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Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic

Currently reading

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right
Arlie Russell Hochschild
Progress: 96/454 pages
To Green Angel Tower
Tad Williams
Progress: 44/1104 pages
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
Ibram X. Kendi
Progress: 22/750 pages
All the President's Men
Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward
Progress: 73/383 pages
Women's Gothic and Romantic Fiction: A Reference Guide (American Popular Culture)
Kay Mussell
Progress: 17/157 pages
The Looking-Glass Portrait
Linda Hilton
Really Neat Rocks: A casual introduction to the rocks & gems of Arizona and the lapidary arts
Linda Hilton
Progress: 61/61 pages
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Jon Krakauer
The Power of Myth
Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyers
Progress: 20 %

Reading progress update: I've read 4 out of 1104 pages.

To Green Angel Tower - Tad Williams

Just getting started.  Wanted to set up the tags, since BookLikes still isn't updating them.

Halfway . . . . . And now the review

Stone of Farewell - Tad Williams

I will write a full review here later.


To Green Angel Tower awaits and it is as long as the first two books combined.




Okay, the review of Stone of Farewell.


I dropped this down to 4 stars instead of 4.5 ( which I gave to The Dragonbone Chair ) for a couple of reasons.


My biggest complaint was that the beginning was so draggingly slow.  The first 100 pages could easily have been condensed to 50; not even the wonderful writing was enough to justify the slow pace.  Had I not known where the book was ultimately headed, I might have given up on it.


The slowness of the beginning served to make the later section of the book where Simon sojourns with Aditu and Jiriki even more, well, just plain boring.  I like fat books, but not when they're just fat; they need to be meat and muscle.


One thing that surprised me was how much of that later section I remembered above all else from my earlier reading of this series.


This is not a series to be read casually, and this book especially, unless the reader is just passing time.  The action takes place on multiple stages, with characters moving back and forth between them, and even having access to the cast of characters list at the end isn't enough help to keep track of names, ethnicities, and allegiances.  This does become a little easier by the end of this volume, simply because so many characters have been conveniently killed off and fewer new ones introduced to replace them.


I still wish there had been better maps, but that may have been laziness on my part.  My book-club editions of LOTR have big, lovely fold-out maps of Middle Earth that make following the Fellowship's journey a lot simpler.  Given that there are so many different "fellowships" on so many different journeys in the Williams saga, good maps would have been very helpful.


By the end of this volume, which is roughly the halfway point of the series (not including sequels), Simon and some of his closest companions have reached a rejoining at the actual Stone of Farewell, but nothing has actually happened there . . . yet.  Other members of the alliance are still on their own missions, and will presumably be reunited in the third/fourth volume.


There are a lot of similarities between this saga and LOTR, including the mythical "Uttermost West," the magnificent ruins of a mythical underground kingdom, even magical seeing stones for communicating that get usurped by the evil power, and so on.  This tends to make me back out of the reality of the book's world a little bit.


But I'm now getting ready to plunge into the big final volume, so we'll see how it turns out.






Reading progress update: I've read 366 out of 576 pages.

Stone of Farewell - Tad Williams

Previous update was made o the Kindle Fire so I didn't write a lot.


Another 40 pages in and I'm hoping to finish this volume maybe tomorrow.


The typos are becoming more annoying. 


One character's name is Josua.  J O S U A.  At least three or four times it's been JOSHUA.  It's bad enough to have a character whose name is too obviously close to a "real" name, especially with this whole pseudo-christian religion element woven in.  When the typesetting errors compound the problem, it's more than just annoying.


I didn't take the time to mark the errors.  Some were "she" instead of "he" or vice versa.  Words were duplicated, as in "something could could happen."  Punctuation, usually quotation marks, was sometimes left out.  Because of the complexity of Williams's writing, knowing where dialogue begins and ends relative to stage directions and other narrative is essential.  Having to reread a passage to decipher dialogue from narrative completely pulls the reader out.  When it happens in the middle of a tense scene, it's even more annoying than usual.


I'm still enjoying the book, and I'm not blaming the author for the typos.  Truth is, typesetting in the 1980s could be pretty horrendous, and maybe I'm just spoiled.

Reading progress update: I've read 326 out of 576 pages.

Stone of Farewell - Tad Williams

More and more action, but also more and more typesetting errors.  This won't affect a review rating, but it's very very annoying.

Reading progress update: I've read 221 out of 576 pages.

Stone of Farewell - Tad Williams

Action is picking up a little more now, after a very, very, very slow beginning.  The first 100 pages or so felt more like 500.


I wish the maps were better in these paperback editions, or that they were all in one place, like with a master map of all Osten Ard, then smaller maps of the various locales.

Update on the water leak - it's way worse than anticipated

Because of the previous leak eight or ten years ago, we believed the line from house to studio and then from studio to workshop was all copper.  We found out today it's not.


One copper pipe comes from the house main water line.  Somewhere between the house and the studio, someone at sometime or other split that line into two PVC (plastic) lines.  The only reason to do this would be to have a separate water supply going to the workshop, which is behind the studio.


It would have made much more sense to have a single line go from the house to the studio and then from the studio to the workshop.  But that's not how they did it.  This means that the line going to the workshop runs UNDER the studio, and there's no way to access it or to turn it off if it springs a leak.


PVC should never have been used, not underground, not even in Arizona where the ground doesn't freeze.  I have no (easy, affordable) way of replacing it, either.  The current leak can be repaired -- it will require much more digging though far less actual labor to repair once the leak is found -- but future leaks are almost certain to happen, and sooner rather than later.


This is not good news.  Not even.


I'm headed over to the studio

BF finally came home and we accessed the main shut-off valve between the house and the studio.  The water is turned off to the studio, which is a very minor inconvenience.  Better to have no bathroom there for a day or so than to pay $300 to a plumber for what I can do myself.  The distance between the two buildings is 25 feet.


I have a couple very small cleaning/organizing projects I want to finish over there, and then I'm going to read.


I'll make the water line repairs tomorrow or Thursday, once the ground dries out.

Never too old to learn

Last night I figured out how to access one of my public library's digital collections via my Kindle Fire.


I did this all by myself.


Boomer, but not helpless.

Starting things off wrong on the day after Christmas

Small leak in the water line between house and studio.


I can repair it.  I can even dig down to it -- here in Arizona water lines are usually no more than 12 to 18 inches into the ground because there's no danger of frost.


But I can't shut the water off.  BF has the tool and knows where the valve is, and he's . . . socializing.


He wanted me to call a $50/hour (or more) plumber to dig a hole and patch a pipe.  When I said no, I wasn't going to pay that kind of money, I got silence.




He'll be home eventually and turn the water off and then I can fix it.  In the meantime. . . . .

Reading progress update: I've read 96 out of 454 pages.

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right - Arlie Russell Hochschild

This is a very distressing and disturbing book, but it's not giving me any new insights.


The first part, which I've now completed, is mostly about the people who live around Lake Charles, Louisiana.  Louisiana is one of the poorest, least educated, least healthy, and most polluted states in the country.  Yet the voters remain staunchly right wing, conservative, anti-regulation, anti-government, and pro-petrochemical industry which is the source of the highly toxic pollution that has virtually killed their environment and is slowly killing most of them.


They want jobs, even if those jobs are in industries that will kill them.


They are anti-abortion, even if the babies born will be poor and have few opportunities.


I really want to feel sorry for them, but somehow I just can't.


I know that it has long been a policy for companies to take dangerous operations into communities that are least prepared to defend themselves.  It wasn't news to me that the petrochemical companies of the Lake Charles area exploited a population that was poor and under-educated and desperate. 


But by exploiting these communities, the corporations have turned the victims into supporters, and now the rest of us are suffering.


I know I should feel sorry for them, but . . . . . . .

16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Square #11 - Dongzhi -Fave Chinese Food

Favorite Chinese food is everything at the Woo Chi Buffet.


One of these days I will learn not to stuff myself, but today was not the day.





Reading progress update: I've read 60 out of 454 pages.

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right - Arlie Russell Hochschild


After yet another sleepless night . . . . . . .

(Update at the end, 12/25)


Stress has exhausted me.  I went to bed last night around 10:00 and read for maybe half an hour before turning out the light.  Tossing and turning for another hour finally put me to sleep, but the dogs woke me at 4:00 to go outside.


Our nights are cold -- mid 40s -- so standing on the patio in tee-shirt and undies while the dogs did their potty thing was enough to wake me up and undo what little rest I'd had.  I came back to bed to warm up, knowing I probably wouldn't go back to sleep.  At 4:30, I turned the light back on and picked up The Stone of Farewell.  Another hour of reading had me drowsy enough to consider some more sleep, but of course that's when Chiquita wanted outside again.  She's 13 so I tend to pamper her a bit.  It was nearly 6:00 before I returned to bed. 


I thought about just getting up and starting in on all the work that has piled up, but I was warm and comfortable and it was still dark outside, so I drifted off until shortly after 8:00.  By then BF was up, too, making noise, riling up the other dogs, etc.


And I needed to talk to him about his plans for tomorrow.  Was he going to accept Fran's invitation to dinner, or stay here?  His decision would determine how much cooking I would do tomorrow; if he planned to stay, I would indulge myself in a small turkey with stuffing and gravy and biscuits, maybe even a pie.


I dragged myself out of bed.


"Are you going to Fran's tomorrow, or staying here?" I asked him.


"Why?" he responded.


"Because I need to know what groceries to buy."


"I'm staying here."


I suspect this is because there aren't any good football games to watch with Les, but it doesn't matter.  The decision is made, I'm not going to be pressured any more to spend the day with the crazy people, so I'm content.


I did my grocery shopping, wished all the cashiers happy holidays, and came home, much relieved if not completely in the holiday spirit.


I even bought him an expensive chocolate bar just for that decision.


Happy Holidays, Everyone!



Christmas morning.


I thought it was over and done with.  I should know better.


BF's friend Les sent a text message this morning reiterating the invitation to join them at Fran's house (essentially Les's house as well, since he lives with her) for dinner at 4:00.  He promised there would be no political talk.


Here's what I told BF:


"You're welcome to go if you want, but I'm not going.  Period.  It's Fran's house and Joe is her son.  If she told him, and even if Les told him, to avoid political talk, there's nothing that would actually prevent him from going off on some tangent that someone else said.  There's nothing that would prevent him from taking some I say out of context or the wrong way or hearing it as political just because he thinks I'm an evil monster and therefore anything I say must be evil.  And Joe is still Fran's son; she would not kick him out of her house on Christmas."


There was a brief silence before BF replied.


"You're right," he said.  "I understand.  But they were pretty angry at Joe, too."


I said nothing so he went on, "Both Les and Fran told him what he did was wrong."


I came back with, "They never told me.  Joe never apologized, and Molly never apologized.  And regardless, I would still sit there all day and be afraid of what might happen.  How is that any fun for me?"


He said he understood.  What he doesn't understand is that the repeated pressure makes me feel as though I'm the one who has done wrong.


Merry Christmas my ass.



Reading progress update: I've read 38 out of 454 pages.

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right - Arlie Russell Hochschild

Updated to correct the pages/pages read to conform to the digital edition I'm reading.


And to add that this is a study done not of certain voters who might be feeling regret for how they voted, but of those people before they voted.  So far, having read the introduction and first chapter, I've not seen anything I didn't pretty much already know, but it's early going yet.

Reading progress update: I've read (approx) 20 out of 288 pages.

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right - Arlie Russell Hochschild

I found this in the pubic library's digital collection, which appears to have been expanded recently.


I've read Hochschild before and have at least one of her books in my personal collection, but I've never had any personal contact with her.


The beginning of the book is disturbing to me, and maybe it's meant to be.  The author, a noted liberal/progressive, takes her research skills to Louisiana to try to find out why Tea Partiers feel the way they do, with the strongest possible emphasis on feel.  And then she intends to use that understanding of their feelings to find ways to find common ground with them.


And yes, I know I used the word "find" many times in that paragraph.


The reason the beginning was so disturbing was that Hochschild acknowledges that the divide between right and left has widened over the years because the right has moved further right but the left has not moved further left.

A preferred menu

Shut Up and Eat Your Snowshoes! - Jack Douglas

Link to previous Holidays, Schmolidays post for background and cast of characters.



Over the past four or five days, BF has been subtly applying slight pressure for me to join him on Christmas.  As explained previously, he requires almost constant socializing; I don't.


The holiday gathering has been moved from Molly and Joe's house to Fran's, but the same participants will be present.  I have politely declined; life is stressful enough that I don't need any more.


A couple of nights ago, BF asked if I remembered exactly how last year's fireworks started, and I said yes, I did; and in explaining it to him, I also remembered that he hadn't been present at the beginning.


Allow me to indulge (aka bore) you the way I did BF --


Joe, our host, is uncle and in many ways surrogate father to Kyle, the would-be fantasy novelist.  Kyle is at least somewhat well read in that genre, if not in anything else.  Joe had been encouraged to read more, so that he and Kyle would have something in common.  To that end, Molly had given Joe a dictionary for Christmas, so he would have a resource for learning all the words he encountered that he had never seen before.  I don't know exactly which specific dictionary it was, but something on the order of what we had in our junior high classrooms in the early 1960s.


Molly had asked me if I thought it was a "good" dictionary.  Not really knowing for sure what level Joe was reading at -- that is, intellectual level, not grade level -- I replied that it looked like a good basic reference and should be more than adequate for him.


I did not, of course, hint that Joe would have been intimidated or even terrified by something like this:



And of course I rarely use the big dictionary any more simply because I have the Internet.


Anyway, Joe had his new dictionary.


At some point in the late afternoon or early evening, Joe and Les came into the kitchen where I was chatting with Fran.  Joe grabbed his new book and plopped it down on the table, then angrily demanded of Les the spelling of a word he was going to look up.  Everything about Joe's tone of voice and body language screamed rage.


Remember, this was Christmas last year, December 2016.


The word was "kakistocracy," which had been floating around some of the news media.


Les had tried to find the word online using his phone, but couldn't spell it quickly enough while trying to punch in the letters on the tiny keyboard.  Joe kept interrupting even while he was furiously turning pages of the dictionary.  Molly appeared from somewhere, curious as to what was going on.  I felt nervous.  I knew very little about Molly and Joe's politics.  Thanks to an earlier conversation, I knew Kyle was a right-leaning and painfully ignorant misogynist and suspected pretty much the same was true of Joe, but for the most part political talk had not been common at any of these gatherings.  But the use of the word "kakistocracy" and Joe's obvious anger had me on alert.


And when Les couldn't come up with the spelling, they all turned to me.  I gave it to them.


It wasn't in Joe's junior high dictionary; he immediately shouted that it must not be a real word, that it was something Les had made up or gotten from left wing media.


Like an absolute idiot, I began to quietly argue that it was a perfectly good word, that Joe's dictionary was just not complete.  I explained that the derivation was from the Greek, with the first part coming from "kakos" meaning "bad" and the second part from the same root as "democracy," a form of ruling or government.  Thus, it meant basically a government made up of bad or incompetent people. 


Now please understand that I only took one semester of classical Greek in college and that was 50 years ago, so my explanation was not 100% accurate.  But I came pretty close.  At any rate, it was close enough to send Joe into a fury.  Within half a minute or so, Les had found the full definition online via his phone, and that was even worse, of course.


During the shouting match that followed -- 90% of which was Joe simply screaming -- Molly somehow asked me if I wasn't a Republican, and I gave an honest answer: No, I told her, I'm a socialist.  Her response was a horrified but slightly puzzled look on her face; Joe's response was that people like me should all be taken out and shot as traitors.


That's when I gathered up my possessions and left the house.


Ten or fifteen minutes later, Molly came outside and asked me to come back in.  I refused, politely but steadfastly.  Though she did not apologize, she admitted neither she nor Joe had any idea what a socialist was and would I please come explain it to them.  Again, I refused.  I had already been made to feel threatened and I was not going back.  I considered telling her she and Joe could look it up in the dictionary, but I didn't even want to get into that much of a conversation with her.


When I had finished recounting to BF what had happened last year and why I still refuse to join those people for the sole purpose of making them feel they did nothing wrong and that I've forgiven them -- or worse, that it was my fault after all! -- I couldn't get the whole thing out of my mind.  I've had almost no sleep the past couple of nights, a situation that hasn't been helped by external conditions.


This morning I finally managed to sleep in enough to make some sort of recovery.  My brain feels reasonably rested and clear.  And I remembered a review I had posted here not too long ago, of Susan J. Douglas's Where the Girls Are.


In my review, I noted that while Douglas and I had much in common, I had never been a cheerleader.  In fact, I had never been popular, never had many friends, never had any friends close enough that our friendship last much past high school.  I have none now.  The only difference is that now, today, as I have passed the 69th birthday and can comfortably call myself an Old White Lady, I know why. 


I also don't care.


It was in that pivotal year of 1964 that one of my teachers found out I was (however tangentially and however non-practicing) a Jew.  He systematically denied me certain advantages? rights? privileges? to which I would otherwise have been entitled, and thus restricted my access to other advantages that might have made my ultimate academic trajectory very different from what it was.  I didn't even learn of this until it was way too late to do anything about it; the damage had been done.


The point is not to claim some kind of special victimhood status, but to point out that as similar as any of our experiences might be, as similar as mine might be to Susan J. Douglas's or to that of any other woman born in the U.S. in the early part of the post-war baby boom, "similar" does not mean "identical."  I am not Susan J. Douglas; she is not I.  Hillary Diane Rodham lived for a while not far from where I lived in Park Ridge, Illinois.  We are of that same boomer generation.  But we are not the same person.


Last Christmas, I literally feared for my life because of the anger of a man who didn't even really know what a socialist is.  Over the past year or so, I've been blamed -- as a white woman over 55 living in Arizona -- for the voting pattern of white women over 55 in Florida and Alabama. Increasingly over the past few weeks, I've seen my entire generation of boomers, those of us born between 1946 and 1964, blamed for the rise of the current crop of isolationist kleptocrats and the implementation of their policies.


As a sociologist, I understand maybe a little better than some other people, how these notions of group identity and group responsibility form.  But also as a sociologist, I feel a responsibility not to encourage or support or enable them.  To put all individuals with a common trait into a monolithic bloc is an extreme form of othering and it's a tool of autocrats.  On one hand, it serves to set up the group as a threat because of its otherness; and it's easy to dismiss that kind of threat with "That's not what I meant at all!"


But on the other hand, such identifying by group makes cooperation between groups difficult if not impossible.  Blaming all immigrants for the crimes committed by a few individuals instills fear and distrust and can make even allies nervous and less eager to help.  Blaming all Muslims for the acts committed by one sect or even one individual promotes division and more fear and more distrust.  This kind of blaming is bad enough when it's focused on things people have actually done.  It is far worse when it's leveled at characteristics of what people are, characteristics over which they have no control and cannot change.


Refugees, people fleeing war and famine and threats of death, have no control over where they were born.  Whether they are Syrians escaping the destruction of their homes or DACA youngsters who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, their circumstances are not of their own making.  They are still individuals who should be seen as individuals, treated as individuals, treated as human beings.  Prejudice and bigotry that direct hatred and fear at entire groups should be condemned by all thinking people, and some of us take it for granted that they are.


But they aren't.


No matter who I voted for or how much money I gave or how hard I campaigned, I can't erase the stigma of being a white woman who didn't vote often enough or give enough or campaign enough.  I can't change that I was born in 1948 and some members of my generation turned out to be jerks and schmucks and worse; I have to take responsibility for all their mistakes simply because we share the age in which we were born. 


Nothing, nothing, nothing I can do will change that.  If I dare to say "Not all white women," I'm immediately and instantly condemned and told to shut the fuck up.  If I dare to say, "Not all boomers," the same thing happens.


And people wonder why I'm angry?


I do not and cannot know what it's like to be a person of color.  Can I read about it?  Of course.  But I can never know what it's really like.  I only know what it's like to be white, and to be aware that people of color are still people just like me who have a different experience, a different point of view.  I don't know what it's like to be wealthy, either, or tall or athletic.  I have no musical talent.  If I have any talent or skill at all, it's intellectual, and more often than not, it just gets me into trouble.  Sometimes I have wished I could turn it off, but how do you not be smart?


The point being, I will not shut up when it comes to defending myself as an individual rather than being shoved either fairly or unfairly into a group that someone else has defined for the purpose of hurting or dividing or disempowering all members of that group based on what they are rather than what they have done.  So blame the people in power for the policies they have put in place, the legislation they have passed, and even the cultural shifts they have engineered, but do not blame the others whose only crime was to be born the same year or decade.  Otherwise, you are as much a threat to me as Joe, or perhaps even more so, because at least he hates me for something I have the power to change.  If you hate me or blame me for something I had no choice in or have no power to change, then you have declared me guilty by association, guilty without trial, guilty without possibility of redemption.


It's not enough to say, "Oh, well, you're different.  You're one of the good ones."  That's hardly different from saying there are some good Jews or some good Muslims or some good n***ers (or that you have a Jew lawyer or a Black friend).


Do all men benefit from patriarchal norms and even from rape culture even if they are feminists and not rapists?  Yes, they do, because that's what the culture does.  The culture grants them privilege, but it's up to them to acknowledge it and either work to change it or crassly take advantage of it.


Do all white people benefit from white privilege?  Yes, we do, but that does not make all of us manifest enemies; it's something we, too, have to live with and understand and either try to change to make our whole world better, or, well, you know what the opposite is.


Did all boomers set up the present situation?  No, of course not.  Boomers were also the hippies of the 60s and 70s who tried desperately to change things, only to be often beaten down and culturally destroyed by powers far stronger than they.  Some of them tried to shift the direction of their action into academia or the arts or politics.  And yes, some of them sold out.  Some of them sold out without ever having looked for alternatives. 


But here's a difference: Not all boomers benefit from the privilege of being born between 1946 and 1964/65/66. 


We were the generation who died in Vietnam, who lost our brothers and husbands and friends in a war that didn't have to be.  A war that was brought into our living rooms by news media that our parents never dealt with in the previous war.  It was a war that shaped much of our youth and young adulthood, and that echoes to this day in popular culture.


We were the generation who watched the rise of the civil rights and gay rights and women's rights and environmental rights movements and raised our children to believe that we had changed all the bad shit only to have the remnants of an earlier generation snatch it away from us as the millennium changed.  We watched as what we thought were dreams fulfilled were instead turned to the dust of nightmares with the destruction of our financial security.  Did some of us make out okay?  Did some of us see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?  Sure, just as there are Gen Xers and Gen Yers and Millennials who will make out like shrkelis.


I'm old.  I remember the election of 1960 and the accusations that dead people voted in Chicago to put John Kennedy in the White House.  And I remember very clearly that November afternoon in 1963 when the school public address system announced JFK had been shot, and then later when we were told he had been killed.  I remember MLK's assassination, and Bobby Kennedy's.  I remember seeing friends go off to Vietnam.  (My brother-in-law went, too, though my husband didn't.)


I'm old enough to have grown children and grandchildren who are almost as old as I was in 1963 when I started my spiral notebook diary.  I'm old enough to know that Social Security and Medicare aren't free handouts from "the government." 


I'm old enough to be afraid.


I'm not so old I'm ready to surrender.