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Friday, July 28, 2023

Flying For His Country

Curtiss Aeroplane Company WWI production facility

[See additional photographs here.] 


Imagine: It’s over 100 years ago. You are 18 years old, maybe 17, you are an Irish-American, and your country has just entered the “Great War” (as it was called before a second world war came about) as an ally of England, Ireland’s old enemy. You are not enthusiastic about being on England’s side, but you love the U.S.A., so when your draft number is called, you sign up for and are accepted into pilot training, fully expecting – and prepared -- to die for your country. 


So begins the story of T.C. Corbett’s experience of military aviation, edited by his son, Wiilliam, and drawn from his father’s journals, written stories, and an unfinished novel. T.C., or Cy, worked for the Chicago Tribune, in various capacities, for over two decades, and retired to Michigan in 1944, where he lived until age 80.


Cy Corbett’s fatalistic expectation of dying as a pilot was not unrealistic. Bill Corbett tells me that one out of 20 U.S. Army trainees lost their lives in flight school accidents, so a flyboy didn't have to go overseas to die, although the odds did not improve all that much with training completed, with one source giving the rate of trained pilots killed in crashes as one in eighteen.

The Standard was a biplane with a too-large wing spread. Struts separated the wings vertically. And crossed guy wires lifted up slightly from the body in a thing called a dihedral, and for safety there was an inch or so of play in the rigging of the wings to the fuselage. Planes today are monoplanes with no struts or guying and have an immensely stronger structure with steel longerons. The old Standard with its low horsepower and high wing spread could be buffeted about like a leaf in a storm. And often was. It was a scary machine.


I am only setting the stage here for you to read Cy’s story yourself from the beginning. A young man but a serious student and excellent writer, his own words make the long-ago days of the young man he was, with all the emotions of youth in any era, come alive again on the pages, deepened by thoughtful reflections of the mature man looking back on his life.


I was drawn into T.C. Corbett’s story despite the fact that I am roughly midway through at least three other books, so I know others will be, too.


The Drums of War: An Autobiography

by T.C. Corbett, 1917-1924,

ed. by William A. Corbett

Mission Point Press, paper, illustrated 


For thoughts on my recent (often random) reading, click here. For images and more personal observations, this is the place.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Don't Throw Out the Baby!

Summer is BUZZING!

I get a little nervous when I see articles about purging our lives of "too much stuff," especially when the "stuff" is books. How much would be lost from the world if “old” books were to disappear! Even among those published in my own lifetime (hardly ancient texts but all too easily discarded without a second thought), I find beautiful stories and important ideas still worth thinking over and through. One striking recent example is a Harper Colophon paperback from 1964, Daniel J. Boorstin’s The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in AmericaLooking online for mention of this title, I see that I’m not the only one to find Boorstin’s 1960s thoughts pertinent in the 21stcentury: This short article from the Atlantic magazine, 2016, is definitely worth taking time to read, though beware – it may whet your appetite for the book! 


On one of my other blogs recently, I wrote of Bruce Catton’s Reflections on the Civil War, a book certain to interest readers of Catton’s many volumes on the Civil War.


Then a 20th-century feminist classic, Woman and Nature, by Susan Griffin, called to me to pick it up. Did I read Woman and Nature decades ago? (This is the new edition.) If so, how could I have forgotten it? Griffin takes us on a breathtaking, gender-focused guided tour through the history of science and society at large, relentlessly pressing forward and at the same time presenting each historical moment (and they tend to be quite gruesome) not only succinctly but also poetically.


Boorstin, Catton, Griffin -- these books written decades ago are all worth reading today, even if the item you happen upon, like my copy of Griffin's book, is a paperback with the glued binding so dried out that the pages come out one by one as you turn them.... 


Ah, but yes! New books? Lots of those worth reading, too, for every interest and every age group.

And tonight at 7 p.m. at the Willowbrook in Northport, Sarah Shoemaker (author of the acclaimed Mr. Rochester, the Jane Eyre story told from “the other side”) will present her 2022 novel, Children of the Catastrophe. Join us for reading, discussion, and refreshments following the author's talk. 

Sarah's will be available for purchase and to have signed. 

Northport -- the place to be!

Saturday, July 15, 2023

What I Say?

Summer roses

Sandhill crane family in their summer life

Ah, yes, the great Ray Charles! I’ve said a few things myself, though none as well noted as what Ray Charles has said and sung. I do like the motto I came up with for the 30th anniversary of Dog Ears Books, though: 




And the banner on my “Northport Bookstore News” blog reads: 


“We don’t want your data, 

just your business and your satisfied smiles.” 


I’ve seen a lot of satisfied smiles already this summer, and that gives me satisfaction and makes me smile. Win-win!



What do I have to say today?


Well, it’s cherry harvest right now, so please slow down for farm workers on our county roads! Watch out for cyclists, too – they don’t always wear highly visible colors. Also, few cyclists signal turns, so watch out for that, too. I was happy to see the farm worker ahead of me this morning signal his left-hand turn. (My unscientific observation over a few years is that drivers in Cochise County, AZ, are much better about signaling turns and lane changes than Leelanau County, MI, drivers, but Leelanau takes the prize for turning on headlights at dusk and as storms approach. Arizona drivers could do better on that count.)


The Summer Author Series sponsored by the Friends of the Library in Northport (Leelanau Township Library) got off to a great start this past Tuesday with Dave Dempsey from Traverse City and a presentation based on his book, Great Lakes for Sale, which inspired many in the audience to look into joining volunteer organizations to help protect Great Lakes waters. Next Tuesday’s event (these are all at the Willowbrook at 7 p.m. this year, remember) will feature Jacob Wheeler’s Angel of the Garbage Dump, a truly inspiring story, and you definitely want to read that book, too. One person can make a very big difference in the world….

On the advice of a retired librarian, I have now stocked, in my new book section for young people, several titles from the “I Survived” series. These books are fictional stories based on historical fact. For readers of mature years, I am pleased to have now in stock a volume of Anne-Marie Oomen’s early essays, titled The Long Fields. – Oh, but so many new and used books have come into my shop in the last week! Inventory changes all the time, so don’t think you’ve seen it all before, just because you were here once.


And as always, everything old is new again -- with a vengeance! Look at what Rachel Carson said in 1950: “We live in an age of rising seas.” Really! She goes on later (this is in The Sea Around Us): 


You do not have to travel far to find the sea, for the traces of its ancient stands are everywhere about. Though you may be a thousand miles inland, you can easily find reminders that will reconstruct for the eye and ear of the mind the processions of its ghostly wave and the roar of its surf, far back in time.


The latest rising of the sea, Carson tells us, began as early as 1930, but it is rare, she says, that such a change is observable and measurable within the human life span. So here is a book written over 70 years ago that is highly pertinent in 2023, and that is only one example from the many books this old and older to be found at Dog Ears Books in Northport.

A January 1904 magazine article and a scrap cut from the Detroit Free Press dated November 19, 1907, both found in an old book, have held me spellbound for several days. The article is about an opera singer with eight children living on a country estate outside Dresden; the newspaper scrap announces a proverb contest with “$3,200 in Prizes.” People over a hundred years ago, raising children, trying to win contests – again, very much like our lives today. 

Life! Not always tidy --

Outside of my bookstore, life is busy, too: harvesting black raspberries for the freezer, where they join strawberries and rhubarb, all destined eventually for the canning jars that await; working and playing with my young dog, morning and evening; planting, transplanting, watering, pruning; cooking up chutney and looking ahead to jam; and, always, reading, reading, reading.

Raspberries have climbed the wisteria trellis.

Sunny enjoys picking raspberries, too.

“How’s your summer going?” As usual, it’s kind of a blur. But a good one.

Monday, July 10, 2023

It's time for WHAT?

Mid-county scene, looking north

Looking south

 On the home front

Cucumber vines climbing screen

Parsley going crazy!

Chimichurri on pasta

Cucumber vines have blossomed, and parsley was so bushy and plentiful that I made a batch of chimichurri, tried it on pasta, and recommend the combination. Mixed in avocado the next evening for a tortilla chip dip, and that's good, too.


Although daisies are taking their sweet time, I have hopes they will be blooming soon, and meanwhile, I pore over catalogs and books on perennials and dream of paths winding through yard-sized gardens.


By the way, have you ever heard of ‘pour-over coffee’? Apparently, it’s a thing. New to me!


(That’s the pore/pour lesson. I’ll let sleeping dogs lie for today on lie/lay.)

As for Sunny Juliet, we are varying the tennis ball retrieval game, starting today, so stay tuned!

Always ready...

Now, "Jump!"

My recent, albeit modest stroke of genius


You know how you have a brilliant thought while driving or before falling asleep – sometime when it’s too much trouble to stop to write it down – and you think, I’ll remember that. And then so often you don’t? One of those thoughts visited me one evening, like a brightly colored bird that quickly flitted away before my eyes closed, and somehow (this is the miracle) I remembered it the next morning!


…I was thinking of the years when Northport was in the doldrums and people who accidently wandered off the M-22 loop would ask in whiny, put-upon voices, “What’s the matter with Northport?” I was sure it was just a matter of hanging on before Northport would turn around, and in the meantime I subbed at the school, picked apples, worked on a garden crew, etc. – all to keep my bookstore afloat.


…I was thinking about all the times people had said to me (as if contradiction were unthinkable), “No one reads books any more.” One young father, his toddler riding piggy-back on his shoulders, waved his hands to indicate my array of volumes and told the boy, “Someday all this will be gone.”


...I was thinking of when Borders came to Traverse City and what a fabulous bookstore it was (then) and how someone said to me mournfully (as if I had been trying to do something like Borders, when my bookstore idea was so very, very different), “Oh, you just can’t compete with Borders!”


Now in 2023 Borders is no more, everyone loves Northport, and people are still reading books. Lots of people! Many even buy books! Hence -- my anniversary motto for Dog Ears Books: 


“Disproving the skeptics for 30 years”


What do you think? “Three decades” or “30 years”?

(My personal life motto)


Authors in Northport


Tuesday, July 11, is the first of four evenings in the Friends of the Library (Leelanau Township) Summer Series, with Dave Dempsey kicking off the series this year with Great Lakes for Sale. Remainder of the 2023 series will feature the following authors and books:


July 18, Jacob Wheeler, Angel of the Garbage Dump: How Hanley Denning Changed the World One Child at a Time


July 25, Sarah Shoemaker, Children of the Catastrophe


August 1, Soon-Young Yoon, Citizen of the World: Soon-Young and the UN


All four summer author events this year will be held at the Willowbrook on Mill St., each one beginning at 7 p.m. The events are free, and no reservations are required. Books will be available for purchase.




Join Northport booklovers for these events, visit Dog Ears Books Tuesdays through Saturdays this summer, follow “Books in Northport” and share it with friends. Thanks, all! Thirty years!!!

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Rain, Weeds, Books, Lists, Laughter

Beautiful custom outdoor table cover by Dolls & More

Rain and Weeds

We finally got a bit more rain. Not enough, but better than none. On Wednesday evening I finally began digging up spotted knapweed, having ignored its invasion for too long in my fixation on the larger and more obvious autumn olive. Both are plants that want to take over the world (at least here in northern Michigan), and while autumn olive grows to be a massive shrub and knapweed dies back every fall, both are tenacious and create a circle of death around them as they grow. Spotted knapweed turns Leelanau hills a beautiful lavender color in late summer, and bees enjoy it and produce delicious honey from their foraging, but left on its own it creates a nasty monoculture, with no room for the colorful diversity of native plants, and so, like autumn olive, knapweed is a plant I want to discourage as much as possible around my old farmhouse.

Clearing the way to my apple trees....

The rain started Wednesday evening. I don’t know how much fell during the night, but Thursday morning arrived wet and refreshingly cool. The temperature and humidity reminded me of a September vacation week the Artist and I enjoyed once on Manitoulin Island, but I got a grip on the reminiscing and told myself that the rain would make weeding easier – and since I didn’t have to water my gardens (rain having done that), I spent a productive hour with long-handled weed digger and spade, with many a pause to launch a tennis ball for Sunny with the Chuckit!©️. The fact that I kept busy otherwise with my weeding encouraged her to bring the ball and drop it at my feet (to get my attention), rather than keeping it to herself and grabbing it away when I reached for it, in her customary teasing way. Every day she learns a little more about cooperative play. 

(Sunny on a sunnier day)

Meanwhile, In the Garden

First monarda (bee balm)

Embryonic daisy

Hibiscus and turtlehead awaiting their entrance

Little chrysanthemum jumps the gun

Red daylilies coming along

Vegetables and herbs

Porch table sweet peas


Second Quarterly Report, 2023

Since the June page has already been torn off the calendar, it’s time for me to list books I’ve read in the past three months, April through June, and here they are: 


59. Butler, Samuel. The Way of All Flesh (fiction)

60.             Logsdon, Gene. The Mother of All Arts: Agrarianism and the Creative Impulse (nonfiction)

61.             Angelou, Maya. The Heart of a Woman (nonfiction)

62.             McCarthy, Mary. Memories of a Catholic Girlhood(nonfiction)

63.             Sprigle, Ray. In the Land of Jim Crow (nonfiction)

64.             Bellow, Saul. Herzog (fiction)

65.             Salinger, J.D. Catcher In the Rye (fiction)

66.             Williams, Florence. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative (nonfiction)

67.             Queen, Ellery. Cat of Many Tails (fiction)

68.             Backman, Fredrik. Anxious People (fiction)

69.             Lamott, Anne. Hard Laughter (fiction)

70.             ]Horowitz, Alexandra. The Year of the Puppy (nonfiction)

71.             Queen, Ellery. The Scarlet Letters (fiction)

72.             Jance, J. A. Nothing to Lose (fiction)

73.             Smith, Betty. Maggie-Now (fiction)

74.             Tyler, Anne. Noah’s Compass (fiction)

75.             Davis, Kyra, trans. (English to French) by Alice Boucher. Crimes, passion & talons aiguilles (fiction)

76.             Hubbard, Harlan. Payne Hollow (nonfiction)

77.             Tyler, Anne. A Beginner’s Goodbye (fiction)

78.             Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat, Pray, Love (nonfiction)

79.             Darkshire, Oliver. Once Upon a Tome (nonfiction)

80.             Weinstein, Lawrence. Grammar for a Full Life: How the Ways We Shape a Sentence Can Limit or Enlarge Us(nonfiction)

81.             Bellow, Saul. The Theft (fiction)

82.             Harper, Michele. The Beauty in Breaking (nonfiction)

83.             Springer, Tom. The Star in the Sycamore (nonfiction)

84.             Ozeki, Ruth. The Face: A Time Code (nonfiction)

85.             Harrison, Jim. Sorcier (fiction – Warlock in French translation)

86.             Harding, Paul. Tinkers (fiction)

87.             Frank, Michael. One Hundred Saturdays (nonfiction)

88.             Ingall, Marjorie & Susan McCarthy. Sorry, Sorry, Sorry: The Case for Good Apologies (nonfiction)

89.             Raphael, Lev. Assault with a Deadly Lie (fiction)

90.             Bloom, Stephen B. Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes: A Cautionary Tale of Race and Brutality (nonfiction)

91.             Underhill, Robert. One Cold Coffee (fiction) 

Sweet peas and bachelor buttons

Books That Have Made Me Laugh Out Loud

This might be a hazardous list to make public -- one person’s belly laugh is another person’s groan, after all -- but I’ll chance it. Just for laughs. In no particular order, then --


Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: David and I laughed so much over this book that “Big mistake!” became one of our favorite code phrases.


Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love: If someone had told me this was a funny book, I would have read it years before I did.


Richard Feynman’s “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman”: Just thinking of a certain sentence in this book makes me laugh. (It’s near the top of a left-hand page.)


Abigail Thomas’s A Three Dog Life: Her observations on parenthood at the beginning hooked me right away.


Gogol’s Dead Souls: The conceit (in old-fashioned sense) of this novel, left unfinished by its author, cracks me up every time. 


Matt Cook’s In the Small of My Backyard: --Which is poetry!


Helene Hanff’s Underfoot in Show Business: Stage-struck young woman goes to New York City in the 1930s with big dreams. How could this not provide laughs?

Goofy girl! She always makes me laugh!