Sunday, September 05, 2021

Travelogue: Labor Day - Birding in Steamboat Springs

I've been reading Steve Burrows' Birder Murder mystery series for a few years now and so when I happened to see that he was a special guest speaker at this year's Yampa Valley Crane Festival, I suddenly knew what we were doing this Labor Day weekend.

Four days in beautiful Steamboat Springs (which I hadn't visited in probably 12 or more years) with day trips north and west to track down migrating Sand Hill Cranes. A few years ago, we went to Kearney, NE for the spring SH Crane migration and were expecting to see fields with 1000s of birds as we saw in Kearney. Not so for the fall migration, where the lovebirds (they mate for life) head south in small family units and are much more difficult to find.

Carbo-loading for the long trip south

The first day we did a pontoon boat excursion on Steamboat Lake and saw a couple of cranes as well as pelicans and a Black Tern (mostly white, but then common bird names are almost always misleading) and various other water fowl. 

Crane and pelican sharing the same shore

We then headed back to Steamboat for Steve Burrows' talk, which was exceptionally good. Nice dry humor as befits a Birmingham-born writer. He talked about birding in Canada and Asia and the genesis and evolution of his Birder Murder series. Newsflash: a TV series (joint Canadian/UK production) is in the works for release next year. And, he is working on book 7, with a contract for books 7, 8, and 9. I'm currently reading book 5, A Tiding of Magpies, and picked up book 6, A Dance of Cranes. I suspect this title put him on the short list of guest speakers for the Crane Festival!

Day 2 involved an early morning trip to the ghost town of Mt Harris where the museum curator from Hayden gave a talk on the leveled former coal-mining town while birding guides helped the group find some amazing birds, including a gorgeous Golden Eagle, a flotilla of 36 Common Mergansers cruising the Yampa River, and a dogfight between a Magpie and a Cooper's Hawk. 

How many mergansers does it take to fill a river?

Today we decided to sleep in and got a late start (9 am) after breakfast and tracked cranes on our own, with surprising success. Plus we visited the Yampa Valley State Park for a lovely walk along the river, and then searched high and low for a lunch place that was open (on Sunday) and not fast food. We ended up at the Yampa Valley Brewing Company with sandwiches from the local market and a couple of glasses of their own Sand Hill Crane Red.

Adult Osprey feeding two juveniles who clearly should be fending for themselves by now.

Speaking of food, we have had spectacular luck with our dining choices in Steamboat. Here are my favorites should you venture this way.

Besame - Latin tapas with great ambiance, first rate--my favorite way to eat, share small plates

Table 79 - also a winner for dinner, with ice-cold Prosecco to start

Salt and Lime - tacos for lunch, yummm

Creekside Cafe and Grill - absolutely great breakfast, lattes, benedicts, corned beef hash, yes, please!


Sunday, August 29, 2021

August Roundup

 Dog days of summer--garden harvest--shorter days--cooking, again, finally.

Over the past two weekends, I have made salsa, pickled beets, braised carrots and processed carrots for the freezer, zucchini bread, roasted tomato soup, and croutons for the soup--using tomatoes, peppers, onions, shallots, garlic, carrots, beets, and zucchini from the garden. All this while telling a neighbor that "I just don't cook anymore!" Go figure!

Oh, yes, and I've been reading. Here's my potpourri.


A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II, by Sonia Purnell - this is one of the best books of 2021. Could not put it down. Virginia Hall was incredible--brave, passionate, capable. She persisted. Despite a prosthetic leg. Despite the old boys network. Despite the Gestapo, betrayals, and red tape, she really, truly helped liberate France and end WWII. This is non-fiction at its finest. I started out listening to an audio version but switched to print because there are a lot of names and locations and organizations to keep track of, but a truly marvelous read. A perfect companion book to Code Name Helene.

Virginia Hall - she persisted!


My Place at the Table: A Recipe for a Delicious Life in Paris, by Alexander Lobrano - another non-fiction, but this time a memoir. Really enjoyed this for the love of food, the love of Paris and France, and the insights into life as a journalist. Just a few years older than me, I recognized the world of Lobrano's childhood, the prejudices, the need to fit square pegs in round holes, the need to smooth over trauma and pretend everything was always all right. Poignant, interesting, and mouth-watering!

The Last Detective, by Peter Lovesey - attention Austen fans! This one's for you. Set in Bath in the 1990s, this is the first in the author's Peter Diamond mystery series. Peter Diamond is okay--not my favorite mystery solver, but the reason I read the book was for the Jane Austen connection. The mystery hinges on some letters that Austen wrote while living in Bath that surface and then disappear. Solving the mystery means finding those letters! Great fun. Not great literature, but fun nonetheless.




Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Birds, Beasts and Relatives - Gerald Durrell

 


A couple of years ago I fell in love with the Durrell family via the TV series The Durrells of Corfu and in particular Gerry, the precocious child naturalist whose trilogy memoirs formed the basis of the series.

Birds, Beasts and Relatives is the second book in the trilogy, and it was absolutely delightful to read. Normally, I am a read-the-book first person, but in this case I liked having the cast of the TV series in my head as I read about histrionic Larry, gun-loving Leslie, fun-loving Margo, hapless Mother, and, of course, charming Gerry. 


I adored Theodore, Gerry's mentor as a naturalist, and his quirks, interests, and dapper style. Sven was also in the book, as was Spiro, who adopts the Durrells and guides them through life in Corfu. The Countess is also in the book, but only slightly--there is a more fully developed story for her in the series, but then maybe that part is included in the third book in the trilogy, The Garden of the Gods, which I plan to read next year.

I loved the family's adventures sailing and picnicing, harvesting olives, attending local festivals and community events, and all of the weird and wonderful animals Gerry collects, watches, studies, and loves. I also love his willingness to make friends with everyone, from prisoners on furlough to local fishermen who take him night fishing so that he can find new aquatic species.

I gave this book 5 stars on GoodReads because it was so incredibly enjoyable to read and Durrell is really an excellent writer, painting gorgeous word pictures of life in Corfu in the 1930s. If only I had a time machine, I'd be there in a minute!

This book, first published in 1969, qualifies for the 2021 Back to the Classics Challenge in the category of classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Pictures from Italy - Charles Dickens


For the Back to the Classics 2021 category, Adventure or Travel, I had a couple of possibilities but landed on Pictures from Italy, by Charles Dickens.

In 1844, after the disappointing reception of Martin Chuzzlewit and more expenses than income, Dickens and his already large family (wife and 5 children and sister-in-law) went to live in Italy for 18 months.

Pictures from Italy recounts his journey from London to Paris and then through France to Genoa, where the family lived while Dickens traveled around Italy with and without other family members. It was in Genoa that he wrote one of his Christmas stories, The Chimes. Other than that, the travelogue that became Pictures from Italy was the only writing, apart from letters, that he did during this time.

Much as I love Italy and reading about traveling in Italy, I found this mostly a somewhat tedious book that could have benefitted from editing. Some of the chapters are quite short (just a handful of pages) while others are very long (Rome clocks in at 46 pages and covers a variety of topics that could have been broken into more digestible parts). I got the feeling that Dickens simply handed over his travel notes to his publisher and moved on to his next long fictional project, Dombey and Son.

What I found most interesting were the parts where I could glimpse future works, particularly Little Dorrit, when the Dorrit family travels to Venice, traversing the Alps. Dickens also witnessed and slavishly recounts the beheading of a criminal, which I am sure informed such scenes in A Tale of Two Cities.

I found his disdain of the Catholicism of the Italians off-putting--respecting the faith of the locals is the least one can do when visiting their country--and he observed with what I thought was an arrogant eye. 

I did love and appreciate the feelings of awe he had when visiting the Colosseum and the Forum in Rome, and like him, I couldn't get enough of them either. Same when he visited Pompeii, although his trip up Vesuvius and back down was harrowing to the point of disbelief.

His writing on Naples was the most Dickenesque of the entire book. He does paint a vivid, if chaotic, picture full of color and motion and drama. In fact, the writing did get better as the book progressed, with the last sections far superior to the beginning. It just needed editing and structure--I really felt like I was reading his notes.

Map of Charles Dickens' Travels throughout 1844-1845

The other interesting thing about reading this particular book is that Italy was undergoing tremendous change at this time, having experienced revolutions in the 1820s and 1830s, and moments away from plunging into the Risorgimento, or Italian unification, that really got underway in 1848 and was a reality by 1871. 

This is another one of those books that I'm glad I read, but may not feel the urge to reread. That said, Dickens' descriptions of Genoa and Verona have made me definitely add them to my next trip to Italy, so I may dip into this book again to refresh my memory with what he visited so that I can retrace his steps to some degree.



Friday, July 30, 2021

Midsummer Roundup


It's that time again...snippets about books read that I haven't blogged about yet. Thank goodness I can refer to my GoodReads Read list!

The Rose Code, by Kate Quinn - excellent fictional companion to The Code Girls. The Code Girls (non-fiction) is about American WWII codebreakers and The Rose Code is about English ones, but the work and issues are similar. I loved the characters of The Rose Code, from socialite Osla who dated the future Duke of Edinburgh and who was based on the real-life Osla Benning to working girl Mab from London's East End to mousey Beth, and how they grew and developed and matured. The Bletchley Park setting was fascinating (now on my must-visit list) as was the process of code breaking. I loved reading about how the various departments contributed to the whole, mostly without the cogs in the machinery having an understanding of what role their cog played. Final note--the best part of the book is last third. Reads like a thriller!

Enigma, by Robert Harris - it feels like I'm doing a short course on WWII codebreaking, but midway through The Rose Code I decided to reread Enigma, about...you guessed it, WWII codebreaking at Bletchley Park. I know I read Enigma once upon a time, but it must've been when the kids were babies because I remembered none of it. Again, interesting setting and work and interesting characters, although this time 99% of the characters were male, so it was a different kind of story than that of The Rose Code.

A Cast of Falcons, by Steve Burrows - book 3 in the author's Birder Murder series and a terrific mystery that takes our hero, Detective Chief Inspector Dominic Jejune, from his beloved Saltmarsh in Norfork to Scotland and back with plenty of birding along the way. Dom's mysterious brother is a central figure in this book and is a charming addition. Hope we see more of him in future stories.

Booked to Die, by John Dunning - another reread, but I did remember bits and pieces of this one! Set in Denver, Cliff Janeway is a police detective with an eye and love for rare books. In the course of the mystery, he takes the leap from disgruntled employee to entreprenuer, opening his own rare book store in Denver's Book Row neighborhood. It was great fun reading about Denver, Evergreen, and even Longmont in a book-centric book. This is the first in the Cliff Janeway series, and I'm planning on reading the rest in the series. Cliff Janeway is very, very similar to Lovejoy, the British antiques dealer who stumbles upon murder after murder.

Faithful, by Alice Hoffman - I read this with the GoodReads group, True Book Talk, and it was absolutely excellent. Hoffman is a prolific author, and I've only read one other by her, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, which was okay but Faithful is far the superior book. Early on, it reminded me of The Horse Whisperer in that a young girl survives an accident that leaves her friend dead and must dig her way out of the grief and guilt that nearly buries her alive. I absolutely loved the main character, Shelby, and the NYC setting for most of the book. As much as anything else, this is a coming of age story in which Shelby matures as she rebuilds her life and constructs a family out of the strays (canine and human) that she rescues and that rescue her. I'm still not altogether sure how the title fits the story, but it has been interesting thinking about the word faithful and all that it implies when analyzed.

And now it's on to the dog days of summer, headed up to the mountains for a little break, but packing a case full of books to read while I enjoy the flowers and fruits of the season.

Hope you all stay well and remember to read on!

Sunday, July 25, 2021

To Sir, With Love

To Sir, With Love, by E.R. Braithwaite is the classic I choose for the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, Person of Color) author category for the 2021 Back to the Classics challenge.

First published in 1959, To Sir, With Love is the memoir about the author's experiences as a Black man teaching high school in London shortly after WWII. Braithwaite was born in the British colony, Guyana, and was Oxford-educated and served in the RAF as a pilot during the war. After the war, Braithwaite tried to find work in London as an engineer but no one would hire him once they met him and discovered he wasn't white.

He finally found a job as a teacher in an East End school that had a very liberal headmaster who was able to see past Braithwaite's skin color. 

The memoir covers Braithwaite's struggles to find work, his early days as a teacher, learning by doing and treating the rowdy, rough children in his care with respect and challenging them to treat him with respect in return. It also covers his relationships with the other teachers as well as some of the parents of his students and his struggles to find housing and the discrimination he felt in almost every aspect of daily life. 

I admired Braithwaite's persistence and faith in his own intelligence, code of conduct, and capacity to loved and be loved. I found his courting a fellow teacher who was white to be fascinating. As isolated as he was because of the color of his skin, he had the courage to fall in love with a woman who shared his interests despite the stigma and danger involved in mixed-race relationships.

I think my favorite scene is when Braithwaite takes his class to the Victoria and Albert museum. Not only was it interesting to see how the children responded to the field trip, given that none had every had an experience like that, but it also showed how poor children are discriminated against as well and people of color. 

To Sir, With Love is a marvelous book, 5 stars on GoodReads, and clearly articulates the pain and frustration that is inevitable with systemic rascism. Even after Braithwaite became beloved by his students and accepted by his peers, the rascim and prejudice never went away. 


Once again, the movie version starring Sidney Poitier is a classic in its own right, and one that I have yet to watch, though I have had the title song from the movie, sung by Lulu, running through my head pretty continuously since I started reading the book.


Sunday, July 18, 2021

Big Book Summer Challenge - The Winter King, Perdita, and Lionheart



I am happy to report that I have three books finished that qualify for the Big Book Summer Challenge, hosted by Sue of Book by Book.

The Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England, by Thomas Penn. I've read a fair amount about Henry VIII and his children, but I knew very little about his father, Henry VII. 

This was a great book, chock full of interesting aspects of Renaissance Europe, English/Scottish history, and very readable. It was also a real treat to read about Catherine of Aragon while watching The Spanish Princess, which is based on a Philippa Gregory novel, who plays fast and loose with history, but it was still fun to watch the show while reading the history.


Henry VII, his mother Margaret Beaufort, and young Henry VIII, as portrayed in The Spanish Princess

The Winter King gets its title from the idea that Henry VIII as a young man represented such promise for England--young, handsome, personable, educated, devout, athletic--in other words, he was the Spring of a new dynasty that would bring peace and prosperity to a country that had been consumed by civil wars (the War of the Roses) for generations. Winter comes before Spring, hence HVII was the Winter king, older, less handsome, not personable but crafty and cunning, not athletic--he usurped the thone and was never beloved, though he was feared and grudingly respected. 

Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson, by Paula Byrne, was absolutely wonderful. Another non-fiction, it was the JASNA Denver/Boulder bookclub selection for our July meeting, and it was great fun to discuss it with other Janeites who enjoy learning about Georgian and Regency history. 

Mary was a Bristol-born beauty who was married at age 15, became an actress mentored and trained by the great David Garrick, captured the attention of the teenaged Prince of Wales (later George IV) and became his mistress, left the stage, had affairs with a variety of men, and became a fashion icon until her mid-twenties. It was then that she contracted rhuematic fever, which made her lame for the rest of her life. She then embarked on a literary career, wrote poetry, essays, gothic novels, was close friends with William Godwin (Mary Wollstonecraft's widowed husband) and Coleridge, and wrote her memoirs in which she told her side of the story and which her daughter finished after her death at the young age of 43.

Mary was a fascinating person and every bit as much of a celebrity in her day as Princess Diana was in the 1980s and 1990s. Sadly, her literary efforts sunk to oblivion during the Victorian era and only resurfaced in the 1990s. Now scholars give Mary credit for her contributions to poetry, particularly in the innovative use of metre that influenced her contempories such as Coleridge and his ilk.

There's an absolutely great lecture on YouTube in which the presenter discusses Mary Robinson in detail, covering much of the same material in the biography, though not to the same depth.

My third big book is a novel, Lionheart, by Sharon Kay Penman, who passed away in January of this year. Lionheart is the fourth in Penman's chronicles of the early Plantagent kings, this one focused on Richard I, son of Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine. It takes place mostly in Otremer, or the Holy Land, and recounts Richard's role in the Third Crusade in which European Christian forces tried to recapture Jerusalem from Saladin.



Unlike Philippa Gregory, Penman exhibits a slavish devotion to historical accuracy and this book reflects that devotion in that there are a lot of characters and a lot of relationships, feuds, and ambitions to keep straight, but I loved it!

I especially loved reading about Joanna, Richard's youngest sister and Queen of Sicily, as well as Berengaria of Navarre, whom Richard married enroute to the Holy Land. Both women accompany him and the Crusaders and seeing the world through their eyes was a nice contrast to the seemingly endless battles.

I also absolutely loved two of Richard's kinsmen, Morgan (Welsh cousin and son of the marvelous Ranulf of the earlier books) and Henri, son of Richard's sister Marie. They were personable, interesting, and charming.

I learned so much about medieval warfare, the politics of the Crusades, Saladin and his army, the geography and landscape of Otremer. Penman is such an excellent storyteller, giving her characters such authentic voices without imbuing them with modern sensibilities.



Next up in the series is A King's Ransom, which presumbably is about Richard's capture and imprisonment on his way home from the Crusade.

I have a couple more big books on the horizon, so I might get a couple more under my belt before Labor Day.

Happy reading.


Sunday, June 27, 2021

Travelogue: Maine (Acadia NP and Down East)

One of the casualties of 2020 was a planned 2.5 week trip to Maine in August. One of the many benefits of getting vaccinated in March/April was being able to take the trip in late May/early June. The impetus was my husband's desire to take a 2-week class at the WoodenBoat School in Brooklin. 

We flew into Portland late in the day and stayed the night near the airport, then headed up to Freeport for breakfast (Freeport Cafe--very good and very local) then a pilgrimage to the LL Bean complex. 

Beginning the great Maine adventure in front of the LL Bean boot.

Then we worked our way  north to Camden, stopping to bird along the way using the excellent Birdwatching in Maine

Guess what? We saw a cardinal! I know, I know. They're a so-what bird in the eastern US, but they are a rarity in Colorado so that was a good omen for the trip.

We stopped for lunch in charming Camden at Peter Ott's on the Water where we had our first lobster roll and crab roll of the trip. Tied to the dock opposite our table were a pair of beautiful wooden boats, Olad (a 50-foot schooner) and Owl (a cutter). We decided that we would figure out a time when we could book a trip on Olad while in Maine. 

Beautiful Camden Harbor

Acadia National Park 

We stayed two nights in a cute cabin in Trenton, just outside Mt Desert Island, where the bulk of Acadia NP is located. I honestly had no idea there were so many places to stay on Mt Desert Island--probably next time we will stay on the island as it was a bit of a drive to get in and out of the park. 

Big News! Our first stop was at the visitor's center where I got my lifetime senior National Parks pass. One of the perks of turning 62 is qualifying for this pass. Red letter day!

Proud owner of National Parks Lifetime Senior Pass


Loved driving up Cadillac Mt, highest point in the park. It was the only place in the park that required advance reservations. 



Loved Sieur de Monts garden--chatting with the botanist ranger was super cool. I haven't met a ranger yet that I didn't really like. They all seem to love their jobs, talking with visitors, etc. 

Had an absolutely magical meal at Salt & Steel in Bar Harbor--ate my first fiddlehead ferns there. What a cool plant!

On our second day we explored the western part of Mt Desert Island...in the rain. It was rainy and cool and windy for the two days we were in Acadia. Hiked the Ship Harbor Nature Trail and visited the Bass Harbor Head lighthouse, then had a fabulous lunch at Sips Cafe in Northwest Harbor. Oh, and we saw a couple of new birds...

Northern Parula - new bird for this westerner

White-throated sparrow -  yes, another new bird

Brooklin

The WoodenBoat School is located in Brooklin, a one-store, one-restaurant tiny town. We rented a cottage (actually an apartment over a garage), that was the best Airbnb type place we have ever stayed. Brooklin is also where E.B. (aka Andy) White, author of Charlotte's Web, et al, and his wife bought a farm while both were still working for The New Yorker. They worked remotely, and it was at this farm where White wrote about Charlotte and Wilbur. I found the house and smiled every time I passed it.

My temp office at Duck Cove Cottage with a view of Herrick Bay


While my husband went to class, I had 3 days of vacation to play before settling in to work remotely from Brooklin. Here's what I did.

Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland - a mere 2-hour drive from Brooklin, I went down to check out the paintings of 3 generations of the Wyeth family. Wonderful museum--fell in love with the paintings of N.C. Wyeth, Andrew, and Jamie all over again. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Maga's Daughter, by Andrew Wyeth (this is his wife Betsy)


The Harbor at Herring Gut, by N.C. Wyeth

Bangor - did I mention how cold, rainy, windy it was when we arrived in Maine? Well, I packed for summer and so drove over to Bangor to buy long pants and long-sleeved shirts. I found a mall and did my minimal shopping then went for a walk along the Penobscot River.

Jordan Pond, Acadia - back to Acadia NP. Did a 7 mile hike around Jordan Pond and down the Jordan Stream Path to the cobblestone bridge and back and rewarded myself with lunch at Jordan Pond House where I feasted on chowder and popovers with butter and strawberry jam. I was told this was a must-do in Acadia and it was! 

Cobblestone bridge spanning Jordan Stream

Jordan Pond House - yes, the popovers are as good as everyone says they are!

The Bubbles by Jordan Pond

Weekends 

We made a pilgrimage to Deer Isle, which is where John Steinback started his road trip that he chronicled in Travels with Charley. Did a little birding, ate more chowder in Stonington, and dodged the rain and wind.

Did a little lighthouse exploring. If you've ever looked at the Maine coast line, it's easy to see why the coast is jam-packed with lighthouses.

Owl's Head Lighthouse

Went for a 2-hour cruise on the Olad out of Camden, with a 26-year old captain and his 25-year old mate. They both have been sailing since they were young kids, and were personable, capable, and very impressive. It's wonderful to see people who are able to pursue their passions. 

The Olad

Jeff helping to raise the main sail

Went out for 2-hour cruise out of New Harbor with the Hardy Boat Cruises--went to Eastern Egg Island specifically to see Atlantic Puffins. We had seen Tufted Puffins in the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Washington state and British Columbia a few years ago, so it was natural to seek out their east coast cousins. We also saw Common Eiders, Laughing Gulls, Black Guillemots, Common Terns, Herring Gulls, and other black-and-white birds!

The guide was from the Audubon Puffin Project--another example of someone doing their dream job, well, maybe not dealing with a boatload of tourists, but he is a biologist working on the island as well as educating the public.


A pair of puffins

The one that got away...

Common Eider - love how their beak slopes

Portland - we finally got to the Old Town near the docks where we had a fabulous final meal in Maine at David's. They were completely booked when we wandered in but were able to sit at the counter opposite the chefs and enjoyed watching them work.

Flowers

I was blown away by all the flowers, wildflowers and garden flowers. The road sides were blanketed with wild lupines, and I discovered so many cool new plants.

Yellow lady slippers

Lupines everywhere





Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Inherit the Wind - Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee



For the Back to the Classics 2021 challenge, for the Play category I decided to pick something from the 20th century and settled on Inherit the Wind, by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, which premiered in 1955.

The play is a fictionalized version of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial (aka The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes), which took place in 1925. John Scopes was charged with teaching evolution in his high school science class, which was illegal in Tennessee at the time. The prosecution was led by William Jennings Bryan (3-time presidential candidate and a big voice in the early 20th century), and the defense was led by Clarence Darrow, a prominent lawyer who embraced controversial cases.

In their notes on the play, the authors point out that the play "does not pretend to be journalism. It is theatre. It is not 1925. The stage directions set the time as 'Not too long ago.' It might have been yesterday. It could be tomorrow."

I would add to that...it could be today.

They have changed all the names of the characters, slightly. With Matthew Harrison Brady in the role of Bryan, Henry Drummond as Darrow, Bertram Cates as Scopes, and E.K. Hornbeck as H.L. Menken, who covered the trial for the Baltimore Sun. There is a love interest, a bombastic preacher, sniveling local politicians, and kids in the crowd.

After reading the play, I'm interested in reading about the real trial -- I know the bare facts, Scopes was found guilty and fined $100, which he never paid.

The play basically portrays Brady (and by extension, Bryan) as a charlatan--a big man in love with himself and the sound of his voice, a politician and orator who needs his ego to be constantly fed, who is loathe to share the stage with anyone, and who adopts causes that he thinks will appeal to the "common people."  Drummond/Darrow, on the other hand, is portrayed as more complex. While he fights fiercely to demonstrate how the law that Cates/Scopes violated was a bad law (outlawing the teaching of evolution), in the end he shows himself to be a religious man. He is able to separate his personal beliefs from his understanding of his job as a lawyer. Brady, on the other hand, exploits the prejudices of the "common man," assuming a mantle of piety that hides his driving force of self-interest. Finally, Hornbeck/Mencken is portrayed as an opportunistic cynic who gets his comeuppance. I have no respect for Mencken, so this made me smile.

There is no question that Drummond is the hero of the play, and that the political climate of the 1950s (reactionary, McCarthyism) helped inspired the playrights in the same way it motivated Arthur Miller in his play, The Crucible.

The first movie version of the play starred Spencer Tracy as Drummond and Frederic March as Brady. I still haven't seen it and really want to find the time as it is a seminal movie. There have been three other film versions, and it looks like a number of very successful recent productions. I would love to see it on the stage.


The play's title is from Proverbs 11:29: "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart." 

There is a lot to think about in the play, especially in light of the recent war on science and the very real consequences when individuals and communities opt for prayer over masks and vaccines. 

I would also like to read The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, another collaboration by this writing team.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Big Book Summer Challenge



Summertime and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy's rich and your ma is good lookin'
So hush, little baby, don't you cry

Time to bring out the big books because summer isn't summer without the Big Book Summer Challenge, hosted by Sue at Book by Book.

I'm looking at some vacation days, lazing around, reading me some good big books.

Target books:
  • Black Diamonds: The Downfall of an Aristocratic Dynasty and the Fifty Years that Changed England, by Catherine Bailey (non-fiction, 451 pages) - strongly recommended by my brother Mark and sister Frances
  • Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England, by Thomas Penn (non-fiction, 448 pages) - received at Xmas, eager to read
  • Into the Wilderness, by Sara Donati (fiction, 876 pages) - literally been on my shelf for a decade!
  • Lionheart, by Sharon Kay Penman (fiction, 684 pages) - next in the Plantagenet series
It turns out that I have a number of books that I am also planning on reading this summer that are just shy of the 400 page mark. But no matter, reading isn't a competitive sport and this challenge simply inspires me to take a second look at my TBR shelf and pick a couple that do fit that bill that I was planning on reading at some point!

Hope you all have a safe and bookish summer. Now, if it would only get warm. We had a cool Spring in Colorado, and now I am in Maine, wearing a fleece every day and hoping to see the sun.