Beautiful Indeed

Well, I’ve been real tempted lately to pen an essay about the repressive, heads-up-their-asses people in my country who continue to believe in demagogic, riot-inciting Donald Trump and embrace his outrageous lies about the 2020 election having been stolen from him.

On the other hand, I haven’t been real tempted lately to have my blood pressure head into the stratosphere. So, I’ll stay calm by moving in my semi-natural direction. Towards the light, you dig. What follows, therefore, are a few words about beauty, a quality I found a couple of weeks ago in, among other things, a book, a song and some flowers. Away we go!

First up, the book: Local Girls is a collection of stories, by Alice Hoffman, about Gretel Samuelson and her small circle of relatives and friends. The stories are presented chronologically, and appeared in various publications before being gathered and published in one volume in 1999.

Not exactly a novel (some stories are narrated by Gretel, the others are in the third-person), but close enough, Local Girls follows Gretel from age 11 or 12 into her mid-20s. It’s set in suburban Long Island (which is near New York City), and is not the happiest of tales. Drug addiction and serious illness are among the book’s prime themes.

Nevertheless, drollness permeates the proceedings, partly by way of the sharp observations and bon mots of Gretel, her best friend Jill, Gretel’s mother Franny, and Gretel’s adult cousin Margot. Overall, Local Girls struck me as hard-as-nails realistic, despite the inclusion, unnecessary in my opinion, of some mystical occurrences. (Hoffman, I gather, is known for doing this in her works.) The book took me by the arm and then spoke intimately to me. It is damn well alive.

What got to me more than anything about Local Girls is the absolute beauty of much of its language. Time after time Hoffman took my breath away. Before ending this short discussion of Local Girls, I’ll leave you with three examples of Hoffman’s way with words.

It was a bad summer, and we all knew it. We liked to phrase it that way, as if what was happening was an aberrationa single season of pain and doubtinstead of all-out informing people that our lives were falling apart, plain and simple as pie.

She had been thinking about sorrow for so long she was amazed to hear the sound of love. What a foreign language it was. How odd to an ear unused to such things.

The streetlamps cast a heavy glow, the light of a dream you’re not quite finished waking from.

Yes, Hoffman has more than got the touch.

Now for the song: I’ve seen Brandi Carlile on a couple of TV shows and heard her music pretty often on the radio. I think she’s good but certainly not great. However, her recording Save A Part Of Yourself, is another matter. To me, it’s fab. The song, which Carlile co-wrote and sings lead on, was released in 2012.

Save Part Of Yourself concerns a love relationship that, though ended, has not been forgotten by one of its two parties. She hopes that her ex will not throw away memories of her. Such a lovely composition, so tender and imbued with longing. Yet, it also sparkles. That mandolin riff that enters five seconds into the tune, those handclaps, the joyful whoo-hoo-hoos. I for one cannot resist them.

Save Part Of Yourself’s main message, I think, is that remembrance can help us heal and make us better individuals. Who would argue with that? Here it is, following which we’ll turn our attention to flowers.

The day in which I am described as a knowledgeable identifier of flora isn’t about to arrive any time soon. Yeah, on a good day I’m able to look at a tulip and say, “Yup, that’s a tulip.” Ditto for a pine tree and a maple tree. But my scope doesn’t extend all too far beyond that. Still, that doesn’t stop me from going out to admire nature’s wonders. Hell, I’d be heartbroken if I couldn’t.

And I’m glad when my botanical expertise expands. Such as when I learned last month that a flowering plant I was gazing at during a visit to New Hope, Pennsylvania, a funky, former artists colony to which visitors often throng, was an example of a hydrangea bush. The plant impressed me. Thus, while walking and driving around my town a few days later I kept my eyes open for hydrangeas. And I found some, photographing two of them. Hydrangeas, I believe, were at the height of their flowering powers in my region (greater Philadelphia) at the time that I took these portraits. The flowers are sincerely beautiful.

(Please don’t be shy about adding your comments. Mucho gracias.)

157 thoughts on “Beautiful Indeed

  1. KT Workman July 11, 2021 / 1:29 pm

    As a country, we are so divided I try to stay away from politics on WordPress. Neither side attempts to see the other’s world view anymore, and just name-call and hurl insults, which does no good on swaying someone in a different direction. It’s really, really sad how people behave—on both sides.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 11, 2021 / 2:08 pm

      I write now and then about political/social matters. I take Trump, and all that he and his followers/sympathizers stand for, very seriously. In other words, I believe that Trump is, without a doubt, an enemy of democracy. He’s a very, very negative force.

      Liked by 1 person

      • KT Workman July 11, 2021 / 2:29 pm

        I can’t argue with you on that point. I just wish politicians, from the top down, had our country’s best interests at heart besides their own.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Evelyn J. Willburn August 5, 2021 / 1:58 pm

      I agee, I too am trying to refrain from political matters on word press. I do respect other people’s rights to write whatever they want, but I’ll probably steer away from a political commentary. Other than that, I really love your style of writing, Neil! More on sunflowers and hydrangeas and beautiful music!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, Another Blogger August 5, 2021 / 8:22 pm

        Hey there. Thanks for stopping by. I’d probably never have written about political issues were it not for Trump. I detest him.


  2. Basia Korzeniowska July 11, 2021 / 2:27 pm

    The books sounds interesting and the quotations are certainly thought provoking. The music i haven’t listened to, but the hydrangeas – I have lots of them in my garden because I absolutely love them. and they are so easy to grow and maintain, so long as you water them a lot. they come in all different colours and styles too. I am so glad you like them too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rkrontheroad July 11, 2021 / 2:43 pm

    You almost lost me at the first paragraph, but glad I read on. I’ve read many of Alice Hoffman’s books and they never disappoint. I’ll have to look for that one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 11, 2021 / 3:55 pm

      Thanks for the info about Hoffman. I definitely plan to read another of her novels pretty soon.


      • literaryeyes July 17, 2021 / 3:40 pm

        Hoffman is good, but at times too contrived and cutesy. The World That We Knew was like that, with whole chapters flowing with grace, and then choppiness. Mystical passages seemed overdone, but also added flavor. In any case, she’s one of the better writers out there.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, Another Blogger July 17, 2021 / 5:45 pm

          Thanks for the input. I plan to read more by her. First up, though, will be Brotherly Love, by Pete Dexter. He wrote Paris Trout, which is a great novel.


  4. Mireya July 11, 2021 / 9:22 pm

    Love those flowers too. I keep seeing these trees with blooms like these. Hands g or this post as now I know what I will paint tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 12, 2021 / 3:35 pm

      Hi. It’s a good one. I heard it a couple of times recently on a radio station I listen to.


  5. sloppy buddhist July 13, 2021 / 10:12 am

    Alice Hoffman is new to me Neil ☺️ And yes flora is a whole other world…a oneness we are all part of…I appreciated this post as well…smiles and joy from the west coast 🌞💫hedy

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Rachelle Whiting July 14, 2021 / 11:43 am

    Thanks for the book recommendation. Hoffman is a favorite of mine. Her genre is magical realism, and there is a ton of it in Latin literature, a sort of escapism from oppressive and authoritarian regimes. Does this sound familiar? My favorite genre by far. The flowers are lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 14, 2021 / 2:34 pm

      Hi. Thanks fir the input. I liked Local Girls a whole lot, so I’ll be delving into another Hoffman work before too long.


  7. cincinnatibabyhead July 14, 2021 / 12:45 pm

    Really like the song Neil. Lots going on in that one. Thanks again for keeping me of mind of all that great stuff outside. Glad you made the choice to write this piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 14, 2021 / 2:42 pm

      CB, my wife and I probably will go to City Winery tonight in Philadelphia. It will be our first in-person music in about 17 months. Wynonna Judd is the performer. I’m hoping she has a hot band with her. She better.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. carolinehelbig July 16, 2021 / 9:02 pm

    I really enjoyed Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers so I will have to check out Local Girls. Thanks for the review. We have tons of hydrangea bushes here; I love them. There is a white variety that are enormous and remind me of something you’d see in a Dr. Seuss book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 17, 2021 / 7:24 am

      Greetings. I will keep The Dovekeepers in mind when I look for another Hoffman book to read. My local libraries are well-stocked with her novels.


  9. Silver Screenings July 17, 2021 / 3:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing the Brandi Carlile song. I hadn’t heard of it (or her, sadly) before, and I became an instant fan. I’ll be humming it all afternoon.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pam Lazos July 18, 2021 / 10:43 am

    Beautiful reflections, Neil. I haven’t read the Alice Hoffman book, but the Brandi Carlisle song is great as are your hydrangeas. I also wouldn’t have minded a rant about TFG (the former guy), just sayin’. Happy Sunday.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Pam Lazos July 18, 2021 / 2:16 pm

        Yes, I totally agree, but it’s also just a microcosm of how effed up we’ve become. Greed, and uber individualism have destroyed reason in this country. We forgot that we need community to live. A sorry state of affairs. Also, Mitch McConnell has to go. He’s been the architect of our downfall for way too long.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Crystal Byers July 18, 2021 / 2:38 pm

    Yours is the second recommendation recently on the Alice Hoffman collection, so I’m adding it to my list. As for Brandi Carlile, I quite like her. This one was new to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger July 18, 2021 / 4:06 pm

      Afternoon, Crystal. Do you have any book recommendations? I prefer short-ish books these days, because my attention span ain’t what it used to be.


      • Crystal Byers July 18, 2021 / 4:28 pm

        I just read (actually listened on Audible) Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. I know I’m late to the party. Gorgeous prose. I wish I had a copy in print.

        Also, The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner, a memoir about a girl who grows up on a polygamist compound. She was 39th of her father’s 42 children. A gripping quick read.

        And then, Andrew Sean Greer’s Less remains at the top of my list over the past year. It won the Pulitzer, not your typical prize winner. Light-hearted and lovely. Love his style. Using this book in my classroom.

        Understand about the attention span. It’s progressively harder for me. All of these are fairly quick.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. JoAnn July 22, 2021 / 1:09 pm

    I have hung out in Hope, PA a time or two. Been a while though. Peculiar town but I like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. veeds July 23, 2021 / 12:19 pm

    Nice job avoiding/not avoiding the politics…try living in Cyber Ninja country though!

    Glad I listened to the music clip. In addition to the mandolins, the clapping rhythm that comes in a little later is really innovative and, well, a stunning accompaniment.

    In the meantime, I got sucked into reading all 1,000 pages of a historical account of Hitler’s rise to power from failed painter to failed dictator. And then, to compound things, I thought I’d pick up Mein Kampf from the library–which I doubt anyone’s read for 50 years. There’s a real temptation to see corollaries with DJT (Godwin’s Law) so I’m trying to keep my blood pressure down.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Americaoncoffee February 12, 2022 / 3:59 am

    A great review and selection Neil. Sounds like a great non fiction. I love nonfiction. We always need to treated with life’s circumstances at every age. 👍❤️

    Liked by 1 person

      • Americaoncoffee February 12, 2022 / 10:55 pm

        Hoffman sounds like a unique social cultural writer. Her writings remind me of the author, Studs Terkel. Thank you for the share Neil. ☀️📚

        Liked by 1 person

  15. gaiainaction February 18, 2022 / 2:40 pm

    A really great review of Alice Hoffman’s book! And a great post, I’ve enjoyed. Lovely blog, and thank you for visiting mine. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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