Monday, December 31, 2012

And This Prayer...

...attributed to the 13th-century St. Francis of Assisi, which Madame L also finds inspirational and helpful:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
(According to Wikipedia, the prayer can't be traced back in its present form further than 1912, when it was printed in "La Clochette" in France. It became known in the U.S. in 1927 when it appeared in English translation in a Quaker magazine which attributed it to St. Francis of Assisi.)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

One More Thought on Resolutions

Speaking of resolutions, Madame L wants to add that this scripture is always an inspiration for her when she's trying to decide what to do and how to do it:

"And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." --- Micah 6:8

Friday, December 28, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Dear Madame L,

What's your advice on making New Year's resolutions? 


Resolved to do Better

Dear Resolved,

Madame L stopped making New Year's resolutions a few years ago when she realized they never helped her change her behavior or improve her life in any way.

Instead of attempting to make huge changes in her life at the beginning of the new year, which, after all, is when it's dark and gloomy and hard to even get out of bed (let alone scrape the ice off the car and drive down a scary hill) when it's freeze-raining outside, Madame L has been trying to take baby steps all through the year. 

Madame L read a few years ago about Ben Franklin's step-by-step plan for self-improvement. He worked on one area at a time, giving himself three weeks to improve that one thing. Remarkable, isn't it, since behavioral scientists now say that's about the amount of time it takes to create a new habit!

Madame L hasn't been able to find that same bit of trivia again, but by using "DuckDuckGo" she has found some other great hints from the great man. Here's a PBS page with his thoughts about Mind, Body, and Behavior.  (You may want to follow some of the links from that page to other fascinating info about this great man.)

Here's an interesting website created by an actor who impersonates Ben Franklin. And here is Ben Franklin's list of admirable character traits:

1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.
2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.
3. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.
4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.
6. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.
7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. Justice: Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.
11. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
12. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates. 

These are all traits to work on every day, the key being the fourth one: "Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve."

Happy New Year, and best wishes for feeling better and doing your part to make the world a better place,

Madame L 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dec. 22: Still Here (and Congress and the Fiscal Cliff)

Dear and Gracious Readers,

Welcome to the post-Mayan-apocalyptic-non-happening. Of course.

On the other hand, the real surprise is that our country still functions with the most do-nothing Congress in all our history.

Madame L wrote an email message to her representative in Congress regarding the so-called fiscal cliff, asking for specifics on how this person has voted and intends to vote on the issue, and here is the reply Madame L received. You don't have to read the whole thing, unless you're interested in the study of meaninglessness. But just a glance will convince you of what Madame L has repeatedly noted with this person: a compendium of meaningless catch-phrases, no substance to back them up. 

Yet Madame L, ever the optimist, continues to write and call this person's office so Madame L's opinions will be known, even if ignored. 

December 20, 2012
Dear [Madame L],
Thank you for contacting me about "the fiscal cliff."  It is an honor to serve as [your region's] representative in Congress, and your thoughts are important to me. 
I appreciate your feedback regarding what many are considering a "fiscal cliff" – an expiration of tax breaks combined with sequester cuts and other issues scheduled to hit at the end of the year. I am continuing to gather input from families, small businesses, and citizens throughout Southwest Washington to evaluate the potential impact of this situation on our communities.  I am hopeful that Congress will help avoid any impacts that would harm [your region] residents.  Right now, Congressional leaders are negotiating with the White House to arrive at a proposal to avoid the fiscal cliff.  I will be carefully reading any final proposal to see if it adequately protects [your region] and its priorities, while maintaining our commitment to saving taxpayer money and balancing our budget.
Last year Congress made progress toward reducing overall spending.  Congress passed, and the President signed, the Budget Control Act (BCA) to reduce federal spending over the next 10 years. Though not perfect, the BCA put in motion a bipartisan agreement to reduce spending in all levels of the federal government. It saved taxpayers $900 billion by reducing and capping discretionary spending through fiscal year 2021.  However, freezing discretionary spending alone will not solve our country's fiscal problems. 
The BCA also created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction and tasked it with recommending an additional $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years.  The committee's failure to devise a plan triggered sequestration, and $109 billion in annual automatic cuts spending are scheduled to take place starting in 2013.  Half of the cuts will come from the Department of Defense and the remainder from discretionary, non-defense spending. 
Various proposals have been made thus far to avoid sequestration and the "fiscal cliff", but it is important to note that a specific plan has not been agreed upon at this point.  We need a balanced approach – one that that reduces federal spending without exempting certain departments from savings.   For instance, I have voted consistently to find savings and trim excess spending in the Pentagon budget that won't jeopardize troops in the field or compromise our commitment to our veterans. 
I am willing to working with anyone with common sense ideas to meet our country's fiscal challenges. 
Thank you again for contacting me on this important issue. I invite you to visit my website at [representative's website]  for additional information or to sign up to be kept up to date on these issues. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of assistance.

[Representative's Name]
Member of Congress

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Update: The REAL End of the World

"Hostess Brands spokesman Erik Halvorson confirmed that his company had, in fact, baked its last batch of the cream-filled cakes which were then shipped them to Chicago."

By the way, Dear Readers, you know how the Hostess CEO said it was the labor union  that brought the company down? Not true, which Madame L is sure does not surprise you:

The affected unions had already made concessions on wages and benefits, and the company had refused to pay out benefits promised by contract.

     "Frank Hurt, president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) says: 'Hostess Brands is making a mockery of the labor relations system that has been in place for nearly 100 years.  Our members are not just striking for themselves, but for all unionized workers across North America who are covered by collective bargaining agreements.'

     "BCTGM says the company has ceased making contractually obligated payments to the Hostess workers’ pensions since July 2011 and has pocketed approximately $160 million—money earned by and owed to its dedicated workforce. (emphasis added)

     "Hostess Brands is in bankruptcy for the second time in eight years. Since the first bankruptcy in 2004, BCTGM members across the country have taken dramatic wage and benefit concessions and watched as 21 Hostess plants were shut down and thousands of jobs were lost. At the time of the first bankruptcy, Hostess workers were assured by management that money saved via concessions and plant closings would help make the company stronger, more vibrant and more competitive.

     "Instead, according to the union, the money has gone towards executive bonuses and payments to the hedge fund that owns Hostess brands. Hurt says, 'Our members have now said NO to Hostess and the Wall Street investors in the only means available to them, the strike.  [We] stand in full and uncompromising support of our striking members.'"

Weird Word of the Week: Disingenuous

From  "Disingenuous: Lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous insincere: Her excuse was rather disingenuous."

Madame L chose this weird word because it seems to apply to much of the news lately. The elections are over, but then again they're not.

We still have Rep. Michele Bachmann in campaign mode, now that the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report has shown a slight drop in  unemployment, saying, "President Obama’s tax and spend policies continue to explode the debt and cloud the country with uncertainty." That statement is rather disingenuous. 

We still have Rep. John Boehner claiming that Pres. Obama and the Democrats aren't being reasonable, even while his latest proposals for avoiding the so-called "fiscal cliff" would actually raise taxes on the middle class and lower them on America's richest citizens. That kind of stuff is rather disingenuous

And Madame L's own Member of Congress said after her re-election in November, "What I'll be attempting to add to is the conciliatory atmosphere. The American people basically returned the same (partisan makeup)in the U.S. House, Senate the White House back to Washington, D.C. We need to find a way to make this work." That, Dear Readers, is rather disingenuous.

In fact, Madame L would go so far as to say these lawmakers' pants are on fire!

End of the World? (12/12/12, 12:12::12 pm)

Dear Madame L,

I heard that besides the Mayan Calendar saying the world will end sometime next week, today the end of some era comes and the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius. 



Laughing My Head Off

Dear Laughing,

Madame L is laughing, too. Thanks for bringing to her attention another meaningless bit of trivia. She has hereby set her alarm to go off at 12:12 pm (she can't do anything about the second hand) today so she can be watching for the huge changes in the world.

Madame L was going to post more information about the new age but she is too busy rolling on the floor laughing. You can find out more than you really want to know about the various nut-cases and their so-called prophecies by performing an Internet search for "age of aquarius" 2012. 

(Note that Madame L did not say you should "Google" the information. Madame L does not "Google" information any more because she was tired of seeing ads appear on every subsequent Web page she opened, after Google tracked her. Not cool, Google. Madame L now uses for her information searches.)

Here's the Fifth Dimension's take on the new age. Madame L especially loves the bass line in "Let the Sunshine In."


Madame L

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review, December 10, 2012: Quiet

"Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking," by Susan Cain, would make a great Christmas gift for anyone who is quiet, shy, retiring, sensitive, stimulation-averse, or, in a word, introverted. The author herself is an introvert, which is why she started researching the topic.

(Or, if you're an introvert married to or working closely with extroverts, you may even want to give a copy of this book to him/her/them to help him/her/them understand why you're just fine the way you are, thank you very much.)

What she found is hilarious (Harvard Business School---what a bunch of clowns!), endearing (Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt---why cool is overrated), educational (The Secret of Public Speaking for Introverts--and also walking on coals), and helpful (Warren Buffett, your shy children, and the communication gap).

Yes, you introverts, among whom Madame L includes herself, if you feel out of place at Harvard Business School or at a cocktail party, it's not because there's something wrong with you. (There's nothing wrong with extroverts, either; it's just that they're not the end-all and be-all that your elementary school teacher thought they were when she tried to turn you into one.)

There IS a place for you in the world, a place which you can find and feel very comfortable in, if you can ignore the people who want to keep trying to help you pull out of your shell.

This book combines research, personal insight, history, and great writing to cover the topic thoroughly and without too much dilution of the research.

"Quiet" is available in hardback from for less than $16.00 and in paperback for less than $11.00. Madame L borrowed a copy from the public library after waiting for four weeks for it. She didn't get to finish the whole book, just reading the first half and parts of the last part closely and skimming over the rest. She may go ahead and buy her own copy when she can get it used.

(Note to well-meaning friends and family: Please do NOT get this for Madame L for Christmas because even though she enjoyed it and mentioned that she wants to read the whole thing eventually, and thinks it would be a great gift not only for introverts but also for their puzzled extroverted friends, she has a pile of books THIS high which she will be reading first...So, really, she will get it used, someday.)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Madame LN: Indexing

Dear Readers: Madame L is pleased that Madame LN has consented to answer questions occasionally, that is, whenever YOU ask them, about genealogy, indexing, family history, and related matters. Please show your support by Madame LN by sending questions!

Dear Madam LN,
Our stake president has asked the members of our stake to index 6 million names in the coming year. I have some questions for you. What is indexing, anyway? How do I get started? Why should I do that instead of my own genealogy? And six MILLION names! Is he out of his mind??
Dear Overwhelmed:
First: What is indexing?
From the website we read this definition:
In-dex-ing: - typing names from historical documents to create a searchable database.
Second: How do I get started?
The best way to learn what indexing is, and why it is important, is to try it! Getting started is easy. Just follow these three simple steps:
Step 1—Install the Indexing Program.
1.       Go to
2.       When the page loads, click “Get Started”
3.       On the next page, click “Download Now”
4.       Once it is finished downloading, open the file to install the Indexing program to your computer.
Step 2—Index your First Batch
1.       Open the FamilySearch Indexing program.
2.       Create a new account and sign in.
3.       When you first sign in, the program will suggest that you watch the Quick Start video. Watch it! (If you missed it, you can find it under the program’s Help menu ->Quick Start).
Step 3—Index away!
Third: Why should I do indexing instead of my own genealogy?
Please, don’t do indexing instead of your own genealogy. Do indexing to help you do your genealogy, as well as to help others do theirs. When you can access databases of marriages, ship logs, birth certificates, parish records, and censuses from years gone by, at no charge and in the comfort of your own home or office, your efforts to find your ancestors will be greatly enhanced! It is a real thrill when you are able to find the names of your ancestors, and prove, through official documentation, when and where they lived and were married and died and are buried.
Here is an example of how it can work, and how it benefits you and all of society:
This past year, volunteers indexed all of the names from the 1940 US Census. You see, by law, census records cannot be released until 72 years have passed. So, on April 2, 2012, the 1940 census records were released, and tens of thousands of volunteer indexers began extracting the information from 132 million records. Their hope was to have them all done by the end of the year.
Did they do it? You bet they did! In fact, they had it all done in just over four months. By June 7, they were halfway done. On Monday, July 2, they challenged each other to index 5 million names on that day alone. By July 17 they were 90% done, and, on August 21, the US 1940 Census Community Project posted on their Facebook page that the last five states were now posted.
What does this mean for you? Well, chances are that you know someone who was alive in 1940 when that census was taken. My husband is one who participated as a volunteer in that indexing project. One Sunday afternoon as he was reading the records and extracting the information, he came across the name of someone he knew, who is no longer living. It was a thrill for him to call that man’s wife and tell her that he had found her husband’s name on the census. In fact, if you’d like to take a look at that census right now, and see if someone you know is listed, just go to this page and conduct a search: When I did this I learned that my grandfather was living in the home of his brother at the time the census was taken, listed as his brother’s boarder. Hmm, very interesting!
When you find the person for whom you are looking, you can not only look at the information that was indexed, but you can also look at an image of the record itself, and read the information for yourself—without having to look through all 132 million names yourself!
Finally: Is it really possible for a stake to index six million names in a year?
Yes! It is. Imagine that each stake has 5,000 members. Six million names divided by 5,000 members equals 1200 names per person. That’s just 100 names a month, or 25 names a week, per person. I can tell you from personal experience that it takes 15 to 30 minutes or less to do 25 names. You can do that! And you’ll be participating in a great community that is working to enhance one another’s genealogical efforts.
 One more thing: I bet that your stake president has called people in your stake to help you with your indexing efforts. When you download the program to your computer and sign in with your account and get started, check with that person in your stake or ward. This is important! Why? Because in order for your stake to be credited with the work you are doing, your efforts need to be coordinated with the person in charge of it all. Otherwise your efforts may be recorded independently, and no one will know that you are contributing to your stake’s efforts.
Please let me know how it goes, and if you have any more questions. Until then, Happy Indexing!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

CitiBank's True Colors

Dear Bleeding-Heart Liberal Readers,

Madame L does not wonder why none of you have written to ask for her opinion about CitiBank's announcement that it is firing 11,000 people:

Madame L knows that you know her opinion without asking. But she is going to say it anyway:

Madame L is sick of seeing those ads on TV lately about how CitiBank has been around for 200 years and is helping out with BP in the Gulf (yeah, right! like BP needs help ruining the economy and ecology of the Gulf)...

"We supported the Marshall Plan...and pioneered the ATM so you can get cash!" And so on.

Why should their anniversary matter to us, they ask rhetorically? Are you kidding Madame L? We care about this? We should forget about the college kids you sold credit cards they couldn't afford and didn't understand, leaving them in debt they couldn't discharge, and so on and so on? And about the people whose ATM fees rise so fast above their account balances because they don't realize they're paying usurious fees to you blood-sucking money-grabbing exploiters of the poor and uneducated?

Of course you can fire tens of thousands of people three weeks before Christmas! Because your stakeholders want more money. And you need the money to pay your new CEO his more-than-nine-million-dollar-per-year compensation. 

And you can count on the business community to support you, which they did: stocks rose by 6%  after you announced the firings. 

And you can count on the U.S. government to support you again, probably, like it (WE) did a couple of years ago, when our taxpayer dollars bailed you out to the tune of $45 billion.

So we all understand. And we care. We do care.


Madame L

Weird Word of the Week: Pavane

A pavane is a slow and majestic court dance or processional, with two or four beats per measure, originally from Spain or Italy, and very popular in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Here's a beautiful example with beautiful pictures to accompany it (Gabriel Foure, Pavane in F-Sharp Minor, Opus 50):

And here's another one (Maurice Ravel, Pavane for a Dead Princess), a sad one:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Coach Laura: Healthy Weight Loss

Dear Coach Laura,

I was in the grocery checkout line when I saw a magazine with the cover story: Lose 33 pounds by Christmas. I mean, we all know this is impossible, right? Who still believes or ever believed you could safely lose 33 pounds in 3 or 4 weeks without damaging your health or gaining it all back, plus more, a few days after the prom or class reunion or whatever you wanted to lose that weight for?


Maybe Surgery?

Dear Surgery,

You're right! Anything that talks about losing that much weight in such a short amount of time is most certainly an unhealthy fad diet or even an outright scam. Fad diets have been around for as long as anyone can remember.  Some historians credit William the Conqueror with starting the first fad diet. He as supposedly too fat to ride his horse, so William went on a liquid diet in 1087—or, rather, a liquor diet, since all he did was drink booze. The story might be apocryphal—William, still fat, actually died after falling from his horse and there was no word on whether he was drunk at the time—but it’s a good one, and it sets the tone for the next 1000+ years of dieting. 

Other unhealthy, illogical and unrealistic diet fads through the ages have included the parasite diet, "chew yourself thin" - the idea that you chew your food  until it's liquified then spit out any solid leftover bits, the nicotine diet (super-thin supermodels, anyone?), the goldfish diet, and the monotony diet. (Most people would agree that any diet is monotonous anyway.) Besides being completely unreasonable, most of those are just gross.

You already know the answer I'm going to tell you - the best way to lose weight is to eat right and exercise. That's it. There's no secret pill in any bottle, no matter what the sidebar on your web browser tells you right now, and the only one who can unlock the secret to your own weight loss is YOU. Sometimes the simple truth is the hardest to believe because it is so very simple.

Yes, there are surgeries that can inhibit a person's desire to eat more, but between you, me and your computer screen - I have yet to meet one person who has made this a successful life-long weight change. Everyone I know who's had that type of surgery has gained all the weight back - if not more - simply because it wasn't a cure - it was an expensive and ultimately useless band-aid. THAT IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE. That is simply my observation. I'm not going to argue with your doctor if you need to lose  large amounts of weight immediately. And I actually will backpedal a bit and say that I knew of a woman who fell into that category. She suffered from diabetes and needed to lose weight fast. Under her doctor's recommendation (note: not a desire to alter her physical, cosmetic appearance), she had the "stapling" surgery. To this date, about three years ago - she has so far been successful in keeping the weight off. I don't wish for her to gain the weight back, but statistically speaking, unless someone makes actual changes to their diet and lifestyle, this is not a long-term solution, and many of the side effects can be miserable.

So what if you don't lose 33 pounds in time for a Christmas party? What's more important, in my opinion, is that you feel good about how who you are and how you feel. Making changes that you know you need to so that you can experience better health are going to ultimately bring you more happiness than worrying about if you can fit into a dress that a fashion magazine wants you to. Remember - that magazine is getting PAID to paint unrealistic expectations of what women in the US should look like. Ugh. That's a dissertation right there. Don't buy into it!

Enjoy the holidays, but don't OVERindulge. Follow the tips in my last article to enjoy guilt-free eating.

To your health - for the holidays and BEYOND,

Coach Laura

Thank You Pres. Obama For Holding Steady on Taxes

Dear Madame L,

I read that the Republican majority in the House have come up with a counter to Pres. Obama's proposal to end the Bush tax cuts for the very rich, but Pres. Obama has rejected it.

Can you please explain?


Taxed Enough

Dear Taxed Enough,

Madame L thanks you for the question, which has inspired her to do a little more reading on the subject. As you know, Madame L does not think the so-called "Fiscal Cliff" is such a big thing, though if the idiot news-readers on the big networks and cable talk shows keep making it seem like a big thing, then it may turn out to be that.

At any rate, Rep. Boehner has presented his supposed plan, which would actually RAISE TAXES ON 80 PERCENT OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WHILE --- YES, YOU GUESSED IT --- LOWERING TAXES ON THE RICHEST AMONG US.

Madame L would like to take this opportunity to THANK PRESIDENT OBAMA for rejecting this plan. 

The White House statement on the subject: “The Republican letter released today does not meet the test of balance. In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill. Their plan includes nothing new and provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which loopholes they will close or which Medicare savings they would achieve.

"Independent analysts who have looked at plans like this one have concluded that middle class taxes will have to go up to pay for lower rates for millionaires and billionaires. While the President is willing to compromise to get a significant, balanced deal and believes that compromise is readily available to Congress, he is not willing to compromise on the principles of fairness and balance that include asking the wealthiest to pay higher rates. President Obama believes – and the American people agree – that the economy works best when it is grown from the middle out, not from the top down. Until the Republicans in Congress are willing to get serious about asking the wealthiest to pay slightly higher tax rates, we won’t be able to achieve a significant, balanced approach to reduce our deficit our nation needs."

Madame L won't even try to paste here Rep. Boehner's response to this, as it is full of lying bombastic nonsense.

Yo, Boehner: Pres. Obama won the election, and the Democrats kept the Senate and increased their seats in the House, because the majority of the American people see through you now. We all see that your only goal is to block every effort the Obama administration is making on our behalf. And we're sick of it. Madame L thinks you need to be hounded out of your comfy seat in the House in 2014.

In fact, if you, Dear Taxed Enough and Other Dear and Gentle Readers, are interested in helping motivate Members of Congress to get off their comfy big fat ... seats ... and start cooperating to serve the American people, check out this petition.

Petition Background (Preamble):The United States of America once again faces a budget crisis with only until the end of the year to resolve. This petition is to send a message to our elected officials that the "business as usual" method of politics is not acceptable with this issue of great importance. This petition calls for our government to get to work - set aside politics - and solve this issue.

An expected result of the fiscal cliff, is that the economy will regress into a recession, thus costing many American's their jobs. As a consequence, this petition calls for our elected officials to have all of their compensation and medical benefits suspended for themselves and their families. This addresses the simple question, why should they get paid when they are risking countless number of American jobs due to their inaction and they are not performing the people's work?

Quite simply, No Work, No Pay. Isn't that what happens in the real world?
The actual petition:
We, the undersigned, call on President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Majority Leader John Boehner to reach a grand bargain on the national budget and thus preventing the breaching of the fiscal cliff.

In order to motivate our elected leaders, the undersigned, call for the immediate suspension of compensation, health benefits and other sundry allowances afforded our elected leaders until which time they have come to agreement on the budget.

The suspension of compensation and health care should immediately take effect for the president, the 100 members of the senate and the 435 members of the house and their respective families.


Madame L

Monday, December 3, 2012

Book Review, December 3, 2012: Fairy Tales, Stepmothers, Sex and Violence; and PD James

Madame L would apologize for mentioning the three main themes of fairy tales in the title of this post except that they guessed it...the three main themes of fairy tales.

Madame L is in the middle of reading Maria Tatar's "The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales," with its first chapter guessed it..."Sex and Violence."

(By "in the middle of reading" Madame L does not mean she has not read the whole book; she means she has read parts of it from beginning to end, thinking she could skim through it and glean the important points, but has realized there are too many stories and too much fascinating information for her to give the book this treatment, and she can barely control her urge to underline and highlight passages and to turn down corners and to read passages aloud to whoever is in the same room with she has just ordered the book from amazon, used, for an excellent price, so she will be able to return this copy to the library soon without any further damage, and will note to the librarians that the underlinings and markings in the book were put there by a previous reader, not that Madame L blames that person, but, well, yes, Madame L does blame that person.)

Maria Tatar has written extensively not only about the Grimm Brothers' seven collections of classic German fairy tales, but also about fairy tales from other languages and cultures. She has read extensively the works of others who have studied those tales (most notably for Madame L, Bruno Bettelheim, because years ago Madame L had read some of his studies for a college class) and clarifies her own agreement with and divergence from their views. 

But all this is not why Madame L is recommending this book. Madame L thinks her Dear Readers would enjoy any and all of Maria Tatar's collections and commentaries. Madame L recommends this one in part because of the connections she found in it with her own upbringing as an avid consumer of Mother Goose stories and fairy tales.

Madame L remembers vividly being read the story of Cinderella and imagining herself as that poor wretched girl herself, even though Madame L didn't have an evil stepmother or careless father or mean stepsisters. Madame L supposes that most children respond in this way to the fairy tales of their childhood, and not just because Madame L thinks everyone must be like herself but because this is the finding of folklorists and child psychologists: Children are powerless and often feel abused by the household order they're raised in, and these stories not only teach obedience and patience and hard work but also show the possibility of eventual happiness and release and revenge and even redemption.

Madame L recommends this one also because it is so complete and exhaustive without having the usual flaws of completeness and exhaustiveness, which are boredom and exhaustion. In fact, the book treats all the issues surrounding the folk stories and fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm in a way that fascinates and invites the reader's further study.

And now to P.D. James, the great British author of the Adam Dalgliesh series: Madame L did not write this book review earlier because she was side-tracked by reading "The Lighthouse," which not coincidentally treats the same issues: the children, now adults, who were abandoned, abused, or sold into servitude, and who are now adults. 

How do these children turn out? 

Some, like Kate Miskin, escape and grow up eventually to solve crimes and save lives.

Others, like --- wait, to say his name would reveal the solution to the crime that Kate Miskin and her colleague Francis Benton-Smith will solve by book's end, so, Dear Readers, you'll just have to read the book to find out for yourselves --- grow up, or, really, never grow up, but remain in a childish state of smallness and resentment that may lead them eventually to commit murder.

Are these childhood stories repeated again and again in all good literature by accident? Madame L thinks not. Madame L recommends both "The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales" and "The Lighthouse" (ah, the symbolism!---that's another thing found in abundance in the best literature including the fairy tales).

Madame L doesn't even think the Christmas season is a bad time to read and contemplate these stories. So while she may turn her thoughts and her reading time to more standard Christmas fare in coming weeks, Madame L won't limit herself to it.

Madame L will soon have a lot more to say about Maria Tatar's writing about fairy tales, too.

Happy Reading!