Thursday, September 27, 2018

Greetings--Permanent Payment Explanation

Welcome to the Blog,'Zine, and Bookstore of Priscilla King. The Blog is in the process of conversion to pay-per-view mode; new posts will appear as they are paid for. The Bookstore, and the free-public-information part of the'Zine, continue to appear as they have done in the past. Old posts, and keyword lists for new posts that may not be visible, can be found by using the site-specific search bar on your right. New posts can be seen at Live Journal for $1 and become visible free of charge, in a graphics-friendly format here and a graphics-free format at Live Journal, when they've earned $5.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Review: A Chance for Love

(Amazon doesn't have even a computer-generated book image for this vintage novel. Click on the title to order the book directly from Amazon. Here, for Google+ purposes, is a picture of the sort of house shown on the front cover of the book. Real house picture donated to Morguefile by Saffrodite .) 

Author: Iris Bromige

Date: 1947

Publisher: Longmans Green & Co (U.S. edition, Ballantine)

ISBN: none

Length: 217 pages

Quote: “Don't you see, Paul, that any ordinary marriage for me would only be a poor copy of my marriage with David?”

What distinguishes this “Beagle Romance” from similar-size, similar-vintage Harlequins is the number of major characters. The speaker quoted is Frankie, a young war widow. She's talking to Paul, a blind writer with whom she works. Sarah, a young actress, also works with and likes Paul. In order to follow the plot readers also have to remember the names of Lance, Carol, Robert, Clare, Elizabeth, Roger, and Eleanor—nine young single people, four of whom will be married (of course there'll be two separate traditional weddings, this was 1947) at the end of the book.

Personally I find it burdensome enough to keep track of a lot of Bright Young Things' given names in real life where they speak with different voices, but if you enjoy keeping track of a whole social “crowd” and their relationships with one another, you may enjoy following how these characters pair off at the end, who's left alone, and why.

What makes A Chance for Love a breakthrough story selected for reprinting is that Iris Bromige convinced readers that the blind man might be even more attractive than the sighted men in the crowd. He can't see the women, so he's “forced to choose the right heart from the longings of his soul.” The girl who gets Paul is being appreciated for more than her looks. (In fact, for a romance, A Chance for Love is remarkably sparing in physical descriptions; we're told whether the characters—all British—are “dark” or “fair,” “large” or “small,” and that's about as close as Bromige's focus on their faces gets, leading the reader to wonder whether Bromige created a blind romantic hero because her own eyes were giving out.)

In other ways, too, this romance novel was ahead of its genre. Some of the young people who flirt and bicker are thirty-five and forty years old. In the British social hierarchy they all seem to be upper middle class “gentry,” no titles, but they all have jobs. In one of the earlier “date” scenes they all go out as four couples packed into two cars, but before the end of the book couples will be spending time together without chaperones. In some social circles this kind of social behavior was considered extremely, even dangerously, “modern.” It's still a romance, with a lot more chatter about everybody's feelings for each other than interest in their work or their parents or their spirituality or anything of the kind, but Ballantine's editors picked it for reprinting in the 1960s because it seemed more up-to-date than many novels from the 1940s did.

And the setting is still that bucolic, somewhat rose-tinted English Sector of Planet Nice a large reading population had learned to love, where Clare finds Frankie “at the bottom of the garden tying up a climber,” and “She pushed open the shabby white painted gate on which the name of the house was barely legible and walked up the path to the porch...The blackthorn was just beginning to flower,” and Paul “stretched n the grass by Frankie, who was reading him a short poem from the Sunday Times,” and “a steady drizzle was falling for the last mile of their walk...and it was good to see tea laid in front of a fire,” and “Exploring the cliffs that afternoon turned out to be more strenuous than they had anticipated...” leaving Sarah “limping slightly...for her white shoes were not suitable for scrambling over cliffs,” and nobody's ever heard of television or the Internet, so these people are forced to walk and talk and cook and read and act in plays and generally amuse themselves without any blinking boxes to plug themselves into. That alone makes the fictional world of this novel a place some readers want to visit and revisit.

If you too want to slip into a fictional world where people say what they mean in complete sentences made up of traditionally printable words, consider whether they're really “in love” before they flop into bed, and entertain themselves and one another using real-world skills rather than buying gadgets, then A Chance for Love has a good chance of pleasing you. This is a sweet romance, not a steamy one. It's still meant for married women to read when we want to put on the right mood for meeting our husbands after work, but the target mood is “cheerful and chatty” rather than “flushed and sweaty.”

Though cheap when new, A Chance for Love has become a collector's item. To buy it online, send $25 per book + $5 per package (8-12 books of this size will fit into the package) + $1 per online payment to the appropriate address at the very bottom of the screen. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

First Sick Day in Nine Years

Status update and major gross-out: On Friday I didn't spend the full morning in the Market and left with only $7. This was not as bad as it sounds, because I had some food left from the previous week and in any case I was sick. On Tuesday a local lurker paid $20 in support of a few posts, including a Link Log for old times' sake. You need to support this web site:

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

I'll do another Link Log and two more "good" posts, later, but...when I dragged myself into town this morning, someone said, "Where've you been? We've missed you!" and this is always a dangerous question to ask anyone over age fifty. We might tell you the truth, rather than just mumble something we hope sounds polite. Here, for those who can bear to read it, is the true answer. You've been warned. Nobody should have to listen to this in a cafe where they're paying to enjoy their food and coffee...but it does need to be Out There in cyberspace.

Basically I've been sick, though able to work around it, for the past five weeks and yesterday the situation was especially disgusting. (Feel free to skim through the rest of this me-me-me post; there's a pleasant status update about the cats at the end.)

On Tuesday I did other chores and errands in town, but didn't have enough money to buy coffee, so didn't go online. Then on Tuesday night I spent most of the night dashing to the bathroom, and on Tuesday morning I still didn't feel fit to go out in public. I sat up, and did some things around the house, but I'd have to count it as a Sick Day, because I kept passing what felt like gas but was in fact blood. That's the first Sick Day I've taken since Norwalk Flu in 2008. I had the money to be here, and I'd planned to be here, and yesterday morning I couldn't leave the house because I'd given away all the Depends we had left right after my husband died.

That's not the flu-bug that's going around, which is a rerun of the past two years' nuisance, causing pneumonia and/or vertigo for vulnerable people and nothing for those of us who've evolved resistance to it by now. It could be a celiac reaction if I'd been eating wheat, but I've not. I've been eating things that were safe for me to eat in September--beans, peanuts, chicken, rice, tomatoes, plus some of the freshest coffee in Virginia--but apparently this summer's new crop of some of those things has been "ripened and protected" with glyphosate, which affects celiacs just like wheat gluten only more so. And since farmers are not required by law to confess to manufacturers that they've done this evil deed, that they've sprayed poison right on freshly harvested food (even "organically grown" food!), finding out exactly which of those foods has become deadly poison to me in the past month is going to take detective work. I've been trying to do some of that detective work during these five weeks, find out what (if anything) I can still eat, but it's not easy.

I logged onto Twitter, and right at the top of my news feed was a sponsored tweet from my old friend Mr Peanut, the Planters mascot. I have loved Mr Peanut and all that he's stood for since early childhood but in recent years some, not all, of his delicious, farm-fresh-before-being-roasted-and-salted nuts have been making me sick. Did he do it this time?

Or was it the local candy maker who supplies Addco chain stores with their absolutely splendiferous old-fashioned "Christmas" candies? Those chocolate-coated and maple-sugar-coated nuts are waaay fresher and yummier than the name brand with which they compete, made without high-fructose corn syrup and a higher proportion of nuts to fat-and-sugar. I use the public conveniences in Addco chain stores often enough, all year, that I hate to miss any chance to buy anything there for Miss Manners, and I feel that Miss Manners particularly approves when I'm able to buy the best deal in its category in town, which those only-in-winter candies are. Most things sold at Addco are overpriced, because you're paying Addco to buy them from the big-chain supermarkets and bring them to more convenient locations; but when they buy their winter candies they don't have to pay a middleman and everyone gets a better deal. But is this the year their nuts were...poisoned?

Was it Zatarain's rice...again? Success Rice...again? Bush's beans...again? The store-brand beans I started buying when Bush's beans were poisoned, years ago? I complained to those companies then. I thought their consciousness had been raised and their rice and beans were fit to eat. Has some farmer thought that what people don't know wouldn't hurt them? Wrong, wrong, wrong...

I don't think it was Dollar Store chicken-in-a-tin. Gwaltney chicken "dogs" and bologna, which are cheaper and which I buy in cool weather, are a leading suspect because they contain additives that are likely to be poisoned. Yes, the actual birds fed on tainted grain can contain glyphosate residues and make celiacs sick.

What about the coffee? Oh please,'s bad enough using an Internet cafe as an office when I can't eat the food. I feel like such a callous heel, already, living on peanuts and rice and beans in the middle of what's officially rated one of the best bakeries in the State. Please let me be able to drink the coffee. I've tested for that before--recently--and the fully caffeinated coffee seemed to be safe, as of, er um, September...

But it's hard to tell, because since that last drastic reaction to Cheerios, five weeks ago, I've not completely recovered from one celiac reaction before another one's started, and the celiac reaction slows down the digestive process so it's hard to tell exactly when each reaction did start; the hostile mood and cramping can start two or three days before the blood-gushing, or only hours before.

And the list of things I can safely eat, afford to buy, and find close to where I live, is short at best; the idea of shortening it even further to find out exactly what is (more likely are) making me sick this fall would be discouraging even if I weren't in a gloomy celiac mood. Thanks to unauthorized spraying around the power line last summer I can't feel absolutely confident even about eating things that grow on my own True Green property, the wild persimmons that were actually ripe and sweet before the First Frost on Tuesday morning, the black walnuts whose hardwood shells keep out almost everything but that were just beginning to form when the trees were exposed to poison...

Wail. Waaail!

Actually the weather this weekend--this long weekend--was delightful. These were the kind of days when a person would be well advised to use any mental health days their job may provide for, because you never know for sure that you'll live to do the same things in such perfect weather ever again. I mucked about in the stream below the mountain spring, keeping the channel deep enough that the water runs as fast and clear as it should, and having a jolly good time in the hot sun and cold water. I pruned vines, and turned dead leaves over to sort out undesirable seeds, and cooked rice in a Dutch Oven over a fire of dead leaves and junkmail, and could have snapped pictures of Heather and Samantha kissing each other and eating out of the same bowl if youall had paid for the phone minutes, and generally had as much fun as a person can have while being seriously sick. I may not look like a typical Irish anything, but I am a typical Irish celiac who grew up being cheerful while being seriously sick. If you're about to develop some horrible disabling condition and die of it, why add any more misery to that by not being cheerful?

Of course, another thing about Irish celiacs is that we're the ones who made the Irish Curse an art form, a genre of poetry just like the Irish Blessing. In old Ireland where people believed celiacs were victims of some sort of mystical curse I doubt that anyone ever wrote a really good curse on the person who's caused a celiac reaction. Well, now there is one. I've written it. And I have seriously prayed it. While feeling cheerful.

Cursed be the one who, from mere laziness, pollutes and poisons the land.
May he never see the land again.
May he want to return to the land he has poisoned, every day of his short and painful life,
and may he never again be fit to go near it.
May each and every one of the curses that Moses pronounced on those who pollute the land,
in the twenty-eighth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy,
come upon this poisoner, every one in order, like a hurricane:
so that when he thinks he has endured all of them, 
straightaway each one of them comes back to hit him, again, from the other side.
May no part of the pain that he has caused to any other living creature,
whether it walks on two legs, or on four, or six, or eight,
be spared him; may he feel every pang ten times over.
For myself alone I say:
because he shortened my breath, 
may he never again draw a breath but it cuts like a knife and burns like a flame;
because he sapped my strength,
may he never again stand on his feet, but fall on his face and lie on his face crying with shame;
because he drained my blood,
may he be one of those who become sick and faint at the sight of their own blood,
and may he never again open his eyes but he sees his own blood,
draining from any and every part of his body that can bleed.
And may none of this suffering shorten or relieve the suffering that he has earned
by the suffering he has caused to any other innocent creature.
May he cry and beg aloud to die, 
and may he lack the strength to kill himself,
and only if he has the presence of mind to repent, confess, and make restitution
to every one to whom he has caused suffering, every one of every kind,
may his suffering eventually end with any relief, in this world or the next.
(And although I myself would accept restitution,
may he know, even as he begs me on his knees to accept land and money,
that it is already too late to make restitution to other creatures 
who were more innocent than I, and whom he wantonly killed, from mere laziness.)
May people remember for a hundred years after our grandchildren's time
the suffering this fool earned by poisoning his neighbor
who was a widow and fatherless, and had done him no harm,
And may the Lord do the same to me, and more also, 
if I ever sink so low as to poison the land
and cause others to suffer and even to die in agony,
for no reason but greed and laziness. 

Well, you say uncomfortably, an Irish Curse is an art form. Yes. And this one does not, you notice, describe anything any mortal person could do, even if that person tracked down a poisoner; I'm not advising other sufferers to hunt down the Monsanto Corporation's dupes. We have better and more enjoyable things to do with whatever time we have to live. What this curse does describe, poetically, is one of the natural consequences glyphosate exposure is documented to have on non-celiacs...kidney failure, frequently including kidney cancer. Forgive me that I enjoy knowing that the curse will indeed descend on those who deserve it.

It came to me over the weekend...nobody knows what causes multiple myeloma. Probably an interaction among many things causes multiple myeloma. My husband had had stubborn hypertension and rage episodes, regular enough that he sincerely believed he'd been reacting to his ex-wife's hormone cycles, for some time before we met; probably the whole ten years we had were a period of remission.

But we had some neighbors, not next-door neighbors but fellow gardeners whose back garden faced ours, at our little house in Maryland. They had perfectly manicured grass, trees with cardinals in them, and beautiful roses. They were great-grandparents. We used to see the old gentleman out spraying stuff from a can onto his roses, and mostly it smelled like harmless fertilizer...but sometimes it caused my sinuses to clog, and a few days later we'd see dead robins, thrushes, and sparrows along the road. Both of those things are evidence that the fertilizer contained one of those super-popular glyphosate formulas.

Six months, to the day, before he died, my husband took the first sick day he'd taken since I'd known him, and the immediate cause of his sickness was kidney failure. Everybody in the hospital wanted to know why, when he'd seemed to be so healthy and to lead such a healthy life. He had no idea. Neither had I.

The next year, the old gentleman sprayed his beautiful roses, one more time, and one of our robins died. And that summer I heard the old gentleman also died...from kidney failure. Apparently kidney trouble, not rheumatism, was what had caused him to move in that stiff-hips-but-healthy-shoulders way he'd always had.

Glyphosate is known to cause kidney failure. 

He didn't know. Long-term studies of these things can't be done until the latest poison that doesn't seem to harm most humans turns out to be deadly to humans, too, in the long term. But that old man had lived long enough to notice a pattern: There is not and has never been a poison spray that has not turned out to harm humans. They always do. Instead of believing the greedy marketers' claims that this or that new poison doesn't harm humans, we need to learn that what doesn't immediately trigger a reaction to get it out of the human body, but does reliably kill smaller creatures, always does more serious harm to humans later on.

"If you don't photosynthesize, it can't hurt you," babbles a farmer whose web site shows that his research on the effects of glyphosate has been limited to commercial marketing propaganda. Duh...if you eat plants whose ability to photosynthesize has been affected, that can hurt you. And also glyphosate, which is chemically similar to wheat gluten, affects the minority of gluten-intolerant people just as gluten does, only more so. If it gets inside our bodies, it shreds internal tissues, and blood gushes. And also studies are showing that long-term exposure to glyphosate has other unintended consequences, possibly including cancer as such, but certainly including kidney failure--which certainly aggravates cancer.

We need to ban all spray-on poisons, altogether. We need to be much more careful about applying anything that kills insects, even if the insects in question are killing people. We need to be very stringent about letting anyone even try to poison plants, since plants do not kill people.

If "herbicides" are allowed to be manufactured or sold at all, they should be made available only by an arduous permitting process that, among other things, holds the poisoner responsible for any new health problems reported within five miles of the poison site during the next five years, requires an informed consent form from everyone living within five miles of the site, and allows poisons to be injected into plants via a fine syringe, never sprayed into the air, onto the ground, or into the water.

Anybody who's still spraying "Roundup" richly deserves kidney failure in its fullest and most horrific form, with plenty of time to envy my poor husband, who at least had a form of cancer that caused numbness rather than intense pain. Anybody who's still spraying "Roundup" deserves the pain.

But at least, at the Cat Sanctuary, the poison was only in food and affected only me, this time.

Johnny Wren didn't stay as long as I'd hoped, after Jenny laid that deformed egg and died at her nest. The paper wasps won't be back before spring, either. The stinkbug population is booming.

Heather has found a name for Samantha in cat "language." I still suspect Samantha of being a merely normal cat, albeit a clever one, and affectionate. For social cats normal cats can become pets; I had some concerns, because Samantha has formed an ugly habit of threatening violence when she's scared, and she was scared of Heather at first, but I've enjoyed watching her get over it. She is becoming Heather's pet, and mine. She followed me around, all weekend, and positively bounded to me when called. If she's not quite qualified to replace Irene, Heather seems to be nonverbally saying, at least she'll do to replace Inky.

Long may their proud tails wave, in an orchard that belongs to people who've had enough sense not to poison our land for fifty years.

(Regular readers know: Gluten intolerance is a rare genetic condition that existed before glyphosate was invented. Gluten sensitivity, which is common, has been documented only since glyphosate became so popular with greedy, lazy farmers and gardeners...y'know, the ones too stupid, too hateful, generally too unworthy of life, to know that THIS is what we use when we don't want a plant in the place where it starts to grow:)

Black & Decker BD6585 4 Piece Combo Set

Book Review with Lots of Music Links: Composed

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Composed

Author: Rosanne Cash

Date: 2010

Publisher: Penguin

ISBN: 978-0-670-02196-3

Length: 244 pages

Illustrations: few small black and white photos

Quote: “ I have often attempted to explain my experiences to myself through songs...I relish the opportunity to write about my life in this extend the poetry.”

Rosanne Cash was born in 1955, the first daughter of Johnny Cash's first marriage. Ever since, her career has consisted of being a singer who learned from her superstar father and stepmother, but does not sing like either one of them, even if she concedes fans' requests and sings their songs. There are stories of life with Johnny Cash, June Carter, and stepsister Carlene in this book, but not many. Rosanne Cash wants us to know that she's had her own life, written and sung her own songs, even if at times she's had to go to different countries to do it.

For starters she grew up in California, with few ties to Johnny Cash's family in Arkansas or June Carter's in Virginia (although she mentions knowing them), and none to Nashville. She lived in England, in New York, in California, in Europe. She lived with her parents, at times, in their old age. She lived with her husbands (plural) and children. She often has more to share about the process of recording than about any of her huge extended family:

“I knew Rodney shouldn't produce the record. He agreed, and I made appointments to meet with a few different producers...I had the idea of approaching the record as if it were a collection of Celtic songs...nearly all acoustic...I was sick of the big snare sound of the eighties, and I didn't want to spend hours sorting out drum had never really occurred to me that I could record drums differently, without the hyperfocus on the exact snare and tom and kick effects...Every studio...was in the process of switching to digital.”

She can go on like that for pages on end, and she does, because that's who Rosanne Cash is: not only a musician, but a music geek, as fascinated by recording technology as she is by melody, harmony, and rhythm. If you want to learn about recording music, you'll love this book. If you want the illusion of being part of the Carter-Cash clan, read one of June's or Johnny's books instead.

While being a team worker, Cash has played most of the positions and pulled more than her own weight on her own recording and marketing business. The high-tech music machine that is Rosanne Cash seems to run at a less furious pace than the one that is Madonna Ceccone, but has not reached the point where big-name musicians can have time for much of anything else in the way of a life. Partly the detachment from friends and family in this book is a matter of preserving those people's privacy but also, I suspect, it's that the music industry still allows stars precious few opportunities to play with their children or hang out with friends. To be recognized as a master of music (or of most of the arts), it's still necessary to become a slave to it.

As the music industry has evolved, Cash became involved with every aspect of producing and marketing her music. She shares some nice memories of working with “country” and rock stars, but many more of working with the engineers, band members, and obscure musicians you've never heard of; in a subtle, tactful way, she's letting us know that new performers and the non-performing support crew are at least as interesting, to her, as the star singers are, maybe more so. Cash has always been the star of her own shows—her name, all by itself, is a big attraction—but she's worked very very hard at not being a spoiled rich-celebrity-daughter diva.

That may be why, although the song lyrics in this book are solid ones, I can't remember actual tunes for them. Most of them were recorded back when I was still buying records. Cash just didn't want to slot herself into the preset role of Nashville or rock diva, and she could afford to record her own songs, her own way, and as a result, even during the fashion for fusion of the 1980s, she wasn't “packaged” enough to be promoted on the radio. People bought her records if, and only if, (1) they wanted to listen to Johnny Cash's kid, and (2) after hearing how completely unlike Johnny Cash she sounded (duh! she's a woman!), they still wanted to listen to Rosanne Cash. It was an admirable statement...but somehow, like a lot of people even in the folk-and-independent-music community, I didn't become familiar with songs on the radio and buy the albums on which those songs appeared. As a result, although Cash's memoir has a “sound track” with at least one song, singer, or record mentioned every few paragraphs, most of that sound track doesn't play in my mind. People make choices; musical integrity in obscurity has been hers.

If, however, her book makes you're reading this on a computer, and thanks to today's technology, if you choose to buy things online and set your computer up to play back sounds,you can listen to the sound track while you read Cash's book, probably on the computer you're using to read this review. This is an Amazon Affiliate site (sorry, those who don't like Amazon, I need the money) and Amazon sells digital recordings of music. So here are some links you can use to hear what she's talking about:

(Rosanne Cash's own playlist is linked, but at the time of posting the link doesn't work, at Amazon. Here are the songs: 

Here, she’s provided readers with a special playlist—along with behind-the-music liner notes--that puts her unique life story to music. You can also sample and download these songs in our custom MP3 playlist. 

"Sleeping In Paris" (1993)

I wrote this just before I went to Paris in 1990. It became a metaphor for resolving things that could not be resolved. 

"Seven Year Ache" (1981)
Seven Year AcheThis song began as a long poem, three or four pages long, and I distilled it down into the song it became. I wrote it when Rickie Lee Jones first album was out, and it was really influential for me. I was thinking that I didn't know any country songs about being on the streets, or street life, and I wanted to write one. This was my attempt. 

"On The Inside" (1990)
On The InsideThis is the first track on my album "Interiors." The whole album was about the difference between what is going on inside, and what you show the world on the outside. 

"Rules of Travel" (2003)
Rules of TravelI wrote the chorus to this YEARS before the whole song was finished. It became the title song of the album. I still think it is one of the best choruses I've written. 

"Dreams Are Not My Home" (2006)
Dreams Are Not My HomeI was in Cambridge, England, playing at the Folk Festival, and my daughter and I climbed to the top of an ancient church, and I looked out over the River Cam and a picture unfolded in my mind, of the river rising, and Chelsea and I flying away. All the images in the song are dream-like, and the chorus is a longing to break free of the dreams. 

"House on The Lake" (1980)
House on The LakeJohn Leventhal and I wrote this song, and it's full of detail about the home my dad and stepmother lived in. It's from the album 'Black Cadillac'. Many of those songs are about loss, but this one is also about what remains-- the love and memories. 

"The Way We Make A Broken Heart" (1987) 
The Way We Make A Broken HeartThis song is written by the great John Hiatt, one of my favorite songwriters. It was a big hit for me on the country charts in the 90's. It was an innovative record and just such a beautiful song. 

"Like Fugitives" (2006)
Like FugitivesThis was the last song I wrote for my album "Black Cadillac," shortly after my mother died. I was angry and sad, and I didn't pull any punches, lyrically. 

"Black Cadillac" (2006)
Black CadillacThis was the first song I wrote for my album "Black Cadillac." It was like a 'postcard from the future'. Everyone started dying after I wrote this. 

"She's Got You" (1986)
She's Got YouThis song was written by the great songwriter Hank Cochran, and it was made famous by Patsy Cline. I had to get Patsy's voice out of my head to even approach singing this! I finally just asked her to help me. It seemed to work. 

King's Record Shop

Black Cadillac

The List

The River & The Thread

The Essential Rosanne Cash

The Essential Johnny Cash

Press On

Carter Girl

Not physically related to Rosanne Cash, Dale Jett is June Carter's cousin and the current proprietor of the Carter Family Fold...where it's become much easier to get in since Janette Carter's demise. If you're in southwestern Virginia and want to meet the writer known as Priscilla King in real life, the Fold would be a good place.

Going Down The Valley

And here's a digital reissue of Patsy Cline...

The Definitive Collection

Most people are reading this on a computer, so you don't have to buy the albums from me; download them directly from Amazon and go somewhere where you can play them on the computer. E-mail salolianigodagewi to buy LPs or cassettes. To buy only the book, e-mail salolianigodagewi or just send $10 ($5 per book, $5 per package) to Boxholder, P.O. Box 322, Gate City, Virginia, and mention that you're interested in this book. Cassettes can be shipped together with books; LPs have to be shipped separately.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: The Whisper of Glocken

Title: The Whisper of Glocken

Author: Carol Kendall

Date: 1966

Publisher: Holt 

ISBN: none

Length: 221 pages

Illustrations: drawings by Imero Gobbato

Quote: “Once upon a whisper-time—so it is said but who would believe it?--when the Minnipins, hotly pursued by the Mushrooms,wished to enter the Land Between the Mountains, the Glocken of Then played upon his bells and opened a passage through the mountain known as Frostbite, and through this passage traveled all the Minnipins...But the wall...did break, and the water went gushing into the tunnel...Thinking to put matters right, the Glocken of Then played again upon his bells and caused rock to fill his tunnel...Whereupon, the Glocken of Then sat in a place on the mountain and thought about how to get himself across...And still thinking, he finally died. And this I believe, for certainly he never entered the Land Between the Moun­tains.”

Minnipins are like humans, only smaller. How much smaller Carol Kendall never made completely clear. The first book about them, The Gammage Cup, began by asserting that it's not true that they were a lost people because they knew exactly where they were: in a high valley completely surrounded by unclimbable mountains.  In The Gammage Cup, however, their enemies “The Mushrooms” did climb the mountains and fifty Minnipins defeated heaps upon heaps of Mushrooms, using magic swords that are normally rusty and useless, but turn sharp and “Bright when the Cause Is Right.”

In The Whisper of Glocken the title character, Glocken the Bell Ringer, has spent a lot of time fantasizing about the glamorous heroes who led the Army of Fifty—the splendid old chieftain Walter the Earl, the poet Gummy, the warrior Mingy, the wisewoman Muggles, and the beautiful Curley Green. Then aflood forces him and his neighbors to leave their village. Glocken, a young man whose hair tends to fall into his eyes, is embarrassed by his four utterly unheroic companions, Scumble the young presser of fish oil, Crustabread the young woodsman, Gam Lutie the bossy village nurse, and Silky the blonde...until he realizes that five disreputable-looking town-character types who take them in are none other than the Five Heroes of the recent battle against the Mushrooms. Walter the Earl is growing old, Gummy is clownish, Mingy is grumpy, Muggles is getting fat, and Curley Green makes no effort whatsoever to look good. Nevertheless, the Five arm Glocken and friends with five magic swords and instructions to discover the cause of the flood and, if possible, the source of the magic healing salve taken from the Mushrooms.

The cause of the flood turns out to be some engineers, described as three times the size of the Minnipins, nicknamed Hulks for that reason. The Hulks aren't evil, and except when one of them tries to detain a fleeing Minnipin the swords won't harm them. The Hulks are selfish, inconsiderate people who would rather take the Minnipins prisoner than dismantle the dam that is flooding their valley. The magic swords just sense that they're not the right magic device for the Minnipins to use.

According to Glocken's family legend, somewhere in a cave or tunnel in one of the mountains is a set of bells containing the magic Whisper Bell whose vibrations can accomplish all kinds of things...

The five New Heroes don't find that in the desert that mysteriously surrounds their lushly green valley. They find Diggers, a sort of desert monkeys, and “egg-shapes,” a fantastic carnivorous plant of the desert that eat wounded flesh and grow hand-sized balls of pure healing salve. (The idea of egg-shapes has to have come from aloe veras, which could be described as pure healing balm wrapped in tough prickly skin.) Diggers are very strong and fast animals who like doing what they see someone else doing, so it's easy to get them to dig.

As a child I remember thinking that both of Kendall's whimsical adventure stories were just about right—the right length, the right level of difficulty, the right proportion of comedy to adventure—for middle school readers. As an adult...the characters are adult Minnipins, but Minnipins aren't precisely human. The characters seem more sensible, nicer, than full-grown humans. Even if we imagine that Silky is too young and Gam Lutie is too old to have any sex appeal to Glocken, Scumble, and Crustabread, which the story makes easy to imagine, still, the freedom from ego competition...Gam Lutie is the only member of this party who has any problem with egotism at all. Nevertheless, these are delightful books to share with a child.

The copies I physically own are discarded library copies of first editions. Amazon doesn't even show their pictures any more, which is a pity, because the jade-green cover was what first attracted me to The Gammage Cup as a child. The picture at the top of this post looks like the cover of my copy but it's a British reprint. If you don't insist on a prized first edition free from library markings, which will be expensive, what $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment will get you will be a reprint, possibly, "for copyright reasons," with "special contents" i.e. new pictures. Both The Gammage Cup and The Whisper of Glocken, plus The Firelings and The Big Splash, would fit neatly into one $5 package, at which point--though Amazon prices vary--the price of the four books might become competitive. The Wedding of the Rat Family might even slide in with the other four.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Book Review: Blackground

Title: Blackground

Author: Joan Aiken

Date: 1989

Publisher: Doubleday

ISBN: 0-385-26021-0

Length: 293 pages

Quote: “The first thing I noticed was his eyes...Did they look slightly mad? Or just wholly detached?”

The speaker is Cat Conwil, a young actress whose big break into a TV series has coincided with her chance to marry "up." Cat—or Cathy or Katya—is English, although her mother and her son's father were Russian, and like all good characters in English fiction she's eager for the chance to climb up a rung of the old feudal hierarchy, or what's left of it. From a surgeon's daughter she's been promoted to a lord's bride.

But is Lord Fortuneswell such a prize? He inherited money and title only as an adult. He grew up a policeman's son...and his parents were the nastiest kind of stereotypical Seventh-Day Adventists, only more so, the type who actually blamed him when his best friend died because his friend made up stories. He's capable of having mutually satisfactory sex with a woman (Blackground may be the most erotic story Joan Aiken ever wrote); it's his deep distrust of love and loved ones, his inability to bond, that caused friends to think he was “gay.” He needed a wife for his own social-climbing purposes, and a youthful blonde TV star seems a good choice for his primary purpose of impressing other men. And he believes in the classic “sexual double standard”: it's far from being all right, in his mind, that he wasn't able to save his old girlfriend Lilias, the drug experimenter whom he still loves after his fashion, from dying insane, but if his wife had any similar disreputable incident in her past, that would be utterly unacceptable.

In the interest of avoiding pain, Cat hasn't let herself think much about being unable to save her old boyfriend Alexei from the Bad Old Soviet Union, about having left their son for her parents to bring up; at “nearly thirty” she's only starting to process the grief and guilt she feels about her parents' death. This son is the male half of the pair of gifted children that became an Aiken trademark. His way of dealing with having been reared by grandparents rather than parents, and lost those grandparents, has been to win a merit scholarship to Harvard. When Cat does talk about him, she feels that she's bragging.

We meet the female gifted child earlier than the male. In this book they're not siblings (as they are in most of Aiken's books), nor does the story span enough years for them to become a couple (like Dido Twite and Simon the Earl of Battersea) and we're not immediately told how the girl is connected with Cat. 

Blackground is A Novel Of Suspense, as advertised, but Aiken's genre fiction always reached beyond the limits of the genre; Blackground is really more of a family story, despite the mysterious bad things that happen to people Cat knows during the chaotic winter after the wedding. “Cat is plunged into a drama...And the curtain will come down only with her death,” the blurb on the jacket promises. So, will the story end with Cat dead, or with her (for the moment) ahead of a game that’s not nearly over? What readers will know for sure, well before page 293, is that if Cat survives this adventure, the rest of her life will be fraught with similar adventures. It's as easy to love a reasonably well-to-do person as it is to love a poor person, but old money is always nicer, and could have settled for a nice millionnaire, but if one settled for less than a million, it could be worse. One could have married some horrid billionnaire.

I'm not sure about the adventures in the more melodramatic scenes, which seem the sort of thing that may happen occasionally in real life (likely to make “News of the Weird”) but are not traditionally allowed in fiction. The strength of Blackground is, I think, the family story. Cat's tough, sorely missed mother scores far ahead of most fictional characters on plausibility and likability, in addition to the gifted little girl and the two old ladies who are bringing her up (who aren't lesbians, we're told, but don't care if people think they are). Then there's Joel, Cat's old buddy who is generally believed to be "gay" (he knows Fortuneswell isn't that, because "Believe me, I'd know if he were"), but just might make an exception in Cat's case.

If the acceptance of overt homosexuality hasn't made it obvious, this is also a story about social change in England and Europe generally. Cat and her friends are young in the 1990s, believably accepting the European Union and "village planning" and the fad for U.S. speech patterns, but sometimes Aiken can't resist letting someone remind them how different everything is from the 1960s England and 1970s Greece of Aiken' earlier novels...or the real or alternative nineteenth centuries in her historical novels, in one of which a character recalls having been beaten up at school for having a U.S. accent.

Conrad Aiken and Jane Aiken Hodges were also gifted writers; Joan Aiken was one of my all-time favorites. I've liked all of her books--some better than others--and expect that anyone who can tolerate my fiction will thoroughly enjoy hers. So I wish Blackground were a Fair Trade Book. It's not. It'll still cost $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment, here; three more books the size of the hardcover edition will fit into the package, at which point this price will become competitive with what's currently showing on Amazon. As regular readers already know, you may send a U.S. postal money order for $10 (for this book alone) or $25 (for four books of similar size and price) to Boxholder, P.O. Box 322, as shown at the very bottom of the screen, or else e-mail salolianigodagewi, as shown at the very bottom of the screen, for the working Paypal address to which to send $11 or $26.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Book Review: Bodyworks Healthy Recipes

Title: Bodyworks Healthy Recipes

Author: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health

Date: not shown

Publisher: not shown

ISBN: none

Length: 130 pages

Illustrations: color photos of food

Quote: “Welcome to Bodyworks Healthy Recipes, where you'll find simple, low-cost recipes to make delicious breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and even desserts.”

Funny thing...I went into the little store across the street where I usually buy lunch in town. Usually I buy nuts or sunflower seeds. So this time there was a big sale on little cans of overpriced "Heart Healthy Mix" nuts. I usually only look at peanuts, cashews, and sunflower seeds because they're the only ones that are good bargains at this store. (There used to be another store where I only bought almonds.) But it occurred to me that I'd never bothered even finding out which nuts were in the overpriced "Heart Healthy Mix," because I'm not inclined to trust anyone who's not my doctor to tell me what's healthy for my heart. And after looking at the overpriced cans, I proceeded to the checkout counter with a packet of peanuts. I do not believe they're less healthy for my heart than any of those mixes of pricier, but equally oily, nuts are.

So...Bodyworks Healthy Recipes is one of those little government “booklets” that used to be mailed out free upon request if you sent the appropriate office the stamp, but it's...grown. It's metastasized. At the taxpayers' expense, instead of just compiling a few popular recipes, this government office has (1) spent hours surfing the Internet for popular recipes, (2) printed them on slick expensive paper with only one recipe to a page and lots of white space, and (3) bulked up the book with lots of full-page, full-color pictures.

Recipes have been ganked from U.S. sources, but some of them are written with distinctly foreign accents—a “Grape Pasta Saute” (well,recipe titles are often meant to sound exotic) calls for “gnocchi or large shelled pasta,” a recipe for “Homestyle Biscuits” calls for 2 cups of flour and ¼ teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of the U.K. “biscuits” may be sweet, but in the U.S. they're not.

And I'd accept “low-fat,” or “high-fiber,” or “plant-based” as ways to describe these recipes—and for most people that is relatively healthy—but what's “healthy” for anyone to eat is a very subjective thing. The first actual recipe in this book, on page 12, begins with “wheat and barley cereal.” If you inherited the minority gene for wheat gluten intolerance, that's so far from healthy as to qualify as “poison,” and so is the second recipe (for French Toast). These are followed by two recipes for fruit-and-dairy confections. If you inherited the majority gene for gradually declining lactose tolerance, the one that calls for vanilla yogurt might or might not be acceptable, but the one that calls for actual milk—pretentiously described, not as “skim milk,” but as “fat free milk”--would be certain to ruin your day. Then come three more wheat-based recipes, an egg-and-cheese recipe (egg allergies can be as melodramatic as peanut allergies), those biscuits...biscuits are junkfood even when they're made U.S.-style without a grain of added sugar. (American biscuits do have a sweet undertone, always traditionally produced by the interaction of baking soda and buttermilk, but they're supposed to be a salty contrast to the fruit preserves many people like to spread on them.) Need I go on? Home-cooking to meet the family's dietary requirements is, almost by definition, healthier than eating whatever overpriced, overprocessed commercial garbage the big chain stores try to sell us, but for many readers many of these recipes are, as written, very unhealthy.

Most people will find some recipes for things they can eat in this cookbook. Even those of us on special diets will find recipes we can at least tweak. Recipes tend to get tweaked in any case; you make a few strawberry shortcakes and then all the fresh strawberries are gone, so you try a blackberry shortcake. But if you have to tweak recipes to get results that won't actually put you in the hospital, are we talking about “healthy” recipes?!

From privately produced, corporate-sponsored books we might reasonably expect attempts to market products with overgeneralized, inaccurate, feel-good phrases like “healthy recipes.” From the federal government we should, I think, be able reasonably to expect objectivity. “Reduced-fat recipes for popular North American foods” does describe this book, but it should have been left between patients and their doctors to decide which of these recipes are “healthy”...and which are poisonous.

I am more likely to notice the appealing qualities of recipes in books when I've not been annoyed by claims that something that I know would damage my body is “healthy.” Most of the recipes in this book are anything but healthy for celiacs, as written, but there are some we can use. There is, on page 42, a relatively simple, naturally gluten-free gazpacho where the cook chops only the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onions, lemon, and garlic, and relies on V-8 for the murky mix of veggy undertones that make gazpacho great. The corn tortilla soup on page 46 is naturally gluten-free and healthy for celiacs if we can trust our sources of corn and chicken, which these days many of us can't. A grease-glazed barbecue chicken, as photographed, looks like saturated fat on the prowl, looking for arteries to clog, but it wouldn't immediately make celiacs sick. A “Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken,” “Chicken Oriental,” “Jamaican Jerk Chicken,” “Spanish Style Ricewith Chicken,” and “Baked Pork Chops” sound similar. An “Asian Salad” made with chicken, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, cilantro, cucumber, scallions, and a tangerine,sounds more just plain weird than Asian to me but I could pick at it if someone made it for me and remembered to hold the dressing (I'm a salad nudist). There's a beef and rice casserole, and a beef gumbo with rice, that sound quite a lot like things I've done while experimenting, usually with ground turkey rather than beef. I'm not sure what's Mexican about the “steak and fruit skewers,” not having known or heard of any Mexicans who were into skewering steak, but anyone who likes the combination of super-sweet dried fruit and savory meat would like it. Stir-fried beef served on potatoes is another North American fusion fad thing that might actually taste good, depending on how well your taste matches your potatoes...Note, though, that I'm noticing only this handful of recipes out of forty pages of the book.

One thing we can learn from this book is that private authors and publishers produce better cookbooks than government offices. I wouldn't rate Bodyworks Healthy Recipes either especially high or especially low if it had been a normal collection of recipes some person or persons used, and had put together, investing their own money, for sale. As a use for my tax dollars, thrown out there to compete with so many other cookbooks, of which so many are better...I have to give it a D minus. The federal government does not need to be in the cookbook business.

On Amazon it's actually going "collectible." can order it here for $10 per book plus $5 per package (4 books of this size will fit into a package) plus $1 per online payment, but first you should try ordering it from the U.S. Government Printing Office for the cost of postage.