Sunday’s succotash (who invented that stuff, anyway?)

  • As you can see by the AccuWeather graphic, our heat wave in North Georgia has eased up a bit, leaving us with an outdoor sauna bath without anyone handing out fresh towels and cold beer. At present, my desktop weather simply says “rain off and on.” Other than not having fresh towels, we’re also not having grass dry enough to mow. The yard’s not looking its best right now. About all I’m doing outside these days is pulling the wheelie bin out to the road and going out to buy groceries (which ensures that I’ll have to keep moving garbage from the house to the road).
  • I was happy to see this news: “Novelist Jesmyn Ward has become the youngest person ever to win the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.” Her words are well controlled and still carry magic in them. According to Michael Shaub’s story on Kirkus, Ward said, the award “not only because it aligns my work with legendary company, but because it also recognizes the difficulty and rigor of meeting America on the page, of appraising her as a lover would: clear-eyed, open-hearted, keen to empathize and connect.”
  • Currently, my light reading has taken me to Ken Follett’s Never (2021). I must confess I hadn’t read anything from him since The Pillars of the Earth. His work still reads well, though it tends to be long and (in Never, at least) includes multiple venues that take a while to get used to. If we can trust Steven King, and I think we can (more or less), he said, “Ken Follett can’t write a bad book, and Never is his best. It’s terrifying. I defy anyone to put it down once the last 150 pages are reached.”
  • We’ve been watching old movies at night because most of our “regular shows” have taken their usual long summer vacation. How long has it been since saw you Sydney Pollack’s neo-noir “Absence of Malice” from way back in 1981? Since my wife and I started out as journalists, it was fun seeing an old-style functioning newsroom. As Wikipedia notes, Variety called it “a splendidly disturbing look at the power of sloppy reporting to inflict harm on the innocent.” I always liked Melinda Dillon, Wilford Brimley, and then, Paul Newman wasn’t bad either. I kept expecting Sally Field to show up looking like the flying nun or Forrest Gump’s mom in which she’d explain the whole box of chocolates thing to Paul Newman.
  • On a completely irrelevant side note, our local Food Lion grocery store has finally started carrying Newman’s Own salad dressings and other products. The product shown here not only tastes great on a tossed salad but also works as a great marinade for steak. According to the company’s website, “When Newman’s Own first began, Paul Newman declared that 100% of the profits would go to good causes. The mission continues today through Newman’s Own Foundation. In total, more than $570 million has been donated to good causes since 1982.” By the way, Newman wasn’t wearing that crown in the movie.
  • Those of you who know me, whether you’ll admit it or not, know that I’m a fan of poet/engraver William Blake (1757-1827). So I was happy to see a story about him in The Marginalian, “The Only Valiant Way to Complain Is to Create: William Blake and the Stubborn Courage of the Unexampled.” It begins on a disturbing note: “In the first days of a bleak London December in 1827, a small group of mourners gathered on a hill in the fields just north of the city limits at Bunhill Fields, named for “bone hill,” longtime burial ground for the disgraceful dead. There, in what was now a dissenters’ cemetery, the English Poor Laws had ensured a pauper’s funeral for the man who had died five days earlier in his squalid home and was now being lowered into an unmarked grave.” He saw what others seldom see and probably don’t understand–especially in 1827. The story notes that Blake was the man Patti Smith would celebrate as “the loom’s loom, spinning the fiber of revelation” — a guiding sun in the human cosmos of creativity.

So, I ask you, where else can you read about Sally Field, salad dressing, and William Blake in the same post?


Magic: Crooked Roads

“Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement, are roads of Genius.” ― William Blake

Praise the universe for crooked roads.
The misdirection of gods and storytellers.
The ancient spells and scrolls of wisdom hidden inside rocks, waiting.
The combined consciousness and will of liked, loving minds, cosmic valentines.
The stars of which we were made and those of future generations
Praise the universe for crooked roads.
The alternate universes of our salvation, just a glimpse away.
The new paths seekers have yet to create, bypassing old roads going nowhere.
The magnetic attraction of all that is good toward those who desire it.
The old mysteries that have retreated but are never lost.
Praise the universe for crooked roads.
Praise for the dreamers walking the Earth in cloaks of stars.
Praise for the children who see beyond the worlds of the crib and the classroom.
Praise for the wisdom that releases sons and daughters from the dogma of ancestors.
Praise for the special sight of all who see the souls of every rock and bird and horse.
And blessings for all who stumble and crawl along those crooked roads toward true heaven.


Copyright (c) 2019 by Malcolm R. Campbell



Review: “Burning Bright”

Burning Bright Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
London at the time of the French revolution takes center stage in this beautifully written novel featuring location and themes over plot. When craftsman Thomas Kellaway moves his wife Anne and teen-aged children Jem and Masie from the Piddle Valley in Dorset to London in March of 1792, they are all but overwhelmed by the contrasting grandeur and ugliness of the big city. Thomas hopes he can better support the family making chairs for the circus and Anne hopes distance will heal her tortured mind after the accidental death of their son Tommy.

Tracy Chevalier has drawn a deep and richly detailed portrait of London, especially the Borough of Lambeth where the noisy, dirty and boisterous lifestyle of the poor that differs so greatly from the quieter world of Dorset is accentuated when the circus comes to town.

Contrasts flow through the Kellaway’s lives as surely as the Thames flows through London, and here the author draws upon William Blake’s focus on “contraries,” or pairs of opposites, for the novel’s theme. London, in “Burning Bright” becomes an alchemist’s athanor wherein the Kellaways will undergo their transformations beneath the piercing gaze of Blake, the adept who applies his “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience” within the novel as Holy Scripture.

Blake serves as a catalyst within the story line, yet he is a one-dimensional character who primary speaks in philosophic riddles and quotes from his favorite poems. While Jem, Masie and their new, streetwise friend, Maggie, view the home of William and Kate Blake as calm sanctuary within a world where the trials of childhood are greatly magnified by the dangerous environment, the reader will come away having learned more about the Borough of Lambeth and than the famous poet and print maker.

Like her adult characters in “Burning Bright,” Chevalier appears unwilling to step past Blake’s fame, notoriety and fiery persona and confront the poet head on. Doing so would have brought closure to the novel for readers and characters alike. We have a well-crafted slice-of-life portrait of a rural family’s brief sojourn into the big city. What we don’t have is an overt look at what it finally meant to them.

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