GNL number 111

a report of doings at meeting #111, Sunday, October 9, 2016

including liturgical items, major themes, and other odds and ends


Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.

~~~Abraham Lincoln

The real purpose of books is to trap the mind into doing its own thinking.

~~~Christopher Morley

I went to the bookstore and asked the saleswoman, where’s the self-help section? She said if I told you, it would defeat the purpose.

~~~George Carlin


 Sue again opened our discussion with her research report on word origin and meaning, today on BOOKS, which took us way back to basics. And she brought a stack of books for show and tell, most as her current reading. First among these, two big volumes she consults in her Jewish studies. She also cited the social-political reading she does daily, especially in her work for justice/closure on Guantanamo. She spoke too of the huge role books have long played in her life, in particular in her profession as a storyteller to kids’ groups as well as adults’. Please see AFTERWORDS for her notes and quotes.

Cynthia described her current love-hate relationship with books now as she and Ron are absorbed in sorting and thinning their stuff including books, for their probable move. (And how often a book one pulls out, the other puts back in). But she did bring two favorites: our friend Anna’s wonderful book of NYC photographs, and Anna’s fascinating journal of the solo cross-country tour she made on a scooter many years ago. Cyn also read a poem she’d written to accompany the painting of Vijaya’s “Lilies of the Alley” she’d made for her.

Ann was one of several of us who remembered not too fondly the old Dick-Jane-Sally readers that were our formal introduction to reading. She said her reading these days tends to be more non-fiction, social-political, and admittedly often the kind that brings one down. And said she was reminded what hard, tedious, long work reading is for people with dyslexia, like Elliott. Ann of course brought 6-wordies on our subject, in fact four that read together like a poem. And she read some good quotes too, eg., from Twain. See AW for all these.

Marge, who was hosting this affair at her and Don’s lovely Victorian home, was an especially appropriate hostess for this topic, as she has out in her front yard a small, windowed cabinet of books for the public! She was another who recalled the old readers. But said her favorite recent reading has been the novels of Kent Haruf, set in small town Great Plains Colorado. Marge brought four of them, describing especially one, Plainsong, in which among other things, a pair of old bachelor brothers take under their wing a young girl in trouble.

NancyS brought a bunch of books too, first citing the unbrought one she’s recently started, Arundhati Roy’s dazzling novel The God of Small Things, and then reading a poem from each of four poets—two old favorites, Langston Hughes and Mary Oliver, and two new ones, Ursula Leguin and Billy Collins. She also read two favorite kids’ books, a new one, Chris Raschka’s YO!, and an old, Dr. Seuss tale of the spooky pale green pants with nobody inside them. And last, she showed her Library Sale treasure, the enormous, stunning photograph book The Universe (through the eye of the Hubble telescope). See AW.

Louise remembered how formative some of her own reading had been—both fiction and non-fiction about people who did inspiring things; earliest, the Nancy Drew mystery series for the example of young problem-solvers, then the lives of female saints, and later, the work of novelist Joseph Conrad. A retired English teacher, she recalled too outfitting her high school students with books that might also interest and inspire them. These days, she said, her reading is mostly related to the farming/alternative ag./good food life she leads now.

NancyN, who’d also spent many years as English teacher, and librarian, showed and told us about her wonderful old anthology of classic children’s stories and nursery rhymes, complete with original illustrations. This huge, obviously much-loved book was well-worn, and well-supported too with librarian’s tape—as Nancy said, such a magical volume that its sights and sounds become part of you.

Vijaya said that since she has a reading disability, she wouldn’t have much to say on this topic. And when we asked her if she meant that literally, she said, what she meant was she had done very little reading for pleasure in recent times, as she had found that it doesn’t seem to feed or help her as much as does her writing, which she does do frequently. (And we should add her photograph-taking, which she does frequently too, as she did with us today.)

Gail spoke of enjoying the monthly book discussion group back home, and had brought a book she’s reading now, The Boys in the Boat, by David James Brown. A kayaker herself, she also spoke warmly of this fascinating true story of nine Americans’ quest for the gold in crew at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany. She said she tends to read in the slow afternoons, a relaxing habit, and she finds fiction especially relaxing.

We agreed to send today’s offering, appropriately enough, to the Schoharie County Child Development Council (Headstart).


There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away, nor any coursers like a page of prancing poetry.~~~Emily Dickinson

I would define a book as a work of magic, whence escape all kinds of images to trouble the souls and change the hearts of men.~~~Anatole France


Sunday, November 13, 2016 (1030), at Vijaya’s apartment, above her store on Main Street, Cobleskill. The subject will be What can I do WITHOUT?


from Sue

(n.)   Old English boc “book, writing, written document,” traditionally from Proto-Germanic *bokiz “beech” (source also of German Buch “book” Buche “beech;” see beech), the notion being of beechwood tablets on which runes were inscribed, but it may be from the tree itself (people still carve initials in them). The Old English word originally meant any written document. Latin and Sanskrit also have words for “writing” that are based on tree names (“birch” and “ash,” respectively). And compare French livre “book,” from Latin librum, originally “the inner bark of trees” (see library). Meaning “libretto of an opera” is from 1768. A betting book is from 1856.

Read–Old English rædan (West Saxon), redan (Anglian) “to advise, counsel, persuade; discuss, deliberate; rule, guide; arrange, equip; forebode; read, explain; learn by reading; put in order” (related to ræd, red “advice”), from Proto-Germanic *redan (source also of Old Norse raða, Old Frisian reda, Dutch raden, Old High German ratan, German raten “to advise, counsel, guess”), from PIE root *re(i)- “to reason, count” (source also of Sanskrit radh- “to succeed, accomplish,” Greek arithmos “number, amount,” Old Church Slavonic raditi “to take thought, attend to,” Old Irish im-radim “to deliberate, consider”). Words from this root in most modern Germanic languages still mean “counsel, advise.”

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.” ~Neil Gaiman

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” ~Oscar Wilde

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.” ~Marcel Proust

“I divide all readers into two classes; those who read to remember and those who read to forget.” ~William Lyon Phelps

“Think before you speak. Read before you think.” ~Fran Lebowitz, The Fran Lebowitz Reader
Nominees–CofS Sainthood
George Carlin, Reverend Billy, Mark Twain, Dr. Seuss
(I just realized, 3 of these names are pseudonyms!  Does this say anything about us?

from Ann


NOVEL, n. A short story padded.~~~Ambrose Bierce

A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.~~~Mark Twain

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.~~~Twain

Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.~~~Twain


Arranged letter, word, paragraph, a book.

It’s mostly out there in books.

Stories, sightings, feelings, fears – a book.

Stop, settle in, open a book.

from NancyS

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the

flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln

went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy

bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

~~~Langston Hughes, Selected Poems

Walking to Indian River

I’m ready for spring, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

Not yet.

Still I take my walk, looking for any

early enhancements.

It’s mostly attitude. I’m certain

I’ll see something.

I start down the path, peering in

all directions.

The mangroves, as always, are standing in their

beloved water,

their new leaves very small and tender

and pale.

And, look! The way the rising sun

strikes them,

they could be flowers


~~~Mary Oliver, Felicity

Writing Twilight

Ashland, Oregon, 2014

On August thirtieth

on the deck above the deck

above the little leaf-hidden river

where old raddled hippies

smoke pot and shout fuck at each other

in the small city

that thrives on Shakespeare’s language

in the late evening

of the late summer

of the late,late age we’ve come to

I sit and hear the crickets chorusing

and a far crow caw

and I want to write a poem

that says late twilight

and the very end of August,

my golden August,

and all summer

and I guess I’ve written it.

No not quite yet.


wind of the end

of summer, wind

of the end of day



in the leaves, in the many


softly softly

from all the air

gather, evening,


~~~Ursula K. LeGuin, Late in the Day, Poems 2010-2014

Christmas Sparrow

The first thing I heard this morning

was a rapid flapping sound, soft, insistent—

wings against glass as it turned out

downstairs when I saw the small bird

rioting in the frame of a high window,

trying to hurl itself through

the enigma of glass into the spacious light.

Then a noise in the throat of the cat

who was hunkered on the rug

told me how the bird had gotten inside,

carried in the cold night

through the flap of a basement door,

and later released from the soft grip of teeth.

On a chair, I trapped its pulsations

in a shirt and got it to the door,

so weightless it seemed

to have vanished into the nest of cloth.

But outside, when I uncupped my hands,

it burst into its element,

dipping over the dormant garden

in a spasm of wingbeats

then disappeared over a row of tall hemlocks.

For the rest of the day,

I could feel its wild thrumming

against my palms as I wondered about

the hours it must have spent

pent in the shadows of that room,

hidden in the spiky branches

of our decorated tree, breathing there

among the metallic angels, ceramic apples, stars of yarn,

its eyes open, like mine as I lie in bed tonight

picturing this rare, lucky sparrow

tucked into a holly bush now,

a light now tumbling through the windless dark.

~~~Billy Collins, Nine Horses


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