Saturday, March 27, 2004

I woke up much earlier than seemed necessary this morning, and after being walked over by restless cats until I was fully awake, I decided to re-read A Little Princess, which for some reason I had been thinking about. What a lovely little book that is! Though I still love The Secret Garden better, there's something so particularly charming and delightful about Sara Crewe. I was thinking, upon this reading, that really the reader should hate such a perfectly good and kind little girl, but what redeems her is the struggles she must go through to be so good and kind. It is not easy for her to be a princess, even when she is treated like one. Though she says that of course she is able to be good and kind when people are always pleasant to her, still she must watch her tongue when speaking to Lavinia or Miss Minchin. Yet, so she can completely understand what others are feeling and how best to help them, she needs the trials through which she goes to become a true "little princess".

Thursday, March 25, 2004

After watching "The Missing" last week, I found the book on which it was based at the library--Tom Eidson's The Last Ride, which I read this morning. The writing style is certainly that of a Western, and the story hadn't been changed much for the movie, but I enjoyed it fairly well nonethless. The religion argument between the heroine and her father was a little overdone, and was resolved agreeably but not satisfactorily; the movie's way of dealing with the problem rang truer as well as being subtler. The movie also, surprisingly, gave the characters more depth--despite Eidson's delving into history and motivation, I found it difficult to care much about his characters. But of course it's always difficult to read the book after seeing the movie. In many cases the book falls a bit flat, unfortunately.

I'm too tired and spacey to type accurately much longer, so I'll end by listing some other books I've read in the past week or so (mostly quick easy library reads):
Durable Goods, Elizabeth Berg--the first of three related books, which I accidentally read in backwards order, giving an interesting portrait of childhood and adolescence.
Girl Goddess #9, Francesca Lia Block--very odd little stories with extremely heavy-handed treatment of social issues.
Bloodchild and other stories, Octavia Butler--again, heavy-handed, though much creepier.
Children of the Storm, Elizabeth Peters--the latest Amelia Peabody mystery, which I enjoyed thoroughly as always.
Goat Song, Susan Basquin--an interesting though ultimately depressing tale of the author's adventures in goat farming.
The Whim of the Dragon, Pamela Dean--rereading the third volume in the Secret Country trilogy was enthralling and delightful, though I do wish Dean were contracted to write more mythic fiction rather than more Secret Country books. I'm also in the middle of rereading The Dubious Hills, which I like better but still not as much as her other two books.

Monday, March 22, 2004

So I've been gone for a while--so, that's the way things go. Now I'm back.

Spring is really here, despite the fact that it never really seemed to be winter this year. The season goes by so quickly here that I'm never satisfied; plus I only got to go skiing once thanks to this wasting disease. Anyway, the trees are starting to come out in that mist of barely-there green, daffodils are coming up in cheery clumps, and apricot blossoms are beginning to pop. I walked by one tree yesterday that had a frenzy of bees around it, enjoying their first taste of nectar this year. I've been thinking a lot about bees lately, having read A Book of Bees, by Sue Hubbell, as well as meeting a family in town who keeps bees in their tiny urban backyard. Bees are fascinating creatures, and the book was excellent.

I first encountered Sue Hubbell in her book A Country Year, a lovely account of her farm and life in the Ozarks, and was pleased to find this newer book about beekeeping, which was her source of income. She kept three hundred hives all over the state of Missouri, which, naturally, occupied her time fully, but she says that having two or three hives in one's back garden is really no more trouble than a dog or cat. And after seeing the hives kept by our new friends, it's clear not only that this is true but also that it can be done nearly anywhere. Even urban settings are usually well-provided with flowering trees and plants, and for the times when there is little nectar, a supply of sugar water in the hive keeps the bees going.

A Book of Bees is an excellent start for anyone interested in beekeeping, as it includes practical information on acquiring and caring for bees, diagrams of hives and their various parts, all seasonal activities such as harvesting and wintering, catching swarms, and the problems that may occur. All this is part of a story, well-written and absorbing, rather than a how-to guide, and is a wonderful inspiring read.

An amusing sidenote: An acquaintance of mine noticed the book in my bag one day and asked me if it was scary! She didn't quite seem to understand when I told her it was actually about keeping bees. Hmm. I think I have odd interests.