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These 26 ‘Short Stories by and about Women’ are good.  I rarely read short stories, but I liked most of this collection.  I skipped the introduction, and was grateful for the short piece about each author that preceded her story.  There were many old favourites: Willa Cather, Katherine Mansfield, Edith Wharton, through to Alice Walker.  This was a truly satisfying way to taste the extraordinary talents of so many women writing about what it means to be a woman.  It needs to be savoured in small doses.

Many of the stories were splendid, especially the first few, but I did not like Gertrude Stein’s “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene”, which I found tediously repetitive.  This prose poem is about sexuality and is the first time ‘gay’ appeared in print to describe same sex relationships.  I may have simply missed the point.

I found this 1975 edition in the Book Fridge, and was surprised to find that later editions are promoted as having 25 stories.  Who got left out in later editions, I wonder?

“These women’s stories in one book
are definitely worth a look.”

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This book is simply too long.  It could effectively have been published in two separate volumes, except that there isn’t enough plot to justify that.  At 979 pages it is large and unwieldy.

“The Fiery Cross” is part five of the Outlander series, a captivating historical romance, with a time-travelling twist.  I’ve enjoyed the previous volumes, but this one seemed formulaic and repetitive, with too much detail.  I could have stopped at almost any point without feeling that I was going to miss out on something important.  Because I’ve liked the previous books and been charmed by the characters I’ve kept reading and now have fewer than 100 pages to go, but if she writes any more of this length I won’t be tempted to read them.  A good editor could have cut this in half and greatly improved it.

“This book has kept me reading late
there’d better be an end that’s great!”

 

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A couple of years ago I searched the Library catalogue for a (hard copy) book on how to write poetry, but this one didn’t come up.   I’ve just checked the catalogue and they do have this, but only as an e-book or a talking book.  I’ve learned that the subject I should have searched for is ‘Poetry – Authorship’.

I’ve been doing a course on formal poetry with Joanna Preston, and this book was on her recommended reading list.  A friend kindly lent me her copy.  I loved Stephen Fry’s gentle introduction to writing poetry, although I couldn’t bring myself to follow his suggestion of marking the stresses in a book which belongs to a friend.  An early exercise suggested writing random lines in iambic pentameter – very useful when my course homework was a sonnet.

Stephen Fry has an attractive chatty style with witty asides, and his personally written examples of various types of poems are enjoyable and impressive.  I’m pleased this book lacks the scatological comments which put me off his autobiography.

This is an erudite book, sometimes with more information than I want, but it would be an indispensable reference book.  My course is now finished and I probably won’t read more of this book, but I may well return to Diane Lockward’s “The Crafty Poet – A Portable Workshop” which I bought two years ago.

“Stephen Fry is just the thing
to help the muse when you’re writing.”

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I was enthralled by this biography of Georgia O’Keeffe which details the development of modern art in America.  Georgia, 1887-1896, was an innovative artist, well ahead of her time, who continually struggled for recognition in a male art world.  This book gives a full account of her life up to 1980 and carefully places her within a wider context.  She’s perhaps best remembered for her sensuous flower paintings, but there is so much more to know about this amazing woman.

At age 12 she firmly stated that God was a woman.  When she eventually married an older man who was her mentor she declined to promise to ‘love, honour, and obey’ and she kept her own surname.  For three decades she was a member of the militant National Women’s Party who fought for women’s franchise.  In 1979 Georgia was the only living woman to be included in Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party”.

Painting for Georgia was a private act, she didn’t want labels, and her work was driven by inspiration, instinct, and impulse. “Filling a space in a beautiful way – that is what art means to me.”  She said “I dislike cults and isms.  I want to paint in terms of my own thinking and feeling.”   She regarded her paintings as a favour returned for what nature so generously gave her.  Sometimes she painted a picture so it could be hung any way, with any one of the four sides at the top. Her best pictures were usually those she painted the fastest.  In some exhibitions her paintings were hung in corners because galleries feared the drama of her pictures would dominate the room.

This book is a fascinating account of the life of a fascinating woman, and well worth reading.

Ram’s Head with Hollyhock, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1935

 

“A different kind of flower or leaf
would oft inspire Georgia O’Keeffe”

xxx

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This rather earnest novel explains the reasons why some 19th century agricultural labouring families chose to emigrate from England to New Zealand.   It outlines how new technology clashed with the old rural ways, and how landowners tried to repress the growth of the union movement.  The various characters were well portrayed, and the love story gave added interest, but I may not have persevered with it if it hadn’t been for the New Zealand slant.  I found the Afterword confusing as it seemed to imply that all the characters were historical.

“I’m uncertain about this book
but it was worth a thorough look.”

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A ‘Tree Hill’ has sprouted beside our Book Fridge.

It bears resemblance to the Tree Hill that was formerly on the corner of Worcester Boulevard and Oxford Terrace,  but ours has lounging seats for those who want to browse the books.   The other one was self-watering with water stores and pumps underneath.  I wonder if this one has the same amenities?  Thanks to Christchurch City Council and Greening the Rubble for this addition to our book corner.

“If you would like to read a book
you could lounge in this new green nook.”

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This book rewards careful reading.  It’s the story of the life of Teddy, who flew bombers during the second World War and his relationships with a variety of people.   The book also relates his life before and after the war, and at times I found the shifts in time distracting.  My father-in-law flew in WWII bombers, so the insights into the minds of these young airmen held special interest for me.  It’s sad to read of the thousands of lives lost and damaged.  War changed everything, and people simply did what they saw to be their duty.

This author has the ability to tell an engaging story and tell it well.  There’s a prequel to this book which tells the story of Teddy’s elder sister.  In time, I might like to read that too.

“The hero fought and thought of war
and sometimes wondered what it’s for.’

 

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