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john lewis 340pxIt's perhaps ironic, but surely iconic, that a GIANT of the Civil Rights Movement has died in the midst of the country's protests over George Floyd's death and ongoing racism. That "giant," of course, is U.S. Congressman John Lewis.

In 1998, Lewis (along with writer Michael D'Orso) penned Walking with the Wind, his memoir about growing up on the family's cotton farm in Alabama, his recollections of Jim Crow laws, and his role as a YOUNG LEADER of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

The Washington Post referred to Walking with the Wind as "the definitive account" of the Civil Rights Movement, declaring it "impossible" to read … "without being moved."

The memoir was reissued in 2015. Two years later, in 2017, Lewis's book went to the top of the bestseller charts—with Amazon announcing it had RUN OUT of new copies, while used ones were going for nearly $100.

Lewis, working with two young writers/illustrators also published March, a GRAPHIC-NOVEL TRILOGY about the Civil Rights era. The third book of the trilogy won the 2016 National Book Award.

When Book One of the trilogy came out in 2013, Lewis said this about the March project: "It's another way for somebody to understand WHAT IT WAS LIKE and … I want young children to feel it. Almost taste it. To make it real."


john lewis march trilogy

For book clubs that decide to tackle the RACE ISSUE, John Lewis's memoir would be an excellent place to start. Other works of note include the following titles ALSO ON LITLOVERS:

White Fragility
How to Be an Antiracist
Between the World and Me
The Hate U Give
The Warmth of Other Suns

Googling "books on racism," will turn up various lists filled with fine titles. An older one comes to mind immediately: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (1997), as well as THREE CLASSICS:from the 60s: Black Like Me (1960), The Autobiography of Malcom X (1964), Crisis in Black and White (1964).

 

vowel shiftHoly cow! It's coming! No, wait—it's here. By my reckoning, we're present at the start of the next GREAT VOWEL SHIFT.

Okay, so maybe not "great," but it feels like a vowel shift, nonetheless.

So what's the Great Vowel Shift? From approximately 1400 to 1700, vowel sounds in England underwent a gradual but profound change. But MORE on that LATER.

Right now, I'm referring to our own pronunciation of the letters A and E—not the long forms as in mate or meet, but the short forms, mat or met.

Have you noticed the pronunciation for the following words—ANY… MANY… CAN… MEN… BEEN… WHEN… GET? There are more, but these are enough for argument's sake.

In fact, say the words to yourself OUT LOUD. Do you hear a short-i creeping in? Not the long vowel as in iPhone but the short—as in Fitbit.

They sound like this: "Do you have INNY donuts?" "How MINNY would you like?" "Stop WHIN you GIT to 100." Or this "Now is the time for all great MIN to come to the aid of their country."

Ah, it's just a Southern regionalism, you say. NOPE. You can hear it on national TV, radio, podcasts, and film—and from people in all parts of the country.

So what's happening?

What's happening is PHONETICS. It's easier to say "min" rather than "men" … or "inny" rather than "any"—because the mouth doesn't have to open as wide and the tongue can rest comfortably in the middle. Phonetically, it's NOT AS MUCH WORK.

But now… back to the Great Vowel Shift. No one knows precisely when or where in England it started, or why (theories abound), but the end result was a NOTICEABLE CHANGE in vowel pronunciation.

Mostly it affected the long vowels. BITE once sounded like beet, MATE like maht, BOOT like boat—only three examples, but you get the idea.

Today, some 300 years later—during our own not-so-GREAT VOWEL SHIFT—I wonder if we'll end up losing the short A and E vowels, particularly if they're followed by the consonant N. I, too, am guilty of these HOMICIDAL tendencies.

Try saying the following words—ones in which I find myself replacing the en sound with in. Here they are: INCOUNTER … INDEAR … INGRAVE … INJOY  … INLIVEN … INSURE … INTANGLE … INVELOP  (the verb form) … INVIRONMENT. (Don't worry, the spelling won't actually change, just pronunciation.)

Languages are like living organisms, evolving over time. Usually we think it means the addition of new words to the dictionary, but it also refers to pronunciation. Language is living history, and it SOUNDS like we're in the midst of it.

william shakes pear

To shake or not to shake. That is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
the slings and arrows of outrageous surnames…
or just shake the damn pear.

Lovely words from the book editors of The New York Times

books nytimes editorial letter

 

—Letter from the Book Editors
The New York Times Book Review, April 19, 2020

 

read bookshelf titles


Thanks to my dear friend Sybil.
Btw... the pea-green book
bottom shelf, centerreads: "Always Remember." Even when enlarged, it's hard to read.

lipstick pjs fuzzies"OK … show of hands: how many of you put on MAKE-UP and a nice top—but still have on your PJ BOTTOMS?"

That's Mary Field opening the first ever online meeting of the VILLAGE LIT CHICKS of Lewes, Delaware.

"It seemed to break the ice," Mary told me. "Everyone LAUGHED, and off we went! A pretty good start."

The 12 members met on ZOOM, a web-based video conferencing app. All signed in without a hitch … except for one member. But her HUSBAND came to the rescue. (Try to have one of them around; that, or know where you can find a 12-year-old.)

To facilitate a sense of order, Mary assigned each member beforehand a Discussion Question for the book— Chances Are... by Richard Russo.

It worked. Conversation flowed, and "everyone was respectful—with very little talking over each other," said Mary. The meeting was such a SUCCESS that the club has planned its next for May.

One final bonus: members sent thank-you notes to Mary for her DELICIOUS New England-themed DINNER—bread bowls of clam chowder, with chilled beer and wine, topped off by a dessert of Boston Cream pie—all of which she had planned, NONE of which she had to cook. Good job, Mary!

See Meeting in the Time of Corona—Part I.

 

oona out of order   unhoneymooners   proposal  
separation axiety   bookish life nina hall   evvie drake starts over  
Click on individual cover images.  

It's a cliche to say reading is transformative. So I'll say it anyway—BOOKS permit us to lose ourselves in time and space. At the height of their powers, they even dissolve the boundary of the self.

These six books, all fairly new, offer something else: they can get you to laugh: a deep throated chuckle… all the way to a LAUGH-OUT-LOUD guffaw.

They're funny, which feels good right now, as we "shelter in place."



emojis
corona jokes10

We're worried if not downright panicked. So, of course, GALLOWS HUMOR is on the rise—proof once again that humans will always find a way to laugh in dire times.

Please allow me a DISCLAIMER: 
Many find humor tasteless right now—especially if they've taken ill or know someone who has. But laughter is in no way meant to denigrate the seriousness of the virus or make light of how precarious life has become.

Neuroscience tells us that laughing has a BENEFICIAL affect, triggering the release of endorphins, our brain's natural mood elevator, and suppressing cortisol, a stress inducing hormone.

Above are a few memes that have popped up in my texts and emails, brightening my day.* So please, find HUMOR, share a LAUGH, and feel KINSHIP. We're in this together.

Thanks to my sister, Janet, who always keeps me laughing.

meeting corona

meeting corona google menuWe're all into social distancing, right? And scrubbing hands while singing "Happy Birthday" (twice, yes?).

Book clubs are affected by the VIRUS, of course. So if you haven't canceled future book club meeting(s), you may be doing so soon.

But don't give up. You can still meet using group VIDEO MEETINGS via Skype, Google Hangout, or Zoom. *

The apps are FREE … and will accommodate up to TEN PEOPLE. Zoom will handle more, but limits you to 40 minutes. All are fairly easy to set up.

Follow the app's instructions. If you run into trouble try site Support or Help … or reach out to an 11-year-old (after all, they're not in school).

GOOGLE HANGOUT (see photos)
1. Go to Google's home page
2. Click on the app in the top right corner.
3. Scroll down the menu till you find "Hangout."
4. Click on the icon to open it up.

  SKYPE (click on links below)
1. Go directly to Skype to download the app.
2. Watch this intro video at Tech Boomers. It's not great, but it's better than others.

  ZOOM
1. Go directly to Zoom to download the app.
2. Watch this intro video on YouTube. It's pretty thorough.

And there's always Facebook. Facebook launched its video chat in late 2016, but it's limited to 6 PEOPLE at a time (although more can listen in). If you've already set up a private a Facebook GROUP, click on the "video" icon in the upper-right-hand corner to join an ongoing chat or start a new one.

Whatever you decide, dear readers, STAY WELL—and that goes for your families and friends, as well.
See Meeting in the Time of Corona—Part 2

Thanks to my daughter, who's younger than I am… and smarter. This post was at her suggestion.

fantasy1Do the threads of your life feel a little worn? Routines a little DULL? Do you ever dream about "livin' large"?

What about living in a different world altogether? Ever think about that? SURE you do.

All of which is why FANTASY is so addictive: it's a portal into a wild, mysterious otherworldliness—life lived as GRAND EPIC—exactly what most of our lives aren't.

Fantasy authors get it—it's why they're scooping up readers by the shovel-load. I'm talkin' about you, Leigh Bardugo.

But here's what really tickles me about fantasy books: the TITLES, their grammatical structure (oh yeah, and "Blood"). Like these—Children of Blood and Bone… or House of Earth and Blood. Here's the format:

(noun) - OF - (noun) - AND - (noun)

Other titles aren't quite so ramped-up; their STRUCTURE is simpler. Still, they manage to pack a punch—as in Shadow and Bone… or Siege and Storm. This is the format:

(noun) - AND - (noun)

So this got me to thinking—what would it take TO REWRITE some actual book titles, fitting them to the routines and irritants that make up our days? Here's my go:

A Song of Ice and Fire (George R.R. Martin)
A Bag of Ice and Cheetos

Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)
Children of Blood and Boogers
Teens of Mess and Mayhem

Days of Blood and Starlight (Laini Taylor)
Days of Traffic and Potholes
Nights of Tossing and Turning

Song of Blood and Stone (L. Penelope)
Netflix of Blood and Gore

House of Earth and Blood (Sarah J. Maas)
House of Dust and Dirt
Sink of Pots and Pans

Eagles and Empire  (Alan Smale)
Pigeons and Poop

Shadow and Bone (Leigh Bardugo)  
Sinew and Flab

Siege and Storm (Leigh Bardugo)
Binge and Gorge

Ruin and Rising (Leigh Bardugo)
Bedhead and Biscotti

 Book groups could have fun with this, too. See what you come up.


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