Sunday, November 29, 2015

“You’re Starting To Annoy Me!”

Lynda Gibson, who lives with her husband Ron in Paradise, brings her flair for the dramatic and “never say die” optimism to the harsh realities of growing up in a dysfunctional family.

She’s collected eighty-four humorous and oddball vignettes in “You’re Starting To Annoy Me!” ($18.95, self-published; available at Kathy’s Book Store in Paradise, at the author’s speaking engagements, or $24.95, including shipping and handling, from the author directly at

“My folks divorced when I was ten years old,” she writes. Yet even though her alcoholic parents abused each other, Gibson and her siblings always seemed to find the bizarre humor of daily life. “Each day at our house was chaotic,” she says, but “Christmas season was insane.”

Obsessed with winning the town’s Christmas decorating contest each year, a little accident with a rooftop Santa sent her dad to the hospital. Later he announced to the family: “I have some good news and some bad news. The good news—I won first place again. The bad news is the cash prize has to pay my medical bills.”

Gibson’s middle name was “illness.” Plagued for a time by polio, Lupus, and a host of knocks caused by her own prankish nature (“even though I wasn’t always guilty, I always was the first accused”), her consistent attitude has been “Hurry up, get well, I have no time for this nasty stuff.”

A born salesperson (she sold penny candy for two cents), the year she tried selling cookies didn’t go so well. “I ate all the chocolate chip cookies before the buyers arrived.” Then there are memories of the 1946 Buick; encounters with oh-so-holy relatives and officers of the law; a drunken uncle trying to stab a mouse on the kitchen floor one Thanksgiving (the mouse escaped); sticking “my fist right in the middle of the lemon meringue pie; and going to a revival meeting (“enough energy to power two cities”).

“I’m sure you are wondering how I could be smiling,” she writes toward the end. “Let’s just say it was anything but dull and boring, and I like the person it has molded, even if I am a little rough around the edges.”    

Sunday, November 22, 2015

“A Poet Of The Invisible World”

Michael Golding, who teaches English at Yuba College, explores the “inward light” in his third novel, “A Poet Of The Invisible World” ($16 in paperback from Picador; also for Amazon Kindle; more at The story chronicles the journey of a boy born with four ears in thirteenth-century Persia.

His mother names him “Nouri, which meant ‘light,’ followed by Ahmad, which meant ‘praiseworthy,’ and then she threw in Mohammad, figuring how could it hurt. This was followed by the nasab, ibn Mahsoud, to denote his father, and the nisbah, al-Morad, to denote his tribe. Nouri Ahmad Mohammad ibn Mahsoud al-Morad. Regardless of how many ears the child had, it was a lovely name.”

Soon orphaned, Nouri is raised in a Sufi order, where, according to the newly published “The Study Quran,” “in the Sufi reading of the Islamic tradition, every human being is called to undertake the path of spiritual transformation,” with love as the medium.

Nouri is a poet, his words “trying to find his way back to God.” As a teenager, he falls in love with the young man Vishpar; in turn, his nemesis at the Sufi compound, Sharoud, resentful of Nouri’s favor with the master of the order, convinced that Nouri’s love is illicit, haunts his life until the end.

When the Sufi lodge is attacked and Vishpar killed, Nouri becomes a tea boy for a Spanish sultan, who sexually assaults him. He becomes a shepherd for a time. He moves to a city on Africa’s north coast where he engages in anonymous sexual encounters.

Eventually he joins another Sufi order located in the mountains. He abandons himself to Allah, but also to the love of a young acolyte there. “At times, when he read over what he’d written, he would blush. Yet he could not help feeling that his longing for Ryka was merely an expression of his longing for God.” Nouri realizes that though “words could never enter the invisible world they could carry him to the threshold.”

The story circles around to the place where it began. Nouri’s poetry doesn’t appear, but for those who have ears to hear, the book itself is the poem.    

Sunday, November 15, 2015

“John And Annie Bidwell: The Long And The Short Of It”

Chico writer Nancy Leek and Paradise artist Steve Ferchaud have combined their talents to create a picture book telling the story of Chico’s founding couple. “John And Annie Bidwell: The Long And The Short Of It” ($16.95 in paperback from Goldfields Books, is for kids grades K-4.

It’s available at Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park, Made In Chico, and The Bookstore. (Leek also authored the acclaimed biography for young readers, “John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life Of A California Pioneer.”)

She writes in the new book that “John Bidwell was a tall man. In a time when the average man stood 5 feet 7 inches, he was 6 feet tall. Annie Bidwell measured 4 feet 8 inches. John was not only 16 inches taller than Annie, he was 20 years older. They met when he was 46 and she was 26 years old, and they married two years later.”

Leek adds: “She was a cultured lady from Washington, D.C.; he was a farmer from California. Yet they loved each other deeply. She called her husband ‘General’ and he called her ‘Precious.’ Here is their story.”

The book begins with John joining a wagon train though “none of them knew the way to California, but they got lucky. They met a group of missionaries who had hired a trail guide.” The journey wouldn’t be easy, but Bidwell arrived intact.

Much later, in “1850, John stood by President Fillmore as he signed the bill admitting California to the Union.” In 1865 “he left for Washington, D.C. to serve in the U.S. Congress. In Washington he met his future wife, Miss Annie Kennedy.” She “had strong views on many subjects.” In addition to her temperance work, she “believed that women should have the vote, and so did John.”

Later still, “in 1905 Annie gave Vallombrosa (‘shady valley’) to the city of Chico. It became Bidwell Park.”

Leek’s colorful and captivating story (there’s a full-color illustration from the inimitable Ferchaud on every page) features these words of John Bidwell: “The history of California lies like a map before me. Somewhat confused it may be, but I have seen it all.”