Dear Friends: I have missed you these past seven months and I’m so happy to be back in touch, writing the Chronicles. (If anyone didn’t see the 2019 Scholarship update sent in November, you can find it here with a PayPal donate button or mailing information.
I start this on Christmas Day, when we have been in Cañar one week. After the cold, dark and short days of Portland, nothing compares to waking up that first morning in our east-facing bedroom to see early morning light coming through the giant fuchsia bush outside. A welcome back.
Before that, upon opening the door to our first sight of our interior patio, we saw plants grown wild. We had to take out one monster to get the fountain going, and days later I found three birds’ nests in the tall aloe plants. But what a safe place it is for nesting and hatching by the common sparrows that are a constant in our domestic life here – flying in and out at will through the opening between the glass and tile roofs, peeking into the bedroom door in the morning, occasionally getting stuck in a room.
That first day we walked around inside and out, opening shutters, checking lights, phone, gas, Internet, water. Amazing that everything works. Some years nothing does. One year we had lots of mice. This year just cobwebs and dust and a moldy fridge. Outside, I gather other evidence of months gone by – a broken wooden plow, the orchid that is finally blooming, a dry vegetable garden the neighbor’s chickens have ravaged, a beautiful crop of potatoes in the back field.
First Sunday market day, Michael takes the requested hat from Portland to his fish guy, César, and gets a pound of shrimp in return. And I visit my favorite lunch vendor – an 85+ woman who prepares and sells roasted pig and llapingachos every day on the street or in the market.
As I follow Michael in his shopping, I snap photos on my phone of the grand cornucopia that is the Sunday market.
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OK, here’s what you’ve all been waiting for – the first meeting of the…
This year I have an eclectic batch of books, acquired in eclectic ways: some ordered online after reading reviews or on recommendations of friends, others picked up for $5 at the library sale at our annual Portland Book Festival, and even a couple found in a sidewalk Little Library. I’ve also given in to weight considerations (Michael says: “I’m not carrying another damn book in my luggage!”) and ordered some e-books for my iPad. (Only problem I’ve found is I cannot see text in bright sunlight of patio, where I always read while eating lunch. So I have two books going at once.) I’ve also started ordering ebooks from my Portland library. Problem is: you only get three weeks to read and don’t get to keep it!
So here is the list. Because I was impatient, I finished two of them before I got here, one on the plane – marked by asterisks with notes. And because we don’t always get what we want, when we want it, I’ve added my wish list for 2020. Now – Dear Readers – I look forward to hearing book reports and recommendations from all of you. Until the next meeting…
- A Writer of our Time: The Life and Work of John Berger, Joshua Sperling
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong
- Margaret the First: A Novel, Danielle Dutton
- Life in the Garden, Penelope Lively
- Images and Shadows, Part of a Life, Iris Origo (follow-up to excellent WW II war diary War in Val d’Orcia.
- The Parisian, Isabella Hammand * (reading now and not yet engaged, will give it time)
- There, There, Tommy Orange
- The Wrong Blood, Manuel de Lope
- A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles * (reading now – third try)
- In the Distance, Hernan Diaz
- Iceberg, Marion Coutts * (finished – excellent, moving memoir)
- Pure, Andrew Miller
- Mission to Paris, Alan Furst * (finished, not great, don’t bother)
- The Wonder, Emma Donoghue
- Frog Music, Emma Donoghue
- Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan
- The Patron Saint of Liars, Ann Pachett
- Saving Agnes, Rachel Cusk
- The Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day
- Great House, Nicole Krauss
- Autumn, Ali Smith
- Bad Blood, Lorna Sage
- The End of Days, Jenny Erpenbeck
- Late in the Day, Tessa Hadley
- Dora Bruder, Patrick Modiano* (read on plane, very good and follow-up to Modiano’s The Night Watch)
- Disappearing Earth, Julia Phillips
- The Club, Leo Damrosch
- Say Nothing, Patrick Radden Keefe
- Olive Again, Elizabeth Strout
- The Accomplice, Joseph Kanon
- Unquiet, Linn Ullmann
- On Chapel Sands, Laura Cumming
- Essays by Lydia Davis
- To Calais, in Ordinary Time, James Meek
- Girl, Woman, Other, Bernadine Evaristo
- Permanent Record, Edward Snowden
- How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell
- Prairie Fires, Caroline Fraser
- The Witches, Stacey Schiff
- The Warmth of Other Sons, Isabel Wilkerson
- The Yellow House, Sarah Broom
- When Death Takes Something from You, Give It Back, Naja Marie Aidt
- Belonging, Nora Krug
- The Odd Woman and the City, Vivian Gornick
- Optic Nerve, Maria Gainza * (just got notification from library)