The Stranger Diaries

Cindy Knox

‘If you permit me,’ said the Stranger, ‘I’d like to tell you a story. After all, it’s been a long journey and, by the look of those skies, we’re not going to be leaving this carriage for some time. So, why not pass the hours with some story-telling? The perfect thing for a late October evening.’

‘Are you quite comfortable there? Don’t worry about Herbert. He won’t hurt you, It’s just this weather that makes him nervous. Now, where was I? What about some brandy to keep the chill out? You don’t mind a hip flask, do you?

‘Well, this is a story that actually happened. Those are the best kind, don’t you think? Better still, it happened to me when I was a young man. About your age.’

The Stranger Diaries is Elly Griffiths’ delightful homage to Gothic novels. It’s a book within a book, containing a gratifying mix of mystery, suspense, gloomy settings, horror, deaths, supernatural events, a damsel in distress,  (More...)

The Sin That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Robert Strozier

When I was a boy growing up in Hyde Park, a community on the South Side of Chicago, our family belonged to the Trinity Episcopal Church.  Father Anderson, the rector, was handsome, generous-hearted and kindly, and I wanted more than anything to win his approval. His wife, Elizabeth, was warm and gracious too. My own parents were okay, but they were—you know—parents.

Father Anderson “believed” in me and hoped I’d become a priest one day. He seemed to like my sense of humor too, not that his standards were too high—his favorite comedian was George Gobel of “Well, I’ll be a dirty bird!” fame.

I was both a choirboy and an acolyte, depending on the occasion, and I’m sure I looked positively angelic in my black cassock and white surplice. But I knew I was a pious phony and unworthy to   (More…)

My Novel is Wonderful!

Creativity surges through the veins of OLLI-USF members! Especially those who read OLLI Connects.  Who among us has not had our most sublime creative work reviled and rejected by some soi disant critic whose own creativity could be measured in, at most, milliliters?  But some of us vigorously respond in defense of our work, as our colleague, Derek Burke, does here.

To the Editor:

I am writing to protest your publication’s review of my last novel.  Of the many criticisms Mr. Mitchell levels at me, none merit reply, and space unfortunately forbids me from addressing more than those that time will allow.

“The novel’s numerous flaws,” pronounces Mr. Mitchell, “Include clumsy writing, embarrassing dialog, awkward pacing, and ludicrous plot resolutions. Almost every page is seriously marred by  (More…)

Great Books, No!

Robert Strozier

I recently moved to Tampa from Manhattan and—among other things—joined OLLI. Everyone I know seems to be taking or teaching courses there—the joint’s jumping. I particularly look forward to some of the Great Books courses…well, sort of…

This ambivalence dates back to my undergraduate days at the University of Chicago in the early 60’s. I was a little too young for college then (as many people are, of course). I should have waited 50 or so years—thank heavens for organizations like OLLI.

The concept of the Great Books was deeply embedded in the culture of the U. of C. (Still is, I’m sure)—a legacy of former president Robert Hutchins. Maybe it was the term that was so unnerving: GREAT BOOKS. Taught by GREAT TEACHERS. Meant for GREAT STUDENTS. One was followed everywhere by the ghosts of the past whispering…  (More…)

The Joy of Reading – This Rough Magic

Cindy Knox

I was quite young when I first tried my hand at writing, and I found that descriptions were my Waterloo; I had to draw inadequate pictures instead. Dialogue seemed easy – should I have gone into playwriting? However, any type of description stopped me cold immediately. I’m envious of anyone who can describe a place, a person, a house, a tree – or a dolphin – so clearly that I can visualize it perfectly.

Fortunately for her readers, author Mary Stewart had no such problem, and we are placed in settings that are vivid, colorful, and speak to all the senses. Another plus for a perennial romantic like me is that her heroines are usually young, attractive, brave and educated. They are the highly idealized “me” from decades ago. This sentence from her obituary in The Guardian on May 15, 2014, sums it up: “Stewart’s fans were above all attracted to her wonderful storytelling, which she saw as a skill she was born with – ‘I am first and foremost a teller of tales’– but also by the warmth and vivacity of her characters and the sharply drawn settings.”  (More…)

Taking Life by the Throat

April is National Poetry Month, and we’re celebrating it (again) with another group of poems by OLLI members.  That fellow in the picture is, of course, Robert Frost, one of America’s best known and best loved poets.  He was Poet Laureate of Vermont, though never Poet Laureate of the United States.  He once described poetry as “a way of taking life by the throat”.

We think he would have enjoyed the poetry we have for you today.  And at the end of the post we’ll share some other ways you can enjoy poetry this month.  (More…)

Words That Burn

April is National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate the awesome things poets can do with just 26 letters and some white spaces.   We asked some famous writers how they’d define poetry.  Here are a few of their responses.

“Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn”. –Thomas Gray.  “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance”. –Carl Sandburg.  “Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful”. –Rita Dove.  “Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat”. –Robert Frost.

And Carol Ann Duffy said “You can find poetry in your everyday life, your memory, in what people say on the bus, in the news, or just what’s in your heart”.  Which is exactly what some of our own OLLI members have done for us here.  (More…)

Haiku! Gesundheit!

Cindy Knox

Reading for Pleasure — Haikus as Book Reviews

Some of us have begun an OLLI-USF class that requires close, critical reading. The morning and afternoon Winter Great Books classes, facilitated by Kevin Chittim and Patrick DeMarco, are just two examples. The selected texts, none of which could be described as easy, are read and then they are discussed in the group using the “shared inquiry” method.

I am in the afternoon Great Books class and, reviewing what I just wrote, I notice a tendency to yawn.  Why, oh why, did I sign up for this class, I wonder? The answers are that I am a long-time fan of Patrick, I know many of the people in the group, and I also need to exercise my brain after two years of absence from OLLI. These group discussions are stimulating, and I come away afterwards feeling exhilarated and also virtuous. However, there comes a time for each of us OLLI members… (More…)

Enjoy the Ride!

Diane Russell

At Busch Gardens Tampa during the holidays, the wait time for Cheetah Hunt was 50 minutes. It was 35 minutes for Cobra’s Curse. The Quick Queue shortens wait times by allowing guests to pay to bypass lines.

What if you could bypass long lines for roller coasters anywhere in the country or world? You can.  The American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) organization exists to find ways for its members to ride roller coasters without waiting in line    (More…)

“A Course is Born” and “A Community of Writers”

Liesse Chable

When I first learned about the OLLI program at USF Tampa, I was amazed at the quantity and quality of courses for older adults. I hear that the 2019 Winter-Spring catalog offers nearly 180 courses and lectures. I think that’s a record.

I was even more amazed when I realized that the majority of classes were taught by my peers, adults like myself over 50, who volunteer for free their time, experience, and passion for teaching. When I was a child in school, I loved the opportunity to participate in peer-to-peer teaching, all the camaraderie and equality of it. Now I have a whole catalog of peer teaching to look over.  I read it each semester with excitement and enthusiasm for what my generation has to offer.        (More…)