Sunday, December 18, 2016


Philip Roth
Vintage Books

Ms. Hen decided to read THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA because it is the book to read right now. Ms. Hen knows a lot of people who have been talking about this book. It is historical fiction about Charles Lindberg winning the presidency over Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940. Ms. Hen thinks this is a prophetic novel because the feelings of the characters are much like the feelings of people in America today: fear and uncertainty about the future. Ms. Hen doesn’t know how Philip Roth could know what would happen, but it’s something that always could have happened. America is a precarious country, and that can result in horrific events.

Charles Lindberg was a known fascist and Nazi sympathizer. He becomes president because he says he will keep America out of the war in Europe, which people want, since they don’t want to send their men to fight a war that doesn’t belong to them again. Philip Roth, a nine-year old boy, lives in Newark, New Jersey with his father, mother and brother. The family is afraid of Lindberg becoming president because they are Jewish and they live in a Jewish neighborhood. The father sells insurance, and the mother stays at home. The boys go to school, and Philip loves his stamp collection, Sandy is a talented artist, and the family has a peaceful life until Lindberg presses down on them and tears the fabric of American society.

The way the characters react to Lindberg becoming president is similar to the way people are acting after this year’s election. Since Lindberg received a medal from the Nazis, the Jewish people don’t know what will happen to them. Lindberg starts a strange type of Anti-Semitism: at first, he sends young Jewish men to the country to work in farms to see what country life is like, then he sends Jewish families whose fathers work for corporations to different locations in the country where there are not a lot of Jewish people. Philip’s father and the other Jewish people believe the president is doing this to break up the voting districts and also to make the families suffer.

Ms. Hen will not give away the ending, but the plot unravels like the news this past week. Philip and his family have to endure hardships and are tortured emotionally, which is similar to what is happening presently. Nobody knows what will occur now, and in THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA, they didn’t know either, and they did not know the true extent of what was going on in the world at that time.

Ms. Hen has read another book by Philip Roth, AMERICAN PASTORAL, which she also thought was fantastic. She thinks his writing is majestic, broad and sweeping, and it's a joy to have his words swimming in her head. The one thing that bothered her, however, is that his books are too masculine. Most of the main characters are men, and the women are secondary. There is a lot of discussion of men and what they do as men, and not much talk about the ways of women. Ms. Hen isn’t sure if the author isn’t interested in women, or if the male characters dominate because that’s the way he sees the world.

Ms. Hen likes to be bothered by the books that she reads. THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA opened her eyes to what the extent of what could happen here. Ms. Hen doesn’t like fascists, and doesn’t know anyone who does, but she wants to be prepared for whatever happens, like the characters in this novel.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Ms. Hen reviews some Icelandic music


Soley – WE SINK

Low Roar – LOW ROAR

Ms. Hen loves music, but she has never written a music review on her blog. She thinks that it’s about time, so she will share some she has recently discovered. When Ms. Hen was a young hen, the only way to acquire music was to purchase it in a store on a CD, and when she was younger, on cassette tapes. These days, a whole new world has emerged on the Internet. People can find things that they had no idea had existed, and most of the time, we can listen to it for free. Sometimes Ms. Hen feels guilty about not buying music from artists, but she is not a rich hen, and needs to buy groceries and get her hair done and go on vacation sometimes.

Ms. Hen has decided it’s pleasant to listen to music from Iceland in the winter. She has found some Icelandic artists that she enjoys and she’d like to open your eyes to them.

Mum is one of Ms. Hen’s favorite new bands. They create electronic music that is very delicate and hopeful. Some of their songs are instrumentals, which Ms. Hen isn’t usually partial to, but she loves the way the songs sound. She has been listening to FINALLY WE ARE NO ONE recently and when she does, it makes her happy. It is fitting music for December because it is dark and light at the same time, like Christmas. To her, it sounds like peppermints.

Ms. Hen listened to Soley’s WE SINK often during October and November. It is perfect for Halloween, spooky and sensual, and sometimes a little scary. She was a member of the Icelandic folk band Seabear before venturing off onto her own.  She possesses a beautiful ethereal voice and can calm Ms. Hen down when she’s angry about the state of the world, which has happened a lot lately.

Low Roar’s lead singer Ryan Karazija is not originally from Iceland, but he relocated there, and Low Roar was born. He wrote a song a day to chronicle his experience in Iceland, creating the album LOW ROAR. Ms. Hen discovered this album earlier this year, in January, and she thinks it’s perfect for deep winter music listening. You can hear the snow and cold and elongated nights in the music. Low Roar has an album that will be released in 2017, and Ms. Hen is looking forward to it, but she still loves their first, since she hasn’t gotten bored with it yet.

For a long time, Ms. Hen didn’t listen to new music. She listened to the same old thing all the time. Only this year, she figured out how to listen to different albums on the Internet. Ms. Hen is not an old hen, but she is not a millennial. She comes from the last generation that grew up without the Internet. She imagines that when she is eighty, she will be telling the young people about how she had to go to a store to buy a CD to acquire music. These days, the world can be yours, if you only know where to look.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ms. Hen reviews UNCLE TOM'S CABIN

By Harriet Beecher Stowe
First Bantam publishing 1981

Ms. Hen learned about UNCLE TOM’S CABIN when she was in elementary school. She was taught that this was the book that caused the Civil War, since it exposed slavery in the American South like never before. When Ms. Hen was a young hen, she loved the idea of a novel starting a war, or driving people to action. She thought she would like to write a novel to bring about social justice, but the fact is that no novel could ever start a revolution these days, because reading is not as prevalent as it was in the middle of the nineteenth century.

At first Ms. Hen was struck by the old-fashioned writing of the book. She didn’t like the way the narrative meanders, and takes a lot of time. She would have given up reading UNCLE TOM’S CABIN if it weren’t for the compelling stories that are within the book. She has read about slavery before: works by Frederick Douglas, Toni Morrison and others. But she could not help but think that this was the first book to show the truly dark side of slavery, with its horrors and debasement; families being split apart, women whose bodies were used to bear children, people whipped for not doing as told. Ms. Hen was horrified at the injustice, even though she knew the history.

The story is about Uncle Tom, who is a slave of a good master who loses him in a gambling match. He is made to leave his wife and children and eventually sold to a soft-hearted master in Louisiana who has a daughter, Eva, who Tom comes to adore. Ms. Hen thought the scenes with the little girl Eva were too melodramatic. It made Ms. Hen sad, but it seemed like the story is overblown. What becomes of the master is also dramatic, and it made Ms. Hen cringe. The ultimate part of the novel is tragic, and Ms. Hen knew what would happen in the end. These stories don’t usually end up as happy ones.

Another aspect of this novel Ms. Hen did not like was the Christianity. She did not like that Tom tried to teach the slaves about Jesus, and that if they were good, they would go to heaven in the end. In the concluding remarks, the author states that she believes that Christianity is what would abolish slavery, but Ms. Hen believes that one does not have to be a Christian to be a good person. She understands that this was the popular belief in the country in the nineteenth century, and even in some places today, but Ms. Hen thinks this is a narrow view of the world. Ms. Hen believes that a person does not have to be a Christian or belong to any religion to be a decent person and live a right life. She knows that some people need something to grasp onto because they do not have and education or a broader view of the world.

In the beginning of the novel, Tom and his family ate chicken when they were together. It made Ms. Hen happy that chickens were a part of his life when he was with his family. This novel is long and winding and difficult, but Ms. Hen thinks it’s worth the time to learn about slavery from the point of view when it was considered current events. We’re not there yet, and we still have room to grow, but Ms. Hen believes that the world can get better, even though it doesn’t seem that way in this moment in time. This country has come a long way, and we will not go down without a fight.