But Can It Remove One Of The New Facebook Portals?

Instapundit links to a ToiletTree Professional Water Resistant Heavy Duty Steel Nose Trimmer with LED Light, Silver.

Me, I clicked through because it sounded like a high-tech drain auger.

But, no, it’s not steel-nosed. It’s steel for your nose:

  • This high-end cordless battery-operated nose trimmer with bright LED light is made of high quality steel; the light comes in handy when you need to get at those hard-to-reach and hard-to-see hairs
  • The lightweight, but powerful, rotary cutting system allows hairs to enter the trimmer tip from the top and also from the sides, which is very helpful for stray hairs not only in the nose but also on your eyebrows, beard, and ears
  • Right out of the box, you will feel the difference, precision, and quality of this trimmer; it offers a smooth trim with its stainless steel high quality blades and gives you a perfect cut every time; no painful pulled hairs
  • Our best water-resistant design allows you to use this trimming tool in the shower and it makes clean-up afterwards quick and easy; it’s the best trimming and cutting tool you’ll ever experience from a men’s clipper product
  • This nose trimmer operates on just 1 AA battery (not included), which makes it an economically affordable way to take care of the daily trimming needs of your nose, brows, and ears

With all that steel and LED technology, I hope it can take care of those hard-to-reach Facebook Portal tracking devices.

Book Report: The Life of a Lab Photography by Denver Bryan / Text by E. Donnall Thomas, Jr. (1999)

Book coverI bought this book over the weekend, so it went right to the top of the stack of browse books on the table beside the football-watching sofa perch, so I got right on it while the Green Bay Packers played a sloppy game against a not-good football team, leading one to wonder if this year’s Packers are also a not-good football team.

So I had plenty of time to browse a book.

This book, as the title indicates, is a photography book that covers the life of Labrador Retrievers (not just one lab, but the Lab. It has chapters on puppies, adolescents, prime hunting dogs, and then senior dogs. I think they’re missing a Cycle level in there somewhere, but there you go. Each chapter has text talking about that stage of a dog’s life–a bit much text if you ask me, but I was trying to watch a football game. The book mentions that the breed is the most popular in America and most of them are not hunting dogs, but the photos and text focus on the hunting dog. It is a Ducks Unlimited book, after all.

Full disclosure: I am a Ducks Unlimited member and have been since probably about the time this book was published. Mostly I do it in honor of my father, who was a duck hunter (but owned a Golden Retriever, not a Lab). In the old days, I joined so I could buy a camouflage Ducks Unlimited hat to put on my father’s grave, but I’ve kept my membership mostly up to date in the intervening years to support their conservation activities and in memory of my father. Although I’m not a duck hunter myself and don’t really plan to take it up.

The book did make me want a dog, though. It’s been almost twenty years since I had a dog, the only one I owned in my adulthood. Horatio was a black lab mixed with a smaller breed, some neuroses, and perhaps some brain problems that led to his early death at a little over a year old.

Hrm, the book report is less about the book than about what the book made me remember. I suppose that’s more benefit than I get out of many of the books I read.

Separated at Birth?

Both Robert Francis O’Rourke, who for some reason has a Mexican nickname in “Beto,” and the guy who played Jay in Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and so on are both appearing in the Springfield area, and they both favor publicity shots of them holding the microphone in their right hands and gesturing expansively with their lefts.

“Separated at Birth”? I mean have you seen them both in the same place at the same time?

I have not. But, then again, I’ve never seen either in person in the first place and don’t expect to do so even if the opportunity conveniently presents itself such as it is.

The Classic Rock Coffee Album Cover Quiz (I)

I had a couple of minutes to kill after dropping my children off at school and before I was scheduled to help set up the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale (I’m not just a messy patron; I’m also, sometimes, a volunteer). So I stopped at the local outpost of Classic Rock Coffee for a cup of joe.

If you’re not familiar with it, Classic Rock Coffee is outfitted more like a rock club than Starbucks (and this particular location has a music venue off to the side). There are black lights and music memorabilia on the walls. And several of the booths have a collection of classic rock album covers beside them.

So, because I’m bored (or was during that interim), I’ve decided to make it a quiz. Which of the albums beside the booth do I own?

I was sitting today at the western most booth, which features these album covers:

I’ll bold the ones I own:

  • Sticky Fingers The Rolling Stones
  • Now and Zen Robert Plant
  • Chicago 13 Chicago
  • 52nd Street Billy Joel
  • Crimes of Passion Pat Benetar
  • Night Moves Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
  • Private Eyes Hall and Oates
  • Wheels are Turnin’ REO Speedwagon

25%. Not very good. Given my other experiences at the coffee shop, this is about what I get for every booth.

Note that the albums I own from the above list I first got on audiocassette, but I have since upgraded the Billy Joel to CD.

Good Book Hunting, Saturday, October 13, 2018: Friends of the Christian County Library Book Sale

Ha! Did I say “ I don’t think we’ll make it to the Friends of the Christian County Library Book Sale which is this weekend, and our weekend is already chocked.“? I meant it only seems chocked because we have not refactored it so that we’ve only got a run and then a trip to a book sale on Saturday.

So we went down to Ozark for the fall sale; apparently, the Friends of the Christian County Library have started holding the spring sales at another branch in Nixa, but we missed it this year. But we know the way to the Ozark branch all right.

I made it through the paperbacks without finding any mens’ adventure series fiction, and I made it through most of the hardbacks ignoring the John Sandford novels and the zombie Parker titles.

But I discovered that the Great Courses lectures were a dollar per library collection binder. Which means:

I only picked up a couple of CD sets before my beautiful wife taunted me into leaving behind only two courses, a Modern Scholar lecture series on the history of baseball, a Great Courses but entitled The History of Freedom, and a two-binder set of lectures on global warming.

The ones I did get include:

  • Elements of Jazz from Cakewalks to Fusion
  • Rome and the Barbarians
  • Philosophy of Science
  • The Queen of Sciences: A History of Mathmatics
  • 20th Century American Fiction
  • The Bible as the Root of Western Literature
  • America and the World
  • The Joy of Science

My beautiful wife got The Symphony and was the one to discover what a steal the courses were. Between $1 and $5 per course. Many are on DVD, which means I won’t be able to listen to them in the car, but still. Worth the trip alone.

I was far more restrained on the books:

  • Relativity: The Special and General Theory by Albert Einstein
  • Introduction to the Theory of Relativity by Peter Gabriel Bergmann with an intro by Albert Einstein. Clearly, I am hoping if I read the introductions and early chapters of enough books, I’ll understand it enough to go further.
  • A Black Woman’s Civil War Memoirs by Susie King Taylor.
  • Downton Tabby, a parody by Chris Kelly.
  • A History of Israel, Second Edition.
  • Cactus: A Prickly Portrait of a Desert Eccentric by Linda Hinrichs and Nikolay Zurek. Because the current crop of football browsing books aren’t getting browsed.
  • The Life of a Lab, a Ducks Unlimited picture book by Denver Bryan and E. Donnall Thomas Jr.

I also got a couple of Pete Fountains albums, Pete Fountains and Standing Room Only.

My beautiful wife got some books and magazines, and my boys got quite a stack of young adult / children’s books (not depicted). Overall we spent $65 including renewing our membership in the Friends of the Christian County Library.

So that should hold me a week, or less, until the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale.

The Truth

Look, ma, I made a meme.

Well, I didn’t make a meme. I put text on an image already made into a meme. But that’s what passes for creativity in the 21st century.

So how did this come about?

Well, I’ve started reading Hagakure: The Book of the Samaurai which I bought at the end of last month, and it mentions The Book of Five Rings in the other books you can buy section at the end. I thought I’d seen that at ABC Books as well, so when I had the opportunity to pick up 5K packets just north of ABC Books, of course I volunteered.

And I didn’t find the original Book of Five Rings; what I had seen is The Martial Artist’s Book of Five Rings by Stephen F. Kaufman. I went to the World Religious section to see if the original might be there, but it was not. Instead, I found The Raven Steals the Light: Native American Tales, a Shambhala book by Bill Reid and Robert Bringhurst.

As I only bought two, I figured that was too few for a picture and a proper Good Book Hunting post, but I was so eager that I started to read The Martial Artist’s Book of Five Rings at stoplights on the way home. I am eager to finish The Book of the Samaurai so I can start on it in earnest.

If you’re jonesing for a Good Book Hunting post, rest assured that the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale is next week (contra to what I thought, as I trespassed the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds this week to volunteer setting up the sale because I got my weeks mixed up). I don’t think we’ll make it to the Friends of the Christian County Library Book Sale which is this weekend, and our weekend is already chocked.

But I will admit to you, gentle reader, the actual point of the post. I have an admission to make.

Reading the Signs….Or the Lack Thereof

I don’ know what it means, but we’re, what, four weeks out from the election, and we’ve got a contested Senate race (I can tell it’s contested, because I cannot listen to the radio because the incumbent and her allies are spending an awful lot of money to oversimplify things and impress upon me that the other candidate wants to cut health care costs by smothering senior citizens with pillows and reselling their medications) along with local and state races, and I have not seen many Republican yard signs.

As one drives through the city of Springfield, one sees the occasional signs for local candidates identified by only a single name and, frankly, no indicator of what the singularly monikered person is running for, signs for that one guy who’s always running for office and losing (no, not that other guy who’s always running and losing–he got himself on the Republican primary ballot this year because he knows the only way to win down here is to be on the Republican line), and a couple others, including one or two for the former educator and more recently former legislator running for presiding commissioner probably in the “let’s put a tax increase on every ballot” mold of the outgoing Republican office holder who lost in a primary because at the local level, at least, Republican voters don’t want raising taxes as a platform plank. I don’t see many, if any, for the incumbent senator, either.

The dearth of Republican signs, though. How to read those entrails? It’s probably not apathy. The people who casually follow politics and might have picked up a sign from the election office or gotten one from a friend who was passing them out watch the news. They’ve seen that elephant regalia can invite vandalism or worse. How engaged are they? I would bet very. Because there are no signs.

False Dilemma: It Could Be Both

So what has made me more agile, years of martial arts training or years of putting away laundry in my children’s dirty room strewn with clothing, bedding, sleeping bags, toys stacked upon toys, Nerf guns (which the boys take too seriously to lump them in with the toys), a shrieking alarm set purchased from the “book” order at school, and quite likely a cat hiding under the debris that will shriek, bolt, and/or attack if you step on it.

You know what that is like?

No, Catherine Zeta Jones, you are not ready unless you’ve trained for things placed haphazardly on dressers raining upon you when you open or close a drawer, including things like a complicated Lego set with 600 pieces that will shatter upon impact upon your skull, scattering additional shrapnel to avoid on the way out of the room.

Although Entrapment came out before she became a mother. Perhaps she learned.

The Wisdom of Don Pendleton

A quote from the aforementioned Ashes to Ashes:

Artificial intelligence.

Sounds like something froma science fiction movie? Sure, but it is also military-industrial jargon that you might encounter any Sunday in the L.A. Times classifieds under “Scientific Help Wanted.” Artificial intelligence is the newest of the growth and glamour technological pursuits of our spave-ages society–mostly in military applications at the present state of development, but it has already crept into various private enterprises. The very term implies that more is under contemplation than mere data-mashing, which is mainly what a computer does; it suggests some sort of silcone brain that can reason both deductively and inductively, make decisions and execute them–the real-life equivalent of the old (ten years ago, I guess, is old by present standards) science fiction themes concerning the domination of mankind by monster computers.

But I digress. I was trying to make the point that our highly complex society of today is being managed, in most parts that really count, by computer technology and “artificial intelligence.” A lot of the chaos that erupts in our personal lives, and in our personal interactions with a computer-managed society, is caused when an individual or action does not match some mathematical model that is attempting to orchestrate the social conventions in a given sphere of activity.

It sounds like he’s lamenting the state of the Internet today.

But he published it in 1986, before the Internet was widely adopted.

The Can Is Half Full

In my garage, I have a trash can half full of crushed aluminum cans awaiting a trip to the recycling center.

I bought the trash can when we moved to Nogglestead just over nine years ago. So I expect that it will be full sometime around 2030. Maybe.

When I was younger, taking aluminum cans to the recycling center was a windfall. My parents, when I was young, would collect their empties in giant garbage bags and would take them in periodically, receiving cash in those days when it was hard to come by. Both figuratively and literally–ATMs were not yet a thing, so if you needed money on a Saturday, you needed to know a shop owner that would cash a check for you, but the scrap yard was open on Saturday mornings.

Immediately after college, when I was living with my sainted mother and working two low-paying, an-English-major-can-get-them jobs to keep up with my suddenly due student loans, she would let me take in the aluminum cans for a bit of walking around money, and a couple of bags of cans could net me somewhere around $40, which was quite a windfall in those days.

Out of habit, I still hold onto the aluminum cans I come across to sell to a recycler, but I don’t drink much beer or soda from cans these days. Most of the cans I get are from food trucks that include a can of soda with a meal deal, empty beer cans tossed out of pickups coming down the farm road, or crushed cans that I find in parking lots and toss into the back of my truck. The latter methodology embarrasses my beautiful wife a whole bunch, but you can take the boy out of the trailer park, but you can’t take the trailer park out of the boy.

But I suppose I’d better get on it before the contents of the can have to go through probate.

Book Report: Ashes to Ashes by Don Pendleton (1986)

Book coverI bought this book at Half Price books here in Springfield, Missouri, (not the one in Kansas) earlier this year, but apparently I did not mention it in a blog post. I do that, sometimes, when I only buy a book or two at a stop. Like last Saturday, when I stopped in ABC Books and bought a single title (Hagakure: The Book of the Samaurai by Yamamoto Tsunetomo). So allow me to explain that I bought two books in the Ashton Ford series by Don Pendleton, the creator of the Executioner/Mack Bolan series. This is the first book; I think I also got the third book in the series. Research (reading Wikipedia) indicates there are six in total.

The protagonist is a former Navy officer with some psychic gifts who helps people. In this book, he is approached by a young woman looking for a sex surrogate to give her the big O to overcome her hang-ups, so she comes to Ashton Ford because of his new agey reputation. He takes her home for protection when her body guard is found dead, but armed men take her from his apartment. He goes to her home, a compound in Bel Air with tight security and a bunch of people coming to party. Ford finds his name on the guest list, and he discovers the girl is actually an heiress to her grandfather’s fortune, and that her parents died under suspicious circumstances shortly thereafter. The trustee of the estate tries to put Ford under a very restrictive but very lucrative contract, the drunken wife of the trustee tries to seduce Ford and utters cryptic remarks, and people start dying–and the girl herself appears to be greatly unbalanced.

So it’s a Rich Family With Secrets In Crisis kind of plot line, with a new agey fantasy twist to it.

I didn’t like the book as well as, say, the Copp series (Copp For Hire and Copp On Fire, both of which I read–eight years ago? That long? The blog does not lie.). Pendleton still does the paragraphs and pages of exposition bit, although where in the Executioner books, he would go on about honor and civilization, here he goes on about metaphysics, the mind/soul, and other new agey phenomena. I mean, it’s his style, yeah, as is interjecting “, yeah” into the prose. But the topic of the exposition resonates less with me, which means that the expositions seem longer and more dissonant.

That said, it’s still better than many of the paperback originals out there (John D. MacDonald excluded, of course), and it’s better than any post-Pendleton Bolan title. So I’m likely to pick up the other Ashton Ford book I have here soon, and will pick up others in the series when I get the chance.

Obsolete Technology Quiz; Or, “What’s In Brian J.’s Closet?”

Via Ace of Spades HQ’s overnight thread, we get this story: Obsolete technologies that will baffle modern children – in pictures.

You know what that looks like to me? A quiz about what things Brian J. still has lying around the house.

So I’ll bold the things I still have and will italicise the things that I had at one point because, hey, there are multiple text styles.

  • Floppy disk (I have both 5.25″ and 3.5″)
  • Sony Walkman
  • Rotary phone (I still have an old timey wall-mount phone with a cord)
  • Typewriter (I think I’m down to one old electric typewriter these days)
  • Stand alone camera (Many)
  • Atari 2600 (Also many)
  • Nintendo Game Boy (it’s on the wall, but some Game Boy Advances are in the closet)
  • Betamax (I might have had one pass through my possession in the old eBay-selling days, but I can’t be sure–I did have some Betamax cassettes though)
  • VHS tapes (which are on the shelves with the DVDs)
  • Cathode Ray Tube Monitor (Although at this point, I am down to a boxed Commodore monitor)
  • Slide projector (I don’t have one, but I do have a little slide viewer and a bunch of old slides)
  • Game cartridges (for many systems from the aforementioned Atari 2600 to the depicted N64)
  • Walkie talkies (my children have one or more sets, or at least one of one or more sets)
  • Pagers (Never had one, but carried one, briefly, when I was ‘on call’ as a technical writer for the Y2K remediation effort)
  • Polaroid instant camera (Got one for selling Olympic, but I have since divested myself of the one or more I’ve owned)
  • Answering machine (Not tape-based, but I still have the one that my mother bought me in 1997 so she could leave me messages in my new apartment)
  • Sony MiniDisc Player (Although I suspect there’s a Sony DiscMan around here somewhere)
  • Camcorder (Maybe I had one pass through my hands; I don’t know what happened to my mother’s old one)
  • Edison Gold and Stock Ticker
  • Fax machine (although I can send faxes with my all-in-one printer, it’s been a year or so since the last stand-alone fax machine passed through Nogglestead as my mother-in-law got rid of one by giving it to me to use or donate–I donated it)
  • BBC Micro (Never heard of it, but now I want one)

Jeez, I am only 11/21.

I can do better.

Also, note that my children do know many of these old technologies as a result.

Book Report: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert R. Pirisg (1974, 1984)

Book coverPithy remark: It’s like Atlas Shrugged for the Easy Rider generation.

Of course, that oversimplifies the book, which is a complex, multi-partite story that is ultimately less than the sum of its parts.

All right, the story, a remembered/fictionalized/stylised story, is the narrative of the author riding cross-country on his motorcycle with his young son. The author received electric shock therapy after a nervous breakdown which led him to separation from his family and, indeed, from his personality before the treatment. So as the duo (originally a quartet, as another couple joins them for part of the journey to act as foils for the narrator) travel, the author goes into a bit of mindfulness talk about taking care in the moment using mototcycle maintenance as his example and contrasts it with some parts of the modern world. Then, the story shifts into a discussion of the narrator trying to reconnect with himself before the breakdown and, at the same time, with his young son. The narrator discusses the philosophy that he was previously working on, one where Quality is capitalized and somehow supercedes mind and matter. It’s more Brahman than Buddha, but it’s still up there. As the description of the philosophy moves on, we get more into the story of how the narrator got into the philosophy starting with rhetoric and then moving onto a post-graduate philosophy program, where he, according to his telling, terrorized the department with his truth. After the retelling of the breakdown, the father and son reach San Francisco, where they are reconciled at last.

So, the nature of the narrative is compelling, and the philosophic treatise within it is interesting, but I had a bit of an Anna Karenina moment in it and had to put it down for a while about sixty percent through it so I could clear my disappointment with the philosophical treatise and get back to just enjoying the ride.

I think the book came along at the right time; given that the market is currently full of practical Buddhist mindfulness tracts as books, I don’t know if it would become quite the cult classic today as it did as the Baby Boomers were hitting their early childbearing years.

So what did I flag in this book? When he’s talking about the dynamism of understanding quality, he quotes Harry Truman:

To put it in more concrete terms: If you want to build a factory, or fix a motorcycle, or set a nation right without getting stuck, then classical, structured dualistic subject-object knowledge, although necessary, isn’t enough. You have to have some feeling for the quality of the work. You have to have a sense of what’s good. That is what carries you forward. This sense isn’t just something you’re born with, although you are born with it. It’s also something you cand evelop. It’s not just “intuition,” not just unexplainable “skill” or “talent.” It’s the direct result of contact with basic reality. Quality, which dualistic reason has in the past tended to conceal.
It all sounds so far out and esoteric when it’s put like that it comes as a shock to discover that it is one of the most homespun, down-to-earth views of reality you can have. Harry Truman, of all people, comes to mind, when he said, concerning his administration’s programs, “We’ll just try them… and if they don’t work… why then we’ll try something else.” That may not be an exact quote, but it’s close.

Although he does talks at length about ancient Greek philosophies, he somehow completely misses or does not address Pragmatism as explained by Peirce and James.

The other thing I flagged is how he uses style as though it’s a bad word. I immediately contrasted that with Virginia Postrel’s thesis in The Substance of Style and the concept of sprezzatura, where effort is to make something look good effortlessly. Pirsig puts style in direct contrast to his Quality without being quite specific enough that style itself is not the enemy, but using cosmetics to cover for the lack of quality.

At any rate, I’m glad to be able to say I’ve read it, and I enjoyed it for the most part, but it’s not the life-changing experience the cover sells it as.

Also, take a quick glance at the other titles available in the Bantam Wisdom Editions line:

It’s almost a quiz of new agey books! I’ll list them, bold the ones I know I own, and link to the ones I’ve read:

If you include this book, I’ve read half of this particular syllabus. I don’t know if that made me any wiser, though.

What Brett Kavanaugh Does Not Want The FBI To Reveal!

Brett Kavanaugh invented Bro Country music.

That alone should disqualify him from any part of polite society.

Speaking of Bro Country, I’ve heard a new Knight Errant Bro Country song in heavy rotation as I mow my lawn. Chris Janson’s “Take A Drunk Girl Home”:

What a spectacularly bad idea given the uncertainty of memory even in its unimpaired state and the current climate.

You know, I’ve spent last week, erm, making light of these accusations from thirty-five years ago not just because I’m callous, but because I’m afraid.

Because memory is a funny thing.

Have you ever had this conversation?

“Remember that time when ….?”
“No, that was a different time. That time…..”
“Are you sure? Didn’t we….”
“No, we…. The time you’re thinking about we….”

I have those conversations all the time with my beautiful wife about things that have that took place less than twenty years ago. Some of them took place less than a month ago. So I’m not certain of my memory or anyone else’s.

In my younger days, when I was courting, such as it was, I was pretty careful in my interactions with women. How careful? Neurotic. I didn’t take liberties. As a matter of fact, I didn’t date that often.

Even so, what if a woman I interacted with conflated memories or interpreted (or re-interpreted) events later?

I remember a night in my friend’s apartment in Wisconsin. A friend, a girl who took a sort of pride (or did she?) in her sexual exploits had come along with me to Milwaukee to visit (Was it the time we went to attend my nephew’s baptism? Or did I bring her another time?). A few of us gathered and had a few drinks, and after my friend went to bed, the girl and I were to sleep on the floor, and we spent some time talking. I wondered if something would happen between us, but it didn’t, and we went to sleep.

But what if she remembered differently now? What if she blended some memories of other nights after another party and thought that I did something that now seems untoward? If she came forward with some half-memories and an allegation, she could ruin my life easily even though I remember the night clearly because, face it, I didn’t find myself in that situation very often in my youth.

Or what about the one girlfriend that I broke up with uncleanly and reconciled with briefly a year later? What if she no longer wants our intimate encounters during those times? All she would have to do is say, “Brian assaulted me,” and the damage would be done.

It really makes this Edna St. Vincent Millay sonnet less melancholy and more sinister:

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

I mean, I can feel a little tremor of fear that what is happening to Brett Kavanaugh could happen to me except I’m not a high-ranking Republican of any sort.

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day from an Internet friend, a woman, who said that many women have been sexually assaulted, and if you joke about Brett Kavanaugh’s situation, your woman / woman friends will lose faith in you.

If you follow the above advice of Chris Janson to the letter, you can be as chivalrous as you can, but what happened and your word and reputation matter less than what the drunk girl remembers. That is crazy and dangerous.

So pardon my my gallows humor about it. Or don’t.

Book Report: O Pioneers by Willa Cather (1913, 1990)

Book coverThis book fits right into my recent reading of books set in the latter part of the 1800s (which includes the Little House books, most recently Little House on the Prairie as well as Me and My Little Brain). Unlike the others, though, this is not a children’s book.

Instead, it tells about Alexandra, and her family’s efforts to run a farm in the newly settled upper west midwest. The book is broken into several sections. In the first, a teenaged Alexandra goes into town with her youngest brother, who loses his kitten up a pole in the winter, and a friend of hers rescues it. It’s a hard winter, and Alexandra’s father dies, and the friend and his family move away. But Alexandra goes against the advice of her brothers, who want to sell the farm and move as well, and mortgages the farm to add to its holdings as the other families move away.

End section one, and suddenly it’s sixteen years later, and all that has paid off. Alexandra, unmarried and closing in on forty, has made the family prosper, although two of her brothers resent it. The youngest, whose kitten was lost in section one, is now back from the university and is flirting with the young wife of a nearby farmer, a vivacious woman whose husband resents having to farm to support her. To make a short story into a novel, it does not go well.

The book is chock full of what my fiction writing professor would call nice little moments: A description, some characterization of the characters in the book, but the plot, as it is, meanders. We jump from struggle to success without much of that story, and as a frequent Rand reader in my youth, that’s what I’d like to read.

According to my research (which is “reading the flier that came with this Reader’s Digest edition”), the book was originally three short stories that Cather interwove into a novel. I can see that. So it’s a literary novel first and foremost.

The characters, though, seem a little thin and are drawn with less warmth than one sees in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Cather, who lived in the upper plains in her youth, did not end up there–she ended up on the east coast. So. I don’t think she’s writing the book for the people that it’s about. She describes some of the land as being like the hills of Lombardy. And her French immigrants are written in a vernacular that sounds more Italian than French.

At any rate, Willa Cather. You know, I didn’t read anything she wrote as part of my English degreeing (but, in my defense, I was in the writing program, not the reading program). So sometimes I kinda conflate her with Eudora Welty. And maybe Pearl Buck. I do have a copy of My Antonia around here somewhere; this book was a pleasant enough read that I won’t hide from the other novel if I find it.