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Filed under: prairie musings, BOOKS, Presbyterian Manor — Peg Britton @ 12:00 pm

You just never know what you’re getting in a book, which is part of the pleasure of selecting a new one to read. I know not to judge a book by its cover; beyond that, anything is a guess.

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls came to my attention on a recommended reading list mainly because it was by a new author who seemed to be enjoying its immediate success.   I like to discover a writer’s first book then follow their writing careers.  This seemed like it would be a quick read and pleasant diversion from what I’ve been reading this summer.  Adding to the intrigue, I wondered what a male author could possibly know about a girls’ riding school.

The author,  Anton DiSclafani, “obviously” a male, seemed an unlikely person to know anything about a riding camp for girls.  Well,   Anton DiSclafani grew up in northern Florida, where “she” rode horses, competing nationally. “She” graduated from Emory University, and received “her” MFA from Washington University. “She” currently lives in Saint Louis, where “she” teaches creative writing at Washington University.  I was mistaken about the author’s gender identity.

The book was named a most anticipated book for Summer 2013 by The Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly and USA Today and NPR.  It was a People summer reads pick and was called “a lush, sexy, evocative debut novel of family secrets and girls’-school rituals, set in the 1930s South”.  Not exactly the type of book I usually read.

It brought to mind my early exposure to Evelyn Waugh.  I was mistaken there too.  I’ve known men named Shirley.  Why not Evelyn?
While I was picking up the Riding Camp book, which I had on hold, they told me my two other “hold” books were also making upward moves on the list.  I’ve moved to 4th place with the David Sedaris book, “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls”.  That man just cracks me up so I’m looking forward to reading his latest book.

After getting on the “list” the day after we discovered who the real author was, I’ve made it to third place in line for  “Cookoo’s Calling”, a JK Rawling book that is already in a bidding war for movie rights.    The book was released as Robert Galbraith as the author, but it was too good and too complicated to be someone’s first attempt at writing.  Some clever fellow did a word arrangement analogy and determined JK Rawling was the author, a fact  she reluctantly but quickly admitted was true.  It’s all very confusing.

A book I’d highly recommend to any young couple anticipating family is Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon. “Far From the Tree,” a generous, humane and — in complex and unexpected ways — compassionate book about what it means to be a parent.  It’s a must read.  It came too late for me, but not for young parents.

A little along the same line as being confused about authors names etc.  is my old friend,  THE LATE Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book of the Millennium series trilogy, which, when published posthumously in 2005, became a best-seller in Europe and the United States.  Since they were published, I’ve read each book of the trilogy 3-4 times and seen the movies equally as many times.  The puzzling thing is, it was just announced Larsson has a new book on the market.  I want to be first in line to read it….whoever wrote it.

And now, I’m off to read…

Tonight we are going to have some very good entertainment for a change provided by Carolyn Hofer Zimmerman and Leslie Mangrum.  Carolyn is an accomplished pianist whom many of you may also know as Dr. Hofer, the Veterans Administration medical internist.  She was Brit’s VA doctor.   Professor Mangrum is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Kansas Wesleyan University where she maintains a full teaching studio, directs the fall opera, and teaches many classes for voice majors including diction, pedagogy, vocal literature, and acting for singers.

Leslie Mangrum has performed throughout the United Stated in opera, concert, and recital. She has performed at Wichita Grand Opera, Music Academy of the West, Opera in the Ozarks, Music Académie de Villecroze, the Florida State Opera, as well as with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic and Salina Symphony. She has performed roles ranging from Handel to Strauss.

Professor Mangrum is equally at home with concert work.  She was recently a soloist with the Salina Symphony and has also appeared with the Salina Chorale as the Soprano soloist.

I’m going to be in my element tonight and very much looking forward to their performance.

Thanks for tuning in…



Filed under: prairie musings, Rachel Maddow, BOOKS — Peg Britton @ 1:13 pm


“DRIFT”  is a one-of-a-kind book containing information about our military that everyone should read.  It should be of particular interest to those serving in the military and their families.  Perhaps there aren’t many people left who remember WWII and the sacrifices everyone made for the war effort.  It was a conscripted military that saw us through those very dark days of war.  The “draft” of our young men impacted all the populace.  Now we have an all-volunteer military…but that isn’t all.

But Maddow sounds an alarm this country needs to hear more than almost any other. It is a warning about the deep erosion of perhaps the central aim and claim of the country’s founding document: A standing army is a threat to freedom, and a government of free people must place the responsibility for deciding to use force in the hands of multiple actors if we are to prevent the rash recourse to violence. Until we reverse that loss, we will continue to have a government of, by and for war.

You need to read this book.
Drift, by Rachel Maddow: review

by Catherine Lutz

From the San Francisco Chronicle

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Unmooring of American Military Power
By Rachel Maddow
(Crown; 275 pages; $25)

Rachel Maddow’s “Drift” is a book full of head-smacking stories about America’s military meddling and muddling since World War II. There is the account of a map-free 1983 invasion of Grenada to rescue medical students who didn’t need rescuing, and an invasion planned in 72 hours that resulted in more U.S. military deaths from friendly fire than Grenadan guns.

There are the stories about American nukes gone disastrously astray, like the ICBM warhead that a socket-wrench mishap caused to be spat out of its silo near Damascus, Ark. There are tales of counterinsurgency quackery like the Fallujah sewage treatment facility, an unrequested gift to the Iraqis who survived our 2004 assault there. It featured a 300 percent cost overrun and five-year delay, and is a gift that will keep on giving because the $105 million price tag did not cover “odor control facilities.”

These are stories not just of incompetence and of many dollars down a hidey-hole, but of people, in uniform and in civilian clothes, who did not need to die in wars that did not need to be fought.

Thankfully, the head smacking is cushioned throughout by the ironically cheerful persona of the storyteller. Side-smiling throughout an otherwise dark narrative, Maddow, the MSNBC television political commentator and newswoman, brings the reader at a fast pace to her conclusion: These misadventures have come about not so much through the ineffectiveness and institutional overreach of military leaders as through the desire of the last five presidents to radically expand the use of the military for their own often political and ideological ends. The result has been a state of permanent war.

Congress comes in for sharp criticism for relinquishing its constitutionally assigned duty to declare and fund war, but it is Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush 1, Bill Clinton, George Bush 2 and Obama whom Maddow calls out most energetically. Each innovated new ways to circumvent Congress and override the brakes of public opinion.

The long, creative list includes using private war contractors in place of a reserve force to make it easier to go to war without the public feeling the pinch; expanding secrecy under the aegis of intelligence operations to black out more and more of the budget; perfecting sales pitches and information control for those military interventions that do become public; and deferring to the generals for decisions about not just how but even whether to go to war.

“Drift” highlights the power of the feel-good, feel-strong imagery that Reagan’s World War II propaganda work prepared him to exploit as a president. This imagery has since proliferated: the Air Force jets overflying football stadiums, “smart” missiles threading the needle of Iraqi target chimneys, missile-bristling destroyers speeding toward crisis zones, young volunteers in a wallpaper of TV ads informing their proud parents about their plans to join up.

The Pentagon’s $600 million in annual ad spending has helped capture the public’s imagination and appetite for war, asking for little in return but a salute and a mortgaged future. These images, Maddow says, have made both the facts of world affairs and the Constitution irrelevant to political debate about how the military should be used. They have also made the soldier, we can add, a super-citizen, and the citizen a mere bystander.

Maddow’s regular viewers will recognize and delight in the Maddowisms salted throughout the book. Reagan looks south in the 1980s and sees “a Bolshevik in every baño.” The Washington, D.C., suburbs growing since the fertilizer of post-9/11 cash to Homeland Security are our new “intelligopolis.”

Her TV call-and-response style suggests that she really does expect us citizens to step up to the plate she’s served and demand a public reckoning and reversal of the militarizing process.

So, in reference to the elephantine complex of U.S. counterterrorism facilities and activities growing in the Virginia suburbs and elsewhere around the world, Maddow asks: “If no one knows if it’s making us safer, why have we built it? Why are we still building it, at breakneck speed? Liberty Crossing [the 850,000-square-foot National Counterterrorism Center] is slated to almost double in size over the next decade. Remember the fierce debate in Congress over whether or not it’s worth it to do that? No? Me neither.”

While Maddow critiques the increased use of contractors, her analysis gives the war profiteers too little credit for this metastasizing mess. One of the giants, Lockheed Martin, had annual military contracts that exceeded the budgets of the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor, combined. The military contractors’ lobbyists, campaign contributions and revolving-door employment for Pentagon workers are critical determinants of the carry-on imperative for war.

But Maddow sounds an alarm this country needs to hear more than almost any other. It is a warning about the deep erosion of perhaps the central aim and claim of the country’s founding document: A standing army is a threat to freedom, and a government of free people must place the responsibility for deciding to use force in the hands of multiple actors if we are to prevent the rash recourse to violence. Until we reverse that loss, we will continue to have a government of, by and for war.

Catherine Lutz is the Thomas J. Watson Jr. Family Professor at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University and the author of “Homefront: A Military City and the American Twentieth Century.”

This article appeared on page FE - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle



Filed under: prairie musings, Authors, BOOKS — Peg Britton @ 4:03 pm

Elizabeth Gilbert, who also penned Eat, Pray, Love has created this  very interesting book — Committed — with wit and wisdom by weaving the magical places she’s traveled with insights about marriage and facts about the history of marriage.  I was aware of the information below, but particularly like the way she presents it.  It’s a quick read, and one I think most adults would enjoy and benefit from…especially those contemplating marriage at an early age.

Here are a few excerpts from her book:

Marriage does not benefit women as much as it does men.  It’s a sad truth, backed up by study after study.   Marriage as an institution has always  been terrifically beneficial for men. If you are a man, say the actuarial charts, the smartest decision you can possibly make for yourself is to get married.  Married men perform dazzlingly better in life than single men.  Married men live longer than single men; married men accumulate more wealth than single men; married men excel at their careers above single men; married men are far less likely to die a violent death than single men; married men report themselves to be much happier than single men; and married men suffer less from alcoholism, drug addiction, and depression than do single men.

Disheartingly, the reverse is not true.  Modern married women do not fare better in life than their single counterparts.  Married women in America do not live longer than single women; married women do not accumulate as much wealth as single women (you take a 7% pay cut, on average, just for getting hitched); married women do not thrive in their careers to the extent single women do; married women are significantly less healthy than single women;  married women are more likely to suffer from depression than  single women; and married women are more likely to die a violent death than single women — usually at the hands of a husband, which raises the grim reality that, statistically speaking, the most dangerous person in the average woman’s life is her own man.

All this adds up to what puzzled sociologists call the “Marriage Benefit Imbalance” — a tidy name for an almost freakishly doleful conclusion:  that women generally lose in the exchange of marriage vows, while men win big.

There are factors that can narrow this inequity considerably.  The more education a married woman has, the more she earns, the later in life she marries, the fewer children she bears, and the more help her husband offers with household chores, the better her equality of life in marriage will be.

If you are advising your daughter on her future, and you want her to be a happy adult someday, then you might want to encourage her to finish her schooling, delay marriage for as long as possible, earn her own living, limit the number of children she has, and find a man who doesn’t mind cleaning the bathtub.  Then your daughter may have a chance at leading a life that is nearly as healthy and wealthy and happy as her future husband’s life will be.

(taken from pages 166-168)

The better-educated you are, statistically speaking, the better off your marriage will be. The better-educated a woman is, in particular, the happier her marriage will be. Women with college education and careers who marry relatively late in life are the most likely female candidates to stay married. (page 124).

You can buy “Committed”  used from Amazon for a couple of bucks.  Money well spent.



Filed under: prairie musings, BOOKS — Peg Britton @ 10:51 am


You may want to CNTR + to enlarge…



Filed under: prairie musings, Authors, BOOKS — Peg Britton @ 11:33 am

After years of patient study (and with cricket there can be no other kind) I have decided that there is nothing wrong with the game that the introduction of golf carts wouldn’t fix in a hurry.  It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making other human endeavors look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect.  I don’t wish to denigrate a sport that is enjoyed by millions, some of them awake and facing the wrong way, but it is an odd game. It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks.  It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect.  It is the only sport in which spectators burn as many calories as players — more if they are moderately restless.  It is the only competitive activity of any type, other than perhaps baking, in which you can dress in white from head to toe and be as clean at the end of the day as you were at the beginning.

Imagine a form of baseball in which the pitcher, after each delivery, collects the ball from the catcher and walks slowly with it out to center field; and that there, after a minute’s pause to collect himself, he turns and runs full tilt toward the pitcher’s mound before hurling the ball at the ankles of a man who stands before him wearing a riding hat, heavy gloves of the sort used to handle radio-active isotopes, and a mattress strapped to each leg.  Imagine moreover that if this batsman fails to hit the ball in a way that heartens him sufficiently to try to waddle forty feet with mattresses strapped to his legs, he is under no formal compunction to run; he may stand there all day, and, as a rule, he does. If by some miracle he is coaxed into making a misstroke that  leads to his being put out, all the fielders throw up their arms in triumph and have a hug.  Then tea is called and everyone retires happily to a distant pavilion to fortify for the next siege.  Now imagine all this going on for so long that by the time the match concludes autumn has crept in and all your library books are overdue.  There you have cricket.

From Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country.



Filed under: prairie musings, Artists, BOOKS — Peg Britton @ 7:37 pm

Here is an interview with with family friend, Tara Stine Hudson, about her debut novel that comes out June 7.

HEREAFTER by Tara Hudson

Tara Hudson discusses the creation of her debut novel, HEREAFTER, in this youtube production. Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is …

I talked about Tara in previous posts here… and here Or you can find her name in my blog list on the right.

This is a young writer with great potential whom I hope you will support by buying her book.

Thanks for tuning in…



Filed under: prairie musings, BOOKS — Peg Britton @ 12:06 pm


“I’ve never heard a sound beating the air,

so fraught with the spirit of trouble and need of assistance,

as the sharp crack of the watchman’s rattle

reverberating in the street at the dead hour of night.”

Edward H. Savage, 1865

In commemoration of  this day, I challenge each of you to read The Watchman’s Rattle by Rebecca D. Costa.


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