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Everybody Reads, 2023

This book has been chosen as the Everybody Reads by the county library this year. Because so much time has passed since I read this the first two times, I’m rereading it so the details will be fresh for group discussions coming up. While I could have integrated the notes into one, I’m going the lazy route and just including all three. Besides the time benefit for me, you can see where I change my mind. 🙂

Also, I see the spoilers can’t be hidden in the transfer from Goodreads, so I’ll label them and maybe you can avoid them.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After the third reading (2023).
And I’m glad that I have read it again. I see more connections with each reading. This time I was struck by the parallel between Ruth, who was experiencing writers’ block in trying to write her mother’s story, and Nao, who intended to write Jiko’s story but kept writing her own. (Of course we did get a picture of Jiko, but it wasn’t her full story.)

And because one Everybody Reads gathering focused on the Buddhist elements in the novel, I realized more was Buddhist than I’d realized on the first two readings. And on this reading, the Buddhism, as such, and climate science felt wholly integral to the storyline and characters.

This time I saw that Ruth had translated the journal rather than that Nao had written it in English. I don’t think I’d paid much attention to the footnotes on the first two readings; this time I noticed where Ruth said she had made notes when translating, so I read them. Most were useful, and they serves as a reminder that it had been written in Japanese.

After the second reading (2015)
One of the pleasures of a second reading is that no longer needing to find out “what happens next?” frees one to enjoy other features. And to revise previous opinions. Or to see that the wrong questions were asked. I started reading with a focus on Ruth, as planned. The more I read the more I realized that it was not really two stories alternated, but one continuous narrative, that Ruth’s portions could not be separated from Nao’s . SPOILER: There was so much preparation for Ruth’s dream encounter with Nao’s father, Haruki, that it wasn’t deus ex machina at all. Early on Ruth had two dreams of Jiko. There was the time discussion where Oliver reminds Ruth of the ten years that had passed from the writing of the journal to the present. There were the statements of Jiko involving apparent contradictions being equally true and the flow of identity and time. It is “background” until the disappearance of words in the journal. END SPOILER

I still feel the philosophy was mostly well integrated. Possibly more actual Buddhist early on and more new age when it gets heavier at the end.

I could pause and savor the many puns on “time being,” such as “Mind and words are time being. Arriving and not-arriving are time being” (347). Also enjoyable were the meditations on moments and on “now/Nao.”

While I had intended a second reading eventually, I am glad for my book group selecting the book to prompt me to do it.

After the first reading (2014)
One of my favorite narrative structures is one that combines a past (through letters or journals) and a present story. And that is the basic structure of this novel. Ruth in the Pacific Northwest on a remote island finds a packet containing a journal and other objects washed up on shore, possibly from the earthquake and tsunami a couple years before, . The chapters alternate between Ruth, the finder and Nao, the writer. At first I wondered why Nao would have written a journal in English–it became clear when she revealed that she had spent her early life in California.

The pacing is interesting. Instead of racing through the journal, Ruth paces herself slowly to reflect the pace it was written. In addition there is a French journal and some letters in old Japanese–these do not get translated immediately, but add essential information when they do.

The characters are well drawn, sometimes interesting, sometimes ordinary. Sometimes likable sometimes less so–but as more is revealed, the major characters become more likable. The minor ones, the school contemporaries, not so much. At one point in the middle I found myself wondering about Ruth’s chapters. Would her story be worth a novel without having found the journal? What were the parallels that were going to pull the two narratives together? I may reread it and focus more on Ruth, though the natural focus is Nao.

Science, philosophy and religion were woven into the novel, generally not too heavily, though heavier at the end. The novel is a kind of exploration of time, of existences, of influence. How seriously are we to take the question of who is creating whom? I was intrigued by the moments of magical realism, though I have not yet decided if they were integral or an easy solutions to narrative problems. SPOILER:Was the happy ending believable? Contrived? I realize “happy” may be a stretch since the father and daughter may have perished in the tsunami–this possibility leads to calling it ironic rather than happy; however, the question remains about Ruth’s intervention in the father’s intended suicide. END SPOILER And did I learn about Buddhism or New Age cooptations of Buddhism? I will ponder these when I reread also.

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Starting Another Medallion

A while back I enjoyed a local guild project where we made our own medallion quilt by using (or modifying) one of two suggestions for each row (here). I hang my head to admit it is yet unfinished–one small final plain 2-inch border to go, then quilting. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start another. I learned of Quilting Gail’s Stay At Home Round Robin project (from Susan I think) and thought to try it. It will move a little faster–a suggestion a week instead of every two months! We’ll see how long I keep up.

At any rate, I had an orphan block (12 1/2″ x 12 1/2″) to start with from back when I was doing block swaps. I’d made a couple small quilts from my blocks received, and still had a couple waiting for a project.

This one should make a good center block and I have fabric that coordinates with it–buried too deeply to show now, but you’ll see them in time.

Visit Quilting Gail to see other starting centers and instructions in case you care to join.


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Still Reading–This Time a Nobel Prize Winner

As Covid-19 restrictions are lightened, I’m getting out and about more. But I still have time to read. I’m halfway through my goal of 75 for this year, a fitting place to be in June. Here’s the most recent.

Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Postcolonial” is not quite the right category; it is written by a postcolonial writer but its setting is colonization time. If I were keeping up my “Around the World” list, this would be my first book about Tanzania/Zanzibar. It is the first of Gurnah’s books I’ve read since hearing of his Nobel prize in literature, the first African writer since Wole Soyinka, (Toni Morrison, the African American winner coming between). This is one of three listed as his better novels, and it lives up being excellent. Since I have yet to read the others, I cannot yet corroborate the comparative claim.

The plot starts out episodically as Yosuf goes with his “Uncle” in payment for a debt of his father, works in his shop, then accompanies him on a trade expedition. Through all this are hints of upcomng doom, personal and at the hands of the German colonists. Then the plot tightens into conflict and resolution in the latter portion. The pacing is handled adroitly, and bits of personal history and German occupation gradually emerge.

The harshness of the setting is palpable in the description. Allusions to the story of Joseph in the Koran (and also in the Hebrew Scriptures, though Koran is relevant to the Muslim culture of many of the characters) are cleverly woven in–it might have taken me longer to notice them had they not been remarked in a blurb on the cover, but at some point I would have. There are cultural references that I am sure would be richer to someone in the know. That layer will have to wait till I have done more reading.

The characters were likeable, though for me that is not an essential so long as they are well developed. It was easy to identify with Yosuf and his dreams and quandries; Kahlil, though seeming unfriendly at first becomes more sympathetic as we learn more about his background. The same can be said of other characters who have overseer positions. The “uncle,” though pompous, has some redeeming features as well.

I look forward to reading more of Gurnah’s work. I’ll be waiting a long time for By the Sea since I started as the number 157 hold request on one copy–let’s hope the library purchases more. It was listed as another of the three best.

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The Black Jacobins by CLR James

Now that I have my computer working again and have explored the new editor a little, I have found out how to share my Goodreads reviews like I used to. That might prompt me to write better reviews. 🙂

The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo RevolutionThe Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution by C.L.R. James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very readable history, clearly organized. Even the final chapter which narrates the final struggle for independence battle by battle and intrigue by intrigue is clear and interesting. The inclusion of reports back to France enhance that section. Though there are many actors, there are not too many to follow—even as some switch sides.

Toussaint is the main character for much of the book. At first it seemed almost a hagiography, it was so positive. And yet footnotes show this is a correction to some earlier texts. And there is considerable critique in the final section.

Even the Appendix, which explores literary and political West Indian figures from the date of the original (1938) to that of this edition(1960s) is interesting and gave me books to add to my to-read list.

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“Do the Work” Really Finished

And I can do real celebration now, as the final details are finished. I always forget how long it takes to stitch down the facing, sew the hanging sleeve, and add the labels. And my labels are quite simple and as small as I can make them. One of my friends makes counted-cross-stitch labels on special quilts. I should consider that. The light on today’s photo is only a tad bit better than last night’s.

The shine is closer to the actual look, but the colors are still too light. You can almost see the red big stitch in the lower left. The next photo shows the value and shine closer to the in person look.

I guess when the camera focuses on the light, the dark comes out right. If I knew how to do the manual settings, I could probably have outsmarted the automatic settings–actually I think I can view the settings on a photo and then I could duplicate them. . . . But the quilt is boxed up so it is too late to try that approach. The 8 x 8 block needed some quilting, but I didn’t want much and I didn’t want to distract from the print. This mix of fabrics will never be laundered, so minimal quilting was enough.

And here is a view of all three rows of big stitch.

As I said before, my daughter sent me the vintage kimono fabric when she lived in Japan. I made two small quilts from it right after she sent it. They are dated 2007–didn’t seem that long ago.

Japan I: Torii; Japan II” Mt Fuji

These are 10″ x 10″. Someday I’ll make something big enough that I can give a better sense of the whole fabric design. When I first got the fabric, I thought, ‘Silk=crazy quilt’ and started to gather fabrics. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the embroidery of a crazy quilt would detract from the print. So it sat waiting for another idea. I’m still thinking toward the big one.


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“Do The Work” Almost Finished

All that is left to do is a little more embroidery on the big block and to attach a hanging sleeve. And maybe get a photo in better light. We’ll see if the sun cooperates tomorrow. But I couldn’t wait. 🙂 (Premature celebration.)

The dark colors are much darker than the flash allowed them to be. I tried a photo without flash, but it was as much too dark as this is too light. I used a walking foot to do the grid quilting. There are three curves rows of big stitch–a red on each side of the peach.. I’d wanted the red to be subtle, but I did want it to show more than it does. Here is a detailed views that shows one side a bit better.

History of the quilt starts here


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From One Rabbit Hole to Another

It’s been a bookish time.

The books in front are books I own. They get neglected because they don’t have due dates. You can’t quite see the two stacks of library books behind them. Some due dates don’t matter because the library automatically renews them ten times; others do when other patrons put a hold on the books. Not a bad set up.

The rabbit hole started with an interview that led to a book about four women spies during the civil war (Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy), which led to a book about women who dressed as men to fight in the civil war (They Fought Like Demons), which led to a memoir of one of them, Francis Thompson. Then an interview with Elizabeth Becker, author of You Don’t Belong Here (about three women who broke the barrier for women war reporting during the Vietnam war) fit nicely into the women-in-war theme and started a new rabbit hole.

Each of the three women Becker had written about had a book to her credit, and my library has all but one. (Inter-library loan is still not functioning; hasn’t been restarted since other Covid cancellations. Sigh.) Plus Becker has a brief section in her book about her own time reporting in Cambodia, and she has written another book, When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution. So far I’ve read (and viewed) two. First, photographer Catherine Leroy’s collection of Vietnam war photos wherein she selected from many photographers, not just her own, and submitted the photos to writers for comment. Some comments reflected on the photo itself, others on the writers’ experiences. And because I never did understand the Cambodia/Vietnam connection, I chose Becker’s book next. As she unpacks the gruesome complexity, I see why I didn’t understand it in the day.

Then there are the unrelated rabbit holes. My young grandson was into the Percy Jackson variations on Greek and Roman mythology, so I thought I’d read a couple so as to be more conversant with him. I got hooked enough to read 8. Then Susan of DesertSky blog introduced me to Kate O’Hearn’s Pegasus series, also related to the Olympians. They are quite a different tone and seem more independent of the myths which mostly form a backdrop. And in between various mysteries that I’d been waiting for forever (sometimes being #350 on the wait list) would become available at random times. Ya gotta have some light reading!

I love being retired. My time is mostly my own. One of my friends passed on her mother’s advice: don’t make too many commitments too fast. I didn’t.


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Fourth–and last–Border

The official name of this project is “Make it up as you go.” I mention that because I may have to remember it later.:-)

I left off after the third border (here), got two sides of the fourth finished last month,

and got my act together to finish the last two today. I find it interesting that I considered the third border fiddly but not this one with all its little pieces. All I can figure is it’s the difference between working with triangles and squares. I may have liked it better before the forth border. But I have felt that way after other borders were half finished, so it may be a pattern. Here is the full fourth.

I do like it a little better finished, but I’m not thrilled. My original thought had been 1) I wanted a small amount of red, not the big pieces of borders 2 and 3 and 2) the zigzag pattern would relate to the big while the small squares would relate to the center. Well sort of. The zigzag doesn’t look as big in the real as it did ] in my head. I wonder if that is partly because of the widely varied shades of the red scraps? They look bigger when I squint at it. This was one of the two suggested borders in the guild project. In fact I had pictured something like it but not done the math yet, so it was nice to have the math done for me.

The reds are from scraps. As I recall,when I originally made the center HSTs I realized that when you cut batiks up they no longer look like wonderful combinations, but like different fabrics! Since they were varied in the center, I thought to vary them along with other reds at the edge. Most likely I’ll add a narrow strip of the cream background to float the fourth border and bind it in the navy. My overall feeling is that this quilt remains separate parts instead of becoming a unified whole. I suppose that is mostly because of the separate colors of the middle two rows and the matching narrow strips. Any other thoughts as to why?

For my serious scrappy work, I made another hat. Someday that unending supply of yarn ends will be gone. Sigh.

If you like to see what others are doing with scraps, check out Kate’s blog (here) for a list of people who often work with scraps and post near the 15th of the month.

My other accomplishment for the month (plus reading a lot of books) was finally hanging a wall hanging.

Back when I made the quilt and took its picture on the sofa under the watercolor, I noticed they went together. Till then I’d not hung any quilts because they just didn’t go with the other art I’d purchased over the years at a local art festival. So I was happy to have one that worked. I dawdled over making hanging stuff and finally asked my daughter’s partner if he would. It was more work than I realized I was asking for, so I’ll have to think of something nice to do in return


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Another Border and Then Some

The third border has taken a long time. First it is more fiddly (four seams and a trim for each of 48 blocks) so I stalled. Then I decided to cut the pieces for border four before sewing border three because I’d run out of leaders/enders with these two blocks.

The four-patch blocks were mindless enough, but making a patterned block got too fiddly to do much more of it as leader/ender. Since border four was made up of 60 16-patch one-inch square blocks (well a little cheating as some are 1 x 2 inch rectangles), that seemed to have mindless potential. So cut I did. Then it was so hypnotic that instead of making one 2-patch, I made all 120. Next time I needed an ender I made 60 4-patch blocks. But have no fear, mindlessness remains.

But finally border three got finished. I’m feeling ambivalent about it.The dark navy border felt finished. I almost pondered stopping and making a lap quilt. But I wanted to play the guild game, so continued on.This border follows the suggestion exactly. The only change I made was to continue with 1-inch “resting” borders instead of 2-inch ones.

My thinking in planning the colors was navy in the middle to sort of echo the navy in the middle of one block in the center Turkey-in-the-Straw block. Maybe it will have that effect more after the fourth border is added. Stay tuned.


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Bear Paw and Border

Scrap Happy Day has rolled around again. While I used only 12 squares of red scraps on the border, I did finish a scrap block as a leader/ender. The block is ancient history. The brown fabric is left over from a housecoat I had made around 50 years ago, I guess that makes it vintage fabric? Twenty-five or so years ago, I had looked at the scraps I’d been gathering for a long time and decided it was time to begin to use them. It was long before I’d ever read a Bonnie Hunter post and maybe even before the internet. My concept of scrap control was to select fabrics and see what block I had enough fabric to make. Needless to say, that was less than efficient. In fact I made up only one kit. It traveled with me to many quilt guild retreats as a back up project just in case I finished everything else I had wanted to accomplish. I was out of leader/ender items, so decided to try making a block. (I don’t recommend it for leaders/enders–too much thinking required..)

Bear Paw: 7-inch and 14-inch

I have no idea what I will do with them. Maybe take them to the guild free table when we meet in person again and let someone else play. If you want to see some more scrap work, visit Kate’s blog (here) where she posts and lists links to folks who play with scraps.

On to the second border of the guild medallion quilt (first border here) The directions called for a 2-inch resting border, but because I’d modified the first border and had a row of one-inch squares, I felt the need for more one-inchness and made two one inch “resting” borders to maintain the measurements. Then (gasp!) ripped out the cornerstones and replaced them with red.

The left photo is the first try. After I added the cornerstones I realized that the effect I’d wanted required the two one-inch pieces to be sewn as one border and a four-patch used for a cornerstone. While pondering if I could live with what I had created, I got another idea. I’d been wondering how to keep bits of red as accent without overpowering–how about red cornerstones? Yep, I liked it.

I put off the next step for a while because I thought it was going to be difficult to attach the triangles in a straight row. Seems I’d tried it once before and ended up with a crooked mess. But with the help of a tri-rec ruler it was a breeze.

On the right is the way the ruler is meant to work. See the notch? It guides the placement so that the triangle with two “wings” makes a square block. Well, I was hoping to save a seam and just alternate triangles, and it worked.

So here is the second border.

42x 42 at this point

And I added the first half of the next “resting” border. I decided to keep the one-inch with red cornerstone thing going. I had decided to consider the offered instructions, and if I liked them, use them. This one is as directed (except without the seams in the yellow triangles). I’ll be following the directions for the next two as well. The third is square in a square which echoes the same in the center block. I’d been thinking about the fourth and thought I wanted one inch squares in it somewhere, and they offered a good idea.

I’m not sure I’ll use the idea of moving from small to large in a border again. It sorta looks like ‘I got tired and wanted to hurry and finish.’ We’ll see if drawing it back to one inch squares works to overcome that effect.


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