Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Books”

Bard Bits: Oh, For Reading Out Loud


Today’s audiences talk about seeing a movie. And we are very much a visually oriented culture. Yet, in Shakespeare’s day audiences would say they were going to hear a play because language was such an integral aspect of their culture.

Shakespeare knew this, of course, which is why he wrote his plays with rhyme, rhythm, homonyms, laced with ambiguity. He wanted his audience to hear the auditory beauty of language.

Pen in hand the Bard does ponder

Modern audiences are more accustomed (or have grown more accustomed to) sound bites—quick bits of communication. No wonder eye rolls and twitches are commonalities when someone mentions Shakespeare—we are no longer used to the longer, more developed portents of language. We want quick and easy auditory digestion instead of the languid delight of a language banquet. ‘Tis a shame, yet supping upon a Shakespeare play is possible with a bit of effort.

Shakespearean plays are written to be heard and the Stratford-Upon-Avon wordsmith created the means to better enjoy his words by employing the following:

1. Read the lines with deliberation and emphasis. For example, Macbeth’s “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” does better with a slow pronounced repetition to emulate the tedious monotony of life.

2. Use punctuation as a guide by reading to the end stop rather to the end of the line it gives more meaning to the lines. This is known as enjambment, where the line overflows into the next line, much like a waterfall cascades flow smoothly creating movement. For example, in Romeo and Juliet, Juliet pours out her emotions for Romeo in one rolling, passionate wave:

When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

Reading this passage out loud, carrying one line over into the next enhances Juliet’s feelings for her Romeo.

3. Be aware of accented words, pronouncing them with an extra syllable. For example “perfume’d would be three syllables, not two. Shakespeare would have done this to enhance the meter or rhythm of the line. Plus, it has the bonus of sounding fancier.

4. Know that Shakespeare presented his words with intention to paint pictures (no access to CGI) with verbal cues to ignite his audience’s imagination. He needed his words to create imagery since scenery and props were minimal on the Elizabethan stage. For example, when Juliet says, “It was the nightingale, and not the lark,/ That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear,” she is in her wedding bed with Romeo—she is no doubt as close to him as her heartbeat.

Reading Shakespeare can be an enriching, delightful experience when his words are read out loud with considerate digestion.

Winter Wonderland Once Again


As stated earlier, the travel bug has not bit us. We hunker down in winter and practice wishful thinking for warmer climates.

All in all, winter is for the birds. Really. That’s what we are doing for entertainment. We have enticed juncos, nuthatches, chickadees, sparrows, finches, a part time dove, and an infrequent flicker to our front yard with seed and such and sit back and enjoy the show.

Took Rocket J. Squirrel a few attempts to reach the feeder

We have a very basic feeder and try to keep it filled; however when it’s 19 degrees, with a brisky wind, finding alternative methods of feeding our feathered friends, like tossing food out the window for them onto the snow is the solution.

The seed buffet has garnered the attention of other critters: squirrels and deer. The squirrels are comical in how they try to avoid going through the snow to get to the food. They traverse on the branches above and tail twitch in frustration that they can’t quite reach the feeder. We spent a good hour observing how one squirrel finally took the plunge and dove into the snow, tunneling a track to feeder’s base to glean dropped seeds.

All you can eat seed buffet

The deer easily amble over to the feeder and lick seeds off the tray. They are not perturbed by our presence at the window.

We think this little guy looks like a burro so we have dubbed it Burrito

The most entertaining morning session was when the squirrel and deer arrived at the same time. The deer held their ground and would not acknowledge the squirrel’s attempts to mosey up to the seed feed. Old Rocket would inch up, tail twitching in anxiety and then Burrito would level a look that translated as “Excuse me?” and Rocket would hightail up the tree and pace the limb waiting, waiting, waiting for his turn.

Showdown at OK Feed and Seed

As for the birds—their territorial flutterings are reminiscent of playground squabbling. There is one white-crowned sparrow who is pro at fluffing up his feathers and chasing off the smaller birds from the seed buffet.

Like little kids playground squabbling

For most, the chosen winter sport is skiing, for us staying warm, while we watch from our chair side seats the front yard antics, suffices. Although, truthfully, after the third snow dump (and it’s still early December) I might just look into those Costco travel brochures that we pass by when we load up on birdseed. I imagine there are birds I can watch from a beachside balcony.

Book Giveaway: SLEEPY HAPPY CABY CUDDLES by Mike Allegra


Book Giveaway: SLEEPY HAPPY CABY CUDDLES by Mike Allegra

https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2022/10/09/book-giveaway-sleepy-happy-caby-cuddles-by-mike-allegra/
— Read on kathytemean.wordpress.com/2022/10/09/book-giveaway-sleepy-happy-caby-cuddles-by-mike-allegra/

Author Spotlight: Gary Paulsen


Usually I highlight the five star reads from the previous month as a Reader Roundup.

No five star reads in September.

Yes, this is disappointing to report. I read fifteen books and several were okay, some were meh, and a couple came close being a really good read. Keeping to my standards though, and no five stars.

So–

This post will instead feature a really good author: Gary Paulsen. Yeah, the guy who wrote Hatchet. Yes, that story of a boy whose private airplane pilot dies en route to see his father and they end up crash landing in the Canadian wilderness. He survives moose, mosquitoes, and choke berries with only a hatchet. It’s the book my sophomore boys usually picked to read for their book report even though I know they have read it (again and again). It is a good book, but Gary Paulsen wrote more than Hatchet. In fact, he wrote around 200 books, five being related to Brian of Hatchet.

image: sperrygoodemporium

A phenomenal author who wrote mostly about survival, be it in the wilderness or just making through a dysfunctional life, Paulsen also wrote humorous stories and historical stories. He wrote with insight and knowledge. He was the type of writer who lived his stories which is one reason they are so engaging. He knew what it was like to live in the wilderness. He hunted, fished, sailed—he even ran the Iditarod.

Looking at a photo of him it is difficult to get past his grizzled hermit-in-a-cabin appearance. Yet, he was a wordsmith and loved to read books along with respecting and rejoicing in the wilderness.

image: Wikipedia

Gary Paulsen passed from heart failure at 82 in 2021 and leaves a legacy of books that generations will discover and appreciate. His writing and his storytelling, especially his Brian stories are worthy reads at any age.

My husband, well past his middle school years, is absolutely enthralled with Paulsen’s books. His utterances of “whoa” and “wow” and guffaws of delight make me set aside my “grownup” books and reread Paulsen. I agree with all his observations, and we have great share sessions.

A really good read from a really good author is a treasure.

National Read a Book Day


It’s obvious I’m a Book Booster. Reading, reviewing, writing. Celebrating access to books. Promoting reading. A book in hand whenever possible. Today’s national recognition is an everyday celebration for me.

I couldn’t fathom not having a book handy to read.

How about you? Is this a special day or an everyday note of recognition?

Cowabunga! It’s July 12th and Cow Appreciation Day!


Cows are beyond cool. They are bovine.

One moovelous animal

I admit to being a cow aficionado. I grew up mucking about on our neighbor’s farm. Later in life I lived across from a dairy farm for twelve years. I udderly came to appreciate the wonder of this animal. To chew green grass and deliver creamy milk is marvelous.

The close proximity of cows inspired me to create a book that celebrates the cow with over 100 cow jokes with some stuff and nonsense thrown in. No publishers yet are interested. I remain hopeful that they will eventually realize my book, while not Pulitzer Prize material, is outstanding in its field.

To celebrate the cow here are some riddles to help you appreciate the cow:

1.What’s green and black and white all over?

A field with cows.

  1. What did Old MacDonald say when the cow stepped on his foot?

“Ee-ii-ee-ii-ouch.”

  1. What did Old MacDonald say when the cows began to stampede?

“Aaugh, I’m having a herd attack!”

  1. What did he say after the stampede?

“Cows should be seen and not herd.”

  1. How did the farmer divide up his herd of cows? 

He decided between the calves and the calve-nots.

  1. What did the farmer say to the old cow?

“It’s time you retired. You’re pasture your prime.”

7. Why do you call a pregnant cow?

Calfenaited.

8. What do you call a cow that isn’t pregnant?

Decaf.

9. Why did the cow jump over the moon?

The farmer had cold hands.

10. Why did the farmer install bee hives in his pasture?

He wanted to live in the land of milk and honey.

Celebrate the cow today. If a hug isn’t possible, then an ice cream cone is acceptable.

Have you thanked a cow lately?

Book Birthday Two


Two Years Today!

Two years ago on April 7th, Someday We Will debuted ready to greet the world with its message of the joy that comes with anticipating a visit with those we love, especially visits with grandparents.

Two years ago was also the start of the pandemic. Schools, businesses, transportation, borders, so much shut down as the world learned how to cope with Covid.

Not the most advantageous time to promote a debut picture book. Ironically enough (although one librarian deemed it prescient) the book’s focus is on the joy of coming together after being separated.

Covid was not on my mind when I submitted the book for publication to Beaming Books two years earlier.My thoughts were on the joy experienced whenever I visit my granddaughter.

Separation has taken on deeper meaning with Covid. There is more involved, more considerations when planning a visit. “Someday we will…”and “Someday is here!” has more personal meaning these days.

With libraries and bookstores open once again to in-person events, I look forward to making the rounds and promoting Someday We Will.

In these past two years have you had your someday turn into today? I hope so! That moment of being reunited with a loved one is not just for grandparents and grandchildren.

In the meantime I’ve been busy writing and submitting other stories and look forward to sharing more book birthdays with you.

Looking to order the book?

Looking for reviews? Goodreads

Word Nerd: Places


Oh, the places you’ll go or at least get to know with this batch of terms.

firth: a long, narrow indentation of the seacoast.

wynd: a narrow street or alley.

Wind your way down a wynd

peregrinate: to walk or travel by foot; journey.

saltigrade: move by leaping.

Nothing like saltigrade by the sea

natant: swimming.

wampish: to wave about or flop to and fro.

estivate: to spend the summer, as at a specific place or in a certain activity.

Natant, wampish, estivate: water wonderful words

Bard Bits: Shakespeare Is For Everyone? (That is the question…)


As an AP English teacher, Shakespeare is naturally part of the curriculum and it’s expected my students adore the Avon man as much as I do. Not usually the case. As for my regular sophomores? The groans when we approach Julius Caesar can discouraging. Yet, it is often in how Shakespeare is taught that makes a difference. This is a separate topic. The main topic is the assumption that Shakespeare is for everyone and they are going to like it. That’s like saying exercising is for everyone. It should be, but face it, not everyone embraces a push-up or a run around the block. Some like the idea of exercising and others have tried it, and many let others revel in it. So it goes with Shakespeare.

AUSTIN TICHENOR is the creator of The Shakespereance; co-artistic director of the Reduced Shakespeare Company. He contributed a thought-provoking article about Shakespeare. Here is the gist of his rhetorical stance:

Is Shakespeare for everyone? Of course he is! Absolutely!

I just wish people would stop saying it.

In Shakespeare’s day, his plays — and plays by others, and theater generally — really were for everyone. All levels of society congregated to see and hear plays in performance, to share gossip and news, and to rub literal and metaphorical elbows. Not just a source for entertainment, Shakespeare’s theater was the internet of its day.

But beginning in the 19th century, theater (and opera and symphonies) became co-opted by the upper class who wanted to keep socially — often meaning ethnically and economically — “unacceptable” people out of the theater, turning what was originally popular culture into “high” culture and using the arts as a tool of status and exclusion.

Worse, as a by-product of imperialism, Shakespeare was imposed on non-English speakers in different countries, held up as the best playwright in the world with the understanding that only by learning his plays and accepting his greatness — and, by extension, the greatness of the English language and Anglo-European culture — could one become truly civilized.

So I get it: “Shakespeare is for everyone” is an important correction, a reminder that Shakespeare’s plays were written to be popular entertainments, designed to appeal to everyone from the groundlings to the nobility.

But I worry that “Shakespeare is for everyone” nowadays feels less like a promise and more like a threat; the implication being that if you don’t like him, there’s something wrong with you..

Because the truth is, Shakespeare isn’t for everyone, and it’s disingenuous to suggest that it is. Nothing is for everyone: Personally, I don’t like opera, baseball, or video games, and in London at the turn of the 17th century, there were tens of thousands of people who undoubtedly preferred to skip another one of Shakespeare’s epics and head to the bear-baiting pits instead.

So what’s the alternative? I prefer saying “Shakespeare is for anyone who wants him.” For many reasons (i.e., the comedies aren’t funny, the language is incomprehensible, the kings and their nobles are confusing, the references archaic), Shakespeare is demonstrably not for everyone. And that’s okay. But I’ll argue till my dying day that he can and should be made available to anyone who wants him, with many different entry points for people of all levels and interests, whether they be live productions, fascinating lectures, compelling museum exhibitions, excellent films and videos, or even, dare I suggest, pop-up books. One of the first steps in appreciating Shakespeare, it seems to me, is being honest about his output, for we can only truly appreciate his greatness by being discerning enough to recognize the parts that don’t measure up, and understanding that no matter what we do, he still won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

A Round Up of Good Reads: 2021


My Year in Books
Good Reads of 2021

THE DETAILS:
Pages read: 29,532
Books read: 102
Shortest book read: 40 pages

Ada's Violin by Susan Hood
So inspiring!

Longest book read: 1,008 pages

Shakespeare After All by Marjorie Garber
A bounty for Bardinators

Average book length: 289 pages
Most popular: Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library–over 1 million reads (although I did not favor it)
Least popular: Lucius Adelno Sherman’s What is Shakespeare: An Introduction to the Great Plays (not everyone appreciates Shakespeare)
Average book rating: 4.3 (I must be particular)
Highest rated by Goodreads readers:

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Captured a 4.51 rating–a likable read, no doubt a movie is in the making

First review of the year: One Hundred Years of Children’s Books in America, Decade by Decade edited by Jane Yolen and Marjorie N. Allen. An underrated and overlooked sampling of books and the history of America from the early 1800s to the 1990s–would like to see a more current edition.
Five star rated books: 11 (I really am particular discerning)

Hitting my reading goal of 101 (the year isn’t over yet) creates a fine sense of accomplishment, especially since it became increasingly more difficult to sit down and focus on reading. After school started I found myself with a certain lassitude that gravitated towards passive viewing of animal shows, Western movies, and of course, my old standby of Dr. Who reruns.

Your Turn:
Did you hit your reading goal for the year?

Any stand out reads? I’m always looking for the next TBR item.

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