Let’s Talk Jackson: City animals for Christmas

Sometime back, around 1996, Willie Morris emceed a dog show and adopt-a-thon right in Banner Hall’s own Lemuria Bookstore. 10 dogs with colorful bandanas sashayed over the green carpet to the easy crooning of our dear Willie, a ham of a performer and a dog-lover himself. Most of the dogs got adopted that day, and mostly to the employees. It was a feel-good event for everyone and for dogs sheltered at the city of Jackson Animal Shelter, located across WLBT at the time (now located at 140 Outer Circle).

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It’s amazing how much sheltering and rescuing is going on around this city. Jackson has two no-kill shelters, CARA and ARF. Then we have the Mississippi Animal Rescue League in a beautiful almost new building housing everything from dogs and cats to pigs, birds and horses or anything else brought their way. Of course, there is my own volunteer group, Jackson Friends of the Animal Shelter, the support group for the city pound or City of Jackson Animal Shelter. There is Cheshire Abbey, a foster and rescue group without a building of its own. And if you go to www.petfinder.com, you will find quite a few small groups doing what they can to save specific breeds. It’s totally amazing how many more animals are being saved due to these shelters, the tireless volunteers, the individuals who pick strays up off the streets, vet them and find them homes.

My favorite phone calls are those that go like this: “I’m looking for a dog for my mother who lives alone or for a family whose kids are looking for a four (or three) legged best friend”. It’s a heartwarmer to see a family meet their new best friend at the city shelter on Sunday afternoons when all the volunteers are there from 1 to 3, washing, bathing, playing with, feeding dogs and cats. And the volunteers keep coming, new ones every week. The fellowship is extraordinary.

So talking about Jackson to me is sharing the good news that homeless furry friends stand a much better chance of a second chance than they did, say, just 10 years ago. There’s still a lot to do. And doing it together gathers so many people of all races and ages throughout our city. All for the love of dogs. . .and cats, too.

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Handsome Caesar is one dog that constantly has us scratching our heads. From his cuddly demeanor to his silly prancing, he is one of the most charming dogs at ARF. Unfortunately, he has also spent every day of his life – NEARLY EIGHT YEARS – sitting in the confines of a shelter pen. Caesar was born in February 2007, in the midst of chilling cold spell. His mama was a street dog, but she was resourceful: the pups were delivered under the hull of a boat at the Jackson Yacht Club! Two of the four puppies born that winter day have been adopted, but Caesar and his brother, Augustus, remain at ARF. Caesar is an active pup who is full of curiosity; the way he prances around the play yard with his tail curled high reminds us of a show pony! Despite his silliness, there’s no forgetting his handsome, regal face. He is good with dogs, good with people, and good to cuddle at all times. With many years left, this bright-eyed, medium-sized (~40 lbs.) dog is ready for a home NOW. He’s been a joy to have at ARF, and loved his volunteer walks and play time, but it’s time for Caesar to find a new home — help us find one for him today! For more information, call 769-216-3414.

It’s not too late to give a home to an animal who needs some love this Christmas!

Written by Pat

 

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande Pt. 2

I just finished reading Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, and WHOA. I want to give a copy to everyone. Some friends and customers have questioned me about it, wondering if it may be:

1. Overly morbid

2. Overly mushy and/or

3. Overly scientific. (It’s none of those things, by the way). They wonder why a twenty-five year old is raving about a book on death. So let me tell you.

This book prompts readers to question what really matters to us in life and find ways to make those things happen. It gives people options for living and dying well.  And it allows us to safely look at death, examine it through a glass, and breathe a big ole sigh of relief. When we ignore the reality of death or pretend it’s a purely a medical problem that needs fixing, we forget that we are naturally limited beings.

Jacket (12)And limitations are out of vogue. We applaud heroes who push the limits, who do the seemingly impossible. To me, limits too often sound constricting and severe. I see them as unpleasant at best and tortuous at worst; and acknowledging my own limitations too often feels like defeat. “I’m sorry I can’t,” I apologize with sincere regret. “I wish I could,” I lament. Ugh. Why can’t I do it all? Curse these limitations!

But knowing our limits, accepting them with grace, and living well within those that cannot be changed—especially our mortality—is something to aspire to rather than fear. We need to stop ignoring the fact that we’re human.

Think of it in terms of art. Every piece of art has a frame, or at least a point where the canvas ends and the wall begins, and the frame gives structure to show off the work’s beauty. Toddler artists usually paint beyond their limits, sloppily coloring the table if they aren’t paying attention to where the paper ends. But mature artists are keenly aware of the size of their canvas and use it for their benefit.

Reading Being Mortal by Atul Gawande soothed that frantic part of me that wants to color over the lines and forget my life has a frame. Instead of feeling pressured to be more than human, I can actually face my limitations and be happy. We don’t need to ignore or apologize for our limits. We don’t need to fix death by fighting for more time at any cost. We can live and die well when we take comfort in the limitations of being mortal.

 

Written by Marianna

Stocking Stuffer Books: Books that won’t break the stocking–or the bank.

Pat the Christmas Bunny ($9.99)  By Edith Kunhardt

While every baby should have Pat the Bunny, the obvious next addition is the Christmas version!

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The Twelve Days of Christmas ($6.99) By Jan Brett

Jan Brett is a masterful illustrator, and at Christmastime, her talent shines in this little book.

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The Scrawny Little Tree ($6.99) By Ed Mehler, Illustrated by Susie Pollard

The story about a threadbare little boy who buys a threadbare little tree. With a little love, it turns into the “most majestic one in all of history!”

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A Child’s Christmas In Wales ($9.99) By Dylan Thomas with Woodcuts by Ellen Raskin

Tiny, square, and blue, I cannot tell you how much I adore this book. The woodcuts by Ellen Raskin evoke the “two-tongued sea” and I can envision Mrs. Prothero’s garden full of cats, at which the narrator and his friend Jimmy throw snowballs.

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The First Christmas ($9.99)  By Jan Pienkowski

Beautifully illustrated, this silver book narrates the King James Christmas Story.

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever ($5.99) By Barbara Robinson

A hilarious, middle-school Christmas classic for the chapter-book reader. The Hedermans are terribly behaved children taking over a Christmas pageant in which they know absolutely nothing about the true story of Christmas. As it is, it’s not just the Hedermans, but the congregation who have something to learn about Christmas, after all.

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A Merry Christmas & Other Christmas Stories ($16.00)  By Louisa May Alcott

A reappearance by the March girls for fans of Little Women.

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Written by Clara

Hark! A gift idea!

“I want to buy them a book, but I’m not sure which ones they’ve read.”

It’s a common phrase we hear during the holidays. You’re trying to surprise them! But a book is such a personal thing, and you only have a vague idea of what they like. The options swirl in your head. A thrilling mystery? The bestseller that everyone is reading? Maybe you should just play it safe with a simple coffee table book. But which one? A funny one? An artsy one? That strange one with the popup cats? What are you going to do?! You collapse on the floor in tears.

Hey, calm down. Dust yourself off. You’re scaring the other customers. Here are some books that are guaranteed almost everyone will love.

 

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Whether they’re a hard-core history fanatic or just enjoy a period drama every now and then, this book will become a new favorite of any historical fan. Hark! A Vagrant is a collection of one-strip comics about many different historical figures. Napoleon is there, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Shakespeare, Arthur Conan Doyle, so many more. Several times I had to put the book down and wipe my tears from laugh-crying. I feel like anyone can say something silly about Queen Elizabeth I and make it worthy of an internet meme, but with Beaton, you know you’re in better hands. The jokes are silly enough to make you laugh, but high brow enough to be an accurate satire of how the modern world has reacted to classic literature and popular historical figures. Why don’t I just show you?

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Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg

This one is for people that love to read, because what if the characters of popular literature could text each other? The characters of old classics are there; Hamlet, The Yellow Wallpaper, Gone with the Wind, etc. But the book features newer books too; The Hunger Games, Atlas Shrugged, Fight Club, etc. The jokes here are a little more accessible than Beaton’s comics, you don’t have to be as adept on literature to get the joke. But these texts are not lacking in any hilarity. Again, here’s a tiny sample of what to expect:

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Happy shopping and happy holidays!

 

Written by Nicola 

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: A Homecoming

Written by Mary Sellers

I recently returned to Jackson after having gone to college and subsequently staying an extra year in Oxford, MS. It was a strange return—I remember crying on the way home because of the empty room I was leaving behind, the memories that seemed to cease their glitter as soon as I removed all of my pictures from the walls. The room was bare, and I could see the thumbtack spots from my posters, the dust that had collected in the corners like small, grey clouds, my roommates’ faces.

But I moved, because deep down it was the right thing to do. I needed a fresh start because I wasn’t growing anymore in Oxford. I’d become stilted and a little depressed, and however much I still miss it, even now, it was just my time.

I was afraid of Jackson. Having grown up here, gone to school, and left, I never thought I’d be returning. Two years ago I would have literally laughed in your face. I’m only here for a year (well, that’s the plan, at least), but I was nonetheless terrified of losing myself, of becoming someone who I’d hate, who my Oxford self would hate. But instead, I found the warmth of friends, and for the entire first month, reconnected with some of my oldest acquaintances. I went to dinner, got lost in new places, and generally spent way too much money. But it was something I needed—a re-connection with the place I’d grown up in but never really experienced as an adult. It’s a completely different thing being old enough but young enough to enjoy the new Jackson. Luckily, I’m right in that sweet spot.

And to my surprise, it’s incredibly fun. The Fondren area in particular is astoundingly cool; the restaurants are innovative and young adult-friendly; the bars here give a few of my Oxford favorites a run for their money, even. I’ve embarrassed myself at Karaoke, I’ve gone to a street concert series, and I’ve sipped margaritas on the porch of Babalu, surrounded by people that I respect and admire. It’s a warm place, and vibrant, too.

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I live alone, which I’ll admit has been an adjustment. But I wouldn’t trade my location for anything. I can skip across the street to McDade’s at any point during the day, which feels strangely nostalgic—I’ve never been able to walk to the grocery store before. The cashiers are coming to recognize me, even greet me, and I them. I take advantage of the plethora of coffee shops that are scattered around town. As a writer, I welcome a nice office filled with the nutty aroma of coffee beans and subdued keyboard typings. At night, I sit outside in my porch chair and listen to the shocking collection of cicadas around my house.

It’s still an adjustment, but I’m glad to say that Jackson is feeling more and more like home each and every day. It’s taken time, but thanks to a strong support group of friends, and my own desire to rediscover my hometown for all that she’s worth, I think I can finally say that I’m trying for happy.

 

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com. Ken Murphy will be at Lemuria on Tuesday, December 23 at 11:00 to sign and personalize copies of Jackson. Don’t miss it! 

The Slow Regard of The Kingkiller Chronicle  

The Slow Regard of Silent Things, Patrick Rothfuss’ latest novella, is a stray moon beam in an otherwise unlit cellar. Focusing on a mysterious character from the first two (full length) installments of the trilogy baptized The Kingkiller Chronicle, Slow Regard comes as a much appreciated lens, though not without a warning from it’s author.

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As Rothfuss prefixes – ‘If you haven’t read my other books, you don’t want to start here.’ He’s referring to the aforementioned LP’s The Name of The Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear.  Slow Regard concerns one of the ‘lesser’ characters named Auri. She, despite being lesser in page count, occupies a pivotal space for the hero of the tale, Kvothe. Like Mr. Rothfuss, I too will provide a caution before you read the rest of this. While it contains no spoilers, some of the references will ‘fall on deaf ears’ if not familiar with at least his first book. Don’t let this discourage you as it’s unimportant. What is important is that it may prompt you to read the books, which is the best decision you could make at this point in your life. So too much caution is ill advised.

I’m prone to saying I rarely reread books – at the expense of abusing this qualifier once again to (over)articulate my feelings for The Kingkiller Chroncicle, rarely do I read a book twice. Mid-way through Slow Regard I found myself desperately craving a second romp in the barn with Name of The Wind (I will refer to this book from here as Name or, simply as N).  The first go around I had with Name was quick and passionate, ergo the romp. So I put down the novella and picked up N expecting to come back to the same sexy flash as before. But I found this vixen to be quite different from what I remembered. While still exhilarating, she had matured a great deal. I now found subtlety where before I had only experienced pace and the new. I found intricacies and complexity that were overlooked in my former hast. It was bliss, as before, but now aged and refined. This change is of course my own advancement as a reader. I was an enthusiastic E’lir; now, I’m sure Master Rothfuss would sponsor me to Re’lar.

Not ready to pick the novella back up, my lust unabated, or rather bewildered, I looked to Wise Man’s Fear (Wise or W) with a curious eye. And so, with my strange second encounter with Name, I wanted to see if the same would hold for Wise.

This was the case upon my initial reading of the series: N > W. In Wise I felt the Felurian bit was way too long, among other things, and that the story advanced in a slipshod fashion in places and not at all in others. I still loved W, but N was the one. Though, now after my second reading of the two, I’ve found the orientation of my desire to have been inverted. I found Felurian’s scene to have been the perfect length and the story never fell. So now: N < W. Not only have I found the second book to be better than the first, but I like the first book better than the first time I read the first book. In all ways it is better. Don’t let me confuse you. The books are spectacular. That’s all you need know. And if you haven’t read them, you must. Simple.

And with this I pick up The Slow Regard of Silent Things once more. I finish it and love it. It satiates aspects of the story that get (rightly) left out from the other books. It’s fresh, odd, and entirely different from anything he’s done yet. The remnants after distilling Rothfuss’s works is his prose. It’s beautiful and highly lyrical. His books feel like a tragic song, something Kvothe would be proud of.

The only books I’ve found myself doing a yearly with is Moby-Dick and Infinite Jest. The Kingkiller Chronicle is close to finding itself among them.

 

Written by Austen 

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

When I saw Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End on the shelf at Lemuria, I knew I wanted to read it. I also knew I was scared to read it. I knew Gawande wrote about the really hard part: growing old in a nursing home or assisted living facility and making decisions with your family members about critical care for yourself or anyone in your family. All of these situations involve the loss of independence.

Jacket (12)Atul Gawande, the son of immigrant parents, describes his entire extended family in India, a village who took care of his grandfather until he died. In the most thoughtful way, Gawande contrasts his grandfather’s elder care with the modern system in the United States where most elderly parents go to a nursing home or assisted living facility if they are lucky. A system where safety is more important than actual living. A system where most elderly feel like they are in a prison. Gawande asserts that modernization did not demote the elderly; modernization promoted the independent self and thus made each generation “less beholden to other generations.” Now when we get old and we become dependent again, there is no healthy place for that dependence in our system.

Weaving historical, psychological and sociological research with real life stories of his experience with patients and family members, Gawande gives the reader an education in the history of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and the latest efforts in making the care of the elderly and critically ill more humane. Gawande asserts that we have given medicine and its institutions who care for the sick and the elderly the technical expertise (and the power) to deal with our end of days, and yet, he claims that—as a whole—they have no perspective on what makes life significant during these times or what human beings really need.

Being Mortal is my favorite book of 2014. Once I began reading, I could not stop. Atul Gawande is a brilliant, sensitive writer with a most powerful message. Being Mortal is wise and overflows with every emotion. You’ll want to share it with others.

Written by Lisa

Make it Personal: In which you find out entirely too much about my college experience

Wine in a can. That, my friends, is representative of the darkest that a dark time can get. Picture a young Hannah, a sophomore in college with the dewy freshness of being away from home for the first time finally worn off. I was barely employed at a job I hated, struggling through my math and science classes, and wishing that my literature courses would stretch me more. My boyfriend was living in Argentina, I had very few friends, and more than enough time to feel very, very sorry for myself.

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At the time, I had only taken a few introductory lit classes, and they were all (in my haughty opinion) boring and easy. I mean, this was my higher education for god’s sake! I needed to learn! I needed to wear thick glasses and read Kerouac underneath old oak trees on campus and make everyone feel intimidated by my intelligence and suave coolness! I needed to brag about my short stories that I was writing on my godawful electric typewriter that I could barely lift. I needed intellectual companions who would discuss their opinions about the nature of the Picaresque novel with me at coffee shops! I wasn’t asking for much, people.

Disappointment settled on me as I began to realize that:

A. I had unrealistic expectations of what college was supposed to be like

B. I had become an asshole who was ignoring the few friends I already had

So naturally, instead of doing anything to salvage the situation, I dragged out my aforementioned typewriter and began banging out story after story about damaged, unhappy, un-fixable people who I was sure were thinly veiled versions of my tortured self. They were unlucky in love, had enormous daddy issues, and said lots of curse words. I was so proud. This was my destiny, and if it was my destiny to be miserable and write genius fiction, then so be it.

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I decided that I should start smoking and drinking since that’s what serious writers do, and so I began, rather shakily, down the road to badassdom. I was terrible at it. It was hard to keep up the affect of aloof anger and literary-ness when I had to take a shower after every cigarette I smoked and the only wine we had was canned. Who in the hell buys canned wine? Who even thought of that? I’d like to exchange words with that person. Regardless, it was what was on top of our apartment refrigerator in large quantities, so canned wine it was.

I was literally forcing myself to be unhappy, and it was working. I sank into a hole that I began to think I was never going to escape from, and it didn’t feel cool anymore. It just felt lonely. I was ignoring my best friend, and constantly complaining to her that I didn’t have friends anymore. To this day, that is what I regret the most about that terrible year, that I undervalued and ignored the person who reached her hands out to help me the entire time.

Eventually, I transferred schools, moved to a new city, and started drinking wine from glass bottles. My boyfriend came home, I got a job I liked, I began to study under authors like Tom Franklin and Jack Pendarvis, and life began to creep back in. Every now and then, I would pull out the giant typewriter when I felt blue, and I’d stamp out a quick, sad, story, which all of the sudden felt like they had a real, tangible stomach-sinking melancholy to them, even though I wasn’t so sad anymore.

Right before I graduated from college I put my typewriter away for good. I associated good writing with inexplicable, cancerous sadness, and I didn’t want to be sad anymore, I wanted to be loved by other people, and I wanted to love them back. It felt like I was incapable of loving things besides myself in that dark time. The sad thing is, I never found the balance. I stopped writing fiction for good, and years later, I still miss that stupid, terrible typewriter.

I go back every now and then and read what I wrote in college and marvel at it how decent it actually is. It almost proves to me that misery breeds creativity, which I want so badly to be a lie. Was Hemingway’s genius really fueled by his alcoholism and anger? Would Virginia Woolf’s writing have been mediocre if she had felt loved and content, and not always trapped under watchful eyes? I so wish I had an answer to this question, and I guess it’s because I want to feel like I made the right decision. That by deciding not to write, I decided to live. But that feels wrong. It feels like I should be able to have both. I just don’t know.

Incidentally, someone wrote a book about the connection between alcoholism and genius. It’s called The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking by Olivia Laing.

 

Written by Hannah

Christmas in the South

Ah, winter time in Mississippi.  The shorts, the ability to grill comfortably at night, riding with the windows down.  YEP!  Nothing says Christmas spirit like being eaten alive by mosquitos on December 10.  So, here in the South we have to do or create traditions that make it feel like Christmas time and to feel festive because no matter how much you sing “Let it Snow,” chances are it won’t snow.

Growing up, my mom was (she still is) really good about holidays.  The house would be decorated from the top to the bottom.  We had an ornament every year since birth that we would put on the tree, and we would listen to Mitch Miller and the Gang while we decorated the tree.

I loved going to Jitney Jungle with her and stocking up on groceries for baking and making Christmas candy.  She would make an array of candies like millionaires, haystacks, turtles, Martha Washington’s, etc.  As for baking, she would make the best lemon poppyseed cakes with an orange glaze that filled the house with the most delightful scent that I can still smell if I try hard enough.

However, the one thing I loved the best was getting our yearly ornament.  It was the only present we were allowed to open on Christmas Eve.  Every year, we received an ornament that somehow had something to do with an area of our life from the previous year.  These ornaments are precious to me.  On my wedding day, my mom gave me my box of Christmas ornaments collected from 1987 to 2011.  Each ornament was labeled on a piece of paper and had the year written beside it.  Also, on each ornament in my mom’s distinctive script is my name and the year given.  These ornaments are on my tree right now and will continue to go on my tree until I am not able to put them there.  It’s funny, how such a small collection of object can be one of my most cherished possessions but every time I unwrap or unbox the ornaments, I am instantaneously taken back to those Christmas Eves with my family during times that will always be special in their own ways.

JacketOne book that we have at Lemuria this Christmas season is Christmas Stories from Mississippi. I only speak of this book because it was given to me by my mom one Christmas, and it has been a treasure ever since.  The book is composed of stories and essays by Southern authors such as Eudora Welty, Willie Morris, Elizabeth Spencer, Barry Hannah, William Faulkner, Ellen Gilchrist Edward Cohen, Carolyn Haines, and Caroline Langston.  Each author shares stories that evoke Christmas memories from its readers.  The book is also illustrated by Wyatt Waters, who helps bring each story to life.

 

The seventeen short stories and essays reveal the wonders and sorrows of Christmastime and the importance of childhood memories.  This book has been such a wonderful addition to my Christmas tradition and it has been such a delight to read memories from Southerners just like me. It helps make Christmas in the South even more special.

Written by Laura

I can’t believe it happened to an ordinary, regular boy like me: a YA adventure

In an effort to be a more well-rounded book seller and to figure out what the teens were talking about, I was persuaded to read Divergent.  I understand why it is so popular, and it’s surprisingly dark, the way old Disney movies used to be.  The female lead just coming to understand her emotions and desires in an easy to understand 5 point system was a clever way to simplify everything.  Not to mention- scratching a personal itch of mine-  I finally got to see some protagonists with tattoos and piercings.  I wasn’t a fan of the way everything developed in the story and the cheesy romances, but the book wasn’t aimed at me.

I don’t know about you but there is always a moment of panic after I finish reading a book: what do I read next?  What if I pick something only realize 200 pages in that I’ve come to hate all the main characters and hope they all somehow blow each other up?  Unfortunately, if I don’t have a next-book already lined up I tend to read the first book my hand physically touches. In such a manner I came to read Catcher in the Rye right after I finished Divergent.

I’ll skip the summary of a book everyone knows (what a big phony, can’t even review the book he’s writing about).  Except to say, I truly loved Holden Caulfield.  I was more proud of the way he handled himself than any other protagonist in recent memory, despite his self-desctruction and confusion; let’s just say I could see where he was coming from.  Yes, he ruined everything he touched, but I don’t think he can be directly blamed (or at least, should be forgiven) for the stupid things he did.  It was so nice to see a classic live up the reputation… Now that I’m thinking YA thoughts, Perks of Being a Wallflower is sounding pretty good again.  If you need me, I’ll be the one in the group of crying teenage girls that has the beard.tumblr_n20yclsO1w1r7kbspo2_500

Written by Daniel