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November 17, 2014

A friend said, “People who dog-ear pages should be shot.” Although I think he actually said something else, something with a more lingering death.

Dog-earring pages is one way to annotate books, among others we discussed last week. Also last week, L suggested I might memorize a Robert Frost poem, so down I went into the library annex for the collected poems.

Flipping through the book, I spotted handwriting, in ink, on facing pages. Beside a poem that goes …

The rain to the wind said,

“You push and I’ll pelt.”

They so smote the garden bed

That the flowers actually knelt,

And lay lodged—though not dead.

I know how the flowers felt.

… beside it was penned, “me.”

On the facing page beside a poem titled “Acceptance” was also penned, “me.” There’s a melancholy air to the whole thing—that someone would write “me” in a book not his own beside two poems full of sighs.

I imagine a deliberate hand moving the pen, but the possibilities for his troubles are endless and defy consideration. From just two letters written twice I divine the writer is older.

I sense the “me” was not so tightly held as it might have been earlier in life. I imagine there was an interior activity rather than a reaching out to future readers of the book.

Then, I saw in the Mini Book Sale a copy of “Falling upward: a spirituality for the two halves of life.” I remember when the library’s copy arrived, but I couldn’t recall reading it.

I may well have put it down at the time for the same reasons I almost did again. It is a Christian and Catholic book, with beliefs and viewpoints I don’t share, although I am quite familiar and even conversant with them.

I couldn’t put the book down for good, kept reaching for it again. The author, Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan from New Mexico, has many wise things to say about how our experience of life changes—and well it should change—as we mature.

Beside the Mini Book Sale is the New Book Shelf. I have three things from there. You know how it happens when all your requests arrive at once.

A very fun book is “What if? : serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions,” by Randall Munroe, the creator of the webcomic site. His stick figure cartoons about “science, technology, language, and love” are witty and smart, and this book includes some seriously researched answers to strange questions from his fans.

Munroe is a former robot scientist with NASA, so he has the stuff to provide these answers.

Another book by a popular scientist is “The Sense of style: the thinking person’s guide to writing in the 21^st century” by Steven Pinker. Pinker published an article recently in The Chronicle of Higher Education titled “Why academics stink at writing.”

Who could resist? Which led to his book, a larger treatment of the problem and a delightful search for clarity in self-expression.

Last, an irresistible title: “In search of the perfect loaf” by Samuel Fromartz. It’s not a bread book in the way of “The Village Baker” by Joe Ortiz or “My Bread” by Jim Lahey or “Tartine Bread” by Chad Robertson.

Fromartz cites these experts and others in his search to understand the technology of bread. He begins with the perfect assignment for a home baker longing to make a good baguette: He becomes an embedded reporter in a Paris boulangerie.

The next four years provide the book’s subtitle: “a home baker’s odyssey.” It’s winter—time for a warm kitchen.


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