GRACE NOTES - APRIL 2020
When I began, way back at the beginning of March, thinking of a theme for this month’s blog post, coronavirus was just some background noise in newsfeeds. Now that we are in nearly full shutdown mode, the world is a different place. We need to come up with new ways of working, of going about the everyday logistics of life, and of relating to those around us from a safe distance. I hope you are all staying safe and healthy. We miss all of our customers and look forward to the day when we can open our doors again and welcome you all in. In the meantime, please continue to support small businesses by visiting their websites and ordering online. Our website is open 24/7. Take care of yourselves and each other. With that said, I will go on with my original theme for the month - taking care for our planet.
This April 22 is the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day. The need for us to not only act as individuals, but to hold those in power responsible for the ravages of climate change has only deepened in the last half-century. Much has been written on the subject in the past several years. Here a few suggestions to spur you into action -
No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg - This slim volume is a collection of speeches made by the Swedish teen whose voice has become a beacon for the environmental movement. Thunberg’s righteous anger is laser-focused on those who have the most power to make real change - politicians and corporate leaders. The book is like its author - a lot of inspiration in a small package.
On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal by Naomi Klein - The award-winning journalist and author of This Changes Everything puts forth a cogent argument for embracing the Green New Deal. She discusses not just the science, but issues of climate justice and the effects of runaway capitalism on our planet. Like Thunberg, whom she cites in her work, she makes a case for the urgent need for swift and sweeping action.
McSweeney’s 58: 2040 A.D. - This anthology of speculative fiction has stories by such literary luminaries as Tommy Orange (There, There), Luis Alberto Urrea (The House of Broken Angels), and Abbey Mei Otis (Alien Virus Love Disaster.) The stories range from the apocalyptic to the mundane, from war and disaster to how human beings survive day to day in a severely changed climate. Meticulously curated and beautifully presented, it will appeal to all lovers of good literature, not just sci-fi fans.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer - This achingly beautiful book is a love letter to the earth told from a Potawatomi perspective. Kimmerer, a professor of environmental biology, brings the reader into the realm of deep ecology with elegant, sweeping prose. She invites us to look at the earth at a deep, cellular, cyclical level, and to appreciate that humans are not separate from it.
Click the links at the bottom of the page for more recommendations.
Book Review - Weather by Jenny Offill
Weather is a miracle of tense economy, a tight-throated scream under the breath. Each paragraph is crafted like lapidary.
Lizzie is an underqualified university librarian who has a side job answering emails for a doomsday-prep podcaster. Surrounding all of this is her increasingly distant relationship with her spouse, her growing concern for her young son’s existential worries, and her angst over her recovering addict brother.
Lizzie begins her own small preparations for the coming apocalypse, discovering the value of chewing gum, learning prepper acronyms, stockpiling sleeping pills, and fantasizing about moving to Canada to hunt and fish.
All of this in told in short, wryly observational spurts that encourage the reader to stop between each one and consider how reliable Lizzy is as the teller of this tale. There is a lot of dark humor in this book, despite its surface bleakness. Our main character has a pair of “least depressing underwear,” which make her feel like “a brand-new person.” Her husband Ben “is reading the stoics before breakfast. That can’t be good can it?” And there are actual jokes interspersed, which come as happy little rimshots among the general uneasiness of the story.
Offill has crafted a small gem on the disquietude of life during climate change, and given us an unforgettable character with whom to share our apprehensions.
Coming in August - Death in Her Hands by Otessa Moshfegh
Otessa Moshfegh has a rare voice in fiction. Her characters, through some deep wound that is all but hidden from the readers, react to the world in baffling, sometimes exasperating ways. In Death in Her Hands, Vesta Gul, a widow in her ‘70s, tries to solve a murder mystery. There is no corpse, just a note left near her cabin in the woods, where she lives a blissfully isolated life with her dog. She concocts an elaborate back story about the victim and her killer based on the four sentences in the note. As her investigation spools out, the reader learns about her fraught marriage and her reasons for pulling away from society. The book is a deep dive into the mind of an unreliable narrator. Full of dark humor, suspense, and an overarching sadness, it’s a satisfying, gripping read.
We miss Daniel Thompson every day - poet, activist, saint in the city, he was a voice for the voicelss. Even though he has been gone for sixteen years, his words remain timely and timeless. Here is one of my favorite of his poems.
EVEN THE BROKEN LETTERS OF THE HEART SPELL EARTH
Even the broken letters of the heart
Spell…Earth. Let the heart beat for the trees
Their perfection, the ancient rain, the open spaces
Along the river, the species that are endangered
The tiger burning bright, the flower, the honey bee
The frozen places of silence, the cruel bottom
Of the sea, the schools of fish made truant
And in the sky the ozone’s wound and the bird’s nest
And the eye that rests on the sparrow…
Even the earth of the brokenhearted can heal
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