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Friday, September 13, 2019

Wandering Strangers, At Home Wherever We Roam


When we left home for a few days of fall getaway, the dominant plants in blossom in my meadow were still the tall, elegant, little grey-headed coneflowers of August. Not a single aster was yet flowering. I know because I looked specifically for the asters, anticipating that last wave of color but happy that the season’s last act still lay in the future, something to look forward to. 

As we made our way east, however, following the Au Sable* River east of Mio, I began seeing asters in bloom everywhere. It was as if we had fallen ahead of ourselves, skipping a full calendar week. Does the moderating effect of Lake Michigan retard the arrival of fall that much on the western side of the state? What else could account for the difference, since we did not change latitude or elevation by traveling east?

Whatever the explanation, I noticed something similar in and around Tawas City and East Tawas, where stands of cattails in wetlands were still green of leaf on Tuesday but by Wednesday, as we drove from Alpena to Cheboygan, suddenly (or so it seemed) brown and gold. We were stealing a few days “away from it all,” but time’s inexorable march had not slowed one bit. If anything, it seemed to be speeding up at the same time that the two of us were, briefly, slowing the pace of our life.

During four days and three nights away from home, while the Artist gloried in the rare treat (for him) of evening television at bedtime (we have not had TV at home for many years), I put in earplugs and curled up happily with Le Grand Meaulnes, the only novel of Alain-Fournier, a writer who died young and wrote no other books. I have seen this novel translated into English under different names, and since one English title given is The Wanderer, it seemed appropriate reading to accompany our own autumn wanderings. 

Young Auguste Meaulnes, though, does not set out to “wander” at all when he goes off for a little adventure near the beginning of the novel. He has a clear destination and means to reach it and return to school, but a wrong turn quickly delivers him far from anything familiar, and the road diminishes to more of a track. When Meaules seeks temporary refuge in the hut of an old peasant couple, he tries to ask his way in a roundabout manner, not wanting to admit that he is a stranger in those parts, but the old woman sees his confusion and guesses the truth: “C’est que vous n’etes pas du pays?” [Please excuse missing accent mark.] No, he is not “from there.” 

Our September wandering in northern Michigan was more intentional than that of the fictitious French youth. With no fixed goal or end to our little journey, we invented interim destinations from time to time and then chose tertiary roads that occasionally “deteriorated” into what felt occasionally like safari trails, pavement giving way to gravel and dirt, then to softer and deeper sand….



Like Meaulnes, we were not “from” any of the places we visited (although the Artist has historic family connections in the larger general area), but traveling within Michigan with Michigan license plates we roamed with the confidence of residents. (We were very surprised to find, in a restaurant parking lot on the outskirts of one town along Lake Huron, license plates from as far away as Pennsylvania and Texas. Far from home as we were, we were hardly the most unexpected strangers, but it’s clear that everyone is welcome at the Great Lakes Grill in Cheboygan.) And whether we are in Michigan or any other state, the Artist easily falls into conversation. Even when we have traveled together through France, a country whose language he knows only slightly, we did not feel like complete strangers, since an artist is at home wherever he may roam, especially any country with a tradition of art.

Finally, of course, whenever we wander into a bookstore we feel at home. The Book Nook in East Tawas is harder to find than it used to be; however, we followed the website clues, persevered, and received a warm welcome from Heather and Susie (below), leaving eventually with half a dozen new and used books, well satisfied with our visit and ready to roll on north. 




In Cheboygan (I'm skipping a lot here, some of which I'll fill in later with another post) it was Purple Tree Bookstore that made us feel at home, and again we did not leave empty-handed. By next week Purple Tree may have become Blue Roses (new owners are working through a lot of changes), but they will remain in the same location on Main Street, easy to find. The bookstore has a coffee bar, one big table and small ones, and comfortable seating throughout the store. 




I hope that visitors to my bookstore in Northport, regardless of the distance they have traveled from home, feel as comfortable in Dog Ears Books as I feel in other people’s bookstores, all the little literary oases I am so happy to find along life’s byways, where I am warmed by the sight of shelves filled with books and an owner or employee’s smile of welcome.

Naturally, many of the tiny communities we sought out or stumbled onto lacked bookstores of any kind. Some had a post office and a sprinkling of small businesses, while others had only a name and maybe a township hall, if that. Here are a few of the places we saw along the less-traveled roads of the northeast lower peninsula: Curtisville, Hale, Lincoln, Posen, Metz, Topinabee. Do any of my readers know any of these places?



So many sights not recorded by camera or phone! A group of deer feeding in the yard of a remote log cabin. Elsewhere, one group of sheep crowded the doorway of an old barn while another leaning stood shoulder to shoulder against the fence of their pen, all staring off in the same direction. (Looking at what?) Geese in a corral, roused to a squawking chorus of alarm when we slowed down to get a look at them. A dilapidated old lodge resort, slowly but surely falling into ruin, too far gone to be saved.

The larger Lake Huron towns of Alpena and Cheboygan seem to be undergoing a kind of renaissance that has to be beneficial to the entire area, and I’ll have a separate post on those towns soon. We will definitely be revisiting Cheboygan on future trips. There's a town neither of us had seen for years but one with a lot to offer happy, curious wanderers.



And yes, Sarah had a good time, too. She is a great home dog, a great bookstore dog, and a great travelin' dog!

---

*I can’t help pronouncing the ‘Au’ in Au Sable as ‘Oh’ though the Artist assures me that ‘Aw’ is the local preference.

TO BE CONTINUED --

Waves on Lake Huron

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Season Turns, and I Slow Down

Good morning, northern Michigan!

It feels like fall, doesn't it? Great weather to bundle up for a long country walk and then come home and get cozy with a book! But which book? Not only are there “so many books” and never enough time, but also so many reasons to read, and we read differently depending on the material and our own purposes in turning those pages. I've been thinking about this as I look over the last few books I read during summer's closing days.

I read Immokalee’s Fields of Hope to learn more about a place we had passed through many years ago after leaving friends who lived then in Everglades City, Florida. The book was simply and straightforwardly written, and I appreciated the author’s story of how her own life had been enriched when she stepped outside her privileged comfort zone. I saw Immokalee only from the outside and was grateful for an opportunity to see it (at least one view of it) from the inside.

Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf’s classic, was the book our reading circle chose for September. While not exactly difficult to read, it is serious literature, and I approached it seriously, not going so far as to underline or make notes but noting various themes (hours, kiss, plunge) as they recurred through the novel and enjoying the lyrical sentences and deft, seamless changes from one consciousness to the next. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, on the other hand, was a challenge, and I can’t say I enjoyed every page, but his beautiful, imaginative writing kept me going. In the end? I wasn’t sure where I’d been or what had happened — to me as a reader or to the protagonist in the story. So I'll say I kept at American Gods with determination and finished it with a sense of accomplishment, glad to have read it but pretty sure I won’t be re-reading it.

Anne-Marie Oomen’s Love, Sex, and 4-H, on the other hand, was a worthwhile re-read for me. It answers the question, “What were the Sixties like?” for one young woman growing up in rural northern Michigan and reminds me once more that “the Sixties” were a very different experience for everyone going through them. Oomen’s memoir is structured in a way that gives shape to her adolescent memories, and her writing, as always, gracefully accomplishes her ends. Since I had read this book once or twice already and feel now a fairly comfortable distance from my own tumultuous Sixties adolescence, I could read Love, Sex, and 4-H without angst, simply for relaxation.

Continuing to indulge in relaxing reading, I returned to a book I’d dipped into several times over the summer, Lafcadio Hearn’s Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan. Hearn, a foreign visitor to Japan in peacetime, teacher of English in in a boys' school, lived in an old traditional house with garden in the town of Matsue. He fell completely in love with Japanese culture and describes his experiences and investigations in detail. Subsequent history took a turn Hearn did not foresee, but that was later and not part of this book. You can read more about Lafcadio Hearn's exceedingly complex life here

I read also local writer Robert Underhill’s new novel, That Week in June, set not in Leelanau County in the 21st century but back in 1940s Carolina. That Week in June is as much coming-of-age novel as murder mystery. Those of us who have been “of age” for a long time, however, can read stories like this differently from those still in the throes of growing up, and so for me the book was another little escape.

Finally, re-reading tempted me once again when I reached into my cookbook collection -- where other books seem mysteriously to have collected, as well -- and my hand fell upon Horses Never Lie: The Heart of Passive Leadership, by Mark Rashid. I love this book so much! The way I read it -- and never losing sight of the horses! -- I find the lessons Rashid drew from his observation of horse behavior in herds also pertinent to human behavior in crowds. See what you think --



There is the flashy, stand-out personality of the “alpha” in the herd that everyone notices. Ah, but the “alpha” is not the horse that others look to for real leadership, guidance, and safety. He is the one they fear and avoid — the bully, as it were. The horse whose true leadership the other horses recognize and acknowledge has a calm, quiet personality. He is the horse that lets the others feel safe. And they are safe with what Rashid calls this “passive leader” — “passive” in that he did not seek leadership but had it conferred upon him by the herd. He is the horse with common sense. He does not panic or run scared or explode into temper tantrums but exhibits grace and courage under fire. It is the author’s belief that a rider who wants partnership with a horse rather than dominion over the horse will seek to become the calm, consistent passive leader that horses naturally look to for guidance in a herd.

Rashid tells the story of a large herd of horses that separated into two bands, each bossed by a rival alpha. The boss horses were Captain and Otis. Most people would have looked at the horses and concluded that Captain and Otis were the leaders, but Rashid saw something different. 

You see, the herd members were very peaceful and they seemed to get along with one another quite well. There was never much turmoil amongst them. On the other hand, the attitude of the entire herd changed dramatically whenever Otis or Captain came around. The atmosphere went from one of calm camaraderie and mutual respect to one of strong, palpable uneasiness. I attributed the uneasiness to the fact that the boss horses were not only relatively mean to the rest of the herd, but were also unpredictable. 
Up to that point I’d been under the impression that most horses within a herd looked up to the boss horses with a sort of awe or with undying respect. But as I watched the herd react to Otis and Captain, I got a whole different picture of how horses looked at their leaders. It wasn’t awe or respect at all, but rather with mistrust and, in some cases, downright fear. In fact, the majority of the herd usually did everything they could to avoid any contact with the boss horses. 
A few pages later we are introduced to a horse named Buck as Buck is being introduced to a boss horse named Pete. In the beginning, Pete is determined to run Buck away from the feed bunk, and Buck seems to give ground again and again, but he never runs away, and he never goes far. Neither does he enter into confrontation with Pete. Instead, while Pete is repeatedly driven into righteous fury by Buck’s violations of what Pete considers his space, Buck remains calm and lets Pete work himself into a lather and exhaust himself until finally the two are feeding side by side, Buck’s purpose accomplished without violence of any kind. Later a new mare introduced into the herd is the victim of attacks by other horses until Buck’s quiet demeanor allows her to seek his protection, and after that the other horses all accept her, too. 



The Artist and I are going to take a few days of fall vacation this coming week, and during that time I will continue my reading for relaxation. For our modest Michigan wanderings I’ve set aside The Lost Upland: Stories of Southwest France, by W. S. Merwin, and Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes, the most romantic — in the largest sense of the word — novel I know, and yes, one that I have read before. Summer is over, fall is here, and the transition recommends that I continue to take it easy with my reading for a little while. Also, that I take longer walks with our darling girl.

See you when we get back. We won't be gone long.





Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Perfect Moment Is a Soap Bubble

A year has gone by already!
Our little great-grandsons are normal, healthy, active children and love to run after soap bubbles floating on the breeze. This photo, though, is over a year old. The bubbles in the picture are long gone, the boys much grown, talking up a storm, running even faster this year.



Like the realization of happiness, the experience of perfection is ephemeral but no less precious for its will-o’-the-wisp nature. I started thinking about this in the wee hours of the morning, lying awake listening to my partner, the Artist, breathing regularly in his sleep beside me and our dog, our darling old Sarah, breathing quietly on the floor next to our bed, all of us alive and safe and together in the dark. We are aging, all three of us but Sarah fastest of all (although we assume she is oblivious to the fact), and so awareness of our time together is a frequent topic of conversation these days. On Labor Day, I gave Sarah a bath, then washed my hair, and afterward the two of us (dog and I) spent much of the remaining afternoon outdoors, relaxing in the sun while the Artist worked nearby and came and went. The warmth and light of the day were like a benediction. Later the whole pack rode in the car up to Christmas Cove to watch Lake Michigan waves crash against the shore. 

Day arrives
Waves crash

Day departs
There have been many lovely moments in recent months, many light-filled, memorable, heart-stopping scenes along life’s way. There was that sandhill crane on the back road one morning and what was probably a once-in-a-lifetime sighting of a fisher right in my own yard. There were wonderful hours of wandering back roads of woods and waters in Barry County with my son last spring. The annual but never dull parade of flowers from trillium and marsh marigold to Joe-Pyeweed and goldenrod. Sunrises, sunsets, clouds, precious visits to mares with this year’s adorable foals, peaceful evenings on the porch, and the sight of a late friend’s face in her daughter’s smile. 




Whenever I’m driving to Northport or home at the end of the day, my mind is usually perusing a mental calendar and working down a lengthy to-do list. When I stop, however, and turn off the engine and get out of the car, if only long enough to frame one particular photograph but especially when Sarah and I can take our time, if only for ten minutes of rambling, then my breath slows and deepens, my mind clears, and my senses awake to the nuances of my surroundings. 

Nothing lasts forever
As I reflect on moments of awareness and happiness, I continue to think also of the nature of the soap bubble. The way it drifts and wobbles and catches the light and lets us see the world through it. The way we can sometimes let one alight on our skin for a moment or two. The inevitable pop! If you are the kind of person who wants all the scientific facts, you may want to follow this link and read about evaporation and surface tension. If you’re more like me and see metaphors everywhere you look, you will simply rejoice in the fragile, momentary loveliness, maybe sigh over its disappearance but, still, be glad you were there to see it, very glad you had your eyes open.





Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Taking Stock — and Putting Stock in Truth and Books


Although winter is still far in the future, there is a rich, fecund aroma of autumn in the September air, and the inevitable lull following the Labor Day weekend seems like a good time to take stock (before "going forward," as it seems we must say these days, adding that phrase to anything having to do with the future). So here is my very general report on the 2019 season for my life, my bookstore, my authors, and for bookstores in general in the United States. How’s that for biting off more than anyone will feel like chewing on a rainy Tuesday morning?


Our pack of three got through the busy summer without catastrophes of any kind. We kept up (if barely) with laundry and mowing grass and got enough sleep most nights that morning’s arrival did not bring excessive dismay. June, you may recall, was cool and wet (that’s when the grass grew at jungle speed), July and August more summery but only rarely too warm. It was a beautiful summer, really. 


Old Sarah, now 84 in dog years, staggers a bit from time to time but can also still run like the wind and jump like a steeplechase champion. Her dog mom and dad — that’s me and the Artist — have slowed down, too, but then we don’t even try to keep up with the pace of former years. Visits from family and friends are less strenuous, because our plans for the time are less ambitious. Being together is enough.

It was a good season in the bookstore. Being closed on Sundays was a good decision, and opening at 10 a.m. most days, instead of the officially stated 11 a.m., worked out well, too. (No one minds when a business opens early.) Having TEA events (Thursday Evening Authors) every other week, for a total of five, was a manageable and successful plan that I’ll repeat in 2020. And taking credit and debit cards for the second year in a row was a life-saver both for my business and my customers.


My authors! I would be nowhere and nothing without them! Here are the nine top-selling titles for August at Dog Ears Books:
  1. From the Place of the Gathering Light, by Kathleen Stocking
  2. Beautiful Music, by Michael Zadoorian
  3. Downstream From Here, by Charles Eisendrath
  4. The Leisure Seeker, by Michael Zadoorian
  5. Letters from the Leelanau, by Kathleen Stocking
(Do you see some repetition of author names in the list so far? And we’re not done yet.)

6.  Dune Dragons, by Gretchen Rose, tied with Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit, by Michael Zadoorian
7.  The Marsh King’s Daughter, by Karen Dionne
8.  Lake Michigan Rock Picker’s Guide, by Bruce Mueller and Kevin Gauthier
9.  And in a 5-way tie for ninth place we have:
Even in Darkness, by Barbara Stark-Nemon
Jim Harrison: The Essential Poems
Leelanau by Kayak, by Jon R. Constant
Long Arc of the Universe, by Kathleen Stocking
and
Trails of M-22, BY Jim DuFresne

I’ll not continue to tenth place, because there are far too many in that position to list.


And now for the general state of indie bookstores across the United States, for those readers who may be interested. 

I had to do some digging on the question, and what prompted my quest was yet another wanderer one day last week bemoaning the disappearance of bookstores. His wife had given him a time limit of 10 minutes to look at books. He proclaimed that time constraint as he entered, along with his love of bookstores -- but then, instead of using his precious time to peruse the shelves, he came and planted himself in front of my desk and demanded to know: “How do you stay in business?” 

I really hate questions about business from curiosity-seekers! I love questions about books! I even welcome questions about other bookstores! But inquiring about the health of my business is like asking a cattleman how many cows he runs or querying an investor about the returns on her stock portfolio. (NYOB!) You’re here, in a bookstore! It’s open! The shelves are filled with books! I want to say, “If you truly love books, you won’t be able to keep your hands off them, and if you’re not interested in books, why did you come in at all?”

But back to his question: “How do you stay in business?”

My answer was brief and to the point: “I sell books.”

He then starts into a long “yes, but” routine about bookstores closing right and left, and I ask him where he lives, if he visits bookstores there, and if he buys books in those bookstores. He says he does. “Well, that’s how they stay in business,” I tell him.

Unfortunately for me, though, he happened in during a quiet afternoon lull and could not let go of his curiosity, so fixated on what he was convinced is the sad, sorry state of American bricks-and-mortar bookselling that he was blind to my treasure-filled shelves. Sigh! If my business were in decline — which it is not — he and his ilk would not be the cure!

But what how much evidence does he have for his belief? And what is the truth of this widespread belief, anyway, the claim I have heard so many times over the years and, yes, this past summer, also, that bookstores are vanishing from the American scene?

Each issue of my daily e-mail “Shelf Awareness” newsletter brings me news of various independent bookstores opening, moving, offered for sale, bought by new owners, and closing across the country. If I look beyond the newsletter, it’s fairly simple to find statistics on how many bookstores have closed during a certain time period, but I don’t find similar stats for the new bookstores that opened. What is the bottom line? Are we indie booksellers an endangered species, like the hawksbill sea turtle, and I just haven’t gotten word yet of my imminent demise? 

Here’s a surprise: There are more bookstores in the United States today than there were in the 1930sWhen you stop to think about how much closer to home in general people shopped back then, that seems counterintuitive, which goes to show once again that what “makes sense” to us isn’t always how things are or ever were.

Next surprise: Between 2000 and 2007, over a thousand American bookstores closed their doors, for one reason or another. But between 2009 and 2015, the number of indies rose by 35%! 

Another surprise: Sales rose 9% in indie bookstores from 2017 to 2018. Who expected that back in 2007?

My view from the bookstore counter goes back now 26 years, and during the very first summer,1993, in the little shed right down Waukazoo Street (long gone now) from where I sit this morning, over and over I heard visitors to my little treasure island lament upon entry, “No one reads books any more!” Mind you, they were not referring to themselves but to people they took to be the majority of Americans. They, of course, did read, and that's why they were delighted to find a bookstore while on vacation. Some had very extensive private libraries  at home that held many more volumes than my then-tiny shop had on offer. But time and time again I heard the mournful refrain: “No one reads books any more!” 

Well, if that had been true in 1993 or if it had become true in any of the intervening years since, I would not still be a bookseller, because my business is not a hobby. There’s no secret trust fund behind it, paying expenses and buying inventory. What I told last week’s curiosity-seeker was my bottom-line truth: I stay in business by selling books.


Maybe we readers are tempted to think of bookstores as endangered and of books as disappearing because it seems to add value to what we love and allow us, as readers, to feel more special, perhaps even elite. I can kind of understand that, but at the same time I want to push back against it and object, albeit gently and lovingly, as follows: 

Dear friends, 

Personally written and illustrated, printed-on-paper, well-produced books are special, but it is not their scarcity that makes them precious. Books are part of our common human heritage, the earth’s history and cultures that have made us and continue to make us who we are. The more of us who share in that wealth, the richer we all are! Is that a paradox? Nonetheless, I believe it to be true. And you, my readers, my bookstore customers, are very special people, every single one of you! Thank you for another wonderful summer of books in Northport!

Love,
Pamela


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Time, Youth, and Beauty



Young people seem not to know that they are going to get old, but older people know that they are not going to become young again. 
- Jim Harrison, Off to the Side: A Memoir
“Oh, to slow it all down!” writes a friend — but of course we can’t. Recent babies are already toddlers, schoolchildren are out of college and getting married and moving to Chicago, New York, Austin, and L.A. Sometimes we lose track of which acquaintances are still among the living, whereas close friends lost to the Reaper — always too soon! — remain in our everyday thoughts. 

If ever I did earlier in life (I can’t remember now), I certainly don’t envy the young any longer. The second half of the twentieth century strikes me as a satisfying time to have been alive in midwestern America, which is lucky, as I’ve never had a yen for time travel. One thing I think about often lately, though, is how my response to beauty has changed. In the presence of beauty I feel now, at the same time, both more detached and more joyful. There is no longer much of anything like desire in it and certainly nothing of envy. A beautiful young woman or handsome young man, like the wise face of an elder or a baby’s happy smile, simply makes me happy. And if in a particular face I catch glimpses of a beloved generation past, my cup overfloweth.

Our reading circle will be meeting next week to talk about Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. One thing that struck me most forcibly about Woolf’s novel was that she seemed to present suicide as a response not to the unbearable pain of life but to its unbearable beauty. I’ll find out, I guess, if others read the book as I did. For the present, anyway, I cannot wish for a single moment’s lessening of beauty, nor can I imagine hurrying to take leave of it. Instead my heart cries out with my friend, “Oh, to slow it all down!”



Saturday, August 24, 2019

One Season Follows Another....


Canada geese are a-gathering already in flocks, though heaven knows most of them won’t be starting south any time soon. Do wild geese and turkeys seek the company of other adults once their season’s young are raised? Does the empty nest give them freedom to socialize with their own age group again, or is it simply preparation for the togetherness of those long flights to warmer climes?


Is it still summer now, as the end of August approaches? Mornings and evenings are crisp and cool, and every day, it seems, someone comes to say good-by, to urge us to have a “good winter,” and to assure us that they will see us again next summer. Some exclaim, “Oh, no!” when they hear the word “September” uttered, but the truth is that September can be summer-warm, just as June can be spring-cool or August fall-nippy. Not only do Michigan seasons interpenetrate (making it impossible to fix a particular, precise day when one ends and another begins), but they frequently vacillate, also, with uncertain inching or lurching back and forth. 

We see the passage of time more clearly when we focus on the length of light each day (diminishing now) and mark the progress of the seasons by where the sun appears and disappears each day on our eastern and western horizons. And our community social calendars are clearcut, also. The 4th of July, fly-in at Woolsey Airport, Northport Dog Parade, wine festivals in various venues, and Peshawbestown Pow-wow — all are behind us for 2019. Leelanau Uncaged, Northport’s wonderful street fair of art, dance, food, crafts, and music — that still lies ahead, of course. And between events past and events to come is Labor Day weekend, the latterday traditional bookend of summer, signaling the end of what began with Memorial Day, whatever the weather or calendar try to persuade us to believe.


Summer for this Northport bookseller, my 26th bookstore summer, was a good one. For the first time, I decided to keep the bookstore “dark” on Sundays, even in July. It was hard at first not to keep second-guessing the decision, haunted as I was at first by visions of disappointed tourists outside the shop, but the other side of the coin was the wonderful holiday feeling of carefree summer Sundays. Even if the Artist and I spent a good part of the day doing laundry and mowing grass, it felt good to be off the clock. On Sundays, we were on vacation!


Another good decision from the standpoint of sanity was to limit my Thursday Evening Author events to five and to schedule them every other week. Compared to having TEA every week for 11 consecutive weeks, as I did in 2018 for my bookstore’s 25th anniversary year — a frantic pace! — this year, with an off-week between every two events, I was much better able to relax and enjoy more fully each author’s visit, from Kalamazoo poet Jennifer Clark to Leelanau essayist and seer Kathleen Stocking, on to fiction with Detroit writers Dorene O’Brien and Michael Zadoorian, and wrapping up with former journalist and university prof Charles Eisendrath.

And now, with only one week of August remaining, even my reading has taken on a more relaxed feel. Our little reading circle, convened lo these many years ago now to wrestle together through James Joyce’s Ulysses, will get together post-Labor Day to discuss Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Not altogether, I’m thinking as I read, a complete departure from Ulysses, both the unwinding of both stories limited to a single day, with characters’ stream-of-consciousness thoughts enriching the passing hours and swelling them to a fullness most of us experience in our own lives only infrequently.