Reader's Exchange

December 2013 - Posts

How the Grinch Stole the One Ring to Rule Them All

Thankfully, this malady is easier to cure than flu.  I refer to CPF (Cookie Press Fixation, sometimes diagnosed as SCPA--Spritz Cookie Production Addiction).  Having achieved nifty results with the dough-filled cookie gun, no baker can stop with a single batch.  The affected individual is driven to mix batter and extrude edible holiday shapes until exhaustion sets in.  

I was in the throes of CPF Sunday afternoon; two batches of cookies weren't sufficient.  Eyes glazing and trigger hand twitching, I'd just gathered ingredients for multiple batches of cheese straws when my husband and daughter headed out to watch The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  "Have fun!" I offered distractedly, clearing the cooling rack for my next fix.

Had I been in my right mind, they would also have heard, "and no need to share your insights afterward."  But they know this already.  Spritz cookie tree

Despite repeated exposure to both print and film versions, I failed to bond with Lord of the Rings narrative or any single character therein.  The LOTR gene must be absent from my DNA, or possibly I've expended all my interest on other worlds--Downton Abbey, Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, etc. 

But LOTR antipathy doesn't make me a bad person, right?  I'm kind to animals; I make cookies (see above); I never say "Bah, humbug" or steal presents in Whoville.

And I'm eager to recap recommendations for books (unlike The Hobbit ) published in 2013, read in their entirety, and personally deemed top-notch.

Just preface each item with "If you like...":

...sensitive stories that inspire you to shout "Nooooo!" at the protagonist although you know he can't hear you, consider Indiscretion by Charles Dubow.

...riveting prose and a plot that can't be adequately described without "gritty" or "visceral", try Goat Mountain by David Mann.

...Maeve Binchy, you shouldn't miss A Week in Winter.  (Published posthumously, this is the beloved Irish author's last novel; look for Chestnut Street--short stories--in 2014.)

...peeks behind the arts scene in Belle Époque Paris, you should check out Where the Light Falls by Katherine Keenum and The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan. (Buchanan's website reported in November that Painted Girls "has been optioned for a television series by the CW Network and CBS Television".)

...dark, creepy, gothic narratives for grownups, you'll appreciate Rustication by Charles Palliser.

...delightful essays by delightful people, pick up Elinor Lipman's I Can't Complain: (All Too) Personal Essays.

...character novels with an added dimension of suspense, look for The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure and The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Ellizabeth Kelly.

...The Big Bang Theory, Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project is a must-read.

...experiencing life in another decade, try The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton Disclafani (1930s) and Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine (1960s in Greenwich Village).

...garnering insider expertise within a compelling story, you'll appreciate Peggy Heskith's Telling The Bees.

Downton Abbey,
don't miss Fay Weldon's trilogy: Habits of the House 2012/Long Live the King/The New Countess, both 2013.

...a tale of a good girl gone bad, get The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. (In the 1920's Prohibition setting, our good girl may be simply realizing her potential...) unreliable (what an understatement) narrator in an exotic setting, look into The People in the Trees  by Hanya Yanagihara.

...reading about a family as complicated as your own, join the many admirers of The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Just when you think you've heard it all

...someone writes another version of that classic holiday poem. 

This one celebrates downtown Round Rock (don't forget Christmas Family Night on Dec. 6) and Rocksssanne, the library's beloved (and intrepid) snake mascot. 

*** Rocksssanne's Christmas Eve Ramble ***

‘Tis the night before Christmas, and Round Rock is silent,   Golden glitter
Especially downtown--no parked cars, no clients
Main Street is dormant, no citizens stirring,
‘Til dawn on that holiday fondly recurring.

With offices, cafes, and ArtSpace all drowsing,
The library's not even open for browsing.
(Though our online resources you always can use
Any day, any hour, to inform and amuse.)

The staff is all home in their festive abodes,
Slumbering on, gifts already bestowed.
For Santa made Round Rock his first stop this year.
He's checked twice, delivered, and then disappeared.

Folks won't, ‘til the dawning light, rise and exclaim
Over Santa's largesse--books, gadgets, and games.
And back at the library, gladly detected,
Is the strange stash of goodies that one soul expected. 

Rockssssanne, the library snake, wakes to find
The tastiest tidbits to which she's inclined.
Suffice it to say they're for snakes apropos
But we won't elaborate--you don't want to know!

The tower of treats, brightly gift-wrapped and stacked
Reached so high that it caused the cage top to unlatch
Rocksssanne slithers out, leaves her trove unattended
To pursue an adventure she's oft comprehended.

For once--just this once--she can finally explore
The joys of the top floor unknown heretofore.
Though she cherishes kids and her comfy confinement,
Rocksssanne yearns for novel new views and refinement.

Her journey is trickier than she'd supposed,
With obstacles previously undisclosed:
The stairs are so tall--and someone spilled glitter
That sticks to her skin.  But she isn't a quitter.

She propels herself upward, so flush with ambition
The staircase becomes just a blurred apparition.
As she glimpses the stations where patrons compute,
To Rocksssanne, they symbolize forbidden fruit.

Pausing just on the brink of the second-floor landing,
Reptilian intellect quickly expanding,
Rocksssanne spies the shelves and the tall reference desk--
But then hears a sound both aghast and grotesque.

"EEEEEyikes!" cries Michelle, who's come to retrieve
A gift she had purchased and not meant to leave.
She's startled to find both the open snake coop
And, all up the stairs, golden glittering swoops. 

"I'm busted!" thinks poor Rocksssanne, hastening home
Already regretting her whimsical roam.
She'd never envisioned a scary invasion
Just a brief promenade on this merry occasion.

The library director gives her a grin
And pats the cage lid, now the python's within.
"No harm done," she says, "All that great information
Is meant to lure minds out of dull hibernation."

Keying in the alarm code, she stops to express,
"I admire your example, I freely confess.
For folks here in Round Rock--kids, grownups, and ‘tweens--
Let's all seek discoveries in 2014!"