Friday, December 15, 2017

101 Books, Number 92

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

92: Wonder Boys, 1995, by Michael Chabon (1963–)

 It doesn’t happen often, but
I saw the movie first.*
2000 was that special time
I found I had a thirst

For this new writer—and his books.
I read them, first to last.
And was amazed by wit and range—
And by a talent vast.

Well, Wonder Boys—a tale about
Some writers, young and old—
The struggle to put on the page
The things that must be told.

I laughed at some—and winced a bit—
And, okay, maybe wept.
(This is a secret which, of course,
Had better well be kept!)

And Chabon is a younger man—
With much more down the well.
Here’s hoping he can pull out all—
Important tales to tell!

*2000, with Michael Douglas, Robert Downey, Jr., Toby Maguire, Katie Holmes, Frances McDormand  (Link to film trailer.)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

101 Books, Number 93

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

93: The Story of Ferdinand, 1936, by Munro Leaf (1905–76)

Oh, Ferdinand, you puzzled me
Back in my wishful boyhood days:
You will not fight? Such amity?
No wish to gore? (I’m in a daze!)

You sniffed the flowers, so I read,
And had no real desire to fight.
Oh, not to fight! To sniff instead!?
Well, something really wasn’t right!

Or so my boyhood self declared
While reading this pacific tale.
I later realized he cared
About all lives, what they entail.

So Ferdinand’s a tale of hope—
The hope that we can get along—
Can with all differences cope—
Convert all human scream to song. 

*film is coming out in a few dayslink to trailer

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

101 Books, Number 94

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

94: An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, 2007, by Brock Clarke (1968–).

I read this wild and funny tale
And knew at once my students would
Consume the thing (as students should!).
No way a book like this could fail!

Indeed, they loved it (as I’d known!)—
And Clarke then visited our class—
The time just flew (so it will pass
When you sit near a talent’s throne).

The story told of writers’ homes
An arsonist set up in flame—
Like Frost’s and others of some fame—
Like sacking one of Ancient Rome’s!

There is some satire here, as well—
Of the decline in academe
(Oh, check our world of Tweet and meme)—
But Clarke had such a tale to tell

That I could barely wait until
I read his other novels, too—
And still I read him, oh I do!
The words are wondrous, never fill

His readers to satiety
But make them wish for more and more—
A pleasure always—never chore.
At least this has been true for me.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

101 Books, Number 95

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

95: The World According to Garp, 1982, by John Irving (1942–)

This book surprised me—so much more.
(That sound you hear? My jaw hits floor.)

This novel—funny, wild, and fat—
Had made me think: I can’t do that!

Some books, you know, I read and think:
could do that (I take a drink).

But not with this one—much too wild.
I was enchanted, charmed, beguiled.

From then on? Well, all books by John
I read with speed till they were gone.

And I still read him—though I’m not
So flaming, flashing, burning hot

To burn them up with both my eyes—
And turn each page, find new surprise.

In Irving's work—much to admire—
I read and read and never tire.*

*one exception: Son of the Circus—just couldn’t get into it …

Monday, December 11, 2017

101 Books, Number 96

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

96: A Child’s Garden of Verses, 1885, by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–94)

This book was in my grandma’s house—
And in our house for years.
She read to me of shadows and
Of in-the-nighttime fears.

In later years, we bought the book—
And shared some with our son.
And later still I memorized
“My Shadow” (favorite one!).

I’ve memorized some others, too—
About a horse at night,
About the creatures of the moon
And how they hide in light.

My earliest memories of this book?
Far back to toddler years.
I loved those poems—love them still
Some still bring me to tears.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

101 Books, Number 97

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

97: The Judas Goat, 1978 , by Robert B. Parker (1932–2010)

These Spenser novels? I was hooked
About the first time that I looked

Inside one. Read it. Had a ball.
And—very soon—I’d read them all.

And Judas Goat? Among the best!
(Not so, I fear, some of the rest.)

An ending with a great surprise—
Buh-buy to some, well, awful guys!

So … Parker hooked me, so I read
Them all—till he was dead.*

And not just Spenser—others, too!
His Westerns—loved them, through and through.**

His other series—ate them up.
Gobbled them—a hungry pup!

Was sad when Robert Parker died—
The death of favorites? Can’t abide.

I met him once—he signed some books
While I gave him admiring looks.

But now those days? They’ve all have gone.
So … I read others, on and on.

*Other writers are doing the Parker books now; I have not read—will not read—a single one of them.
**His other series: Jesse Stone, Sunny Randall, and the Westerns (featuring Virgil Cole & Everett Hitch)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

101 Books, Number 98

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

98: Backboard Magic,* 1949, by Howard M. Brier (1903–1969)

A book on basketball I read—
Oh, in the Fifties (so I think)—
A spring from which I loved to drink:
This novel’s story filled my head.

A kid who was not good enough
To make his hometown high school team—
The sad destruction of his dream.
But then he finds he has the stuff

In a new school (they had to move),
Where a new coach and a new way
Enable him to start, to play,
To find his very special groove.

And guess who their opponent is
In the state roundball tournament?
(I do not need to give a hint?)
And guess who proves to be a whiz?

I loved those sports books, way back when.
I read them countless times, of course.
And learned about the skill and force
And about what might have been.**

*a YA title

** and wasn’t

Friday, December 8, 2017

101 Books, Number 99

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

99: 4 3 2 1, 2017, by Paul Auster (1947-)

I loved this book from first to last—
A book about a person’s past—
About how there is not one way
That we arrive here at today.

Paul Auster’s character, the main
One here, I feel I must explain,
Is changed by, well, “What if?” throughout—
And that is what this book’s about.

Some versions of a single life
Of friends, of neighborhood, of wife
Of economic status and
The issues which require a stand.

A moment comes; our lives are changed—
No longer certain—rearranged.
So we get versions of this tale—
And certainty is purely frail.

A feat of brilliance, this great book—
And worth a first, a second look.
I’ve loved his books—have read them all.
A wonder is this Auster, Paul!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

101 Books, Number 100

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

100: The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, 1938, by Dr. Seuss (Dr. Theodore Geisel, 1904-1992)

I read this book in Adams School*
When I was just a boy.
Or did a teacher read aloud
This book that brought such joy?

Bartholomew was set to die
Because the King was mad—
The King insisted, All hats off!
The boy could not—so sad.

He tried, did our Bartholomew,
But every hat removed
Revealed another hat below—
Disloyalty was proved!

But hats came swiftly off—and then
The strangest thing occurred:
Each hat was better than the one—
And one, the King preferred!

Well, all works out—as children’s books
Are always sure to do.
And I was dazzled by the tale—
This Seuss I would pursue!

*Enid, Oklahoma

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

101 Books: Number 101

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

101: Little Big Man, 1964, by Thomas Berger (19242014)

Let’s start with Little Big Man … why?
Because it almost made me high!
It is a Western (love them!), and
Takes place on very famous land.

The Custer Battlefield, the key,
Has always fascinated me
Since I first read of Custer’s Stand
Where he and his were so outmanned.

But Little Big Man tours the West—
We visit “heroes” I liked best
In boyhood. Guys like old Wild Bill
And others—couldn’t get my fill.

A comic novel—also dark.
The things it teaches—grim and stark.
The film was so-so—not so great.
(That endless book v. film debate!)

He wrote a soggy sequel, too*—
It failed with me (to tell you true).
But Little Big Man? ’64?
Unique. A treasure. Even more!**

*The Return of Little Big Man, 1999
**I’ve read all of Berger’s other novels, too. A most remarkable journey through a terrific talent.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

101 Books I've Loved: Introduction

Favorite Books from Throughout My Life

They’re not in any order, no,
These favorite books of mine.
The order that I’ve thought of them—
And that will do, just fine.

A hundred one—sounds nifty, eh?
For such a weighty list?
And in each bit of doggerel,
I’ll try to give the gist

Of each—of what it meant to me—
In childhood—later on.
And we will travel many shelves
Before this all is gone.

So … grab a chair … and settle in:
The journey soon will start,
A trip, you’ll see, that travels through
A busy reader’s heart.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Years of My Life: Time to Stop

A Journey from 1944 to … Now

December 4, 2017

So we’ve now reached the end of our journey—at last.
And at times it went slowly—at other times, fast.
But right now I will guess that I’m not the lone one
Who’s elated that all of this finally is done!

From a newborn to dotard—a series of rhymes.
And I had to come up with it seventy times!
(Well, it’s seventy-three to be accurate here—
And we must be precise as we near a New Year.)

But now I will be off to a subject that’s new—
It’s a subject I hope that will entertain you.
Now don’t give me your weird and your unpleasant looks
When I tell you that next I will write about books!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Years of My Life

A Journey from 1944 to … Now

School Year, 2016–2017

And so we’ve reached the final year—
I mean, the current one.
For final has a darker sense
That will not be much fun.*

We started back in ’44–
The year that I was born.
Through school and love and loss we’ve gone—
From happy to forlorn.

I’m three years more than seventy—
And one clear thing I see:
These years I’ve had? Well, they are not
Sufficient, not for me!

My health, of course, an enemy—
My age is not a boon.
But still I hope for more good years—
For death comes far too soon.

I want to see my grandsons grow—
I want to hear the voice
Of that amazing woman—yes,
I’m speaking here of Joyce.

So many things I want to read—
So many things to write.
So many loved ones whom I need—
So, hold off, final night!

*Or so I’ve read.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Years of My Life

A Journey from 1944 to … Now

2015–2016 School Year

I think in “school years”—as you see.
It just makes sense somehow to me.
Since 1949, you know,
I’ve gone to school, with books in tow.

A student first, a teacher next—
A life I loved (in most respects).
And now, retired, this calendar
Is still the one I most prefer.

So as this series nears its end—
I trust that you are still my friend?
And not so bored with all I’ve done
That I have lost you, all and one?

Tomorrow I will write about
Where things now stand—the things I doubt,
The things that I’m most certain of—
Like reading, thinking, learning. Love.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Years of My Life

A Journey from 1944 to … Now

2014–2015 School Year

Now I was blogging—every day.
Well, almost (some, I fear, I missed).
And soon—two blogs! Oh, such dismay
As I would stare at screens. Persist!

The only way to live, I guess—
In daily life, in blogosphere.
Oh, some of what I wrote—a mess.
And some pretentious (this I fear).

But I was writing doggerel—
And posting other pieces, too.
I like to keep my plate so full
To handle what I'm going through.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Years of My Life

A Journey from 1944 to … Now

2013–2014 School Year

Retirement flowed—a river swift.
We had to exercise some thrift—
But every day remained a gift.

My health had stabilized a bit—
And I was grateful (duh) for it.
I tried to exercise—stay fit.

And Joyce then ended her career—
Retirement was her new frontier.
She wrote each day throughout the year.

And we were in a mellow phase—
Enjoying months and weeks and days.
Our hopes were high—our lives ablaze.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Years of My Life

A Journey from 1944 to … Now

2012–2013 School Years

And then the news came (knew it would)—
The sort of news that isn’t good.

My cancer numbers, climbing still—
And though I wasn’t feeling ill,

My doctor said, “Due to the climb
I think you know it now is time—

The next step in our therapy.”
I knew what this would mean for me:

Yes, hormone shots—to stop the growth.
The worst effects? I knew them both:

Libido gone, much weariness—
I was depressed (I must confess).

So in July I took the shot—
And soon was feeling very “hot,”

For heat infusions also came—
And nothing, nothing was the same.

But good news, too, while I did mourn:
Another grandson had been born—

His name is Carson, quite a lad,
With quite a mom and quite a dad.

And he’ll turn nine this very spring—
What joy that little lad can bring!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Years of My Life

A Journey from 1944 to … Now

2011–2012 School Year

And so it all was over now—
The classes, students, homework that
Compose a teacher’s life—an acrobat,
Of sorts, a teacher is somehow.

I missed so many things at first—
My colleagues, students—just the way
I got to spend each waking day—
From good to bad, from best to worst.

But Facebook very soon became
The way I stayed in closer touch.
I soon just loved it—very much—
Though it, of course is not the same.

I published many book reviews—
And books on Amazon Direct.
(No time, no way I could connect
With publishers—just with my muse.)

My cancer was a ticking clock—
And I just did not have the time
To dabble (yeah, I know: a crime),
So out words went—no time for talk.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Years of My Life

A Journey from 1944 to … Now

2010–2011 School Year
Western Reserve Academy

And so this year would be the last.
I think I knew it, from the start.
And since I knew—the time went fast—
And shudders shuddered in my heart.

I knew that I had other things
That I would do at teaching’s end.
A bird that cannot fly still sings—
And writing had become my friend.

I’d published book reviews—and books—
And knew that this would not stop soon.
I still loved reading—all those looks
Of words—like phases of the moon.

But I would miss those youngsters who
Had formed a great part of my world.
But retirement came! And off I flew
My future (and my wings?) unfurled.