An epic tale of summer interns

Odysseus and the Sirens. Photo: public domain

Odysseus and the Sirens. Photo: public domain

Little remains now of the once-robust intern culture that dominated the new media office during the summer era. But this one nearly intact artifact was discovered .4 metres below surface in grid sector p-14. –Dale Hobson,–new media archaeologist.

 

It was said all good things come in threes, yet their number
     stands at four.
Equipped with the skill of language, and adobe programs,
These girls, not yet acquainted, were unaware of what awaited.
Adventures exclusive to public radio they soon embarked.

Oh Ellen, muse of public radio and delicious baked goods,
Sing to us now of summer interns’ voyage through sound waves,
Tell us of the mountains scaled, cows milked and zombies unleashed,
Unwieldy computer mouses, podcasts, and lengthy transcriptions.

The meeting room finds our four heroes sitting, circled, bated breath.
More experienced reporters, hardened by truth’s pursuit,
Surround our four rising stars, asking for progress reports.
With much glee, they begin, the journey of summer travels relived.

Monique, born under Gemini, and clear master of the haiku,
Workers of two jobs and possessor of truly great hair,
Can see herself dating a star, perhaps one hit wonder.
Known for exciting reporting skills and her sassy Facebook comments.

“A mere week ago, under the fury of opened storm clouds
I bore witness to a miraculous birth, baby calf.
In the fine name of journalism, urine of a cow
Boldly ventured to places unknown. Namely, inside of my mouth. “

“Why are you talking in verse?” Martha raises a skeptical brow,
As Monique strikes a pose. Over thirty years’ experience,
Reveals it’s not in her nature to put up with office antics.
All turn towards the next intern, hair like fields of strawberries, she spake.

Claire embarks on her second trip around the sun with NCPR.
The veteran and commander of the humble Facebook page.
Always fashionable in stripes, floral, or witty tees,
Ever willing to give educated movie or album review.

“With a happy heart, I proclaim that from my hand I have penned 10,
Inspiring blog posts before the sun has reached its zenith.”
One of the most prolific artists of all time is she.
From dog parks to American Girl dolls, on her the public relies.

“Even as a poet, I cannot follow if you keep speaking,
In verse,” Dale slouches menacingly from his swivel chair.
“Finish those APs and transcribe the garden conversation.”
Nearly deaf, the poet does not deter our heroes, they continue.

Kelly, eater of both breakfast and lunch before 11:00 am,
Lurks in the deepest of corners at the fine NCPR.
Often attacked by the AC and the sass of fellow interns,
A Lorde scholar dressed in J.Crew, with a degree in Harry Potter.

“My journalistic ventures have led me to the depths of the web.
Oh wise colleagues, my mind is saturated by TED talks,
and Benedict Cumberbatch. To close, I will quote the great,
late Albus Dumbledore, ‘Merlin’s beard, lower the AC, I am freezing.”

Kelly, everyone else in the office is warm.” Says Nora, robed,
Entirely in black, like a secret. The infant in her arms,
Nods empathically. Constant bring your child to work day.
“Now stop being vague and too detailed. Let’s listen to Natalie.”

Natalie, a self-proclaimed old soul, baffled by most computers,
A poet whose skill surpasses even that of James Franco.
Often suffers the misfortune of typing long transcriptions
A skilled chef, once had her remote control attached to a brick.

“Food is mother earth’s sign of love for me. Except for tomatoes.
For my aged cheese soul, the internetz holds much mystery,
Yet I find myself an expert at WORD transcriptions.
Amy Ivy, is a favorite for growth in the garden of my life.

Natasha and David, one baffled, one alarmed, like spooked children.
With good fortune, Ellen, Muse and overseer enters. David gestures,
“Ellen these girls are insane,” “What do you mean?” incredulous,
This is an absolute riot. Everyone try these croissants I just made.”

The power of croissants, forged from both cinnamon and chocolate,
A peace offering between both parties, experienced and novice,
Merging as a collective truth seeking unit. Office mascot, Mugsy, agrees,
Yet is disgruntled at his lack of a chocolate croissant.

Thus ends the tale of our heroes four. Those brave interns who wake,
Early hours for justice and good reporting. Battling,
APs and podcast, traversing transcriptions. With joyous hearts we know,
Public radio marks the beginning of their truly epic adventures.

The art of conversation, “mansplained”

39fd1dc7e80f10d3ec693e51cc23af84

Have you ever been interrupted in midst of telling a story? Were you interrupted to be corrected, or to be taught why your statement was wrong, when maybe it actually wasn’t? Did the person go on to explain something to you that, if they had let you finish, they might have realized that you already knew? Was there any evidence to show that this person interrupted you based on their own prejudices or biases?

When it’s happened to me, it’s triggered a mixture of mortification and astonishment, followed by an irritating sense of incompetence that lingers. Until recently, there hasn’t been a word for this. When you don’t have a vocabulary to describe an experience, it’s hard to respond to it. You don’t see it as part of a pattern.

In 2008, the Los Angeles Times published an article called “Men Explain Things To Me,” in which writer Rebecca Solnit indirectly coined the term “mansplaining.” In her essay, she describes an encounter she had at a party where an older man stopped her to explain that the subject of a book she had written had already been written about. He went on to insist that she read the book that she herself had written, and when a friend tried to point out this man’s fault, he continued to argue the contrary.

Mansplaining describes this form of silencing not merely as an isolated incident, but as a greater cultural issue at work. Solnit’s essay went viral, echoing the experiences of many women. Solnit’s often humorous, yet deeply penetrating message generated a conversation about the lack of respect women often receive when engaging in the art of conversation with men.

Mansplaining happens all the time: in academia, at work, at the gym, on the street, in the news, even at home. Sometimes it’s blatantly obvious, but sometimes it can be difficult to identify. Often, men aren’t even aware that they’re doing it. Sometimes it happens subconsciously—a habit learned from movies and TV shows.

So how can you tell when it’s happening? Let me break it down:

When a man tells a woman how to do something they know how to do, that’s mansplaining. When a man offers his two-cents about a subject because he doesn’t think the woman knows what she’s talking about, that’s also mansplaining. When a man blatantly ignores a woman when she speaks directly to him, that’s also a form of mansplaining. Basically, to “mansplain” something is for a man to tell a woman how to understand an issue that’s central to them, which stifles them, sometimes keeping them from articulating really great points or ideas.

mansplainer1

Personally, I don’t care for the term mansplaining. The definition isn’t easy to comprehend, and it’s often misused by both men and women—kind of like the definition of feminism. This makes the concept difficult to digest, difficult to argue, and even more difficult to prove.

In a way, women do this to women. Men do this to men. Sometimes this serves as a power struggle within the hierarchy of gender. But going even further, I’d argue that the dynamic behind mansplaining also exists independent of gender. In other words, it happens to anyone who is considered culturally and/or socially inferior. This is routinely found in any conversation where someone in a socially dominant position “explains” life to someone in an inferior position, as determined by our culture.

For instance, scholars explaining to indigenous people how their religion should be understood; white people telling black people how it feels to be a minority; straight people telling gay people why they don’t want marriage equity.

Any way you spin it, when someone offers some sort of unwelcomed magical insight, it generates this really unsettling feeling, rightfully so, because this is a form of silencing that basically says this person doesn’t deserve the same recognition that those of privilege are entitled to.

If you want to avoid being a mansplainer, ask yourself: Have you shown this person consideration by listening, or have you been taking mental notes and preparing your next response? Are you aware of this person’s knowledge on the subject of conversation? Have you acknowledged and trusted this person’s ability to comprehend their own experiences, or have you been preparing to explain their experience to them? Are you looking for a reason to explain your own experience, and does your experience show any pertinence to this conversation? Finally, before you speak, ask yourself; do you know enough about what you’re talking about to intelligently contribute to the conversation?

If not, maybe you should let them finish their thought before contributing yours.

A burst of raspberry

What says summer like a raspberry? I mean besides a green canoe with a blond labrador in the bow wearing a red bandana. Or watching kids chase a frisbee while you char something lovely on the grill. Or the quiet lap of water against the dock that holds you and your canvas sling chair up to face a bluebird sky–

But back to the raspberry–my contemplation of the succulent if bumpy orb was brought to mind this week by a sweet little poem by Erica Jong, “The Raspberries in My Driveway,” courtesy of the Writer’s Almanac on Wednesday.

Photo: Daveography.ca, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Photo: Daveography.ca, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

The raspberries
in my driveway
have always
been here. . .

yet
I have never
tasted them
before.

It’s a stop-and-smell-the-roses moment for the busy writer, a moment with which I can totally relate. She echoes this again near the end.

The world was always
there before,
but where
was I?

And this moment when “I burst the raspberry upon my tongue” bursts in turn into an great upwelling of optimism.

if you are so beautiful
upon my ready tongue,
imagine
what wonders
lie in store
for me!

Sweet, sunny, satisfying, if fleeting. A little jewel, a little raspberry of a poem.

And yet, my own experience is a little different. I have left the raspberries in my own driveway for the birds. Unlike Jong, I have always noticed them there, from the moment of their greening.

I have taken enough raspberries out of the wild, as a boy, plundering the gardens of my neighbors after depleting my own. Those beside my driveway, if I hoarded every one, might be enough for a pie.

In my life I have had a thousand raspberry moments. But the birds, whose lives are nearly fleeting as the berries themselves, may only have this one. I can always get another pint from the market.

Is zucchini edible?

Photo: Stephanie Weiss, who wrote: Last night’s dinner was zucchini pizzas on the grill. I was thrilled that this recipe ate up a whole monster zucchini! (And my kids ate it up.) Only five more to go!

Photo: Stephanie Weiss, who wrote: Last night’s dinner was zucchini pizzas on the grill. I was thrilled that this recipe ate up a whole monster zucchini! (And my kids ate it up.) Only five more to go!

So why didn’t the zucchini cross the road?

He didn’t want to become squash!

Yes, indeed it’s time for squash jokes. Calabacin, cousa, courgette, cymling, cuccuzza, curcubita pepo, scallop, vegetable marrow, butterbar, crookneck, straightneck, pattypan, zucchini — whatever you call it, it’s summer squash and it’s here. We’re at that point in the summer when the squash is coming on strong and every gardener and cook feels challenged to do something useful and delicious with it all. This week we asked listeners share their ideas about summer squash and you came up with some good ones. Read on.

 Heather Casey:  1) Zucchini and pasta. Sauté zuch and squash with lots or garlic and onions, with olive oil and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Mix in favorite cooked pasta. Serve with parmesan cheese. Also, 2) squash bake with garlic, onions, and tomato sauce topped with croutons and cheese. Bake til bubbly. Or, 3) hollow out squash and fill with tomato/onion/garlic mixture, top with cheese and bake. Got to love zucchini bread with chocolate chips, too!

 Eileen Kaleel:  Sauté slices of both with some olive oil, a little butter, add some pine nuts or sunflower seeds, just a touch of sesame oil and toss with angel hair pasta (gluten free). Just perfection! (My sister’s recipe.)

 Sarah Fink:  Oven-baked zucchini fries, spicy zucchini pickles, add a zucchini to the food processor while making pesto to make it a bit creamy for pasta sauce, shred summer squash and use in place of potato for latkes/pancakes, squash and crab fritters, the list goes on and on!

 Matthew Arnold: Drive around looking for friends who don’t lock their cars, deposit zucchini, and depart post haste.

Alison Millsaps:  We nip them in the bud. Stuff the male flowers with herbed goat cheese and mozzarella. Twist the ends shut and dip the whole thing in milk. Then dredge them through flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Wait a few minutes and dip/dredge again. Finally deep fry them in a cast iron skillet. So good.

Phyllis Levine:  Brown Chocolate zucchini bread. Heavenly.

Nils I. Peterson:  I return them to the compost pile so I can grow more then I need again next year. Seriously, though, grilled and in stir fry.

Matilda Larson:  Loaves and loaves of chocolate chip orange zucchini bread for putting in the freezer.

Holly Chambers:  Spaghetti/noodle zucchini/yellow squash. Instead of slicing in circles, which is what I usually do, grate on a grater turned on its side, or use a food processor if you have the julienne attachment, or a spiralizer. Salt lightly and put in a colander to drain off some of the liquid; press lightly a few times. Put a bunch of olive oil in a pan, sauté too much crushed fresh garlic (if that is possible) and a few green onions, plus a few chopped walnuts. Add the zucchini and sauté.

Richard Rodzinski: Here’s one I have developed over the years. It is especially designed to make use of those overly large zucchini which hide under a leaf and which one misses for a few days past when they should have been harvested.

Riki’s Pie

Ingredients:

6 cups of coarsely grated zucchini

half a cup breadcrumbs

one egg

three heaping tablespoons real bacon crumbles

1 cup grated cheeses (Fontina, Jarlsberg, Edam, Gouda, etc.)

2 tablespoons Italian Parmesan.

Preparation:

Grate zucchini in a food processor and remove as much water as possible by lightly salting the grated zucchini and leave standing for a while in a colander. One can also put it between kitchen towels and squeeze or use a roller. The more water removed the better.

Put the zucchini in a bowl and mix with the breadcrumbs, and egg, and the bacon crumbles. One can then let this stand in a colander for an additional hour or so to let it drain further.

Place half the mixture in a greased baking bowl and sprinkle with at least a half a cup of grated soft cheeses in any combination.

Spread the remainder of the mixture on top of cheeses and cover this latter with the remainder of the grated cheeses.

Sprinkle the top with freshly grated Parmesan.

Bake the “pie” at 350° for one hour or until the cheeses brown slightly. If it looks like the zucchini might still be a little too mushy one can leave the pie in for another half hour until more liquid has evaporated.

Enjoy the pie as a meal in itself with a side of a fresh garden salad or serve it as a side dish with poultry, beef, or fish.

The best thing about a North Country summer

Happy to have made it to the top in one piece! (Natalie is second from the right.) Photo: Monique Cornett

The NCPR Group of Four on a field trip: Kelly, Claire, Natalie, Monique. Photo: Monique Cornett

(Natalie completes her summer journalism fellowship with NCPR this week. We’ll miss her. But the good news is this: she’ll return as a part-time apprentice during the coming academic year. Thanks for your good work, Natalie. –Ellen Rocco)

After spending the last 2 summers in Canton, I will sorely miss these fleeting months full of swimming and hiking and reading when I graduate from St. Lawrence next May. As a native of Massachusetts (state of bad drivers, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Plymouth Rock), I can objectively say that the farmers’ markets here are abundant, the St. Lawrence is the very best river, and the Adirondacks have the most impressive views. There is something about summer in the North Country that keeps pulling me back.

Maybe the best thing about summer here is that everything blooms at once. After a brutal winter, summer comes in a single heated moment. I think about this as I sit in the garden outside of NCPR on my lunch break. A butterfly flits between my calves, lands on my knee, and moves on. Tucked between the walls of the E.J. Noble Medical Building and the parking lot, fragrant bushes full of flowers (meant to attract butterflies) tumble over each other in a cacophony of color.

Strawberry pie. Photo: The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Strawberry pie. Photo: The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

But, really, the best thing about summer is pie. I was down at the Canton Farmer’s market in June, and talked with some of the farmers. Gwen Law, who has a stand selling pies, some herbs, and a few other baked goods, gave me the best pie crust directions. I made my first rhubarb pie, which I turned into my first blog post for the station. In July, Martha Foley brought a raspberry pie to a news meeting. I recognized the tag from Gwen Law’s stand. Her crust was better than mine, but I remember how she told me not to get discouraged. Nobody makes a good crust on their first try.

But maybe the best part is hiking. I admire of all of those aspiring 46ers, but most of the time I climb a mountain and forget the name afterwards. This summer, I managed to do Azure and Lower Wolfjaw, as well as Rooster Comb with the NCPR interns. We received some great suggestions via the Facebook page. Hiking in the Adirondacks is great; I always meet friendly hikers on the trail who share useful tips and encouragement. But in terms of parking, it’s not so great. Honestly, I don’t want more parking, even if I’m one of the hikers who have to turn around and hit up another peak instead. Parking takes up space. Imagine how terrible it would be if the Adirondacks had parking like a mall. That brings up the accessibility issue, but that’s for another post.

This will probably be my last North Country summer (at least for a while), and I can’t help but think of scenes, like pictures in an album, that I will miss. I remember swimming in lakes and rivers, bonfires, barbeques, walking across campus each morning to work, the family of deer that trot across my path as I run at dusk. I can’t decide what, if there is only one thing that makes a North Country summer, but I do know that I will surely miss it when I leave.

What do you think defines a North Country summer? Do you hike, swim, or garden? Share some of your summer memories in a comment below.

Natalie Dignam’s internship at NCPR is supported by the Stan Macdonald Journalism Fund.

The NCPR 2014 summer reading list

ladyreading1

What you and I are reading this summer

What titles have you been reading at the beach, or at the camp, or maybe on your Kindle in the back seat during that long day trip? Do you have any recommendations from the new releases section at your library? Have an old favorite that just says “summer” to you?

Many of you let us know during our annual summer reading call-in program Wednesday, joining Readers & Writers hosts Ellen Rocco and Chris Robinson and book maven John Ernst to share their picks of the season.

You can still help us build the list by making your suggestions in a comment below.

We start with our call in co-hosts’ picks, followed by listeners and station friends and staff who have contacted us via email, phone and online. This is a big list, with lengthy entries from Chris and John, but keep scrolling. There really is something for everyone.

Chris Robinson, Clarkson University

Reading has been a central activity in my life since my college years.  Sometimes I read for information. Sometimes I read to be reminded that great beauty is possible. Occasionally I read just to be entertained.  Often, however, I read simply to isolate myself from the world around me. The book becomes a comfortable barrier against intrusions.  I’m not all that proud of this use of literature for self-protection, just so you know.

Over the past few months a whole new effect of reading – a self-creating effect — has been revealed by the first two volumes of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle.  A third volume is available now.  Three more need to be translated. The best description of this literary project that I have seen is this that it is “a 3,600 page novel about a guy writing a 3,600 page novel.”  These books have been compared favorably with Proust, but I think the comparison fair only in terms of the length of the work and the attention to detail. Knausgaard’s voice is utterly unique and mesmerizing.  What you get are pages worth of descriptions of the intimacies, trivialities and drama of his daily life. The effect is that you begin to see your life differently. In the middle of your day, in the middle of a conversation, you will find yourself thinking, “What would Knausgaard write about this?” Not everyone has a novel in them.  But Knausgaard has convinced me that, with talent, great literature can be woven from even the most mundane of lives.

I live to discover (for myself) works like this. In truth, critics like James Wood and Zadie Smith having been touting Knausgaard for at least two years. I’m a bit late to the party. What has proven timely is that Knausgaard has taught me how to follow the path of literature through the barriers of the covers and into the world in which I live.  If my reading seems heavy with nonfiction works, blame this on Knausgaard. Reading him is a project. The work you are doing is, however, on yourself.

Nonfiction

  • Stephen Bird, Adam Silver and Joshua Yesnovitz, Agitation With a Smile: Howard Zinn’s Legacies and the Future of Activism.  Howard Zinn was known best for his People’s History of the United States. It is a book every American should read as an antidote to the dull triumphalism of high school American history classes.  This volume is composed of essays examining aspects of Zinn’s life and work.  It contains a preface by Frances Fox Piven and an Epilogue by Noam Chomsky. But the best part of the volume is the introductory essay by the editors.
  • Martin Duberman, Howard Zinn: A Life on the Left.  Zinn’s life was more interesting than his books, and this is saying something.  Zinn seemed to be in every action and movement of significance in the Twentieth Century.  Duberman does a great job showing the interrelation between Zinn’s activism and his scholarship.
  • Robert Zaretsky, A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning. The focus of this study of Camus is his lifelong resistance to injustice.  Camus ends his most famous novel, The Stranger, with his protagonist, Meursault, staring out of his cell and wondering at the “benign indifference of the universe.”  This is a sentiment that Camus would challenge in later writing and his life. Indifference, he knew, was never benign.
  • Andre Dubos III, Townie. I was away when Dubos appeared as a guest on Readers and Writers. I’m sorry I missed the chance to talk to him about his memoir.  Out of a life of poverty and violence, Dubos emerged, really through literature, to aspire to a more peaceful and reflective existence. This work counts as an essential study of American masculinity.
  • Christopher Isherwood, Diaries, 1970-1983.  This is the third and final volume of Isherwood diaries, and it bears the marks of aging. You can see Isherwood slowing down through the years. His stories become less funny and less acerbic. His love to his partner grows and deepens. His dyspepsia becomes pervasive and unattractive. Isherwood’s decline is worth pondering, however, because of the incisiveness of his intelligence and the plainness of his writing.
  • Rebecca Goldstein, Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away.  I’m a big fan of Rebecca Goldstein. Last year I championed her 36 Arguments for the Existence of God (not that she needs another champion). It is a brilliant novel.  Plato at the Googleplex blurs the line between fiction and nonfiction, but it is a scholarly, yet entertaining, study of Plato’s philosophy and its applications in contemporary settings.
  • Sean Wilentz, Bob Dylan in America.  There’s nothing better than listening to a Bob Dylan record, in my opinion.  But reading studies of Dylan by such masters of criticism as Greil Marcus can come close. Wilentz’s book is a study of American cultural history disguised as a book about Bob Dylan. Wilentz does a beautiful job of showing how Dylan’s talents were shaped by exposures to the history of American folk music, traditional music, blues, Gospel, and jazz.  Dylan, in turn, has delved into this reservoir of song and story, brought it new life, and created a new and receptive audience for its treasures of thought and emotion.
  • Pico Iyer, Video Nights in Katmandu and The Global Soul.  I’m reading my way through everything Pico Iyer has written.  These two books are artful travel logs and reflections on how travel has altered the world.  Iyer is a quirky and brilliant thinker.
  • Richard Rodriguez, Darling.  I interviewed Richard Rodriguez earlier this year, and I urge you to go to the Readers and Writers archive and listen to it. Darling is a spiritual autobiography and journey that equals such classics as Augustine’s Confessions for its reflections on the relation of humanity to the larger cosmic order, the role of religion in the modern world, and how we should see and think about the desert.  Rodriguez is a triple threat – Latino, Catholic and gay – and these combine to engender a unique and powerful worldview on ethnicity, spirituality, and men and women.
  • Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy. This is the book and the thinker credited with launching the “Arab Spring.”  There’s a shibboleth now popular on Facebook: “Anything war can do, peace can do better.” Sharp’s subject, captured creatively by this slogan, is the nonviolent transformation of authoritarian societies. He found an audience across northern Africa.
  • Najla Said, Looking for Palestine. This is a memoir of Edward Said by his daughter, and I found it compelling and moving. I drew enormous political and intellectual inspiration from Edward Said. It is sort of nice to see that he and his wife managed to raise two bright and accomplished children.  Najla is an actor and a writer. Her literary voice is reflective, honest and compelling.
  • Jonathan Lethem, The Ecstasy of Influence.  Lethem is an intellectual powerhouse.  He was our guest on Readers and Writers several years ago during our season on disabilities and literature. Our focus was his novel, Motherless Brooklyn, but we snuck in some questions on Fortress of Solitude, too.  The present volume is a collection of essays, many of them autobiographical, and all of them provocative and interesting.  The title essay is a study of plagiarism that gained a good deal of notoriety when it was first published in Atlantic. It is a remarkable piece of essy crafting.
  • Shannon Moroney, Through the Glass. Moroney spoke on the St. Lawrence campus this past winter. She is an activist for what is called restorative justice and its application in the Canadian and US criminal justice system. Moroney was a happy newlywed until her husband, a man convicted as a teenager for the murder of a girlfriend, committed another horribly violent crime. This is the dramatic and emotional backdrop for Moroney’s important reflections on forgiveness and justice.
  • Thomas Piketty, Capital in the 21st Century. People keep telling me that the Occupy Wall Street movement is over.  If this is the case (and I’m not convinced it is), then how do we explain the work of a French economist proving that growing inequality is the natural outcome of a capitalist economy reaching the top of The New York Times bestseller list? The analysis on inequality is the most salient aspect of the volume. Piketty is economist enough that he just can’t conceive of an alternative to capitalism.

Literature

  • Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle, Volumes I and II. Four volumes to go. I’m convinced that this 3,600 page novel/memoir needs to be longer.
  • Andre Aciman, Harvard Square. What is gained and what is lost to become an American? A Jewish Egyptian is struggling with his graduate studies at Harvard. He meets an Arab cab driver who is something of a force of nature. Their friendship, fraught with tensions, deepens. When the cab driver is threatened with deportation, the graduate student must choose between defending his friend and assimilation.
  • James Salter, All That Is.  The writing in this novel is extraordinary. The story spans from World War II to the near present. And the subject matter is love. How do you know when the feelings are genuine or merely carnal? How can any relationship that begins so beautifully end so badly? Why is love so often disappointing and even arduous?  Salter works these questions with the patience of a philosopher, but, ultimately, this book left me puzzling over the rather one dimensional depictions of women.  Had this novel been written with acknowledgement of feminism as a vital political and cultural force, it would have been a classic.
  • Susan Choi, My Education.  Choi was the winner of a rather nasty contest about the most awkward sex scene in a novel several years ago. I thought this unfair. To her credit, Choi did not avoid sexuality in her newest novel about a graduate student and her love affair with the wife of a professor.  This is a really deep and wonderful exploration of the complexity of sexuality and the utter inadequacy of the categories we use to self-describe and to describe others.
  • Nathan Englander, The Ministry of Special Cases and What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories.  Many thanks to my colleague Lisa Propst for insisting that I read the work of Nathan Englander.  The Ministry of Special Cases is a probing and dark study of a Jewish family whose son was disappeared in Argentina’s dirty war. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it.  The emotional levels achieved in the drawing of the characters were so affecting I had to stop reading this before bedtime. It would take hours for my heart to slow again. Englanders’ stories display a range of styles, psychological depth and humor.  This is an amazing writer.
  • E.L. Doctorow, The March.  It has been years since I read anything by E.L. Doctorow, and I missed him.  The Book of Daniel was the first novel I read after three years of preparation for my doctoral exams.  I remember reading it in a night as if it was quenching a horrible thirst.  Ragtime was next.  The march in the title is Sherman’s, and this is a set of conjoined stories about some of the people swept up in this massive military maneuver.  I don’t think this matches Doctorow’s more famous works, but it felt like I was reconnecting with an old friend.
  • Herman Koch, The Dinner.  This is the summer reading book for the incoming class of Clarkson students.  It is an odd book.  Two brothers and their spouses have a deep and dark secret about their own children. This is fiction as an experiment in ethics.  What would you do if you were one of these parents?  Thankfully, my daughters have always been paragons of virtue.
  • Benjamin Kunkel, Indecision.  Kunkel is the young left’s man of the moment.  He has turned away from fiction in recent years in order to write on the politics and economics of sustainability. But he works in these realms with a novelist’s eye toward detail and the lively sentence. All this new work was made possible by the success of his novel, Indecision. It is the story of a twenty something man, living with four roommates in Manhattan and afflicted with indecision about all matters, but especially romance. He has an opportunity to take an experimental pill to cure this malady. But life takes on complexities that include dismissal from work, a trip to South America to visit an old flame, a new relationship with the old flame’s friend, and a trek into the rain forest. How can any pill cure a person of the problem of being human short of killing them?

John Ernst, Elk Lake and New York City

ALL THAT IS – James Salter (2013)

Also: “A Sport and a Pastime”

This novel was a revelation to me. James Salter is a Pew/Faulkner Award-winning writer whose first novel was published almost 60 years ago. For this book alone, I think he should be more widely recognized as one of the great writers of his generation.

All That Is takes its protagonist, Philip Bowman, from his service in the Pacific during the Korean War into his comfortable and successful life as a book editor in New York in the 1980s. The story is told in brilliant flashes of narrative that cut and fade like a motion picture. Characters appear, caught memorably in a few deft paragraphs of sharp detail, disappear, and then suddenly dart into the story again years later. The scene shifts from New York to Paris to Virginia hunt country to London to the Hudson Valley. As in life, people and scenes appear vividly and then vanish. The reader has the strong sense of time passing, that one is watching the images of a life going by as though in scenes glimpsed from a train window.

What holds the novel together are Bowman’s relationships with women –  with the wife who leaves him and  a succession of others to whom he is attracted, becomes involved with, and ultimately loses, usually through a gradual  fading of feeling. Parallel to Bowman’s story is that of a colleague whose happy marriage is ended by a freak railroad accident.

There is life on every page of this book – brilliant descriptions, bits of dialogue, memory, perception, all of which draw one into a fictional world so strongly that it seems like one’s own. This novel is pure magic.

Bob Mankoff deconstructing cartooning. Photo:

Bob Mankoff deconstructing cartooning. Photo: Nicole Hennig via Creative Commons

HOW ABOUT NEVER – IS NEVER GOOD FOR YOU? My Life in Cartoons – Bob Mankoff (2014)

Bob Mankoff describes the job he has held for the past 17 years as cartoon editor of the New Yorker as something akin to being the Wizard of Oz. In this wonderfully funny and entertaining book, Mankoff provides much more than either a biography or another collection of cartoons. The book has an insider feel. Mankoff tells us how cartoons are submitted (by the batch; never the bunch) how they are judged, how payment is calculated, why some are chosen and some are not.

Having a cartoon accepted by the New Yorker is like getting signed by the New York Yankees. It is a product of talent, work and persistence. Mankoff collected years of rejection slips before breaking through. Analyzing what works, he breaks cartoonists down into those who start with a sketch and those who start with an idea (the doodle firsters vs. the word firsters). He describes genre cartoons: the desert island, St. Peter’s gates, the grim reaper. He covers cartoons driven by current affairs, the role of style, the great artists of the past from Charles Addams to Peter Arno. He talks about working with editors from the legendary Harold Ross, through Tina Brown to the current editor, David Remmick. He describes the search for fresh talent. He even tackles the big question: what makes something funny?

The title cartoon is one of my all-time favorites. A man is on the phone in his office. He says,” No. Thursday’s out. How about never? Is never good for you? ” I loved this book! It is a romp from beginning to end – spiced with cartoons illustrating parts of the text and leavened by Mankoff’s wry wit. It’s a gas!

FLASH BOYS: A Wall Street Revolt — Michael Lewis (2014)
Also: “The Big Short,”  “Moneyball,” “Liar’s Poker”

One of the things that Michael Lewis does best is to take a complicated issue, boil it down to essentials that are readily understandable, and animate the issue through stories of real people. With this book he dropped a bomb on Wall Street from which the after-shocks are still appearing.

This is a story built on abstruse technical accomplishments like high speed fiber lines that deliver information at millisecond intervals and enable high-frequency trading that has all but replaced old-fashioned stock exchanges. And Black Pools in which private trades of securities take place out of the glare of public reporting. This is a world controlled by the big banks and the new trading networks and they use it to maintain an edge against every other market participant.

Enter Brad Katsuyama, a young genius, who invents an exchange called IEX that levels the playing field by slowing down trades just enough so that an individual has the same access to the market as do the big professionals. Lewis deftly blends in other stories, such as that of the Russian computer programmer who leaves Goldman Sachs and finds himself arrested by the F.B.I. charged with stealing code. Part cautionary tale and part thriller, Lewis exposes the people and instruments that are the market of today.

THE DINNER – Herman Koch (2012)

This novel, translated from the Dutch original, has caused quite a stir. It starts out with two couples meeting for dinner at a high-priced, somewhat pretentious restaurant. The men are brothers – one a retired teacher; the other a leading candidate for Prime Minister in an upcoming election.

At first, the conversation, though somewhat prickly, is fairly routine – about the food and about recent films. But as the meal continues, an ominous note appears, as the couple discusses their children. It also becomes obvious that the narrator (the teacher/brother) who is subject to rages and is off his meds, is a very suspect, perhaps unreliable, narrator.

The degree of moral lapse among intelligent, prosperous, middle class people is the engine that drives the narrative pace. Their attitudes and actions at first seem understandable and then spiral off into an ethical wasteland. The reader has been drawn in to identify with these people and then too-late sees that the company is absolutely appalling.
This is a dark novel, punctuated by satirical stabs. It is an experience that can be uncomfortable. One’s complicity with the two couples from the early sections leaves one feeling compromised. And that, perhaps, is the point.

BRAIDING SWEETGRASS: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants — Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013) Also: “Gathering Moss” (John Burroughs Medal)

This is an enormously moving hymn to life and a quiet manifesto of deeply-held beliefs. The author is a distinguished scientist, a professor of environmental biology at SUNY, and a citizen of the Potawatomi Nation. Her previous book, Gathering Moss, a John Burroughs Medal winner, is one of the best examples of nature writing I know.

Braiding Sweetgrass demands something of the reader. It asks you to consider that a tree is a member of “the standing people” and is worthy of notice and respect. It asks that you be thankful for a field of wild strawberries. It posits that the desecration of the earth is a disgrace and a sacrilege. Kimmerer’s chapters each tell a vivid story grounded in her experience as a teacher, a thinker, a Native person, and a mother. The incidents can be as humble as the clearing a pond of algae for use of her daughter or as soaring as the spiritual high of the Onondaga Thanksgiving Address.

Blending Western science and Native knowledge and experience, this book exerts a powerful force. Kimmerer calls for an exchange of gratitude and recognition for the gifts that are all around us. She calls for reciprocity in giving back and supporting what has nurtured us.

This is a life-changing book that deserves a very wide readership. It never preaches; it instructs with memorable incident and quiet wisdom. It’s message is simple: be open to the world as a gift.

BUNKER HILL: a City, a siege, a Revolution – Nathaniel Philbrick (2013)
Also: “The Last Stand,” “Mayflower,” “In the Heart of the Sea”

In Bunker Hill, Nathaniel Philbrick tells the story of the two-year siege of Boston by British forces that effectively began the American Revolution. Triggered by the Stamp Act and the looting of two ships at Griffin’s Wharf, known as the Boston Tea Party, Philbrick traces the open warfare of Lexington and Concord and culminating in 1775 in the bloody but indecisive battle at Bunker Hill. Ironically, the battle was actually fought on Breed’s Hill, closer to the British guns, because the impetuous Israel Putnam stormed past the better and planned battle site.

After furiously toiling all night to build a redoubt, the Americans held off assault after assault by British regulars before being overrun. Philbrick rounds out the story with the arrival of George Washington as commander of the patriot militias, his eventual securing of the heights of Charleston fortified by 60 tons of cannon that Henry Knox had managed to convey 300 miles in the dead of winter from Fort Ticonderoga.

The largest figure in the story is that of physician Joseph Warren, who in the absence of John Adams and John Hancock at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, was almost single-handedly organizing the patriot cause and who died bravely at Bunker Hill.

Philbrook’s narrative has a stately pace, carefully weaving the threads of a complex story with a large and fascinating cast of characters. This is a solid and involving slice of American history told in a lucid and accessible style.

Photo: Mark Kurtz

Photo: Mark Kurtz

WHEN MEN AND MOUNTAINS MEET: Stories of Hope and Despair in the Adirondack Wilderness – Glenn L. Pearsall (2013)
Also: “Echoes in These Mountains” (about Johnsburg)

Glenn Pearsall focuses here on the period of Adirondack history between 1790 and 1820. Before then the region was a blank section on maps. Shortly afterwards, with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, the brief age of expansion and development ended. The Adirondack region was by-passed by commerce as effectively as route 9 was with the opening of the Northway more than a 100 years later.

But in the intervening years, large, ambitious development and settlement plans were floated and partially carried out. Men and women braved hardship, death and bankruptcy (the usual outcome) to blaze their mark on hundreds of thousands of acres. There was Castorland, a French effort to build two European-style cities complete with gardens, libraries , theatres and 14,000 sub-divided lots in the Black River Valley. There was Joseph Bonapart’s attempt to establish a refuge for his brother on 118,000 acres to be called “Little France.” There was John Thurman’s “Ellen Hill’ development on 50,000 acres boasting sawmills, gristmills, a distillery, sheep pasture, a cotton carding mill, and at its height, 1,000 settlers.

Pearsall tells the stories of James Le Ray, David Parrish, Zephoniah Platt (of Plattsburgh fame) and many other little-known entrepreneurs and adventurers. But mining, lumbering, farming and even a nascent sugar maple empire foundered on the rocks of weather, remoteness, and hard economics. The people and the empires are gone but some of the locations remain – Schroon Lake, Lowville, Johnsburg, Booneville – and the stories behind them are well worth re-telling.

MIDNIGHT IN EUROPE – Alan Furst (2014)
Also: “Mission to Paris,” “Dark Star,” “Red Gold”

To set the scene: With dark war clouds looming over Europe in 1938, a debonair Spanish emigre named Christien Farrar is working in the Paris office of the famous Coudert law firm while supporting a household of his closest relatives in a small town nearby. A Civil War is raging in Spain and Ferrar is drawn into an undercover organization trying to buy weapons and ammunition to prop up the Spanish Republicans struggle against General Franco’s fascists.

This is the first of the author’s very successful novels that I have read. Furst has a light touch and tells a story with just enough bizarre characters (a collection of arms merchants and thugs) and just enough intrigue and suspense to keep one’s interest continually focused. There are romantic Paris dinners with a mysterious marquesa; cloak and dagger meetings in Turkey and Rumania; a love affair with a beautiful New York librarian; a stirring escape at sea in a boat loaded with explosives. And always the KGB Russian secret police and the Gestapo lurk just beyond the glow of street lights.
For summer reading, this deftly written novel loaded with atmosphere could be just the ticket.

Ellen Rocco, NCPR Station Manager

“Americanah,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This Nigerian-born author first landed literary recognition with “Half of a Yellow Sun.” With this new (well new-ish) novel, Adichie explores the code-switching, conflicts and relationships between Black Africans living in the US, between Black Africans and African-Americans, between each of these groups and white Americans, and so forth. What can I say? She nails it with authenticity and accuracy. Regardless of your own race or national background, you will recognize the truth in her observations. Adichie also gives us a living, breathing feel for the African immigrant experience in this country.

“The Liberation Trilogy,” including “An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-43, Volume One,” “The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, Volume Two,” and “The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945, Volume Three,” by Rick Atkinson

I have just started Atkinson’s trilogy. I am endlessly intrigued by fiction and non-fiction exploring and documenting the history of both World War I and World War II. Literature about the American Civil War is also high on my interest list.

Michael Coffey, Bolton Landing and NYC

alicemunro7

I am besotted with Alice Munro’s  “personal selection” of stories, 17 of them. compiled in a volume titled  “Carried Away,” which Random House wisely reissued after Alice won the Nobel last year. If I were teaching the short story, I’d have students read these and read them again and then take the hood off each and see how they ran, all these parts gleaming with function and mystery . I once thought Munro wrote about dull people in dull, Ontario landscapes. My wife kept reading Alice and finally I picked up this volume and can hardly believe what I was missing, Chekhov-like but wilder, and entirely daring in form, mixing voices, perspectives. time periods. There ‘s even one  masterpiece set not principally in her Native Canada but Afghanistan!

Cheryl Erickson, Brant Lake

My recommendation for your list is “Enrique’s Journey” by Sonia Nazario.  It’s a very readable, well researched account of a young child’s journey from Honduras to the U.S. to reunite with his mother.  In light of all the immigrant children flooding our borders right now, this book allows the reader to see the world through the eyes of the children who are making this journey at sometimes very dire costs.  Do we call them “immigrants”, or would it be more appropriate to call them “refugees”? How would changing the label affect our policy decisions?  It really makes you think about the nature of the current “border crisis” in a different light.  When I hear people on the news yelling “Go home, we don’t want you,”  I think of Enrique and it makes these comments sound so cold and inhumane.  Who are we?  This book is not about policy but it does put a human face on what is happening on the border.  It’s worth reading and discussing.

Hillarie Logan-DeChene, Long Lake

Sorry I can’t listen to the whole show (will later), but I just finished “The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden” by Jonas Jonasson.  This is an amazing implausible story of a South African woman born during the 1960 and is a hilarious story that also captures some very quirky aspects of Swedish culture.  This book gives a perspective of South African politics, Apartheid, Vietnam, the Mossad, atomic arms and world politics. It is a fun read with just enough history to make it not feel trashy.

Dan Riley, Lake Titus

Two great reads for anytime: “Night in Shanghai” by Nicole Mones. Story about black musicians who immigrated to Shanghai in the 1930s, their love affairs and how the 1937 invasion by the Japanese affected their lives. What made this book exceptionally interesting to me was that although a fictional account, several of the characters were real people. Among them was Aaron Avshalomov, a composer of Chinese symphonies and ballet. He was a neighbor of mine in NYC in 1952.

The other book “The Trip to Echo Spring” by Olivia Laing is a story of writers and drinking, featuring some of our best novelists and poets: Hemmingway, Raymond Carver, John Cheever, John Berryman, Scott Fitzgerald, and Tennessee Williams.

George DeChant, Saranac Lake

“Notes from New Zealand,” Edward Kanze. Nice book by a local author.

Diane Minutilli, Gabriels

I have to second, or third, “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, it is incredibly moving,  fabulous nature writing, well articulates the intersection of spirit and nature. I have never read a book so slowly because I want to soak in every word. I was about to call about this book then I heard John’s review, he nailed it. I am buying copies for friends.

Beau Bushor, Croghan

“Amish Grace, How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy” by Donald Kraybill, Steven M Nolt, David Weaver-Zerche.  I want to send this book to the leaders of Israel & Hamas.

“I Will Stand with My Father”  by Irene Uttendorfsky. A book on Fort Stanwix, NY.

Rob Sproegell, Long Lake

Dawn is devouring Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, “The Signature of All Things.”

Jan Randy, Somewhere in Vermont

“The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making” by David Esterly

Author lives in our neighborhood and is a remarkable woodcarver.  This the story of how he came to his art and of a special project to restore carvings damaged in a fire in a historic English castle.  Skillfully written.  A valuable addition to the literature of craft. Look at his work here – http://davidesterly.com/

Kathleen O’Connor, Potsdam

“Introducing Post-modernism: A Graphic Guide,” by Richard Appignanesi with contributor Chris Garrett. (Note: Kathleen left a voicemail message recommending this book, explaining that she’s 80 years old and found this book so extraordinary and mind-expanding that she’s planning to give everyone in her family a copy of it. –Ellen)

Helen Condon, Parishville

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time,” by Mark Haddon. Recommended for teens and adults–opens up the world of autism.

Jane Toleno, Traveling through

My husband Tom & I have been traveling to places we’ve lived (from Big Lake, MN up through some of ON Province to Guelph & now on to Paul Smith’s where Tom will celebrate his 50 year forestry class reunion at Paul Smith’s College) before we head to PA, NJ, for other family & friends.

I sure appreciated scuffing through the radio static & finding your program, clear as bells, yesterday. I am an avid reader, published writer, & old enough to speak my mind & heart without hesitation. I love language & assisting children (our 7 grandchildren especially) to Story from their muscles & blood & skin & bones, hearts & minds – yeah! You get the drift.

As a reader who is blind, I do much of my reading through audio books.

Fabulous science:

Sam Kean’s 2 nonfiction titles: “The Violinist’s Thumb” and “The Disappearing Spoon.”

Fiction but superbly written on a science topic vital to me since I’m allergic to it: “A Fierce Radiance” by Lauren Belfer (about penicillin).

Since I’m a twin to whom the following could have happened, the following title shivers my What-If timbers.

“Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited” by Elyse Schein and Paula Berstein. About a late 1940s/early50s East coast adoption agency who convinced many parents of twins to separate them at birth, adopt them out, never tell or look back & how the twins discovered each other in adulthood.

Social Science:

“Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You” by Sam Gosling. Endorses & makes legitimate, the fine art of eavesdropping, my bread & butter when traveling by bus etc, & snooping.

History:

“The Tizard Mission: The Top-Secret Operation that Changed the Course of World War II” by Stephen Phelps.

“The Boys In The Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel James Brown. A superbly crafted account of specific young men’s lives, the rowing which knit them together & integrated them into a larger world where formidable social issues brewed – all of this served as a carefully documented backdrop for their rowing performance at the 1936 Olympics in Germany.

Literature & place:

Robert Macfarlane’s 2 titles: “The Wild Places” and “Old Ways: Journeys on Foot.”

“The Wild Marsh: Four Seasons at Home in Montana,” Rick Bass.

“The End of Night: Searching for Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light” by Paul Bogard.

“Acquainted with the Night” by Erica Abbott. This is such a coming together of lore, science, art, music, mystery & more about each hour of what we call night.

Fiction:

“The Midwife of Hope River” by Patricia Harman.

“Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline.

Michael Preis via email

“Winterdance, the Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod” is the most fun I have ever had reading a book. I highly recommend it for most age groups, say 12 and older, including adults. And of course it is timely since reading about cold weather may help cool us on hot days. :-) (We interviewed Paulsen a few years ago for our Readers & Writers program. Here’s the link.)

Lucinda Pytlak via email

Lorraine Duvall of Keene, NY has written a riveting first book entitled “And I Know Too Much to Pretend.”  How many of us wish that we could make a statement like that and mean it? We follow Ms. Duvall from her early childhood in Binghamton, NY to her first days spent in her beloved Adirondack Mountain home. We all know about discrimination on some level.  We hear about it in the news regarding various religious, gender or sexual issues.  Some of us may have experienced it on a more personal level. Ms. Duvall tells compelling stories of her encounters, ones that will shock those who came-of-age after feminism took root in the 60s and 70s.

Becky Pelton, North Creek Rafting

This summer I’m slowly re-reading a book I think everyone ought to read at least once a decade. It’s a book that takes a while to digest and seems like it was written by aliens watching us. The book is “Men are from Mars, Woman are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex” by John Gray. We’ve all heard of it and there’s a reason why. It provides a general framework for understanding the differences between men and women. With the understanding, we can increase effective communication and enjoyment of one another. As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “With understanding, those we love will certainly flower.”

Gene Tweraser

“A Passion for the True and Just: Felix and Lucy Kramer Cohen and the Indian New Deal”  by Alice Beck Kehoe deals with two people who loved the Adirondacks and had a summer home at Lake Clear.  The book is about  Native Americans, the Jewish tradition of moral obligation, anthropology and legal concepts.  Another recent book that discussed the Cohens is “The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left” by Landon R. Y. Storrs.  Both are well written historical narratives about a fascinating period in American history.

Steve Gotcher, Madison, WI (former NCPR Production Manager)

I am really enjoying the book, “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson.

Allen Fitz-Gerald

I just finished an astonishing nonfiction book that unearths new material on the American Revolution, titled “Col. William Marsh: Vermont Patriot & Loyalist” by Jennifer and Wilson Brown. Before Vermont became a state, New Yorkers claimed to own its land. They were fiercely opposed by Ethan Allen and other Green Mountain Boys, including Col. Marsh who played a major role but is little known because when the Continental Congress refused to admit Vermont into the Union and back their land claims against the Yorkers, Marsh gained support from the British and switched sides. His mixed legacy caused him to be largely ignored by historians, who tended to dismiss him as unpatriotic. This book corrects the complex record with documentation that is fascinating and superbly researched.

Pat Nelson (aka “Proud Mama”)

I have to start this with a declaration: The author whose books I am about to recommend, Darrell B. Nelson, is my son.

Teachers from Potsdam High School in the early ’80s may recognize the style of a student whose creative imagination some of them appreciated and which drove some of them up the wall. Some teachers, students, local business people and politicians may think they notice a resemblance to themselves. Some may be flattered, others may deny the possibility. (No negative portrayals can possibly refer to persons or aliens alive or dead, so don’t bother trying to sue.)

The book of short stories “Darrell’s Dark Dreams,” published last June in eBook form, is an easy beach or rainy day read for those who have run out of Stephen Kings. “I Killed the Man That Wasn’t There” is also a good collection of short stories for vacation reading.

The most recent “Mind Thief” and an earlier “An Extra Topping of Horror” are full-length novels, so they may be harder to abandon for a dip or a hike. If you find yourself fiendishly addicted, there are more of his books available on line.

Susan Hayden

Yes, “Where’d You Go Bernadette” by Maria Semple is indeed a hoot, and “The Signature of All Things” is a must read, as is “The Lowland”–both by Jhumpa Lahiri. Her elegant prose transports us to the streets of Calcutta during the Naxalite movement of the 1960′s and then to seaside Rhode Island as we follow the lives of two brothers and their families.  Engaging and enlightening. Don’t miss it.

Larry (location unknown)

“The Abandoned House By the River” a North Country mystery/tragedy.

 

Okay, readers. Keep those titles coming. Add via comment section or email ellen@ncpr.org and, of course, we’ll be back with another list-making show this fall.

Gardens: turning the mid-summer corner

The stump garden, featuring delphiniums (over 6 feet tall), sedum, bee balm, at The Hedges in Blue Mountain Lake. Photo (and garden): Virginia Jennings.

The stump garden at The Hedges in Blue Mountain Lake, created by Virginia Jennings for Pat Benton. Photo: Virginia Jennings.

We’re picking tomatoes from our garden and the early corn is getting very close (by August 1, I’m guessing). On the other hand, the flower gardens around my house are a wreck–a combination of trampling by chickens and our house painting operation, as well as my failure to keep up with weeding.

You all are sending me some amazing photos. The collection today is from the past week and includes gardens from Raquette Lake to Ogdensburg, Blue Mountain Lake to Saranac Lake. Scroll through, get inspired, and send me your garden photos for next week’s garden-tracking post: ellen@ncpr.org

Here are a few more photos from Virginia Jennings.

Canterbury Bells started from seed last year in Long Lake. Photo: Virginia Jennings

Canterbury Bells started from seed last year in Long Lake. Photo: Virginia Jennings

"Nana's Garden" in Long Lake. Photo: Virginia Jennings

“Nana’s Garden” in Long Lake. Photo: Virginia Jennings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another garden at The Hedges (in front of the dining room) in Blue Mountain Lake. Photo and garden: Viriginia Jennings

Another garden at The Hedges (in front of the dining room) in Blue Mountain Lake. Photo and garden: Viriginia Jennings

Tomatoes–not quite ripe in Ogdensburg, and getting going in Saranac Lake.

Backyard baby beefstakes. Photo: Dan Denney, Ogdensburg

Backyard baby beefstakes. Photo: Dan Denney, Ogdensburg

"It's ready!" Photo: Bobbie Karp, Saranac Lake

“It’s ready!” Photo: Bobbie Karp, Saranac Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a great photo from a couple of weeks ago, sent in by Tracy Santagate at Timberdown, Paul Smith’s.

"Garden Shower," watering nasturtiums, peas, beans, kale, spinach and lettuce. Photo: Tracy Santagate

“Garden Shower,” watering nasturtiums, peas, beans, kale, spinach and lettuce. Photo: Tracy Santagate

Here’s another charming photo from Tracy’s garden.

santagatechickscat1

Cat overseeing chickens at work. Photo: Tracy Santagate

 

 

The lilies this year have been stupendous. Lots of lily photos in last week’s post, but the rain has helped keep them going long and strong. Our garden photo friend Cassandra Corcoran from Monkton, Vermont faced a common problem: dealing with a garden that’s been left untended for a week or more because of vacation or work travel.

St. Regis lily (anonymous photographer and gardener)

St. Regis lily (anonymous photographer and gardener)

After 14 days of travel, I came home to my garden. Not looking too weedy. I missed the peas but the blueberries and currants are plentiful. Photo: Cassandra Corcoran, Monkton VT

After 14 days of travel, I came home to my garden. Not looking too weedy. I missed the peas but the blueberries and currants are plentiful. Photo: Cassandra Corcoran, Monkton VT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This past weekend, I visited station friends Jeffrey Sellon and Marilyn Burns on Raquette Lake. Jeffrey’s floating dock garden has some celebrity status, not only on its home lake but across the Adirondacks. Here’s what it looked like yesterday.

Jeffrey's floating greenhouse garden. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Jeffrey’s floating greenhouse garden. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Peering in...lots of green. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Peering in…lots of green. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Beans galore. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Beans galore. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Lettuce and one variety of kale. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Lettuce and one variety of kale. Photo: Ellen Rocco

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view of Raquette Lake over the purple kale. Photo: Ellen Rocco

The view of Raquette Lake over the purple kale. Photo: Ellen Rocco

Proud farmer. Jeffrey in front of the cuke trellis. (Note the cap.) Photo: Ellen Rocco

Proud farmer. Jeffrey in front of the cuke trellis. (Note the cap.) Photo: Ellen Rocco

Okay, you know what to do: snap those pictures and send them to ellen@ncpr.org, and remember to include your name and the town you live in.

Gardening tip of the week (this is actually the first time I’ve offered one of these): stay away from those bean plants when it’s wet.

“Older ladies” and feeling good at any age

Still from video "Older Ladies"

Still from video “Older Ladies

I happen to be on the high side of middle-age. So, naturally, a friend sent me Donnalou Stevens’ “Older Ladies.”

I loved its quirky, upbeat joie de vivre, and I hope you’ll like it too.

Apparently this is one of those “going viral” videos, so my apologies if you’ve seen it already. (Free MP3 download and lyrics are at her website.)

I can quibble with it a little. Gray hair and wrinkles look fine to me. But too much flab can be a health issue. So – without hating your body – I’d advocate putting at least a little effort into staying moderately fit too. And men (the poor dears) may be genetically hard-wired to appreciate younger, fertile forms, though they can probably chose to act on that or not. (More fodder for the “biology is destiny” debate!)

Curious about how that particular video was made, I found this interview with Stevens on something called “Boomerology Revealed TV: Live your life, not your age”.

In the Skype interview Stevens talks about things like catching up with new technology. She also opens up about learning the difference between pain and suffering, and how to not suffer even when she’s in pain.

That’s an important lesson to master at any age, even more so as joints ache and organs begin to fail. She is reportedly working on other songs, including one for older men.

So find your bliss, folks. And stay divine.

A bluegrass festival is so much more than the music

Greetings from the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, NY... just south of Albany, in the foothills of the Catskill mountains.   This is Del McCoury (on the JumboTron).  Yes, the photo is 'backwards'.  I was standing backstage behind the JumboTron, so all images were reversed.  Del turns 75 this year, and the Grey Fox crowd LOVED celebrating his milestone!

Greetings from the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, NY… just south of Albany, in the foothills of the Catskill mountains.
This is Del McCoury (on the JumboTron). Yes, the photo is ‘backwards’. I was standing backstage behind the JumboTron, so all images were reversed. Del turns 75 this year, and the Grey Fox crowd LOVED celebrating his milestone!

 

 

This festival is one of the largest I've ever attended.  Here's a portion of the campground, looking down from halfway up the hill to the main stage.  There are vendors and sponsor tents in the front row, with a sea of campsites in the background.  This is about 20% of the festival area, which includes 5 different stages (which run concurrently), plus thousands of campsites, and miles of parking spaces.

This festival is one of the largest I’ve ever attended. Here’s a portion of the campground, looking down from halfway up the hill to the main stage. There are vendors and sponsor tents in the front row, with a sea of campsites in the background. This is about 20% of the festival area, which includes 5 different stages (which run concurrently), plus thousands of campsites, and miles of parking spaces.

 

Then, there's the music!  This is The Dry Branch Fire Squad, the host band for this festival. I took this photo backstage, from one of the wings of this huge, portable stage.

Then, there’s the music! This is The Dry Branch Fire Squad, the host band for this festival. I took this photo backstage, from one of the wings of this huge, portable stage.

Here's what the main stage looks like from the back.  It's the big, dark 'box' in the back.  It's huge!  It arrives via tractor trailer, and unfolds into this huge stage, with lighting racks and side wings.  Pretty amazing.  Since I was one of the emcees, I got backstage access (and that's why all the photos are taken from behind the stage!).  The interesting pillared building on the left is the 'merch tent' - a temporary building that serves as the festival store:  T-shirts, cds, and all things band-related.

Here’s what the main stage looks like from the back. It’s the big, dark ‘box’ in the back. It’s huge! It arrives via tractor trailer, and unfolds into this huge stage, with lighting racks and side wings. Pretty amazing. Since I was one of the emcees, I got backstage access (and that’s why all the photos are taken from behind the stage!). The ID checkpoint is in the foreground of this photo. The interesting pillared building on the left is the ‘merch tent’ – a temporary building that serves as the festival store: T-shirts, cds, and all things band-related.

 

Meanwhile, over at the dance tent, the Carolina Chocolate Drops are bringing the house down!  Again, I'm backstage, looking out at the crowd.  In subsequent photos, you'll see this tent as the one with all the points on top.  This tent is rockin' all day and night with great dance music - and even daily dance lessons!

Meanwhile, over at the dance tent, the Carolina Chocolate Drops are bringing the house down! Again, I’m backstage, looking out at the crowd. In subsequent photos, you’ll see this tent as the one with all the points on top. This tent is rockin’ all day and night with great dance music – and even daily dance lessons!

Here's Elephant Revival, also packing 'em in the dance tent.  Their set was great - and Bonnie Paine - the woman in the pink dress - played the washboard in special 'washboard gloves', while playing percussion with her feet (on a stomp board).  Listen to String Fever to hear some of their music!

Here’s Elephant Revival, also packing ‘em in the dance tent. Their set was great, and Bonnie Paine – the woman in the pink dress – played the washboard in special ‘washboard gloves’, while playing percussion with her feet (on a stomp board). Listen to String Fever to hear some of their music!

 

Meanwhile, over at the Creekside stage, Bluegrass Karaoke is taking center stage.  Meet Lucy, an amateur performer who also facilitates morning yoga at the Grey Fox Festival.  Like I said, there's a lot more here than just the music!

Meanwhile, over at the Creekside stage, Bluegrass Karaoke is taking center stage. Meet Lucy, an amateur performer who also facilitates morning yoga at the Grey Fox Festival. Like I said, there’s a lot more here than just the music!

Click below to hear Lucy singing Blue Moon Of Kentucky, backed up by the Grey Fox Karaoke House Band:

1 BGKaraoke GF14

 

I'm on my way back up to the main stage, past  the vendors and port-a-potties.

I’m on my way back up to the main stage, past the vendors and port-a-potties.

There are all sorts of vendors at festivals: clothing, instruments, and accessories.
I was attracted to the Blue Chip Pick display…. Here’s some of our conversation about these very high end picks:

BLUECHIP

Then I wandered past a photo display – and saw photos of last night’s performance.  I was curious, so I met Dave, the mastermind behind Gypsy Shooter, a mobile photography studio:

BGGYPSY

I wrapped up my little tour of vendors’ row with a stop at the Woodrow instrument booth.  Rather than try to describe the Woodrow to you, I’ll let JT Turner do it:

WOODROW

 

Up in the sky -- hard to see, but it's a huge flying pig!  Oh yeah, the clouds are nice, too.  The pig is that little dot on the right, just above the horizon.  Why didn't I think to bring a flying pig with me?

Up in the sky — hard to see, but it’s a huge flying pig! Oh yeah, the clouds are nice, too. The pig is that little dot on the right, just above the horizon. Why didn’t I think to bring a flying pig with me?

 

There's a lot of walking at this festival, but so many nice people to meet along the way!  This family is getting ready for a full night of music under the stars... but first, the long haul from the parking field to the big stage.  Everybody helps.....

There’s a lot of walking at this festival, but so many nice people to meet along the way! This family is getting ready for a full night of music under the stars… but first, the long haul from the parking field to the big stage. Everybody helps…..

 

 

Meet the glitter fairy!  She sprinkles almost everyone with 'fairy dust'.  If she gets you, you'll glitter all night.  She's one of many roving artists and characters at this festival - there's never a dull moment!

Meet the glitter fairy! She sprinkles almost everyone with ‘fairy dust’. If she gets you, you’ll glitter all night. She’s one of many roving artists and characters at this festival.

... more climbing.... again.  Camping is down the hill.  Food is up the hill.  Simple as that.  Count on at least a few trips up and down each day.

… more climbing…. again. Camping is down the hill. Food is up the hill. Simple as that. Count on at least a few trips up and down each day.

Meet Shelly, our assistant stage manager.  When she's not  volunteering at this festival, she's a veterinarian in Baltimore, MD.  There are so many interesting people here!

Meet Shelly, our assistant stage manager. When she’s not volunteering at this festival, she’s a veterinarian in Baltimore, MD. There are so many interesting people here!  Shelly does everything that’s needed:  she picks up musicians at the gate and delivers them (and their instruments) to the stage area.  She also transports performers from one stage to another (did I mention there are five stages here?).  She delivers food.  She reads minds.  She delivers whatever’s needed.  She usually has a radio in one hand, and cell phone in the other.  Her job is a VERY busy one.

 

 

Now that it's dark, it's easier to see how big this stage is.  The performers are on the right - that glowing blob - and the entire audience gets a close-up view on the JumboTron.  There's  one on each side of the stage.

Now that it’s dark, it’s easier to see how big this stage is. The performers are on the right – that glowing blob – and the entire audience gets a close-up view on the JumboTron. There’s one on each side of the stage.

... and there's Del McCoury again, with his whole band - on the Jumbo screen.

… and there’s Del McCoury again, with his whole band – on the Jumbo screen.

It was our lucky night!  There were fireworks in nearby Oak Hill!  This display lasted over half an hour -- too bad the performers couldn't see it.  It all took place behind the stage, but it was fabulous!

It was our lucky night! There were fireworks in nearby Oak Hill! This display lasted over half an hour — too bad the performers couldn’t see it. It all took place behind the stage, but it was fabulous!

 

 

... and all too soon, it's over.  Because I emcee until the very end of the festival, there's no traffic jam by the time I'm ready to leave.  It's hard to imaging thousands of people, and so many structures, coming and going within a week.  By the time you read this post, all the big top tents, the main stage, and all the other temporary structures will be gone.  So will the people... until next year.  I hope I'll see you there!

… and all too soon, it’s over. Because I emcee until the very end of the festival, there’s no traffic jam by the time I’m ready to leave. It’s hard to imagine thousands of people- and so many structures- coming and going within a week. By the time you read this post, all the big top tents, the main stage, and all the other temporary structures will be gone. So will the people… until next year. I hope I’ll see you there!

Tune in to String Fever every Thursday at 3 pm to hear great bluegrass and acoustic music, and to find out where all your favorite musicians (and bands) are playing!

Of course, if you – or your band – has a gig, just email the details to me: Barb@ncpr.org.

 

 

 

 

A matter of substance

It’s getting around to the time of the year when people–well, a few people anyway–ask me what I might like for my birthday. This never used to be a difficult question. I lusted after stuff. There were always at least a dozen albums on my gotta-have-that list, then there was the gear category, and the book category–two categories, actually–cheap guilty pleasures and expensive collector’s editions, and there was the art category–pottery, paintings, prints, photos…

But ask me these days and my mind kind of goes blank. Got nothin’. Have I achieved a state of enlightenment transcending material possessions? Unlikely. Am I trying to reduce my carbon footprint? A little maybe, but not by cutting back on greenhouse-gas emitting works of art. Instead, I think it’s the growing lack of substance in the former objects of my lust, and in the disappearance of the physical institutions that fed and informed my desires.

Old school music lust. Photo: Chris Fraser, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Old school music lust. Photo: Chris Fraser, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

As an example, the paraphernalia of music used to be as important as the music itself. Bulky shelving to house the vinyl, cover art and poster art for the walls. There were extensive liner notes and a basket of music magazines to study. And the quality and size and power of your stereo components spoke volumes of your station in life. More space in the living room belonged to music than to overstuffed furniture.

An important part of having company or being company was the opportunity to browse another’s collection, to admire or scoff or discuss or recommend albums and bands and venues and songwriters and radio stations. There was bin-diving at the long-vanished neighborhood record store and those heartfelt discussions with the opinionated mavens behind the counter. There were obscure foreign releases and bootlegs.

And what do I have now? An iPod in my phone, earbuds and a few apps, a one-click purchase account at Amazon and iTunes. My phone is exactly the same as the one the lame guy who only listens to Nashville Top 40 has. I would never know that important bit of information about him because I use my earbuds and he uses his.

The music that was once part of the public persona is now privatized. The part that was actual and in-person is now relegated to social media. I rarely have a chance to show it off, I can’t lend my music to anyone, and there’s nowhere (in the physical world) to go for recommendation and discovery. It’s just me and an algorithm based on previous purchases. The entirety of the music apparatus in my life is now small enough to get lost in the couch cushions. It’s all gotten pretty insubstantial.

Hmm. I guess what I do know what I want for my birthday–a time machine.