Where did it go? In a song I wrote about summer, “One lark’s clear call, and then it’s gone.” In this case I’m not sure I even heard the lark, but it’s still my favorite season, and this year’s was no exception.
We had a great trip to Jonesborough, TN for my time as the Teller in Residence at the International Storytelling Center and then to the Ocrafolk Folk Festival on beautiful Ocracoke Island (NC), where we caught up with old friends and met new ones.
And then, on my 65th birthday (yup) Debbie gave me a balloon ride over Seekonk. We flew over our house, and our son Noah caught us as we flew over. (I don’t know how much that ride cost, but I’m telling you, it was worth it – completely magical.)
In this issue:
And then, to follow up on the magical, Debbie and Noah helped me realize a thirty-year dream of producing a reading of Midsummer Night’s Dream in our back yard. Noah, the impresario, Debbie the organizer, and me the editor (of Willie the Shake!?) and performing as Bottom. A double rainbow, a near full moon, great readers, an enthusiastic audience of a hundred friends, and some magic, we’re still feeling. Here’s a picture of what it felt like.
Off to Ireland
We’re leaving soon for a trip to Ireland, where I’ll perform at the Cape Clear Storytelling Festival, then spend time with storytellers Jack Lynch in Dublin, Liz Weir in Northern Ireland, and my pal Clare Murphy in her old haunts of Galway. It’s been over thirty years since we’ve been in Ireland and I’m looking forward to going back. My brother’s research recently turned up another Irish ancestor by the name of Finley from Antrim, so I guess I’m going back to my roots, although my roots are spread all over. As are most of yours. Like Pete Seeger sang, “All mixed up…”
I’m performing this fall in local schools and in Texas, West Virginia, Utah, California and Washington DC. You can check out my schedule here.
This fall I’ll be organizing for the production of a podcast of my stories and songs, and hopefully material from other folks. I’m trying to figure out other ways of sharing my songs and stories, and people have been encouraging us for a long time to explore podcasting. Once we get going, I’ll plan on releasing 15-20 minutes of songs and stories a week. We’ll also be mounting a Patreon campaign to fund the project, and I’m hoping my long time fans will kick in to get it going. With the digital revolution, and music and recordings offering little revenue, artists are more dependent than ever on their fanbase. That’s you! Or your kid. Or grandkid. Or great grandkid.
More soon on that.
It’ll be fun.
Taking Pictures with Dogs
Here’s our attempt at a family portrait with one year old Django!
The Wild Trees by Richard Preston, about the group of people who find and climb the biggest trees on the planet, the giant redwoods concealed in the forests of northern California. The style was a little annoying, but the story is so compelling, it’s easy to overlook. If I were twenty-five, I would be buying some ropes and bushwhacking outside of Humboldt, CA.
There There by Tommy Orange. Interlocking narratives about urban Native Americans in Oakland, how their lives entwined leading up to a powwow. A keen eye and great characters, and a reminder to some of us what’s going on. I really liked it.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – by, um, Frederick Douglass. It was about time. A great American book. When I hear people suggest slavery might not have been so bad, I will insert this into their brain.
Educated by Tara Westover – Enjoyed it with my mouth open in a horrified expression, if “enjoyed” is a word you can use for how someone escapes a harrowing life, thanks to books and learning. Kind of a domestic “Unbroken”.
Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe – riveting and moving and troubling book about the Troubles of Northern Ireland, focusing on the disappearance of a mother who helped a British soldier. Really good, and you feel for everyone caught in that horrible time. Let’s hope Boris Johnson and his crew don’t mess up what is still very fragile. This is a great book.
Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin – one of his mysteries featuring his curmudgeonly Edinburghian (I think there’s a real term for that…) detective John Rebus. Pretty good – you read enough about one detective and sometimes you like him in spite of some of the problems with the book. It’s a mystery! Lighten up!
Sapiens: A brief history of humankind by Yuvel Noah Harari – Harari is a smart guy and has really interesting perspectives on a lot of things – from energy use to tribal identity to economics. His tone is a little too all-knowing and cool for me (silly humans!), but it really makes you think. Worth the read, but would be good to have someone to talk to about.
How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan – a book about the history, culture and use of psychedelic drugs. This book blew my mind (hahaha)– not just for the examination of what psychedelics do, but for the cultural history he presents (e.g., Timothy Leary messed it up for a lot of people, and he couldn’t help himself). Pollan is a great reporter and writer, and, um, participant/observer. It has me thinking. Highly recommended.
The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt – with the growing recognition that women have been denied their voices for eons, this book is an interesting look at an imperfect human who has decided she’s had enough. A woman ignored in the art world finds a way to get attention, and prove her point. Chaos ensues. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this book – the main character is really flawed (not by mistake, I think) and alternately sympathetic and repellent– but I keep thinking about it, and I suppose that’s worth a lot. And it ain’t kind to the art world, but maybe that’s not surprising either.
Feeling and Form by Suzanne Langer. This is a heavy book, and it’s been sitting on my shelf for two years – I finally tackled it. Langer looks at the major forms of art and asks questions about art – what is it supposed to do, how does it do it, and what is its value. I’m thinking Langer (per above) would have been more widely recognized if she were a man (this along with Frances Yates, who did very deep work on memory and arcane knowledge). But because they worked on the side, mostly without recognition, they had a view of the world that is significant and unique. Really glad I read it. Really glad it’s read and off my pile!
The Round House – Louise Erdrich. I think Erdrich is my favorite writer. I love her command of the language, her storytelling, her sensitivity to her characters and the stories she tells. In her series of novels about a reservation in North Dakota, she’s created a whole world I love visiting, with humor and tragedy living right next door to each other. She gives us white folks just a peek at what it means to be Native. This book, a coming of age story about a thirteen year old boy and his charismatic friend, is hilarious and tragic. “NO!” I screamed at the climax. But yes, of course. Unexpected and inevitable.
Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne – this book about the Comanches and one of their leaders, Quanah Parker, is an amazing story. I didn’t really like the book – a listing of skirmishes and fights with not much cultural context. Most of his sources are white folks fighting for control of the land, and so seem to me not particularly reliable – just one side of the story. He uses the words “savage” and “Stone Age” without parentheses, which seems like a red flag to me. Really? But man, the Comanche are tough.
Let us know what you’re reading – we love to hear.
From the Office
Back to School Sale!
It’s Back to School time and what better way to celebrate (or prepare yourself for) another school year than with Bill’s tales about school?
Here are our picks to help you get ready for all of your own school adventures!
Down in the Backpack: Sing along while you stuff your brand new bag with the things you won’t see again until next June!
Cool in School: Perhaps listening to “Zanzibar” will inspire you to stop procrastinating and get your homework done early.
From the Back of the Bus: Your bus driver may not be Indiana State Bus Driver of the Year but you should treat them as if they were.
Grownups Are Strange: You may not have a teacher like Mrs. Nottingham, but a birthday card is always a nice idea.
Battle of the Mad Scientists: “Mrs. Ammons and the Boys’ Room” is technically an end of the year story, but you will have substitute teachers all year long.
The Teachers’ Lounge: It has 2 school stories and 3 school poems. After one listen, you’ll be ready for school.
Weezie and the Moonpies: “Mrs. Lunchroom Lady” is an ode to all of those wonderful cafeteria workers who go over and above for the kids they feed.
I Wanna Play: A song about recess, which is one of the best things about school.
All CDs are on sale for $10 each; full alum MP3’s are $5 each. Sale ends Friday September 13, 2019 at 12pm. Get them before the bell rings.