Winter 2009-10 Newsletter
December 20, 2009Time for a Gladys Taber Revival?
It’s a special pleasure to write these newsletters as each season officially changes to the next. It’s in our nature to demark time. “Tomorrow I’ll trim those shrubs.” Or “Next year I’ll visit Spain.” Or “Last year was a good year.” Each season presents new possibilities and new optimism while allowing us to lay to rest the previous season’s challenges.
Are you familiar with Gladys Taber? When I was growing up, I believed she was a friend of my mother’s because she often referred to “Gladys” and “Stillmeadow.” She even scissored Gladys Taber’s columns from the Ladies Home Journal and glued them into a scrapbook along with her favorite poetry, articles and illustrations. When I’d find my mother reading those columns, I knew she wanted private time for reflection or comfort. As an adult rediscovering Gladys Taber, I’m enchanted. Stillmeadow was Taber’s 17th century farm in Connecticut and many of her more than fifty (yes, fifty!) books, beginning in the 1930s, deal with her country life, her dogs and friends, the seasons. She is somewhat of an enigma, a private woman who – refreshingly – mostly kept her inner life, including the heartbreaks, to herself. Readers come to know and love her through her thoughtful, often witty and gritty observations of her country world. I can’t offer a link to a good website because what I found was quite poor. Some of her books include: Book of Stillmeadow about discovering and updating her farm, Harvest of Yesterdays, dealing with her early years and some fascinating observations on the writing life, Sillmeadow Calendar when her long-time companion dies, and Another Path, about dealing with grief and moving on. There’s also a well-loved cookbook I recall my mother treasuring but which is long gone. This may be the perfect time to delve into the lyrical writings of a pragmatic woman who has worlds to share with us. Many of her views are ahead of her time and also, timeless.
Happy 2010 to you. May this be a year of good challenges and great satisfaction! – jo
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Miss Zukas Charms Tots
I recently received one of the most delightful letters from a teacher at a Montessori School. She shared the way she uses Miss Zukas’s “de-stressing” breathing in her classroom. (In case you’ve forgotten, Helma’s sure-fire method is to inhale to a count of four, hold for four, and exhale to a count of eight – four times). If I may quote: “…we have the children start the day walking carefully on an ellipse with soft music playing. Little boys tend to disturb the calm by poking at each other. I introduced Helma’s breathing/counting exercise – it works! Thy have to pay attention to counting and breathing.” She also had another idea I’m considering and will share with you at a later date. Again, I can’t tell you enough how much I treasure every email and letter I receive.
Farewell, Kirkus Reviews
After about a zillion years, Kirkus Reviews is ceasing publication. It was a book review magazine that librarians loved and most authors hated. It was cranky, unforgiving, and overly harsh. A rare good review from Kirkus was a pleasant surprise, and a bad one was met with, “What else would you expect from Kirkus?” But its voice, as controversial as it often was, is another sad sign of the upheaval in the publishing world.
Helma, feeling as if she needed to dip into a bit of ancient history, picked up Imperium, by Robert Harris, a novel of Cicero, from the viewpoint of his slave and secretary, Tiro, who actually invented a Latin shorthand. Admiring Mr. Harris’s scholarship and lively style, she then moved on to Pompeii, a novel of the eruption from the viewpoint of a hydrologist sent to repair an aqueduct. Ruth just finished The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, by Reif Larsen, and pronounced it, “Just too, too precious.” (Gulp, she should have reviewed for Booklist!)
~Dear Miss Zukas~
Please explain why you, who I see as tense and uptight, have so many men fall in love with you. Sincerely, Puzzled
Dear Sincerely Puzzled,
I confess I haven’t a clue what you’re implying. I live my life as best I can and claim no responsibility for other peoples’ feelings. Yours, Helma Zukas
This is why: certain men can’t bear a woman who’s unswayed by their presence. They gotta have her! Try it some time. Ruth
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