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Posts Tagged ‘Alice Hoffman’

Alright folks, it’s been a week and a half. According to President Obama it’s time to stop all our belly aching and get back to work. At least that’s what he told his White House staff after the election – moping shall cease and desist, like they’ve been on one long, communal shiva call with the rest of the country. Even though Hillary will win almost 2 Million MORE votes than the comb-over, it’s not a Popular Vote contest, is it?

“We probably have about 7 million votes left to count,” said David Wasserman, an editor at Cook Political Report who is tracking turnout. “A majority of them are on the coasts, in New York, California, and Washington. She should be able to win those votes, probably 2-1.” By mid-December, when the Electoral College officially casts its ballots, Wasserman estimates that Clinton could be ahead by 2 percentage points in the popular vote. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/clintons-popular-vote-lead-will-grow-and-grow/507455/

So what’s a girl to do, besides sign up for the Million Women’s March on January 21? Watch a little Turner Classic? Walk your dog? Meditate to a new mantra; #LoveTrumpsHate? Find things for your newly retired hubby to do, like throw out half the spice cabinet? Cook up some comfort food? Well, sure all of the above, plus I’m reading a good book of historical fiction to take me back in time, way back, to the island of St Thomas in the 1800s.

“The Marriage of Opposites” seemed like a good title, since Bob and I have always said no modern day algorithm would ever make us a match. And I love Alice Hoffman! Because it’s now in paperback, this book has been a perfect traveling companion, from NJ to Nashville and back again. What I didn’t know is that she is telling the story of a certain French Impressionist painter, a real life Sephardic Jewish man born on St Thomas who was destined to take over his family’s business but wanted instead to paint.

He was born Jacob Abraham, but instead used his French name “Camille” Pizzarro; perhaps Hoffman has changed the spelling from Pissarro to keep this a fictional tale? I was well into the book before I realized who this last child of Rachel Pomie would become, the “Father of Impressionism,” the man who married his mother’s maid and began painting outside. The friend of Degas and Monet, he preferred living in the French countryside and was influenced by Gustave Courbet. His paintings “…dignify the labor of peasants in communal villages, reflecting the socialist-anarchist political leanings that the two artists shared.”

And in synchrony with my rebellious mood of the moment, it seems Pissarro is one of many early Colonial artists currently on exhibit at the New York Historical Society: “The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World” opened November 1st and runs through February 26. The first Jewish settlement of the New World was in New Amsterdam in 1654, when Brazil expelled 23 Jews to this early Dutch Colony of New York. http://observer.com/2016/11/colonial-jews-who-knew/

The curator said that during this time, Jews were not seen as “invisible outsiders.” They had certain freedoms in our new country, to worship as they wished and to flaunt society’s norms. It seems unimaginable that almost 4 centuries later, a man has won an election by preaching about discriminating against our current invisible outsiders of the moment…Mexicans and Muslims. He even dreamed of punishing women who would seek an abortion. Is this the America we all learned to love in grade school?

Once I was stung by a bee under a clothesline of billowing sheets. It is my earliest memory, the first time I felt as if I didn’t belong. Nell was not my mother, my name was different.   Today the feeling remains.

woman-hanging-up-the-washing-1887

Woman Hanging up the Washing, Camille Pissarro 1887

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Rainy day snooze in the aviary

Rainy day snooze in the aviary

I awoke to tiny, click/clack paws-on-wood-floors and thunder. Roaring mountainous thunder and more rain. It’s coming down in buckets, replete with lightening and it seems the cat and dog of the house do not like thunderstorms.

Mornings like these at Camp St Joseph for Girls meant we could sleep late. They were called Rip Van Winkle mornings! No bugle calls or flag raising, just hanging out in the cabin, playing jacks or pulling the covers up to finish a book by flashlight.

I had to stop reading my book, “The Dovekeepers” by Alice Hoffman last night. Not because I was too tired and the words were swimming on the page, but because I knew what was coming. And OK, so this book is about Masada, and we all know what was coming 2,000 years ago when the Jewish people held onto this fortress despite a drought and the onslaught of Roman soldiers.

No, Hoffman was about to tell me why the two young grandsons of one of the matriarchs in the book had lost their ability to speak. I already knew, the backstory was perfectly clear. But I just couldn’t let her language of blood lust and revenge be the departure point to my dreams. I needed a restful night. Maybe today I’ll pick up where I left off, if the sun would only show itself.

Last night one of my favorite literary prizes, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, was awarded to Aussie Richard Flanagan for “The Narrow Road to the Deep North.”

Named after a famous Japanese book by the haiku poet Basho, The Narrow Road to the Deep North is described by the 2014 judges as ‘a harrowing account of the cost of war to all who are caught up in it’. Questioning the meaning of heroism, the book explores what motivates acts of extreme cruelty and shows that perpetrators may be as much victims as those they abuse. Flanagan’s father, who died the day he finished The Narrow Road to the Deep North, was a survivor of the Burma Death Railway.
– See more at: http://www.themanbookerprize.com/news/winner-2014-man-booker-prize-fiction#sthash.duwYDC1W.dpuf

Another book about war, another exploration of man’s inhumanity. this time told from the point of view of a male surgeon working within the confines of a Japanese POW camp. How soon I wonder, will someone be telling the story of a disaffected British citizen who travels to Syria only to become the executioner and butcher of Westerners for Youtube? The cost of war is too high. I’m feeling overloaded with hate and vitriol from the news lately. It’s no wonder we Americans are addicted to cat videos.

Leave it to my favorite novelist/book store owner, Ann Patchett,  to recommend books for us on a wide array of subjects; for instance, Buddhism and nihilism? “A Tale for the Time Being is about Buddhism, nihilism, the second World War, bullying, physics, marriage, depression, and expectations — it is constantly pushing past the reader’s expectations.” As the editor of Parnassus’ scrumptious blog, Musing, so aptly put it –  “Is there anything better than finding the perfect book?” And particularly on a rainy hump day. If you happen to be in Nashville, her shop dogs could use a good pet! Happy reading! http://parnassusmusing.net/2014/09/30/notes-from-ann-frogs/

 

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