Mid-July Check-in

Since I haven’t been here or on Instagram in awhile, some of you have been checking in on me to see if my wife and I are okay, and while I’ve responded to some of you via e-mail, I haven’t responded to all of you. So here’s the breakdown:

  • We’re still here in northcentral Pennsylvania.
  • I’m still working at the library (curbside pickups and pickups and computer use in the building, all by appointment). My wife is still working as a 911 dispatcher for our county. Our respective families are well. Kim’s sister, mother, our brother-in-law and nephew had presumptive cases of covid-19 back in the beginning of April, but they’re all doing well.
  • We’re still reading.

Hey, let’s talk about that:

  • I’m still reading The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – which, when finished, will mean I have read the entire Sherlock Holmes canon by Doyle and also is in the second and final volume of the collection I’ve been reading from since last year. I recently finished Gold of Our Fathers, the fourth in the Darko Dawson mystery series, by Kwei Quartey, and am planning to read Death by His Grace, the fifth in the same series, by Quartey.
  • UPDATE: As of early Saturday afternoon, I have abandoned this book after only a chapter. This one began with the focus on a couple, presumably one of them the victim or the accused of a murder to come, and not on Dawson as the first four in the series. I skimmed ahead, only to see Dawson is introduced after several chapters, and quickly decided I didn’t like the change of focus so “cut bait,” so to speak.
  • Kim’s finishing The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which she never read (!), and tentatively plans to read Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor next.

We’re watching a bit of this and a bit of that…

Together:

  • Parks and Recreation reruns
  • Drunk History reruns once a week, usually on Wednesdays
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine reruns
  • Bob’s Burgers once a week for burger night on Fridays
  • Boyz n the Hood, which she’d never seen.
  • What We Do in the Shadows, the TV series.

Separately:

  • Kim: Recently finished Transparent on Amazon Prime and is making her way through Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix
  • Her must watch of the last few months: Pose, now on Netflix.
  • My must watch of the last few months: Ip Man 4, also now on Netflix.

We’re also listening a bit of this and a bit of that:

  • Me on constant replay: Fear of Music by The Talking Heads.
  • My pick of the year so far: Rough and Rowdy Ways by Bob Dylan.
  • Kim’s recent plays: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis and Eight Diagrams by Wu-Tang Clan.

That’s about it, or at least all I want to talk about for now. I’ll leave you with a photo from my walk this morning, the start of a three-day weekend for me as I’m off through Monday (new hours at the library, closed on Mondays for a deep cleaning of the building).

UPDATE: Saturday night I received an email from the Free Library of Philadelphia that a book I had on hold was now available. So now today, Sunday, I plan on reading The Rat Began To Gnaw The Rope by C.W. Grafton, a hard-boiled noir mystery, from The Library of Congress Crime Collection. And yes, he was related to the late Sue Grafton. He was her father.

OMG! An actual reading update

Here’s a rare thing on my blog, which shouldn’t be for a blogger who once upon a time identified himself as a “book blogger”: An actual update on what I’ve finished lately over the last couple of months and what I am reading now.

Finished

  1. A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr. May 10
  2. The Last Bow, the Sherlock Holmes short story collection, which also includes the short story of the same name, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. May 29 – reading in the second volume of a collection of short stories and novels
  3. Every Living Thing, the last part of the All Creatures Great and Small series, by James Herriot. June 14

In Progress

  1. Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver Started May 6
  2. The Best Poems of Jane Kenyon Started June 6

To Be Read

  • The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – which, when finished, will mean I have read the entire Sherlock Holmes canon by Doyle and also is in the second and final volume of the collection I’ve been reading from since last year.

My birthday month begins…TODAY!

As I have done the last few years, I’m celebrating my birthday, which is June 9, all month long, starting today. Unlike last year, where I celebrated big for my 50th birthday with a few trips here and there throughout the month, including a weekend trip with my wife to wineries on Seneca Lake in upstate New York, this year understandably I’m keeping the celebration low-key. We only have one trip planned: next Tuesday, on my actual birthday, to visit with family about 60 miles away since the counties in Pennsylvania we live in have gone “green.” Of course, we’ll be practicing social distancing, but it still will be good to see them.

Other than that, I am off four days from work this coming weekend, with at least for June the library where I work being closed on Sundays and Mondays for quarantining items and cleaning of the building. I took Tuesday as a vacation day and just have Saturday off. We’re doing curbside pickup for now, if you’re wondering.

Other than that, for the weekend, I’m going to give myself a goal of finishing the All Creatures Great and Small series by James Herriot that I’ve been reading the last few years. The last book in the series, at least in the American version, is Every Living Thing.

Throughout the month, I plan on continuing my phone-free Sundays. I also will be continuing to read the second volume of two of the complete Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories. Yesterday I finished the collection, His Last Bow, and now only have The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes left.


In terms of chronology in the canon, the short story “His Last Bow” is the last appearance of Sherlock Holmes and is after he is retired and living in the country. I think is a fitting end for Holmes, especially as the story is at the cusp of World War I and with Conan Doyle giving the detective perhaps the best lines of the canon, as he says to Watson:

“There’s an east wind coming…such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither…But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.”


As for today, it is the end of my wife’s work week and the end of my weekend. So we’re keeping it chill here, as I’m extending my phone-free Sunday, and my wife is joining me. Our only exception is Scrabble Go. And even though we’re not going to wine country in New York this month, there will be wine, including today.

So I’ll leave with this ditty in celebration of wine:

My April 2020 24 Hour Readathon

Tomorrow I’m joining Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon for the umpteenth time. However, unlike other readathons like this, I do not have a large stack of books or a goal on time. I only have two books: one that is in progress and almost finished, the first of two volumes of Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories; the other, Every Living Thing, the last part of the All Creatures Great in Small series, by James Herriot.

With the Sherlock Holmes, I’m in the middle of The Return of Sherlock Holmes, which is toward the end of the first volume. As for the Herriot series, over the last few years, I have been making my way slowly through the series, usually during other readathons, so I thought I’d return to it for yet another readathon.

I am hoping to do better for this readathon than I have for the last two readathons over the last two months: Off The Grid Readathon and Social Distancing MiniReadathon. Both were a bust (why I’m not providing links), but I’m not going to lie it’s been hard to concentrate within the last 40 days I’ve been sequestered almost continuously except for one or two trips out for medications and groceries. I’m hoping now that with the news of our part of Pennsylvania might be reopening potentially in a couple of weeks, I can focus a little more on reading. It’s not that there’s not anxiety, which I’ll spare you the litany here, but it is less anxiety, or maybe more manageable anxiety now, than what it was a month ago.

I’ll be updating here on this post and on my Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/stillunfinished/ tomorrow throughout the day after 8 a.m. when the readathon begins.

Update No. 1: Saturday morning, 9:10 a.m.

Take off the mask you might be wearing. Give yourself a break from micromanaging how you come across to others. Allow yourself the freedom to be you, with all your virtues and vices. Doing so will embolden and empower others to try the same.

from A Mindful Year by Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh and Seth J. Gillihan PhD

“Excellent! And a mask?”

“I can make a couple out of black silk.”

“I can see that you have a strong, natural turn for this sort of thing. Very good, do you make the masks…”

from “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In light of COVID-19 and as a nation we are being told to wear masks to help prevent the pandemic’s spread, out of context the above mask quote from the book of daily reflections I’ve been using for this year seems to be counter to that directive. However, in context, where the previous reflection before that invitation is about depression, it isn’t; to wit: “Sadly, due to social stigma, many of us often hide what we’re going through from others” and “It takes courage to let go of a positive facade. There is freedom to be found in making peace with where we are and what we’re experiencing. The great irony is that accepting our situation allows change to take place — it allows us to return to what matters most to us and take action in line with our values.”

To that end of taking off the figurative mask, I do suffer from depression, and not just because of COVID-19 and family and friends that I know who have had either presumptive cases or actual cases, but because I’ve always suffered from depression. I’ve taken Prozac for almost the last 30 years and just before the stay-at-home order, I began teletherapy (because of the physical distances involved) with a counselor through a free program offered by our insurance. In short, it is going well, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Making it easier today is this readathon, with all of my notifications shut off and only periodic updates here on the blog and on Instagram.

As for whether or not to use a silk mask, I refer you to this article from The Washington Post about what materials you should use, as recommended by the CDC. Holmes and Watson’s masks were being made for a burglary in the short story above, and even though Watson was a doctor, he was a fictional doctor. *I* also am not a doctor, even if I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once (or maybe twice).

Update No. 2: Saturday morning, 10:20 a.m.

I just finished my second short story of the day, “The Adventure of The Six Napoleons,” which I remembered what happened as I was reading, after reading my first short story of the day, “The Adventure of Charles August Milverton” mentioned above. Both are short stories in The Return of Sherlock Holmes in the first volume of two that I am reading of the Holmes canon.

I also am using The Sherlock Holmes Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained by DK Publishing as a guide, as recommended by Emma of the blog Words and Peace. I’m not always finding the plot synopsis that helpful, although at times I do because I’m not really following what is happening. However, I am finding the historical background of the stories, especially as cases relate to real-life events happening during Doyle’s time, fascinating.

Update No. 3: Saturday afternoon, 12:20 p.m.

I just finished “The Adventure of the Three Students” within the last hour. I also have been checking in briefly on Instagram and providing updates and comments there. However, I still have notifications shut off. I think I might take a brief poetry break before returning to finish The Return of Sherlock Holmes in this first volume of two of the Holmes canon. Here are highlights of the first quarter of this readathon in photos:

Update No. 4: Saturday afternoon/evening, 6 p.m.

I just returned from a walk and am getting ready to have dinner, barbecue seitan pizza, with my wife before she goes to work tonight for a 12-hour-shift. On my walk, I listened to “The Adventure of The Golden Pince-Nez” as narrated by Simon Vance, for my fourth Sherlock Holmes story of the day. Where have been I since this morning?

  • I took a nap for about an hour.
  • I tried to read a collection of poetry that I thought would be good, but it wasn’t…at least, not for right now.
  • I searched for other poetry and found some that I might read later tonight and for audiobooks via Audible (two free credits as a Prime member with a 30-day trial). I found Simon Vance reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes and also his narration of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Since I already was reading the Holmes collection, I decided to start there instead of tackling Dickens right now.

During dinner, we’ll probably watch some Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and then after she leaves at about 7:30, I’ll return to either more reading or listening of Sherlock Holmes or poetry. Here are some photos from my walk via Instagram:

Last Update

I finished my readathon last night by listening to and reading the last two short stories in The Return of Sherlock Holmes . 

So how are you and reading getting along during all “this”? Are you able to concentrate? If so, what are you reading? If not, what would you like to read when you are able to concentrate? If joining the readathon, let me know your plans. If not, no worries, you don’t have to tell me why not. I get it, we’re all in different places, not only geographically but mentally and physically and also just with whatever we have planned for our weekends, even if not going out anywhere. Wherever you are, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere, hope you, your families, and friends are staying safe and well.