Tag Archives: Northwest Arkansas

Death of an author

I was sad to read this morning in Shelf Awareness that author Donald Harington has died.

Donald Harington died last Saturday at the age of 73 after a long illness in Fayetteville, Arkansas. All but one of his novels took place in the fictional Ozark town of Stay More. Born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, Harington taught for many years at the University of Arkansas. His titles are available from Toby Press.

choiring of the treesI read one of his books, for the book club held at my local library, while I lived in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. That book: The Choiring of the Trees.

While I didn’t love the book, I did love its connection to that place, the Ozarks, Northwest Arkansas. When I first read it, it was actually quite disturbing, but the book has definitely stayed with me, and not in a bad way.

The local newspaper’s news article about Harington’s death. And the Harington obituary, from that same paper (he’s the second one down).

City of Refuge by Tom Piazza

city of refuge pbCity of Refuge by Tom Piazza (Harper Perennial, 2008), 432 pages

New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina. One black family from the Lower Ninth Ward, with roots in the neighborhood, in the soil. One white family transplanted from Michigan into New Orleans. Of the transplanted family, the husband, Craig, loves the city, the culture of New Orleans. His wife’s a little frightened by what the high crime rate and more unsavory aspects of the city could do to their young children. Craig works at a local alternative newsweekly.

Of the other family, the one with a long history in New Orleans, SJ is a builder, a carpenter. His wife, the love of his life, died years ago. His daughter’s off in college, and his day-to-day family consists primarily of his sister, Lucy, her 19-year-old son Wesley and some neighbors.

Right off the bat, I can sympathize with Craig’s draw to the city. There’s certainly something New Orleans does right that few other places in the United States do. I visited New Orleans pre-Katrina, in 1998, and I was entranced. The first half or so of this family’s story, though, is not really about New Orleans or Katrina. Rather, it’s about a troubled marriage. This part wasn’t very interesting to me.

I quite like how Piazza conveys the characters’ ties to the earth, to the dirt, to the community that’s melded together uniquely in New Orleans — how people are a product of and at one with their surroundings, the ground, the dirt. Even the memories, the history, is physically, tactilely, part of the place. He does this well. This is something it would behoove us, as transient people, to learn. It’s something I really loved about Kathleen Norris’s Dakota, too.

At a couple points early on, there were too many names being thrown at me; I couldn’t keep them all straight.

I read Dan Baum’s Nine Lives earlier this year. The dialect in City of Refuge seems to come and go and is not nearly as convincing as Baum’s use of it was. Piazza’s book is probably easier to read, though, for people who dislike or struggle with dialect in books.

The book contains a lot of anger. Much of the book is dark, too. These characteristics fit the content being conveyed, though.

While I was reading City of Refuge, I didn’t love it; it was dark and sad, angry. When I finished it, though, I realized I’d enjoyed it and it was a good read — and also, as I stated above, that Hurricane Katrina was a dark time and brought out lots of dark emotions, naturally.

In some ways, this read was personal. Sure, I’ve visited New Orleans, but that’s not why. Not really. Rather, Siloam Springs, the town I just moved away from, received several bus loads of evacuees, as well as some New Orleanians who arrived ahead of the storm to ride it out with local family members. I worked at the newspaper at the time, so I was thrust into the midst of the effort.

Tom Piazza is the author of nine books, including the Faulkner Society Award-winning novel My Cold War, and the short-story collection Blues and Trouble, which won the James Michener Award for fiction. His Why New Orleans Matters was written immediately after Hurricane Katrina. He lives in New Orleans.

Jennifer Hart of Book Club Girl will interview Tom Piazza on Blog Talk Radio September 10.

Check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour stops for City of Refuge.

Other reviews:
Chicken Spaghetti
Stuff as Dreams are Made on
Rough Edges

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

Moving, part II

I’ve started noticing or taking note of things I’ll miss — the vistas are different here in the Ozarks from those on the Plains, even if I do appreciate the beauty of the Plains.

I’m also starting to make note of how little time we have left here, in a number of ways: As I did laundry this week, I realized I have only a couple laundry days left before the move.

I’m also kind of rebelling against the idea of packing. I don’t like how it requires one to take an orderly environment and create chaos, which one then has to live in for at least some amount of time before order is created in the new environment.

What we’ll miss most, though, is the people. We’ll definitely miss so many friends who live here. I said goodbye to a great friend, one of the best friends (I’ve never been one of those people who have a best friend or who can categorize their relationships well at all even.). I hope it’s not the last time I’ll see her before we move, and it certainly won’t be the last time I see her (probably even this year, in her opinion, although nothing’s scheduled), but it was really hard. Harder, even than it would have been if it was closer to our actual moving date.

Two days ago we sold the couch. The couch where I read. Where I blog and where I relax. When I’m at the computer, these days the laptop is generally with me at the couch. Except not anymore, because the couch is gone. We sold it, in preparation for moving, because it makes my husband sneeze. This is a good reason to sell it, but I’m still frustrated that I have no where comfortable to read or blog in the whole house. And not reading? Not an option when I’m as stressed as I am right now, surrounded as I am by chaos.

More questions have been answered. Fewer things are entirely up in the air. On this front, things are actually moving very quickly. It’s impossible to keep anyone updated — we’re having trouble staying on top of everything ourselves.

I’ve moved, for the most part, into fluff-reading territory. I don’t have the concentration or the expendable stress levels to handle difficult books at the moment. Which means I’ll likely be reading more (if I can find a comfortable place), which means I’ll have more reviews to write, which requires that comfortable place!

Ugh. Did I say I hate moving? That may be too strong. At the least: I’ll be glad when this is over.

Update on the chair situation: My husband found one, very inexpensively, and is on his way, in the rain, to pick it up and bring it home to me. Even if it’s not great, it should be an improvement over the current situation. Hopefully his luggage rack and tarp plan is sound! He posted about his chair hunt this morning.

Moving

Less than two weeks after putting our house on the market officially, we had a contract on it. In a market in which, we were told, correctly priced houses were/are selling in 4-6 months, as long as everything about the deal goes smoothly, we will close on the sale of our home 6 or 7 weeks after listing it. Not bad. Actually, we can’t think of the timing as anything but Divine.

We agreed to their offer at the beginning of last week, right before we winged our way to Florida for a family reunion.

We returned, recovered from traveling, and yesterday we packed our first boxes. And yes, the first boxes we packed were full of books!

moving box of books

Well before we began filling boxes, I was checking out the library where I’ll be moving. I posted about the Grand Island Public Library wow, more than 2 years ago now, when it was undergoing extensive renovations. [For that matter, I talked about the GI newspaper two years ago, too.] I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the books I’ve found in the library’s catalog, although it’s still lacking some I want to read (but I suppose that shouldn’t be shocking). Still, it’s definitely a step in the right direction on the local-to-me library front.

We still don’t know much about what’s next; we should, God willing, close on our house before July closes. We know we’ll be living in central Nebraska for the near future. My husband will be looking for a part-time job there.

I’m trying to look at this situation full of unknowns as an adventure. But some of the time I’m still really stressed (and some of the time I’m OK). I can’t concentrate on much besides the countless to-do lists and lists of questions running through my head, all related to the move and the unknowns in our future.

My previous posts on this subject, most recent first:
Life: An update
Life
(Yes, profound titles, I know.)

Ice Storm: The end

Last night, when my husband went home at bedtime to repack our overnight bag, he returned too quickly — so I knew that our power must be restored. Yippee!

We hastily cleaned up the house we were staying in, packed our groceries and our bags (we’d just that day moved most of our freezer’s contents, based on the thermometer inside) and returned to our abode. I noticed while setting the time on the alarm clock that it was still less than one hour since power had been restored. I marvel at this. We’ve been checking relatively frequently, but I was unpleasantly aware that power could be returned soon after a check, or during the night, and we would be elsewhere when we could have been home. I’m so glad that didn’t happen.

With the adrenaline from the news, we started putting the house back together before crashing into our own bed, in our heated home.

Now we can host the very small Super Bowl party that was on the schedule.

Others in our area still wait, though. Carroll Electric reports that it has 16,000 customers are still lacking power. SWEPCO states it has so far restored power to 92% of its customers that lost power. SWEPCO has 1,150 personnel working today. On the news last night, it was reported that five of the shelters in Fayetteville have closed, because they’re no longer needed. Oh, and Ozarks Electric (which spans the Arkansas/Oklahoma border) has 22,000 customers still without power.

KNWA TV news seems to have good coverage at its website at this point.

View the entirety of my coverage.

Ice storm in Siloam Springs

The ice should all be gone before the sun goes down today. I’m basing this on the forecasted high of 58 degrees, with full sun.

My husband’s been posting photos (and links to his entire album of photos) of this storm all week. There are some stunning ones, and others clearly illustrate how much ice we actually had.

The power (I’m loving, this week, how that word can be understood two ways in all these posts. We have no electricity, but we’re also powerless over our situation.) has been returning to what seems like nearly all corners of Siloam Springs.

We called the Siloam Springs Electric Department this morning, to see if they could tell us anything about our situation. At least this person was interested, and seemed helpful. Hopefully we’ll hear something when he’s able to ask someone higher up (they’re all in the field, of course).

It’s now been 86+ hours without power at our home, covering four whole nights. I’m really tired of writing these posts — I just want to be back in my own home, with luxurious amenities (as I called them yesterday) such as heat, lights, a functional stove, and a working refrigerator and freezer.

Ice storm: Hour 64

Still without power at our house. That makes 64+ hours straight (so far). When we went to check on it this morning, after sleeping at a warm friend’s house, the house was 43 degrees inside. We ran the small gas-powered wall heater, as has been our few-day custom. Up ’til now, doing this has raised the temperature inside a whole degree. We waited around, expecting the same this time, but it didn’t happen in the amount of time we were willing to stay. It must have been at the very bottom of degree 43.

Our hopes, as we drove to the house, were momentarily raised, as we saw an electric department crew working near our home, at a place where we thought it might help us. Still no power for us, though. I mused, as I paced my home, that hope truly does spring eternal — no matter how many times I’ve checked without the power being back on, every time I work up the emotional fortitude to go check, some part of me is really hoping that this time it will be back on. [I know that, seeing the crew working, shouldn't mean that our power is/might be on. If the crew is working, even if they are working on our particular problem, that probably means it isn't operational yet. I know this, and yet I hope.]

The weather forecast shows a high of 47 degrees for today, and it’s already above freezing, at 34! We opened all the blinds and curtains on the south side of our house this morning before heading for warmth again. (We did this yesterday, too, for the scant hours when we had sun.)

Newspapers and radio stations are starting to function again.

Tonight, if we remain powerless, we’ve been offered the home of friends (with electricity) who are leaving town for the weekend. A place to ourselves! Sounds heavenly — although not nearly as nice as my own home, with heat, sounds.

National news sources are (apparently, based on all the Facebook comments we’re receiving from far-flung friends) saying it could be mid-February before power is restored to everywhere. This I have no doubt about; in fact, it seems sooner than I would have expected for some rural areas near here. The prognosis remains much better for those homes with electricity provided by Siloam Springs Electric Department.

Carroll Electric has yet to provide an estimate of when they’re hoping for full restoration of power (that I’ve seen, anyway). They are providing at least daily updates on progress, though. SWEPCO is aiming for 95% restoration by midnight Saturday.

A closer-to-home newspaper, in Oklahoma, posted a page of photos in conjunction with its special ice storm edition yesterday.

NWA ice storm, for the nth time

dragon-claw-ice

The word tonight, which is actually from this afternoon, is that the city of Siloam Springs is hoping to have power restored to the rest of the lines before Saturday. Most should be done tomorrow, but there are always exceptions. Crews from Texas have been called in to help, so tomorrow should be very productive. ADDING: Oh, I also learned there are 1,000 homes in Siloam Springs still lacking power. (In a town of 14,000 residents, that’s a lot of households. Still a decent percentage.)

This actually extends/lengthens/puts off further the projection I received from the city yesterday, of an additional 24-48 hours from then. Based on the old word, we could expect (or at least hope) for power by Friday mid-afternoon. The new forecast, from today, for “before Saturday,” is several hours later. Still, as I stated yesterday, it’s better to have some idea, some word.

We’re sleeping at a heated home tonight. Planning nothing more than a couple hours (sometimes less) ahead of time, and we canceled the party we were supposed to host Saturday. Even if we do have power by then, the house is a wreck, and we’re spent.

We took some fun photos this evening just before sunset. As everything warmed up to about 34 degrees, with a touch of sunshine, the ice started coming off trees and power lines, often in chunks:

backyard-devastation

snowcone-in-birdbath

The sunshine, and the (unvented, we think) small gas-powered wall heater raised the temperature inside our house this afternoon from 44 degrees to 47 degrees.

Earlier posts about the storm:
the first one
the early main one
a quick update with projected outage time
today’s earlier post