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I prefer to own books, although I download audio books from my library's website when there is a book I really want to "hear." When I buy a book, there is nothing like going to an independent bookstore. When I lived in Connecticut, I frequented my favorite bookstore,  R.J. Julia Booksellers. It is so much more than a place to buy books. The tall wooden bookshelves are lined with handwritten reviews on cardstock, tucked underneath many of the books.

There are two front entrances to the bookstore. One leads into the main part of the store, with a Café straight ahead. To the left of the entrance is a wooden staircase, which is lined with books. The other entrance brings one into the magazine, cookbook, animal-related and blank journal section, with an assortment of gifts displayed. This description does nothing to describe how cozy and beautiful the bookstore is inside.

This is an exterior shot of R.J. Julia Booksellers:

rj-julia-booksellers

The bookstore is in Madison, Connecticut which is on the shoreline of the Long Island Sound. Madison is my favorite Connecticut town! Often, when I go to Madison, I will drive past R.J Julia's. Not too far from the bookstore is Hammonassett Beach State Park. I spend time there, laptop computer in tow, where I sit on huge rocks and write while watching the waves crashing against the rocks.

Here is a picture that I took while sitting on one of those large rocks. After a while, I could taste salt on my lips!

Hammonnasset rocks

After spending time there, I drive to R.J. Julia Booksellers. When I am there, I choose the book I want to read, buy it, then head into the Café.

I always order the same thing: Cranberry-Walnut salad, which includes organic spring greens topped with goat cheese, cranberries, mandarin oranges and candied walnuts. With that, I drink a carbonated lemonade. I bring my meal onto the back patio, which is made of uneven bricks, surrounded by wrought iron tables and chairs. There is plenty of shade from large trees that envelop the patio. It is a beautiful setting. When I lived in Connecticut, I treated myself to this experience once a week, on Fridays. Yea, the ritual became expensive... so sometimes I bought a magazine, instead of a book.

Although R.J. Julia happens to be my FAVORITE bookstore in the United States, there is a close second. It is in the town of Hardwick, which is nestled within Vermont's "Northeast Kingdom."

The Galaxy Bookshop, an independent bookstore, is in an old bank building. The children's section of the bookstore is in the bank vault!

Galaxy Bookshop vault

The bookstore, like R.J. Julia's, is very cozy inside. The woodwork inside the store is unpainted and the windows remind me of those found in a Craftsman home. The hardwood floors throughout the store also contribute towards the cozy "at home" ambiance.

To find an independent bookstore near you, click here.

I am going to write something that you, my dear readers, may not need to know. I prefer baths... long, leisurely baths. (My bathtub is pictured below.) On those days that I don't have to hurry up and get out the door, I take my long, leisurely baths. When the water starts to cool, I let some of the water out of the tub and add more hot water. During these hour-long hot baths, I read.

My bathtub

My current bathtub read is titled,  "Vision in the Sky: New Haven's Early Years, 1638 - 1783," written by Myrna Kagan . It is actually a children's book, geared toward 10 years and up, and written for a reading audience of local New Haven school kids. It doesn't matter! It is a wonderful book and her writing style is such that I feel as if she is telling me a story ...while sitting on my couch! It is a cozy read.

Kagan refers to New Haven's streets and landmarks and writes about how they have evolved during the past 371 years. So, unless you are familiar with New Haven, you might miss part of the fascination!

I have been interested in New England Puritans for many years, but one mostly reads about the Puritans in Massachusetts Bay Colony. So, it was intriguing to read about those who left Boston in the 1630's and migrated to New Haven to start "New Haven Colony." My hometown of Wallingford, CT was a part of New Haven Colony in those early years.

Here is an example of Kagan's relaxed writing style. In this paragraph, the author mentions my hometown:

"You might ask what, exactly, the English got in the way of land. They had bought, or practically had been given, the land that is now the towns of New Haven, East Haven, Branford, North Branford, North Haven, Wallingford, Cheshire, Hamden, Bethany, Woodbridge and Orange. Probably, you and many of your friends live in one of these towns. Wouldn't you agree that Mr. Eaton and his friends paid a very small sum for this great tract of land whose worth is so great today it cannot be calculated?" (Kagan 40-41).

Myrna Kagan can come to my house anytime to tell me stories of New England's early history. I think she is a magnificent writer! I will read more of her works.

Work Cited:

Kagan, Myrna. Vision in the Sky: New Haven's Early Years, 1638 - 1783. 2nd ed.   New Haven: Hillhouse Press, 2007. Print.

As mentioned in my "About Me" page, I am a college student, majoring in English with a Writing minor. Today, I registered for the Spring 2010 semester. I am nearing the end of a long journey. The Spring semester will be the last full time semester I will need to graduate. I will need to take one more Spanish class in the summer and then I will be done!! It's taken a long time, with many major life changes along the way. I began the degree in August 2004.

I have learned so many things while taking the courses required for the degree. Since a Baccalaureate degree is interdisciplinary, I have taken courses that I otherwise would not have chosen to take. One of the most unusual things that I learned in my Sociology class is that when you are at a restaurant, do not complain about your food and ask for it to be taken back to the kitchen to be fixed. There is a high probability that the food will be tampered with (read: spit on...) or worse!

When I heard that, I doubted whether it was true. But, studies (what studies... where can I read them) have been done to show that restaurant workers are often very unhappy in their job and will resent customer complaints. In their frustration, the food may be spit on if you send it back to the kitchen. I am still not convinced of this, as it seems to be a stereotype.... and I don't like to categorize groups of people based on an assumption. But, who knows? In any case, my husband and I make fresh meals and never go out to eat. OK... not entirely true... there is a Thai restaurant in our hometown that we go to once in a while. Their Fresh Spring Rolls (not fried) are delicious and filling.

Taking English literature and Writing classes has opened up a world of discovery for me. I have read Chaucer in Middle English and by the end of that semester, I was able to get through the  Canterbury Tales without too much difficulty. I became familiar with the vocabulary and actually enjoy the vocabulary quizzes. It was a fun challenge!

Through the years, I have discovered that I love nineteenth-century British literature. Jane Austen's fiction and Virginia Woolf's non-fiction essays are favorites. George Eliot's  Middlemarch was also one of my favorite stories, but I haven't read any of her other works. The plight of women prior to 1920 was brought to my attention based on the themes of the stories and essays that I have read. In particular, the Married Woman's Property Act of 1870 and how it affected women. I also became familiar with the Victorian servant class (and the classes within the servant class.)

I am merely skimming the surface in this blog post. My awareness and life perspective has changed immensely since beginning my English degree plan. In the writing classes that I have taken, I read the essays of E.B. White,  William Zinsser and Virginia Woolf. I admire their writing styles and hope to become as concise a writer as they were.

We have all heard of "Charlotte's Web" and those who haven't read the book have, most likely, seen the animated movie. The book was published on October 15, 1952. In honor of Wilbur, I refrained from eating bacon for breakfast 17 days ago! OK, so it's true that I didn't eat bacon on October 15th, but it had nothing to do with Wilbur. E.B. White also wrote the children's stories, "Trumpet of the Swan" and "Stuart Little." Although the three stories were originally created for his nieces and nephews, he was encouraged to have them published.

White was an essayist and long-time columnist at New Yorker magazine and Harper's between 1927 - 1943. He also revised his former professor William Strunk's book, "The Elements of Grammar." This little handbook is a staple in every writer's personal library. White emphasized clarity of expression as the key to good writing, saying that a few words used with purpose are better than many words that ramble on without a point.

As I began working toward my Bachelore degree in English, I took a Rhetoric/Writing class called "Editing, Usage, Style and Clarity." In this class, my professor introduced me to E.B. White's essays. Since then, I have been hooked! When I write essays, I try to use the concise styles of E.B. White and William Zinsser.

Here are some online essays written by E.B. White:

Once More to the Lake

Death of a Pig

Here is a short essay in which E.B. White defined "The Meaning of Democracy."

"We received a letter from the Writer's War Board the other day asking for a statement on "The Meaning of Democracy." It presumably is our duty to comply with such a request, and it is certainly our pleasure. Surely the Board knows what democracy is. It is the line that forms on the right. It is the don't in don't shove. It is the hole in the stuffed shirt through which the sawdust slowly trickles; it is the dent in the high hat. Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time. It is the feeling of privacy in the voting booths, the feeling of communion in the libraries, the feeling of vitality everywhere. Democracy is a letter to the editor. Democracy is the score at the beginning of the ninth. It is an idea that hasn't been disproved yet, a song the words of which have not gone bad. It is the mustard on the hot dog and the cream in the rationed coffee. Democracy is a request from a War Board, in the middle of the morning in the middle of a war, wanting to know what democracy is."


 

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804, as Nathaniel Hathorne. In 1825 or '26, he changed the spelling of his last name, by adding a "W", which his sister also began to use.

Nathaniel Hawthorne as young man

Why would he want to change the spelling of his family name? Well, he had some relatives from generations past from which he wanted to distance himself. One and a half centuries distance was not enough for Nathaniel! He changed his last name's spelling because his distance paternal grandfather, John Hathorne, was the magistrate of the court during the Salem Witch Trials in the 1690's.

John Hathorne

John caused a lot of innocent people to hang for the "crime" of witchcraft. Of course, these women (and a few men) were not witches or in a covenant with the Devil. They were victims of their environment. Superstition was a deeply held belief and the Puritanism was a covenant religion. Either you were for God, or against Him. Either you acted "Holy" and "Pure", or you were evil.

Execution of Anne HibbinsSource: http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/salem/generic.html

If you went for a walk in the woods, you were suspect. Afterall, everyone knows that the woods are the Devil's playground. If you happened to have a skin-tag (as many older people do), you were sure to be hung as a witch, for having a "witches teat"... the mark of a witch. You wouldn't stand a chance.

Rebecca Nurse's graveSource: http://s3.amazonaws.com/findagrave/photos/2001/222/nurserebecca6.jpg

Oh... to live in Salem, Massachusetts in the late 1600's. So, one can understand why Nathaniel added a "W" to his last name. He seemed to feel remorse for what his ancestor had done. So, Hawthorne wrote some short stories and a novel about life in Salem during the 17th century. The theme of those works centers around flawed humanity and sinful nature. Since Puritans believed that we are all born with Original Sin, a person was doomed from the start. Even the most honest person was full of sin.

This was the premise of "The Minister's Black Veil," "Young Goodman Brown" and "The Scarlet Letter." All three stories take place in Salem during the 17th century. In "TMBV", the minister wears a black veil and refuses to take it off. He is a sinner and he chooses to display his sinful nature for all to see. In "YGB," he has a crisis of faith (and a crisis in his marriage to his wife, Faith.) YGB takes a walk in the woods, which, if you remember, is the devil's playground... He is surprised to see fellow neighbors in the woods doing things that are less than holy and pure. I don't want to spoil it for you, but in the end, YGB's life is ruined because he has lost faith in humanity. He can trust no-one. Who is evil? Who is good? Is there any good to be found in human nature, or are we all just hopeless sinners?

In "The Scarlet Letter," Hester refuses to believe that the relationship (and child) she has had with Reverend Dimmesdale is something for which to be ashamed. She loves him and will not be made to feel like a heathen or an adulturer. Her loyalty to him prevents her from speaking his name to the court who demands that she reveal the name of the father of her "out-of-wedlock" child. She refuses, but one is left to wonder why Reverend Dimmesdale stood by and let her be tormented and thrown in prison for refusing to reveal his name. Was his cowardliness stronger than his love for Hester? Hawhtorne leaves the reader to guess.

Salem, MA is so well known for it's witch trial history, so its other attributes get less attention. Salem is a coastal town with a rich mariner history. Salem and Essex were  important trading ports and there is a magnificent museum devoted to the spice trading that took place there centuries ago. It is called the Essex-Peabody Museum.

If you are in New England, I encourage you to take a drive north of Boston to visit Salem. It's a walkable town with so many places to see. The houses there date back 300 years.

Source: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/snarl/files/2006/10/Salem%20MA%20October%202006%20087.jpgSource: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/snarl/files/2006/10/Salem%20MA%20October%202006%20087.jpg

It's worth a trip!

I made the ambitious goal of studying for 4 hours in preparation for a Spanish midterm exam. Goal reached!  I studied in 45 minute increments, with blog surfing in between.

I did not take the Spanish midterm today. I will take it on Wednesday since I am currently suffering with a case of (non-smoker) pleurisy that has been doing a number on me for the past eight days. To get my mind off of my shortness of breath and related lung pain, I started this blog.

Today, I began to add wonderful sites to my Blogroll. Reading such fine literary blogs has inspired me to develop a reading list for the remaining months of 2009.

I have always read regularly, but during the school semesters, most of my reading is assigned. Most of what I have to read is enjoyable and I am usually glad when I finish a book that I would not have otherwise read. For example, I just finished reading Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. I enjoyed the witty relationship between Benedick and Beatrice. If Shakespeare were a 21rst century screenwriter, I imagine he might have written something similar to Frasier! I am referring to the use of language and its comedic nuances.

I am about to begin reading Macbeth, often called "The Scottish Play" for superstitious reasons. William Shakespeare was the originator of many words and phrases still in use today. Here is one such phrase:

"What's done is done." (spoken by Lady Macbeth in Act III, scene ii.)

...and so I bid you goodnight.

As the title suggests, my blog posts will cover a variety of literary adventures. I will write about my literary travels, write book reviews and will share some of my literary analysis essays. In addition, I may include posts about life in general.

What I am reading for non-school-related pleasure: Julie and Julia.

What I am reading for my English degree: Shakespeare’s “Henry V”; Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” and works by Flannery O'Connor.

My goal for yesterday: to study Spanish for 2 hours. Goal reached!

Goal for today: to study Spanish for 4 hours, broken up into small increments of time.

Goal for Monday, October 19, 2009: to do well on my Spanish Midterm exam.