attained
some right to be respected by young men.
What sort of government could have complained
that elders want to live and serve? Oh, Zhen,
Truthfulness! Tolerance! Compassion! Shan,
Where has the public spirit gone? Ah, Ren

Amazon link? The resources of Amazon are astonishing. Here, although I'm not sure I'd recommend it if I'd read it, is a book about the imperial tree, also known as the Empress' tree, Princess' tree, Paulownia tree, or Paulownia tomentosa. Though native to Asia, it thrives in the Eastern States and is becoming a familiar "exotic" sight; some even worry about its becoming "invasive."

Great Business Ideas - How to Get Rich with Paulownia Tree Plantation by [H, Dr. Vincent]

Hack Writer on the Intersection of Internet and Reality

(Status update: Although I still owe you readers a few more free posts, I've collected no more income since Friday, and my property taxes are higher than they've been. If your income for the year 2016 was US$12,000 or higher, you're making substantially more money than I am, and you need to support this web site--which you can do best, not with a "donation," but by actually contributing your opinions and perspectives and the felt needs of your business, at your choice of the following:

You can also mail a U.S. postal money order to Boxholder, P.O. Box 322, Gate City, Virginia, 24251-0322.)

One of the more unusual writing contests publicized at was for poems that just casually mentioned Singapore, written by people who were not in, of, or from Singapore. As a hack writer, I just happened to have written something like that one day, so I sent it to the contest. It didn't win. So, as usual with things other people haven't bought or published, it's going live here just to assert my moral right to it. (To see the poems that won, click here: )

Here's what I wrote, back in 2015. Details have been blurred; I'm 5'4", not 5'6", an so on.

I’ve published something almost every day
I’ve gone online: most not in my own name,
and that’s by choice, most of the research being
entirely on the Internet, from web sites
suggested by the clients, thus one-sided.
The fun is logging on to writing sites
to see what people want. You learn a lot
of stuff to use in your own writing life
from writing about other people’s jobs:
Where people over six foot five buy clothes.
(You’re five foot six.) Male strippers’ thoughts on stripping
for men, by camera phone. (You never visit
that kind of sites: you can’t afford a virus.)
A high-rise mall-with-posh-apartments tower
in Calgary. (Toronto’s “west” to you.)
How mass mailings are targeted in London:
“by neighbourhoods.” (So that’s who lives in Barking.)
The season’s fashion looks in Singapore,
policy changes in the banks in Davao,
and prices for extended travel tickets
(even on Greyhound you get no vacation).
“Bright-colored doors are ‘in’,” a decorator
suggests you write. You write the piece while muttering
that no one you’d know would paint their door red.
Your jogging buddy recommends a route
down a nice residential street. “What color
d’you call that door?” Yes—a dark shade, but red.
“Headboards are back,” says the same decorator.
Headboards and footboards used to come in sets
to tell the world no one over five foot ten
would ever sleep at your house. You admit, though,
your bookshelf might be counted as a headboard.
Run word-count. Run spell-checker. Read the whole thing
through, one more time. Hit “send.” Collect ten dollars.
Then go and do a Real Job in the Real World
before you start to look like Pac-Man’s ghosts...
The first job I was paid to do, the winter
after Ms. Trendy ran the headboard story,
was helping an old man install a headboard.

Amazon link? Why not...more about the organizer of this poem contest?

Book Review: The Dark Moment

Title: The Dark Moment

Author: Ann Bridge

Date: 1952

Publisher: Macmillan

ISBN: none

Length: 310 pages

Quote: “It is not an easy job, to turn a primitive oriental nation into a twentieth century one.”

In quoting the next to last line a character utters in this novel I'm not giving away anything. The Dark Moment is not a novel of suspense. It's a discussion of the history of social change in Turkey in the early twentieth century, drawing heavily from Winston Churchill's World Crisis.

That change is symbolized mostly by a fictional family. On page 7, in 1914, a little girl is scolded, “Oh, what a shameless girl, showing your hair!” By page 261, as a young woman in 1924, she's being ordered to attend a formal party with “not a scrap” of even an ornamental gauze veil covering her hair; that's the price of her family's good fortune as allies to the very real character Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

I hardly dare to comment further on the story. This is one of a collection of books a friend ordered me to dispose of; I read it, and it's a nice, wholesome piece of historical fiction, not a mere romance although the fictional girls who grow up during the war years will of course have relationships with men, sex and violence suggested but kept properly “offstage.”

Beyond that...this web site tried to say supportive things about Turkey, once, long ago, after Reuters had reported some sort of weather disaster there, and not long after that my Yahoo account was hacked into by some vile person, reportedly in Turkey, who changed my Yahoo Classic to Yahoo Neo. Ugh, ick! How can I ever feel any sympathy for anyone in Turkey, ever again! This web site currently gets a lot of traffic from Turkey. If I had faith that that traffic meant readers rather than hackers, I'd be pleased.

Seriously, Gentle Readers, I don't know enough European history to be able to criticize this historical novel. If you enjoy novels about well-balanced adult women who love their men, care about their parents and children, are loyal to each other, and also take an interest in world events, The Dark Moment is your kind of story. How much “truth” does it present through its fictional characters? Beyond the facts anyone can look up, to what extent has Bridge understood the cultural changes she describes, or even described them accurately? Maybe a review of this book should be able to answer those questions, but mine can't.

Maybe, if we have actual Turkish readers, they'll post comments...Google doesn't handle comments on Blogspot blogs well because Google tries to route them through Google +. Google + is global and easy to join; you don't have to disclose inappropriate information or pay for anything, and e-friends who also use Google + are easy to find. I don't want to grow a horrible prejudice against Turkey, so if you are an actual reader in that country, please identify yourself on Google +; I'd be delighted to meet you.

To buy it here, send $5 per book, $5 per package (four books of this size would fit into one package), and $1 per online payment to the appropriate address from the very bottom of the screen.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Book Review: The Coconut Diet

A Fair Trade Book

Title: The Coconut Diet

Author: Cherie and John Calbom

Author's web site:

Date: 2005

Publisher: Time Warner

ISBN: 0-446-57716-2

Length: 310 pages

Quote: “Coconut oil works wonders when combined with a low-carb diet because it...helps improve metabolism.”

Is coconut oil a health food or a mild poison? The answer seems to vary from person to person. For those who can digest coconut, the pulp, juice, and oil seem to have nutritional benefits. Some people, mostly those whose ancestors lived in cooler climates, do not digest coconut. For us it may help us lose weight quickly, in perhaps a safer way than popping laxative pills, but it does that by making us sick.

It's called biodiversity and it improves the chances of humankind being able to survive in different conditions. One person's meat is another's poison.

Coconut is poison as far as the members of this web site are concerned, and a high-fat low-carb diet isn't sustainable either. So, nothing in this book is useful to me or has been useful to anyone I know, but there are people who apparently lose weight and feel healthy on low-carb diets. The Calboms developed this diet by working with those people. They might help you too.

If you can eat coconut (a lot of coconut), you'll probably enjoy this recipe collection and meal plan. If you live in a place where you can have coconut trees in the back yard, this book will be a real frugal favorite.

To buy The Coconut Diet here, send $5 per book, $5 per package (four books of this size will fit into one package), plus $1 per online payment to the appropriate address below: Boxholder, P.O. Box 322, or the e-mail address you get by e-mailing salolianigodagewi.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Book Review: The Best Devotions of Patsy Clairmont

A Fair Trade Book

Title: The Best Devotions of Patsy Clairmont

Author: Patsy Clairmont

Author's web site:

Date: 2001

Publisher: Zondervan

ISBN: 0-319-24174-X

Length: 195 pages

Quote: “The sweet psalmist David...points out that he had to be led by the Lord to the still waters. I wonder if...he was naturally drawn to the excitement of the rushing waters?”

“Devotions” may be misleading if readers are expecting one-page-a-day “devotional” reflections sandwiched between a Bible verse and a prayer. Patsy Clairmont, Christian comedian, had written longer pieces—short talks/articles—and not all of them began with a Bible verse. It would have been possible, and fun, to have selected 365 of her speeches, articles, and book chapters and printed them as one page each of extremely small type on large paper, but that's not what the editors did in this book. This book has sixty short chapters; most print on four smallish pages of good-sized type. They're not too long to read aloud as a “morning devotion.” Some may find them too whimsical. They're probably best appreciated just as short funny stories by an evangelical Christian, at the pre-or-early-grandmothering stage of life, whose stories always lead her mind back to her faith.

Clairmont describes taking one of those art classes community colleges offer free or cheap to retirement-aged people: “All the participants had prior art training—except me. (I decided the time I tripped over and spilled a can of paint on the porch probably wouldn't count.)...My pictures were a sight; some were a blur and a couple resembled images of birds, but we weren't sure if they were living...I decided in the privacy of my home to attempt to put into practice some of the insights the teacher had shared. Before my eyes some flowers began to emerge, and it almost frightened me. I wasn't used to identifiable results.”

Have you noticed, in yourself or others, the stage of middle age at which middle-aged people suddenly become fascinated by people whom we consider old? (Even as a teenager I remember noticing people who were aging especially well; in my fifties I find my eyes sliding past the pretty girls, handsome men, and adorable children in a crowd to focus on some white-haired woman who stands, moves, and dresses well-- “I want to look like her when I grow up!”) Clairmont notices an older woman's fear of walking across ice. “She suggested I take her left arm while she used her cane in her right hand...Then she stated sadly, 'But I must tell you that you don't have a lot to look forward to. Aging is painful.' She turned to enter the apartment and pleasantly called out, 'Happy Thanksgiving!'”

A dominant “story” in Clairmont's life is her husband's ankle injury, compounded apparently by osteoporosis (the main reason why we don't hear much about men having this disease is that nobody understands how it works or claims to offer a cure), so that it changes the lives of both halves of the couple. “It was the first new car I had picked out all by myself...the vehicle...had just enough space in the back for my husband's electric cart...I couldn't find the right button. I did locate the sunroof button. About a quarter inch of fresh snow accumulated on my hairdo before I refound the sunroof button and shut the thing...I fished out the owner's manual.”

Sometimes ditzy but never really silly, Best Devotions of Patsy Clairmont would make a good gift for just about any Christian baby-boomer, but the book seems to have been physically designed with sick patients in mind. It's bigger than pocket size, smaller than standard size, reasonably well bound but lightweight, with nice clear print and those three-or-four-page chapters. It may cause enough chuckling to cause other patients to growl “What's so funny?” but if the patient, or a visitor, can read it aloud the chuckling is likely to spread and may help everyone feel less pain. And it's part of a series; Zondervan collected the "best devotions of" their other Christian women writers for release in similar format.

These books have not yet reached the collector price range so you'll find better prices on Amazon, but if you buy it here, for our standard price of $5 per gently used book, $5 per package (six of these books might fit into one package), plus $1 per online payment, we'll send $1 to Patsy Clairmont or a charity of her choice. If you order Clairmont's other vintage books, e.g. God Uses Cracked Pots and Normal Is Just a Setting on Your Dryer, for $5 each, the author or her charity will get $1 per book. 

If you like this author's brand of clean, family-friendly humor with an uplifting spin, you'll want to check out her new books at her web site. Buying them as new books is a great way to encourage a writer! 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Does Amazon Censor Book Reviews for Political Reasons? (With Amazon Link-a-Rama!)

(Status update: My income for this week was $59 from sales plus $7 from a local sponsor. You need to support this web site--which you can do best, not with a "donation," but by actually contributing your opinions and perspectives and the felt needs of your business, at your choice of the following:

You can also mail a U.S. postal money order to Boxholder, P.O. Box 322, Gate City, Virginia, 24251-0322.)

Wow. I've not read Hillary Rodham Clinton's What Happened, nor have I any immediate plans to read it, because: for reasons of national security, I know HRC's not going to tell us much more than we already knew about what happened. Oh, there'll be a few tidbits like "...and when we heard that, Bill said..." and some previously unpublished photos, but the serious student of history can't rely on those celebrity memoirs. Celebrity memoirs are mostly written by hack writers, they're mostly trivial, they're marketed to the kind of "readers" who are most interested in the photos...and they sell like space heaters during the record freeze that arrives after the big-chain stores have set up their "think spring" displays.

I resell celebrity memoirs, and read them and review, them, for the following reason: they move. Celebrities write, or commission, them for a similar reason. Celebrity memoirs are all about the money.

If you are going to buy What Happened, y'might as well buy it here.

But I was flabbergasted by the reactions displayed on The Blaze. That site has really been trying to upgrade from hosting all flamewars, all the time, to hosting snarky, funny, non-abusive comments on news items (with a point system, yet)...but it's evidently being read by a lot of people with zero experience in the writing, publishing, and bookselling fields.

It's not often that I get to be the Voice of Experience in those fields. I can't resist.

First, about Amazon, let's review the evidence. Star ratings and the balance of writer-rated-as-favorable and writer-rated-as-unfavorable, buyer-rated-as-helpful and buyer-rated-as-unhelpful, reviews on any Amazon page will change from day to day, so here are some links you can use to check out what happens to partisan political books on Amazon. That's in the United States; I can't speak for or other non-U.S. versions. This post is about what happens to books about U.S. politics, by U.S. politicians, on the U.S. version of Amazon.

Five popular books by Democrats:
-At the time of posting, 3.7 stars, 82 reviews, 55 favorable reviews.
4.5 stars from 287 reviews, 247 favorable reviews.

At the time of posting, 3.7 stars averaged from 853 reviews, 514 favorable reviews.
4.2 stars from 1434 reviews, 1088 favorable reviews.
4.3 stars from 234 reviews, 193 favorable reviews.
Five popular books from Republicans:

4.6 stars from 2989 reviews, 2388 favorable reviews.
4.7 stars from 669 reviews, 599 favorable reviews.
4.8 stars from 1142 reviews, 1071 favorable reviews.

4.7 stars from 2272 reviews, 2148 favorable reviews.
4.6 stars from 118 reviews, 108 favorable reviews.
I think the numbers make it pretty clear that Amazon is equally supportive of best-selling books by Democrats or Republicans...also socialists, like Sanders, and libertarians, like Paul.

So how was it possible that, before Hillary Rodham Clinton's new book became available to the public, several people had written credible supportive reviews, while unsympathetic reviews seemed to come from people who'd read only the author's name and decided to hate the book?

Here's how that has traditionally worked: A publisher, as distinct from the printers who print and bind copies of "self-published" books, handles the publicity for a new book. Publishers hire editors to identify books they ought logically be able to sell; they hire artists and designers to make books look appealing; they hire marketers to promote the book to stores; they arrange book tours in which authors read from their books, autograph copies, and do anything else authors can be persuaded to do to sell more copies of their books faster.

Publishers do not, traditionally, hire "advance readers" and reviewers, although publishers traditionally used to hire their own proofreaders. Traditional reviewers were hired, or at least paid by the job, by traditional newspapers and magazines. Publishers did, however, send as many copies of a book to as many reviewers on as many big newspapers' and magazines' staffs as possible, before the book was on sale in stores, so that when the stores set up their displays and (if possible) book parties, customers would already have read good things about the book in the magazines and newspapers.

Proofreading was traditionally done first, usually by both the writers (and as many people as they could hire, beg, or bully into helping with the chore) and the publishers' staff. Before printing the officially published version of a book, publishers traditionally tacked together "galley proofs," or mock-ups of the text, for proofreaders to check for errors. Although proofreading is a chore, writers' friends and fans were at least supposed to recognize that being asked to help with it is an honor.

Here's the most successful book the writer known as Priscilla King has proofread, so far:

I was Z Heckscher's assistant for about two years, during which this book grew from a pile of papers and cassette tapes in a closet to a respected reference book that went into reprints.

Part of the publishing process, I was amused to learn, started before the book was even finished. (Publishers often agree to publish a book before it's finished, in exchange for the writer finishing it their way.) E-mails from the publishing team to the co-authors included questions like, "Which well-known writers do you know who might write favorable comments based on the chapters you have finished?"

Well, Noam Chomsky, probably America's best known linguist of all time, was an old friend of the Heckscher family. His favorable comment appears on the back cover, and yes, it was submitted to the publisher for use in the design before the book went into "galley proofs." The book was written on computers, so Chomsky probably did have the chance to watch the manuscript coming together.

But that's traditional; how else would publishers find favorable comments to put on the covers of brand-new books, hot off the press? So is the traditional next question: "Once Mr. or Ms. Bigname has agreed to be associated with this book, which emerging writers do you know who might want to review the book and second, third, and on through ninetieth if possible, Bigname's favorable opinion?"

To the publishers' great relief, the three co-authors knew several. Actually, getting favorable reviews for this particular book did not depend on finding writers who could be trusted to say nice things about whatever the co-authors had wrought. It was an excellent, comprehensive book. The co-authors had done international volunteer work, had organized nonprofit organizations, had written other books--Joe Collins had written Alternatives to the Peace Corps, a short book, had given Zahara Heckscher the idea of a comprehensive version. They had corresponded with literally hundreds of volunteers, former volunteers, and volunteer hosts. But I'm sure we've all read some books that made us suspect that the favorable reviews came from people who owed the authors a lot of money.

And these business questions were being asked and answered even before those "galley proofs" came back, to be read with a critical eye by at least half a dozen friends of each co-author...I remember that Luke Wendt took the blame for slipping in some content, at this stage, that the rest of us knew wouldn't please some of the charities and countries it discussed.

All this time, during the (actually more like five!) years writing a reference book on that scale had taken, each of the hundreds of people involved with the book had been generating publicity for it. Back then real-world bookstores, and the book tour circuit, did much more for a book than Amazon did. The important thing was for friends of the authors, contributors, and writing assistants to have lots of advance notice that a friend of theirs was writing a book, etc., etc., and (if possible) pack vans with book buyers at each of the book parties.

Nowadays, it's certainly easier on the writers, and on their young children if any, to focus a similar publicity effort on the Internet, and specifically on Amazon. Writers can contact bloggers and social media users about the progress of their forthcoming books; publishers can post official advance reviews on a book's Amazon page before the book actually goes on sale. Manuscripts are often transferred and edited online. The success of a book is often based--unfairly--on potentially misleading sales of "the e-book edition," which can kill a book with high appeal to those who aren't yet caught up in the Internet. Publishers set up Amazon pages before books are available to the public, and during this time electronic copies can be shared with proofreaders and reviewers.

For a book site this web site hasn't been able to do as much for as many new books as it's wanted to. (Yes, picture this web site waving its little hand across a desk: "Ow ow ow I want to...")

This web site did, however, do its little bit to promote this book:

In which an early-baby-boomer reflects on life, time, aging, and technological change. For comparison, Codrescu being a midlist celebrity--a popular NPR personality: 3.6 stars, 3 reviews, 2 favorable reviews.
Here's how that process went:

1. I'd become a fan of the author's witty wordplay and libertarian perspective back in the 1980s; had bought some of his books, and put this one up for sale after having worn out and replaced a copy:

2. Verifying that the author was still alive, I'd found his web site and sent him a link to the review.

3. He had offered to send me a galley proof copy of Bibliodeath. I'd felt duly honored, despite both anticipating, and learning, that a foreign-born author takes a bit more careful proofreading than the homegrown variety usually do.

4. Anyway, I had read it. I had actually "read it on the computer," at home, which means not only reading but retyping every word. I had written out pages of corrections on paper, and then retyped those corrections into e-mails, having retyped about halfway through the book when I posted this review...and then I didn't get enough online time to retype the rest of them, but that's a separate wail:

Note the date of official publication: November 29, 2012. Note the date of the review: September 27, 2012. It was not a fake review. It was an honest review from a thorough and thoughtful reading of the galley proofs.

This is normal in the publishing I don't think Blaze readers need to blame Amazon for discrediting the hostile reviews of a lengthy book from people who really hadn't had time to read it, and accepting the more thoughtful, generally favorable, reviews from those who had.

Book Review: Six Chevaux Bleus

Title: Six Chevaux Bleus

Author: Yvonne Escoula

Date: 1954, 1967

Publisher: Gallimard

ISBN: none

Length: 188 pages

Illustrations: drawings by Tibor Csernus

Quote: “L'art chinois est le plus fin, le plus delicat du monde. L'artisan chinois n'a pas son fais le commerce des oeuvres d'art chinoises.”

Yves and Jean-Pierre, twelve-year-old identical twins, lost their father long ago. So did Margot, the fifteen-year-old daughter of the superintendent of their Paris apartment building. Both of their mothers seem a bit, well, troubled—the twins' mother is grim and nervous, Margot's mother may be “medicated,” the two dislike each other--and although other children in the building aren't always friendly, these three have parent-pity in common.

The twins at least have an Aunt Martha, the antique dealer who specializes in Chinese pieces, although she handles other Asian art as well. They spend Thursdays with her. (An old antisemitic tradition in some parts of Europe was that classes met on Saturday, and students' “day off” fell on a weekday.) At least they do until their mother starts to worry that they're doing so much Chinese history with Aunt Martha that they'll forget their French history, and sends Yves, alone, to tell Martha that he and Jean-Pierre can't visit her again until they've passed their final exams.

Whereupon Yves gets into enough trouble that the twins, and also Margot, spend the rest of the week solving a mystery for Aunt Martha, school forgotten...

There are other parts of this story that don't hang together as a good mystery novel should. Yves sees a Chinese-looking gentleman sneak into Martha's store, break a porcelain horse, and sneak out again. Martha blames Yves, who is then goaded to enlist Jean-Pierre and Margot to help track down the old man. On Thursday, when Yves sees the old man and the three children start checking other antique stores to see whether anyone else has seen him, he speaks French with a heavy accent. The next time they see him, he's apparently lost the less than one week.

Meanwhile they learn that some French people are also looking for blue porcelain horses, although the horses aren't especially old or valuable, and those people are quite nasty. One of them knocks an old man with a cane down on the pavement; another threatens to ruin Margot's excellent reputation as a good, law-abiding, high-achieving student who can hope to go all the way through law school on merit scholarships.

According to the rules of Detective Stories For Children, nobody's life is in immediate danger (although we can guess what happened to the missing fathers the children can hardly remember and we're told of similar dangers in China). The children, who are routinely verbally abused by adults in a  way many baby-boomers vividly remember, will finally hear encouraging words from adults. The nasty young Frenchman who caused some of that verbal abuse will be shown up as the stupid dupe he's been. The children will meet the Chinese gentleman and get to hear an exciting adventure story from contemporary China. It's a nice cozy mystery, suitable for middle school students if they read French.

Six Chevaux Bleus also has some historical appeal: according to Jane Badger, it was the basis for a TV series. Prices are entering the collector range, possibly for this reason. Currently this web site can still offer copies for $5 per book plus $5 per package (four books of this size would fit into one package) plus $1 per online payment.

Sets of china horses like the ones described are available online:

Buy them at

Buy them at

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Book Review: Knitting 24/7

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Knitting 24/7

Author: Veronik Avery

Author's web page:

Date: 2010

Publisher: Stewart Tabori & Chang

ISBN: 978-1-58479-844-6

Length: 128 pages

Illustrations: lots of color photos, graphic schematics showing proportions of knitted garments

Quote: “I always take a project with me wherever I go...I often have many projects going at once, but I make sure they are diverse in size and complexity to suit a variety of circumstances.”

Thus Veronik Avery echoes what knitters were saying at Stitches Fair and similar venues. Dozens of books of beautiful sweater and afghan patterns were on the market...but sometimes a knitter wants an instant gratification project, like a thick winter cap or a thin lacy scarf. And sometimes a knitter wants to use an elaborate oldfashioned pattern, but use it on a project small enough that the knitter can realistically plan to finish it this year. And sometimes a knitter wants a pattern that will use up, in a suitably eye-catching way, the small amount of expensive yarn the knitter could afford or could find at the end of a season, or the scraps from the knitter's last few sweaters or blankets. Avery was neither the first nor the last designer/knitter to devote a whole new book to Everything But More Designer Sweaters—and where's her pattern for a cell phone cover?--but evidently the Knitting Universe had room for all of those collections of hat, scarf, sock, mitten, bag, shawl, and quirky one-off designer garment patterns.

What you get in this book are patterns for:
2 pairs of mittens
4 pairs of socks
1 (frankly dowdy-looking) skirt. (If I want to call attention to my backside, I'd wear short shorts. A skirt should swish and swirl and keep mosquitoes off my ankles...and knitted skirts worthy of the name can be made, but they're not quickie projects.)
1 vest
3 scarves
2 shawls
1 pair wrist warmers
4 hats
1 pillow cover
2 bags
1 bed-jackety sort of thing, not the usual sleeves-plus-back-yoke thing called a “shrug,” but it's called a shrug because it's not a full-sized Sleeved Circular Shawl; it looks pretty on the model and as if it'd be fun to wear on crisp, not cold, mornings.
1 extremely plain, frankly not very flattering pullover sweater
2 pairs slippers
1 tea cozy
1 lace camisole
1 pair fingerless mitts
1 headband
1 bookmark (yes, bookmark)
1 pair gloves

Projects are classified as “A.M.,” “P.M.,” and “Weekend”; if there's any logical basis for these classifications, it eludes me, because there are quickie, short-but-fancy, and long-but-simple projects in each category. You know when you knit and it's up to you to decide which projects need to occupy a goodly amount of space for a goodly amount of time, maybe in a big knitting bag/box/basket beside your bed, and whether you normally have room to dig out those 14” straight needles on the bus, and whether you find it convenient to knit on a set of short double-pointed needles anywhere.

None of these projects calls for frequent reference to an elaborate chart. Several projects do involve charted patterns and/or shaping, but care seems to have been taken to choose projects for which the instructions will seem intuitive and easy to memorize—at least for the experienced knitter who wants to knit a hat on a commuter train. (After starting the decreases with “K 10, K2Tog,” the experienced knitter knows that the next decrease row will be “K 9, K2tog,” followed by “K 8, K2Tog,” and so on.)

Knitting pattern books tend to stay "in print" longer than novels do. You can still buy Knitting 24/7 as a new book, and if you have the money you should, to show due respect. However, Amazon is showing more used than new copies on the market, so yes, you can buy it here for $5 per book plus $5 per package (two, maybe three, copies of this book would fit into one package) plus $1 per online payment, and from this total of $10 (not counting Paypal's processing fee) we'll send $1 to Avery or a charity of her choice. 

A book that seems like an especially good choice to add to a package, along with Knitting 24/7, is Avery's collection of designer sweater patterns:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Book Review: The Kentucky Trace

Title: The Kentucky Trace

Author: Harriette Simpson Arnow

Date: 1974

Publisher; Knopf

ISBN: 0-394-48990-X

Length: 289 pages

Quote: “There were some who'd call him traitor to the cause; but then maybe he'd feel a traitor to mankind if in the woods he'd killed two men only because they'd worn the uniform of the enemy.”

Though subtitled “A Novel of the American Revolution,” The Kentucky Trace is not the usual war-period historical novel about how a fictional character might have watched or participated in a decisive battle. Leslie Collins has put in his military service back east, and is now crossing the Appalachian Mountains with an odd lot of new acquaintances who are also fleeing the horrors of war.

For those seeking alternatives to romances, Arnow was generally a good author, able to present either sexual or sex-free relationships in realistic proportion to her characters' lives. The Kentucky Trace didn't disappoint those looking for another character who is heterosexual, but not obsessed with it. Possibly it disappointed the jacket illustrator; I wondered whether that picture of Leslie on the front cover was meant to be a portrait of some tough female ancestor of tall, gaunt, competent Gertie, The Dollmaker. Leslie, like the protagonists of Mountain Path and The Weedkiller's Daughter, is more concerned with surviving a bizarre adventure and making up a believable story to cover the unbelievable truth than with romance.

Leslie tells himself there are some good women, but he has been married to one he considered bad—she wasn't very good—until, in this story, he meets a really bad one. Leslie is a Real Man, and a fine one, even when he has to tend the baby. In 1974 homosexuality was still unthinkable for fictional heroes but “androgynous qualities” were in fashion; readers were meant to read William David Leslie Collins' choosing to be called “Leslie” as evidence that his character, formed by consistently good choices, had achieved a balance between the virtues then considered manly and womanly.

We meet Leslie, as we meet other Arnow characters, in a moment of crisis; he's been taken prisoner and is working his way out of his bonds while another prisoner is being hanged. Moving quickly across the Blue Ridge Mountains along what would much later become Route 23, only while it was unpaved and full of thickets, cliffs, and shale beds, he has his adventure in what will eventually be called eastern Kentucky—across the Cumberland, where sandstone starts to replace limestone, but east of any Shawnee settlements.

Cherokee settlements were mostly in Tennessee and points south and west, with border trading posts on the edges of what became Virginia and North Carolina. Yuchi people, physically related to the Shawnee but even less organized or “civilized,” had also lived in Tennessee and had mostly fled or died before Europeans started to survey the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Native American character in The Kentucky Trace can't be identified with any recognized tribe or nation. He might be one of those prisoners of war who weren't disclosing any information about who or where their families were or where they were trying to get back to. Leslie and his friend Daniel, who is trying hard to be Cherokee (like his late lamented wife), call this younger man “Little Brother.” Is he a lost Canadian trying to get back to the north and west, or the last survivor in a Yuchi family whose home wasn't far from where he meets Leslie and Daniel? He'll never tell.

There are two women in the party: Rachel, the good one, who has been enslaved and used as a wet nurse, and Charity, the horrible one. Since the story is told from Leslie's point of view we also learn a fair bit about his unlamented wife Sadie, who threw herself at Leslie because she'd already started a baby with a less gentlemanly patron of her parents' inn; other than that she wasn't all bad, we learn, it was Sadie's mother who made Leslie feel that war could be no worse than the home life Sadie offered him. Daniel, who does miss his late wife, is continually surprised that Leslie is not mourning for Sadie.

There's also Jethro, officially Leslie's slave, in practice Leslie's foster brother, and enough others that the group can travel in separate parties through what are not yet eastern Kentucky and Ohio to the frontier settlement of Detroit. Leslie accepts slavery and will agree to work in exchange for the title to another slave, in this story, but he's not a racist; he appreciates Jethro and Rachel as individuals. Historically his attitude was not unusual in the Appalachian Mountains where, if slaves were acquired, they were more likely to be acquired individually and allowed to earn their freedom than they were in the flatland "plantations."

The baby in this story is not Sadie's baby, who died along with Sadie, nor is he Leslie's. Who he is and who adopts him, in the end, is the main plot that ties together all the minor frontier-survival adventures.

An interesting phrase that appears in the story is “rock house.” On the Virginia or limestone side of the mountains, into the nineteenth century, “rock house” or “rock hall” were expressions used to mean any big cave. A "rock house" figures in local history:

In the Kentucky sandstone country, Arnow tells us, “rock houses” came to mean a particular kind of sandstone cave, peculiar to that region, apparently numerous, shallower but therefore airier and more pleasant for camping in than limestone caves are. Throughout much of the story Leslie and his friends live in “rock house” caves.

Names in Arnow's stories of the Midwestern States tend to repeat. From the appearance of minor characters with names like “Sadie Hawkins” (in 1974 everyone remembered that character from Al Capp's fiction) readers might infer that Arnow was too busy getting the period details and action scenes right to bother about finding just the right name for each character, and carelessly recycled names. Others, noting the movements of characters through her books, have postulated that the stories are interlinked. It's possible that, in combination with Arnow's other books, The Kentucky Trace is meant to leave us convinced that Leslie and some of his friends will choose the perfect farm for Leslie's parents to retire to, will settle down there and live reasonably happy ever after. Or not.

Though not exactly a best-selling author, Arnow was a critically acclaimed one, considered historically important in Kentucky, and her books have gone into collector prices. What I physically read is a hardcover edition; interestingly, it's gained less value on Amazon than the paperback edition has. Even reprints and Kindle editions of The Kentucky Trace are pretty pricey. What you can buy here, therefore, will be the hardcover book (unless you insist on a different edition) with the jacket as shown above, and it'll cost $10 per book plus $5 per package (two copies would fit in one package) plus $1 per online payment.