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dchaikin wonders what to do in 2011

Club Read 2011

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1dchaikin
Edited: Jul 11, 2011, 1:49pm Top

This thread continues onto part 2 here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/120136

old threads:
2009 Part 1, 2009 Part 2, 2010 Part 1, 2010 Part 2

2010 reads reviewed here: - links go to relevant post in this thread
33. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Sep 30 - Oct 31)
34. Southwest Review : Volume 84, Number 4 1999 (Oct 30 - Nov 30)
35. Five Lavender Minutes of an Afternoon by Larry D. Thomas (Dec 19)
36. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Nov 1 - Dec 21)
37. Book Lust To Go : Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers by Nancy Pearl (Nov 10-Dec 24) - Early Reviewer
38. The Texas Review : Volume XV, Number 1 & 2, Spring/Summer 1994 (Nov 30 to Dec 29)
39. The Ash Spear : The Third Book in the Storyteller Series by G. R. Grove ( Dec 22-29)

Books finished in 2011: - links go to relevant post in this thread

JANUARY

1. The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (Dec 29 - Jan 16)
2. Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout by Bob Cavnar (Jan 7 - 20)
3. A Murder of Crows by Larry D. Thomas (Dec 16 - Jan 24)

FEBRUARY

4. Towers of Midnight (Book Thirteen of The Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan (Jan 2-Feb 4)
5. The Everglades : River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas (Jan 21 - Feb 19)
6. Before the Troubadour Exits : Poems by Jeffrey C. Alfier (Feb 12 - 22)

MARCH

7. The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker (Feb 20 - Mar 1)
8. Persepolis : The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi (Mar 2-4)
9. Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi (Mar 5-6)
10. The Seven Sisters : The Great Oil Companies and the World They Shaped by Anthony Sampson (Feb 4 - Mar 8)
11. Barefoot Gen, Volume Six : Writing the Truth by Keiji Nakazawa (Mar 8-12)
12. High Tide in Hawaii (Magic Tree House #28) by Mary Pope Osborne (Mar 13)
13. Barefoot Gen, Volume Seven : Bones Into Dusk by Keiji Nakazawa (Mar 12-15)
14. The Rabbi's Cat by Joann Sfar (Mar 17-20)
15. My Reading Life by Pat Conroy (Mar 16-24)

APRIL

16. Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (Mar 8 - Apr 4)
17. Drowning in Oil : BP and the Reckless Pursuit of Profit by Loren C. Steffy (Mar 25 - Apr 6)
18. San Pedro River Review : Vol 3 No 1, Spring 2011 : Arrivals & Departures (started Mar 24 - Apr 7)
19. Dark Pearls by Larry D. Thomas (April 16)
20. In Earshot of Water: Notes from the Columbia Plateau by Paul Lindholdt (Early Reviewer, Apr 2-18)
21. Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster by Tom Shroder & John Konrad (Apr 7 - 21)
22. Barefoot Gen, Volume Eight : Merchants of Death by Keiji Nakazawa (Apr 21-29)
23. Florida in Poetry : A History of the Imagination by Jane Anderson Jones & Maurice O'Sullivan, editors (Jan 24 - Apr 30)

MAY
24. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (Apr 16 - May 10)
25. The Cape Rock : 20th Anniversary Issue, V19, No. 3, 1984 (May 1-12)
26. Blue Latitudes : Boldly Going Where Captain Cook has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz (May 18-31)
27. Hawaii (On-the-Road Histories) by John H. Chambers (May 18-31)

JUNE

28. Unfamiliar fishes by Sarah Vowell (June 1-20)
- Shark Dialogues by Kiana Davenport (read 4/5 from June 1 - June 17, then abandoned)

JULY

29. The Way of Boys by Anthony Rao & Michelle D. Seaton (June 9 - July 4)
30. Island Fire - An Anthology of Literature from Hawai'i by Cheryl A & James R. Harstad (June 14 - July 7)

Currently Reading
- A Short History of Wisconsin by Erika Janik (started July 1)
- The Story of Civilization I : Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant (started June 30)
- American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell (started June 28)
- Fairie Queene by Edmund Spense (started June 21, and still going...)
- Woman of Rome : A Life of Elsa Morante by Lily Tuck (started June 17)
- The Iowa Review : Volume 40 Number 3 Winter 2010/11 (started May 12 - stopped about May 15)
- Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen (started May 11 - stopped about May 15)
- The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories by Hans Christian Andersen (I've been sampling this since mid-January, I'm guessing Jan 20)

2Mr.Durick
Dec 16, 2010, 5:35pm Top

Step 5. set aside a book to start on New Year's Day.

Robert

3amandameale
Dec 16, 2010, 7:38pm Top

Hi Dan. Good to see you again.

4GCPLreader
Dec 16, 2010, 7:49pm Top

hey Dan, lol-- you can do a lot more than I can. I'm just pleased as punch if my touchstones work.

for your next step, you should list your best reads of 2010.

5dchaikin
Dec 17, 2010, 1:03pm Top

#2 & #4 - I'm wondering how these posts will look when I re-do my 1st post...I might have to leave the steps in there.

Robert - that's actually like step 12 or something like that. (unless I cancel step three and just randomly grab a book...this is possible).

Amanda - Same back, it's nice to see you here.

Jenny - oh boy, that's like step 37...I, of course, have every intention of making that list...

6dchaikin
Dec 31, 2010, 9:52pm Top

as 2010 winds down, a few updates...

I've posted by 2010 bests here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/104378#2406003
I've updated the 1st post, which now looks just like any of my other 1st posts...
I've pondered a 2011 plan, which would include:
1. A Florida theme - River of Grass, Cross Creek, Shadow Country (I'll have to purchase this), & Florida in Poetry : A History of the Imagination which was co-edited by Club Read's own Jane Anderson Jones.
2. Some award winners - The Lacuna (Orange), The Twin (IMPAC)
3. Le Salon - 2666 (another to be purchased), The Faerie Queene, History: A Novel by Elsa Morante, & The Magic Mountain

or maybe it won't...

7dchaikin
Dec 31, 2010, 11:29pm Top

other Florida ideas, I don't have any of these:
The yearling (a Pulitzer Prize winner)
The very rich hours : travels in Orkney, Belize, the Everglades, and Greece by Emily Hiestand
The Everglades : an environmental history by David McCally
Florida's American Heritage River : images from the St. Johns region by Mallory McCane O'Connor

8solla
Jan 1, 2011, 2:29am Top

I loved the Yearling - the book and the movie as well.

9rebeccanyc
Jan 1, 2011, 7:37am Top

I haven't read any of the other Florida books you mentioned but, as you know, I found Shadow Country remarkable and it was one of my best books of 2010.

10janeajones
Jan 1, 2011, 10:42am Top

Dan -- The Yearling is brilliant. Cross Creek is great too, but certainly reflects the racism of the time. Hurricane by Marjory Stoneman Douglas is a gorgeous natural history. If you want to dip into shorter pieces The Florida Reader and The Key West Reader are both good places to start. Besides The Yearling, Their Eyes Were Watching God and Matthiessen's books, my favorite Florida novels are River of Hidden Dreams by Connie May Fowler, Mile Zero by Thomas Sanchez, Colcorton and River of Hidden Dreams by Edith Pope, and Randy Wayne White's mysteries. Another interesting one is The Rape of Florida, or Twasinta's Seminoles by Albery Whitman -- a narrative poem about the Second Seminole War.

11dchaikin
Jan 1, 2011, 11:38am Top

Jane - I'm still preparing questions for you. I'll keep that list in mind. Any suggestions specific to south Florida - especially histories?

12bonniebooks
Jan 1, 2011, 3:54pm Top

Don't you just love putting something on your list that you can immediately check or cross off? I do that all the time, then I immediately lose the rest of the list (not intentionally, I'm just forget/distractible which is why I need the list).

I read, and very much enjoyed, The Shadow Country when it was three separate books. They were dark, and a bit discouraging (does violence and politics always win out?) but the history of Florida in the making was mesmerizing. When the author combined the three books into one, he supposedly rewrote and added, and considers it a whole new book. I'm tempted, but have got too many on my list as is. Great book(s) though.

13dchaikin
Jan 1, 2011, 10:09pm Top

#12 bonnie - yeah, making lists is OK, I'm good at that. Reading the books on the list has been a bit of a problem for me. :) also, interesting comments on Shadow Country.

Jane - Regarding your list in #10: I've read Their Eyes Were Watching God (also The Swamp by Michael Grunwald which was well done, and a short history of Florida, but I can't recall the title). Hurricane sounds great, but I'll start with River of Grass and see how I like MSD. (ditto MJR - I'll start with Cross Creek, which I own). You have River of Hidden Dreams twice, by different authors; it sounds interesting. Colcorton very interesting. I didn't find any info on Mile Zero...anyway, I'll consider those three. Thanks!

14janepriceestrada
Jan 2, 2011, 12:59am Top

Can't wait to hear what you think about The Brothers Karamazov. I think this will be one of those that will take me a long time to digest.

15rebeccanyc
Jan 2, 2011, 8:32am Top

#12, Bonnie, I read the new version and it is my understanding that Matthiessen mostly condensed and concentrated the novels (especially the second one, which I considered the weakest part anyway) when he created the one-volume edition (it's divided into three parts that correspond to the original three books). I am tempted to read the three original books but like you, I've got too many on the list as well.

What I found almost most fascinating about the book was Matthiessen's ability to interweave the voices of people whose voices aren't often heard with the big themes of race, class, environmental destruction, and the violence at the heart of much of American life.

16Mr.Durick
Jan 2, 2011, 10:33pm Top

Bonnie and Rebecca, I've been putting it off because I wonder just how much Florida is American life. The three volumes are, however, on my BN.COM wishlist.

Robert

17janeajones
Jan 2, 2011, 11:17pm Top

Matthiessen's Florida is both a microcosm and a paradox of America's history: his books about the Everglades depict the Wild West, but the Wild West here is the Gulf Coast of Florida. Florida's history is one that has been much neglected by American historians. Florida doesn't really fit into the neat categories of early colonies (although the first European city founded in the United States is St. Augustine) or the South (despite the fact that Florida joined the Confederacy, its inhabitants were never really regarded as "Southerners") or the frontier (even considering that the Seminole Wars cost the U.S. Army more in material and lives than all the other Indian wars combined). Florida is an anomaly -- its colonizers were Spanish, its Indians harbored runaway slaves, its settlers came first from impoverished Southern states and then from Northerners seeking Paradise. Its mosquitoes, reptiles, humidity and hurricanes discouraged the significant growth of population until the twentieth-century inventions of air-conditioning and chemical pest control. But Matthiessen exposes the tensions of 20th c. America from to the depredations of the robber barons to the racist terrors of Jim Crow to the conflict between commercial development and environmental protection while respecting and empathizing with the individual's need to survive. His Florida is the essence of America. (This from a transplanted New Yorker Floridian)

18Mr.Durick
Jan 2, 2011, 11:40pm Top

Thank you.

Robert

19bonniebooks
Jan 3, 2011, 8:34pm Top

Great synopsis! It's really worth reading, as you can tell from above.

20dchaikin
Jan 3, 2011, 9:42pm Top

#17 Jane, Thanks! And Bonnie and Rebecca.

21rebeccanyc
Jan 3, 2011, 9:57pm Top

What Jane said. I can't really add to "His Florida is the essence of America" -- exept to say it is a great read!

22dchaikin
Jan 3, 2011, 10:20pm Top

#14 JanePE (not AJ) - I don't know what to think about BK. I'm separating myself from it for a bit, then I'll revisit. My apologies to Murr's discussion. To its credit, it won't ever exactly go away; and, in something like a reprehensible way, I like ending. Power to the peasants.

23dchaikin
Jan 4, 2011, 1:36pm Top

numbers....from 2010

of the 39 "books" read, 5 were literary reviews. I'm skipping those, leaving 34 books.

13 American (38%... Iowa, Nebraska/South Carolina, Michigan (2), Ohio, Texas (2), Illinois, Minnesota, Maine, 1 generic American, 2 unknown)
13 European (38% - 5 french, 4 British/Irish, 2 Romanian/German-same author, 2 Russia-same author)
7 Asian (21% - 3 from the Middle East, 1 each Japanese, Korean, Burmese/American & Chinese/Indonesian/American)
1 other (South American-Argentina)
0 African/Australian/Indian/Canadian and so on

8 female/26 male (24%/76%)

24fannyprice
Jan 4, 2011, 1:59pm Top

dan, I think you mentioned elsewhere that you felt like you could have stopped with the Barefoot Gen series after the first two and not missed out. (Apologies if I'm misquoting you.) I'd love to hear more about this. I have the first three (third as yet unread) and am wondering how much further to go. I'm sure there is more story to be told, but it's a long series and somewhat expensive to acquire all of them.

25dchaikin
Jan 4, 2011, 4:18pm Top

#24 fannyprice - Yes, I think that's true (I've read 1-5). 1&2 are far and away the most powerful books and recommended to every human on earth. Three is still very good and worth the cost. Four & Five depend on your interest. At some point the story of "life after the bomb" becomes a lot about the dangerous gangsters of post-WWII Japan. This is dark stuff, but a very different story.

26fannyprice
Jan 4, 2011, 4:21pm Top

>25 dchaikin:, Thanks Dan, that sounds fascinating, but it's good to know what I'm getting myself into!

27dchaikin
Edited: Jan 7, 2011, 11:34pm Top

About time I post a review...



33. (from 2010) Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009, 607 pages, read Sep 30 - Oct 31)

I read this because it was the 2009 Booker Prize winner, got tons of praise on lt, and I won it as an Early Reviewer which was something of a big score as far as Early Reviewers go. My thought process starting it was to wonder how a work of historical fiction of this era (How many books of historical fiction must there be on Henry VIII? That I’ve read none of them before is irrelevant.) could possibly win the Booker Prize.

Well, I’ll stand mute on its merits for the award. I will agree with most of the reviews I’ve come across in that it’s a great read, terrifically done, even if I’m quite as enthusiastic. It’s about part of the life of Thomas Cromwell, a commoner apparently born dirt poor who became, for a time, Henry VIII’s most trusted advisor. But, and I’m going on a bit of an edge here, it’s not really about Thomas Cromwell because the character Mantel creates is a modern personality, a modern style hero of sorts. Sure he does terrible things, but he’s so careful and thorough, and he has his principles and his many interesting sides. He’s Mantel’s anachronistically modern Renaissance man who does everything well, including, especially, walking an impossibly small tightrope of the 16th century English power games with the upmost grace…and without breaking a sweat (that anyone can see).

I suspect we don’t know what the real Thomas Cromwell was like. The real one did lots of terrible things (vengeful executions and whatnot) made lots of enemies, but apparently also won over people completely; his supporters were fiercely dedicated and loyal to him. He was a complex and clearly intelligent person. The rest, I think, is up to your imagination, or Mantel’s.

Mantel doesn’t stop at Cromwell. She creates an entire world around him, heavily based on real persons and known details. We get everyone from Cromwell’s father to Henry VIII to Cromwell’s sisters (one of whose direct descendents was the better know Oliver Cromwell).

A couple things stand out in this work. First is a bit at the beginning where a young Cromwell, badly beaten by his father, goes to his sister for aide and Mantel somehow strongly inserts women’s perspective that I think colors the whole book of mostly men and deranged queens. The thing is Cromwell’s sister is a very minor character who we hardly hear from again, and we don’t get her point of view…just her comments and details about how she goes about things. And it’s such a minor thing you might not even notice it.

The other thing is the intelligence in the writing. Mantel has an interesting style where she expects you to be able to put things together that she doesn’t make clear, but yet she still makes it perfectly clear. This style is perhaps limiting, but she masters it giving her, instead, a great deal of freedom. It’s very strange how little happens in this book and how inconclusive it ends and yet I enjoyed reading through it (slowly, in my case) because of the atmosphere Mantel creates. She made me feel smart and comfortable, whatever she might be doing with her (clear to me unrealistic) version of Thomas Cromwell.

That all being said, for reasons I can’t quite explain, I’m not in a rush to read more from Mantel.

28fannyprice
Jan 8, 2011, 10:23am Top

>27 dchaikin:, hmmm, rather ambiguous review, Dan. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

29dchaikin
Jan 8, 2011, 1:36pm Top

Kris, I appreciate your comment. It was trying for ambiguity, but with some admiration. It's long, but I should have mentioned Mantel does an interesting, and excellent to me, exploration of the significant religious debates/battles of the time; and she left an indelible impression on me of what it might be like to be burned at the stake.

30fannyprice
Jan 8, 2011, 2:22pm Top

>29 dchaikin:, "and she left an indelible impression on me of what it might be like to be burned at the stake." Ouch! ;)

31RidgewayGirl
Jan 8, 2011, 2:48pm Top

I think that yours is the first not completely laudatory review that wasn't a variation on "too long and hard to understand". I loved it, which surprised me because the whole Tudor experience leaves me cold (a Renaissance Festival too many in the formative years?).

Historical fiction about actual people must necessarily be fraught. There's so much data about the concrete details of a life without being able to see even how they use a fork or how they treat the cat.

In any case, I'll be reading the sequel and I have a copy of A Place of Greater Safety, which I hope to read soon.

32Talbin
Jan 8, 2011, 10:09pm Top

Dan: I'm about 100 pages from the end of Wolf Hall, and I'm so happy to find that someone else thinks it's good, but perhaps not the best book they've ever read. I was really beginning to wonder whether I had any literary taste at all. :-) But then, if I remember correctly, we both read Les Miserables last year and were two of the only people in the Salon who didn't love it. Hmmmm. Maybe we both have something to wonder about?

33dchaikin
Jan 9, 2011, 10:44am Top

#31 Alison - You bring up two questions I have. First, was Mantel writing her interpretation of Thomas Cromwell or did she intentionally add something different in there? (I have a thoughts for either way.) Second, what was Mantel's purpose in developing the character she did? (I don't have answers for this.)

#32 Tracy - I need to go check out your favorites! All books work differently with each reader and great books don't work for everyone. There is a spectrum of things like personality, place in life, mood/state of mind, expectation, understanding of different types, interest, etc. that determine how we respond. Really, to some extent, I think our response to any particular book (of some kind of decent quality) at any particular time is unpredictable.

34janepriceestrada
Jan 9, 2011, 4:39pm Top

27 - Enjoyed your review. I'm never sure how well historical fiction will work for me so I've skirting around this one for a while.

35solla
Jan 9, 2011, 5:48pm Top

Dan, I always have the question in reading about a different time, or even a famous person of our own time, of how much is really about them, and how much is really about the writer. I enjoyed Wolf Hall. Mostly I think for a sense of a time when death could come at any moment, and people were seemingly more willing to sacrifice their lives for religion or some other cause. I felt it got me into the world view somehow. I'm not sure about the present tense experiment, whether it brought me in or held me off.

36urania1
Jan 9, 2011, 5:55pm Top

I have read several of Mantel's other book. She just doesn't do much for me. What do the rest of you think about her other fiction? By the way, I have not read Wolf Hall.

37ChocolateMuse
Jan 9, 2011, 10:18pm Top

Hi Dan!

I started A Place of Greater Safety and abandoned it quite early on. Too much back story, too much of what fantasy genre people call 'world building'. It's dense, but dense in information, rather than in ideas and 'aesthetic ecstasy' (phrase from Rique's thread).

It put me off from trying Wolf Hall, and from your review I'll probably continue to not pursue it.

I like your thread name :)

38Talbin
Jan 10, 2011, 2:41pm Top

Dan: I finished Wolf Hall yesterday and posted a link to my review on my thread. I agree with you about Mantel's characterization of Cromwell. I think Mantel was trying to give the reader a more complete sense of his personality by telling us what others thought (he looked like a murderer, even Henry was frightened of him, etc.) but because of the quasi-first person narration, the reader is only exposed to Cromwell's perceptions and we never get a sense of what makes others afraid of him. Hmmm. In re-reading that sentence I'm not sure I've conveyed exactly what I mean. I guess it goes back to Mantel's world of words in the novel - the reader doesn't believe the rumors about Cromwell because he, as the narrator, is telling us the "truth." But in any case, it still seems to me that Cromwell is a very modern invention.

39dchaikin
Jan 10, 2011, 11:04pm Top



34. (from 2010) Southwest Review : Volume 84, Number 4 1999 by Southern Methodist University (1999, 161 pages, read Oct 30 - Nov 30)

Part of my poetry/literary journal experiment. The Southwest Review is published out of Southern Methodist University. This was one of several issues I did not get rid of last year, and first one I’ve read, and which I picked more-or-less at random. A bit of an academic feel. The poetry seemed excellent (with the universal qualifier for me—but, what do I know), but there weren’t that many poems. The essays were sometimes terribly difficult to read, and some took me a few tries to get started, but they were rewarding. The short stories didn’t stick.

Notes for me - the main things I remember (since I read this so long ago):
-Rick Bass’s essay about his hunting deer in Texas with his family. He has a book of essays on the same theme which I read in 2006 (in a different reading life) and adored, called The Deer Pasture.

-Thomas Pfau’s fascinating and difficult essay on Wallace Stevens…which goes into Keats, and Shelley and Emerson.

Albert Goldbarth’s poem, which I posted part of back in my 2010 thread post #189, here

40janepriceestrada
Jan 10, 2011, 11:15pm Top

39 - I got a subscription to a literary review for Christmas and am enjoying the slow pace a good bit. Also added The Deer Pasture to my wishlist.

41dchaikin
Jan 11, 2011, 1:09am Top

Jane - I'm curious, what are you subscribed to?

42amandameale
Jan 11, 2011, 8:01am Top

I thought that Wolf Hall was excellent, factual matters aside, but I haven't liked or finished any of Mantel's other books.

43VisibleGhost
Jan 11, 2011, 9:52am Top

dchaikin, glad to see you got your Florida theme off to a rousing start with the reading of Wolf Hall*. ;) After reading your review I had to go look at what I posted about Wolf Hall. It has been a little more than a year since I read it and I didn't rush out to read something else by her. Interesting. I don't remember that being a conscious decision as in your last remark but that's what happened. I will probably read A Place of Greater Safety at some point. I'm sure I'll read the sequel to Wolf Hall also.

* I did see the actual reading dates of Wolf Hall

44janepriceestrada
Jan 11, 2011, 8:12pm Top

41 - The Southern Review, published by LSU. Only a little way into the first issue, but it's great! Also considering getting LSU's New Delta Review, McSweeney's, and Oxford American. I discovered last year how much I like anthologies. Sometimes the lack of commitment really worked for me. :)

45dchaikin
Edited: Jan 15, 2011, 11:41pm Top



35. (from 2010) Five Lavender Minutes of an Afternoon by Larry D. Thomas (c2011, 16 pages, read December 19)

This is a chapbooks just published in December and freely available online through the online literary review Right Hand Pointing. You can find it here: https://sites.google.com/site/larrydthomasfive/home. It contains only twelve poems, all very personal, and all about growing up in West Texas. It’s unusual for Larry to write about himself or his childhood. I’ve know Larry for almost ten years and found the personal themes here incredibly powerful. His preface begins:

Of my 16 published collections of poetry, Five Lavender Minutes of an Afternoon is the first dedicated to my early childhood. In my poetry, I have turned to the natural world for my subject matter much more than I have turned to the human, especially the actual or even imaginary lives of my closest relatives. The reasons for this are many, not the least of which is my reluctance to invade the privacy of those who over the years have meant so much to me and who, in so many ways, made me what I am. Not until each person in these twelve poems was long deceased was I able to write about them.


One excerpt from the first poem, titled Red-Letter Epiphany (I may post the complete poem over on the poetry thread. Even though access is free, I'll first ask Larry's permission.)

I’d never seen onionskin,
and loved the way it felt
between my thumb and fingers.

When Mama yelled, I jerked,
gripped the forbidden book
for a split second
by a single page

of onionskin, and heard it
tear from the spine
as the rest of the New
Testament crashed to the floor.

I stood frozen, holding
a fragment of onionskin with
words red as cardinals
trembling in a field of snow.

46dchaikin
Jan 15, 2011, 11:16pm Top

#42 Amanda - thanks for stopping by. Interesting and too bad regarding the other Mantel books you've tried.

#43 - VG - oye...I planned to make a schedule for my FL books but haven't gotten there yet. Actually, it's been a tough new year for me. Today was first time I read since Monday. It's 15 days into the year and I've only picked up a book about half of them....

#44 Jane - If you plan to comment on this or other issues on your thread, I'll certainly look forward those posts. Also, interesting that Albert Goldbarth (mentioned in post #39 here) is listed as a poetry contributor for the latest issue of The Southern Review.

47citygirl
Jan 18, 2011, 5:18pm Top

Great poem. And I don't even think I like poetry.

48fuzzy_patters
Jan 18, 2011, 5:25pm Top

Citygirl, I like how you phrased that. Placing the word "think" in that sentence makes it a very open-minded sentiment such that you might come to like poetry after all. I'm not sure if that was your intent or not, but it was a nice turn of phrase.

49citygirl
Jan 19, 2011, 9:48am Top

Thanks. You got it. I've been getting more exposure lately (The Salon) and it's not so bad, but I don't know if I'll ever be a poetry-lover.

50dchaikin
Jan 19, 2011, 10:28am Top

citygirl - I'm more like an poetry explorer myself. I really don't exactly get it, but I have recently found one way to read it. So now, in that one way, I'm able to slowly read and get something out of it. It has been rewarding.

51rebeccanyc
Jan 20, 2011, 11:55am Top

#36, etc. Coming late to this, but I am a big fan of Hilary Mantel and have read a lot of her work. I greatly admire her willingness to try different types of fiction -- stories, styles, etc. -- even though some don't work as well as others.

I am one of the people who loved Wolf Hall, but I liked A Place of Greater Safety even more, looking at her historical works. My other favorites include Fludd, The Giant, O'Brien, Beyond Black, and Vacant Possession, as well as Mantel's memoir, Giving Up the Ghost. I like her wicked pointed humor, her lack of sentimentality, and her compassion for those who are different in some way.

I didn't enjoy Eight Months on Ghazzah Street.

52akeela
Jan 20, 2011, 12:30pm Top

Also late to the Mantel discussion. I have Giving up the Ghost waiting on the bedside table. Glad you liked it, Rebecca!

53detailmuse
Jan 20, 2011, 9:00pm Top

>41 dchaikin: dan
if you're accumulating recommendations for lit journals, I devour the Bellevue Literary Review -- poems, essays and short stories that touch on illness or healthcare in some (often peripheral) way. Not depressing! at least any more so than the usual literary story :)

54dchaikin
Jan 20, 2011, 9:46pm Top

#51 - Rebecca, If I read Mantel again, I'll start by looking at your list of 8 books here. Part of me is interested in Giving up the Ghost, part of me knows that I'm not about to go search for it.

And Rebecca & Akeela, there's no too late here. I'm glad both of you stopped by.

#53 MJ - I am curious. I never hear about them, even on LT. But there so many. I have no clue where to start, hence I'm starting with the large pile given to me several years ago.

On the Florida front...I've put River of Grass in my work bag...which means I have every intention of picking it up soon.

55dchaikin
Jan 27, 2011, 8:21am Top



36. (from 2010) The Brothers Karamazov : A Novel in Four Parts With Epilogue by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880, 806 pages, read Nov 1 - Dec 21)

(I'm counting this as draft 7, although draft 5 consisted only of me looking at a blank page and thinking that I had no idea how to write this.)

I read this along with the le Salon group read under the guidance of tomcatMurr, once Club Read’s own Dostoevsky expert. It was enjoyable in places, but mostly I would force my way through a section, and then, care of Murr and le Salon, learn out afterward what was so interesting about that section…a bit of a painful way to do this. The epitome was the trial at the end. Anyone who has read Crime and Punishment or The Underground Man might have noticed the kind of suspense Dostoevsky can create as his characters careen out of control. Such a thing was not to be found here, and, opposite to what you might expect, it was last thing a reader might feel while “watching” the trial. Because, we already know the whole story, we know who did it, how he did it and why; and, we have some pretty strong expectations of how the trial might go. For me, reading speeches by the prosecutor and the defense attorney was absolute torture, a drag. They were just pontificating, walking around the details, making arguments out of nothing. And then I read Murr’s magical summary where he tells me that these lawyers weren’t talking to the jury about the guilt or innocence of Dmitri Fyodorovich Karamazov. They were talking to me, the reader, and they were arguing over faith and reason…and, more than that, they were showing what this argument has to do with life. Oh…wait…OH….

That was the extreme, the lowest point in this book, and also a high point. No other section was as painful to read, but they were this complex. Dostoevsky's masterpiece is a great presentation of the faith vs reason debate. His own lifelong ambiguous, or at least evolving, attitude toward this topic, combined with the ambiguity that defines most of his literary output was further charged with another synchronous reality, the need to subtle enough to get past the Czarist censors of circa 1880 Russia. The result is one of immense complexity, with layers and layers and many things unsaid, yet clearly said, except that they are said in such an ambiguous manner that they could be interpreted to mean the exact opposite.

If you’re keeping the score, the rational atheists all come to bad ends – really bad. They are murdered, commit murder, commit suicide, go crazy, or get publicly humiliated. The ones who find faith, meanwhile, take the hardest unfair blows and yet come out spiritually reborn. Clearly faith wins and faith is beautiful…except that the best character here, the most intense experiences of the book, the one thing you can, if you want, sink your teeth deepest into is Ivan Fyodorovich Karamazov, Dostoevsky tortured atheist; Ivan who reasons right on through, with the greatest of personal intensity, to his own kind of nihilistic edge. If reason wins, why is Ivan so beautiful (and if god is so great, why is Milton’s devil so much more memorable)? Dostoevsky is never clear, but there is a deep love of reason expressed here, in all its ugliness...and…hopelessness. At the end of the day, reason is right, but faith wins.

What is the point here? Are readers really expected to read this, and to formulate from it their own stance in the reason/faith debate? I think the era is important here. In Dostoevsky’s lifetime Russian is changing. The serfs are freed, trial by jury is introduced, the industrial revolution is in full bloom. The world is modernizing, and getting ugly in a most unspiritual manner. I had the one moment, while driving of course, where I was able to translate this to our own world where we have sold our own souls to commerce, and I had it, for a moment, a quiver of coherent comprehension of the full meaning expressed here. It faded even as it was forming, but it left behind an emotional reaction, an awe of sorts. Dostoevsky may have had an agenda, but he was also expressing, in his own artistic way, something deep within us.

56deebee1
Jan 27, 2011, 9:20am Top

Just wanted to congratulate you for this extremely well-written review!

57stretch
Jan 27, 2011, 10:07am Top

Great Review Dan, never really like the nilishism of Russian Lit. but your review makes me actually want to get through Crime and Punishment just to see what insights are in store.

58bragan
Jan 27, 2011, 12:16pm Top

The Brothers Karamazov has been sitting on my TBR pile for ages, mocking me, daring me to get around to reading it, and I somehow keep not quite working up the ambition to do so. I have to say, the "rational atheists all come to bad ends" thing is now making me feel even more reluctant... But I'm sure it will be worthwhile, anyway, whenever I finally have the courage to tackle it.

59janepriceestrada
Jan 27, 2011, 12:29pm Top

55 - Great reivew! I'm still working my way through my own review - lots of notes, a few Salon threads still to read, lots of things underlined. I'm intrigued by your comments on Ivan. I came away feeling like D must have struggled with his own religious beliefs as well, or perhaps struggled with the idea of certainty in general. I expected (as with most books that deal heavily with religion) have a resolution of the debate in some way - not necessarily a right/wrong issue, but a choice or a stance. I'll have some more concrete thoughts on this when I get to my own review (hopefully this weekend).

60janepriceestrada
Edited: Jan 27, 2011, 12:38pm Top

58 - We crossposted, but I would not let that discourage you. Like I said above I was surprised that for someone as religious as D how ambiguous the attitude towards the characters was. Also, D's athiests are not where I would class myself. They tend to fall into either the 'bad things happen in the world so there can't be a God and I'm distraught by that' or 'European intellectuals are atheist so I am too or the I'm angry at the world and this is my rebellion'. While the characters are very convincing (and I've know several atheists that fit into the two categories), I don't think that is the extent of unbelief - maybe it was more difficult at that period in time to break with religion and so left more room for personal anguish. Also a recurring theme is that if there is no God, then all things are lawful, basically no morality which I don't think is the position of any atheist really.

Sorry for derailing your thread Dan.

61dchaikin
Jan 27, 2011, 1:05pm Top

deebee1, Kevin, bragan & Jane - thanks for your comments.

(#60 Jane - you can post whatever you like here, but, regardless, your post is in no way derailing the thread.)

#58/60 - bragan, I like how Jane put it. There are parts of Dostoevsky as a person that gives me pause. But, as an atheist, nothing in this book bothered me. It's a story first and second it's more like exploration than a concluded argument. And, ambiguity is norm. (The story, by itself, is also worth the read.)

#57 Kevin - If you read Crime and Punishment, I would be very interested in your response. I read it... almost 8 years ago. It was an eye-opener for me, and really influenced how I look at literature.

62bragan
Jan 27, 2011, 1:08pm Top

Well, exploration and ambiguity are two things I'm big on, even if the themes janepriceestrada mentioned give me pause. (I really do kind of hate that "if God doesn't exist, then there's no reason for everybody not to go out and rape babies" argument.) Anyway, I will definitely give it a look one of these days. When I'm able to give it the time and attention it needs. Hopefully some time this year!

63janepriceestrada
Jan 27, 2011, 2:20pm Top

62 - It's another thing that makes it so ambiguous that while several people repeat these themes, the bad things that actually happen have other more naturally human motivations - hero worship, class differences, daddy issues. So while it keeps getting put forth as an argument, it doesn't actually play out in practice (at least that I picked up).

64bragan
Jan 27, 2011, 2:40pm Top

Well, that sounds encouraging, anyway!

65ChocolateMuse
Jan 27, 2011, 7:07pm Top

Dan, that's a marvellous review. So often I read a review of a difficult book and think, well, I didn't even understand the review, so what hope have I got of understanding the book! But yours has done the opposite, and I feel like I could tackle it one day. But I'm going to go for C&P first, which will no doubt be challenge enough for me...

66janeajones
Jan 27, 2011, 7:24pm Top

Great review, Dan -- I WILL finish this book -- when my mother moves to my sister's house, and I have some space to read.

67amandameale
Jan 28, 2011, 8:01am Top

Oh Dan! Well done for a) Reading all of The Brothers Karamazov; b) Terrific review.

68dchaikin
Jan 28, 2011, 10:04am Top

Chocolate, Jane & Amanda - thanks so much!

#62/63 I mostly agree with Jane. Part of the plot does seem dependent on a characters logic that if God doesn't exist, than anything goes...I don't care for the logic either, but it's consistent with that character.

Choc - ditto to you what I said to Kevin in post #61.

Jane - I wasn't aware you were still struggling to finish. Good luck, enjoy, read along with Murr's commentary, especially when get to the trial. P.S. - I've started to read through Florida in Poetry, beginning to end.

69detailmuse
Jan 28, 2011, 10:33am Top

Wonderful, Dan! So interesting -- the historical context necessitating narrative complexity. And your existential micro-glimpse is an homage to reading. (And struggling.)

70dchaikin
Jan 28, 2011, 1:06pm Top

MJ - First, I just love how you worded your post, especially the existential micro-glimpse. And, second, thank you for the nice compliment!

71kidzdoc
Jan 30, 2011, 11:11am Top

Bravo for your superb review of The Brothers Karamazov, Dan!

72dchaikin
Feb 3, 2011, 10:25pm Top

#71 Darryl, thanks! Appreciated.

73dchaikin
Edited: Feb 3, 2011, 10:30pm Top



37. (from 2010) Book Lust To Go : Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers by Nancy Pearl (2010, 277 pages, read Nov 10 - Dec 24) – an Early Reviewer and an ARC

As I was about to write this, I decided to check out Nancy Pearl’s website (www.nancypearl.com ). She is apparently a famous librarian, something I wasn’t aware was possible. Her own website says she “has become a rock star among readers and the tastemaker people turn to when deciding what to read next.” That kind of statement, the arrogance really bothers me (really, “a rock star”?), but it also makes me really curious. I had a similar conflicted response to her book.

Book Lust To Go is a book on books that takes us around the world. Each section is themed on a location, or a type of travel or adventure. I found a lot of good stuff here, and wrote down over 30 books or authors to add to my wishlist. I now really want to read Bruce Chatwin and Paul Theroux; and I discovered titles like 20820::How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe and Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists

But, there was so much that bothered me. For starters, the books lists were really incomplete and there were few classics. There were several great books that I knew of that were missing, and I’m not all that well read (despite my presence here). And there were too many titles I recognized from the NYTimes book review, which I only read from 2006 to early 2010. That is to say, there was a heavy bias on new books.

I’m not sure what to make of this all. I think that if Pearl was on LibraryThing, she would be spectacular reader to follow. And, certainly there is a place for books like hers. But, for me personally, if it’s a conversation, I’m OK with just a list of books someone has read. If it’s a book, I feel like it should go farther, should have some more completeness to it. Obviously, YMMV.

74dchaikin
Edited: Feb 9, 2011, 9:22pm Top



38. (from 2010) The Texas Review : Volume XV, Number 1 & 2, Spring/Summer 1994* by Sam Houston State University (1994, 116 pages, read Nov 30 – Dec 29)

One of those dust-covered neglected literary reviews I picked up late last year, this one was great fun. There were several highlights, including a terrific short story by Starling Lawrence (I’m tempted to post an excerpt, but I haven’t because it’s long and a little racy), a brilliant essay on Sylvia Plath’s poetry by Vicki Graham (quoted in my 2010 thread), a autobiographical essay that I just loved by Michael Johnson about his horses as a child, and another very entertaining autobiographical essay by Stephen C. Porter on Baylor University in the late 1960’s. The poetry was entertaining, including one by Brooke Horvath that I quoted in the poetry thread. And, even the nine book reviews, all of books I’ve never heard of, were entertaining.

Some excerpts:

From Bois D’Arcs, an essay on Baylor University (in Waco, TX) in the late 1960’s, by Stephen C. Porter

Just ninety miles down interstate 35, the coeds at the University of Texas were going braless and wearing tube tops, while Baylor women were required to don raincoats to walk from their dorms to the gym for P. E. classes. Jimmy Carter truly knew something of the lust which lurks in the hearts of Baptist men. My libertine friends who attended state universities will never know the erotic fantasies stirred by the mere glimpse of bare feminine legs peeking through the folds of a raincoat. Even now on rainy days I am sexually aroused by the sight of women in trench coats. Forgive me, Judge Baylor, for I have sinned.


This is an excerpt from a reviewed book about literature from 1880-1939, quoted in the review.

The intellectuals could not, of course, actually prevent the masses from attaining literacy. But they could prevent them reading literature by making it too difficult for them to understand. The early twentieth century saw a determined effort, on the part of the European intelligentsia, to exclude the masses from culture.


The book reviewed/excerpted book is The Intellecutals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intellignesia, 1880-1939 by John Carey. The review was by Gorman Beauchamp. I should post this over a Le Salon and see what happens…

*no touchstone. Here is a link to my details page of this issue. My details page includes a list of contributors and editors: http://www.librarything.com/work/10698059/details/67318855

ETA touchstone for The Intellecutals and the Masses

75Mr.Durick
Feb 4, 2011, 12:23am Top

When I read the first two Book Lusts I concluded that she was weak, both as a writer and as a critic. I was disappointed. I wondered whether I was alone in the wilderness.

Robert

76Chatterbox
Feb 4, 2011, 1:26am Top

I liked your thoughts re Book Lust to Go; that's precisely what has kept me from laying hands on the book, that it would be ultimately rather frustrating and (necessarily) very subjective. I read and seek out a lot of travel narratives (as well-written as I can find, including Patrick Leigh Fermor and Colm Toibin) so I'm not that afraid of missing out on titles she'd suggest. I suppose if I see it pop up in the library I'd grab it. Btw, read a great book last year that would fall into this category On the Spartacus Road by Peter Stothard. It's part travel narrative, part classical history, part memoir. HIGHLY recommended.

Re Wolf Hall and Cromwell -- what intrigues me about the book and Mantel's choice of subject was that it was during this time period that the balance of power switched within England, and Cromwell -- the butcher's boy, or whatever he was -- was a major beneficiary and example of a new kind of meritocracy. In part, I think that's what Mantel is trying to show -- someone trying to navigate his way in a new universe, with its own rules that he doesn't know, and able to rely only on his wits and ruthlessness to survive. That said, I have read several Mantel novels that I like, after first discovering her nearly 20 years ago with Eight Months on Ghazzah Street.

77amandameale
Feb 4, 2011, 7:13am Top

Enjoying your thread, Dan.

78avaland
Feb 4, 2011, 7:43am Top

Popping in to catch up. I'm enjoying your ongoing poetry "explorations". I also am pleased that you included comments/review on The Texas Review.

79dchaikin
Feb 4, 2011, 5:43pm Top

#75 Mr. Durick - Just you and I, and maybe Suzanne. I read through the reviews last night and almost all (19 of 21) were extra-enthusiastic positive. The other two were not really critical and still gave 3 and 3.5 stars (I gave 3). Definitely made me wonder about my own judgment.

#76 Suzanne - Yes, Book lust is subjective, but then I'm thinking that all the literary criticism I've come across has been subjective. Noting On the Spartacus Road, I am very interested.

As for Mantel...hmmm...thinking...Is it a coincidence that someone like Cromwell came about as Henry severed his ties with the Catholic Church? Or is there a connection? I hadn't considered that before. If Cromwell doesn't come about, if Henry relied on the nobility...maybe Cromwell was an essential and irreplaceable part of that process (and the process was also essential to Cromwell's rise). Or is that just myth? Anyway, it adds a new perspective to the book. Thanks.

80dchaikin
Feb 4, 2011, 5:48pm Top

#77 - Hi Amanda, thanks!

#78 Lois - Thanks. I'm exploring away. Not sure where I'm going though. :)

81citygirl
Feb 5, 2011, 9:25am Top

Hi, Dan.

You should definitely post that excerpt from the Texas R. in the Salon, if you haven't already. You'll cause a fight. Fight! Fight!

Re Nancy Pearl, it's kinda hard to judge her because the books are, like you said, her reading thread. You take some, you leave some. But you can't take it too seriously. I have the first two books and I've found several good reads out of them so far, so that's their value to me.

82dchaikin
Feb 5, 2011, 3:19pm Top

#81 citygirl - At one time I planned to post it, but I couldn't keep up with "plnats" threads. Maybe, if the right conversation comes about...

83labfs39
Feb 6, 2011, 10:06pm Top

De-lurking to say I enjoyed your reviews of Brothers Karamazov and Book Lust to Go. I think Nancy Pearl is a victim of her own success. Because her first books were so popular, she is now trying to recreate that success with Book Lust for every possible topic.

84dchaikin
Feb 7, 2011, 9:40am Top

Lisa, nice to know you're lurking. You're on to something, I think Book Lust to Go was sort of a hmmm-in-what-way-can-I-publish-another-list-of-books-now kind of thing.

85Jargoneer
Feb 7, 2011, 12:06pm Top

Bruce Chatwin is definitely worth checking out - Utz, a short novel about a porcelain collector in Prague, or What Am I Doing Here, a collection of essays and stories, are good places to start.

86tomcatMurr
Edited: Feb 9, 2011, 8:25pm Top

>74 dchaikin:, 81
John Carey is a stupid ass with a permanent working class chip on his shoulder, and the thesis he puts forward in that book is even stupider.

If the masses are too stupid to understand modernist writers, then that's their fault, not the writers'. Why should writers 'write down'?

after all, there's always Joyce Carol Oates and other meretricious junk for the masses.

87tomcatMurr
Feb 9, 2011, 8:24pm Top

I second Jargoneer's recommendation of Chatwin.

88dchaikin
Feb 9, 2011, 9:37pm Top

Murr, I probably should have a stance one way or the other on Carey's statement, but I really don't*. It may be the dumbest thing ever proposed, but I'm entertained that it was seriously proposed, and it does leave me thinking about it. I'm interested in serious response.

It's really nice to see you here, by the way.

side note: I've found the book on LT, and have fixed the touchstone The Intellectuals and the Masses

*nor have I read enough to have a legitimate opinion anyway.

89labfs39
Feb 9, 2011, 11:25pm Top

#74 et al. I have not read the book, but went online and read some reviews. I thought the Guardian article "Relative Values" was particularly interesting. It talks about the personal dichotomies that perhaps shape his outlook. He grew up in a middle class family and his parents did not attended college. His older brother has mental and physical disabilities that ostracized the family in a way. And yet, according to the article, Carey "has been so glued to Oxford that he hasn't left it since he went up to St John's College as an undergraduate in 1954; even his country cottage in the Cotswolds is only half an hour from the Bodleian Library. Yet his most famous article, in his other incarnation as a journalist, was entitled Down with Dons."

In addition to the personal contradictions, I think Carey also likes stirring the pot. He admits that "after The Intellectuals and the Masses came out he was initially alarmed by the bad reviews, but then realised that he was after all getting a lot of attention. And he enjoys the debate, though 'just being slagged off is not much fun'." Although it may be fair to take on the elitism of intellectuals, I would agree with reviewers who write that to compare modern literature with Nazism is going too far.

I don't think I'll read the book. Perhaps I'm being elitist, but I think I have better things to read!

90dchaikin
Feb 10, 2011, 8:46am Top

Lisa - Thanks for the link to the article. Interesting contradiction within the article itself - sympathetic in tone, and yet the details seem to eviscerate Carey. (Not an accident, I think.) It certainly left me thinking his need to make noise and get attention overrides other things in his criticism.

91katiekrug
Feb 10, 2011, 1:30pm Top

Hi Dan - Found your thread and getting caught up. Good discussions and comments here!

92labfs39
Edited: Feb 10, 2011, 3:24pm Top

#90 Interesting, I didn't find the article to be "eviserating". It left me thinking that he was an intelligent man, respected (he was the Booker Prize chair twice, etc.), but that he likes to stir up trouble. Reminds me of Dinesh D'Souza in that respect. And Carey's point buried beneath the diatribe seems to be: do intellectuals have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo? That, I think is an interesting question. To a certain extent, don't all elite groups exist because they distinguish themselves from the "masses" by some criteria? For example, I've worked at places where faculty are not keen to promote equal opportunties to staff if it means giving up their privileges. In other jobs, regular employees felt the same way about contractors. And in a lawsuit, the company was instructed to maintain the differences between employees and contractors (i.e. fewer perks for contractors), or else hire them all as employees. Isn't that institutionalised elitism?

93tomcatMurr
Feb 11, 2011, 2:34am Top

I think it's an interesting analogy, but I don't think it's accurate or helpful. A class elite and an intellectual elite are not the same.

I question this whole notion of 'elite' in cultural terms. (in fact I detest the whole notion that a cultural 'elite' is a bad thing) I don't think it's accurate at all. The fact of the matter is, that high culture and those who produce and consume it, are not 'elite' at all, but marginal.

I'm quite sure that 'the elite', our masters, those who 'command and control', to use Pynchon's terms, do NOT spend their evenings sitting around listening to late Beethoven quartets, reading Catullus, and discussing the aesthetics of Swinburne. These are marginal activities and tastes. The elite are far more likely to share the same 'democratic' cultural tastes as the great unwashed.

most intellectuals I know would like to see the status quo overturned:, in other words MORE people taking up Catullus and Swinburne, and LESS people consuming gross travesties of art such as Jodi Whatsername and James Patterson and that load of crap. it would certainly improve the conversation and le ton. But then LESS consumption of the mindless 'culture' produced for the masses, and MORE consumption of mind stretching, independent thought-provoking high culture really would threaten the elite, wouldn't it?

I think it's useful also to place Carey in the context of a specific Anglo Saxon hostility to and suspicion of high culture, which has existed since at least the middle of the 18th century in Anglo culture. THe word 'elite' - a bugbear for democrats everywhere- has been coined by Anglo Saxon critics to be thrown at anything mildly challenging or difficult. It's not accurate.

There was a wonderful clip on Youtube, which I cannot find now, of Derek Walcott talking about the 'tyranny of mediocrity' which modern mass culture and its denigration of 'elitism' produces. It seems to me that Carey's ideas contribute to this
tyranny.

sorry to hijack your thread dan. ( I seem to be doing this a lot. should stick to my own patch, I daresay.)

94Mr.Durick
Feb 11, 2011, 3:15am Top

In the plutocracy that is the United States of America museums and performances of the highest order are sustained by the plutocrats. They and their hirelings, the politicians, likely have giant high definition televisions in their homes, but we would not have the opera without their support. They tend to be very short sighted and may not realize that enriching the lives of their inferiors will lose them their superiority eventually, just as they don't seem to see that driving people out of work reduces the number of their customers.

Robert

95dchaikin
Feb 11, 2011, 10:41am Top

#93, etc - The ruling committee of this thread has met and determined that no hijacking has taken place.

Before the committee recesses from their imaginary existence, they would like to leave word that while they are watching and reading this thread, they will not likely be able to post a response as RL is a bit hectic today.

96anthonywillard
Feb 11, 2011, 1:14pm Top

Elite or no elite, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

97dchaikin
Feb 21, 2011, 7:24pm Top



39. (from 2010 The Ash Spear (The Third Book in the Storyteller Series) by G. R. Grove (2009, 317 pages, read Dec 22-29)

The Ash Spear marks an interesting development in this series where, instead of a several stories linked together into a novel, this is fully novel-like in structure. There is a long story set-up, much more concrete character development and an intense plot. Slow to get into, and then later difficult to put down. I enjoyed it, but also was a little sad to see the storytelling style of the earlier books get toned down quite a bit.

98dchaikin
Feb 21, 2011, 9:25pm Top

A brief "review", but it finishes my 2010!...finally...

#91: katie - glad you found me.
#92-94, 96 - after a few experimental responses I've opted to stay mute on this.

99dchaikin
Feb 26, 2011, 10:31pm Top



1. The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (2010, 307 pages, read Dec 29 – Jan 16)

Lately writing reviews seems to involve a lot of time studying the blank screen. This one has me especially baffled. I can’t seem to understand why I can’t like this book, or how I could possibly not hate it.

I should hate this book because I found it offensive, intentionally offensive. Julian Treslove, the main character, is a nothing, a cipher, and of the most irritating type. He has romantic fantasies about women that somehow manage to take any humanity out of them, they become objects. He meets with two friends who are mourning the recent death of their wives, and finds the meetings “sweetly painful but not depressing.” I interpret “sweetly painful” as “invigorating.” Then he decides he should be Jewish, and my Jewish self cringes as he does about the same thing to Jews (the people, not the religion) as he does to women.

But, the book takes some thoughtful turns, creates some interesting characters and makes an attempt at exploring what it really means to be Jewish. (“The Finkler question”, is Treslove’s version of “the Jewish question.” It’s not meant to be antisemitic, but I think we are supposed to smile or something at his choice of wording.)

There is an art to this method of being offensive; it’s a type of satire that is supposed to be funny and revealing. I found it left me in an uncomfortable state of doubt.

100anthonywillard
Edited: Feb 27, 2011, 12:31am Top

I had been wondering about this book. Now I know I don't want to read it. Life is short. Maybe The Dean's December instead.

101dchaikin
Edited: Feb 27, 2011, 12:43am Top

...some more thoughts. i just read through most of the reivews on LT. I found it interesting that nearly every review had a different take - different interpretations, different themes, a different summary, and a different response (although several reviewers mention they had trouble getting into it, and also several mentioned that despite the humor, it's not actually funny.). Not sure what to make of that.

Anthony, I'm definitely not recommending Finkler to anyone, but I wouldn't intentionally scare anyone away from it. I think it's hard to guess how you might respond to it.

102anthonywillard
Feb 27, 2011, 1:46am Top

I appreciate your review. As I said, maybe I should try to finish Bellow while I have the time.

103baswood
Feb 27, 2011, 5:06am Top

Hi Dan
Excellent thoughts on the Finkler Question Its up next on my pile of to read books. I will bear your thoughts in mind as I read.

104GCPLreader
Feb 27, 2011, 3:09pm Top

Dan, I ended up enjoying The Finkler Question.

I have in my notes--

mostly brilliant observations by 3 London friends on what it means to be Jewish, laugh out loud funny at times, some parts (Gaza... circumcision) began to lose me but overall a fantastic read

You might enjoy this Annie Hall clip that I was reminded of during my reading:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaPBhxXhprg

105rebeccanyc
Feb 27, 2011, 3:15pm Top

I found your comments on The Finkler Question interesting; I was one of the people who didn't like it, but it is fascinating the varied responses people have to it.

106dchaikin
Feb 28, 2011, 8:54am Top

#102 Anthony - Just so you know, my first paragraph in #101 wasn't directed at you. Haven't read Bellow, although I feel I should (and I have some of five of his books). I'm intimidated...and I suspect I would need some help.

#103 - basswood - Thanks! Would love to read your thoughts after reading TFQ (or while reading it).

#104 - Jenny - If only I could have managed to imagine Julian Treslove as a gentile Woody Allen!

#105 - Rebecca - yes, fascinating. Would love to know Jacobson's take on all these different responses.

107anthonywillard
Feb 28, 2011, 9:22pm Top

@106 : Well now I'm getting curious about this book with so many different takes. Also I was probably too telegraphic. I'm at a point in life where I'm trying to weed out stuff that I don't need to read, in fact my reading hoe is about to get much sharper. Finkler was gnawing at the sides of my mind saying it should be read. Your review told me the sort of things about it that enabled me to dismiss that thought. Bellow was just an example of a writer who addresses various very subtle aspects of Jewishness, never overtly, and is beyond doubt worth reading, but I agree with you he can be sort of Olympian. And maybe more relevant to an older generation.

108bonniebooks
Edited: Feb 28, 2011, 9:59pm Top

Is it too late to say that I loved your review of Brothers Karamazov as well as the discussion it generated?

Re: Nancy Pearl. She is really fun to listen to, but she is more of a book promoter, it seems to me, than someone who has anything very serious or deep to say about a book. She got famous, I think, because she started the "If All of Seattle Read..." campaign and the idea then took off across the country. Because of this, I think she's been invited to lots of other cities and conferences, so she has become nationally known.

109dchaikin
Mar 1, 2011, 10:04am Top

Anthony - I knew Bellow was Jewish, but wasn't aware that was a theme...I guess it makes sense...will get there some day. (for several years I've avoided Jewish authors and themes...no clue why. I know they have a lot to offer and I know they're there waiting for me.)

bonnie - Thanks! Never too late for anything here, this thread is moving along slowly. My own reviews are 6 weeks behind!

110anthonywillard
Mar 1, 2011, 5:24pm Top

I should qualify. Bellow doesn't really explore any themes in a way that makes them something over and above his characters (in contrast to, say, Malamud.) But he does reflect his own background and experience in his deeply thought-through explorations of his characters' understandings and motivations, in the strange and difficult situations he places them in. Where the characters are Jewish, they are very secular Jewish, and it comes naturally to them and does not require special commentary. I am not really a big fan of Bellow. I have read plenty, because I think he is really one of the best American writers of my time. But I find his novels a little weak on plot. There is always a story line that keeps one going from one page to the next, but at the end, the overall plot structure can be difficult to identify. That's not unusual for 20th century writers. :=) I'm wondering if Bellow is predominantly a generational writer, the generation of the great depression and wwII, and won't speak to readers of later times. It's hard for me to tell such things because I usually immerse myself in old stuff. If someone's only going to read one Bellow, I would suggest Herzog.

111StevenTX
Mar 1, 2011, 9:43pm Top

I was one of those who loved The Finkler Question, but I'm lukewarm about Bellow. The Adventures of Augie March is my favorite, and I liked Henderson the Rain King pretty well, but I agree that Herzog is probably more typical. I recently read Humboldt's Gift, and didn't care much for it.

112anthonywillard
Edited: Mar 1, 2011, 10:18pm Top

I like Augie March the best too, but I don't think it's typical of his subsequent novels. Humboldt is particularly interesting for its subtext commentary on Delmore Schwartz, but who reads Delmore Schwartz anymore? Henderson has the most outrageous situation, but I was constantly infuriated by the protagonist. That's my problem with fiction: I'm "insufficiently distanced" as the aestheticians say. I'm probably going to have to break down and read Finkler.

113dchaikin
Edited: Mar 5, 2011, 9:51pm Top



2. Disaster on the Horizon : High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout by Bob Cavnar (2010, 194 pages, read Jan 7 - 20)

Bob Canvar writes for the Huffington Post and is the founder of The Daily Hurricane.* His output is described as prolific. He is also an oil industry expert with 30 years experience in various forms, including ten years working in the field with oil rigs. He even survived an oil field explosion, a story which opens this book. This makes him a left-leaning oil industry expert who is quite intimate with industry. I suspect this is pretty unusual.

Disaster on the Horizon is his first book, and, published in October last year, the first book published on the Macando well blowout. He makes every effort to provide a balanced and knowledgeable summary of everything known at that time about the blowout itself, including its causes and the warning signs and precautions skipped. He goes into technical detail about the signs coming from the well that were showing there were problems, signs that were ignored. This aspect is significantly enhanced by his own experience and expertise. He also goes into detail about how the blowout preventer failed, and technical flaws in blowout preventers (they have about a 50% success rate in deep water). Then he follows up with the political fallout, including the efforts of BP to cover up as much as possible, and minimize the extent of the blowout in the eyes of the media and public.

This was my first look into this event in any detail. So, I was admittedly clueless. I didn’t realize that the well was pumping out 50-75 thousand barrels of oil a day (BP argued for 5000 bdp, which we all knew was low, but which I assumed was the correct order of magnitude. BP knew the real amount all along, but concealed the information and argued publicly that they couldn’t measure it.). And I didn’t realize that the most of the spill was confined to the deep water. BP injected massive amounts of chemical dispersant to break the oil up into small pellets. This added a second chemical plume of the dispersant, worsening the environmental damage, but also helped large amounts of oil stay in deep water, where it moves now as a large deep water plume. As Cavnar explains, BP, with the approval of the US government, made a decision to sacrifice the deep water column in the Gulf of Mexico.

There was a great deal of interesting information here. Some other examples:
- I assumed the blowout was a consequence of the time pressure put on the rigs, as their costs-per-day are enormous. They can’t afford delays. Cavnar doesn’t mention this. He does argue that BP put pressure on the drilling company to ignore danger signs, and just finish what was already a problem well.
- Also, I’ve been curious about what was wrong with BP. They have had a series of major problems (the Texas City explosion in 2005**, pipes dissolving in Alaska… google “bp alaska problems” ). Cavnar blames BP’s problems partly on its history, but largely on ex-CEO Lord Browne, who spent his tenure aggressively cutting cost everywhere, including safety. Cavnar argues BP became a company who put effort into highly visual safety concerns, while becoming lax with the biggest and most dangerous safety concerns.
-I had no idea that the big oil containment booms spread across the water to catch surface oil were useless. They essentially don’t do anything – but they look good on the news.

Some final notes: This is a timely work, and Cavnar was literally writing sections as the information came out. While the writing is unpolished and practical, this is understandable. One complaint is that the technical terms are not explained up front. There are long sections discussing specific parts of an oil well that come before the actual explanations of what these things are. Another complaint of sorts is that the focus is on the engineering point of view. He covers what happened to the well, and why; and he covers what was done to try to stop the blowout. But, there is limited information on the environmental or economic consequences.

* If you have any kind of liberal tilt, The Daily Hurricane is good stuff. Go here: http://www.dailyhurricane.com/
** Texas City Explosion: http://www.texascityexplosion.com/

114baswood
Mar 5, 2011, 4:55am Top

Dan #113
A good review of the Cavnar book. I wonder if there is a better book on the horizon(sorry), which would cover the environmental and economic issues.

115janeajones
Mar 5, 2011, 4:39pm Top

Great review, Dan -- it sounds scientifically way above my head, but I'm for anything that keeps some kind of oversight on the gas and oil companies. We get snatches and snitches of information in our local paper (owned by the NYT) on the continuing damage that is manifesting in the Gulf.

116labfs39
Mar 5, 2011, 7:56pm Top

Interesting book, Dan. Even if it didn't cover all the aspects of the disaster, a good technical perspective might help me better understand exactly what happened and how. Thanks.

117dchaikin
Mar 5, 2011, 9:38pm Top

baswood, Jane & Lisa - Thanks for the comments.

baswood, A Sea in Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout by Carl Safina is due to go on sale on April 19 (according to amazon). I haven't read him, but he is a bird watcher and may go deeper in the environmental impacts.

I might edit the review to add that I think Canvar's work is very important and that it covers the how and why and what was done about it - all the most critical stuff. Also it was written for a popular audience, and accessible. thinking...

118dchaikin
Edited: Mar 5, 2011, 9:51pm Top

Ok, I re-wrote the "final notes".

old version: The writing is unpolished and practical, which is understandable. Cavnar was writing sections as the information came out. My biggest complaint is that the technical terms are not explained up front. There are long technical sections the come before the actual technical explanations. Another complaint of sorts is that the focus is on the engineering point of view. There is limited information on the environmental or economic consequences.

new version: This is a timely work, and Cavnar was literally writing sections as the information came out. While the writing is unpolished and practical, this is understandable. One complaint is that the technical terms are not explained up front. There are long sections discussing specific parts of an oil well that come before the actual explanations of what these things are. Another complaint of sorts is that the focus is on the engineering point of view. He covers what happened to the well, and why; and he covers what was done to try to stop the blowout. But, there is limited information on the environmental or economic consequences.

119tomcatMurr
Mar 5, 2011, 11:47pm Top

one would hope that one day those responsible for the deepwater debacle, both in BP and in the US government, will be stood against a wall and shot.

120baswood
Mar 6, 2011, 4:47am Top

#117&118
Thanks for the information Dan

121rebeccanyc
Mar 6, 2011, 10:24am Top

Sounds like an interesting and important book, Dan. Thanks.

122dchaikin
Edited: Mar 8, 2011, 9:58am Top

thoughts come rushing, but this is all I can post at the moment...

Just started Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings this morning...I've read six pages... but what a lovely and thought-provoking opening few pages. She is exploring her own voluntary isolation in a rural and remote spot. Some excerpts:

At one time or another most of us at the Creek have been suspected of a degree of madness. Madness is only a variety of mental nonconformity and we are all individualist here.

...
There is of course an affinity between people and places. "And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of waters called He Seas; and God saw that it was good." This was before man, and if there be such a thing as racial memory, the consciousness of land and water must lie deeper in the core of us than any knowledge of our fellow beings. We were bred of earth before we were born of our mothers. Once born, we can live without mother or father, or any other kin, or any friend, or any human love. We cannot live without the earth or apart from it, and something is shrivelled in a man's heart when he turns away from it and concerns himself only with the affairs of men.


I know a few things, but I really have no clue what to expect in this book. What I do know is that it's almost nonfictional, about the area where MKR lived in (central?) Florida, circa 1942 (the copyright) - what was known as cracker country. And I know that several of the characters' real-life equivalents were pretty upset with it. So I'm wondering what MKR is doing here with such elegant certainty.

123janeajones
Edited: Mar 8, 2011, 10:26am Top

124dchaikin
Mar 8, 2011, 10:37am Top

Thanks Jane...Love it!!

125anthonywillard
Mar 8, 2011, 12:45pm Top

North central Florida, between Ocala and Gainesville.

126janeajones
Mar 8, 2011, 2:15pm Top

118> Not only will they not get stood up against a wall and shot, but they have been awarded the first new oil drilling permit in the Gulf since the disaster:
http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20110308/ARCHIVES/103081019/-1/TODAYSPAPER?...

127dchaikin
Mar 8, 2011, 2:48pm Top

#126 - I didn't mention it, but BP's deal with the government was set-up such that BP will pay $20 billion to the US for various claims. But, they only need to pay out of their US oil developments! Their existence in US oil exploration was guaranteed. It's an interesting compromise.

128VisibleGhost
Mar 8, 2011, 2:59pm Top

I want to read a book on the Deepwater Horizon blowout and the aftermath. Hopefully, one that contains coverage of the oil eating bacteria like Alcanivorax. They emerged as 'good guys' during the spill. I'm reading (very slowly) what is probably the strangest book ever written about oil: Cyclonopedia complicity with anonymous materials. It resembles a Lovecraftian dissertation written while on a LSD trip. Petropolitics and Mecca-nomics are a couple of the themes.

Another interesting blowout is the ongoing (since 2006) Sidoarjo mud flow in East Java. Some say it could continue burping mud for another 25 or 30 years.

129dchaikin
Mar 8, 2011, 7:12pm Top

VG - nice to see you here. I don't recall anything about Alcanivorax in the Cavnar book...or anywhere else for that matter. The mud flow...just wow! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidoarjo_mud_flow.

As for cyclonopedia - having read your description above, I still have no idea what it's about. :)

130dchaikin
Mar 13, 2011, 1:15am Top



3. A Murder of Crows by Larry D. Thomas (2010, 76 pages, read Dec 16 – Jan 24)

Re-reading these poems I wrote a note: “explores the consciousness and psychology of savage wild animals that exist on the brink of survival and death, a place where grace is out of necessity and magnificent. ” Now, sitting down to review this, I don’t see how to improve on that as a summary. I should add that, on re-reading, these poems all have something entirely new to say.

There are fifty-one poems on birds split into four themes that are roughly songbirds, seagulls, predators & crows. They are almost all straightforward descriptions of birds and mean what they say. But, there are layers and they can each be read in many other ways. As an example, in For Her Nest where Larry writes “a dove sat as if incubating her eggs / while her mate scoured the grass / seeking material for her nest. / I knew it would never last / vulnerable as it was”, he is perhaps talking more about the tenuousness of relationships then the stress of nesting birds.

Among the layers is the aspect that when Larry writes about these and other animals, he is capturing the animal, and he is playing with themes, but he is doing this all in his own way. In a convoluted sense he is writing about himself. Of course, this is probably true of the work of all writers, even of us and our reviews here on LT.

One extra note of interest. Larry mentioned to me, this past summer, that he has a collection of unpublished poems which number literally in the thousands. I don’t know how many older poems he has included here, but I’m under the impression that he didn’t sit down in write fifty bird poems in one stretch. I suspect these cover decades of writing and serve as something like a career overview…or more like a window into what else Larry was doing while he was publishing other works. In any case, only nine of these poems are acknowledged as having been previously published.

With Larry’s permission, I’m posting one poem, perhaps my favorite in this collection. It is printed on the back cover of the book.

A Dark Choir

Perched on a nest
they robbed from a raptor,
they dangle over their young

shreds of red carrion
locked in the vises
of three-inch beaks,

their ravenous young
thrusting their gaping
beaks skyward

like the mouths of a dark choir
belting out the notes
of survival.

For thousands of years
they’ve haunted
human consciousness,

shuddering the quill
of poet and shaman,
flapping their wings like the blank

black pages of the black,
inscrutable books
of the gods.

131janeajones
Edited: Mar 13, 2011, 11:31am Top

Great poem, Dan. You might also enjoy The Poets Guide to the Birds put out by Anhinga Press.

I think my all time favorite bird poem is "Under the Vulture Tree" by David Bottoms in FIP.

132baswood
Mar 13, 2011, 2:43pm Top

Hi Dan,

Enjoyed A Dark Choir. It immediately made me think of Joni Mitchell's song Black Crow from the "Hejira" cd. Its nothing like Larry's poem but it was a good excuse to play a great song.

Crows are fascinating birds. There are a murder of crows that roost in the woods beside the lake just down from my house. Hear them most days fussing and fighting. They are very territorial and I have often watched them gang up on Buzzards or Kites to chase them away.

I have been intrigued by your review of The Finkler question. As I Was reading I was wondering if I would have found it offensive had I been Jewish. From your review it seemed to me as though you enjoyed it almost in spite of yourself.

133labfs39
Mar 13, 2011, 4:12pm Top

Wonderful poem and review. It sounds as though you are friends with the poet? Lucky you, he must be a very interesting person. I love the picture on his author page.

I have lots of feeders and love watching the birds. Unfortunately I trained my dog to bark at the crows, and only the crows, because they tend to chase away my other birds. Now I wish I hadn't. They are very smart. I had a colleague who was good friends with a pair. They were devasted when he retired, and they hopped around forelornly every day at the exact time when he used to pass by.

134janeajones
Mar 13, 2011, 6:02pm Top

It seems that crows like to play in the snow. There was a Discovery Channel program last night featuring crows in the snow. Here's another from YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2HtDypvP6c&NR=1

135dchaikin
Edited: Mar 13, 2011, 11:04pm Top

I sense a need for some pictures. This is "American Crow" by John James Audubon (1870).



#131/134 - Jane - I've added The Poets Guide to the Birds to my wishlist to remember later and I will look up Bottom's poems tonight.

#132 - baswood - somehow I really don't know much about Joni Mitchell.... anyway, about the Finkler Question, I was annoyed with myself for not really getting it, and for not being able to enjoy the satire - a common problem with me. I don't really do biting satire for whatever reason. Still, there were things to think about, and I actually liked Libor a great deal. So, maybe I did enjoy it.

#133 Lisa - I'm very entertained by your dog and your colleague's poor neglected crows. Larry Thomas and I were neighbors for four years, become very friendly and have kept in touch. He has a fascinating presence combined with a terrific voice (sound is always important in his poetry, although I often can't tell until I read it out loud). His friendship has been a big inspiration for me, and he opened my eyes to poetry and other literary things (Chekhov and Dostoevsky come to mind). He's also passed on about 200 books and uncounted literary reviews to me. I do feel very lucky to have gotten to know him so well.

136detailmuse
Edited: Mar 15, 2011, 4:55pm Top

>133 labfs39: lisa and all
I had a colleague who was good friends with a pair {of crows}. They were devasted when he retired, and they hopped around forelornly every day at the exact time when he used to pass by.

So sweet! Reminds me of a man/goose friendship story I saw recently (click image to view it as video).

Also, wasn't it a duck that hung out with the POWs in Unbroken?

eta: fix link

137auntmarge64
Mar 15, 2011, 5:53pm Top

>73 dchaikin: I bought Book Lust to Go a few months ago after reading reviews on LT and then the cover description: ...connects the best fiction and non-fiction to particular destinations. Nowhere obvious until reaching the introduction is the disclaimer that Pearl left out titles she included in her previous books, which presumably would be some of those at the top of her recommendation list. There are some interesting titles and I'm on the lookout for them, but I probably would have tried to get a library copy rather than buying it if I'd been aware of her approach.

138janepriceestrada
Mar 16, 2011, 4:18pm Top

113 - Enjoyed your comments on Disaster on the Horizon. I'm going to try to pick it up soon. The sort of home base for most people during that time was in my hometown so I'd be curious to see how much he talks about the local area.

There was an interesting interview* with Roger N. Anderson** in Columbia Magazine last issue. Very straight forward for anyone who wants a quick overview.

*Diappointingly this looks like only half the interview and cuts off the better questions at the end about BP's claims that they could not measure the amount of oil coming out of the well. If you're interested I could pdf the rest and send it to you.

**Anderson works at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory which in general does some fascinating work to the point where I thought about switching fields every time I saw a lecture by someone working there.

135 - Love that Audubon picture. My parents have that great two volume giant folio of all his prints. Perhaps I could sneak it out one day. :)

139dchaikin
Edited: Mar 22, 2011, 9:17am Top

#138 - Jane (PE) Good luck with the portfolio. ;)

Unfortunately, Cavnar doesn't spend much time on the local communities. There are general comments and one story about a Louisiana community who had a misguided idea that caused some problems (can't remember the details anymore). That's about it. He is mostly concerned with the well itself and the political outcome.

140dchaikin
Mar 22, 2011, 9:39am Top

(...)

I'm reading; an emotional sea begins to swirl and sparkle; elements of thoughts appear in flashes; nothing is written down; of course, it all evaporates; and then there is nothing; and then I head to work.

141dchaikin
Mar 23, 2011, 12:23am Top



4. Towers of Midnight (Book Thirteen of The Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (2010, 829 pages, read Jan 2 –Feb 4)

I’m really happy where Sanderson has taken this series. I started this in 1990 when I was 17 and wasn’t reading books unless there was a grade involved. I really do want to get to the end, and I might even re-read the series once it actually completes. Anyway, Sanderson… I believe he’s taken another author’s story and actually revitalized it. He’s not Jordan, and Sanderson maybe looses that something extra that really made these stories special. But Jordan had some flaws, and Sanderson brings in some new aspects of his own, fixes a few things (notably giving a lot more dignity and complexity to the women), while staying true to the feel and the characters. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for an end, but for the moment I’ll send a thank you to Brandon.

142zenomax
Edited: Mar 23, 2011, 8:28am Top

140 - exactly so, Dan. I tried keeping a notebook with me to capture those moments as they happened. But it is all so ephemeral that even a few minutes later they have disappeared into the ether.

I have developed a habit of turning them over in my mind as many times as I can before they leave me, then at least something still remains, although not not not with the full perfect sparkle of the initial thoughts.

ETA this:

"As soon as we put something into words, we devalue it in a strange way. We think we have plunged into the depths of the abyss, and when we return to the surface the drop of water on our pale fingertips no longer resembles the sea from which it comes. We delude ourselves that we have discovered a wonderful treasure trove, and when we return to the light of day we find that we have brought back only false stones and shards of glass; and yet the treasure goes on glimmering in the dark, unaltered."

From the writer Maurice Maeterlinck in his introduction to The Confusions of Young Torless.

143dchaikin
Mar 23, 2011, 8:41am Top

#142 Z - yes, caught myself without a notebook yesterday morning. Not that I could have really captured what was on my mind, since it probably didn't really make much sense anyway, being mostly emotional and incoherent. But, at least I could have recorded something. And...there was just too much to turn over and over... I don't usually carry a notebook, because I have a history of writing a few pages and then nothing for long stretches of time (as in years). But, that was annoying. I need to go dust off a notebook and start carrying it around again.

But, the worst for me is my thoughts while driving. I do go over them again and again, and then I park, go try to write something (occasionally I don't have to wait a while first) just to find that...there wasn't really anything there. Just a road noises, music, time, variations of light and a nonsense response.

144zenomax
Mar 23, 2011, 11:47am Top

Have you done the Myers Briggs test? I am guessing (have guessed for some time actually) that you are IN..?? If so, it is all an occupational hazard which we have to live with.

145dchaikin
Mar 23, 2011, 12:09pm Top

I never have. I just took some quick online test and got ISTJ, or an inspector. Not sure what that means or how accurate it is. They are supposed to be punctual, and I'm distinctly not punctual...

146dchaikin
Edited: Mar 24, 2011, 12:47am Top

(Reviews are a struggle for me lately. Too bad, I really wanted to write something nice about this.)



Its endlessness an ache against the eyes
The sawgrass marches on to meet the skies
The gaunt and twisted mangrove-root parades
The vastness men have called the Everglades,

from Everglades by Vivian Yeiser Laramore Rader (1931)
(I found this poem in Florida in Poetry, edited by (Club Read’s) Jane A. Jones & Maurice O’Sullivan)


5. The Everglades : River of Grass (Special 50th Anniversary Edition) by Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1947, 458 pages, read Jan 21 – Feb 19)
(Illustrated by Robert Fink. Revised 1978. 40 year update by Randy Lee Loftis with MS Douglas, 1988. 50 year update by Cyril Zaneski, 1997)

I simply lack the correct words to describe this. At the most basic this is a both a description and a history of the Everglades. The history begins with the geology of their formation, and carries on through the known native inhabitants, the Spanish explorers, “three hundred quiet years”, the Seminole Wars, the disastrous attempts to drain the Everglades, the first massive influxes of people in the early 20th-century, to, finally, the brink of the disastrous work by the Corps of Engineers in 1947. MSD wrote this before the Corps began their work. An updated history of the Corps doings and its consequences, the slow efforts to undo what they did, and all the other problems condemning the Everglades is covered in a two lengthy afterwards for the 40-year and 50-year anniversaries of the book.

There is much to be said for the human history of the Everglades. Each stage feels like forgotten history, and yet through MSD each is fascinating. The Spanish adventures and failures are as interesting as those “three hundred quiet years” when the English colonies flourished, rebelled, expanded and few white men entered any deeper into the South Florida than the sparsely populated coast. The pyrrhic success of the Seminoles in the Seminoles wars are as beautiful as the dynamite blowing holes in Miami’s coastal ridge was tragic.

MSD’s writing has an elegance and texture that I want to say feels like the late 1940s-early 1950’s, except that I really have no clue whether that is true. She is a bit flowery for non-fiction, but in a way that works beautifully if you have some time and patience. She has a way of keeping her words impartial, but at the same time her tone has a desperate urgency to it. This was a call to save the Everglades by celebrating what they are and were.

This is all informal, with few footnotes (there is a somewhat extensive, but not updated bibliography). It is probably the starting point on the Everglades.

147anthonywillard
Mar 24, 2011, 12:54am Top

Did Douglas have an influence, either in style or subject matter, on Rachel Carson, about the same period but a little later?

148dchaikin
Mar 24, 2011, 1:53am Top

Anthony - I don't know anything about Rachel Carson other than what i just looked up on wikipedia. So, I have no clue.

149anthonywillard
Edited: Mar 24, 2011, 2:23am Top

Ah, wikipedia! Now I know a bit more about Marjory Stoneman Douglas. On Wikipedia and some other websites I visited, her name and Rachel Carson's are connected because of the similar influence their books had on the environmental movement. But no indication of a literary influence from one to the other. Douglas was older than Carson, but outlived her by quite a bit, in fact living to 108! A grande dame! Now I want to read the book. You wrote a really good review.

150dchaikin
Mar 24, 2011, 9:16am Top

#149 Anthony - Thank you!

151janeajones
Mar 24, 2011, 6:17pm Top

Dan -- you'd really like Hurricane by Marjory Stoneman Douglas too.

152dchaikin
Mar 24, 2011, 10:34pm Top

Jane - That one has been on my mind since you mentioned in on New Years Day (post 10). Re-reading that post of yours post I notice you mention the racism in Cross Creek. I've had some trouble accepting that part of the book. I set the book down for a while after reading about "Gootchie", the help with an alcohol problem.

153dchaikin
Edited: Mar 26, 2011, 11:56pm Top



6. Before the Troubadour Exits : Poems by Jeffrey C. Alfier (2010, 24 pages, read Feb 12-22)

These poems explore the world of the down-and-out in a variety of ways. We meet spent men in bars, strip clubs, homeless, returning unwanted to home. They ogle their drinks and barmaids and anything else female, and get painful emotional kicks for their efforts.

I started looking for Jeff as the “I” in these poems, which was the wrong way to approach it. Once I figured out that these were based on observations more than personal exploration (this took me a long time) the whole book changed for me. I was able to see the collection as a single work.

No One Like You

Instead, this one will finally take
the road out past the fervent lights
that led him here, off toward fields
that slumber under the shuttered light
of a new moon. Puddles he’ll step in
will blur reflections of passersby,
like rain-smeared addresses on
unforwarded mail. No wind rustles
the camphor trees along the promenade
embankment, nor the thinning sea pines
where he’ll amble toward a causeway
that leads no place he hasn’t been
in the blur of his days. In a predawn hour
he’ll hear sirens before alarm clocks
go off and wonder who woke so early
on a Sunday just to die. At his back,
houses will pace through the routines, voices
granting nothing more than a stranger’s
face pressed against a picture window.

154anthonywillard
Mar 27, 2011, 3:41am Top

Hard book to find.

155baswood
Mar 27, 2011, 5:21am Top

#153 Dan, do you fiind your poetry collections locally? I like No One Like You. Keep posting

156dchaikin
Edited: Mar 27, 2011, 12:47pm Top

#154 Funny enough I didn't buy it, Jeff sent me a copy. The only info i could find was this:

Alfier, Jeffrey. Before the Troubadour Exits. Kindred Spirit Press, 2010. ISBN: 0-943795-39-7 (paper) $10.00 Do order, please, directly from the press: Kindred Spirit Press, 522 E. South Ave., St. John, KS 67576

#155 Baswood, i'm still trying to figure out how to find poets. I met Jeff through LT.

157dchaikin
Mar 27, 2011, 12:47pm Top

Ok, I asked Jeff, and here were his instructions on how to purchase Before the Troubadour Exits.

They may order it directly from me, since the publisher had them done and sent the entire batch to me. Once my stock is depleted, he will have more printed up.

Since I use the proceeds to help fund SPRR, they may use their Pay Pal account to pay the SPRR Pay Pal account, sending the $10.00 to ‘editor@sprreview.com’ Or, they may send a check to the SPRR PO Box, making the check out to ‘SPRR’ to:

SPRR
P.O. Box 7000 - 148
Redondo Beach, CA 90277 - 8710


SPRR is the San Pedro River Review, and poetry review that Jeff co-edits.

158labfs39
Mar 27, 2011, 4:14pm Top

My dad is semi-retired and recently bought a house in Cape Coral. We are going to visit in April, and I wanted to take my husband to the Everglades, as he has never seen them. I have been loathe to return, fearing the damage. I was there in 1986 and had a wonderful experience. Night hikes, sleeping on the beach watching the roseate spoonbills flock in to roost for the night, and there was water. I went back in 1992, and it was very depressing: dry and animal-less. I hear it has gotten better. Anyway, this is all a lead up to saying that I loved your review and will try and pick up a copy to take with me on the flight.

159janeajones
Mar 27, 2011, 4:53pm Top

152> Dan -- one of the things that Lillios discusses in Crossing the Creek: The Literary Friendship of Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is Rawling's changing racial attitudes after she met Hurston. Cross Creek, on the whole is a lovely book -- but it doesn't hold a candle to The Yearling.

160dchaikin
Mar 27, 2011, 9:15pm Top

#158 - Lisa, thanks, that is a pick-me-up after the Jayhawks breakdown today (I was impressed with VCU, though - oh, for anyone who doesn't know, this is a NCAA basketball reference). If you want a good update since 1947, turn to The Swamp by Grunwald (don't remember how to spell his name), which is from about 2005.

#159 - Jane, I'm very curious how that worked worked out. And I will check out The Yearling some time.

161detailmuse
Mar 28, 2011, 9:32am Top

>143 dchaikin: dan
road noises, music, time, variations of light and a nonsense response
perfect details

A couple things that have worked for me: 1) carrying a tiny notebook (it's a good excuse to treat yourself to a Moleskine; the Volant extra-small is not much bigger than a business card); 2) leaving the thought in a phone voice message for myself for later. If you do record your thoughts, don't try to make them pretty or fully formed unless that comes in the moment; just record the snatches.

But even without recording, they're still there in your subconscious, marinating and making connections.

162zenomax
Mar 28, 2011, 9:51am Top

Yes, thats a good point dm, the connections do seem to go on working in the background. Every now and then they will emerge into daylight unexpectedly.

164dchaikin
Edited: Apr 5, 2011, 11:19pm Top

I’m ten reviews behind, and I’m ready to catch up. So, here it goes, all ten:



7. The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker (2006, 343 pages, read Feb 20 –Mar 1)
(translated from Dutch by David Colmer, 2008)

This is my favorite book of the book of the year so far, and it really deserves a carefully thought out review. I simply don’t have that in me right now. Maybe I’ll get back to it later.



8. Persepolis : The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi (2003, 153 pages, read Mar 2-4)
(translated from French)

This is a jaw dropping graphic novel. Satrapi grew up in Iranian Islamic revolution, experiencing it as she learned about the world. So her childhood development included the hopes of the revolution, the violence, the smashed hopes of the Islamic state, vivid stories of torture and execution of a family member. At fourteen she was sent out of Iran by her parents to live on her own in Austria.



9. Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi (2004, 187 pages, read Mar 5-6)

What most impressed me about this was how good it was. The powerful side of the story was told in book one, when Satrapi was a child. Here she is older, the shocks have already happened. This book isn’t really about Iran, but about Satrapi herself. She exposes all of her growing pains, as she lives on her own from 14 to 18, when she ends up homeless in Austria. With nowhere to turn, she goes back to Iran! And we follow her as her life goes up in brilliant highs, and sputters out in horrible lows. That I closed the book wondering at all her mistakes and personal flaws is, I think, actually a compliment to the book and to how brave she was to expose herself in this manner. Persepolis I is the more important book, and the one that most readers will remember longer; but, this is the better book, a much more difficult accomplishment.



10. The Seven Sisters : The Great Oil Companies and the World They Shaped by Anthony Sampson (1975, 402 pages, read Feb 4 – Mar 8)
(with “Update: The New Crisis”, from 1979)

I’ve read The Prize (a favorite and life-changing book for me) and so a lot of this was a recap. There are two main differences. The first was the focus. The Prize was focused on oil itself and its effects on the world. Seven Sisters is focused on the big seven oil companies then existent in 1975. (They were Shell, BP, Exxon, Mobil, Texaco, Chevron & Gulf. Total was an eighth sister. Exxon and Mobil merged in the 1999. Chevron took over Gulf in the 1980’s and merged with Texaco in 2001. And, Conoco/Philips has now emerged as major.) This is because in 1973, when these eight companies controlled 85 % of world oil supplies, OPEC shook up the world and effectively wrested control of oil from them, leaving the sisters to market the oil. The story here is how the oil companies let this happen and what it meant to them in 1975.

The other difference is an impression. I sense that The Prize very subtly pushes a pro-oil agenda. I didn’t notice this while I read The Prize. It’s only after seeing some differences in Sampson’s approach that I notice. For example, Daniel Yergin makes a big deal of his interpretation that every time big claims were made that we were running out of oil, this was immediately followed by the next major discovery. The impression it left is that we shouldn’t worry, there’s more oil to be found. Sampson talks about the limits of oil supplies in a realistic manner, a manner that’s makes Yergin’s take seem fanciful.



11. Barefoot Gen, Volume Six : Writing the Truth by Keiji Nakazawa (1975, 268 pages, read Mar 8-12)
(translated from Japanese by Project Gen, 2007)

Gen just finds trouble, or his friends do. It’s three years after the war, yet Gen, his mother, his one brother remaining at home and his posse(?) of orphan friends are constantly hungry; and his mother is sick from the radiation. There are guns, struggles, and it might be a fun story it wasn’t based in fact.



12. High Tide in Hawaii (Magic Tree House #28) by Mary Pope Osborne (2002, 77 pages, read March 13)

My daughter read this on the way home from Borders (a long drive) and then finished it a bit later after we got home. This is the first time she has read a chapter book on her own, which was very exciting. So, I had some time and read it too.

The basic premise is that when the magic tree House appears, Jack and Annie climb in and find instructions. Then they grab a book, point to it and wish to go into the place in the book. They can go anywhere, and time stands still at home in Frog Creek, PA.

These are simple, but creative, fun and informative. Not recommended for children over the age of about 14.



11. Barefoot Gen, Volume Seven : Bones into Dust by Keiji Nakazawa (1990, 265 pages, read Mar 12-15)
(translated from Japanese by Project Gen, 2008)

Two major plot points concluded here giving this a more memorable feel then some of the previous volumes. I was moved as Gen reads out loud to his friends a book about a journalist’s personal experience with the Hiroshima bomb. The author is a friend. Simply printing the book was illegal, because publishing anything negative about the atomic bombs in Japan was strictly forbidden on the US. As Gen reads, each of his friends begins to break down in tears, each associating, through their own experiences, with something painful in the story.



14. The Rabbi's Cat by Joann Sfar (2003, 142 pages, read Mar 17-20)
Released a three books: La Bar-Mitsva (2001), Le Malka des Lions (2002) & L’Exode (2003)
(translated from French by Alexis Siegel and Anjali Singh, 2005)

Such a filthy cat, it’s a good thing real ones can’t talk. This is an endearing story of a rabbi in Algeria who begins to lose his faith in his preconceived sense of the meaning of life.

OK, 8 or 10, not bad for an evening.

165janepriceestrada
Apr 5, 2011, 11:38pm Top

164 - I'm way behind as well. I've got The Prize and The Seven Sisters on my wishlist. I'd like to do a comprehensive run through several things on the oil industry, though I'm not sure I could handle it mentally.

166dchaikin
Apr 6, 2011, 12:21am Top

Jane - I highly recommend The Prize*. Anything else you read is extra. That one book not only covers everything through that time (~1990), but it really puts oil & gas into history. (now geology would be another story...)

*touchstone fixed here

167charbutton
Apr 6, 2011, 5:00am Top

Stopping by to say thanks for the interesting reviews. You've reminded me how good Persepolis is; I feel the need to re-read it.

168akeela
Apr 6, 2011, 7:20am Top

Hi Dan. Glad you got around to The Rabbi's Cat and Persepolis, and that you enjoyed them!

169rebeccanyc
Apr 6, 2011, 7:50am Top

Some varied reading and interesting reviews -- thanks.

170GCPLreader
Apr 6, 2011, 8:38am Top

tell your daughter how very proud we are of her! series books are a great way to get her hooked on novels, and she will no doubt become interested in their historical settings as a jumping off point into other books. But, never forget, it is the example of her reading dad that will have the greatest impact. :o)

171dchaikin
Apr 6, 2011, 10:05am Top

#167 - 170 - Thanks all for stopping by.

Charlotte - Wish we owned the Persepolis books so I could look through them more. They were loaned to us.

Akeela - following your lead on those (following a few others here too, like fannyprice)

Jenny - She knows I was excited, which hopefully has a positive affect. She does her own thing - a most independent six-year-old.

172janeajones
Apr 6, 2011, 5:07pm Top

Glad you liked The Complete Persepolis (I know you read it in 2 volumes, but it's the only way I could differentiate from the DVD) -- I use it in my novel class (last book of 8 -- a quick, smashing end to the semester). You should get the DVD of Persepolis too -- it was made by Satrapi and is a really good rendition of both the books.

173dchaikin
Apr 7, 2011, 12:46pm Top

#172 - Jane, thanks, I will try to check that out.

174labfs39
Apr 7, 2011, 1:30pm Top

#164 I have picked up and put down The Twin a couple of times now. If it's one of your favorites reads of the year, I should pick it up for keeps. I will look forward to reading a review if/when you do. (Please do.)

#165 Put a hold on the Complete Persepolis at the library.

175dchaikin
Apr 7, 2011, 6:55pm Top

Lisa - The Twin won me over on page 1. I think if you read say 20 or so pages and aren't in to it, then probably it's not right book for you (at least, not right now).

176labfs39
Apr 7, 2011, 8:51pm Top

Hmm, that's quite a recommendation. I picked up another Archipelago book today, White Masks, maybe The Twin should be next!

177dchaikin
Apr 7, 2011, 10:30pm Top

Lisa - I think I might have misunderstood your post 174, I thought you had tried to read it and had put it down...ah...anyway, if/when you get there I hope you enjoy it.

178dchaikin
Edited: Apr 9, 2011, 11:56pm Top



15. My Reading Life by Pat Conroy (2010, 327 pages, read Mar 16-24)

A pleasant surprise. This is a collection of essays about Pat Conroy's life & his thoughts on some books, authors and writing. Among other things, he brings to life part of the literary community in the south, especially in Atlanta, in the 1970's & 1980's.

This was a completely random find for me. I simply picked up a few interesting sounding books off the new books shelf in a local library and started skimming. I had never heard of Pat Conroy, and this was a blessing of sorts as I was able to read blindly, without any preconceptions. I enjoyed it immensely.

The best part of may be the window into the Atlanta writing scene. Or the best part may be the elegant personal touches such as how his mother, a compulsive reader, seemed to read in order to make up for the college degree she had to forgo after marriage; or how his high school teacher, who was to become a life-long friend, inspired him to love literature and to write. Or how a book seller and scathing critic would extend him every form of help, while, at the same time continually criticize Conroy as hopelessly mediocre.

Or the best part may be the eight pages I want to copy out from the last essay that are essentially a writer’s manifesto. He’s so sure of himself, but he says it so brilliantly.

And there also fascinating discussions on Gone with the Wind, War and Peace, Thomas Wolfe and James Dickey.

Conroy is a self-admitted flowery writer whose language drifts into elaborate adjectives. But, it’s done in a controlled manner. His writing is carefully crafted. When he wants to be emotional, and he does this a lot, it’s driven by his words, and it’s very effective and moving. I imagine him as an inspiring personality to be around; one who is dead serious about his literature and writing, and yet also energetic and naturally motivational. At least that’s the way his writing comes across.

He’s written nine other books, and after reading these essays, I would like to read all of them.

179labfs39
Apr 10, 2011, 12:08am Top

#15 I just got a copy of My Reading Life, and it sounds like I have a real gem to look forward to. Your review has left me especially interested about the eight page "writer's manifesto". That might make for an interesting discussion at some point.

180dchaikin
Apr 10, 2011, 12:34am Top

#179 - Lisa, maybe. I'll think about posting parts here (if I get around to actually copying it out)

181katiekrug
Apr 10, 2011, 11:33am Top

Dan - Pat Conroy's books (at least the ones I have read) are very good. His memoir of his first year teaching - The Water is Wide - is one of my favorites. Of his novels, I have read Beach Music and The Lords of Discipline. Both were excellent - not necessarily hugely thought-provoking, but entertaining, well-written, and definitely worth the time.

182detailmuse
Apr 10, 2011, 11:55am Top

Congratulations on catching up on so many books read! Sometimes the reviewing/commenting accumulates into a weighty to-do but I especially appreciate hearing about Pat Conroy; haven't read him but now must read about his reading and writing.

183fannyprice
Apr 10, 2011, 6:06pm Top

Just saying hi/catching up.

184dchaikin
Apr 10, 2011, 11:18pm Top

#181 - Katie, thanks, that's good info. Perhaps I'll start with The Water is Wide - which was his first book.

#182 - MJ, yes, it adds up, and I have no time...it's a bad combo. (Actually, I feel I'm barely staying involved on Club Read this year, behind on almost every thread.) Glad my review on Conroy caught your interest.

#183 - Ms. Price, you are always welcome. Hi back.

185Jargoneer
Apr 11, 2011, 4:58am Top

>178 dchaikin: - that first line was a shock, for some unknown reason I'd always thought Pat Conroy was a woman.

186avaland
Apr 11, 2011, 7:02am Top

Did you know that both Robert Jordan and Pat Conroy attended The Citadel? Just an interesting tidbit...

187dchaikin
Edited: Apr 11, 2011, 9:14am Top

#185 - lol! I should have included an author picture in the review, just to intensify the shock. :)

#186 - It did occur to me they both have South Carolina connections, but didn't know (didn't pay attention?) that Jordan was also a Citadel alum. Very different literary worlds, those two (Conroy does have a brief section (a paragraph?) on Lord of the Rings, which he read, with resistance, after he had become a published full-time writer. He adores it.)

188amandameale
Apr 11, 2011, 9:18am Top

Nice thread, Dan. Lots to contemplate. I ordered The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker yesterday so I'm pleased to see you've given it a thumbs up.

189dchaikin
Edited: Apr 11, 2011, 9:36am Top

#188 - Hi Amanda, hope you enjoy it (I'm surprised how few copies there are on LT). I've tried again to review The Twin...maybe eventually I'll put something together worth posting.

ETA - well, checking now, there are over 400 copies. Not sure what i was thinking regarding the "few" copies.

190ChocolateMuse
Apr 11, 2011, 9:33pm Top

Dan, same goes here as for zeno - I'm here regularly, but never seem to be able to add anything meaningful other than "like this v much!". Just so you know I'm here. :)

191dchaikin
Apr 11, 2011, 10:57pm Top

Hi Choc, it's nice to know your lurking.

192citygirl
Apr 12, 2011, 5:27pm Top

Dan, I heard a little bit of an interview with Conroy about that book on NPR, if you're interested I think it might've been Diane Rehm.

193dchaikin
Apr 18, 2011, 11:45pm Top



20. In Earshot of Water: Notes from the Columbia Plateau by Paul Lindholdt (2011, 149 pages, read April 2-18)
An LT Early Reviewer. My copy says “uncorrected proof”.

"The word attention itself shows us what we lack. Mindfulness, a noun that’s rare to most of us except Buddhists, comes up in my word-hoard. It means to ponder, to apply patience, to grow watchful in the here-and-now. Its root word, the French verb attender, means to wait. Maybe the deferring of our gratification is what grows harder every day, following the onslaught of commercials urging us to satisfy our craving in an instant. Give in; just do it."


In the 1960’s Edward Abbey could rant and rage in Desert Solitaire with such clarity and with such absolute confidence in his own rightness. In 2011 such things clang simplistically on our ears. Now, we think, “but it’s not that simple.” What about this or that?...or is it just me whose gone through this process? I soaked up Desert Solitaire in 1995 when I was 22 year-old. I’m afraid to open that book now.

In any case, it is true that nothing is so simple. That the world is complex, that bad things happen and nothing is done about it, and then it happens again and again. And those environmentalists, how do they stand not becoming jaded like me? And like Paul Lindholt?

In Earshot of Water is a collection of essays about the scablands and wild rivers of Washington and Idaho and about the natural and polluted aspects of Puget Sound. Lindholt is reflective, and has a complicated emotional and philosophical response to our historical and current destruction of nature, and our anemic environmental response. Part of this complexity comes from his relationship with his now deceased father, an avid hunter, and by the loss of his eldest son to a kayaking accident. Part comes from his own apparently lengthy experiences with these issues. His literary approach is not to dwell on it in a direct sense. Instead he wanders about discussing pumpkins and magpies and modern blacksmiths and spiders trapped alive by wasps to feed their eggs.

His essays can be complex and poetic, and he tends to make his points in a roundabout way. I found myself reading them slowly, some with a poems cadence, if that makes sense. And, I found it quite beautiful, the way he goes about it. I felt that Lindholt was pushing for some kind of truth. I don’t think he gets there, even to a kind of truth. Instead he gets sidetracked with writing essays on things that didn’t seem quite as important to me as he wanted them to be or thought they were. But, what I felt was his effort, his stretching, winding through his complex feelings, and emotions and depressions and unfortunate realities…reaching for that truth. And, it’s the reaching that I felt, that was real and that I thought was really beautiful.

There were some essays in here that were just that, essays. And they had an agenda (anti-damn, resistant respect for rodeos), but they were his weakest parts, IMO. In other essays there is nothing linear and nothing clearly said. He starts on one topic, and jumps to a few others and then maybe jumps back-and-forth. And then, right when he seems to be about the say something profound, he changes topic…because…maybe…because he didn’t actually have to make the “profound” statement, it was already there in our heads. And this I really enjoyed. I liked how his hunting story was told not to us, but to his two younger sons while camping, one of whom falls asleep. And, that despite the anti-hunting moral, his son’s first question afterward is whether he brought his gun along. And I loved how he brings up those spiders. The wasps hobble the spiders by clipping their legs, then they lay an egg on them. The egg uses the trapped, still living spider for nourishment.

194dchaikin
Apr 18, 2011, 11:47pm Top

Skipped #'s 16-19 because In Earshot of Water is an Early Reviewer, and I felt guilty dragging out the review.

#192 - cg - If I can find the time, I'm going to look that up.

195baswood
Apr 19, 2011, 4:11am Top

Dan, fascinating review of In Earshot of Water: Notes from the Columbia Plateau. You really seem to have engaged with the book, which seems to have raised issues with you. The best kind of reading.

196dchaikin
Apr 19, 2011, 9:57am Top

basswood, thanks! Yes, this one reached me and yes, that is the best kind of reading. This is the first review in awhile that I felt had something. I've been struggling with them this year. This one, I could have slept on it, re-structured it, cleaned it up, compressed it shorter...and it would have been better...but I wasn't sure I would have the time for all that.

197dchaikin
Edited: Apr 25, 2011, 11:03pm Top

Finally copied out the eight pages from Pat Conroy's My Writing Life - the part that reads like a writer's manifesto. Reading them again I don't exactly agree with them, and I'm not sure what anyone else might think (would be very interested in the cats opinion, if he still stops by), but I love how he expresses himself. Here are some excepts (Lisa - it only took me two weeks...).

Here is what I want from a book, what I demand, what I pray for when I take up a novel and begin to read the first sentence: I want everything an nothing less, the full measure of a writer’s heart. I want a novel so poetic that I do not have to turn to the standby anthologies of poetry to satisfy that itch for music, for perfection and economy of phrasing, for exactness of tone. Then, too, I want a book so filled with story and character that I read page after page without thinking of food and drink, because a writer has possessed me, crazed me with an unappeasable thirst to know what happens next. Again, I know that story is suspect in the high precincts of American fiction, but only because it brings entertainment and pleasure, the same responses that have always driven puritanical spirits at the dinner table wild when the talk turns to sexual intercourse and incontinence.

...
Writing is both hard labor and one of the most pleasant forms that fanaticism can take.

...
The safe writers have never interested me, do not excite a single shiver of curiosity within me. I can read five pages and know I am in the hands of a writer whose feet are cunningly placed on save ground. Safety is a crime writers should never commit unless they are after tenure or praise. A novelist must wrestle with all mysteries and strangeness of life itself, and anyone who does not wish to accept that grand, bone-chilling commission should write book reviews, editorials, or health-insurance policies instead.

...
Nothing is more difficult for a writer to overcome than a childhood of privilege, but this was never a concern of mine. To experience a love that is too eloquent sometimes makes for a writer without edges. I have drawn long and often from the memory book of my youth, the local and secret depository where my central agony cowers in the limestone cave, licking its wounds, awaiting my discovery of it. Art is one of the few places where talent and madness can actually go to squirrel away inside each other.

198labfs39
Apr 26, 2011, 2:39pm Top

Very interesting excerpts, Dan. I feel somewhat reluctant to comment until I have read the book; it's on my pile. But here are some first thoughts:

I think his hyperbole on what he expects from a novel is rarely found together, i.e. poetry of language and captivating story. Usually I think of a book as having one or the other. Translation is a Love Affair is poetry and it's one of my favorite reads of 2010, but not a gripping plotline. I found The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell to be a real page turner, but nothing special in the way of language. Finding both together in one book is a rarity but a real gem. I wonder how many Conroy would put in this category?

The issue of safety in writing is interesting. There are some books that are very daring, but seem to me overly contrived. Others may appear formulaic, but add a twist or simply soothe (i.e. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand). I don't expect every book by every author to be life shattering; neither of Conroy's books which I have read would fall into that category, although they were entertaining while I was reading them: Lords of Discipline and The Prince of Tides. I guess that for me the issue is less one of safety than of the ability to transport: a book so filled with story and character that I read page after page without thinking of food and drink, because a writer has possessed me, crazed me with an unappeasable thirst to know what happens next

What do you think?

199baswood
Apr 26, 2011, 4:44pm Top

#197
Dan, I am not sure about this... I mean; linking sexual intercourse with incontinence? I found the first paragraph you quoted wildly over the top, but when he calms down a bit he makes some interesting points in his next couple of paragraphs. He certainly exudes passion. I like the idea of a novelist wrestling with "mysteries and strangeness of life itself" but surely not "all mysteries and strangeness of life itself."

Is all his writing cranked up like this Dan?

200dchaikin
Apr 26, 2011, 7:39pm Top

baswood - this book is all i've read and it's all memoir, not fiction. This is an extreme for the book, but all his writing in it was really emotionally driven - yes, passionate.

Lisa - I'm thinking of books that put it all together and realizing that it's a very personal judgement on my part. Does "A River Runs Through It" really do that? Or it is just me who was completely captivated at the right age. What about Proust's Combray, or Crime and Punishment - of course I've only read the translations so how would I really know. Maybe Gail Jones can combine the two - I really need to read more from her...

For the record, I agree with this: "I want everything and nothing else, the full measure of a writer's heart.."

201dchaikin
Apr 27, 2011, 12:03am Top

Birthdays are good things. On the day of my birthday my wife took me on a mystery road trip. We went to Nacogdoches, TX and she bought me Dark Pearls by Larry Thomas - hand bound letter press with woodcuts, this was a $300 book.

Then, my in-laws sent me $100 of amazon money. The books arrived today:

The Search for Modern China by Jonathan Spence (about 900 pages and 4 (!) lbs - in paperback)
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (a mere 700 pages)
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (600 pages)
Maps of Time by David Christian (under 700 pages, and under 2 lbs)
A Sea of Flames by Carl Safina (a nice easy 300 pages)
and finally
Accident : A Days News by Christa Wolf (which is so thin, it might get lots in these other dead forests)

I didn't realize how many pages I was ordering...anyway, very excited about all.

202labfs39
Apr 27, 2011, 12:08am Top

Congratulations! The rare book combined with lots of hefty tomes makes for a special birthday indeed. Let's see... when is my birthday?

203bonniebooks
Apr 27, 2011, 12:31am Top

Loving the reviews and the conversations that have followed. I'm flagging (in a good way) this post so that I'll come back to add some reactions when I have more time.

204lilisin
Apr 27, 2011, 12:32am Top

Oo! I've been wanting to get that Spence. Can't wait till you read it so I can see whether or not I read it too. I have a few of his shorter books on my TBR pile. I really liked his God's Chinese Son.

205dchaikin
Apr 27, 2011, 1:10am Top

#202 - Lisa, thanks. It was a great birthday.
#203 - Bonnie - welcome, glad you're here.
#204 - lilisin - I bought that one looking ahead. Part of me is thinking I should make China a theme for 2012, or maybe east Asia as there are a couple books on Vietnam I want to read...or maybe just Asia as I have several books on India, and a very interesting looking history of Central Asia. Anyway, I won't be reading it right away.

206baswood
Apr 27, 2011, 3:44am Top

Dan, great selection of books. The magic Mountain is a special book, but it is a dense 700 pages. I'm looking forward to reading it again later this year over at the salon

207zenomax
Apr 27, 2011, 4:20am Top

And I've been interested in Maps of Time which has not had a lot of press over here in the Uk, but which I came across on one of the history group threads sometime last year. Look forward to your views on this in the fullness of time Dan.

208tomcatMurr
Apr 27, 2011, 7:02am Top

The Spence is brilliant. you know that it also comes with a companion volume of primary sources, a kind of reader of Chinese literature? Maybe TMI, I don't know.
:)

209dchaikin
Apr 27, 2011, 8:49am Top

#206 - baswood - I bought TMM in prep for the le Salon read. Looking forward to it, however long it takes to read
#207 - Z - I also found MoT through LT, been meaning to get to it for a long time too. Now I just need to figure out when...
#208 - Murr - What is this companion book called, where can I find it...how readable is it....I need to go search this out now...

oh, and thanks all for visiting and commenting.

210tomcatMurr
Edited: Apr 27, 2011, 9:19am Top

http://www.librarything.com/work/961539/23982632
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393973727/ref=nosim/librarythin08-20

well, I found it fascinating. it's a collection of primary sources that Spence mentions in his book. Includes poetry, histories, literature, including a short story by Lu Xun and excerpts from China's great epics. the two books cross reference each other, but they also stand alone equally well.

211dchaikin
Apr 27, 2011, 9:23am Top

It's on the wishlisth for now...I will get a hold of this before the end of the year and attempt to read the two together next year. Thanks!

212detailmuse
Apr 27, 2011, 11:35am Top

Happy birthday Dan!
>97 dchaikin: the eight pages
I'm interested; do you have the page numbers?

I'm currently reading A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf’s essay of literary criticism. My own particular appreciation is originality + good writing and I liked Woolf’s passage about it via a fictitious author whose fictitious debut novel introduces something new to literature (in this case, the general complexity of women’s relationships and specifically lesbians): For if Chloe likes Olivia and Mary Carmichael knows how to express it she will light a torch in that vast chamber where nobody has yet been.

213rebeccanyc
Edited: Apr 27, 2011, 12:45pm Top

Lots of great books there, Dan. I loved The Magic Mountain when I finally read it about five years ago (failed to get into it in my teens, 20s, and 30s, but in my 50s it worked for me) and it got me started reading much more of Mann. The Spence sounds fascinating and so does Maps of Time, which I hadn't previously heard of. Happy birthday and happy reading!

ETA I've actually owned the Spence for many years (got it when I joined some book club to get 10 free books!), but have never read it.

214dchaikin
Apr 27, 2011, 2:40pm Top

#212 - MJ - I had to return the book to the library yesterday and didn't write down the page numbers. It's the last 8 pages of the 2nd-to-last essay (not the last essay, as I said in my review...oops).

Woolf's comment is interesting. Although my first thought is that every book offers something new to me... my second thought is that the way they "light the torch" certainly is not equal. I need to read Woolf, by the way, an unfortunate gap in my reading.

Rebecca - I'm really really looking forward to The Magic Mountiain...I'm 38 now, hopefully that will be ok. :) Not surprised you haven't read Spence - I'll need to plan ahead, it will take some time...especially if I mix it with other book Murr linked to in #210.

215dchaikin
Edited: Apr 29, 2011, 10:14am Top

Some more quick reviews to catch-up



16. Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1942, 372 pages, read Mar 8 – Apr 4)

Rawling’s classic memoir of “cracker” life in dirt-poor rural Florida. The area she lived in is in Aalachua County, where I lived as young kid for a few years (I lived in Gainesville)…nothing here was in anyway recognizable to me. I’m glad I read this, but I can’t say I liked it. Yes, there are excellent and beautiful parts. Two things really bothered. One was the unintended racism. The other was Rawling’s self-described personality. She came across to me as defensively arrogant, if that makes sense.



17. Drowning in Oil : BP and the Reckless Pursuit of Profit by Loren C. Steffy (2011, 279 pages, read Mar 25 – Apr 6)

Steffy publishes a business blog for the Houston Chronicle. This was a little uneven, and likely rushed. It did make me realize that BP could use an exhaustively researched history – it would be fascinating. Steffy does some things really well, and makes the case that the BP has a problem – a problem with started once Edmund John Phillip Browne became CEO. Under Browne, BP took over several American oil companies (Sohio, ARCO, Amoco), then began aggressively cutting costs, starting with the engineers. The stock price sky rocketed and Browne looked like a genius. Then the problems stated happening. Steffy relates pretty much all BP’s problems to a culture of aggressive cost-cutting. Forced to find a place to cut costs, divisions end up finding cheaper ways to enforce safety and maintenance - important things get neglected. And, this is a company-wide problem. It somehow amazes me how bad this got.

I think the book can be summarized in this excerpt:

In mid-September {2010},{BP CEO} Tony Hayward appeared before a committee of the British Parliament, which was considering imposing restrictions on offshore drilling as a result of the Horizon accident. Once again, as he and John Browne before him had done so many times, he rejected any connection between BP’s woes and cost cutting. Despite the Texas City refinery explosion, the leaks in Alaska, the trading violations, the problems with Thunder Horse, the ongoing dispute with OSHA over work conditions at its refineries, the latest gas release in Texas City, and, most of all, the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Hayward clung to his company line




18. San Pedro River Review : Vol 3 No 1, Spring 2011 : Arrivals & Departures* (96 pages, read Mar 24 – Apr 7)
Edited by Jeffrey C. Alfier & Tobi R. Cogswell,

A lot a great stuff here, including the gem linked here, which won the 2011 War Poetry Contest held by Winning Writers: http://www.winningwriters.com/contests/war/2010/wa10_mena.php

One poem that struck home was Upon Your Return by Iain Macdonald. Especially where he writes:

The coffee cup
in the sink
has not washed itself,
bills have not
paid themselves,
and the recycling
remains unrecycled.

Everything
is essentially as you left it


*since the touchstone won't take, here's a link: http://www.librarything.com/work/11017446/details/70687003



19. Dark Pearls by Larry D. Thomas (2011, 23 pages, read April 16)

This was my birthday present, the $300 book with about 20 poems. I’ve read them once, now I’m afraid to open the book again. All the poems were originally published in RE:AL magazine.

While reading this, it occurred to me that I haven’t come across another poet who writes like Larry does. Somehow that seems unexpected. He doesn’t have the modern voice that I sense in most of the poets I come across have. He is different somehow, sparser maybe, more direct maybe. Few words, heavy on sound.

Some of the woodcuts from the book:

One review left – and it’s in progress…

216labfs39
Apr 29, 2011, 9:48am Top

Wow, you've been busy! Interesting about BP. I wonder when we'll finally learn (if ever) the whole truth. BTW, your review of Persepolis I and II sum up my feelings exactly. I wish I could be so concise.

217dchaikin
Apr 29, 2011, 12:07pm Top

#216 - hmmm... the whole truth...well, a critical piece of the truth died on April 20; all the drillers working the drill rig frantically trying to prevent the developing blowout—they were the first to perish in the initial explosion. I'm stuck on Macondo, not sure why. I've now read three books on it, I'm reading a fourth, and I have fifth waiting.

218katiekrug
Apr 29, 2011, 12:30pm Top

>217 dchaikin: Dan, I appreciate your comment above about the 11 men who died. I feel like they have been largely forgotten in the whole tragedy.

219baswood
Apr 29, 2011, 6:19pm Top

Excellent thread Dan, I thought the video and war poem was really good. Dark Pearls certainly looks like a book to treasure and the woodcuts look superb

You did not seem that impressed with Drowning in oil by Loren C Steffy. I was wondering if that was because it is a bit one dimensional - a relentless pursuit of her main theme that the cost cutting culture was the cause of the disaster.

220stretch
Edited: Apr 30, 2011, 7:25am Top

Daniel, Great reviews about the BP oil disaster. My company is a main contractor of BP for both their upstream and downstream operations, so we get a first hand look at how screwed up their safety culture really is. They are by far the worst client to work for with the most ridiculous safety protocols. I wonder if either the books reviewed focus on BP's philosophical short comings on their over reliance on engineering controls rather than worst case scenario planning and worker input?

221dchaikin
Edited: Apr 30, 2011, 11:37am Top

#219 - baswood - I didn't mean to be overly critical of Drowning in Oil. It was probably rushed, but it also needed to be if he (Loren C. Steffy is a he :) ) started writing after Macondo. I think he had a lot of interesting things to say.

#220 - Kevin - It could be a little sensitive for me because our clients include BP. So, in the reviews I try avoid giving my own opinions, and just "report" what the book said. For the record, what we do has almost no real safety aspect to it (maybe the building could catch fire ??) - so we and our clients go to pretty extreme lengths to find hazards. I like our BP clients, they are really knowlegable about seismic.

222janepriceestrada
Apr 30, 2011, 1:22pm Top

215 - Nice review of Drowning in Oil. I'm sure I'll get to it eventually.

223dchaikin
Edited: Apr 30, 2011, 4:19pm Top

#218 - Katie - I missed your post. I've been thinking a lot about the eleven, and the injured and the emotionally scarred survivors (some of whom have PTSD). The book I just read, Fire on the Horizon focuses on the people and the series of events that lead up to the blowout. It's the book that really got me thinking about the people involved - and the consequences to them.

This book also gave the clearest picture I've read so far about what actually happened, and what the challenges were, what critical decisions were made and why they were made, and what the actual mistakes were. Cavnar, in Disaster on the Horizon, simply published his book too early, before all the information was available. He was pretty sure some mistakes had to have been made by the drilling crew, but he just didn't know what they are. He was right, there were mistakes at the end. For Steffy (in Drowning in Oil), Macondo is just one of many issues and events. He does highlight many of the safety-reducing decisions that lead to he blowout, but he doesn't go into detail about every step in the drilling process. (The book I'm reading now, A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea : The Race to Kill the BP Oil Gusher by Joel Achenbach, is so far very confusing with regards to any technical stuff. Maybe it will get better...??)

The thing Fire on the Horizon does, is take the whole drilling process step-by-step. So, at each critical decision or mistake, we can see it in context. The authors do a good job of allowing us to see the whole event.

224dchaikin
Apr 30, 2011, 4:28pm Top

#222 - Jane, thanks. See my post above (err, and right below), as I'm not sure what I would recommend as the best book for you. Depends on your interest.

I should add that the fifth book I'll read is A See of Flames by Carl Safina. It is the first one I've come across that appears to have sections that focus on the environmental impact... I bought it (the only of these books I have bought, the other four are library books) hoping for some environmental details.

225katiekrug
May 2, 2011, 10:52am Top

I'm at OTC this week and am hoping to get in to hear Lamar McKay, President of BP America, speak at the luncheon on Tuesday - "Learnings from the Deepwater Horizon Accident and Response". Obviously, it won't be an unbiased assessment but I'm interested to see what tact he takes in addressing the issues.

226dchaikin
Edited: May 3, 2011, 2:40pm Top

Snug on that little hill,
yet whirling with that hill
among endless stars


from In a Northern Forest by Louis J. Cantoni
found in a 1984 issue of The Cape Rock (published though Southeast Missouri State University)

227dchaikin
May 3, 2011, 10:27pm Top

#225 - Katie - Did you make the talk? How was it?

228katiekrug
May 4, 2011, 11:00am Top

Hi Dan - I did manage to catch most of McKay's presentation. It was interesting but not revealing at all (which isn't surprising). He said what one would expect for the most part. He made mention more than once of the unprecedented nature of the accident, the collaborative response from the industry, and the need to learn lessons from it and move forward with those lessons in mind. I only got to hear a few minutes of the Q&A afterwards, but the questions were respectful, also not surprising considering the forum.

229dchaikin
May 4, 2011, 11:13am Top

I feel I should just let my annoyance quietly stew...suffice it to say that the "unprecedented" nature is not what I've been thinking about...instead I've been thinking about how avoidable this unprecedented event was.

230katiekrug
May 4, 2011, 11:22am Top

Dan, I understand. One can't equate unprecedented with unavoidable.

231dchaikin
May 6, 2011, 11:08pm Top

The Cougar
by Phillip Gallo

Imagine a picnic by a waterfall,
With that the rest should come naturally.
Trees, grass, perhaps some wildflowers,
And clouds—the big puffy kind.

But already we have wasted too much time.
For the picnickers, imagining they have seen
A cougar, (on a ledge overlooking the falls),
Are gathering their things and leaving.

Quickly before they are out of Mind
Remember them as they were:
Picking wildflowers and making fantastical
Creatures from the clouds lumbering by.

Surely we can make something of that.
The picnickers, as people will,
Inventing fantastical creatures,
Until the cougar emerging, scares them away.


Originally published in a 1966 issue of The Cape Rock. I found it in their 20th Anniversary issue (1984). I'm probably breaking copyright, but I doubt anyone actually cares, hope no one cares, in this case.

232avaland
May 7, 2011, 6:53am Top

Dan, I'm impressed with your determination to catch up on your reviews! Interesting notes on Drowning in Oil and wow, that's one expensive art/poetry book! (but I know he's a fave of yours).

And I like the bits of poetry scattered about your thread.

233baswood
May 7, 2011, 12:23pm Top

Dan, the copyright issue is interesting. I have no idea where we stand on this as I post poems on these threads. Then there are the quotes from books that I have read. Hmmmm.......

Back when I was working as a human resources advisor I would say to managers "If you don't want to know the answer then don't ask the question" perhaps that is appropriate for the copyright issues.

234dchaikin
May 7, 2011, 5:42pm Top

baswood - As I understand, if the poem is still restricted by copyright then you cannot post the entire poem online. You can post parts of it. You can also excerpt from books, stories, essays etc. I'm not sure how long poems are held under copyright.

Having said that, I see poems posted online all over the place. So, I don't think anyone enforces this rule. And, I think it's a bad rule because it prevents sharing poetry. Certainly, this can only hurt the author. I tend to waffle about how strictly I follow the rules.

235tomcatMurr
May 8, 2011, 12:23am Top

The rules are only invented for the benefit of the lawyers.

236dchaikin
Edited: May 10, 2011, 10:04am Top

#232 - Lois, meant to reply to you, but got sidetracked with the copyright thing...Larry book, Dark Pearls, is a work of art - the book itself, I mean. It helps that my wife is working on a graphic design MFA and really appreciates the work that went into the printing. This LaNana Creek Press, which is mainly a one-person press, is something special. So, I'm happy to have the book on for itself and it's content.

Murr - appreciate the intent, if not fully the simplicity. :)

also - question - does anyone know of a clear summary of copyright rules? I couldn't find anything clear, although I found something that said that up to three poems from one poet/work could be printed online if it is for education purposes, not for profit. Not sure I understood that correctly; but, for the record, all poems printed here are purely for education purposes (There is obviously no possibility of profit)...I feel much better now.

237citygirl
May 10, 2011, 5:28pm Top

As long as you're not making money for use of said poems, you're fine. And what poet would protest his work being published, wherever?

238labfs39
May 10, 2011, 8:08pm Top

Delurking to add that just because you aren't making money, doesn't mean it falls within fair use. Not that I think, Dan, that you have anything to worry about, but

To determine whether you are within fair use, the law calls for a balanced application of these four factors:

1.the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
2.the nature of the copyrighted work;
3.the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4.the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.


All four factors have to be considered, not just one.

For more see: Columbia University Libraries quick guide.

239citygirl
May 11, 2011, 9:26am Top

Well, sure, but nobody's going to do a fair-use analysis of Dan's use of poems on his thread, and the only way to catch the attention of anyone who might have a problem with it is through commercial use.

240dchaikin
May 11, 2011, 9:35am Top

#239 CG - I agree, I'm safe here. I'm not going to anything that would bother a writer/publisher regarding copyright. But, I would like to know what is actually legal.

#238 - Lisa - Thanks. Seems that copyright issues on a web board like this are far from crystal clear.

241janeajones
May 11, 2011, 1:53pm Top

Copyright is a murky area -- one of the reasons LT is so careful about posting author pictures and making sure they are either in the public domain or the photographer has granted permission. I once had some author pictures on a course website (obviously educational) -- I had copied them from the web -- and one of the photographers wanted to be paid to have them posted. Needless to say, I took the pictures down immediately.

242citygirl
May 11, 2011, 3:16pm Top

I always figure if I get a pic off of Google Images, it's fair game. I wonder if that's a good strategy.

*thinks of something book-related to say* Oh, I found this great site.

243ChocolateMuse
Edited: May 12, 2011, 2:25am Top

>242 citygirl: - I like "Nature and Greek Stuff" for John Keat's poems :)

LOL - and "800 Pages to Find Out One Dude is Jewish" for Daniel Deronda.

The English Patient: "Erotica for Classics Majors"

Hahaha Sorry to keep adding more, but: "This Is The First Book I've Read in Six Years" by Stieg Larsson :)

Citygirl, this is fun.

244citygirl
May 12, 2011, 9:09am Top

"Dating a Flower Feels Very One-Sided" for The Little Prince

"Texas Public Schools" for Fahrenheit 451

It is too much fun.

245dchaikin
May 12, 2011, 10:31pm Top

"Texas Public Schools" for Fahrenheit 451 ==> Gotta love that Texas reputation...(the news lately has been on the efforts in the Texas congress to 1. remove "concealed" from the concealed weapons permit & 2. allow guns on college campuses. Aren't they hard at work?)

246dchaikin
May 12, 2011, 10:48pm Top

Hawaii...ok, this isn't book related yet...we're going to Hawaii...we have plane tickets, a place to stay (Maui)....We are going to Hawaii!!! ... a little excited here.

So, I'm looking for book recommendations. Any suggestions welcome.

I've already scanned the library, and here is what I've requested:

Travel:
Fodor's Maui 2009, Frommer's Maui 2009, Frommer's Maui day by day, Hawaii Off the Beaten Path, Maui for dummies, Maui revealed, Maui, Moloka'i & Lana'i (2010...no touchstone. It's by Bonnie Friedman)

Non-fiction
Unfamiliar fishes by Sarah Vowell
Blue latitudes by Horwitz, Tony
Hawaii (On the Road Histories) by John H. Chambers
Island World: A History of Hawai'i and the United States by Gary Y. Okihiro
Roadside geology of Hawaii by Richard W. Hazlett (almost seems like a travel book)
Shoal of time by Gavan Daws

Fiction
The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Hawaii by James A. Michener

247Mr.Durick
May 13, 2011, 12:40am Top

The Folding Cliffs by W.S. Merwin is set on Kauai, but Merwin is a Maui resident, and I think the book tells well the spirit of the Hawaiians who believe their aina was taken from them.

Robert

248zenomax
May 13, 2011, 5:28am Top

Dan - I don't have any book recommendations, but my two interests in Hawaii are:

1. its importance in understanding evolution - an island chain with its own evolution mechanics which Darwin dwelt on
2. the close relationship between the Hawaiians and the maori. I have in my mind a project to read into maori language and culture so the links with Hawaii is quite interesting to me.

Not much use to you, but there seem to be rich pickings in reading about those islands.

249dchaikin
May 13, 2011, 10:14am Top

Robert - Thanks! Do you recommend only that book, or also others by Merwin. My library has a couple Collections by him (her?) but not The Folding Cliffs.

Zeno - I would also be interested. If I find something, I'll let you know. Most of what I've found appears to be about geology or history (most post-Cook history).

250avaland
May 13, 2011, 4:43pm Top

You could check out the offerings of the University of Hawaii press.

http://www.uhpress.hawaii.edu/cart/shopcore/?db_name=uhpress

251dchaikin
May 13, 2011, 5:27pm Top

#250 - Hadn't thought of that, great suggestion. Tons of stuff there to sift through, including a literary journal, Manoa (but it's $30 a issue).

252Mr.Durick
May 13, 2011, 5:37pm Top

Dan, The Folding Cliffs is a novel length narrative whereas I believe his other books are collections of shorter poems. I have some of them, but I haven't looked into them.

The Bamboo Ridge is a periodical of contemporary writing from Hawaii. I've never read it, but I've heard people talk about it.

Robert

253labfs39
May 15, 2011, 12:20pm Top

If you are anything like me, you will want to add some field guides, especially to fish if you plan to snorkel. Congratulations btw! Are you celebrating an occasion?

254rebeccanyc
May 15, 2011, 1:24pm Top

Have a great trip! And happy reading! I may have to explore some of the interesting books suggested here, since I don't think I've ever read anything about Hawaii.

255bragan
May 16, 2011, 12:52pm Top

I'm going to Hawaii, too, in September! So far the only relevant book I have is Unfamiliar Fishes, though, and I haven't gotten to it yet. Maybe soon. This reminds me that I ought to pick up some travel guides, myself, even if I think my aunt is doing most of the planning.

Hope you have a great trip!

256dchaikin
May 17, 2011, 11:07pm Top

#252 - Robert, thanks. I looked at the beginning of The Folding Cliffs on amazon. It won't be the 1st book I read on Hawaii, I need easy info, but I hope to get there. It's on an amazon "cart".

#253 - Not celebrating exactly. Just...it's just time we took a vacation...something special.

#254 - Rebecca, hopefully I can give some feedback on some of them...

#255 - bragan....which island, how long, have you been there before? September sounds nice, probably less expensive, less tourists... and you have more time then me to read-up and plan (or not plan)... I only have about three weeks.

257bragan
May 18, 2011, 12:28am Top

Nope, never been there before! Apparently we're spending a few days each on Maui, Oahu, and the big island. I hadn't really intended to go, to be honest, but I got talked into going by family members, who wanted an extra single person to come along so they'd have an even number of people. (This seems to happen to me surprisingly often.) My aunt has all kinds of activities in mind, apparently, and I've mostly just been somewhat dazedly nodding my head and going, "Uh, sure, sounds like fun!" I really ought to start reading up on it, that being my usual means of coping with any unfamiliar situation.

I'll be interested to hear any book recommendations/travel advice you may have! I definitely think I need to invest in a good tourist guide.

258amandameale
May 18, 2011, 10:01am Top

I hope both of you have a great time!

I was just admiring that title: Five Lavender Minutes of an Afternoon. How lovely.

259janeajones
May 18, 2011, 4:40pm Top

No suggestions for Hawaiian reading, just bon voyages for wonderful trips. Just don't take any of Pele's lava home as a souvenir: http://www.hawaiilogue.com/stealing-lava-rock-brings-bad-luck-or-does-it.html

260dchaikin
May 18, 2011, 8:08pm Top

Might have to risk that one...but only where legal.

261dchaikin
May 18, 2011, 8:23pm Top

#257 bragan - That is a benefit to being single which I wasn't aware of.

#258 Amanda - There is great stuff in that chapbook. It's freely available, via the link in post #45, if your interested.

262dchaikin
Jun 2, 2011, 12:27am Top



21. Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster by Tom Shroder & John Konrad (2011, 277 pages, read April 7-21)

This was the third book I’ve read on Macondo, and the most informative in terms of what actually happened on the drilling rig. I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about this book. It has within it all the step-by-step details that went into drilling the well, the people involved, and all aspects that played a part in the series of events that lead to the blowout. If this is something you want to know (and, it’s fascinating stuff, by the way), then this is the book for you to read on Macondo.

But, if you do read it, be aware that it doesn’t start out very promising. In the intro John Konrad explains that he’s not a writer. He runs a mariner website and works on floating rigs from a mariner position – that is he’s in charge when the rig is moving from place to place. And, having worked for Transocean in the past, he knew some of the crew on the Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon rig. He felt he had valuable info to share, and then somehow got Tom Shroder to help him write this book. He also states up front that his purpose is not to lay blame. He wants to share what actually happened and to allow readers to get a sense of what the crews due on rig. Then the book starts and we’re reading about the construction of the rig and a long section on the life of one 2nd-level mariner who worked on the rig. This is interesting, well enough written to remove fears of writing quality, but it doesn’t really pertain to the Macondo disaster in any significant way….

Every time I try to review this, I end up writing a book report…there I went again. Well, if you’re still reading, once I got past those opening sections I learned all sorts of fascinating information on drilling a deep water well, and now understand better drilling mud, and cement seals, and the long stem, spacer, centralizers, gas kicks, positive and negative tests etc. etc. There are a bewildering number of obscure steps in drilling a well. The strength in this book is that it’s discussed in enough detail that I was able to obtain some clarity.

A random music link in theme…but only by title, not lyrics. The song is called Gasoline by The Airborne Toxic Event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsiQiBmq-qw&feature=related

263dchaikin
Jun 2, 2011, 12:28am Top

About time I posted a review... I'm now six books behind.

264katiekrug
Jun 2, 2011, 10:06am Top

#262 - I will be looking for a copy of Fire on the Horizon, Dan. Thanks for a good review and I look forward to more (no pressure)!

265detailmuse
Jun 2, 2011, 10:38am Top

>263 dchaikin: no stress! get ready for Hawaii. I remember it as a real get away immersion, though my last time there was in the late '90s before ubiquitous cells phones and wifi. Have a terrific vacation.

266Mr.Durick
Jun 2, 2011, 5:20pm Top

I've added Fire on the Horizon to my waiting-for-the-paperback wishlist. In the meantime, if you tell me that there's something better, I'll switch it in.

Thanks,

Robert

267dchaikin
Edited: Jun 3, 2011, 8:16am Top

#264/5 - I don't feel pressure, just sad these books are slipping away before I can get my thoughts down.

Katie - thanks!
MJ - a get away immersion sounds wonderful...not likely with kids, but who knows...

#266 - Robert - Hope to have more to share. I gave up on #4 half way through - the one by Joel Achenbach. I think he was trying to make it entertaining, but I wasn't learning anything. I have one by Carl Safina (A Sea in Flames) sitting above my computer and I just won a new book by Rowan Jacobson as an Early Reviewer. After Hawaii...

268Mr.Durick
Jun 3, 2011, 1:11am Top

You can look out in all directions from Maui and not see a drilling rig.

Robert

269dchaikin
Jun 3, 2011, 8:22am Top

#268 - or my office...or flat land...or "I wasn't born in Texas but..." bumper stickers (pardon the quiver)...

270janepriceestrada
Jun 7, 2011, 10:39pm Top

262 - Nice review. I'll definitely pick this one up.

271dchaikin
Jun 8, 2011, 12:51am Top

#270 Hi Jane - hope to read your thoughts on it.

272dchaikin
Jun 8, 2011, 12:53am Top



22. Barefoot Gen, Volume Eight : Merchants of Death by Keiji Nakazawa (1993, 256 pages, read Apr 21-29)

I did read this (mostly in one day) in the sense that I sat down and read the words, looked at the illustrations and turned the pages, but my memory is kind of a blur. Just bits and pieces of plot left, not much to say.

Another random somewhat related link, on Hiroshima. So you know, it’s disturbing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFAiB3X_b9A&feature=related

273dchaikin
Jun 8, 2011, 1:21am Top



23. Florida in Poetry : A History of the Imagination by Jane Anderson Jones & Maurice O'Sullivan (editors), (1995, 285 pages, read Jan 25 – Apr 30)

This is one of those moments where I really regret my inability to write proper reviews this year. I read this for so long, a few poems a day, that it became part of my daily routine. I even hugged the book when I finished because it had become so familiar and I wasn’t ready to let it go.

To attempt a proper review, (Club Read’s) JA Jones and M O’Sullivan put together, through 1995, an anthology covering Florida poetry through its history, from Spanish and non-Spanish explorers and early almost-settlers through songs and chants, through Wallace Stevens and so on up to a long section on contemporary poetry. I read the early parts along with Marjorie Stoneman Douglas’s River of Grass and the echoes of the history and poetry of those times together was enchanting. The contemporary section was the best, high quality stuff of great variety.

On personal level I somehow got a lot of 1930’s poems, connecting them with the time period of my grandparent’s marriage in Miami Beach. Several contemporary poems reached me, but I was surprised how moved I was by the Cuban poets Yvonne Sepia and Ricardo Pau-Llosa. Other authors I highlighted include Donald Justice, Judith Berke, Van k. Brock, Alison Kolodinsky, Richard Wilbur, and especially especially Enid Shomer who has several mesmerizing poems within.

For the random somewhat related link…ok, I know, this is wrong on several levels : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UruXWui1EG8

274janeajones
Jun 8, 2011, 3:52pm Top

Dan -- I'm so glad you enjoyed FIP. I initially resisted much of the 30s stuff, but they really grew on me as time went on -- such a different time perspective. A bit sentimental, perhaps, but on the whole so joyful. I'd love to work on an updated edition, but I'm afraid there are still too many of this edition still waiting to be sold.

Jimmy Buffett is never wrong.

275dchaikin
Jun 18, 2011, 1:22pm Top

Back from Maui yesterday, and here are the books I feel I should be reading now...at once, of course:

1. Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell - almost done, actually. Library wants it back June 28, and my wife wants it in time to read it...
2. Island Fire : An Anthology of Literature from Hawai'i by editors Cheryl A. Harstad & James R. Harstad - A nice used-book find in Paia, Maui. All high quality stuff so far.
3. The Way of Boys by Anthony Rao & Michelle D. Seaton - On raising boys. I've read chapter one (excellent)
4. Shark Dialogues by Kiana Davenport - Hawaiian historical fiction. I've read 3/4 of this, but it's so bad I'm ready to chuck it. Probably will abandon.
5. Shadows on the Gulf : a journey through our last great wetland by Rowan Jacobsen - Early Reviewer, just arrived yesterday
6. The Folding Cliffs : A Narrative of 19th-century Hawaii by W. S. Merwin - Took a ~4 starts before I could actually read it. It's not hard, just not normal sentences since it's all in prose. Very intrigued.
7. Woman of Rome : A Life of Elsa Morante by Lily Tuck - started this on the plane home (excellent so far, really really interesting)
8. Faerie Queen by Edmund Spenser - sigh....I'm supposed to be reading this with Le Salon, but I got a little side-tracked by Maui...haven't touched it...it just looks at me with an unspoken sarcastic "like I'm surprised" expression.
9. Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen - side-tracked by Maui. I'll probably need to start over.
10. Sea of Flames by Carl Safina - not opened yet.

...

276dchaikin
Jun 18, 2011, 1:26pm Top

#274 Jane - Would love to read your updated edition. If you have a shortlist of suggestions for further reading, please post (or point me there). Also, I would like suggestions on following up with Enid Shomer...anything by her...and more s. fl flavored Donald Justice. (sorry for getting back to you so much later. Distracted, to understate...)

277baswood
Jun 18, 2011, 6:25pm Top

Hi Dan, Hope you had a good holiday. I have started The Faerie Queene and once you get used to the language it is a rollicking good read. I am going slowly: one canto per sitting, should take me about three months at current speed.

278dchaikin
Jun 18, 2011, 10:56pm Top

#277 Barry - trip was amazing, absolutely amazing. So many things to see, and all so close together yet so different, and all on Maui. We did something different everyday. Re The Faerie Queen - that's a helpful comment. I will try it out, not sure it will be in June, However.

279dchaikin
Edited: Jun 18, 2011, 11:53pm Top

A Hawaiian (and sometimes just Maui) book rundown -

Travel Books

Recommended

Maui Revealed by Andrew Doughty (2011, 5th edition) - Has a reputation as the best travel book for Maui, and I think it lives us up to that. I really liked that I didn't have to read through the "happy" voice to interpret this. They describe things as they are and they have lots of interesting info. There were some limitations to what they cover (we noticed this with dining and hiking and they missed a wonderful little trail along La Peruose Bay - but then no other book we checked had this either. Maybe it's new.) Also, I though there were too many "Gems" or "Ono" (for dining). (webpage is here: http://www.wizardpub.com/maui/maui.html )

Fodor's Hawaii 2011 - We left this at home and only took the Maui books with us because it was smaller. But this was better for us even for Maui because it was more concise and all the critical info was in there - sometimes word-for-word. What I liked is that when Fodors highlighted something as recommended, it was really something impressive.

Top 10 Maui, Molokai & Lanai (Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guides) by Bonnie Friedman (2004/2010) - I recommend this mainly because we the Library wouldn't let us take this with us, and we missed it. It was promising as a nice quick reference list, but I can't report on whether it was really any good.

Only OK
Roadside Geology of Hawaii by Richard W. Hazlett & Donald W. Hyndman (1996) - Good for the big picture. But, for a roadside guide I wanted details on roadside outcrops. Here it was wanting. And I hated the "And 100 feet below you is..."

Fodor's Maui 2009 -- we liked Fodors, but preferred "Hawaii" to "Maui"

Hawaii (Eyewitness Travel Guides) by Bonnie Friedman (DK Travel 2011) -- Very pretty. I kept picking this up because it looks so promising...then not actually learning anything useful.

Frommer's Hawaii with Kids (3rd Edition) by Jeanette Foster (2009) -- my wife like this, but too much "happy voice" for me, which you have to sort of interpret.

Frommer's Maui 2009 by Jeanette Foster -- Not bad really, but it's annoying to have to try to interpret through that "happy voice" whether something is actually any good or not.

Didn’t use
Hawaii Off the Beaten Path 8th by Sean Pager & Carrie Frasure (2010) -- my wife glanced at it and didn't really like it.
Maui For Dummies by Cheryl Farr Leas (2009) -- my wife glanced at this and didn't like it.

Histories

Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz (2002) - I started here and loved the book. A brief history-slash-brief travelogue. Very fun. But it takes ~375 pages before you get to Hawaii and there is only so much info there. So for the curious, but maybe not the Hawaii focused.

Hawaii (On the Road Histories) by John H. Chambers (2006) - I recommend this as a quick history (although it's not that quick). Hawaii's history is very confusing (and mostly pretty depressing) because so many things happen so quickly and none of them are something you might guess (if you're like me, and didn't know). Terrible missionaries do wonderful things that in the end are awful...that's the easy part. There are whalers, European attacks, annexations, un-annexations, the potpourri of imported labor, the Sugar barons and complicated Hawaiian royalty, the westerners who did good things, but maybe were bad people, or at least pretty messed up in various ways and so on. So, a quick linear run-down is actually quite valuable.

Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell (2011) - 4/5 done. I really like what Vowell is doing here, trying to really understand the complicated Hawaiian 19th-century while keeping things a little lighter and fun (she is roughly similar to Bill Bryson or Tony Horwitz). But, clarity is not here. She has to tie things to together, which means jumping around. So, I recommend starting with something more linear.

didn't read... :(
Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands by Gavan Daws (1968) - An important work, continuously sited by Chambers. First chapter was good
Island World: A History of Hawai'i and the United States by Gary Y. Okihiro (2008) - I haven't opened this yet.

To Be continued...

280bragan
Edited: Jun 19, 2011, 12:04am Top

Welcome back! I picked up a copy of Frommer's Hawaii 2011 recently. I'm wondering if maybe I should have gone with the Fodor's instead. Although while I know what you mean about the "happy voice," I've gotten so used to ignoring it when it comes to travel guides that I barely even notice it anymore.

And I'd kind of wished I'd started with something more linear than Unfamiliar Fishes myself.

281dchaikin
Edited: Jun 19, 2011, 12:59am Top

#280 bragan - I do highly recommend the "Revealed" books and Fodors. You might check your library and try to get a free glance. Of the 15 books listed in post 279, I only own two. The other thirteen were from the library.

Fiction
Island Fire : An Anthology of Literature from Hawai'i by Cheryl A. Harstad & James R. Harstad (2002) - Found this in a little "antique" store in Paia on Maui, and the first 70 pages that I've read are by far the best literary link to Hawaii that I've found. So, for someone from this LT group interested in Hawaii, I recommend it. The book was originally one volume of several on literature across the Pacific specifically put together college-level instructions in the 1980s (?). But, according to the preface, it was quite popular so they republished it as one book. They also reworked it, removing some pieces, and adding new ones and refined it for the general reader. I love that it includes Hawaiian language chants and poetry (with translations). And I like that none of the usual famous authors are here: no Melville, or Twain, or Robert Louis Stevenson, or Jack London or James Michener. It's good stuff.

Shark Dialogues by Kiana Davenport (1995) - I saw this recommended in many places, including the travel books, as a good place to learn about Hawaiian history. I read this in order to get out of the distant historical voice and try to gain something of the experience of Hawaiian history. This fits that bill, but, unfortunately, the writing goes from from maybe OK to bad to absolutely trash. I kept waiting for it to get better, but when the love scene explained that he wanted her so bad he wanted her spleen, that was too much for me. Have had trouble making more progress. Not recommended.

The Common Bond by Donigan Merritt (2008) - Not sure I should include this here. I read it in 2008 and really liked it. A lot of time is spent in Hawaii, on the big island, and those parts did stick in their own way. But, while I do recommend the book, I don't think I would recommend it for the Hawaii aspect. Merritt lived in Hawaii for part of his younger life.

The Folding Cliffs: A Narrative by W.S. Merwin (1998) - In verse. I haven't read enough to say anything other than that the first 10 pages are very promising - now that I figured out how to read them.

Hawaii by James A. Michener (1959) - Haven't opened it up. I know there are errors, but I think I do want to read this because it was Michener's first "Michener" book - by which I meant it was his first history through short-stories over-sized mega-tome - so, it's the book where he found is style. It took him eight years to write, including several years of just research. So, I'm curious.

Books I want to read, but never saw:

Ka'a'awa: A Novel About Hawaii in the 1850s* by O. A. Bushnell
Molokai by O. A. Bushnell - Apparently this is considered the Hawaiian novel.

Hawaiian Antiquities by David Malo - Malo was a unique and special person in history. In the 19th-century he first fully took in the Hawaiian mythology and knowledge base, then later became Christian and soaked in the missionaries views (and then wrote this book about Hawaiian antiquities.). Later in life, having watched the Hawaiians disappear to a powerless minority in their own islands, he turned against the missionaries and everything foreign. For Hawaiian history he was a treasure.

*no touchstone. Link here: http://www.librarything.com/work/145587

282rebeccanyc
Jun 19, 2011, 12:40pm Top

Great lists of books about Hawaii -- thanks! Hope you had some time to enjoy the beach too!

283janepriceestrada
Jun 19, 2011, 12:58pm Top

Sounds like you had a good trip. We've had 2 different sets of family members live in Hawaii for periods of time, and each time we considered going while we had a place to stay but didn't. I still regret it. One day perhaps.

Really appreciate all the book recommendations though.

>he wanted her so bad he wanted her spleen - blech!

284dchaikin
Jun 19, 2011, 2:33pm Top

#282 Rebecca - We hit several different beaches and enjoyed them. We could see so much magnificent stuff in one day, but still the beach was somehow always the highlight - for both parents and kids.

#283 - Jane - It's recommended...Hawaii, I mean. :)

285dchaikin
Edited: Jun 25, 2011, 10:29am Top

Inspired by rebeccanyc

So far I've read 28 books

4 novels - actually one was a fantasy book, so in a way only 3
11 non-fiction (not including graphic novels)
6 poetry collections ( three single author, two lit reviews, one anthology)
6 graphic novels
1 juvenile

7 were by woman authors / 18 by men
2 classics of sorts - both nonfiction
5 non-American authors - 8 books - 6 were graphic novels / 17 American ( I think Tony Horwitz is American) / 3 multi- author.

286dchaikin
Edited: Jun 28, 2011, 1:15am Top



24. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (2009, 528 pages, read Apr 16 – May 12)

If you wanted to be American author in the 1950’s, in the era of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, it would probably be best not to spend your young adulthood in Mexico in the household of communist Diego Rivera, and it would probably not be best, if the opportunity arrived, to later become Leon Trostky’s personal secretary. Given seeing the problems in this might take some unusual foresight in your still somewhat adolescent mind, there is still, I think clearly, some ridiculousness to this plot. I came across several critical reviews before I read the book. They tended to complain that Kingsolver manipulates the story to push her ideas. Reviewers also might say something to the effect that they like her ideas, they just don’t want them pontificated in her novels.

Yes, Kingsolver is guilty of this. She does manipulate her characters and her story terribly, and, to me, blatantly to make her point that Americans are paranoid and McCarthism was pretty bad, and repeatable. And there is a clear reference to our own Bush II-and-beyond era. Nonetheless, I found this enjoyable. I’ve read very few novels this year, and those I’ve read I have had trouble getting into. But this one I was able to slip into and lose my way and pretty much enjoy reading it the whole way through. It helped, I think, first that the writing is in a diary form and second that it feels like non-fiction. Kingsolver, (or Harrison Shepherd, our young author) isn’t writing a story so much as she (he) is describing the story.

There are plenty of problems in the book, and I am not crazy about its Orange Prize label. But, still it can be a fun read that happens to explore Mexico, and Diego Rivera, Frida Khalo and Trostky. Sure there are some less than plausible details, but there are also plenty things to think about.

What I find kind of interesting about all this is that Kingsolver is manipulating us, the reader, to be very uncomfortable with getting manipulated by the American propaganda system (both in the 1950’s, and, presumably, its modern counterpart). It’s manipulation to blast manipulation. Surely she meant us to see that…right?

287zenomax
Jun 28, 2011, 3:23am Top

Interesting comments on what appears to be an interesting novel dan. I like the way your reading this year has only a small percentage of traditional novels in its makeup.

I guess its nice after some of the heavyweight books you read last year to mix things up a little..?

288labfs39
Jun 28, 2011, 11:52am Top

I love the last point in your review. I haven't read Lacuna yet, but now I'm curious.

289dchaikin
Jun 28, 2011, 12:05pm Top

Z - that lack of novels has been an accident, not sure why I did that. I did plan to read lighter stuff for a bit.

Thanks Lisa.

290janeajones
Jun 28, 2011, 12:11pm Top

Enjoyed your review, Dan -- I felt much the same way about the novel as you did. While I enjoyed most of it, it's certainly not Kingsolver's best.

291detailmuse
Jun 28, 2011, 12:20pm Top

heh, I'm also reading about 1950s propaganda -- Bomboozled, about the focus on cold war civil-defense activities (fallout shelters, duck-and-cover, preparedness) as a distraction from the un-survivability of nuclear war ... and it brings to mind the parallels today in response to terrorism.

Kingsolver is a terrific writer. But she preaches. I base this only on having read The Poisonwood Bible, where -- bible, preaching -- it also could have seemed ironic and intentional but I don't think so.

292baswood
Jun 28, 2011, 6:32pm Top

I enjoyed your review of The Lacuna Dan. It is a book I will read sooner rather than later mainly because of Lynne's(my wife) interest in the paintings of Frida Khalo. I think she has read at least two biographies about her. Of course we have seen the film Frida and so I already have a lot of background stuff.

Good to see that you enjoyed the novel although nearly everybody who has reviewed the book seems to have some mixed feelings about it.

293dchaikin
Jun 30, 2011, 9:16am Top

Jane, MJ & Barry - thanks all for stopping by.

Jane - this was my first Kingsolver, although we own a few others and my wife really enjoyed the non-fiction Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

MJ - Bomboozled sounds like fascinating stuff. Although, one might argue there is some positive in the cost/benefit of trying to get people to worry less about something they can't do anything about anyway....at least it sounds better then actively creating hatred and searching out "communists" in every real and fanciful form without any interest in what the concept of Communism actually means. It's interesting to me that people feel that the need to call Obama a Communist and insist it's a most sinister of insults (they also insist it's accurate, which is silly). Why is being a Communist an insult? This is a propaganda success. /rant and beginning of wondering why I felt the need to write and post that...

Barry - I'm fascinated by Kahlo. She has a big and entertaining part in the book, but not one that helped me understand her in any different or better way.

294dchaikin
Edited: Jun 30, 2011, 6:49pm Top

When I first posted this I forgot to mention that this is from a quiz I found through Jenny's (GCPLreader) thread. You just pick your favorite picture, which I found fun.

Your result for What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test...

Traditional, Vibrant, and Tasteful

23 Islamic, 6 Impressionist, 6 Ukiyo-e, -19 Cubist, -27 Abstract and 8 Renaissance!

Islamic art is developed from many sources: Roman, Early Christian, and Byzantine styles were taken over in early Islamic architecture; the architecture and decorative art of pre-Islamic Persia was of paramount significance; Central Asian styles were brought in with various nomadic incursions; and Chinese influences . Islamic art uses many geometical floral or vegetable designs in a repetitive pattern known as arabesque. It is used to symbolize the transcendent, indivisible and infinite nature of Allah.


People that like Islamic art tend to be more traditional people that appreciate keeping patterns that they learned and experienced from their past. It is not to say that they are not innovative personalities, they just do not like to let go of their roots. They like to put new ideas into details and make certain that they will work before sharing them with others. Failure is not something they like to think about because they are more interested in being successful and appreciated for their intelligence. These people can also be or like elaborate things in their life as long as they are tasteful. They tend to prefer geometric patterns and vibrant colors.



Take What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test at HelloQuizzy

295dchaikin
Jun 30, 2011, 11:39am Top

There is some criticism in that analysis...but I can't say it's inaccurate in any specific way.

296GCPLreader
Jun 30, 2011, 11:45am Top

ah, tasteful and intelligent --that's how I see you. :o) I thought mine was spot-on too, especially the part about being a homebody.

297Mr.Durick
Jun 30, 2011, 6:33pm Top

Thanks, Daniel. I did the quiz and rather than crowd your thread put my results here. I am more of a cubist than my results reflect, but I am not unhappy with them. They do, however, reflect aspiration more than reality.

Robert

298dchaikin
Jun 30, 2011, 6:47pm Top

Jenny - You might be the only one who sees me that way. :) A nice compliment.

Robert - I should have mentioned that I found this through Jenny's (GCPLreader) thread here in Club Read...actually, I think I should edit that post.

299labfs39
Jun 30, 2011, 6:55pm Top

Before the thread police arrive, just a gentle reminder that it is time for a new thread. Congrats on being so popular!

300dchaikin
Jul 1, 2011, 2:47pm Top

Lisa - can you help me hide from them a few more days...limited internet connection at the moment

301labfs39
Jul 2, 2011, 12:38pm Top

I am powerless but sympathetic. Not quite sure who the thread police are, other than Richard. Best thing I can do is stay off your thread. Sorry about the dreaded computer/Internet problems...

302ChocolateMuse
Jul 3, 2011, 10:28pm Top

Hey Dan, if interested, mine is here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/115388#2796379

303dchaikin
Jul 6, 2011, 1:25pm Top

My part 2 is here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/120136

Choc - I missed your part 2, only 146 posts behind. But that's not bad since I've been out of town two of the last three weeks and am only about 50 posts behind every other thread...

Please post on Part 2....unless you really really want to post here instead...

304avaland
Edited: Jul 12, 2011, 10:15am Top

>286 dchaikin: Interesting review. I have not read the book, and have never been attracted to Kingsolver, despite the popularity.

I recently read a book called Penwoman, which was THE book of the Swedish women's suffrage movement in 1910. It was also a runaway bestseller and is still read in Sweden today. That intrigued me, so I chased it down. The book begins with a conversation between two women on a train (who nominally know each other from the school they both work at) - one, a suffragist; the other, politically indifferent. I was expecting dialog that might come off a bit heavy-handed or overbearing, but the author maintains a careful balance, and that's key, isn't it? The suffragist is passionate, yet stops short of preaching. The other woman holds her own in the conversation.

ETA: 6 Impressionist, 5 Islamic, -1 Ukiyo-e, -3 Cubist, -9 Abstract and -9 Renaissance! Actually, I had a lot of trouble picking out a "preference". I liked things about most of them (I have a minor in Art History).

305dchaikin
Jul 23, 2011, 5:59pm Top

Hi Lois. I'm thinking this is about showing instead of telling, yes a hard balance. I'll take it from you that Penwoman succeeded with some grace.

psst - go to my new thread here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/120136

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