Sunday, March 22, 2020

Notes from Colorado

I joke with my family that I've been practicing social distancing for years. My hobbies are reading and writing and gardening and birding and hiking, and I've had a home office for about ten years. My life right now is not a lot different from what it has been with the huge exception that I worry about my 96 year old Mom and my kids who are in NY and CA even more than before. I can't go to the library (I have some books that are due, so I need to check and see if they want me to drop them off), or the bookstore, or the grocery store, but I can walk the dog and pay it forward as much as possible.

I hope you all are well and being diligent about staying safe from harm's way.

I am happy to report that my time on Duolingo Italian is surging and I am leaping from level to level, though clitics and pronouns are my downfall. I now feel reasonably comfortable conversing in the present and present perfect tenses about sharks, dolphins, chickens, ducks, fish, dogs, and cats, as long as they are eating, coming and going, waiting, or traveling by train or bus. If any of you have attempted to learn a language via Duolingo, you'll know what I'm talking about :)

On the reading front, I just finished John Irving's Cider House Rules, and gave it a whopping 5 stars on Goodreads. Seriously, the books from the 70's and 80's are well worth visiting and revisiting. I picked this book because it is set in Maine, and we are still hoping to spend 3 weeks in Maine this summer...but like everything else, who knows whether that will be feasible.

Cider House Rules was multi-layered with complex, flawed, fascinating characters. It was also quirky and ironic and  the writing was sophisticated--reading it was like watching a master class on how to write. I especially loved how David Copperfield, Great Expectations, and Jane Eyre provided the structural and thematic framework for this 20th century tour de force.  I cannot wait to watch the movie, which was nominated for some Academy Awards and one won.

I also reread the first book in Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti mystery series, Death at La Fenice. I read with the backdrop of the virus that has paralyzed Italy and Venice providing an extra layer of pathos to the story. I love Guido and his family and hope they are safe, as well has his author, of course. I've been listening to Maurizio Marchini sing to his fellow quarantined Florentines, and now know the words to Nessun Dorma. I love Italy and dream of visiting again when we are through this nightmare.

I just finished watching Case Histories with the marvelous Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), which is based on Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie mystery series. I will be reading the first book in the series, titled Case Histories, in April. I don't usually watch the movie/TV before the book, but I did this time. It was great and I was disappointed that there were only 3 seasons with only a few episodes per season. It was great to spot Dawn Steele (Lexie from Monarch of the Glen) in season 3 as well as Gary Lewis (Colum Mackenzie from Outlander).

Speaking of Outlander, I have officially given up watching the series. I'm not sure why I started finding the series so oppressive since I've read the full book series  all the way through, but season 5 was just one over-the-top scene after another. I didn't like where they were going with the Murtagh/Jamie thread (Murtagh dies at Culloden in the books) and I was dreading Roger's story. It was bad enough to read it in the book, but I really decided I couldn't bear to watch it.

So, I just started rewatching White Collar, which is what my mood needs now!

I'm looking forward to getting into the garden. We had snow on Thursday and Friday, and so everything is muddy, slushy, and mucky right now...maybe I will find some spring flowers after it all melts. Please!!!!

Stay well--do what you need to do to get through these troubled, uncertain times--Read on!


  1. Catching up on Duolingo lessons is a good idea. It's absorbing. I imagine too that people who never enjoyed ebooks will discover them, now that libraries and bookstores are not available. In New Jersey, we are feeling the tension, being so close to the epicenter. And the worldwide suffering is everpresent, a kind os solidarity with brothers and sisters we fon't know, but ache for. Thanks for sharing the reading and viewing you've been doing, good choices all. I've been reading too, trying to do taxes, even with new deadline. Keeping a long list of people to pray for. My heartfelt best wishes (and prayers) for you and your children.

  2. hey Jane : thanks for your words. Wow, Cider House Rules is a good blast from the past. I read Case Histories a long while ago -- but haven't watched the series ... though I think I started it once. I don't know White Collar but I'll look for it. I feel for Italy the most through all of this nightmare. Ohh poor Italy. such losses, it's awful.

  3. I consider books from the 1970s and 1980s to be new releases! I must give Cider House Rules a try.

    I am working from home so I am mostly at home.

    Stay safe and healthy!

    1. >>I consider books from the 1970s and 1980s to be new releases!

      LOL - everything old is new again. It won't be long until we can count these books as Classics!

  4. White Collar is super fun. I love that series. Glad you're staying safe and well where you are!

  5. I re-experienced Cider House Rules last year on audio and loved it as much the second time 'round as the first. I read a lot of Irving in the pre-internet days of late 80's through the 1990s.

    I've not seen the Case Histories show but I really enjoyed the Brodie books and am re-reading them all to work up to read the newest release Big Sky.

    Take care and stay safe Jane.

  6. Oh yes, Cider House Rules was wonderful!

    I'm glad you're safe and well, but understand the worries. We finally convinced my daughters to leave NYC on the 12th. They're both here working remotely and it looks like they will be for some time. My 92 year old FIL is only 6 miles away and we are keeping him supplied with provisions. My parents, in their mid-80s, are in central NY with my sisters taking care of their needs. I'm adjusting to the new normal and hopr to be able to concentrate on reading again soon. Stay well!

  7. Sounds like you are holding up well despite all the world turmoil. I hope your children and mother stay safe and healthy. I remember watching the Cider House Rules when I was younger. I should read the book and then see the movie again and see how my views have changed since I was a teenager.

    I haven't read any of the Outlander series but I tried the TV show and didn't get past episode 4. I love a good mystery series, though. I will have to try out Case Histories. I love me some Jason Isaacs. He did a show on NBC a few years ago that was really well done.

    Stay safe and healthy!

  8. I'm glad you're doing well at home - I feel much the same way as you. I also feel exactly as you do about the Outlander series. I quit halfway through season 4, partly because I hated Bree and Roger and partly because what worked in the books felt really ridiculous on screen. I didn't realize Case Histories was a movie, I'll check that out! I've read most of Atkinson's books. She's such a good writer.

    I hope you and your family stay well.

  9. Oh gosh, yes, I loved Cider House Rules! When our libraries closed, they didn't want books returned. So now I have books sitting around I'd love to have out of here. Thank evens for ebook from the library (although, lord knows I could read off my own bookshelves for a couple of years!).