Friday, February 14, 2014

Something New Under the Sun

A person my age is likely to subscribe to the ancient saying that there is "nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The same themes and dramas seem to play out repeatedly. The sun rises and sets. Storms come and go. Uncle Bob gets drunk again at Thanksgiving. "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again" (NIV). I don't know how far back the saying goes, but the biblical reference is considered ancient. Then there is Shakespeare bringing up the same thing in Sonnet 59:

If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguil'd,
Which, laboring for invention, bear amiss
The second burden of a former child.
O, that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun,
Show me your image in some antique book,
Since mind at first in character was done!
That I might see what the old world could say
To this composed wonder of your frame;
Whether we are mended, or whe'er better they,
Or whether revolution be the same.
O! sure I am, the wits of former days
To subjects worse have given admiring praise.

"Or whether revolution be the same." So, the endless cycle bears no better result year after year. Can't even get away from it in literature. It's enough to bring on the ennui.

Where am I going with this? Oh, yeah. Curling. You heard me. Curling. Prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics I had never seen or heard of curling. In a moment of boredom I turned on the television to watch yet more ice skating with predictable moves performed to very familiar pieces of music. But instead of very fit young people twirling and leaping on ice, I saw people of all sizes and shapes and ages following a stone sliding across the ice. To my further amazement, they were furiously scrubbing the surrounding ice with brooms and yelling at the slowly moving stone. Well, it appeared that they were yelling at the stone. I'm not sure. It was in another language. But they sure seemed to be giving that stone heck. Were they angry that it was moving so slowly? Was it supposed to do tricks? I had never seen this before! It was new! A new sport! Stone harassment!

Well, it turns out that curling was invented in medieval Scotland. Did you catch that word, "medieval"? The 1500s to be exact. This sport made its way to North America and curling clubs established in the early 1800s. It was an Olympics demonstration event as far back as the 1920s but was not declared an official Olympic sport until 1998.* Apparently, not new.

You might be asking yourself about now, "Where is this essay going? Is the writer saying there IS something new under the sun or not? Is she making a positive or a negative point? Should I be hopeful or depressed?" Here is the point I want to make. The themes of life don't change. Human nature doesn't change. For some of us, the image in which we were created does not change. In this sense, there is nothing new under the sun. But each of us has the capacity to experience something new to us. You can still be amazed, or at least intrigued, by something new no matter how many times you've been around the sun. You can look for old things in new forms. Look around. Pay attention. Life is beautiful and it matters the eyes with which you look and see.

It's all about how you look at it.

*For those interested, this mini history was put together from the Curling article on Wikipedia. After looking at the cited References at the end of the article, I decided that it looked well enough cited to use here in this essay without further research.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

NEW BLOG: Terri Talks Books

I'm moving!

Terri Talks Books

I've recently been doing some personal social media management and have created companion websites for all of my book related chat and reviews. The websites are branded as Terri Talks Books and use the same header and avatar. Hopefully this will benefit my readers and viewers, making it easier to find me in the various places I talk about books.

How to find me:

What about Tip of the Iceberg?
Tip of the Iceberg is not going away. It will be re-purposed back to its origins as a personal essay writing blog.

How do I find book reviews?
Old book reviews will remain at Tip of the Iceberg and new book reviews will appear at Terri Talks Books. To help readers find book reviews, I will maintain title and author book review indexes and provide a Find My Book Reviews link in the header menu at both blogs.

What if I forget how to find Terri Talks Books?
I've put a link to Terri Talks Books in the header menu above to point readers here at Tip of the Iceberg to the new blog.

Follow me!
I'd love it if you follow me at Terri Talks Books. Subscription links are in the sidebar at Terri Talks Books to help you subscribe in various ways.

Here is a button to subscribe to Terri Talks Books if you use Bloglovin':

Follow on Bloglovin

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dawn Over the Mountains

Creative Commons Image Attribution

Dawn Over the Mountains

The city is silent,
Sound drains away,
Buildings vanish in the light of dawn,
Cold sunlight comes on the highest peak,
The thick dust of night
Clings to the hills,
The earth opens,
The river boats are vague,
The still sky--
The sound of falling leaves.
A huge doe comes to the garden gate,
Lost from the herd,
Seeking its fellows.

-- Tu Fu, from Songs of Love, Moon, & Wind: Poems from the Chinese, trans. Kenneth Rexroth

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Sunday Salon: Winter Reading

Creative Commons Image Attribution

I've recently finished reading Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton and the image above seems to capture the cold, bleak beauty from that novella. Many of you are probably sick of the "cold, bleak beauty," but my home is in a place that is often quite warm during the winter months (yes, I live in the Northern Hemisphere) so I like to live vicariously through my reading by creating a seasonal reading shelf for winter. I actually do this four times a year, once for each season. I also crave certain types of reading during the year. Here is how it breaks down for me:
Classics and literary fiction (yes, I understand there is some controversy over the term "literary fiction" but I am using it here because I think most readers will understand what type of book I'm referring to) are liberally added to any seasonal shelf. I particularly like to read Dickens during the winter months though.

Creating a seasonal shelf not only allows me to read seasonally, but it also allows me to address my enormous TBR collection by creating a smaller pool of books to draw from without restricting myself too much. I might read everything on my seasonal shelf or I might read just some of those books. I like to allow myself room to read something I hadn't thought of, to accommodate a sudden urge to join a read-a-long, or to read impulsively ... because reading should be fun!

Do you create seasonal shelves?

Related links:

The Sunday

The Sunday Salon is a weekly virtual get together where readers share thoughts about their reading. We write about books and reading on our own blogs and then visit and chat with other saloners through the comments feature.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Sunday Salon: Snow Country

I pulled quite a few books from my TBR stacks that have a winter theme or setting and saved them to read during the "bleak midwinter" as it were. Well, I live in a place that doesn't get snow and often feels more like summer during those winter months. Hardly bleak. I was hoping this would be one of our "cold" winters, but it has been consistently warm and sometimes quite hot. My seasonal expectations and reality just aren't in sync this year, so I've been living vicariously through my winter themed books.

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata is set in the mountains on the west coast of the main island of Japan. This setting is important to the story. The Introduction to my copy of Snow Country describes the setting:

"In the winter, cold winds blow down from Siberia, pick up moisture over the Japan Sea, and drop it as snow when they strike the mountains of Japan. The west coast of the main island of Japan is probably for its latitude the snowiest region of the world. From December to April or May only the railroads are open, and the snow in the mountains is sometimes as much as fifteen feet deep."

The setting and descriptive passages are often stunningly beautiful. It was this that kept me reading. The setting is cold and remote. The characters follow this pattern and this makes them unreachable and, ultimately, unlikeable. A cold and remote setting has a harsh beauty, but these same characteristics in people are unflattering. Nevertheless, it was this parallel between setting and characters that helped me overlook my dislike and focus on the writing to see the beauty of the whole.

The story takes place at a hot-springs in the snow country. Shimamura is a wealthy idle man who travels to the hot springs without his wife. Komako is one of the hot-springs geisha, a near outcast. There is a sense of wasted and decaying beauty in Snow Country and this comes across in the repeated thoughts of Shimamura about wastedness and in Komako's own impulsive and self destructive behavior. An "indefinable air of loneliness" surrounds Komako, and Shimamura's life seems empty. Shimamura is fascinated with the reflected images of others in mirrors and windows and is drawn to illusion over reality.

Again though, I'm pulled away from the characters themselves by the powerful images that the author creates. Images like that of the rounded snow covered mountain tops turned red by the rising or setting sun. This parallels Komako's white powdered neck curving to her rounded shoulders of red skin that flow and disappear into the wide neck of her kimono. Images of red and white recur throughout the novel and one could write an entire post on these images and metaphor.

I'm guessing there is much I missed for lack of cultural and literary understanding. The recurring themes  and images mean something. Metaphor is abundant. The entire novel is reminiscent of haiku that "seek[s] to convey a sudden awareness of beauty by a mating of opposite or incongruous terms … [a fusion of] motion and stillness" and a mingling of the senses. (Quote about haiku from the 1956 Introduction to the book.)

A deep vein of darkness and loneliness runs through Snow Country and this may not be to everyone's liking. Those who have an interest in Japanese literature, those who crave poetic writing, and those who love imagery or strongly visualize when they read will want to read this short novel by one of the masters of Japanese literature.

Related links:

The Sunday

The Sunday Salon is a weekly virtual get together where readers share thoughts about their reading. We write about books and reading on our own blogs and then visit and chat with other saloners through the comments feature.

Japanese Literature Challenge 7 hosted by Dolce Bellezza

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Books Read 2013

I've noted FAVORITES in bold type within the list. A few comments (including my top two reads of the year) are at the end of the list.


1. Fatal Error (Ali Reynolds Series) by J.A. Jance
2. Left for Dead (Ali Reynolds Series) by J.A. Jance
3. A Winter Dream by Richard Paul Evans (thoughts)
4. The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (thoughts)
5. The Fairy Godmother (Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms) by Mercedes Lackey (thoughts)
6. The Tale of the Firebird by Gennady Spirin
7. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote - FAVORITE
8. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - FAVORITE
9. Coyote's Wife (Ella Clah Series) by Aimee and David Thurlo


10. Murder on the Iditarod Trail (Alaska Mysteries Series) by Sue Henry
11. Aunt Dimity's Death (Aunt Dimity Mystery Series) by Nancy Atherton
12. River Marked (Mercy Thompson Series) by Patricia Briggs
13. Dreadnought by Cherie Priest
14. Ganymede by Cherie Priest
15. The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest


16. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce Series) by Alan Bradley - FAVORITE
17. One Good Knight (Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms) by Mercedes Lackey
18. Suspect by Robert Crais
19. The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
20. The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
21. The Savage Garden by Mark Mills


22. Damned Busters (To Hell and Back, Bk 1) by Matthew Hughes
23. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim - FAVORITE
24. Costume Not Included (To Hell and Back, Bk 2) by Matthew Hughes
25. The Last Detective (Elvis Cole Series) by Robert Crais
26. Hell to Pay (To Hell and Back, Bk 3) by Matthew Hughes
27. The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag (Flavia de Luce Series) by Alan Bradley
28. Fortune's Fool (Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms) by Mercedes Lackey
29. The Forgotten Man (Elvis Cole Series) by Robert Crais


30. The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons - FAVORITE
31. Melusine by Sarah Monette
32. The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh - FAVORITE
33. The Virtu by Sarah Monette
34. The Mirador by Sarah Monette


35. Corambis by Sarah Monette
36. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh - FAVORITE
37. Coffin Man (Charlie Moon Series) by James D. Doss


38. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - FAVORITE
39. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
40. The Secret of Shadow Ranch (Nancy Drew) by Carolyn Keene
41. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
42. Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
43. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield - FAVORITE
44. The Snow Queen (Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms) by Mercedes Lackey
45. The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz


46. Earthway (Ella Clah Series) by Aimee and David Thurlo
47. Never Ending Snake (Ella Clah Series) by Aimee and David Thurlo
48. Pegasus by Robin McKinley
49. The Rope (Anna Pigeon Series) by Nevada Barr
50. The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson
51. The Fault Tree by Louise Ure
52. The Android's Dream by John Scalzi
53. 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King


54. The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig
55. Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart
56. The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart
57. The Sleeping Beauty (Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms) by Mercedes Lackey
58. Black Thunder (Ella Clah Series) by Aimee and David Thurlo


59. The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
60. "The Eyes" by Edith Wharton
61. Aura by Carlos Fuentes - FAVORITE
62. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
63. The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman
64. Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks
65. Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz


66. The Frankenstein Papers by Fred Saberhagen
67. 11/22/63 by Stephen King - FAVORITE
68. The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer


69. A Red Herring Without Mustard (Flavia de Luce Series) by Alan Bradley
70. Killer Librarian by Mary Lou Kirwin
71. Dewey by Vickie Myron
72. I Am Half Sick of Shadows (Flavia de Luce Series) by Alan Bradley
73. Maus by Art Spiegelman - FAVORITE
74. Spirit of Steamboat (Walt Longmire novella) by Craig Johnson
75. The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins
76. An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor

A few notes:

Apparently I read a lot of series books this year! It is amazing how quickly series books pile up in the TBR stacks. I'm hoping to read more stand alone novels in 2014 as well as some non-fiction.

Probably my favorite read, as far as sheer enjoyment goes, was 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Time travel of the best sort. King writes, in his notes, that he had the idea for this story long ago when he was quite young. I am REALLY glad that he waited to write this in his more mature years. Maturity brought a richer take on something that could have been quite cliche. And the ending … oh, the ending … sigh.

For sheer beauty, The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim was my favorite. This short novel swept me away. I could see it, feel it, smell it.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Reading Update

I'm trying to get back into the swing of blogging and thought I'd ease into it with a little book chat. After all, chatting about books is probably what I do best! Here is a little bit about what I just finished reading, what I'm currently reading, and what I am about to start reading.

The Frankenstein Papers by Fred Saberhagen

I started reading The Frankenstein Papers on October 31st. I figured that I would exit the RIP (Readers Imbibing Peril) and Halloween season with a monster book and I'm so glad I did! This is the tale of Frankenstein and his monster told primarily from the monster's point of view. It is written in the spirit of Shelley's Frankenstein ... until the rather odd ending. I won't comment more on the end of the novel since that would be spoilerish. The creature narrates his own story through a personal journal. Additional viewpoints are included, in order to slowly reveal "truth" from "fiction," through letters from several other characters. Again, I won't say more about the other characters since that too would be spoilerish. What I liked most about this book is the monster's quest for identity. Is he truly a monster rejected by his creator? Or is there some other explanation .... You will have to read it if you want to know!

I'm currently reading several books. I rarely read more than one book at a time, but have found myself picking away at several very different titles over the last few days.

Mistress Oriku: Stories from a Tokyo Teahouse by Matsutaro Kawaguchi

I love nostalgia. It makes me ache and cry and long for times that are no more. I know ... masochistic. I've got some old black and white photos of Japan from my dad's time stationed there with the Air Force in the early to mid 1950s. In those photos you can see the traditional clashing with the modern. I don't know how much of the traditional still exists in that country. Because of my brush with this shift in Japanese history and culture through my father, I am interested in books that portray this shift (whether nostalgic or not). Mistress Oriku is a collection of short stories that is "filled with clear-eyed nostalgia for the vanished - and entirely captivating - world of old Tokyo" (from the back cover of the book).

And God Spoke to Abraham: Preaching from the Old Testament by Fleming Rutledge

This book came to my attention through an online post that provided one of the chapters (sermons) titled "The Bloody Passageway." I was immediately hooked by the beauty of the writing and the way in which this Episcopal priest (female for those interested) connects us to the past and leaves the reader with a sense of kinship to the ancient, primitive, and primordial. I got goosebumps reading this piece and by revisiting one of the oddest pieces of biblical scripture I've ever read - a passage in which "a ceremony is described which is of such great antiquity that one has the sense of going back as far as it is possible to go in biblical history." What is extraordinary to me is the way in which Rutledge brings this forward in time, to me and you. Whether or not you agree with the theology, you might very well be stunned by the beauty of the writing and the way in which the author ties us to the ancients. I'm looking forward to reading more out of this book over the coming months.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

I'm about to start this hefty tome. Mostly because I've heard good things about it and it is on my TBR pile of already acquired books! I thought reading it in November of the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination would be good timing.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Runners United to Remember Boston

2.62 for Boston!
For photos of others running for Boston this week go to RunJunkEes

Saturday, March 02, 2013

The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest just gets better and better and has written a fast paced and moving fifth book in The Clockwork Century series, an alternate history of Civil War era late 19th century America. Priest has more developed characters and the story has greater depth than previous novels in the series. In The Inexplicables we clearly see that most people are neither fully good nor fully bad but are, instead, a mixed bag. We also see that some are driven by substances that override the normal internal checks and balances that keep us morally functional, but we've all got choices to make no matter how difficult or painful. As one character says,"The world's an uncertain place," full of what ifs and mights and our job is to keep working forward through those uncertainties ... to celebrate and build upon the good that comes through. And, yes, there are zombies.