June's Literary Blog
 

A LITERARY BLOG ABOUT BOOKS
How they affect us.
How they shape our lives.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Arf! Arf! Meow.


Whenever I see a small, uniquely shaped book with a cute cover and lots of cartoonish illustrations inside, I automatically assume that it is a children's book. And since I adore children's books, I have to read it.

So, when I saw the cover, briefly scanned the description, and glanced at the pictures inside
I'm a Dog, You're a Cat: Love Lessons from Our Furry Friends written by Marla Press and illustrated by Jim Tweedy (©2010 and published by MPressive Results, Inc., 46 pgs., hdbk.), I thought: Aha! Here is another nifty pre-teen story about cats and dogs that I will enjoy, read to my animals, and share with the neighborhood kids.

I could not have been more wrong.

Marla Press, a communications specialist in the financial industry, was in the throes of trying to figure out a new relationship in her life when she hit upon the idea to compare partners with the characteristics of cats and dogs. How, for example, does a couple communicate with one another if, say, the man has the personality of a dog (loyal, trusting, clingy, forever attentive to the other's needs,) and the woman that of a cat (loving, loyal, but aloof, needs her own space,)? An interesting premise and, hence, this little precious tome of enlightenment.

Press starts by defining "Cattitude" and "Dogsense", then goes on to list and define the dogiliciouness and catness personality traits of canines and felines, along with their languages of catlish and dogese. She then follows up with five or six simplistic examples of communication between various types of couples: man as dog, woman as cat; woman as dog, man as cat; both as dogs; both as cats. All of this is kind of cutesy in a juvenile sort of way, but poignantly adult enough to get her "how-to-understand-and-get-along" points across to even the most stubborn and obtuse life-partner. In a sense, it's a more animalistic, if you will, refinement of the 1990s self-help craze, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex , written in an easier to read and understand text and format.

Now, while this little book is intended for couples, its message could readily apply to other relationships. Suppose you are a “happy, loves lovin', joyous, eager to show what she can do, appreciate me now!” kinda dog and you find yourself working for a manager who is an uber-kitty: an “aloof, don't bother me, ambiguous, things need to be done her way, bow down to me now!” kind of person? How do you communicate in the work-place without ruffling—pardon the missed metaphor—each other's feathers? What if you and your sibling(s) have dog personalities and constantly seek the attention and praise of your mother, who is feline in nature? You and your tennis doubles partner are both cats—me-me people, each preferring to play her/his own game. How do communicate as a team to win the match? The possible combinations in life are endless—and everything Press says is true. So true.

This afternoon, after reading I'm a Dog, You're a Cat, I watched the interaction between my real animals: FrankieB, a loving, loyal, always-wants-to-please Basset Hound; and Sebastian Cat, albeit a loyal and loving feline, but who lives life on his own terms, in his own time. Sebastian napped in the sun on the deck, preferring to be alone, while FrankieB lay on my feet as I wrote on my laptop, occasionally nudging me for a scratch behind his ears. When treats time came, they both ganged up against me, mewling and arooohooooing to get my attention until I finally fetched the gravy biscuits and shrimp crunchies.

I've always thought of them both blurring into my pet team, not really seeing the distinctions between their species. But today, after reading Press' book, I have come to a better understanding of why/how they act they way they do. And I realized that they overcame their differences to become a team that almost perfectly communicates between themselves and, if I listen closely, with me, an amalgam, I have decided, of the two. Not everything is as black and white, er, dog or cat as Press implies.  

Which is, taken from animal life and applied to us humans, the whole foundational point of I'm a Dog, You're a Cat .

By the way, Tweedy's illustrations are great, delightfully fun and, in themselves, are well worth the price of this quick read. This book should be kept on the coffee table or, better yet, on the nightstand to read aloud from time to time; if not for the lessons it contains, but for the pure enjoyment of it. Even if it's not a children's book.
 
4:09 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Celtic Heritage

While my father proudly professed a long line of Irish ancestry, he was actually half English—on his mother's side. Which makes me only a quarter Irish—my mother was Italian. But this does not in any way diminish the pride that I have, like my father's, of my own Irish heritage. I am drawn to most things from the Emerald Isle—I play the Irish fife and the bodhràn; one of the adventures in The Basset Chronicles is set in County Cork; and I am fond of reading novels set in or about Ireland.

Just last week, as the newest member of the team on www.authorexposure.com, I was asked to read and comment upon an historical novel that chronicles the life of one of the lesser-known protagonists of the 1916 Easter Uprising. Here is the review that I wrote:

A primary requisite that makes an historical novel a great read is the author’s ability to engagingly fictionalize the real life of a little-known individual. The main protagonist of a novel can be a well-known figure, but to write with compassion and understanding about someone who lived virtually in the shadows of country-changing events, unheeded by his peers and virtually ignored by history, elevates a book from being a so-so read to being truly interesting. Of course, the writing has to also be stellar.

This is true of Marina Julia’s Neary’s Martyrs and Traitors: A Tale of 1916, her first venture into the realm of fictionalized history. As she poignantly says about her well-written novel, “…historical fiction is not about brand recognition…My lifelong quest is to dig up lost treasures, literary and historical, and bring into light those figures that have remained in the shadow…”

John Bulmer Hobson (1888-1969) is such a treasure. Neary insightfully resurrects this little-known, but misunderstood and, in his time, reviled protagonist to relive and recapture his life and times, highlighting his role in the August 1916 Easter Uprising that was staged by a violent fraction of the Irish Volunteer (Republican) Army. Hobson, a Quaker-born Ulsterman, was raised in a rich, liberal Belfast family. After being introduced to a radical publication by a writer friend of his suffragette and archeologist mother, this handsome, charming, yet “arrogant and blusterous” young man joins the Irish rebellion. His pacifist beliefs lead him to oppose fellow IRB members as they plan to violently wrest what is now the Free Irish Republic from British oppression. His role in the events leading up to the revolution is craftily delineated via personal—albeit imaginative fictionalized—vignettes that strikingly and sometimes humorously pinpoint his political endeavors as well the character flaws that skewed his personal life with disappointing romantic and familial relationships.

This is a very intimate and enlightening portrait of a very complex man who not only was greatly misunderstood and mistreated by his peers and lovers, but who greatly misunderstood and often mistreated them. As a Protestant, he joined forces with Irish Catholics from all walks of life and was a major contributor to the 1916 failed Irish insurrection; yet was virtually written out of the history books, as well as, until now, our contemporary novels.

Neary’s offering, since its release almost a year ago, has been well-received; and for good reason. It is a uniquely stylized fictional account of much maligned and mis-interpreted moments in modern Irish history as seen through the life of one of its little-known, yet major players. It also doubles as an arresting, historical glimpse and lesson into pungently poignant details of actual events that unfolded in Dublin and Belfast during one of the most stirringly tumultuous times of our modern era.

This is a great novel that will not only touch, but instruct the hearts and minds of its entire adult readership—Irish and non-Irish alike.
 
11:25 am edt          Comments


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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currenty published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:


Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Forty-Thirty 
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast

Bethlehem

Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood

 

 

Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her fifth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
and 
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA
.

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,