Bible Book Reviews! EXODUS today!

I have no authority to teach you about any of these wonderful books, so if you read on, please take what I say lightly. As a writer I find the Bible an interesting home for allegory, I could decipher every line for a lifetime of endless fun for me, but for you, I can only communicate what I learned. Perhaps you disagree and that’s OK!

Exodus is the story of Moses trying to convince the Pharaoh to release the Israelites so they can worship in the wilderness for three days. The word ‘wilderness’ to me is very significant, but I won’t talk about that today. My first notes on this book are below… “Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.” -Exodus 5:2 *First, you should understand my thinking that there are two lives we live. One life we live in the world (as a consumer for ourselves), one life we live in the spirit (a giver to others). We can choose to live in one life more than the other.* “To me Pharaoh represents the ‘world’ which constantly distracts us & pulls us away from God (life in the spirit) in every news report, in every advertisement, in every new ‘this’ and new ‘that’. We are perpetually distracted by a world that asks with blatant indifference, ‘who is the Lord?’. Moses here wants to ‘free’ the people who wish to live in the spirit, today we might think of this freedom as a freedom from addiction, freedom from selfishness, freedom from guilt, from arrogance, from pride and cynicism. The world perpetuates all of these qualities by making us blind to what is TRUTH & LOVE. 💕💕💕

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The Dewey Decimal Files

No book review today, but I wanted to share with you an old relic… remnants of the Dewey decimal filing system!! 💕 An archaic method of finding book call numbers before computers. A system which almost turned me off books forever! I remember I was in second or third grade when the librarians showed us how to use it, and I thought, if this is what I’ll have to do when I become a grown-up then find me Peter Pan pronto, because I never want to grow up. 😘 .

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#bibliophile #bookphotography #booknerd #bookgeek #bookstagram #book #reading #library #amreading #amwriting #history #libraryofcongress #research #catalog #bookclub #bookshelf #vintage

Absalom, Absalom! By William Faulkner

⭐️⭐️ Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner. Did anyone like it? Anyone? I felt as if I were in that dark shuttered-up parlor the whole time with that old woman character—like for real. That’s how the story was, very dark, not in feeling but rather in what I could see of the story and what I couldn’t. I had to excuse myself more than once from my usual reading spot to hide in a closet or my bedroom only to come away with the slightest gist of Faulkner’s meaning from one paragraph! One paragraph!! The lucidity if the story was as muddy as the window in this picture. (I’ll wash it later). I hated the whole experience. I’ll be honest. But Faulkner accomplished what he set out to do. I admire him for this, as his goal was to make the reader feel lost as they try to navigate the truth of a family’s history based on three 😬different stories told after the fact. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that is how I remember it. Please comment below if you have any thoughts on this terrible, yet, brilliant piece. 😄

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I bought this 1951 copy in Brooklyn from a street vendor at which point my brother says, “oooh Absalom, Absalom!, I’ve heard that’s a hard one. He doesn’t use a lot of punctuation.” He was right. I couldn’t resist the vintage Modern Library cover art though.

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#bookish #bookshelf #bibliophile #booksofinstagram #bookphotography #booknerdigans #readersofinstagram #books #reading #amreading #amwriting #bookgeek #booknerd #literature #bookishfeatures #bookadict #booksandloststories

Days of Wrath by Andre Malraux

🇺🇸 On a day just like today,

though the sky was bright,

clear, and blue,

I present to you this

truth in one, Andre Malraux.

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⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️A story about a communist prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp in the days leading up to World War II. Mostly it contains the protagonist’s rambling thoughts and efforts to not to go mad. Though I read it a couple years ago I remember enjoying it.

Pictured is the 1936 edition. The inscription indicates a brother giving this as a gift to his brother, or perhaps he’s a theologian, who seems to be going on a long journey. “Come back sober,” he writes.

Yes, I think we should all come back sober, like we did that day. We came back sober to our homes, to our radios, and television sets, but today as we do so, we come back with gratitude. .

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In memory of the 9/11 victims. 💕 🇺🇸 #usa

Coming Home…

We have been warned that there may be a shortage of certain flower seeds after the unnaturally wet and sunless summer of 1954, and that it is therefore even more advisable than usual to order in good time.

-Vita Sackville-West
More For Your Garden
January 2, 1955

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I haven’t written in a few weeks.  During my time away, I was working on a couple books but through the toil of turning words, characters, and plotlines, I acquired an unprecedented lack of interest for all things green.

After reading the letters of Vita to Virginia Woolf I put Vita down for a while, her books sat on my shelf unopened.    I became so entrenched in my own writing I completely forgot the garden.   It went alright for a while.  Some of what I wrote turned out well and I was proud to call it my work.  But the creative juices eventually ceased for lack of nourishment and writer’s block hit me.  I wondered what had happened to spur the drought.  I read Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, thinking the prose would inspire something in me, but it had the opposite effect.  If anything, it spurred a desperate yearning to be a better writer and work more intensely on my craft.  Forget the garden all together for there is real work to be done.

The writings of Virginia Woolf make everything I’ve ever written seem trivial and frivolous.   She holds a profound understanding of humanity at a distance, yet so close to the chest.  She writes with a cold intensity that could only be matched in warfare, yet soft like a passing thought or a summer’s breeze.  How does she do it?  The word genius comes to mind – that word which separates the masters from mere tradesman.

I finished the book last night; placed a four star review on goodreads and lifted Vita’s More For Your Garden off my nightstand.   Reading just a couple lines brought me home again and I instantly remembered why I was drawn to her in the first place.   Vita Sackville-West is my muse and my inspiration – not only for the garden, but for my writing.   She takes nothing away from her readers.  She will not strip you down and smugly examine you.   Instead, she will let you be just as you are, but nurture your growth.  Right there with you, she’ll hold your hand through the journey; a comfort and a joy.   She is a reminder of the consistencies in nature – the earth will always smell like earth, a rose will perpetually surprise you with its beauty, and if you cut a branch it will sprout anew.

Vita possessed the grounding element which Virginia lacked.  On the other hand, Virginia possessed a keen understanding of the human condition which Vita lacked.  I find this balance in their writing useful for my own.  However, there was nothing more refreshing than opening Vita’s little garden book after so long a winter; like a sudden warm breath of freesia and jasmine in the cold.  Indeed, it is good to be home.

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Examining The Garden of Love…

Today as I was driving down Oxford Street I saw a woman on a refuge,  carrying the Lighthouse.*  She was an unknown woman, – up from the country, I should think, and just been to Mudie’s or the Times, – and as the policeman held me up with his white glove I saw your name staring at me, Virginia Woolf, against the moving red buses, in Vanessa’s paraph of lettering.  Then as I stayed there (with my foot pressing down the clutch and my hand on the brake, as you will appreciate,) I got an intense dizzying vision of you: you in your basement, writing; you in your shed at Rodmell, writing; writing those words which that woman was carrying home to read.  How had she got the book? Had she stalked in, purposeful, and said “I want To the Lighthouse”? or had she strayed idly up to the counter and said “I want a novel please, to read in the train,-a new novel,-anything’ll do”?
Anyhow there it was, one of the eight thousand, in the hands of the Public.

-Vita Sackville-West
July 27th, 1927
The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf

*To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf was published in 1927

 

For a moment let us take a break from the garden.  Like our beloved plants, we too need winter’s snooze to renew our energies.  Let us shed some old leaves in order to gain new, healthier ones- read some garden books.  For me, this includes books involving one of the greatest gardeners I know: Vita Sackville-West.

As this blog is also about Vita Sackville-West I thought I would dive into her personal life a moment…

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I’m reading the letters of Vita to Virginia Woolf.  The letters themselves are interesting but do not pay much attention to the introduction.  Written by Mitchell A. Leaska, it rambles for forty pages, and is nothing short of nonsense.  It is not my style to criticize other writers.  His writing is fine.  There is some valuable, straight information – but I think some of his content is…unfair.  Mostly, it feels as though the editor struggles to make sense of their relationship (whether he does or not)- it is in his tone.  Written in 1984, homosexual love wasn’t commonplace or openly acceptable.  The tone of his writing is as though he felt they were drawn to each other because each had something for which the other yearned-not mere attraction, but rather control and perhaps a little competition on Vita’s end, and a certain neediness on Virginia’s.  In my experience, twenty-year relationships are not usually built on egotistical motives.

Perhaps the editor would not have spent so much time trying to analyze the dynamics of a man and a woman?  Must the reader be tortured for forty pages while he tries to roll it around on the end of his pen?  He seemed himself quite confused to say the lest-which is odd because upon researching his work, it seems he spent nearly a lifetime on the relationship between these two woman.  For example, he makes assumptions that seemed a bit lazy in explanation:

With the same pen she used to write her letters to Virginia, Vita would in a few years write a novel in which her sadistic hero would say to his lover:  “I should like to chain you  up … naked and beat you and beat you till you screamed.””

Then he goes on to explain that this must have been a fantasy to Vita (who did have an aggressive personality), that she would have liked to do this to Virginia.  What!  An author does not tell its character what to do, it is quite the opposite.  The character tells the author what to write, it has nothing to do with the author personally – at least it shouldn’t, not literally anyway.   If this man were a novelist, he would have been able to imagine that was the case-unless I have misunderstood him which I hope I have.

So while my eyes scanned the pages of this introduction, my mind rambled with objections.  Rather than being on a sort of aggressive competition, which the editor insinuates-I would argue these two women (1) Were physically, mentally and emotionally attracted to one another.  (2) Felt deep respect and admiration for the other’s accomplishments.  (3) Acted as muse for one another (Virginia would write Orlando in which Vita represents the protagonist and the story represents her life).  (4) They were also each other’s sounding board.   It is quite a thing for one to be admired for one’s talent by a friend in the same field, and yet feel safe to feed off that person’s knowledge at the same time because neither is preparing for a competitive rift.

Both were open about their flaws in writing and in life.  Virginia, ill much of the time, did not like to write long letters, but the little she wrote is to the point and entertaining to read.  She was a keen observer of people, a quality which made her writing so superb.   She pinpoints Vita’s secret flaw almost immediately when she writes,

“…And isn’t there something obscure in you?  There’s something that doesn’t vibrate in you: It may be purposely-you don’t let it: but I see it with other people, as well as with me: something reserved, muted- God knows what… It’s in your writing too, by the bye.  The thing I call central transparency- sometimes fails you there too…” -Virginia Woolf; November 19, 1926

I would say this translates to Vita’s aloofness.  She seemed present but only giving half of herself- thinking of other things, never focused on present life- mind always floating back to her little desk and her pen…then later her garden…perhaps?  Like an over-energetic squirrel- secretly pining over their nuts while they look you in the eye and “listen” to conversation.  I’ve met many of them.  From what I gather, she did not feel she belonged to the tribal, communal world of the human race- rather, she would have liked to have peace and quiet alone in the woods or her garden.  However, that image paints her as soft and angelic-she could play that part, yes.  But she was also aggressive and raw.  She was incredibly independent and loved her solitude (she would go on to write an expansive poem about it.)

Vita is very open about her disinterest in the human condition and human relationships which is perhaps why she was so good a gardener.  She examines this flaw in herself, calling Virginia a sort of witch for figuring her out so correctly in the quote above.  This is one, I think, major difference between them.  The editor points this out in his intro and I agree with him here, that it is perhaps the difference which drew them together.
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Photo taken from The New Yorker.

In 1930 Vita moved to Sissinghurst and began creating the gardens which would one day be world famous and stamp her name solidly onto history’s plate.  Virginia and she continued writing and seeing each other despite the petrol rationing of World War II.  Then suddenly at fifty-nine years old in 1941, six days after Vita had seen her healthy and fine, Virginia killed herself.  Fearful of going mad again and putting her husband through the hell of it, Virginia drowned herself in the River Ouse.

For the rest of her life Vita wondered if she could have saved her friend’s life had she been there.  It was a pang of unending regret that coiled itself into the very soil at Sissinghurst.  It is where Vita dug out all the suppressed hurt and pain of the past and planted instead not only a garden, but the best version of herself.

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