Travel by Book

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Siracusa

In my latest blog for the library I share my recommendations for summer reading, novels set in idyllic vacation spots. Sometimes throwing people together in a new environment upsets the status quo, making for drama, intrigue, and unexpected revelations. Perfect ingredients for engrossing fiction!

Travel by Book

 

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The Amazing True History of Yankee Doodle

To celebrate the July 4th holiday I reprise the amazing true story of an American patriotic song, first published in The Dabbler on June 3rd 2015. Could it be that Yankee Doodle Dandy started out as a British insult?

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In recent years I’ve spent a lot of time singing nonsense songs to my grandsons. Nursery rhymes and traditional children’s songs, often imperfectly remembered. So sometimes I make them up and improvise pure nonsense as I go. The other day I found myself singing the American patriotic song Yankee Doodle. This time I remembered the words exactly but, as if hearing them for the first time, it suddenly struck me what utter nonsense they are. What on earth does the song mean? Continue reading

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The Great Again Colossus

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The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus is a poem written in 1883 to help raise money for a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. In 1903 it was mounted on the pedestal on a bronze plaque. Though beloved by Americans for over a century, the poem no longer reflects the America in which we live today.

I propose this new version as more in the spirit of the times:

The Great Again Colossus by Emma Mortifer

Not like the woman of New York harbor fame,
Who welcomed desperate migrants to our land;
Here at our brutal border wall shall stand
A bloated, boastful bigot, one whose flame
Is destroyer of truth and justice, and his name
Con-Man in Chief. From his puny hand
Tweet hate and lies; his heartless eyes command
This Land of Immigrants that twin oceans frame.
But “Keep, ancient lands, your worthless horde,” cries he
With pouting lips. “I banish your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
Your wretched refuse shall not infest our shore.
Send them, the suffering children, unto me,
And they shall rot in cages outside our golden door!”

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The Cousins Lunch

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Cousins Brian and Rita at lunch in New York

“Let me get this straight,” said my husband as he dropped me off at our local Metro station. “You’re going to New York to meet a guy you met on the internet?” We laughed. What he said was literally true, but it wasn’t quite as foolish as it sounded. I did meet Brian on the internet but it was on ancestry.com, not Tinder or some such shady meeting place. Though I suppose statistically a long lost second cousin is just as likely to be a serial killer as any random stranger. But Ancestry declared us a DNA match and we have nuns in common on our family trees. Surely a sign of divine favor. So I waved goodbye to Continue reading

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The Message in the Laundry

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One day in 1944 my future existence hung by a tenuous thread. If a message secreted in a batch of laundry had not reached its intended recipient I would never have been born. On such tiny twists of fate and happenstance do our lives depend, though we rarely hear about them. But my mother often told this story in her dramatic continental style, and in my father’s papers I found his solemn account of the affair. Continue reading

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Brass Rubbing

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Brass rubbings above the bookcase in my living room. On the right are Sir John and Lady Joan de la Pole

The line on the job application, paper in those days, asked “What are your hobbies?” I hesitated. The one piece of advice about job hunting I remembered from library school was “Never say your favorite hobby is reading.” Curious advice to give aspiring librarians, perhaps, but the idea was to avoid the impression you thought librarianship was just sitting around reading. You must project serious professionalism, information services not novel reading, people skills not shrinking violets hiding behind the covers of a book. But reading was in fact my hobby. Pretty much my only hobby. So I had to give Continue reading

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Church and State, Skirt and Flag

For the benefit of new readers who did not follow me in my Dabbler days, this is the first in a series of favorite posts from the Dabbler Archives.  This piece first appeared in The Dabbler on August 31st 2011.

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I could not have chosen a more eventful time for my first visit to America than the summer of 1969. Americans were still reeling from the assassination of Robert Kennedy and the disastrous Democratic Convention the year before. Richard Nixon was President and the word “quagmire” was being used about the Vietnam War. There was an edge of danger in the air. I felt as though I had departed a world of smudgy grays and entered a vivid Technicolor movie. Los Angeles was all bright, searing light and straight lines dissolving into a yellowish smog. Everywhere enormous, garish plastic creatures loomed, the icons of consumer culture, making the city seem one vast Disneyland. Baking heat Continue reading

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