Music that moves me to stillness: Nina Simone

I only discovered Nina Simone in 2002 when her glorious live rendition of “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” was featured on the soundtrack of The Dancer Upstairs, an excellent movie (John Malkovich’s directoral debut) starring Javier Bardem. She died a year later from breast cancer. The “High Priestess of Soul” was a Civil Rights Movement icon whose music spanned classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop genres. Ms. Simone was inducted posthumously, last month, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

So many of Nina Simone’s most well know songs like “To Be Young Gifted and Black” and “Mississippi Goddamn” are larger than life, high energy anthems.

But amoung my favorites are her quieter pieces, like this rendition of “Little Girl Blue,” where the deep ache in her voice offers your heart the chance to come undone.

She is the only performer, no longer with us, I wish I had had the chance to see perform live.

Birds vs. Cars

At 5:10 this morning the city was so still that the chirping of birds overpowered the sound of any and all street traffic on our block.

An airport drop-off later, the tide had turned.

On a Sunday, I am quietly reading…

Chesil Beach

I’ll cop to knowing less about Ian McEwan than I probably should. I read Amsterdam (winner of the 1998 Man Booker Award) back when it first came out and I saw the movie version of Atonement.

I know he looms large for many readers of fiction, but somehow I’ve never been very drawn to his work. Maybe because Amsterdam didn’t make much of an impression on me.

I’ve only just started this one…which I gained ownership of during a book swap at a meeting of my book group. The back cover promises that it will be about newlyweds walking through their private fears of their wedding night.

I decided to read it because it is short,

And I had need for a short book.

But I am still hopeful for the adventure that always accompanies fiction.



BTW: Do you have a favorite Ian McEwan title that you would recommend?

I am enjoying quietly reading…


Marilynne Robinson is a gem of a writer and one of my favorite authors.

Home is the second book in her Gilead Trilogy (Gilead {winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction,} Home and Lila) that examines themes of community, faith, the complexity of family bonds, the way we live our lives given the choices before us, how we learn to love and what it means to call a place home—all through the lens of small town life.

Here you will find quiet, gentle observations written in language that will break your heart and also rebuild it.

It is as if you have been given permission to stand outside and peek in through a window and watch how people express their hopes and walk through their private fears.


You can certainly read this book in a cafe or on the bus to work,

But try reading it is a quiet space

To really appreciate it’s language,

And experience its deep stillness.


(You can read the three books of the series in any order. The characters overlap but the novels are not narratively sequential. I might still recommend starting with Gilead, where you are introduced to the character of Reverend Ames a linchpin for all three novels.)