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Let us ask the world what children ask their parents why? why? why? — endlessly, to exhaustion, and then causality will seem absurd.

Appropriately for the season, March’s book The Life and Opinions of Zacharias Lichter by Matei Calinescu is the story of a holy fool, rebelling against modernity in every possible way. Written in Romania at the beginning of the Ceausescu regime, the book was remarkably not censored until the author emigrated to America in 1973. The title character embraces poverty, lampoons authority in all its forms, and preaches to a rag-tag retinue of misfits and alcoholics.

Exactly the sort of book to take on a California Spring Break, in the company of my faithful hound, and my lively young nephew.
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He’d always thought he must stay where he was, but now he wondered what there was left for him to do here.

We’ve got the whole gang in front of the wood-stove for the February book club. Skip came over for a 2 night play-date, and timed it just right for our biggest snow fall of the year. It was a fun, cozy gathering, with all the hounds getting along great.

All For Nothing by Walter Kempowski tells the story of an aristocratic family whiling away the hours at the end of the 2nd World War while the Russian army steadily advances towards them. Semi-autobiographical, the book captures the mounting dread and disbelief of the protagonists as their way of life disappears, slowly at first, then all of a sudden…
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The people around Julie were all merely geometric points with fixed positions, but each possessing no length or breadth. Only Julie, wearing her thick, bulky blue cotton overcoat had length, breadth, and height, but possessed no position.

Catching up on my reading while at the Oregon Coast, finally finished January's book Little Reunions by Eileen Chang, an autobiographical novel of her coming of age in occupied Shanghai during WWII. I was expecting a pathos-filled survivors narrative, but I got a sardonic, finely observed story of a family full of hypocrites, opium addicts, and bigamists. So much for judging a book by its cover...
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Kinship by blood is coarse and strong, kinship by choice - is fine. And what is fine may tear.

Early Christmas morning, curled up with Sterling in front of the wood stove, reading the December selection: Earthly Signs by Marina Tsvetaeva. Presented as "Moscow Diaries", the selections run the gamut from cryptic aphorisms to dishy gossip about the Russian poetry scene to harrowing stories of surviving the revolution. Wry and keenly observed, this book is a strong finish to a good year of reading.
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All the signs of approaching winter delighted him; he loved this sheltered season of deep sleep and short days.

Just finishing up the November book after having the whole family together for Thanksgiving. Balcony in the Forest by Julien Gracq is a slow, thoughtful book about a group of soldiers waiting for the German advance in the Ardennes forest in 1939. The main character, Grange, is so enchanted with his quiet, communal life that he can’t quite get his head around the inexorable tragedy that’s heading his way.
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People like me are never careful enough; when we think we have covered our fault lines, the subtlest still remains: self love.

October’s book is a free-wheeling saga of the Spanish Civil War. With shifting narrators, the action shifts from the chaotic front lines to the increasingly grim home front. A love quadrangle between a soldier, his baby mama, his anarchic best friend, and a mysterious widow in a castle becomes a pentagon when the company priest journeys back to Barcelona. Eventually, it’s a race against time to save a young boy from diphtheria with ever dwindling medical supplies.

Sterling and I are glad that our lives are much more stable, and we can enjoy the quiet contemplation the Fall season affords.
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The constant struggle the elements force upon us is no different:the freezing cold, the storm, fire, the seas and rivers, the atom unchained weigh heavily on us and all our works.

I’ve read plenty of books about men grappling with a mid-life crisis, but in Guido Morselli’s The Communist, Walter Ferranini’s gradual break with his circumstances is grounded in a milieux totally unfamiliar to me. A ranking Communist in Post-War Italy, he loses favor with the party first for his unwillingness to terminate his affair with a married woman, and then for being disinclined to discipline some more radical younger members. Finally, he writes an article asserting that the debilitating effect of labor on the body is a constant fact of the universe, regardless of the political situation, and is forced to flee to the US, where his nagging heart problems catch up with him.

Treasure and I are making the most of the September of our years, enjoying a weekend trip to Paulina Falls, just South of Bend.
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Ready for Monday!
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For him there were the hours of day to pass, but they would trickle through his hands as quietly, as simply as sand.

My young guests are enjoying a hardcover collection of 40’s era Batman comics, while I’m perusing In A Lonely Place by Dorothy Hughes, a 1947 noir-tinged profile of a serial killer. Hughes has a disturbingly realistic grasp on the frustrations that lead to misogynistic violence, as her aimless WWII vet tries to justify his impotent rage, and the reader only gradually realizes all the horrible things that are happening between chapters…
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After a long day of Wilderness Companion training, we're unwinding with some wood fired pizza and a nice home-brew.
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7/28/17
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