May 24, 2014 at 6:35 pm #453454
Picked up Orson Scott Card’s newest novel Earth Afire, a prequel to Ender’s Game. Also, The Long Earth by Pratchett and Baxter.Need a break from my history obsessions.May 26, 2014 at 11:34 am #453455
[quote=”GhostOrchid”]ATM I’m reading Mary Stuart by Friedrich Schiller and The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
I’ve read that play. Hope you enjoy it and would love to hear what you think.
I’ve finished reading and think it’s a magnificent play.
I’d love to see it somewhere on stage soon.May 27, 2014 at 11:18 am #453456
Glad you liked it! I’d go to see the play as well.May 28, 2014 at 7:09 am #453457
Another sad loss in the literary world.
Maya Angelou dies at age 86
Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY 9:48 a.m. EDT May 28, 2014
Poet and essayist Maya Angelou died Wednesday at the age
of 86, according to reports in her hometown of Winston-Salem.
Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines told WFMY News 2 that
Angelou’s caregiver found her dead in her home Wednesday morning.
Angelou is best known for her award-winning-writing,
including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Angelou was a high school dropout who went to become a
professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.
She was an American Study herself. “I have created
myself,” she told USA TODAY in 2007, “I have taught myself so
Aneglou defied simple labels. She was a walking list of
careers and passions: in addition to her books, she was an actress, director,
playwright, composer, singer, and dancer. And if that wasn’t enough, she once
worked as a madam in a brothel and as the first female and first black street
car conductor in San Francisco.
She was best known for the first of her six memoirs, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970),
still widely read in schools. She described being raped at 7 and becoming an
unwed mother at 17. (Her son, Guy Johnson, a poet and novelist, is her only
Her formal education ended in high school. But she was
awarded more than 30 honorary degrees from colleges. She insisted on being
called “Dr. Angelou.”
In November 2013, at the age of 85, Angelou stole the
show at the National Book Awards in New York when she was presented an award
for “Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.” She was
introduced that night by her friend, author Toni Morrison, who said of Angelou,
“Suffering energized and strengthened her, and her creative impulse struck
like bolts of lightning.”
From her wheelchair, Angelou dazzled the crowd by singing
a verse of a spiritual: “When it looked like it wouldn’t stop raining, God
put a rainbow in the clouds.”
She then told the ballroom full of writers, editors, and
publishers: “You are the rainbow in my clouds.” To laughter and
applause, she added, that “easy reading is damn hard writing.” In
reviewing her career, she said, “For over 40 years, I have tried to tell
the truth as I understand it . . . I haven’t tried to tell everything I know,
but I’ve tried to tell the truth.”
In January 2014, after the death of South African leader
Nelson Mandela—who had read aloud Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise, at his 1994 presidential inauguration—she published His Day Is Done, a poetic tribute to
Mandela commissioned by the U.S. State Department.
It reads in part: “The news came on the wings of a
wind/Reluctant to carry its burden./Nelson Mandela’s day is done.”
In her 2002 memoir, A
Song Flung Up to Heaven, Angelou wrote of her friendship with writer James
Baldwin: “Once after we had spent an afternoon talking and drinking with a
group of white writers in a downtown bar, he said he liked that I could hold my
liquor and my positions. He was pleased that I could defend Edgar Allan Poe and
ask serious questions about Willa Cather.”
It was Baldwin who prodded Bob Loomis, an editor at
Random House, to prod Angelou to write an autobiography, which she was
reluctant to do.
As Angelou told the story, Loomis called several times
before challenging: “You may be right not to attempt an autobiography
because it is nearly impossible to write autobiography as literature. Almost
Angelou added, “Jimmy (Baldwin) must have told him to say
that, Jimmy would know how I would react to being told, ‘You can’t . . . ’.”
Later, Loomis said of her, “Maya is her books.”
She put it in broader terms: “I am a writer. Every
writer is his or her books. Just as every singer is the song, while you’re
doing it. The dancer is the dance.”
She wrote and delivered a poem at President Clinton’s
1993 inaugural. Her recording of that poem, On
the Pulse of Morning, won a Grammy.
She also had a deal with Hallmark to write short poems
and thoughts for greeting cards, pillows, and other gift items. For that, she
was lampooned on Saturday Night Live.
But she shrugged off her critics, as if she was used to
being a target. “By the time I was 14, I was 6 feet tall,” she told
USA TODAY. “I’ve never been able to hide.”
And what’s wrong, she asked, “with wanting to put
poetry in people’s hands, even if they’re not going to buy a book?”
Many critics and scholars say her prose was better than
her poetry, despite its popularity and the large crowds she drew to public
readings, which she gave in a strong, mellifluous Southern accent.
The poem she wrote for the lighting of the White House
Christmas Tree in 2005, Amazing Peace,
reached No. 12 on USA TODAY’s Best-selling Books list. That’s foreign territory
for most poetry.
Even if her poems didn’t receive much serious critical
attention, they were “sassy,” William Sylvester wrote in the 2001
edition of Contemporary Poets. When
“we hear her poetry, we listen to ourselves.”
Most of all, she was a survivor. The best of her writing
reminded Yale scholar Harold Bloom of how “the early black Baptists in
America spoke of ‘the little me within the big me,’ almost the last vestige of
the spirituality they carried with them on the Middle Passage from
Angelou’s voice, Bloom says, “speaks to something in
the American ‘little me within the big me,’ white and black and whatever, that
can survive dreadful experiences because the deepest self is beyond experience
and cannot be violated.”
Her early childhood was grim. She was 3 years old when
her parents divorced in Long Beach, Calif. Her father sent her and her
4-year-old brother alone by train to live with his mother in segregated Stamps,
Ark., “a town almost that size,” as Angelou put it.
At 7, as she later wrote, she went to St. Louis to visit
her mother, who was “too beautiful to have children.” Angelou
described how she was first lovingly cuddled, then raped by her mother’s
boyfriend, “a breaking and entering when even the senses are torn
When the man was murdered by her uncles, Angelou felt
responsible. She stopped talking to everyone but her brother for five years,
even as she came to love stories and poems, reading everyone from Langston
Hughes to Charles Dickens.
Finally, at 12, a teacher got her to speak again.
In 2008, she told USA TODAY, “I’m not a writer who
teaches. I’m a teacher who writes. But I had to work at Wake Forest to know
She described the joy she found in a classroom: “I
see all those little faces and big eyes. Black and white. They look like
sparrows in the nest. They look up, with their mouths wide open and I try to
drop in everything I know.”
In 1954, she toured the world in the cast of Porgy and Bess. In 1960, she and
comedian Godfrey Cambridge produced and starred in Cabaret Freedom, a benefit performance for Martin Luther King’s
Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She later served as its Northern
From 1963 to 1966, she taught music and dance at the
University of Ghana. In 1977, she was nominated for an Emmy for her role in Roots, the TV miniseries.
She also wrote nine children’s books, 13 collections of
poetry, four collections of essays, adapted I
Know Why the Caged Bird Sings for CBS in 1979, narrated the 1996 video, Elmo Saves Christmas, and complied a
cookbook in 2004, Hallelujah! The Welcome
She dedicated her 1993 essay collection, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now,
to Oprah Winfrey, who hosted grand birthday parties for Angelou. In 1997,
Oprah’s Book Club chose Angelou’s The
Heart of a Woman, the fourth of her memoirs.
In A Song Flung Up
to Heaven, she circled back to the events that led her to begin her first
book and dealt with the assassinations of Malcolm X in 1965 and King in 1968.
(She knew them both.)
Each of her books “took on a life of its own,”
she said. But at the end, she wanted to avoid “writing about writing.
Unless you’re Marcel Proust, that would be dense.”
She split her time between a restored 12-room townhouse
in Harlem, and a 18-room house in Wake Forest, N.C.
Even after writing six books about her life, Angelou
carefully guarded her privacy. After two divorces, she would say little about a
man she never married, a South African freedom fighter she called “my
In the early ’60s, they lived together in Egypt, where
she worked as a journalist. “He was the man I felt had taken the heart out
of my body and worn it boldly on his shoulder like an epaulette, and I had
adored him,” she wrote, but he goes unnamed in A Song Flung Up to Heaven.
Angelou said, “He’s dead, I’m sorry to say, but he
has children and grandchildren” who deserve privacy. “I know I live
in a world that wants to know everything.”
Her response to that world: “Make sure what you say
is the truth, but don’t tell everything you know.”
May 29, 2014 at 6:09 am #453458
Read the script of John Robin Baitz’s engrossing play Other Desert Cities.
Recently started working my way through Betty Webb’s Scottsdale-set Desert mystery series (Desert Noir, Desert Wives, Desert Cut, etc.). She’s a former investigative journalist and plots mysteries around topics she’s thoroughly researched like polygamist sects, child mutilation cults and so on. They have a real insider feel.May 29, 2014 at 12:37 pm #453459
Please tell me “child mutilation” sects were swallowed up by a natural disaster! I am assuming we’re not talking about ear piercings but clitoral excisions and other unspeakable mutilations????May 29, 2014 at 12:46 pm #453460
^^You are correct. But the bad guys always get theirs in the end. One particularly vicious bastard kidnapped our intrepid heroine and took her into the desert, but he was the one who ended up dying of dehydration and being ripped apart by coyotes.May 29, 2014 at 2:01 pm #453461
Thank you. I dont feel sorry for the guy.May 29, 2014 at 4:35 pm #453462
Therese Raquin by Emile ZolaMay 29, 2014 at 7:50 pm #453463
Finally finished “The Plot Against America” by Philip Roth. Very engrossing and inventive historical/speculative fiction. I couldn’t get enough of this novel really. I’ll start on more Roth works as soon as I can this year, most likely with “Portnoy’s Complaint.”
Next up for me is “The Interestings” by Meg Wolitzer, followed by “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou.June 1, 2014 at 7:27 pm #453464
The Casual Vacancy by J. K. RowlingJune 3, 2014 at 8:45 pm #453465
Concurrently also reading:
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth KolbertJune 7, 2014 at 10:33 am #453466
River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Candice Millard: Almost done with it but honestly I was expecting to be wowed and I’m just kinda meh about it. I LOVED the journey to South America parts but other than that it just is very “and then this happened” and “something bad happened BUT they got past it”.June 14, 2014 at 11:21 am #453467
Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella GibbonsJune 21, 2014 at 10:11 am #453468
The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly. I love this series. It’s so brilliantly crafted in terms of twists and turns and the writing is just so good. The first two in the seris were great. The third…..eh. This one is great.