The Great Gilly Hopkins: the kids, the neighborhood, what I was not

The Great Gilly Hopkins, Katherine Paterson. 1978.

When I was eight or so, I had to spent a lot of time at my great-grandparents’ house. It was a tiny, tumbledown thing with low ceilings. My Papaw and Mamaw didn’t move much. Neither did their faces. Mamaw had Alzheimer’s, so you couldn’t blame her; she mainly nodded and swayed in her towel-draped chair. Papaw was fine; his face was just set like that. He had the color and scowl of a cigar-store carving. He was not unkind, but he had little to say to me, or to anyone, and I did not know what to do with myself while I was there with my father.

The house had almost no privacy, and certainly no cable. If the weather was nice, I might go in the little backyard, and find some blackberries in season, but there was no seat and no shade. There was Mama-cat, who often lay in the driveway, but she had other local responsibilities, and she didn’t care to be much company. I wasn’t allowed to walk through the neighborhood, but I could see that there were children in the yard of the house across the street, and I wondered if I could make friends. Not those kids, I was told. Those are foster kids. They’re mean. One of them’s retarded. I’d leave them alone if I was you.

This place was where I imagined the world of Gilly Hopkins. Continue reading

Daphne’s Book: isolation, cars, stories

Daphne’s Book, Mary Downing Hahn. 1983.

It must have been 1988 or ’89 that I got hold of this one. I re-read Daphne’s Book often, but not all the way through, because I only liked being in one particular time of this book.

Daphne’s Book is told in the first person by Jessica, a seventh-grader. Her English teacher designates all of his students into teams of two for an inter-school Write-a-Book competition, in which the winning students will have their picture-book published. Jessica is assigned to work with Daphne, who is weird, arty, and essentially mute. Daphne is the seventh grade’s designated scapegoat, and Jessica is desperate to get out of associating with her, although the clear subtext is that she is beautiful, raven-haired and dresses like Stevie Nicks.

Continue reading

A new post series

Well! The semester is over and I am a person who can enjoy the “on line” world again.

What I want to do, now, with all the world before me, is to spend some time talking about the books that I spent a lot of time with as a child.

I don’t mean the all-star classics, the ones we all loved like Charlotte’s Web or the Ramona Quimby books. I don’t want to examine them critically, review the lives of the authors, or look up the afterlives of the books. I want to see who I was in the book – to understand why I spent so much time with it.

As a child, I liked spending time inside books. I re-read a lot. When you are grown, you generally want to experience a book in the one way: for novels, straight through, in and out; for nonfiction, reference and citation, unless of course it is a narrative and you switch to Novel mode. But when I was a kid, I would just read the first parts of a book again, or the last parts, because I wanted to be in the time that Meg had hot chocolate with Charles Wallace, or the time that Bilbo had to answer riddles from Gollum.

With my current access to ILL books from the college library system, I can go back and see what it was that I liked about these books. I can never know whether or not they were worth liking, not without being a child again. Since I am not, I can at least place these stories into a kind of context, if for no one else but me.

Amazing! I am alive —

And I’m in a new fantasy anthology that just came out from 18th Wall!

Those Who Live Long Forgotten II

Myths never die. They cough away into obscurity, and settle into the comfortable spot just beyond our vision.

You would never believe the broken down salt who moves from ship to ship, never staying long, was once the mile-high marvel Alfred Bulltop Stormalong. Nor would you believe John Paul Jones caught the attention of a spirit of the ocean, a spirit out to collect her due two hundred years later. Nor would you even stop to question the impossibility of a tree nymph’s troubles with otherkin, the scraps of belief a ha’penny goddess must subsist on, or just how far into the past Dracula’s history stretches.

No, you wouldn’t believe a word of it.

Featuring stories by Dale W. Glaser, Wm. Bernan,  Elizabeth Hopkinson, Marc Sorondo, L.T. Patridge, Owen Kerr, Edward Ahern, Ken MacGregor, and Ro McNulty.


My review for KBR of The American Game by Jeff MacArthur

NOTE: The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.

This novel was originally planned as a movie, and it would make a fine one. A terrible war, a pair of brothers torn apart by circumstance, an enslaved man heading for freedom, and baseball. As a book, though, it reads rather like a novelization of that movie. Some characters are difficult to keep straight; time shifts unexpectedly; poorly spelled accents and broad regional stereotypes are indulged. Nevertheless, there is an untold and unexpected story here that is difficult to put down, skilfully researched and full of sympathy for poor soldiers on both sides of the conflict, as well as the enslaved. I recommend it for Civil War novel buffs.

My review for KBR of New Sun Rising: Ten Stories by Lindsay Edmunds

NOTE: The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.

Lindsay Edmunds has created a compelling near-future world in the town of Stillwater, a commune-like town where everyone lives quietly in the houses that are standing and never build more. It’s a good place for aging hippies, but Kedzie Greer, a girl who was abandoned as an infant and raised by two Wiccan women, wants more out of life. She gets a job in a human warehouse and tries to use streaming video reports of the cruelty there to blow open the terrible injustices.

Although Edmunds did not want this to be “another ‘teenager with special powers saves the world’ story,” it is unfortunately just that when the stories are centered on Kedzie Greer, a girl with strange exotic beauty who inexplicably commands the attention and even the daydreams of everyone around her. Nonetheless, she is allowed to be irritating and lovesick, not a perfect soul, and the characters around her are well-drawn. This book is a good read with strong potential for other works in the same setting.

Mount Holly Plantation, 1856-2015

Outside of my hometown, the antebellum mansion at the old Mount Holly Plantation burned last night.  Only the bricks remain.  It was a truly beautiful place by all accounts, lovely in its decay.  I regret that I never got around to paying a visit.

It was, of course, built by enslaved people, using bricks made by the enslaved.  None of the mourning posts on the local Facebook feeds are saying much about that today.  I wonder: what would the workmen have thought?  Would they have been sorrowful, full of loss for their creation?  Would they be quietly satisfied, pleased that Miss Anne could for once not have things all her way?  Or would they be indifferent, only calculating on the work and suffering they would be put to for this?