Monday, April 26, 2021



Dear Bloggers and Followers,

Due to some psychic upheaval over the past few weeks, I have taken the decision to discontinue my efforts in the Blogosphere. I have kept Keep The Wisdom going for almost 16 years, a pretty good run. My original purpose was to create a "web presence" as it was called in 2005, to make some connections and build an audience for the book I had started writing. 

I have made many wonderful connections. However the blog itself gradually took over and consumed more and more of my writing time. Thus I made less and less progress on the book. Since I will turn 74 years old this August, I must face some facts about the time I have left to finish the project.

It is a tough decision because I have made so many great friends here. I love and respect all of you and wish you the best in your reading endeavors. 

I will leave the blog online for as long as the technology supports it. I'll be posting the books I read on Goodreads and Twitter, if you wish to follow me there. 

Thank you so much for following me here, for sharing your blogs with me, and especially for all your comments. 

Goodbye for now.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021


The Twin, Gerbrand Bakker, Archipelago Books, 2009, 343 pp (originally published by Cossee, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2006; translated from The Dutch by David Colmer.)

The Twin won the 2010 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. I have had it on my shelf of unread Archipelago translated books for eleven years, never suspecting that it is an almost perfect novel. Sometimes books find me at just the right time though.

The eponymous twin is Helmer, a late middle aged man who lost his twin brother at age 18. They were as close as twins often are but their father favored the other boy. Henk had been engaged to be married, he had intended to carry on there at the family farm. Helmer had been at university but was obliged to return home and take over his brother's duties. 

The novel opens as Helmer is moving his aged father to an upstairs bedroom. His mother has been dead for a decade. As Helmer moves through his DIY renovation of the first floor, through his daily routine of farm drudgery, it becomes clear that he has pretty well lost himself through the years he was forced to be Henk. He could have said no, I'm going back to university, but he did not. 

The story of a man looking back on his life has been one I have read in many novels and memoirs. Rarely have I read it done so well. Perhaps that has something to do with the setting, of dikes and rivers and lakes and marshy ground, all rendered with exceptional skill. 

Also, and most wonderful, is how Gerbrand Bakker packed so much life, loss, beauty and wry humor into his pages. By the end I felt I had known Helmer, his family and neighbors, the years as they passed, as well as if I had been there with them. Though the novel is a painting in words about loneliness as a chronic condition, I did not close the book feeling sad, depressed or sorry about anything.

I did want to get on a plane and go to The Netherlands. No other book I have read set in that country has given me that urge.

Saturday, April 10, 2021


 The big news is that one and maybe two of my reading groups will meet in person this month because all members are fully vaccinated! I am excited about every book that will be discussed this month.

One Book At A Time:

I have been on a bit of a Joyce Carol Oates obsession lately and recommended this one for our group. 

Carol's Group:

I am so excited to read this latest book by Kazuo Ishiguro. We may meet on the patio of one of our members.

Bookie Babes:

This is nonfiction but sounds like a good read about a female spy ring in France during the German occupation of France.

Tina's Group:

This group has not met during the pandemic because the leader does not favor meetings on Zoom. Now we are all vaccinated so we will meet at her house to discuss this book about women who use poison to liberate women from men who have harmed them. Sounds good to me!

How is it going with your reading groups? Have you discussed any of these books? 

Wednesday, April 07, 2021


Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges, Grove Press, 1962, 174 pp (originally published 1956 by Emcee Editores, Buenos Aires, Argentina, translated from the Spanish by Anthony Kerrigan.)

Sometimes you go on a first date and just nothing happens. I was anticipating a huge, great experience when I first opened the book. So many readers seem to revere this writer. I read the first "story," thinking I'd gotten the hang of enjoying short stories lately. That piece, entitled "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertuis" read like a foreign language to me, even though it was translated into English. I meandered through its 19 pages and where. What did I just read?

At the rate of one a day, I pressed on. It was like being in a place where I did not, could not, know or read or understand the language. OK, I thought, as one sometimes does on a first date, who does this guy think he is?

After a few days I realized that these "stories" were more like essays or fictional book reviews about books and authors I did not know. Fine, so that is like being at a party where you are not hip to what everyone else is talking about. You just drink.

Finally I admitted that I was in over my head. I sent messages on Twitter to authors I follow who might be nice to me. They were. They offered some tips. I kept going.

I began to see a glimpse of what authors like William Gibson, John Updike, Mario Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes have raved about. Borges, as some have said, "has read all the books." Books I probably will never read but books that formed a labyrinth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon wrote a four volume series of novels anchored by what he called the Labyrinth of Books. Labyrinths are a key image with Borges. I finished this collection of 17 stories and found three I especially liked: "The Form of the Sword," "Three Versions of Judas,"  "The South." I felt I had been through an initiation that might or might not have included ingesting certain substances. All I was sure about was that it had been an initiation.

Being a Leo, a feminist, a woman who asserts herself, I don't enjoy being made to feel dumb or inferior. Still, I had to admit I had been in the presence of an intelligence, insouciant for sure, but nobody's fool. Someone I could learn from.

I own another collection by Borges, entitled Labyrinths. It contains all of the stories in Ficciones plus other writings. When I get over myself, I will read that and see what else I can learn.

Because I know one thing for sure: many stories and novels are fairytales, designed to make us feel comfortable in the lives we think we are living. In a way, such literature is as much of a lie as what we get from advertising or politics. I suspect that writers like Borges had something else going on. I am interested in finding out more about that. We will have a second date.

Friday, April 02, 2021


 Since I have lived in California, March has become a favorite month. Trees begin to leaf out, daffodils and flowering trees seem to change overnight, birds sing in the early mornings and sometimes I can take one quilt off the bed. The increasing number of people receiving their vaccinations gave us hope. 

My reading was all over the place in genre and style and location. I visited 6 countries other than America, I was introduced to 6 authors new to me, and I read books translated from the Dutch, the French and the Spanish. 

Stats: 9 books read. 8 fiction. 3 by women; low for me; 2 for My Big Fat Reading Project. 1 thriller. 2 historical fiction. 3 translated. 1 memoir.

Places I went: Jamaica, Hong Kong, Wales, Pakistan, Netherlands, Tunisia.

Authors new to me: Sharon Kay Penman, Malala Yousafzai, Jorge Luis Borges, Gebrand Bakker, Daniel A Hoyt, Yamen Manai.

I had many favorites: My Year Abroad, Here Be Dragons, Annie and the Wolves, The Twin, The Ardent Swarm.

Have you read any of these books? What were your favorite reads in March?

Wednesday, March 31, 2021



I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai, Little Brown and Company, 2013, 270 pp

This reading group pick turned out to be better than I expected. In case you missed it, MalalaYousafzai, aka The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot By the Taliban, made headlines around the world after she was shot and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

Her story is uplifting. Since she was a small girl, she loved to read and write, she loved school, and was encouraged by her father, a Pakistani advocate for education of both boys and girls. Hers and her father's outspoken presence in Pakistan drew the attention of the Taliban who eventually sent a young gunman to shoot her down while she was riding home from school in October, 2012. She lived through horrific medical procedures and recovered thanks to international outcry and support.

I learned from a child's POV what it was like growing up in Pakistan from 1997 to 2012. Still to this day she is not welcome in her country. Due to her transfer to Great Britain while she was fighting for her life, due to skillful surgeons and doctors, she recovered. She has continued to work for education, especially for women.

The book was co-written with British journalist Christina Lamb. It reads smoothly and I felt it captured Malala's childhood voice nicely. She was only 15 when she was shot. Her recovery took two years including several operations and extended physiotherapy.

Now anytime I feel angry about the lack of rights and opportunities for girls and women around the world, I think of Malala and what she endured. Apparently it is all a matter of enduring.

Monday, March 29, 2021


 Annie and the Wolves, Andromeda Romano-Lax, Soho Press, 2021, 344 pp

When I discovered that Annie Oakley was a main character in this novel, I had to read it. Annie Oakley was a childhood heroine of mine. I never missed an episode of the TV series and for years when we played cowboys outside, I was Annie and my bike was my horse. I also had a cap gun and a holster.

Andromeda Romano-Lax is a trusted author for me and she maintained that trust in her latest novel. She creates wonderful flawed characters and her plots include history, mystery and a bit of psychology. In Annie and the Wolves she proved she can handle a dual timeline better than most.

The portrayal of Annie Oakley in the TV series certainly showed her as the phenomenal and fearless sharpshooter she was, but it provided little concerning the facts of her life. I was absorbed by the history Romano-Lax dug up, showing who Annie was, the abuse and trials she overcame as well as her passion for enabling women to protect themselves. 

The current timeline features Ruth McClintock, an historian whose obsession with Annie nearly derailed her career and her love life. Both Annie and Ruth suffered from residual and debilitating consequences of violent accidents, including out-of-body episodes that seemed strangely like time travel.

Exciting, thought-provoking, and a deep exploration of female revenge, this novel thrilled me to the core.

Here are links to my review of two earlier novels by this author:

The Spanish Bow

The Detour