Monday, October 21, 2013

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train : What She Read Review

Look inside and get it now at Amazon or,
 preferably, at your local independent bookseller.  
What a delight!

I was sorely in need of a swiftly-paced, edifying, amusing, and entirely engaging novel, and this one brought reliable smiles and lofty diversion just when I needed it.

Its plot, focused on a highly unusual day in the life of the current Queen Elizabeth II of England, keeps us guessing with twists and turns, while its wide cast of characters offers an "Upstairs/Downstairs"-esque soap opera loosely related to the current Queen's daily life.

Author William Kuhn (who provides book group questions and  photos from the book on his website) offers us a surprisingly intimate look into the world of the Queen and her staff in a novel that balances light social satire with detailed verisimilitude.  Yet he's not afraid to take on issues I (ever attempting to overcome my status as an ignorant American) wouldn't have considered otherwise, such as how constrained the queen's life might be by the very role from which she receives her power and fame or how the long tenures of her staff members - often of different social statuses - create entrenched rivalries and decades-long misunderstandings.

Paperback cover: Look for it at
your local independent bookseller.
The Bottom Line, plus my action step:   A warmhearted and lively yet well-researched read, highly recommended.  I will be purchasing copies for all my "Downton Abbey"-loving pals, and I will await author William Kuhn's next novel with eager anticipation.  I might even delve into his non-fiction works while I'm waiting.

Those of you who stop by What She Read regularly will likely raise an eyebrow at this glowing review; it's rare indeed that a novel enchants me so utterly that I find nothing to niggle at.   Yet this one offered such reliable diversion that today I offer only praise.

Mrs. Queen Takes The Train is a light romp with a dash or three of social commentary to spice up the story.  As the days darken, what could be more welcome?


p.s. I offer my gratitude once again to the able professionals at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to sample this lively new novel.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Lost : Poem In Your Post

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
                               - David Wagoner

I know I've shared this one before, but there are days when this is the one I need and today is such a day.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Be Kind : Poem In Your Post

Not merely because Henry James said
there were but four rules of life—
be kind be kind be kind be kind—but
because it's good for the soul, and,
what's more, for others, it may be
that kindness is our best audition
for a worthier world, and, despite
the vagueness  and uncertainty of
its recompense, a bird may yet  wander
into a bush before our very houses,
gratitude may not manifest itself in deeds
entirely equal to our own, still there's
weather arriving from every direction,
the feasts of famine and feasts of plenty
may yet prove to be one,  so why not
allow the little sacrificial squinches and
squigulas to prevail? Why not inundate
the particular world with minute particulars?
Dust's certainly all our fate, so why not
make it the happiest possible dust,
a detritus of blessedness? Surely
the hedgehog, furling and unfurling
into its spiked little ball, knows something
that, with gentle touch and unthreatening
tone, can inure to our benefit, surely the wicked
witches of our childhood have died and,
from where they are buried, a great kindness
has eclipsed their misdeeds. Yes, of course,
in the end so much comes down to privilege
and its various penumbras, but too much
of our unruly animus has already been
wasted on reprisals, too much of the
unblessed air is filled with smoke from
undignified fires. Oh friends, take
whatever kindness you can find
and be profligate in its expenditure:
It will not drain your limited resources,
I assure you, it will not leave you vulnerable
and unfurled, with only your sweet little claws
to defend yourselves, and your wet little noses,
and your eyes to the ground, and your little feet.

                                     - Michael Blumenthal

What a fine week, ripe with kindness, warmth, and decency.  I have the world's best people 
for students and colleagues this year, and I thought this might be one way to honor them.

May you be blessed to give and receive the benefits of being kind.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Grammar : Poem In Your Post

Maxine, back from a weekend with her boyfriend,
smiles like a big cat and says
that she's a conjugated verb.
She's been doing the direct object
with a second person pronoun named Phil,
and when she walks into the room,
everybody turns:

some kind of light is coming from her head.
Even the geraniums look curious,
and the bees, if they were here, would buzz
suspiciously around her hair, looking
for the door in her corona.
We're all attracted to the perfume
of fermenting joy,

we've all tried to start a fire,
and one day maybe it will blaze up on its own.
In the meantime, she is the one today among us
most able to bear the idea of her own beauty,
and when we see it, what we do is natural:
we take our burned hands
out of our pockets,
and clap.

-          Tony  Hoagland

Stunning, this one.  He grabs you in line one, keeps you smiling and guessing
through the first two stanzas, then conjures a warmly empathetic smile in the
final lines.  Well played, Tony Hoagland, well played.


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