I Realize that Nuthatches Come in More Than One Type, and What This Has to Do With No Longer Being Afraid of Grover Norquist. Twitter Those Senators and Reps. Who Signed an anti-tax Pledge (whoever heard of a country that deprives itself of a revenue stream!!) to Not Legislate Even Though They Were Elected By the People to Deliberate and Come Up With Solutions Not Cross Their Arms Over Their Chests and Say I Signed a Pledge and the Tea Party Will Oust Me If I Don’t Toe the Line Grover Drew. Or Some Such Shameful Excuse. (Another 9-Liner in 420 Characters)

I used to think all Nuthatches were the same,

then I noticed some had red breasts, some white,

some had a heavy black eye line,

some a dark cap that extends to the nape.

Scarcity drove the Red-Breasted Nut to new territory,

like with the Republicans who realize that signing a pledge

NOT to do something isn’t the way to participate in a Democracy.

Now I detect gutsy courage in some Republicans;

they’re not all alike.

PATTY 11/29/12

NOTE: (Go to this site for a list of the Republicans who’ve signed pledge.


E-mail or twitter them to loose themselves of the surly bonds called Grover Norquist, the most powerful non-elected man in the US. Recently some Republicans have declared themselves independent from the absolutist anti-tax pledge: Senators Saxby Chambliss,Lindsey Graham and Reps.Peter King, Steve LaTourette and Scott Rigell. Come on! Show yourselves to be as varied as the Nuthatches have turned out to be.)

SHORT CUTS : books to read for people with unruly stacks in unlikely places

Our regular book reviewer is on hiatus in a warmer clime.

 I imagine she’s hard at work.


So today’s guest post is by Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio’s longtime “voice of books”. For thirty years.

He’s the author of five novels, four collections of short fiction, and the memoir Fall Out of Heaven. His short fiction has appeared in The New YorkerPloughsharesThe Antioch ReviewPrairie SchoonerNew LettersThe Idaho Review, and The Southern Review, among other places. He teaches in the Writing Program at George Mason University and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.

If you love travel, even armchair-style, I hope you find his book of essays, A Trance After Breakfast, under your tree.

… because along with extra shirts and underwear, we always bring with us that which is usually impossible to leave behind at home, which is to say, ourselves, our spirits, our, if you will, souls.

Chuese has a real sense of his audience, and reports on (what seems to me) the most interesting and entertaining books of the day. As it happens, I like his taste  ~ it spans everything from experiment fiction to genre fiction, including all those good good books in the middle.  You can catch him once a week on NPR’s All Things Considered.  It’s his own unique art form ~  the two-minute book review.


A Wintry Mix: Alan Cheuse Selects The Season’s Best

November 29, 2012 7:00 AM
Cheuse illustration

Nishant Choksi

It’s that time of year again — the leaves have fallen, the dark comes early, the air brings with it a certain chill — and I’ve been piling up books on my reading table, books I’ve culled from the offerings of the past few months, which because of their essential lyric beauty and power stand as special gifts for you and yours.

They sometimes seem at odds, the lyrical impulse and the narrative impulse. My own taste runs to the books that somehow combine the two modes, and when I’m considering what to give as gifts to people who live to read — and read to live — it’s always those books that stand out in my mind as the best variety of gift.

We all have our stories that extend over time, but if the stories don’t pulse at least now and then with the power of the lyric impulse, it’s not really life in all its fullness.

Hungry Ear

The Hungry Ear

Poems of Food & Drink

by Kevin Young

Hardcover, 319 pages

To set this holiday table I first want to recommend poet Kevin Young’s anthology The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink. Here is gustatory poetry for all seasons, from summer berry-picking to autumn harvests, winter holiday meals to maple syrup springs; poems about breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks; about meat and drink, soups and salads, desserts and snacks, coffee and Coca-Cola. The joy in these poems knows no bounds. Who knew that so many wonderful poets, from Li Po to Yeats to Mary Oliver and Gerald Stern, wrote so many wonderful words about satisfying this particular appetite? The taste of milk, the taste of apples, the taste of wine, bread, cheese, the company of loved ones, the presence of friends, all here, tripping off the tongues of some of the country’s, and world’s, most gifted poets.

To introduce it all, Young gives us poet Joy Harjo’s poem “Perhaps the World Ends Here.”

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on …

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Christmas at Eagle Pond

Christmas at Eagle Pond

by Donald Hall and Mary Azarian

Hardcover, 78 pages

At the top of the stack on my book table rests a slender volume, a 70-page novella, Christmas at Eagle Pond, by former Poet Laureate Donald Hall. In this straightforward piece of narrative nostalgia, Hall conjures up a story of what it would have been like if he had visited his grandparents’ New Hampshire farmhouse for Christmas in 1940. In doing so, he has made one of the most engaging Christmas narratives in a long line of these by U.S. writers, a story filled with the brisk December cold, horse-drawn carts and trains, recitations at the local meeting house, and as Hall gives us, a bountiful description of the holiday meal:

“Called to the table, we found it covered with food from end to end: chicken and stuffing, vegetables, mashed potatoes, gravy, butter, vinegar in a cruet. Uncle Luther presided at the far end of the table, Gramp sat at the near end by the plate stacked with chicken … First thing, Luther closed his eyes and said grace, ‘Dear Lord, we thank Thee.’ “



A Version of Homer’s Iliad

by Alice Oswald

Hardcover, 90 pages

On my own table sit three more volumes, books that carry us from the antique past, through 20th century history, and into the future. Out of a British poet’s love and respect for ancient poetry comes Memorial, Alice Oswald’s audacious, powerful and beautiful version of The Iliad. But, as she notes in her introduction, seven-eighths of the poem has been removed, not missing but sheared away, so that Oswald can focus on what she calls the lament tradition in the metaphors evoking the deaths of hundreds of warriors on the battlefield of Troy:

Like a traveler trudging across a plain
Who comes to a river and stands helpless
Looking down at that foamy swiftness sweeping to the sea
And takes a step back …

Like a farm boy looking after the pigs
Who tries to cross a river in a rainstorm
And gets swept away …

And HECTOR died like everyone else
He was in charge of the Trojans
But a spear found out the little patch of white
Between his collarbone and his throat
Just exactly where a man’s soul sits
Waiting for the mouth to open …

The Life of Objects

The Life Of Objects

by Susanna Moore

Hardcover, 239 pages

From ancient Greece we travel forward, to novelist Susanna Moore’s clear-eyed vision of wartime Germany in The Life of Objects. Moore tells the story of a dreamy young Irish country girl, a lace maker named Beatrice, who gets hired by an aristocratic German family just before the outbreak of the Second World War. The book is the story of Beatrice’s initiation into the thick of modern life — and ours, no matter how many times we may have read about the Nazis’ rise to power — into the war itself, and the Russian occupation that followed.

The view the narrator gives us of the war is unusual in its frankness, and the spareness and beauty of the delivery — as the family’s glorious estate declines along with the German nation, and Beatrice’s education grows to include the worst kind of savagery, personal and political, in a story that somehow redeems all of the destruction coming down around the Irish heroine.

Merge / Disciple

Merge / Disciple

by Walter Mosley

Hardcover, 132 pages

The final book I want to recommend to you makes up part of a series of short novels by the talented and versatile fiction writer Walter Mosley, with the overarching title of Crosstown to Oblivion. Mosley published the first volume last year. And now, here’s a new addition, comprised of two short novels,Merge and Disciple. In these odd and original books, ordinary men, black Americans, find themselves contacted by aliens of one sort or another. Their stories offer a neat mix of ideas and entertainment, and the role of sex in contemporary life — especially for a man essentially living alone — is something Mosley writes about with a freshness and frankness that adds a truly interesting dimension to his already multidimensional tales. Crosstown to Oblivion offers a long and visionary reach.

But if oblivion sounds a bit too dark for this already dark time of year, well, pick up from the table that Kevin Young poetry anthology and turn to “Green Chile,” Jimmy Santiago Baca’s ode to his New Mexico grandmother and her favorite pepper — here’s the last stanza — and the world will light up again:

All over New Mexico, sunburned men and women
drive rickety trucks stuffed with gunny sacks
of green chile, from Belen, Beguita, Wllard, Estancia,
San Antonio y Socorro, from fields
to roadside stands, you see them roasting green chile 
in screen-sided homemade barrels, and for a dollar a bag, 
we relive this old, beautiful ritual again and again.

This time of year, so do we all. 

Toni 11/29/12

Ode to Mixing It Up and Gathering Together, Be Ye Bird or Beast. Another 9-Liner in 420 Characters.

I marvel at the wild mix of birds that fly in, as if on cue,

post-storm outside the White’s Woods bird blind.

Titmouse, finch, nuthatch, cardinal, grosbeak, sparrow, crow, jay, & downy

pack themselves tooth and jowl to eat

suet, sunflower seed, peanuts, popped corn, oranges, mealworms, soaked raisins,

& nectar.

It’s like my family when we plan to gather every few months

to rub shoulders and cook food.

Wild. I marvel.

PATTY 11/29/12

Doug is making challah with the help of Taly via Skype.

This is not one turkeys strutting its stuff above; although this one is stuffed so that we couldn’t strut after eating it.