Respect for the Introvert, Please!
I know a Good Story / July 28, 2016

America is known as a nation of extroverts.  Surrounded by older countries with cultures based on reserve and tradition, we celebrate our exuberant, gregarious, national character and do our best to perpetuate the image.  But, amidst the ballyhoo and high-fiving, we have to ask ourselves: are we really all extroverts?  If we’re not, why are we pretending to be? The answers, according to Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, may surprise you.  The fact is, approximately half of this country’s population have introvert personalities.  These are the people who prefer the company of a few friends to a crowd of people, who aren’t anxious to dominate every conversation, who thrive on solitude and silence.  Unfortunately, those needs are often ignored by a culture who values the socially adept, team-player and distrusts the standoffish loner. Ms. Cain makes the argument that not only does this half of society deserve more respect, but that these quiet people may be the stronger, more creative individuals in our population and, on balance, the best leaders. What makes one person the life of the party with the next is a little withdrawn?  Science isn’t…

Does Anyone Else Re-Read Their Books?
What I know about Stories / July 26, 2016

One of my dear friends and fellow book-nuts holds a round-robin post each week.  Every Wednesday on her group page, the question appears: What are You Reading Right Now?   Everyone responds and it’s a good spot to exchange book news and compare thoughts but I don’t know how to tell them the truth: for each new book I’ve read, I’ve re-read at least 4 or 5 more.  My question is: does that make me a nut? A lot of people seem to espouse the “seen this, done that” philosophy.  Each new day is a different challenge to accept; every vacation explores a different horizon. One very nice man I know dislikes seeing a movie more than once.  For him, one viewing is sufficient and a lot more people seem to read books that way than watch movies.  Does my re-reading mean that I’m slow? On one level, I suppose the answer is “yes” but (ironically) it’s because I’m a fast reader.  Put a well-paced, interesting book my hands and I’ll rip through the story like a tornado. I’ll pick up the plot and pursue it, scanning the pages faster and faster on a breakneck trip to the end.  I’ve…

Seeing Life Through Pinhole Glasses
I know a Good Story / July 21, 2016

Christopher doesn’t mind touching dead things.  Christopher doesn’t like being touched.  Christopher thinks metaphors are stupid but he understands and adores prime numbers.  Often the world is too loud and bright for this fifteen year old boy’s comfort and people he meets are in it extremely confusing.  As far as Christopher is concerned, all of life would be better if it were predictable, like a mystery story. As such, Christopher John Francis Boone takes center stage as narrator and autistic hero of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.  Recognition of this development disorder has been growing for the last two decades and the Centers for Disease Control believes that roughly one percent of the world’s population is a member of this group (U. S. statistics suggest that number is low).  That means at least 74 million people are participating in life right now without the verbal and non-verbal communication skills the rest of us use without effort.  Minus the ability to recognize or understand the nuanced feelings of others, these people go through life often aware they don’t quite fit in with  “regular people” but unable to bridge the gap between themselves and the rest of the…

Where Memory Resides With History
I know a Good Story / July 12, 2016

Thanks for the Memories A friend from college visited me earlier this summer. She’s a great gal and it’s always terrific to see her but before she arrived, I wondered where I should take her during our visit. We have the usual amenities within easy driving distance but why bring her to some spot like another near her home?  In the end, we went to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a museum and memorial to the Civil Rights Struggle in Birmingham, Alabama. It was the right thing to do. Birmingham’s history with the Movement may not be what the city wants to be known for but it’s our calling card in the pages of history. Hiding from the past never helps. Because of Birmingham’s infamous role in that struggle, explaining positive aspects of this place to the casual outsider can be difficult.  (Well, some of my Caucasian friends have admitted this is hard; I haven’t got the nerve or bad manners to find out if my African-American friends here face the same issues.)  In the face of bombed churches and fire-hoses, how can anyone describe warm-hearted people and neighborhoods without sounding like a fool or a racist?  How can the domestic…

The Scents of Summer
One of My Stories / July 1, 2016

We’ve officially moved into the Summer Season, the one we dream of during the dreary, wet days of February and the long brutal nights of Winter.  The thermometer has begun it’s annual low boil of mercury, keeping the glass over the 90 degree mark opaque but I am not complaining.  This is a glorious time of year, when the earth seems to spill over with an abundance of living things and I am its eager audience.  More than any other, Summer is a season of scents for me and a single whiff sends me into a cascade of memories eternally tied to this season. Lilac I grew up in a two bedroom house, unprepossessing in appearance.   Between the patchy lawn and the faded exterior, it would never draw the eye except for 10 days every year when the wall of lilac surrounding the house blossomed.  For the rest of the year the bushes were just as a privacy fence between us and the neighbors, but each year, between May 1 and my birthday, they burst into glorious bloom, drowning the block in scent and turning our wren-brown house into a thing of beauty, framed by that delicate color. In the…

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