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kidzdoc is cutting down the mountain of unread books in 2012: part 6

75 Books Challenge for 2012

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1kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 30, 2012, 8:16am Top



Robert Doisneau, School Kids, 1956










Currently reading:



The Leopard by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
Splay Anthem by Nathaniel Mackey

Completed books:

January:
1. Volcano by Shusaku Endo (review)
2. False Friends: Book Two by Ellie Malet Spradbery (review)
3. A Disease Apart: Leprosy in the Modern World by Tony Gould (review)
4. Best Mets: Fifty Years of Highs and Lows from New York's Most Agonizingly Amazin' Team by Matthew Silverman (review)
5. Walkabout by James Vance Marshall (review)
6. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (review)
7. Letter from the Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.
8. Mister Blue by Jacques Poulin (review)
9. Stained Glass Elegies by Shusaku Endo (review)
10. Botchan (Master Darling) by Natsume Soseki (review)
11. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
12. Guadalajara by Quim Monzó (review)

February:
13. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
14. Erasure by Percival Everett
15. Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to Be Black Now by Touré
16. Memed, My Hawk by Yashar Kemal
17. India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India by Akash Kapur (review)
18. The Three-Cornered World by Natsume Soseki
19. Angel by Elizabeth Taylor
20. Kokoro by Natsume Soseki
21. The Golden Country by Shusaku Endo
22. The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi

March:
23. Professor Andersen's Night by Dag Solstad
24. Amsterdam Stories by Nescio
25. Your New Baby: A Guide to Newborn Care by Roy Benaroch, MD (review)
26. Fragile Beginnings: Discoveries and Triumphs in the Newborn ICU by Adam Wolfberg, MD (review)
27. There but for the by Ali Smith
28. The Deportees and Other Stories by Roddy Doyle
29. When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the New York Knicks by Harvey Araton (review)
30. Walk on Water: Inside an Elite Pediatric Surgical Unit by Michael Rudman (review)
31. Suffer the Children: Flaws, Foibles, Fallacies and the Grave Shortcomings of Pediatric Care by Peter Palmieri (review)
32. Tonight No Poetry Will Serve by Adrienne Rich

April:
33. Little Misunderstandings of No Importance by Antonio Tabucchi
34. One with Others by C.D. Wright (review)
35. The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro by Antonio Tabucchi (review)
36. Boundaries by Elizabeth Nunez (reviewed in issue 17 of Belletrista)
37. Panther Baby by Jamal Joseph (review)
38. The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq
39. Waifs and Strays by Micah Ballard (review)
40. Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (review)
41. Natural Birth by Toi Derricotte (review)
42. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (review)
43. Thirst by Andrei Gelasimov (review)
44. When I Was a Poet by David Meltzer (review)
45. Book of My Mother by Albert Cohen (review)
46. The Lepers of Molokai by Charles Warren Stoddard

May:

2kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 28, 2012, 2:52pm Top

TBR books read in 2012 (books on my shelf for ≥6 months):

1. A Disease Apart: Leprosy in the Modern World by Tony Gould
2. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
3. Botchan (Master Darling) by Natsume Soseki
4. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
5. Guadalajara by Quim Monzó
6. Memed, My Hawk by Yashar Kemal
7. The Three-Cornered World by Natsume Soseki
8. Kokoro by Natsume Soseki
9. The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi
10. The Deportees and Other Stories by Roddy Doyle
11. Little Misunderstandings of No Importance by Antonio Tabucchi
12. One with Others by C.D. Wright
13. The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro by Antonio Tabucchi
14. Waifs and Strays by Micah Ballard
15. Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
16. When I Was a Poet by David Meltzer

Books purchased in 2012:

1. The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq ($13.99) √
2. Fragile Beginnings: Discoveries and Triumphs in the Newborn ICU by Adam Wolfberg, MD ($9.99) √
3. The Irish Americans: A History by Jay P. Dolan ($0.99)
4. The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God and Other Stories by Etgar Keret ($8.70 (partial purchase))
5. The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright ($12.99)
6. Suffer the Children: Flaws, Foibles, Fallacies and the Grave Shortcomings of Pediatric Care by Peter Palmieri ($3.99) √
7. The King of Kahel by Tierno Monénembo ($0.99)
8. The Secret Piano: From Mao's Labor Camps to Bach's Goldberg Variations by Zhu Xiao-Mei ($0.99)
9. The Greenhouse by Audur Ava Olafsdottir ($0.99)
10. Thirst by Andrei Gelasimov ($0.99) √
11. Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick ($9.99)
12. Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding ($9.99)
13. Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye (£19.27)

3kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 30, 2012, 8:17am Top

Books acquired in 2012: (books in bold are ones that I purchased this year)

January:
1. Best Mets: Fifty Years of Highs and Lows from New York's Most Agonizingly Amazin' Team by Matthew Silverman (2 Jan; LT Early Reviewer book) √
2. The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq (3 Jan; Kindle purchase)
3. The Lepers of Molokai by Charles Warren Stoddard (7 Jan; free Kindle download) √
4. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (8 Jan; gift book)
5. Walkabout by James Vance Marshall (8 Jan; NYRB Book Club) √
6. There but for the by Ali Smith (9 Jan; ordered from Alibris 30 Jan) √
7. I Am a Cat by Natsume Soseki (9 Jan; ordered from Alibris 30 Jan)
8. The Samurai by Shusaku Endo (9 Jan; ordered from Alibris 30 Jan)
9. Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima ((9 Jan; ordered from Alibris 30 Jan)
10. Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami (9 Jan; ordered from Alibris 30 Jan)
11. Black Talk, Blue Thoughts, and Walking the Color Line: Dispatches from a Black Journalista by Erin Aubry Kaplan (10 Jan; LT Early Reviewer book)
12. Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell (11 Jan; ordered from Strand Book Store on 27 Dec)
13. Runaway Horses by Yukio Mishima (11 Jan; ordered from Strand Book Store on 27 Dec)
14. The Temple of Dawn by Yukio Mishima (11 Jan; ordered from Strand Book Store on 27 Dec)
15. The Golden Country by Shusaku Endo (11 Jan; ordered from Strand Book Store on 27 Dec) √
16. Deep River by Shusaku Endo (11 Jan; ordered from Strand Book Store on 27 Dec)
17. Letter from the Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr. (15 Jan; free download) √

February:
18. Panther Baby by Jamal Joseph (2 Feb; free ARC) √
19. Angel by Elizabeth Taylor (4 Feb; NYRB Book Club) √
20. Class War?: What Americans Really Think about Economic Inequality by Benjamin I. Page (10 Feb; free e-book from U of Chicago Press)
21. India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India by Akash Kapur (15 Feb; LT Early Reviewer book) √
22. Amsterdam Stories by Nescio (29 Feb; NYRB Book Club) √

March:
23. Your new baby: A guide to newborn care by Roy Benaroch (6 Mar; free Kindle download) √
24. Fragile Beginnings: Discoveries and Triumphs in the Newborn ICU by Adam Wolfberg, MD (11 Mar; Kindle purchase)
25. The Irish Americans: A History by Jay P. Dolan (17 Mar; Kindle purchase)
26. The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God & Other Stories by Etgar Keret (17 Mar; partial book purchase from Barnes & Noble gift order)
27. The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen (17 Mar; Barnes & Noble gift order)
28. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (17 Mar; Barnes & Noble gift order) √
29. Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now--As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It by Craig Taylor (17 Mar; Barnes & Noble gift order)
30. The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright (17 Mar; iBooks order)
31. When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the New York Knicks by Harvey Araton (20 Mar; Kindle gift book) √
32. Assumption by Percival Everett (20 Mar; Kindle gift book)
33. The Barbarian Nurseries by Héctor Tobar (20 Mar; Kindle gift book)
34. A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes (22 Mar; Kindle gift book)
35. The Man Within My Head by Pico Iyer (25 Mar; Kindle gift book)
36. Walk on Water: Inside an Elite Pediatric Surgical Unit by Michael Rudman (25 Mar; borrowed book) √
37. Knickerbocker's History of New York, Complete by Washington Irving (26 Mar; free Kindle download)
38. Suffer the Children: Flaws, Foibles, Fallacies and the Grave Shortcomings of Pediatric Care by Peter Palmieri (26 Mar; Kindle purchase) √

April:
39. Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley (3 Apr; NYRB Book Club)
40. The King of Kahel by Tierno Monénembo (15 Apr; Kindle e-book)
41. The Secret Piano: From Mao's Labor Camps to Bach's Goldberg Variations by Zhu Xiao-Mei (15 Apr; Kindle e-book)
42. The Greenhouse by Audur Ava Olafsdottir (15 Apr; Kindle e-book)
43. Thirst by Andrei Gelasimov (15 Apr; Kindle e-book) √
44. Book of My Mother by Albert Cohen (16 Apr; Archipelago Books 2011 subscription) √
45. My Struggle: Book One by Karl Ove Knausgaard (16 Apr; Archipelago Books 2011 subscription)
46. As Though She Were Sleeping by Elias Khoury (16 Apr; Archipelago Books 2011 subscription)
47. Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick (17 Apr; Kindle e-book)
48. Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding (17 Apr; Kindle e-book)
49. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (22 Apr; free Kindle e-book)
50. Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye (28 Apr; Amazon UK order)

4kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 19, 2012, 9:01am Top

This past Saturday marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert Doisneau (1912-1994), one of the greatest 20th century photographers, and one of my favorites as well. He is best known for his photographs of ordinary citizens on the streets of Paris, including the couple in his most famous work, Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville:



I particularly love his photos of children in Paris:





5kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 19, 2012, 9:08am Top



I'll continue with my celebration of National Poetry Month in the US by posting a poem by a different author every day through April. Today's poem is by Tracy K. Smith, an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton, who won this year's Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her collection Life on Mars:



Duende

1. The earth is dry and they live wanting.
Each with a small reservoir
Of furious music heavy in the throat.
They drag it out and with nails in their feet
Coax the night into being. Brief believing.
A skirt shimmering with sequins and lies.
And in this night that is not night,
Each word is a wish, each phrase
A shape their bodies ache to fill—

I’m going to braid my hair
Braid many colors into my hair
I’ll put a long braid in my hair
And write your name there

They defy gravity to feel tugged back.
The clatter, the mad slap of landing.


2. And not just them. Not just
The ramshackle family, the tios,
Primitos, not just the bailaor
Whose heels have notched
And hammered time
So the hours flow in place
Like a tin river, marking
Only what once was.
Not just the voices scraping
Against the river, nor the hands
nudging them farther, fingers
like blind birds, palms empty,
echoing. Not just the women
with sober faces and flowers
in their hair, the ones who dance
as though they're burying
memory—one last time—
beneath them.
And I hate to do it here.
To set myself heavily beside them.
Not now that they’ve proven
The body a myth, parable
For what not even language
Moves quickly enough to name.
If I call it pain, and try to touch it
With my hands, my own life,
It lies still and the music thins,
A pulse felt for through garments.
If I lean into the desire it starts from—
If I lean unbuttoned into the blow
Of loss after loss, love tossed
Into the ecstatic void—
It carries me with it farther,
To chords that stretch and bend
Like light through colored glass.
But it races on, toward shadows
Where the world I know
And the world I fear
Threaten to meet.

3. There is always a road,
The sea, dark hair, dolor.

Always a question
Bigger than itself—

They say you’re leaving Monday
Why can’t you leave on Tuesday?

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16830

6kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 19, 2012, 9:37am Top

Hmm...I can't think of what I was going to put in this space. So, here's another photograph by Doisneau:

7mckait
Edited: Apr 19, 2012, 9:08am Top

gotcha

Great looking thread !!!

8richardderus
Apr 19, 2012, 9:13am Top

Good morning.

9LizzieD
Apr 19, 2012, 9:28am Top

Thank you for the pictures and the poem so far, Darryl! I never knew Doisneau's name, but the images are --- iconic. Sorry for the cliché, but there it is.

10kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 19, 2012, 9:41am Top

>7 mckait: Thanks, Kath!

>8 richardderus: Good morning to you, sir!

>9 LizzieD: You're welcome, Peggy. I was familiar with Doisneau's work, but I didn't know his name until this weekend, when the Google image of the day was created from his photographs:

11Donna828
Edited: Apr 19, 2012, 9:55am Top

Hi Darryl, I'm delurking to say how much I enjoy the lively discussions your thread generates. I was saddened by the lack of a Fiction Pulitzer Prize winner this year. I agree with Ann Patchett that writers, readers, and booksellers all share in the loss. I was appalled by Laura Miller's report that the judges were so busy that they probably didn't read more than the three fiction nominees last year. Did I read that correctly? I'm sure there would be many well-read LTers that would love to serve as Pulitzer judges...and who would be more qualified to boot!

Thank you for sharing the lovely photographs and the poems. I appreciate the daily doses of culture. Btw, Gillespie and I is calling my name too!

12EBT1002
Apr 19, 2012, 10:28am Top

5> wow. that is a knock-your-socks-off poem. I will need to read it again. And perhaps again.

13kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 19, 2012, 11:36am Top

>11 Donna828: Thanks, Donna. I agree with you; it's very disappointing that no Pulitzer Prize was awarded for Fiction this year, particularly for the three authors whose books were listed as finalists.

I'll play devil's advocate for a moment, since the Pulitzer board has been getting beaten up repeatedly by many (including me) over the past few days.

To be clear, the judges read hundreds of books as part of their duty, but the Pulitzer board members, who ultimately decide who wins the Pulitzer in each category, may not have read any more fiction than the three books that were recommended to them by the judges, according the Laura Miller's article:

Chances are good that the three novels recommended by this year’s Pulitzer jury — “Swamplandia!” by Karen Russell, “Train Dreams” by Denis Johnson, and “The Pale King” by David Foster Wallace — are the only three serious new novels many of the board members read last year, apart, perhaps, from one or two others.


Miller also speculates that

because the Pulitzer Board is fairly representative of educated Americans, it surely includes a lot of people who don’t really have time to read fiction — or, at least, literary fiction — anymore.


Clearly she knows more about the process than any of us do, but how does she know that some, most or all the board members don't read serious fiction, and that the only serious books they read from 2011 were the ones that the judges recommended to them? I'm considerably less busy than the average practicing physician, but many of my colleagues and former medical school and residency classmates, most of whom are far busier than I am with busy practices and even busier families, are active readers of all types of fiction (and non-fiction), ranging from Harry Potter and The Hunger Games to Cutting for Stone, East of Eden and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. (Sometimes the doctors' lounge at the hospital I work at sounds like a lunchtime book club!) So, if these folks can find time to regularly read fiction, I don't see why the board members are necessarily too busy to do the same.

Could it be that none of the books selected by the judges were felt to be worthy of being stamped with the Pulitzer Prize? That was the point that Lev Grossman made in the PBS NewsHour segment last night. Many of us have expressed our disappointment with Swamplandia!, along with surprise that it has received so much attention (Orange Prize longlist, NYT Best 10 Books of the Year, Pulitzer Prize finalist). The uncompleted manuscript of The Pale King was found by DFW's widow and agent, and compiled into its current form by a friend of his, which seems a bit problematic. And Train Dreams is a novella of barely over 100 pages; has the Pulitzer ever been awarded to such a slight book? (I'm also thinking about the criticism in the UK about the short length of The Sense of an Ending, and the feeling by some that it was too short to be worthy of consideration for the Booker Prize.) Is it possible that some or most of the board members did read a number of works of serious fiction last year, had in mind several books that they felt were worthy of the Pulitzer, didn't see any of them in the books the judges recommended, and decided that none of the three finalists were good enough? I think we need to hear the other side of the story, from the board members, but I suspect that we won't.

Thoughts?

I'll dive into Gillespie and I today, and hopefully finish it this weekend. Have you started reading it, Donna? After that I'll start The Song of Achilles, and save State of Wonder to the end of the month, or early next month. Patchett's book is on my Kindle, along with Foreign Bodies and Painter of Silence, and I have the iBook version of The Forgotten Waltz on my iPad. So, I'll plan to read some or all of those four books during my trip to Philadelphia that begins the week after next, to minimize the number of DTBs (dead tree books) I'll bring with me.

>12 EBT1002: I'm glad that you like Duende, Ellen. I completely agree; I'll read it again several times in the next few days.

14richardderus
Apr 19, 2012, 12:04pm Top

Had I been tasked with judging the three books presented to the board for Pulitzer consideration, there is no way I'd've said yes to any one of them. This isn't news, I've said that before.

But the board has the option of making a different selection from those presented to them by the committee. Why did they elect not to do this? I find that question very very interesting and important.

Could it be as Miller says, and the board is made up of those too busy, or too indifferent, to read fiction on their own? Or, and this I find a lot more believable, is the board simply reflecting the general public's uninterest in serious fiction by saying "oh yawn" and declining to choose from among these minor, uninteresting works as a sort of message to publishers and writers?

Seventeen smart (I hope) people can't agree on a choice. They can't even come up with an alternative book. I don't think so, to be frank; the board knows what's at stake in awarding the prize, and the demands on them to do it. So they chose not to do the job, knowing what the job is and knowing what's at stake...that sounds like a message to me.

15kidzdoc
Apr 19, 2012, 12:38pm Top

>14 richardderus:

Had I been tasked with judging the three books presented to the board for Pulitzer consideration, there is no way I'd've said yes to any one of them. This isn't news, I've said that before.

Sorry...I missed your comment about that.

But the board has the option of making a different selection from those presented to them by the committee. Why did they elect not to do this? I find that question very very interesting and important.

Good point. I had forgotten that the board had the option of making an alternative selection; Laura Miller did mention that in her Salon article. That is a key question to ask.

Could it be as Miller says, and the board is made up of those too busy, or too indifferent, to read fiction on their own?

I'd like to think that these members do like to read serious fiction independently; otherwise, they have no place judging such an important award as the fiction prize, IMO.

Or, and this I find a lot more believable, is the board simply reflecting the general public's uninterest in serious fiction by saying "oh yawn" and declining to choose from among these minor, uninteresting works as a sort of message to publishers and writers?

I would hope not! That would be a frightening message to send to the reading public, authors, and publishers.

Seventeen smart (I hope) people can't agree on a choice. They can't even come up with an alternative book. I don't think so, to be frank; the board knows what's at stake in awarding the prize, and the demands on them to do it. So they chose not to do the job, knowing what the job is and knowing what's at stake...that sounds like a message to me.

I'm still surprised by their inability to choose a winner. If the vote was tied among two books, wouldn't it have been better to announce a joint winner? If I remember correctly, this has happened before for several of the other major literary awards, including the Booker, though not often. Checking...yes, the Booker was awarded to two authors, in 1974 and 1992, as was the National Book Award in 1973 and 1975. Apparently the Pulitzer has never been awarded to more than one author, though.

16richardderus
Apr 19, 2012, 1:17pm Top

I still suspect the message...anything from "THIS is the best you can come up with?!" to "Yeah, so, none of these books are any good, skip it."

17mckait
Apr 19, 2012, 2:07pm Top

Pffft! If an rd explained they had options to go with a different books, it makes me more angry than ever.
I think it reflects upon them much more than it does the many authors who put heart and soul into books.
Bah!!! I say.

18kidzdoc
Apr 19, 2012, 2:29pm Top

>16 richardderus: It's hard not to reach that conclusion. I'd like to think that there is alternative one that isn't as worrisome.

*adjusts rose-colored glasses*

>17 mckait: Richard, as usual, is right (yikes...did I really say that?). This does reflect poorly on the board, much more so than the judges.

Here's a very touching and inspiring news story from your neck of the woods, Kath:

First-grader without hands wins award for writing

19PaulCranswick
Apr 19, 2012, 3:39pm Top

Darryl - congrats on the latest thread - you are now chugging along at one heck of a lick viz the interesting Pulitzer discussions, the infusion of poetry and the fabulous photos that adorn this thread. Three stand out - the cover shot made me think all those youngsters are now in their sixties. The one of the perplexed looking french boy in the classroom is a classic as is the one of the De Gaulle lookalike searching for his only voter in the fourth republic!

20Ireadthereforeiam
Edited: Apr 19, 2012, 6:08pm Top

>13 kidzdoc: I find it ridiculous that the suggestion is that the Pulitzer Board hasn't got or made the time to read much new fiction. What a cop out!
Same goes for the notion of the Board only reading the three that were nominated, apart, perhaps, from one or two others. It all sounds a lot like not good enough to little old me.

ETA: waffles look great from last thread, and the poetry book you are willing to give away? Good luck with that :)

21Chatterbox
Apr 19, 2012, 7:16pm Top

This really does call out for someone from the board to speak up. I do find it hard to believe that members only read a handful of books a year; what I find much more probable is that their tastes pull them in different directions. So when they couldn't agree on a particular book on the shortlist, their individual selections as alternatives pulled them still further apart. I agree that's not acceptable, but...

I've just been part of a panel of judges for a different kind of award -- it's by a major law firm, presented to someone who has made a major contribution in the field of financial regulation. That process has made me aware of how diverse the viewpoints can be, even among a group of 8 or so people who are all very well informed about the subject, familiar with the candidates and intent on coming up with a solution. We have, I think, managed to narrow it down to two candidates, but like the Pulitzer folks, we struggled with the nominees. I do agree that a major literary award with a history dating back nearly a century is a different kettle of fish, but the dynamics may not be too dissimilar. It has happened before; even the Nobels have not been awarded in some years.

I'd like a board rep to speak out, but I can imagine they feel that there is nothing at all to gain here. If they say that neither of the three was considered worthy, advocates of each will be outraged. If they say they were deadlocked, everyone will be outraged that they couldn't focus on their responsibility. It's kind of a no-win situation. Do I think it's irresponsible? Sure. This isn't like trying weird medical therapies, where if you get it wrong, the patient dies. So a book that isn't overwhleming wins; so what? It has happened before and doubtless will happen again without the world grinding to a halt. On the other hand, I'm not going to get huffy about it all for precisely the same reason.

Love the Doisneau pics; especially love the fact that the kids are photographed in such iconic locales -- crossing the rue de Rivoli; underneath the Eiffel Tower and I think there kid on his back is in the place du Carrousel, by the Louvre, no? Looks like it, anyway! I love that kind of "street photography"....

22cameling
Apr 19, 2012, 7:30pm Top

I love Doisneau's pictures ..especially the ones he takes of children. You've selected some wonderful ones to share, Darryl. I haven't seen that one of the dog and the boy before... utterly delightful.

The Pulitzer Board needs to step down and let others who do make time to read new fiction take their place.

23Donna828
Apr 19, 2012, 7:39pm Top

Thanks for clarifying the Pulitzer process, Darryl. Like Suzanne, I'm going to consider this as one of those no-win situations and move on.

I haven't started Gillespie and I yet. It's due back at the library next week so I'd best get started.

24kidzdoc
Apr 19, 2012, 8:44pm Top

>19 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul. I suspect that the activity of this thread will slow down, as I think we've nearly exhausted the talk about the Pulitzer controversy for the moment, unless some new information is made public. I'm glad that you also like the Doisneau photographs; is the man in the last photo a gendarme?

>20 Ireadthereforeiam: I agree, Megan. If you are a member of a board whose task it is to select the best work of fiction in a given year, I would expect that you would want to read some of the best books on your own, so that you could be as well informed as possible. I can accept that the board, as a whole, didn't like the choices available to them, but there surely were other books they could have chosen that were more worthy than these three.

I think I've put on a pound or two from looking at those waffles!

I held a vain hope that someone here would be able to deconstruct that poem and make it understandable to me, or at least would appreciate it and want the book, especially Deborah (Cariola). I'll try peddling it on my Club Read thread; otherwise I'll look to sell it to a local bookshop, or to City Lights on my next trip to San Francisco.

>21 Chatterbox: I also think that the Pulitzer board should explain its decision publicly, and as a whole, rather than an anonymous leak or comments for one or a small number of members.

A couple of members of Club Read and I were discussing the finalists and prize winners in the other Pulitzer prize categories, such as history, biography, and nonfiction. We felt that the board has done a great job in selecting outstanding books in these categories, such as The Swerve, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention and The Emperor of All Maladies. Why is fiction such a problem? Are the board members better able to judge nonfiction rather than fiction? If so, should the board include members that have a better literary background?

I love "street photography" too, as is probably obvious for the types of photos I've chosen for my thread. I love the juxtaposition of old historical buildings with young, active children.

25kidzdoc
Apr 19, 2012, 8:52pm Top

>22 cameling: Thanks, Caroline. I had seen several of these photos previously, but I didn't know who had taken them. I also love Henri Cartier-Bresson's work; look for him on a future thread.

>23 Donna828: Although I would like to hear from the Pulitzer board, I think Suz is right; very little, if anything, would be gained from hearing about this year's process.

I'm on page 76 of Gillespie and I, and it's superb so far. I hope that you get to read it soon, Donna.

26brenzi
Apr 19, 2012, 9:10pm Top

>21 Chatterbox: It has happened before and doubtless will happen again

Not next year I'll bet. They'll come up with a winner no matter what to avoid looking bad two years in a row. I have to say, if the board is not made up of readers of literary fiction, they need new board members. Seriously. I realize they have other jobs but so do all the other readers in this country. When you are judging the country's most prestigious literary prize, you need to do your homework.

27alcottacre
Apr 19, 2012, 9:19pm Top

Checking in on the new thread before I get too far behind (again)!

28Smiler69
Edited: Apr 20, 2012, 12:13am Top

Looks like a gendarme to me. Who else would wear that silly hat?

I love Doisneau and Henri Cartier-Bresson also. Also Brassaï, who was (quite literally) Night to the other two's Day.

This reminds me I have yet to get good books on the first two. How I've managed all these years without them, I don't know (only half joking). I do remember asking Suz about Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century, but still haven't seen it "in the flesh" so to speak. Recommendations for quality books on either photog appreciated.

eta: silly hat in question is called a képi if memory serves correctly.

29kidzdoc
Apr 20, 2012, 5:32am Top

Today's poem:

Elegy for my husband
by Toi Derricotte

Bruce Derricotte, June 22, 1928 - June 21, 2011

What was there is no longer there:
Not the blood running its wires of flame through the whole length
Not the memories, the texts written in the language of the flat hills
No, not the memories, the porch swing and the father crying
The genteel and elegant aunt bleeding out on the highway
(Too black for the white ambulance to pick up)
Who had sent back lacquered plates from China
Who had given away her best ivory comb that one time she was angry
Not the muscles, the ones the white girls longed to touch
But must not (for your mother warned
You would be lynched in that all-white Ohio town you grew up in)
Not that same town where you were the only, the one good black boy
All that is gone
Not the muscles running, the baseball flying into your mitt
Not the hand that laid itself over my heart and saved me
Not the eyes that held the long gold tunnel I believed in
Not the restrained hand in love and in anger
Not the holding back
Not the taut holding

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/22743

30kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 20, 2012, 6:09am Top

>26 brenzi: I have to say, if the board is not made up of readers of literary fiction, they need new board members. Seriously. I realize they have other jobs but so do all the other readers in this country. When you are judging the country's most prestigious literary prize, you need to do your homework.

I couldn't agree more.

>27 alcottacre: Hi, Stasia!

>28 Smiler69: Thanks for mentioning Brassaï, Ilana. I had not heard of him, but I have seen a few of his photographs before, including this one:



You're right; that unbecoming hat is called a képi:

31Linda92007
Apr 20, 2012, 9:06am Top

>29 kidzdoc: Very powerful. Great choice, Darryl.

32kidzdoc
Apr 20, 2012, 9:16am Top

>31 Linda92007: Thanks, Linda. That is the last poem in Natural Birth, Derricotte's collection of poems which dealt with her out of wedlock pregnancy in 1962, and her stay in a home for unwed mothers until her son was born. I read it several years ago, and it's one of my favorite poetry books.

33mckait
Apr 20, 2012, 9:17am Top

hmm oddly, your poem goes rather nicely with the husband mart comments in Caro's thread..
Well, to me, anyway :)

34kidzdoc
Apr 20, 2012, 9:19am Top

>33 mckait: Hmm...I shall have to see what mischief Caroline is up to.

35ChelleBearss
Apr 20, 2012, 11:03am Top

Great pictures here! I've never heard of that photographer so I'll have to go look him up now.

36Cariola
Apr 20, 2012, 1:17pm Top

I'm loving the photographs, Daarryl.

37tangledthread
Apr 20, 2012, 2:04pm Top

Love the poem for today, Daryl. Happy weekend!!

38EBT1002
Apr 20, 2012, 5:07pm Top

Lurking more than commenting, but up above, I agree with Caro: The Pulitzer Board needs to step down and let others who do make time to read new fiction take their place. If, indeed, the members of the Board are not reading much literary fiction, or not reading enough to be able to find common ground and agree on a prize winner, perhaps they should not be serving on the Board?

39kidzdoc
Apr 20, 2012, 6:21pm Top

>35 ChelleBearss: Thanks, Chelle. You won't have a hard time finding Doisneau's photographs online.

>36 Cariola: Thanks, Deborah. BTW, I'm 2/3 of the way through Gillespie and I, and it's almost too good for words. Unless it veers way off track in the last 100+ pages it will become my favorite novel of the year so far. I'll definitely finish it tonight.

>37 tangledthread: Happy weekend to you, too! I'm glad you liked today's poem.

>38 EBT1002: I agree with you and Caroline, Ellen. The Pulitzer is too important an award to be decided by people who, apparently, have little or no interest in serious literature.

40alcottacre
Apr 20, 2012, 9:06pm Top

I love the black and white photos you share, Darryl. Thanks for doing that.

41PaulCranswick
Apr 20, 2012, 9:13pm Top

Darryl the latest Mademoiselle au Fromage is extremely atmospheric. Thanks for putting it up.

42kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 20, 2012, 9:39pm Top

>40 alcottacre:, 41 You're welcome, Stasia and Paul! I love B&W photography, more so than color photography, I think.

I just finished Gillespie and I, which was nothing short of brilliant. As other LTers have mentioned, I wouldn't mind reading it from the beginning again, and it's a book whose characters will stay with me. It's definitely my favorite book of the year, and it earns a 5 star rating. It will be a somewhat difficult book to review without spoiling it for those who haven't read it yet, but I'll do so tomorrow or Sunday (and I need to catch up on reviews for the other books I've read this week).

43Chatterbox
Apr 20, 2012, 9:54pm Top

Isn't that novel utter delight, Darryl?? It perfectly bridges the gap between literary achievement and popular fiction. Oh, and now you see what I mean about unreliable narrators, right?? *grin* I never knew where I was with it -- and I loved it.

Indeed, I need to own this book. (Mine was a library copy.)

Ilana, did you ever look for the MoMA catalog from the Cartier-Bresson show? I thought that was v. good. I haven't looked for a bio or a more in-depth study, however.

44Smiler69
Apr 20, 2012, 10:01pm Top

Darryl, I can't wait to read Gillespie and I. Should be receiving it within a week or so. In the meantime, I just received The Observations today. Have you read that one? I won't know which one to start with!

#43 Suzanne, I'm pretty sure we're talking about the same book: Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century shows photos from the MoMA exhibit. I'll order it from Chapters Indigo and have a look at it. I do that with most art books that aren't available in stores as I can opt to return them if they don't pass muster. But I've read reviews about this one and it sounds very good.

45kidzdoc
Apr 20, 2012, 10:07pm Top

>43 Chatterbox: Your comments are spot on, Suz. It was absolutely unputdownable, and excellent from the first page to the last one. Offhand I can't think of a better unreliable narrator than Harriet Baxter. I'm completely gobsmacked that it wasn't selected for the Orange Prize shortlist.

>44 Smiler69: Read it ASAP, Ilana; I think you'll love it! I haven't read The Observations yet, but it will definitely go onto my wish list, as it has also received excellent reviews.

46brenzi
Apr 20, 2012, 10:28pm Top

I liked The Observations almost as much as Gillespie and I Darryl although it's a completely different book. But the narrator, young maid Bessy, has one of the most unique voices in literature. Now I can't contain myself waiting for Jane Harris to write her third book.

47kidzdoc
Apr 20, 2012, 10:35pm Top

>46 brenzi: I remembered reading your review of The Observations earlier this year, Bonnie. If the narration in this book is as good as it was in Gillespie and I then I'll definitely love it.

48richardderus
Apr 20, 2012, 11:12pm Top

Oh yay we finally agree on a book! Gillespie and I is stellar!

49torontoc
Apr 20, 2012, 11:15pm Top

Agreed! It is one of those books that I have to read again to see if I can find more clues earlier than I did in the first reading.

50Cariola
Apr 20, 2012, 11:42pm Top

44> I enjoyed The Observations, but Gillespie and I outshines it by far.

Couldn't agree with you more that it should have made both the Booker and Orange short lists. How could they have passed it by?

51kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 21, 2012, 9:11am Top

>48 richardderus: I would say that Gillespie and I is a book that everyone would love. However, there are at least two posted reviews by LTers who disliked the book; their comments are quite baffling to me, particularly the one which includes a major spoiler. I think I'll avoid talking about the novel in detail, and instead try to capture my feelings as a reader as I read it.

>49 torontoc: I agree, Cyrel. At the end, I felt like a kid that had ridden the best roller coaster of all time: a bit dizzy and confused, but thoroughly exhilarated, and eager to get back in line to do it all over again.

>50 Cariola: That's good enough for me. I won't rush out to the bookstore to get The Observations, but I'll keep it in mind.

52kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 21, 2012, 6:09am Top

Today's poem (an ode to the Beatnik era, the artist's life, San Francisco and LA, 1950s jazz, sex, etc.):

California Dreamin by David Meltzer

California dreamin
schemin in a doorway
to get more pay when none's around
the corner panhandlers come up short

Gold Eden jackels prowl & Jack
London stands on a burning deck
socialism sinks on clotty city blocks
indigent exiles from the good life
last month last week
can't last too long on TV hallelujah
chorus cigarette smoke Night Train
billboards above streets slapped on walls

California dreamin
in Brian's garage
Sunkist shades slow glow
amble down buckling pier
meet oceans halfway in Nikes
telephone psychics at castle switchboards
hello Cosmos give me Doctor Presto

California dreamin
next door to Anita O'Day
in a white one-piece swimsuit
under multi primary color umbrella
smoking a cigarette
tapping high heels

California dreamin
Lord Buckley on stage raging
crossover baptism crooning
hipness & apocalypse
stoners swoon in midnight balcony
after crummy print of Top Hat

California dreamin
highnoon blaze junkie flash
orange grove bonkers fat green
leaves filter light on outstretched hand
stings with citrus acid watch
veins move blood through the system

California dreamin
Utopia's just around the corner
lodged beneath overpass freeway
teaching mimosa Off Minor changes
jazz livingroom altar the new Miles
crash on carpet Bye Bye Blackbird
TV's soundless plush glimmer
Ronnie Ball's wife rolls up in delight
red bulb lamp Dear Old Stockholm
ah oh Coltrane

California dreamin
schemin steamy encounter
w/ two guys & one
Breck girl airline stewardess
blonde all the way in lipstick
gold sheen uphill breasts nipples
tough as rubber to tripletonguing
trumpet player chops chomp
later on top of Sunset sex w/ a pro
doing it for fun all night long her
tough toned flanks take me everywhere
later ass grabbed in Troubadour Club
in music stream of dancing bodies warm
light scrotum radiance alert

California dreamin
Hollywood Boulevard occult bookshop
tower to ceiling shelves of glyphed tomes
brittle dreambooks powdery gold pages
copper scrolls scratched w/ sigils
promise of future power triumph
watching Pacific Ocean waves weave in & out
thrum shore we sit in profound bud
wasted on gravity & detail
all of us artists rising above the
weight of things

from When I Was a Poet by David Meltzer (2011)

http://books.google.com/books?id=1MaYO5BuKjQC&pg=PA51&lpg=PA51&dq=ca...

53Deern
Apr 21, 2012, 6:16am Top

Gillespie and I turns up on so many threads and sounds like a real must-read. I am considering spending one of my audible credits on it. Without spoiling the plot, would you say it is good audio material? Is there very much Scottish talk which might be difficult to understand for my foreign ear? (The sample is all British English).

54kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 21, 2012, 6:23am Top

>53 Deern: I've never listened to an audio version of a book, but I think that Gillespie and I would be a good one to listen to. There are bits of Scottish brogue throughout the book, but I don't think this would pose a problem for you or anyone else.

55mckait
Apr 21, 2012, 7:52am Top

Aha! Not a listener either?

Okay, I have been avoiding even looking at Gillespie, but now you've done it.
I looked at it. Drat. Now I must add it to my wish list. Woe.

56kidzdoc
Apr 21, 2012, 8:07am Top

>55 mckait: Richard and I both agree that Gillespie and I is stellar. How can you resist?

57alcottacre
Apr 21, 2012, 8:16am Top

Peggy sent me a copy of Gillespie and I. I am definitely going to have to move it up the stack!

58kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 21, 2012, 8:29am Top

>57 alcottacre: Great news, Stasia! And a big hooray to Peggy for sending it to you. Even though it's a little over 500 pages long it reads very quickly and is practically impossible to put down. I read the last 420 or so pages in a single sitting yesterday.

59mckait
Apr 21, 2012, 8:35am Top

I read The Observations a couple of years ago or so...

60kidzdoc
Apr 21, 2012, 8:46am Top

>59 mckait: Did you like it?

61alcottacre
Apr 21, 2012, 8:56am Top

#58: Wow! It must be good if you read it that quickly, Darryl!

62kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 23, 2012, 8:34pm Top

My planned reads for April (copied from my previous thread):

Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
?J.G. Farrell, The Singapore Grip
James Hannam, God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science
Jane Harris, Gillespie & I - completed
Terrance Hayes, Lighthead (2010 National Book Award for Poetry)
Michel Houellebecq, The Map and the Territory - completed
Yusef Komunyakaa, The Chameleon Couch
Giuseppe di Lampedusa, The Leopard - reading
?Alice LaPlante, Turn of Mind
Nathaniel Mackey, Splay Anthem
Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles - completed
Sherwin Nuland, Maimonides
Elizabeth Nunez, Boundaries - completed
?Ann Patchett, State of Wonder
Antonio Tabucchi, The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro- completed
Antonio Tabucchi, Little Misunderstandings of No Importance - completed
C.D. Wright, One with Others - completed

63Cariola
Apr 21, 2012, 2:05pm Top

53> You can listen to samples on audible.com. As you probably know, a bad reader can kill a good book. I read Gillespie and I in hardcover but do listen to a lot of audiobooks. The only thing I might caution is that when you reach the end of the book, you're going to want to go back and look for the things you missed. That's easier to do with a print copy. But I should think it would make an enjoyable listen otherwise. The main character and narrator, Harriet, is English, not Scottish, so the book isn't chock full of 'Scottishisms.'

64EBT1002
Apr 22, 2012, 12:22am Top

Hi Darryl, I just put Gillespie and I on hold at the library, thanks to you and our good friend Richard. They have six copies and there was only one other person in the queue. That surprised me. For Song of Achilles, I'm #59 on 14 copies and for Salvage the Bones I'm #100 on 42 copies. In any case, several will become available all at once no matter what the numbers are. :-|

I've also been planning to go to audible tonight to download something to listen to while I do yard work tomorrow. I'm still not convinced that listening to books is really for me (I've listened to two and enjoyed one of them), but it seems like a good strategy for getting me to do the gardening. Otherwise, I sit on the couch and read. I don't think I'll do Gillespie and I as my third, though.

65kidzdoc
Apr 22, 2012, 8:35am Top

>63 Cariola: That's a good point, Deborah, and that's one of the reasons I haven't wanted to try audiobooks. How do you jump back to a particular segment or page?

>64 EBT1002: I would suspect that the relative availability of Gillespie and I has to do with it being a book by a UK author that hasn't received much attention in the US yet. I did a quick Google search, and I only see one review of it in a major US publication, the Washington Post.

When I talk to my non-LT book loving friends, I realize how unique and diverse a set of readers we are. None of my women friends have heard of the Orange Prize (except for our new practice manager, who has a bachelor's degree in literature and lived in London for several years), or were aware that there is a major literary award for women, and few if any are aware of any other book prizes except for the Pulitzers and the National Book Awards. Then again, there is little or no coverage of the Orange, Booker, IMPAC Dublin or other major international literary awards in the US media (except for an occasional mention in the Arts, Briefly section of the NYT), so it would be difficult, at best, to find out about these awards without being part of a group like this or reading a paper like the Guardian.

I finished The Song of Achilles last night, which was excellent, and nearly as good as Gillespie and I. I'm falling behind on reviews again, so I'll write a couple of them this morning before I do anything else.

66kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 22, 2012, 8:41am Top

Almost forgot. Today's poems (2) of the day, from The Pages of Day and Night by Adonis, a Syrian poet who has been a finalist for the Nobel Prize in Literature for the past few years.



The Passage

I sought to share
the life of snow
and fire.

But neither
snow nor fire
took me in.

So
I kept my peace,
waiting like flowers,
staying like stones.
In love I lost
myself.

I broke away
and watched until
I swayed like a wave
between the life
I dreamed and the changing
dream I lived.


Tree of Fire

The tree by the river
is weeping leaves.
It strews the shore
with tear after tear.
It reads to the river
its prophecy of fire.
I am that final
leaf that no one
sees.

My people
have died as fires
die—without a trace.

67kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 22, 2012, 5:21pm Top

Book #37: Panther Baby by Jamal Joseph



My rating:

Note: This review contains numerous spoilers and detailed information about the author's life and the history of Black Panther Party. Anyone who is seriously thinking of reading this book may want to skim it, or skip it altogether.

This gripping and inspiring memoir begins in New York City in 1968. Eddie Joseph, a 15 year old boy being raised by his doting and deeply religious grandmother, excels in school, but his experiences as a young child make him aware of the racial turmoil that exists within and outside of his "up south" community in the Bronx. As a first grader, he innocently kisses a white girl on the way home from school, and her parents then forbid her to ever speak to him again. During a summer trip to visit his grandmother's relatives in rural Virginia, he bloodies the nose of a white bully, who turns out to be the son of a local Ku Klux Klan leader, and he is forced to take the first bus back to New York after several KKK members pay a less than cordial visit to his aunt's house that evening.

Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination in May of 1968 radicalized many young blacks in America, and young Eddie was no exception. The Black Power movement had been gaining in strength and importance since 1966, when Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) chairman Stokely Carmichael first used the term to describe an alternative movement to Dr. King's Civil Rights movement, one which emphasized black solidarity in order to achieve political equality and socioeconomic independence. After seeing the Black Panthers on television, he is attracted by the young men wearing berets and leather jackets and toting guns, as they defiantly protest California legislators and policemen who wish to take away their constitutional right to bear arms. Eddie then decides to join the organization, along with his closest friends.

Eddie adopts the name Jamal, and becomes a devoted and respected young leader within the New York City chapter of the Black Panther Party. His youthful exuberance and radicalism is both encouraged and tempered by several older Panther leaders, most notably Afeni Shakur, one of the most influential women in the organization, whose own fame would be superseded by that of her son Tupac. The Panthers serve a vital purpose within black communities in the city, providing free breakfast and after-school programs for school children, distributing food to needy families, organizing tenants in substandard and unsafe housing to stand up for their right to live decently, combating the influx of illegal drugs in the community, and aiding individuals in need of medical care or legal aid, while distributing literature and eliciting donations to support their activities. Although many Americans viewed the Black Panther Party as a dangerous and subversive organization, liberal whites and Jews including Jane Fonda, Norman Mailer and Leonard Bernstein recognize their good work, and hold fund raising parties in their name.

The Panthers' more radical activities, particularly in Oakland and Chicago, come to the attention of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who proclaims that "{t}he Black Panther Party without question is the greatest threat to the internal security of the country." Local police, aided and encouraged by FBI agents, begin to crack down on Panther chapters throughout the country, raiding local Panther offices and engaging in shootouts with them, which include the notorious assassination of Chicago Panther leader Fred Hampton, who is shot to death at night, unarmed, as he sleeps alongside his pregnant girlfriend.

In April of 1969, Jamal and 20 other Panther leaders, known subsequently as the Panther 21, are arrested and charged with conspiracy to bomb several public building and to commit murder. The case draws local and national attention, as most blacks and liberal whites believe the charges are without merit. Jamal is eventually freed after several months of imprisonment along with several others, and the remaining incarcerated members of the Panther 21 are acquitted of all charges by a grand jury, which needed only 45 minutes of deliberation to find them free of guilt.

Jamal resumes his activities in the Party, but finds that the organization, both locally and nationally, has been fractured, due to the FBI's successful efforts to infiltrate its. This sowed widespread distrust and dissension within the Party, particularly between its West Coast and East Coast sections, and culminated in a split between Eldridge Cleaver, who favored revolution and violence, and Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, David Hilliard and others, who preferred to focus on community development and education. As a result, the local chapters' positive influences on the community wane in the early and mid 1970s, and the influx of illegal drugs, along with the migration of middle class blacks from inner city communities, increased unemployment, and cutbacks in city programs due to the worsening recession, decimate the inner city neighborhoods of New York City and most American cities.

He is arrested again, as he and other Panthers attempt to break up a local drug den by armed force, and he receives a 12 year sentence. He serves the majority of his prison time at Leavenworth, the largest maximum security federal prison in the United States, alongside the most dangerous of criminals, many of whom will never leave the prison alive. He begins to study and read intensely, writes several plays for fellow inmates, and obtains a bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas, graduating summa cum laude. Upon his release in 1987 he moves back to New York, where he reunites with his wife and children. He is hired by Touro College as a professor and counselor, writes several screenplays, which win several awards and earn him a fellowship in playwriting, and is subsequently hired to teach screenwriting at Columbia University, where he continues to work as a professor in the School of Arts.

Panther Baby is a fascinating account of a remarkable life, which kept my rapt attention from the first page to the last. Joseph is a gifted writer, and this book provided me with a succinct yet excellent insider's analysis of the Black Panther Party, the life of a former Panther, and the measure of this inspiring man. This is one of the best memoirs I've ever read, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

68richardderus
Apr 22, 2012, 1:33pm Top

One jaunty thumb for this cheery, uplifting bagatelle.

69kidzdoc
Apr 22, 2012, 1:56pm Top

Natural Birth by Toi Derricotte



My rating:

Toi Derricotte, an award-winning poet , professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, and co-founder of the Cave Canem Foundation for up and coming African-American poets, wrote this collection of narrative poems in the late 1970s, when her son reached 16 years of age. It was originally published in 1983, and reissued in 2000 with a preface from the author.

In 1962, Derricotte was a college student in Detroit, a beautiful, bright and driven young woman and practicing Catholic. Early that year she became pregnant by her lover and future husband, and she had to withdraw from university. She was unable to return to her parents' house in Michigan, and traveled to a home for unwed mothers in a distant city during her seventh month of pregnancy. There was no room available at the home when she arrived, and she was placed with a nearby family until December, a month before her due date.

During her pregnancy, Derricotte read about the benefits of natural childbirth, and decided that she wanted to go through labor and delivery without analgesia. She did so, alone from her family, her lover, or the other young women in the home, and this powerful set of poems largely describes her excruciating experience during L&D, the unexpected numbness toward her son that she felt immediately after his birth, and with the loneliness, inadequacy and fear she experienced toward the end of her pregnancy. In this excerpt from "holy cross hospital", Derricotte poignantly describes the plight of three other pregnant women:

couldn't stand to see these new young faces, these
children swollen as myself. my roommate, snotty,
bragging about how she didn't give a damn about the
kid and was going back to her boyfriend and be a
cheerleader in high school. could we ever "go back?"
would our bodies be the same? could we hide among the
childless?
she always reminded me of a lady at the bridge
club in her mother's shoes, playing her mother's hand.

i tried to get along, be silent, stay in my own corner.
i only had a month to go—too short to get to know them.
but being drawn to the room down the hall, the t.v. room
where, at night, we sat in our cuddly cotton robes and
fleece-lined slippers—like college freshmen, joking
about the nuns and laughing about due dates—jailbirds
waiting to be sprung.

one girl, taller and older, twenty-six or twenty-seven, kept
to herself, talked with a funny accent. the pain on her face
seemed worse than ours...

and a lovely, gentle girl with flat small bones. the
great round hump seemed to carry her around! she never
said an unkind word to anyone, went to church every morning
with her rosary and prayed each night alone in her room.

she was seventeen, diabetic, fearful that she or the baby
or both would die in childbirth. she wanted the baby, yet
knew that to keep it would be wrong. but what if the child
did live? what if she gave it up and could never have another?

i couldn't believe the fear, the knowledge she had of
death walking with her. i never felt stronger, eating
right, doing my exercises. i was holding on to the core,
the center of strength; death seemed remote, i could not
imagine it walking in our midst, death in the midst of
all that blooming. she seemed sincere, but maybe she
was lying...

she went down two weeks late. induced. she had decided
to keep the baby. the night i went down, she had just
gone into labor so the girls had two of us to cheer about.

the next morning when i awoke, i went to see her. she
smiled from her hospital bed with tubes in her arms. it
had been a boy. her baby was dead in the womb for two
weeks. i remembered she had complained no kicking. we
had reassured her everything was fine.


I highly recommend this superb collection of narrative poems, but would advise you to get the 2000 edition that contains Derricotte's insightful preface.

70kidzdoc
Apr 22, 2012, 2:18pm Top

>68 richardderus: *bows respectfully*

71Ireadthereforeiam
Apr 22, 2012, 3:35pm Top

I've never listened to an audio version of a book
Me neither Darryl, I plan on doing so one day though. Maybe while on my driving trip across the States....one day.

Panther Baby and Natural Birth both look great, I knew I shouldnt have dropped by here this morning! *off to see if library has either*

72richardderus
Apr 22, 2012, 4:50pm Top

>69 kidzdoc: Oh nay nay nay I say thrice more NAY NAY NAY and unto infinity...poems (ugh) about childbirth (retch) by a CATHOLIC (prolonged projectile vomiting)...ever stop button I have is fully activated.

73kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 22, 2012, 6:05pm Top

>71 Ireadthereforeiam: Panther Baby is a relatively new book, as it was published in the US in mid-February. So, I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't readily available in the US or elsewhere.

ETA: Neither Foyles nor the London Review Bookshop have Panther Baby in stock, although Amazon UK has copies of the US edition for immediate shipment.

>72 richardderus: I think our mutual taste in books can be described as (a) books we both love, or (b) books which induce intractable nausea or severe allergic reactions in the other.

74richardderus
Apr 22, 2012, 5:52pm Top

No middle ground in sight, is there? Oh, and books we both hate! Forgot those!

75kidzdoc
Apr 22, 2012, 5:59pm Top

>74 richardderus: Yep, you're right on both counts.

76kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 22, 2012, 6:37pm Top

I forgot to mention that I may have a very indirect connection to Jamal Joseph, the author of Panther Baby. I was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, which is located directly across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan in NYC, and lived there with my family until 1974, when my father's work division was transferred from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to suburban Philadelphia. Joseph himself worked in the Jersey City branch of the Black Panther Party for several months in 1968 and 1969, when I would have been seven and eight years old. This branch, as my mother reminded me, was very close to where we lived, and I passed by it every day on the way to and from the elementary school I attended. I mentioned somewhere that the author's photo on the book's cover looked vaguely familiar, and I seem to remember that a couple of the Panthers invited me to participate in their school-based activities. My mother thinks that this was the case, although she doubts my claim that they invited me to become a youth leader. (I've told them for years that they suppressed my two major childhood dreams, to be a bus driver and to be a Black Panther leader.)

I'll visit my parents next week and bring this book with me, to see if either of my parents (particularly my father, who volunteered for a church-based community action group that worked indirectly with the Panthers) recognize him. My mother thinks that she has some old photos of me toting a toy gun, dressed in a beret and a faux leather jacket. If she finds them I'll definitely copy and post them here.

Power to the people!

77Ireadthereforeiam
Apr 22, 2012, 7:05pm Top

> I've told them for years that they suppressed my two major childhood dreams, to be a bus driver and to be a Black Panther leader
I suppose your parents are sooo disappointed that you turned out to be a pediatrician! hehe

You are right, our library system has neither of the books. RD will be so pleased, Im sure :)

78Linda92007
Apr 22, 2012, 7:11pm Top

>66 kidzdoc:, 69 You are introducing me to such wonderful poetry collections, Darryl. I love the last stanza of Tree of Life. I will be sorry to see Poetry Month and your daily poem postings come to an end.

79kidzdoc
Apr 22, 2012, 7:51pm Top

>77 Ireadthereforeiam: Right. They are happy with my career decision. I think I would have been happy driving a bus or subway, though. ;-)

>78 Linda92007: Thanks for that lovely compliment, Linda. I've had a lot of fun doing it,mand I'll certainly do it again next year, God willing. This has also inspired me to read more of the poetry collections I already have, so I'll almost certainly post more poetry reviews in the coming months.

80kidzdoc
Apr 23, 2012, 5:31am Top

Today's poem:

I Belong There by Mahmoud Darwish
translated by Carolyn Forché and Munir Akash

I belong there. I have many memories. I was born as everyone is born.
I have a mother, a house with many windows, brothers, friends, and a prison cell
with a chilly window! I have a wave snatched by seagulls, a panorama of my own.
I have a saturated meadow. In the deep horizon of my word, I have a moon,
a bird's sustenance, and an immortal olive tree.
I have lived on the land long before swords turned man into prey.
I belong there. When heaven mourns for her mother, I return heaven to her mother.
And I cry so that a returning cloud might carry my tears.
To break the rules, I have learned all the words needed for a trial by blood.
I have learned and dismantled all the words in order to draw from them a single word: Home.

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16585

81kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 23, 2012, 6:30am Top

Book #43: Thirst by Andrei Gelasimov




My rating:

This short novel is narrated by a young Russian soldier during the War in Chechnya, who suffers horrible burns to his face and body when the Armed Personnel Carrier he is riding in is blown apart by a grenade. His comrades do not rescue him immediately, assuming he is dead, and then are horrified to see him breathing. After his rescue, he returns to his home village, where his most useful activity is scaring his neighbor's children into obedience. He spends his days in a vodka-fueled haze of memory, regret and bitterness, and the novel zips back and forth between past and present in a schizophrenic fashion. The narration is simple and banal, as in this passage:

Usually it takes about three days to get used to the idea that a friend has died. Not one and not two. Sometimes even three isn't enough. Each time you remember him, you tell yourself, He's dead. But it still feels like you're lying. Not in the sense that he isn't dead but in the sense that you're still not ready to say those words. You can say them, but they're empty. Unconnected to life. There's an emptiness between them and reality. You sense that gap, and you can't figure out what's there, inside it. So you repeat it as often as you can; he's dead, he's dead, he's gone. But you're lying anyway. At least until three days pass. Then it's pretty much OK.


I bought Thirst because it was one of the e-books published by AmazonCrossing that was on sale for 99 cents last weekend. I'm not convinced that I received my money's worth, though.

82DorsVenabili
Apr 23, 2012, 6:20am Top

#81 - Oh no! I bought that one too. It sounds dreadful.

Anyway, Panther Baby sounds great, and I look forward to the photo of young Darryl in beret and faux leather jacket.

83kidzdoc
Apr 23, 2012, 6:44am Top

Dreadful is right, Kerri, especially coming after three outstanding books.

84kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 23, 2012, 8:57am Top

Book #40: Gillespie and I by Jane Harris



My rating:

Harriet Baxter is an 80 year old woman living alone in Bloomsbury in 1933. As she nears the end of her life, and while she possesses a full mental capacity, she decides to write a memoir about Ned Gillespie, a brilliant Glaswegian painter who never achieved the fame he deserved.

Harriet is a single and outspoken woman of good taste and independent means in her mid-30s, who travels from London to Glasgow to attend the 1888 International Exhibition of Science, Art and Industry. She is introduced to Ned after she has a remarkable encounter with his mother Elspeth and wife Annie, and she recognizes him from an art exhibition in London held several years previously. The two women befriend Harriet, who integrates herself into the lives of the Gillespie family, including their younger daughter Rose and her older, troubled sister Sibyl, along with Ned's overbearing mother and his secretive brother.

She decides to lengthen her stay in Glasgow, as she becomes a somewhat awkward yet appreciated fixture in the Gillespie household. Sibyl exhibits increasingly strange and disturbing behavior, which strains the marriage and Annie's relationship with Elspeth, and culminates in a shocking crime that devastates the Gillespies and their new friend.

The novel shifts between 1888 Glasgow and 1933 London, as Harriet tells her side of the events that surrounded the crime and its notorious trial and aftermath, in order to set the record straight. The action and tension build in both settings, as Harriet proves to be an increasingly unreliable narrator, which left this reader fascinated and on the edge of his seat until the final page.

Gillespie and I is a devastating and brilliant accomplishment, with a deliciously unreliable narrator, superb and compelling characters, and a highly captivating story that ranks amongst the most enjoyable novels I've ever read. As other readers have mentioned, I wanted to start it again from the beginning immediately after I finished it, and its characters will remain with me for a long time to come.

85mckait
Apr 23, 2012, 8:16am Top

Wow.. five stars.... it must be good!

86kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 23, 2012, 8:23am Top

>85 mckait: Definitely, Kath. And Richard loved it, too (see message #48).

87mckait
Apr 23, 2012, 8:34am Top

any animal tragedy?

88kidzdoc
Apr 23, 2012, 8:38am Top

Nope.

89Linda92007
Apr 23, 2012, 8:55am Top

Excellent review of Gillespie and I, Darryl. I think I will skip the wishlist and go right to the Kindle download!

90mckait
Apr 23, 2012, 8:57am Top

good. ordering it .

:) thanks :)

91EBT1002
Edited: Apr 23, 2012, 10:10am Top

Love your review of Gillespie and I, Darryl. As per your suggestion, I skimmed your review of Panther Baby and promptly put it on hold at the library. Seattle Public has five copies of this one and I'm number 17 in the queue. I'm pleased (but not terribly surprised) to see that Seattleites are reading it. :-)

92Cariola
Apr 23, 2012, 4:17pm Top

Gillespie and I is a FANTASTIC novel! I recommend it to everyone. So glad you agree with me on this one, Darryl.

93SandDune
Apr 23, 2012, 4:20pm Top

I've just downloaded Gillespie and I from Audible. I'm really looking forward to listening - I've heard so many good things about it.

94jnwelch
Apr 23, 2012, 5:33pm Top

Woo, lots going on here, Darryl! Great Brassai photo; I'm a fan, and Andre Kertesz is mighty good, too. Kertesz has a fun one called On Reading, with pics of - you guessed it: http://uncertaintimes.tumblr.com/post/3103935487/andre-kertesz-carnival-paris-wo...

Black and white photos of Paris, gotta love it.

Wonderful review of Panther Baby, and I added a thumb to the existing mountain of them (hmm, might have to work on that image!) There's an ex-Black Panther congressman from Illinois, Bobby Rush, who made the news recently for wearing a hoodie on the floor of Congress to protest the inaction re Trayvon Martin.

Great review of Gillespie and I, too. That one's appealing to a whole lot of LTers, as shown in the comments you're getting. Hmm. It was on my tbr, but it's climbing up higher.

Good poems, too. David Meltzer's sure made me think of Allen Ginsberg.

95klobrien2
Apr 23, 2012, 6:04pm Top

Just went to reserve Gillespie and I from the library. You have never steered me wrong.

Karen O.

96kidzdoc
Apr 23, 2012, 6:57pm Top

>89 Linda92007: Thanks, Linda! I'll be curious to get your take on Gillespie and I.

>90 mckait: You're welcome, Kath. Just remember that if you don't like it, it's Richard's fault, not mine.

>91 EBT1002: Thanks, Ellen. I'm glad to hear that Panther Baby is being widely read. It deserves to be.

BTW, NPR recently interviewed Jamal Joseph, the author of Panther Baby:

'Panther Baby,' From Prisoner To Professor

>92 Cariola: Right, Deborah. I bought my copy of Gillespie and I in London last summer, probably because I had read a glowing review of it in the Guardian. I only wish I had read it sooner. Have you read her earlier novel, The Observations?

97kidzdoc
Apr 23, 2012, 7:26pm Top

>93 SandDune: Glad to hear it, Rhian. Interestingly the majority of LTers who've rated Gillespie and I have loved it; 42 out of 71 readers have given it 4-1/2 or 5 stars, and only 17 people have given it less than 4 stars. However, several reviewers have strongly disliked it.

>94 jnwelch: Good to see you here, Joe! I'm glad you liked the photos; there will certainly be more to come in future threads. Thanks for mentioning Kertesz; I hadn't heard of him.

I'm a bit familiar with Bobby Rush, and knew that he was a former Panther. BTW, my U.S. congressman is John Lewis, one of MLK's closest advisers during the Civil Rights movement and the immediate predecessor to Stokely Carmichael as chairman of SNCC. Lewis celebrated his 25th anniversary in office this past January, and is running essentially unopposed again this fall.

Gillespie and I truly is a remarkable novel, and it will almost certainly be one of my top 10 novels of the year. I do have several outstanding novels from years past that I'm planning to read later this year, and the early buzz about Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel's sequel to Wolf Hall, has been strongly positive, so it may not keep the top spot for long.

Oh, I remember how I had learned about Gillespie and I. It was from the 2011 Booker Prize speculation thread on the prize's web site, as several contributors felt that it deserved to be on the longlist.

I'm reading When I Was a Poet by David Meltzer now, and it's quite good so far. He is one of the Beat Poets, and has lived in San Francisco for years. I'm all but certain that he was friends with Allen Ginsburg, so I'm not surprised that their styles are similar.

>95 klobrien2: I hope that I don't steer you wrong with Gillespie and I, Karen!

98brenzi
Edited: Apr 23, 2012, 9:45pm Top

Hi Darryl, I thumbed your review of Gillespie and I through FB this morning (best book to make no one's shortlist;-). Just stopping by to say hi.

99Cariola
Apr 23, 2012, 10:18pm Top

Darryl, yes, I've read The Observations--a fine book, but not nearly so fine as Gillespie and I. You can certainly tell that the two books are by the same author; she has a unique style.

100Ireadthereforeiam
Apr 24, 2012, 12:17am Top

A 5 star antidote to the Russian fizzler. Good for you.

101roundballnz
Apr 24, 2012, 4:18am Top

passing thru Gillespie and I sounds very intriguing soon to be added to my want list ...... hmmm

102Deern
Apr 24, 2012, 5:19am Top

Great review for Gillespie and I! I downloaded it from audible last weekend. I'll listen to it throughout May I think.

103tangledthread
Apr 24, 2012, 8:33am Top

Thanks for the review of Gillespie and I It sounds like one that I would love.
Just checked and the library has a copy on the shelf.....woot.

Guess I'm too early for today's poem. Yesterday's was good...sad, but good.

104mckait
Apr 24, 2012, 8:50am Top

wow.. a lot of hits on Gillespie, here !

105kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 24, 2012, 8:58am Top

>98 brenzi:, 100, 101, 102, 103 Thanks Bonnie, Megan, Alex, Nathalie, and tangledthread! I hope that all of you read and enjoy Gillespie and I.

>99 Cariola: Thanks, Deborah; I realized that you had mentioned The Observations previously, so sorry for the repeat question. :-)

>103 tangledthread: Here's the poem of the day:

My Father, in Heaven, Is Reading out Loud by Li-Young Lee

My father, in heaven, is reading out loud
to himself Psalms or news. Now he ponders what
he's read. No. He is listening for the sound
of children in the yard. Was that laughing
or crying? So much depends upon the
answer, for either he will go on reading,
or he'll run to save a child's day from grief.
As it is in heaven, so it was on earth.

Because my father walked the earth with a grave,
determined rhythm, my shoulders ached
from his gaze. Because my father's shoulders
ached from the pulling of oars, my life now moves
with a powerful back-and-forth rhythm:
nostalgia, speculation. Because he
made me recite a book a month, I forget
everything as soon as I read it. And knowledge
never comes but while I'm mid-stride a flight
of stairs, or lost a moment on some avenue.

A remarkable disappointment to him,
I am like anyone who arrives late
in the millennium and is unable
to stay to the end of days. The world's
beginnings are obscure to me, its outcomes
inaccessible. I don't understand
the source of starlight, or starlight's destinations.
And already another year slides out
of balance. But I don't disparage scholars;
my father was one and I loved him,
who packed his bags once, and all of our belongings,
then sat down to await instruction
from his god, yes, but also from a radio.
At the doorway, I watched, and I suddenly
knew he was one like me, who got my learning
under a lintel; he was one of the powerless,
to whom knowledge came while he sat among
suitcases, boxes, old newspapers, string.

He did not decide peace or war, home or exile,
escape by land or escape by sea.
He waited merely, as always someone
waits, far, near, here, hereafter, to find out:
is it praise or lament hidden in the next moment?

from The City In Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee (1990)

http://www.nbu.bg/webs/amb/american/6/lee/myfather.htm

106kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 24, 2012, 9:50am Top

>104 mckait: Right, Kath. Gillespie and I and The Song of Achilles, which I'm about to review, seem to be two of the books of the moment. Both books were selected for this year's Orange Prize longlist, so several of us have been reading it for Jill's Orange January/July group. I bought Gillespie and I in London last summer, and I used my B&N gift card to purchase The Song of Achilles once the Orange longlist came out.

These two books are perfect examples of why I like following literary awards (although I certainly wouldn't say that everyone should). I wouldn't have found out about Gillespie and I had I not looked at the Booker Prize speculation thread, and I wouldn't have purchased The Song of Achilles had it not been selected for the Orange Prize shortlist. Neither book has been reviewed by The New York Times; at the risk of beating a very dead horse, I've become very disappointed by the books that the paper decides to review, and especially the ones it doesn't. Both of these books were published by HarperCollins, one of the largest publishing companies, so I don't see any reason why the NYT lot shouldn't have been aware of them. At least the other two novels by American writers on the longlist, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, and Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick, were reviewed in the paper.

What's also disappointing to me is that The Song of Achilles was released in the UK last September, by Bloomsbury Publishing, but somehow it wasn't published in the US until last month, even though the author grew up in Philadelphia and lives in Cambridge, MA. Had it been published in the US last year, it would have been eligible for, and been a great choice for, this year's Pulitzer Prize. I'll certainly pull for her to win this year's Orange Prize, and I suspect that The Song of Achilles will be the favorite choice of the members of the Orange January/July group, based on the few reviews that have been written so far. Oddly enough, Gillespie and I, which I liked slightly better, wasn't selected for the Orange shortlist, so it isn't eligible for the award.

Oh, wait. I was wrong. Madeline Miller does appear in the NYT; oddly enough, it was in T, the paper's Style magazine from April 6, and not in the Books section. She's wearing a very tasteful outfit, and, to her credit, the interviewer discusses the novel, the classics, and her upbringing, rather than her very good looks or fashion.

Styled to a T | Madeline Miller

Nice, but it would have been even nicer if the Books folks had afforded her book the same attention, as I would guess that most of us don't think to look in the women's fashion section for discussion of serious literature.

End of rant. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program, already in progress.

107CatyM
Apr 24, 2012, 10:34am Top

*wanders through, catches up, waves hello*

108richardderus
Apr 24, 2012, 10:53am Top

>81 kidzdoc:, 84 Thumbs-upped them both!

Goddesses, isn't Gillespie and I terrific? So glad to read your celebration of it!

109kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 24, 2012, 11:02am Top

>107 CatyM: Hi, Caty! It's good to see you here. I don't remember seeing any posts on your thread for awhile; let me check to make sure I haven't accidentally ignored it.

>108 richardderus: It was superb; I'm glad you liked it, and The Song of Achilles, as well.

Thanks for the thumbs!

110CatyM
Apr 24, 2012, 11:07am Top

>109 kidzdoc: Darryl, my thread's mostly full of cobwebs, tumbleweeds and silence; other than the posts I've just put there, I shouldn't think there's been anything there to miss in weeks.

111Chatterbox
Apr 24, 2012, 11:15am Top

... whereas the fact that the Orange jury overlooked Gillespie and I in favor of Foreign Bodies is a reason I don't get too enamored of prizes! *grin*

I fear we are doomed to disagree on this...

My copy of Bring Up the Bodies arrived yesterday (galley from Amazon) and I'm already 50 pages into it. If you liked Wolf Hall, you'll LOVE this.

112kidzdoc
Apr 24, 2012, 11:16am Top

>110 CatyM: Good, I hadn't attached a red "x" to your thread, as I had suspected.

113kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 24, 2012, 11:37am Top

>111 Chatterbox: Someone had mentioned here or on another thread that they liked literary awards for the selection of books chosen as finalists, including longlists and shortlists, rather than for the winning book or author; I agree completely. I wouldn't be very interested in the Orange Prize, Booker Prize, Wellcome Trust Book Prize, etc. if, like the Pulitzer Prize, only one book was announced as the winner, with a very limited number of finalists. I've read a number of superb books that have been nominated for the awards but didn't come out on top, and I'm okay with that, so long as a "bad" book isn't chosen. I also enjoy the discussion here and on the Booker Prize web site's discussion section about these books and prizes, although the people that participate in the latter group have engaged in nasty fights and personal attacks on occasion (which is why I lurk rather than actively participate, except to rank the books I've read).

Your comment about Bring Up the Bodies is identical to others I've read recently. I pre-ordered it from Amazon UK, as I preferred the look of the UK cover, and its cost plus shipping was only a few pence above the book's list price. Amazon tells me that it will ship the book to me on May 11th, and that I'll receive it between May 18th and May 23rd. So, I'll probably read it in early June, if not sooner (unless I hijack your copy first).

*orders cat repellent from Amazon*

114banjo123
Apr 24, 2012, 2:20pm Top

Totally awesome poem today, and great rant as well.

115kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 24, 2012, 2:39pm Top

>114 banjo123: Thanks, banjo!

This year's Orwell Prize shortlist has just been announced:

Siddhartha Deb, The Beautiful and the Damned: Life in the New India
Misha Glenny, Dark Market: CyberThieves, CyberCops and You
Toby Harnden, Dead Men Risen
Gavin Knight, Hood Rat
Richard Lloyd Parry, People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman
Julia Lovell, The Opium War

The winner of the £3000 prize will be announced on May 23rd. More info:

Orwell Prize 2012 Shortlists Announced

I expect that Suz will be pleased with this shortlist, especially since the Boris Johnson biography wasn't selected.

116tangledthread
Edited: Apr 24, 2012, 3:13pm Top

>105 kidzdoc: Love today's poem. Glad I checked back in to find it. Also found the poet's bio to be interesting at http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/291 (Another Pitt alum!...or perhaps matriculator...they don't offer enough info.)

Picked up Gillespie and I on my way to yoga this AM. And now you've made me put The Song of Achilles on hold. Thanks for the NYT link...which seems very weird to me. A review of the garment leading into the interview about the book? I clearly am missing a link in the chain. I like garments and I like books...but....??

117kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 24, 2012, 4:00pm Top

Book #42: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller



My rating:

Madeline Miller grew up in Philadelphia, received her bachelor's and master's degrees in Classics from Brown, and spent the past 10 years, using her knowledge and love of The Iliad and the Trojan War, in writing this captivating novel, as narrated by Achilles' best friend and closest confidant Patroclus.

As the story opens, Patroclus, the son of Menoitius, King of Opus, describes his early years in his father's kingdom. He is an embarrassment to his father, as he is simple minded and slow of foot, particularly in comparison to the fleet-footed Achilles, son of Peleus, King of the Myrmidons, and Thetis, a lesser but still powerful sea-goddess. Patroclus admires and is attracted to this impossibly handsome and gifted young man after he wins a race in his father's kingdom.

Patroclus is banished from Opus after an unfortunate accident, and is sent to continue his education and training with Peleus. Patroclus and Achilles are soon attracted to each other, and become inseparable friends and cautious lovers, to the disapproval and dismay of Thetis, who views Patroclus as unsuitable and unworthy of her son. Achilles is prophesied to be the greatest warrior who ever lived, mainly due to his exemplary lineage, and is beloved within and outside of his father's kingdom.

The two young men further their education in life under the tutelage of the centaur Chiron, as they grow to love and respect each other and their inimitable teacher. After several years of training, Achilles is urgently summoned home, to lead the Myrmidons in battle against the Trojans, as Paris, son of the King of Troy, has kidnapped Helen, the Queen of Sparta and the most beautiful woman in the world. Her husband Menelaus and his greedy and power hungry brother, Agamemnon, call on the surrounding kingdoms to honor the oath from Odysseus at the time of her marriage, which compels them to aid him in reclaiming Helen from the Trojans.

Miller skillfully portrays the build up to and the major events in the Trojan War, including the drudgery of warfare and the squabbles between Achilles and Agamemnon and its tragic consequences, ending with the ultimate fates of Patroclus and Achilles.

The Song of Achilles is a remarkable achievement, one which is worthy of this year's Orange Prize, as its author has created a novel that is a beautiful love story and a page turning tale of war, jealousy and friendship. I would imagine that one of Miller's goals in writing this book is to introduce readers like myself who are naïve to The Iliad to the beauty and timelessness of this story, and she has succeeded in doing so. I will read Homer's classic works in the near future, and I'll eagerly return to The Song of Achilles for a pleasure filled re-read soon afterward.

118rebeccanyc
Apr 24, 2012, 4:24pm Top

Some of the Orwell Prize titles sound intriguing -- will take a look. And also, as I mentioned on your other thread, I'll probably look at both Gillespie and I and The Song of Achilles based on your reviews.

119kidzdoc
Apr 24, 2012, 4:27pm Top

>116 tangledthread: I'm glad that you liked today's poem. Li-Young Lee went to Pitt? I had no idea! Thanks for letting me know.

Let's see...according to this article in Pitt Magazine, the quarterly alumni publication, Lee graduated from the School of Arts and Sciences in 1979. He's won multiple literary awards, so it's surprising that he isn't included in the List of University of Pittsburgh people in Wikipedia. Hail to Pitt!

Isn't that article a bit, um, different? I wonder why the Style folks chose Miller as a subject for T Magazine? Obviously she is very attractive, but it seems as though she isn't a fashionista. I do applaud the Style folks for including her, as IMO it's great to see beautiful and intelligent women displayed in such a tasteful manner.

120richardderus
Apr 24, 2012, 4:34pm Top

But it's still a slap that Miller's book wasn't considered Book Review-worthy. Travesty.

Thumbs-upped your review!

121jnwelch
Apr 24, 2012, 5:02pm Top

Great review of The Song of Achilles, Darryl. I'm looking forward to reading it sometime soon. Thumb from me, too!

122PaulCranswick
Apr 24, 2012, 5:20pm Top

Darryl thanks for the Orwell list - I'm not up to date on British political writing but there seems to be an interesting mix of stuff there.

Very good review of The Song of Achilles and I must say the author herself is almost worthy of sending in the Trojan Horse to conquer. Not in the shops over here yet but I am looking forward to its arrival eagerly. Notice that you put it slightly behind Gillespie & I which if I'm not mistaken missed the cut for the Orange shortlist much to many people's surprise.

123kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 24, 2012, 7:53pm Top

Book #44: When I Was a Poet by David Meltzer



My rating:

David Meltzer (1937-), a noted Beat Poet, musician and long time San Francisco resident, moved to the city by the Bay in 1957, after he read two notable Beat poetry collections, Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Pictures of the Gone World, published in 1955, and Allen Ginsberg's Howl, which was released the following year. He befriended the two men, and also began to write poetry and fiction. He also played jazz guitar in the late 1950s and early 1960s, then became a part of the San Francisco rock scene in the middle of the decade, hosting jam sessions with artists such as David Crosby and Jerry Garcia. He later joined the psychedelic band Serpent Power, whose self titled album was proclaimed one of the best of the Summer of Love by Rolling Stone.

Despite his prolific output, When I Was a Poet is the first collection to be published by City Lights, which was released in 2011 as part of its Pocket Poets Series. The poems highlight the bohemian life of Meltzer, Ginsberg and their friends in 1950s San Francisco, with a style that favors but does not mimic that of his contemporaries. Meltzer, still active in his mid 70s, also writes about his life, and those close to him he has loved and lost, along with mid-century bebop and modern jazz, such as this tribute to legendary saxophonist Art Pepper:

Art's desire to get it all said
to all who thought him dead
in the joint & beside the point

Art's struggle to sing it all
through jazz warfare & tell
everything he knew in brass
speed rap stir crazy utopia
of muscle chops push it in your face
rough unrelenting grace

fierce Art pitbull clamps down
pulls edges out in time to break through
scream knotty beauty
toe to toe w/ any joe
who thinks they know better

Art tattoos blue needles into moonlight skin
junk light makes mirrors perfect
Art's smoke aches out of wounds

L.A. Art burritos & bebop
black guacamole serge zoots
Central Avenue cat copping

Pepper at Club Alabam
in Lee Young's band
all the chicks & the hatcheck chick
have big eyes for Art's horn


These poems, particularly "California Dreamin", are enjoyable to read. However, like most Beat poetry, they are best appreciated in a smoky club or cozy bookstore, preferably with the backing of a jazz bassist or small ensemble. I missed seeing Meltzer read from this book at City Lights last year, but I hope to be able to catch him live in performance during a future trip to San Francisco.

124kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 24, 2012, 5:57pm Top

>122 PaulCranswick: You're quite welcome, Paul. I haven't read any of these books, but Suz has read several of them, if I remember correctly. Checking...yes, she read The Beautiful and the Damned and People Who Eat Darkness, and she recently acquired The Opium War, Hood Rat and Dark Market. She may claim that she isn't enamored of prizes, but I might have to disagree with her about the Orwell Prize.

Thanks for the compliment about my review of The Song of Achilles. You're right, I put it behind Gillespie and I for the moment, although I might bump up my rating to a full 5 stars, in line with Richard. More than half of the LTers who have rated it (29 out of 51) have given it 5 stars, with another six, including myself, giving it 4-1/2 stars. Of these 51 readers, only three gave it less than 4 stars.

I still intend to read the entire Orange shortlist over the next 5 weeks (two down, four to go), but I seriously doubt that I'll like any of them better than this one.

125mckait
Apr 24, 2012, 6:11pm Top

? 'scuse me ?


*orders cat repellent from Amazon*

126jnwelch
Apr 24, 2012, 6:20pm Top

Li-Young Lee is great, and you picked a powerful one of his, Darryl. We consider him a Chicago guy, even though he was born in Indonesia. (Heck, a whole lot of people, including me, weren't born here). I know, he went to the U of Pittsburgh. But he lives here now!

127kidzdoc
Apr 24, 2012, 6:21pm Top

>125 mckait: Richard, Caroline and I are planning a covert operation to divest Suz from some of the books that, in our opinion, she no longer needs. (Shh. Don't tell her.) Her cats are the primary obstacle to our success, particularly her lethal attack cat, so we need a temporary non-harmful repellent to shoo them away. Then again, it may be cheaper and more effective to pick up smoked salmon and sturgeon from Russ & Daughters before we make the short trip from the Lower East Side to Brooklyn, unless Caroline and I eat the fish en route.

128kidzdoc
Apr 24, 2012, 6:34pm Top

>126 jnwelch: Thanks, Joe. I had no idea he was a fellow Pitt alumnus before tangledthread mentioned it, so I'll settle for a share of him.

The majority of Atlanta's residents, like myself, were not born in the city, or even in Georgia, something like 75% or more. My work group is very typical in this regard; of the 14 or 15 of us, only one was born in the city, whereas three of us grew up in the Philadelphia area.

129brenzi
Apr 24, 2012, 6:53pm Top

Thumb for your review of The Song of Achilles Darryl. Apparently the odds are 2 to 1 that Ozick will win the Orange and yet her book has not found the adoration that Miller's book has. Of course last year I thought The Memory of Love should have won over The Tiger's Wife but who am I?

130kidzdoc
Apr 24, 2012, 7:21pm Top

Thanks, Bonnie. I wouldn't put much worth in the Orange Prize odds, though. They are posted by British bookmakers such as William Hill and Ladbrokes, which both have a terrible record in selecting the correct winner of the Booker Prize, from what I understand. These bookies read less fiction than the Pulitzer Prize board members do, and I doubt that they have any inside knowledge on the thoughts of the Orange judges.

131mckait
Apr 24, 2012, 7:24pm Top

I will come along and wrangle the cats for you ....

Btw... you wouldn't want to fly up and move in with my nephlets for a few days would ya?

132Cariola
Apr 24, 2012, 7:25pm Top

105> I love Li-Young Lee's poetry.

117> Don't you just love it when you read two outstanding books back-to-back? Doesn't happen that often, but it really restores your faith in the future of books.

133kidzdoc
Apr 24, 2012, 8:15pm Top

>131 mckait: Excelent. Operation Occupy Suz is sure to be a complete success.

I'd love to visit your nephlets. However, I'd meet with disappointment from my parents, who I'll visit starting this coming Monday, and my biological nephew and especially my non-biological nephlets would be jealous and royally pissed off if I visited someone else's kids. They were sadder than usual when I left Madison earlier this year, as I hadn't seen them in awhile and the trip was shorter than usual. I should try to visit them again in June.

>132 Cariola: I like the poems of Li-Young Lee I've read so far, including the ones from The City in Which I Love You.

I do love it when I read multiple outstanding books, as has been the case this month. However, it can make otherwise good books less satisfying than usual.

134brenzi
Apr 24, 2012, 8:58pm Top

Good Lord, you have the top 3 hot reviews Darryl! I wonder if that's a first?

135lauralkeet
Apr 24, 2012, 9:52pm Top

I just did my part to keep Darryl's hotness going!
Hmmm that sounds weird. Don't take it that way OK?

136kidzdoc
Apr 24, 2012, 10:13pm Top

>134 brenzi: Alas, no more. Mac's excellent review of Angle of Repose is now in third place. If you haven't read it, please check it out and give him a well deserved thumbs up.

Having the top three reviews (or three of the top four) is new for me. However, I remember one day a couple of years ago that Richard had six or seven Hot Reviews at one time. So, he remains the undefeated Heavyweight Champion of the Hot Reviews.

>135 lauralkeet: Gasp! Laura?!? I can't believe you said that! My parents forbid you from visiting my thread from now on.

137Ireadthereforeiam
Apr 24, 2012, 10:24pm Top

happy to see explanation of cat repellent purchase.....I was wondering too.... :)

On your 4.5 star rated recent read..... unfortunately you lost me at
As the story opens, Patroclus, the son of Menoitius, King of Opus....
My loss, I'm sure as you and others have obviously really liked it. But I suspect it's not my cuppa.

138kidzdoc
Apr 24, 2012, 10:50pm Top

>137 Ireadthereforeiam: Sorry, Megan. I'd encourage you to look at several other reviews of The Song of Achilles, especially the ones by Richard, Bonnie and Ilana, to get a better sense of the book.

139Smiler69
Apr 25, 2012, 12:10am Top

Congrats on THREE hot reviews Darryl! And thanks so much for mentioning me in the lineup of TSoA reviews—I didn't think mine was especially inspired, but I'm glad you think I did a creditable job of it.

I skipped your review of Gillespie and I because I intend to read it very soon, though I think I've more or less made up my mind to read The Observations first. If it's not as strong as GaI, then it stands a better chance of being fully appreciated, as opposed to compared negatively that way.

Thanks also for your encouraging words on my thread today, means a lot to me and did help me feel a little bit better.

140richardderus
Apr 25, 2012, 2:48am Top

Thumbs-upped the poet bio review, which I confess I did not read, because the poet in question is not dead yet, and I've discovered that that way madness lies.

Anything involving self-restraint, you and Caro, and Russ & Daughters is a hopeless cause. You know this. All Suz would have to do to prevent you two burg-u-lators from making off with anything is leave smoked sturgeon on the counter and a note directing you to the Pol Roger in the fridge. Game over.

141Chatterbox
Apr 25, 2012, 3:16am Top

What Richard said. Full stop. That, plus Tigger the terror cat, would mean you wouldn't even make it up the stairs to where the REAL books are kept. *chortle of amusement*

I am pleased with the Orwell prize shortlist. I've read two of the six; will read three others, all of which are currently residing chez moi. I've dipped into the Julai Lovell book about the Opium War and it looks both fascinating and well written.

142kidzdoc
Apr 25, 2012, 6:10am Top

Today's poem:

If You Go into the Woods You Will Find It Has a Technology by Heather Christle

This tree has a small LED display
It is glowing and it can show you words
and it can show you pictures and it can melt
from one choice to another and you are looking at it
and it wants you to share the message
but it can't see that you are the only one around
and that everyone else is hibernating
which you love You are so happy and alone
with the red and yellow lights It's a nice day
to be in nature and to read up on the very bland ideas
this tree has about how to live This tree says
grow stronger and this tree says fireworks effect
This tree is the saddest prophet in history
but you don't tell it that You are trying to show it respect
which gets tiresome but then it flashes
a snake at you It's a kind of LED tree hybrid joke
and you could just kiss it for trying For failing
But it can't see you and it starts to cry

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/22886

143kidzdoc
Apr 25, 2012, 6:42am Top

>139 Smiler69: Thanks, Ilana! I'm always pleased that folks here like my reviews, as it seems to take me an inordinate amount of time to write them, and I'm rarely satisfied with whatever I write.

I did like your review of The Song of Achilles, along with the ones that Richard and Bonnie wrote.

I look forward to your comments about The Observations, as it's high on my wish list after reading Gillespie and I.

I was furious when I read your blog post, and learned that that jerk put his hands on you and literally pushed you out of his way. You had every right to get angry at him, and I would have been surprised and disappointed if you had let him get away with this. I commuted by train into NYC on a daily basis for four years before I went to medical school, and encountered rude people on a regular basis, but I've never experienced or seen what you described.

>140 richardderus: I thought you were one of our fellow insurgents, Richard! I never suspected that there was a spy in our midst. No matter; Caroline, myself and now Kath will come up with an alternate plan. I was going to suggest that Caroline and I could eat our fill of smoked salmon and sturgeon before the Assault, but we would reek of fish and probably be torn to shreds by Tigger within seconds of entry.

>141 Chatterbox: Excellent. Suz has unwittingly provided us with an alternative plan of attack. Success is all but certain.

See? You're nearly as taken with the Orwell Prize as I am with the Booker Prize.

144mckait
Apr 25, 2012, 6:58am Top

133> ah well, can't blame a gal for trying. They are all sick down there and they just can't seem
to get a handle on it. They have seen 3 different doctors in the practice, and had 3 different
Dx... It's a shame they can't see the same one, who might then get to know the kids.. but I
guess those days are mostly long gone. It sounds like you have some fun times in your near future :)
My son has some non biological nieces and nephews.. he loves their families.. and I am glad they are in
his life. I really wish he would find someone nice for himself.. I think he gets lonely.

Let me know when to show up outside of Suz place....

145kidzdoc
Apr 25, 2012, 7:17am Top

>144 mckait: Sorry to hear that the nephlets are sick. The problem you mentioned is a common one, particularly in larger metropolitan areas; the day of the solo practitioner has probably passed for good. I know a couple of hundred primary care pediatricians in metro Atlanta, who refer their patients to Children's for hospital admission, and I can only think of one or two of them that practice alone (although they may each employ nurse practitioners or physician assistants, as many practices and hospital groups are doing). As you implied, when a child is seen by multiple physicians during an illness, it makes it difficult to make a diagnosis, as each person sees one end of the elephant, and designs a treatment plan based on what they see at that time. What's really needed (and is so difficult to accomplish in a busy private practice) is for a physician to sit down, take a thorough history of the illness from the mother, starting on the first day of symptoms, then supplement the history with a good physical exam. Labs, X-rays, etc. can be helpful in some cases, but usually not for typical childhood illnesses, except for a urinalysis and urine culture in babies and young girls with unexplained fever, or a rapid strep test for kids who have pharyngitis.

What sort of symptoms are they having? Fever? How long have they been sick? Feel free to PM me if you think I can be of any help.

I hope that they get better soon!

146mckait
Apr 25, 2012, 7:46am Top

Aw Darryl... you are sweet... thank you..
I am sure it is nothing serious.. at least I am hoping.
You know how kids are, most things start with fever..
Hopefully this will just run it's course (soon!)...Oliver is already doing better..
or so I hear, thus my babysitting this morning for him, while Own has yet another
appointment.

147mausergem
Edited: Apr 25, 2012, 9:01am Top

Hi Darryl, I have never seen you getting so excited about a book. Both Gillespie and I and The song of Achilles go to the TBR list. The poems I'm not so sure about.

148kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 25, 2012, 6:07pm Top

Book #45: Book of My Mother by Albert Cohen



My rating:

Albert Cohen (1895-1981) was an author and civil servant, whose Greek Jewish parents emigrated to Marseilles soon after his birth. He worked in Geneva through the 1930s, where his mother visited him regularly. He emigrated to Bordeaux and then London in 1940 during the German occupation of France. He urged his elderly and widowed mother, who was in failing health, to move with him to London, but she preferred to remain in Marseilles. Cohen was grief stricken once he learned of her death in 1943. He wrote a series of articles in tribute to her in La France libre during the war, which were later compiled and published as Le Livre de ma mère in 1954. It was translated into English by Bella Cohen, his third wife, and published as Book of My Mother in 1997. Archipelago Books released a new edition this month, which I received through my subscription with the publisher.

The book opens with a flowery ode to his late mother, then provides the reader with a detailed glimpse of his mother, a heavy set but attractive woman who served her husband and son with bottomless devotion and love, regardless of how she was treated by them. Albert was somewhat carefree, and wasted the extra money his mother gave him on the vacuous young women he favored. He subtly rejects his mother's old-fashioned advice, as he prefers to live for the moment and to take advantage of the freedoms that modern society affords him. He does love her, but takes her presence for granted, despite her health problems.

In the middle of the book, Cohen writes to her in sorrow and regret, as he finally realizes how much she meant to him, and how impoverished his life is without her:

I was cruel to you once, and I asked for your forgiveness, which you granted so joyfully. You know, do you not, that I loved you with all my heart. How happy we were together, what chattering accomplices we were—such garrulous good friends, talking interminably. But I could have loved you yet more and written to you each day and given you each day a sense of your importance, which I alone was able to give you and which made so you proud, you who were humble and unacknowledged, my little genius, Maman, my dearest girl.


His anguished cry in this portion of the book brought tears to my eyes, as I thought of my own elderly mother, and know that our days together on earth are numbered. (And, I'm tearing up again as I write this.)

Had the book ended at this point, I would probably have rated it five stars. However, much of the last half of the book is a maudlin and repetitive dirge, with frequent proclamations that "She is dead" and intermittent macabre details about his mother's interment.

He closes the book with a heart felt plea to his readers:

Sons of mothers who are still alive, never again forget that your mothers are mortal. I shall not have written in vain if one of you, after reading my song of death, is one evening gentler with his mother because of me and my mother. Be gentle with your mother each day. Show her more love than I showed my mother. Give your mother some happiness each day, that is what I say to you with the right accorded to me by regret; that is the grave message of a mourner.


This is a difficult book for me to rate. I have settled on a four star rating, as it touched and deeply moved me, and has affected how I view the very good but not perfect relationship I have with my elderly parents. However, the book's latter half was quite disturbing and nearly unreadable to me, as I felt as if I was looking into the intimate thoughts of a mentally disturbed man. I would highly recommend this book, but I would also suggest skipping much of the latter half starting from Chapter 14 and resuming with Chapter 28.

149kidzdoc
Apr 25, 2012, 9:08am Top

>147 mausergem: I'm glad that my love of Gillespie and I and The Song of Achilles was reflected in my reviews, Guatam. I hope that you get to read both books soon.

You did say that you're not fond of poetry, so I'm not surprised that you're not enthralled with these poems. Did you like any of them?

150kidzdoc
Apr 25, 2012, 9:25am Top

Suz's comment about Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel's sequel to Wolf Hall, encouraged me to look at the 2012 Man Booker speculation thread in the Discussion group in the prize's web site. Quite a few promising books are already out or will be coming out soon. I'd like to get a head start on my Booker Dozen reading, so I ordered three books from the UK that seem likely to make the longlist, none of which are currently available in the US:

Pure by Timothy Mo
Capital by John Lanchester
Scenes from Early Life by Philip Hensher

Another book, The Coward's Tale by Vanessa Gebbie, has received glowing reviews from several members in the Discussion group. It has been published in the US, so I'll look for it next week. And, as I think I've mentioned above, I pre-ordered Bring Up the Bodies from Amazon UK, which I should receive by the middle of next month.

151lauralkeet
Apr 25, 2012, 9:35am Top

I thought of my own elderly mother, and know that our days together on earth are numbered.
I attended a funeral last week, for a colleague's mother. I did not know the woman at all, and was surprised at the emotions this stirred up in me. And I'm not close to my mother so there's a feeling of "what might have been" as well.

152jnwelch
Apr 25, 2012, 10:47am Top

I'm going to have to pick up Gillespie and I after such a strong endorsement from you, Darryl - especially on top of the enraptured comments from other LTers.

Good luck with the cat caper. Our lips are sealed.

153Deern
Apr 25, 2012, 12:23pm Top

I mentioned on Ilana's thread that I am thinking to read The Iliad before getting started on The Song of Achilles. Now after reading another great review here, I actually did start with The Iliad yesterday, so I can get to "Achilles" sooner. A surprisingly enjoyable read so far, and Patrocles already made his first entry.

I finished Little Misunderstandings of No Importance and also rated it with 3.5 stars. It was good, but I liked the novels better, although the (Italian) writing was just beautiful, much more poetic than in the novels.

154richardderus
Apr 25, 2012, 1:27pm Top

>147 mausergem: That is the weirdest review I've ever read from your pen, Darryl, bar none. Thumbs up, though with a verschmeckeled set of the lip.

155markon
Apr 25, 2012, 1:51pm Top

I should be taking notes to add to poets I want to read! And I may try Song of Achilles, though epic Greek makes me cringe for some reason (put off by somehow absorbing the idea it's old an boring and long I think?)

I'm also adding Panther Baby to my list. Somehow this year I've started reading more about the Black Power period; currently re-reading Malcolm X: a life of reinvention and listening to Waiting 'til the midnight hour.

156EBT1002
Apr 25, 2012, 3:23pm Top

142> Darryl, another wonderful poem for the day.
I'm surprised at how moved I was by this one. It kind of snuck up on me.

157kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 25, 2012, 6:29pm Top

Woo! It's a glorious spring day in Atlanta, with plenty of sun and a high in the upper 70s. Unfortunately it will rise to the mid to upper 80s for tomorrow and the next four days, at least, which is a bit too warm for my taste.

To Ian McEwan fans: this week's New Yorker includes a story by McEwan, which seems to be the opening segment of "Sweet Tooth", his forthcoming novel, as the narrator in the story and the lead character in the book are both named Serena Frome. Fortunately the full text is available to nonsubscribers; here's the link:

Hand on the Shoulder

>151 lauralkeet: I attended a funeral last week, for a colleague's mother. I did not know the woman at all, and was surprised at the emotions this stirred up in me. And I'm not close to my mother so there's a feeling of "what might have been" as well.

I'm sorry that you and your mother aren't close, Laura. I do have a close relationship with both of my parents, although I don't call them as often as I should (we have talked today, though, and I'll call my mother again after I finish this message). Any death of an older adult or a child, or an unexpected or premature death in a younger adult, seems to sadden me, regardless of whether I knew the person well or not. Book of My Mother had a strong impact on me, and I took Cohen's anguished cry and his plea to not take your mother for granted to heart. I'd call it a life changing book, particularly if I ignore the last half of it.

>152 jnwelch: I hope you do enjoy Gillespie and I, Joe. Both it and The Song of Achilles are magnificent novels.

>153 Deern: I'm curious to get your take on The Iliad, Nathalie. Have you read it before?

As you said, I wasn't that impressed with Little Misunderstandings of No Importance, particularly in comparison with Pereira Declares and The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro. I am looking forward to reading his other novels, particularly Indian Nocturne.

>154 richardderus: Interesting comment. Why did you feel my review was weird? Thanks for the thumbs up, though. :-)

>155 markon: I probably wouldn't have read The Song of Achilles if it wasn't longlisted for the Orange Prize, although Richard's excellent review of it was the reason I chose it over the other Orange books (and it helped that it was available in the US at the time I placed my order). I knew literally nothing about The Iliad or Greek mythology before I started the book; then again, I was almost completely ignorant about Tudor England before I read Wolf Hall, but that didn't keep me from enjoying it. This book was far from boring, and I read it in a single sitting on Sunday, despite its 384 page length.

I have several books about the Black Power movement, including the two you mentioned, Huey: Spirit of the Panther, and possibly one or two others. I'm planning to read Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention next month, and I'd like to read the other two books in the near future.

>156 EBT1002: Thanks, Ellen. That was yesterday's Poem of the Day from the American Academy of Poets' web site, http://www.poetry.org. I receive the PotD as a daily e-mail, and this poem had a similar effect on me, which is why I thought to post it. Certain poems "hit me where I live", as my father would say, and those are the ones that I've been posting here, for the most part. I was pleased to find out that its author, Heather Christle, is a fellow in the Creative Writing Program at Emory. The campus is a short drive from where I live, so hopefully she'll give a poetry reading there in the near future. I'll also buy at least one of her books, probably The Difficult Farm, from the university bookstore very soon, for my planned May TIOLI challenge.

158richardderus
Apr 25, 2012, 5:09pm Top

>157 kidzdoc: "I would highly recommend this book, but I would also suggest skipping much of the latter half starting from Chapter 14 and resuming with Chapter 28."

This in a four-star review? Huh? Very weird.

Still, it was a persuasive review. Nicely done. Just not consistent in the way I expect your reviews to be.

159tangledthread
Apr 25, 2012, 5:28pm Top

>158 richardderus: I knew that segment was what you were referring to in >154 richardderus: because it hit me the same way. Sounds like a book I'll skip, 4 stars and all.

160kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 26, 2012, 6:19am Top

>158 richardderus: Got it. I had a really hard time giving a rating for the book, as the first 100 pages were a life changing five star read, and the last 60 or so pages were disturbing and almost unreadable, which I would rate no higher than two stars. If you look at the book's home page on LT, the reviews for Book of My Mother are all over the place; seven people gave it 5 stars, eight gave it 4 stars, five gave it 3 stars, and eight gave it 2 stars. I've also read some of the book's ratings and reviews on Goodreads, which are similarly disparate; some said that it was "my favorite book ever" and others cried openly at its beauty, whereas others said that it was "pathetic" and "depressing". I agree with all of those comments, as it was incredibly beautiful and heartbreakingly sad, but also quite disturbing and even macabre in its latter half.

>159 tangledthread: Understandable. It's a difficult book to recommend, although it's also absolutely unforgettable.

161mckait
Apr 25, 2012, 6:03pm Top

Agree...unusual review!

162msf59
Apr 25, 2012, 6:06pm Top

Hi Darryl- Wow, I have some serious catching up to do. Both Gillespie and I and The Song of Achilles have been getting the highest praise from the LT Elite. My May is booked but maybe I could squeeze one in after that. Fingers crossed.

163lauralkeet
Apr 25, 2012, 8:24pm Top

>157 kidzdoc:: Any death of an older adult or a child, or an unexpected or premature death in a younger adult, seems to sadden me, regardless of whether I knew the person well or not.
I know what you mean, Darryl. I get especially worked up over children and young adults. We've had a couple of teen driving fatalities in our area in the last few years, two separate incidents with kids who attended our local high school although my kids didn't really know them. Still, it really upset me. There's also a young woman, classmate of my older daughter, who is recovering (rather miraculously) from a traumatic brain injury about 18 mos. ago (again, a car accident). And I obsess on her story as well.

OK, let's talk about happy things. Back to books like Gillespie and I and Song of Achilles, both of which are on their way to me as I write.

164Smiler69
Apr 25, 2012, 9:22pm Top

Darryl, I know what you mean about how rewarding it can be when people appreciate your reviews that are so laboriously put together. I spent lots of time on many of the 400+ reviews I've written here on LT but been scaling down with that too. Two or more hours on a review is a heck of a lot of time when you multiply that by 75+ books in a year... just over six days... that's close to a whole solid week of doing nothing but!

Obviously, I agree that the manhandling was unacceptable behaviour and it was normal enough that I should get angry. Oddly enough, I seem to attract that sort of thing. Or then again, maybe it's just that rudeness is on the rise and I happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Trouble is, when that guy triggered me off, I just overreacted in a big way and it turned into the equivalent of a major road rage incident with me being the rabid freak. I really wanted to beat up that mofo. Good thing he was just a casual shover and not some hopped up violent sadist or I'd be in hospital right now. I'm developing a real phobia about public transit and have talked to my therapist this week on how I can continue using the bus and metro given how many triggers there are there for me. Lots of breathing exercises and plenty of self-talk are the tools she's given me for now. Hope that's enough to keep me out of trouble next time. Maybe eventually I'll have the grace to just get out of the way and say nothing next time someone shoves me or otherwise insults my sensibilities. I just have a really hard time taking that sort of thing lying down though...

165kidzdoc
Apr 26, 2012, 5:48am Top

Today's poem:

Arbolé, Arbolé . . .
by Federico García Lorca
translated by William Logan

Tree, tree
dry and green.

The girl with the pretty face
is out picking olives.
The wind, playboy of towers,
grabs her around the waist.
Four riders passed by
on Andalusian ponies,
with blue and green jackets
and big, dark capes.
"Come to Cordoba, muchacha."
The girl won't listen to them.
Three young bullfighters passed,
slender in the waist,
with jackets the color of oranges
and swords of ancient silver.
"Come to Sevilla, muchacha."
The girl won't listen to them.
When the afternoon had turned
dark brown, with scattered light,
a young man passed by, wearing
roses and myrtle of the moon.
"Come to Granada, muchacha."
And the girl won't listen to him.
The girl with the pretty face
keeps on picking olives
with the grey arm of the wind
wrapped around her waist.
Tree, tree
dry and green.

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15431

166kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 26, 2012, 6:13am Top

My "staycation" is now over, as I'll work for the next four days. However, I'll be off for another 10 days starting on Monday, when I'll fly to Philadelphia to visit my parents.

Last night I finished The Lepers of Molokai by Charles Warren Stoddard, an account of the author's visit to the Hawai'ian leper colony in 1868, and his stay with Father Damien, a Belgian priest who dedicated his life to serving the 500+ Catholics in the community, until he succumbed to the disease. I'll write a short review of it later today.

>161 mckait: An unusual review for an unusual, but unforgettable, book.

>162 msf59: I hope that you're able to read The Song of Achilles and Gillespie and I this summer, Mark. I'll bet that you'll have company in this group when you do, no matter when you read them.

>163 lauralkeet: The hospital I work at has a large comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation unit (CIRU), and a sizable percentage of the kids have suffered traumatic brain injuries after motor vehicle accidents. We don't take care of them, but there will occasionally be patients on the General Pediatrics service that are placed in the CIRU if the rest of the hospital is full. It's tragic to see the rehab patients, as they attempt to learn to perform activities of daily living (ADL). Many of the families post pictures of their children outside of the windows in their rooms, which were taken before they were injured. The families seem to get comfort and support for it, but they are saddening to me.

I look forward to your thoughts about Gillespie and I and The Song of Achilles!

>164 Smiler69: I don't spend two hours on every review, fortunately! Most take an hour or so, particularly the lengthier ones. I do want to submit shorter reviews from some of the older books, so I'll try to catch up on those in the coming weeks.

I've been in situations where I wanted to walk past someone in public, who was moving more slowly or was standing in the walking lane of a moving walkway of an airport. Most of the time these people will move aside, especially in the walkways where there is a lane for people who don't wish to speed walk. However, even if they don't, I never have and never will push someone out of the way; they have every right to stand still on a walkway or walk at their preferred pace. Nothing excuses that jerk's actions, IMO. He was lucky that you weren't accompanied by a red-blooded male, who would have almost certainly confronted him and demanded an apology, or shoved him back (or worse) if he didn't.

Off to work...

167tangledthread
Apr 26, 2012, 8:33am Top

>165 kidzdoc:...I am glad she kept picking olives. I like olives. A lot of waistlines in this poem.

>164 Smiler69: and 166 Interesting this should come up as I've had a couple of verbal incidents (assaults?) as a pedestrian lately that has me wondering if the world is going mad. All of them from middle aged men and certainly with a hint of aggression....in a grocery store, at a gas station, and outside of Barnes & Noble.

168mckait
Apr 26, 2012, 9:50am Top

I have had a few incidents over the years.... not many.
No matter when or what it was no red blooded man has ever
stood up for me. I always defended myownself.. except for the
time I was beaten up by a student at work. Many adults around,
it was a woman of my own age who shoved me out of reach of the
student and took a stand with him. I have occasionally wondered
what it would be like to be protected and or catered to. It seems
outlandish. Unreal.. lol.

I do agree that in recent years, people have become more
aggressive and "pushy". After so many years of experience,
and possibly good genetic material, I can work up a glare that
stops many in their tracks. I am not a shrinking violet type..
Thank goodness!

169tiffin
Apr 26, 2012, 2:42pm Top

>29 kidzdoc:: what a poem!

Way behind. Bad case of life.

170jnwelch
Apr 26, 2012, 4:13pm Top

Me, too, Darryl, re the poem, and life.

171klobrien2
Apr 26, 2012, 5:15pm Top

I am very much enjoying your posted poems! They're such a treat and make me slow down and savor the words. Thanks!

Karen O.

172kidzdoc
Apr 27, 2012, 5:39am Top

Today's poem:

El Florida Room
by Richard Blanco

Not a study or a den, but El Florida
as my mother called it, a pretty name
for the room with the prettiest view
of the lipstick-red hibiscus puckered up
against the windows, the tepid breeze
laden with the brown-sugar scent
of loquats drifting in from the yard.

Not a sunroom, but where the sun
both rose and set, all day the shadows
of banana trees fan-dancing across
the floor, and if it rained, it rained
the loudest, like marbles plunking
across the roof under constant threat
of coconuts ready to fall from the sky.
Not a sitting room, but El Florida where
I sat alone for hours with butterflies
frozen on the polyester curtains
and faces of Lladró figurines: sad angels,
clowns, and princesses with eyes glazed
blue and gray, gazing from behind
the glass doors of the wall cabinet.

Not a TV room, but where I watched
Creature Feature as a boy, clinging
to my brother, safe from vampires
in the same sofa where I fell in love
with Clint Eastwood and my Abuelo
watching westerns, or pitying women
crying in telenovelas with my Abuela.

Not a family room, but the room where
my father twirled his hair while listening
to 8-tracks of Elvis, and read Nietzsche
and Kant a few months before he died,
where my mother learned to dance alone
as she swept, and I learned Salsa pressed
against my Tía Julia's enormous breasts.

At the edge of the city, in the company
of crickets, beside the empty clothesline,
telephone wires and the moon, tonight
my life is an old friend sitting with me
not in the living room, but in the light
of El Florida, as quiet and necessary
as any star shining above it.

173tangledthread
Apr 27, 2012, 11:20am Top

>172 kidzdoc: What a vivid depiction of a place and a set of memories. Lovely choice.

I'm going to miss these when April is over.

174jnwelch
Apr 27, 2012, 11:28am Top

Another grabber of a poem, Darryl. Thanks.

175lauralkeet
Apr 27, 2012, 12:50pm Top

Darryl, I thought of you when I read this review of Song of Achilles, by Simon @ Savidge Reads. I first learned of this book through Books on the Nightstand and then through Simon's podcast, and THEN through LT, so I was eager to read Simon's review. I think it will ring true for you.

I am awaiting today's mail delivery and, hopefully, a copy of the book to salivate over until I read it (probably for Orange July).

176Cariola
Apr 27, 2012, 3:56pm Top

Darryl, the NYT finally got around to reviewing Song of Achilles--but not very positively. Here's the summing up at the end of the first paragraph: "But in the case of Miller, who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in classics at Brown, the epic reach exceeds her technical grasp. The result is a book that has the head of a young adult novel, the body of the “Iliad” and the hindquarters of Barbara Cartland. " Ouch!

177EBT1002
Edited: Apr 27, 2012, 6:23pm Top

178Ireadthereforeiam
Apr 27, 2012, 7:41pm Top

Just chiming in to say that the poetry is lovely to see. It is exposing me to stuff I would never have seen otherwise. Thanks (again!).

179richardderus
Apr 27, 2012, 7:45pm Top

From the gentleman's review: "The real Achilles’ heel of this book is tone — one made disastrously worse by the author’s decision to metamorphose an ancient story of heroes into a modern tale of hormones."

and

"Miller unhappily wobbles between “lyrical” overwriting (“his voice wheedled and ducked, like a weasel escaping the nest”) and a misguided attempt to give a contemporary smoothness to Homer’s antique tale."

THIS from a man whose own literary hubris includes framing the story of his lost Holocaust-victim relatives in the narrative form of the Pentateuch, complete with extensive quotes to make the point clearer!! (Read The Lost. I dare you. What a miasmic trudge that was.) Be lookin' for the beam in thine own eye, Danny boy, before makin' condescending and sweeping judgments about the motes in another's.

The entire review. Which, to be completely fair, makes several quite good points.

180kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 28, 2012, 6:30am Top

Catching up...

>167 tangledthread: Olives are one of the foods of the gods, along with Pad Thai, oyster po' boys, crawfish étouffée, seafood gumbo, lamb saag, English fish and chips, and lamb & mint Cornish pasties. Oh, can't forget garlic cheese grits with shrimp. I think that's it.

Atlanta drivers can be extremely rude toward pedestrians attempting to cross a busy intersection, such as the ones in my immediate neighborhood. I find that the female drivers are often less courteous than the male drivers, as they will something honk their horn at pedestrians that are not moving quickly enough. I'm sure that these women would be pissed as hell if someone honked at them when they were crossing a street.

>168 mckait: Having said that, people in the South are certainly more courteous than their Northern counterparts, and chivalry is far from dead down here.

>169 tiffin:, 170, 171 I'm glad that you're enjoying the poems!

>173 tangledthread: I'll continue to receive the Poem of the Day from the Academy of American Poets every day throughout the year. I'll look at them, and post the ones I like best. I'll also post poems I read in other places that I like, at least the ones that are short or medium in length.

>174 jnwelch: Thanks, Joe.

181kidzdoc
Apr 27, 2012, 8:56pm Top

>175 lauralkeet: I like that review, Laura. Thanks for posting it here.

>176 Cariola: This snarky and mean-spirited review is a perfect example of why I've grown to dislike the book reviews in the NYT in recent years. The reviewer (who doesn't deserve to be named) seemed hell bent on peppering his review with as many negative comments as he could think of: "numerous asides that sound irritatingly as if they were lifted from SparkNotes"; "Patroclus’ early years are a bit Judy Blume-ish"; "a modern tale of hormones"; "swoony soft-porn prose". Seriously? I hope that the schmuck that posted this review feels good about himself. His comments will undoubtedly turn away hundreds if not thousands of readers from trying a fabulous novel. Great job as usual, NYT.

>177 EBT1002:, 178 I'm glad that you liked that poem.

>179 richardderus: Yes, he certainly is a condescending little *%$. I've read his comments twice, and I didn't find any good points that he made, save for the one positive paragraph in this pile of %^&$.

182Cariola
Apr 27, 2012, 9:06pm Top

181> Yep, it really was mean-spirited. Note that they waited weeks, until it was selling well, to get someone to come in and bash the book. Had I not heard glowing reviews from so many LTers, this review would likely have put me off the book. Hooray for us!

183avidmom
Apr 27, 2012, 11:35pm Top

>182 Cariola: I put more stock in the reviews of the LT folks here than in any review written by some so-called "expert." The reviews I find posted in other's threads or posted on the works pages here are more helpful and certainly much more entertaining than what most "critics" come up with.

184kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 28, 2012, 6:28am Top

Today's poem:

Stealing The Scream
by Monica Youn

It was hardly a high-tech operation, stealing The Scream.
That we know for certain, and what was left behind--
a store-bought ladder, a broken window,
and fifty-one seconds of videotape, abstract as an overture.

And the rest? We don't know. But we can envision
moonlight coming in through the broken window,
casting a bright shape over everything--the paintings,
the floor tiles, the velvet ropes: a single, sharp-edged pattern;

the figure's fixed hysteria rendered suddenly ironic
by the fact of something happening; houses
clapping a thousand shingle hands to shocked cheeks
along the road from Oslo to Asgardstrand;

the guards rushing in--too late!--greeted only
by the gap-toothed smirk of the museum walls;
and dangling from the picture wire like a baited hook,
a postcard: "Thanks for the poor security."

The policemen, lost as tourists, stand whispering
in the galleries: ". . .but what does it all mean?"
Someone has the answers, someone who, grasping the frame,
saw his sun-red face reflected in that familiar boiling sky.

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16477

185kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 28, 2012, 12:36pm Top

>182 Cariola: Has The Song of Achilles been selling well? Good; I'm glad to hear that. The reviewer's main purpose, IMO, was to tear down and discredit Madeline Miller and her fine book. Again, I fail to see what purpose this serves; maybe this guy was expressing some petty jealousy that some newcomer has gained acclaim for a book in his field of interest? Someone in the Books section should have made him take out the particularly mean comments, or refuse to pay him for this piece of garbage.

>183 avidmom: I agree; most of the LT reviews are far more useful to me than the vast majority of ones I've read in print. I do find the reviews in the Guardian to be useful and reliable, with none of the mean-spirited barbs that appear so often in the NYT book reviews.

186lauralkeet
Apr 28, 2012, 7:02am Top

You know, another thing that annoys me about the NYT book reviews is that they seem to cover more books written by men than women. OK, I admit I have no actual data here, it's just a gut feel every Sunday when I open the book review section. So then they publish this review, about a book written by a woman, and nominated for a prize no less, and it just makes me wonder all the more about gender bias.

187Cariola
Apr 28, 2012, 11:07am Top

185> I tend to rely more on reviews from NYRB or TLS.

188richardderus
Apr 28, 2012, 11:11am Top

>186 lauralkeet: There exists, somewhere on the Internet, an analysis of gender bias in book reviews, broken down by review sources. I thought I'd bookmarked the site, but I didn't. Dammit!

What irks *me* about the New York Times Book Review is how bloody ****PALTRY**** it is. Giant reviews of non-fiction books that I'd rather scrub the kitchen floor with ammonia on hands and knees than read; snooze-inducing fiction choices reviewed by fictioneers with careers and axes to grind; blech. But then there's the fact that the Times is a hella-rich newspaper, and less than one percent of its space is dedicated to books...cultural coverage split so fine that it's impossible to make a case that it's covered at all.

*grumble* I like The Guardian model better.

189jnwelch
Apr 28, 2012, 11:23am Top

One outcome of the informative discussion of this mean and poorly done NYT review is to inspire me to read more of The Guardian reviews.

190tangledthread
Apr 28, 2012, 2:53pm Top

>184 kidzdoc: "the figure's fixed hysteria rendered suddenly ironic
by the fact of something happening; "

Love that image...of a "screaming" picture being stolen.

>180 kidzdoc:...I'll dine with you on everything but the oyster po' boys. I don't do oysters

Now that it's been mentioned, I do find the Guardian reviews to be more helpful than NYT. Also like the Washington Post reviews, sometimes.

191kidzdoc
Apr 28, 2012, 3:55pm Top

>186 lauralkeet:, 188 Laura, you're right; the NYT does review far more books by male authors than those written by women. Richard, this article (or one similar to it) may be the one you're referring to:

Publication Rates For Men Far Outweigh Women: Study

The study of articles, book reviewers and authors reviewed by gender in several major publications in 2011 was performed by VIDA, an organization "founded in August 2009 to address the need for female writers of literature to engage in conversations regarding the critical reception of women’s creative writing in our current culture." The original set of data can be found here:

http://www.vidaweb.org/the-2011-count

The only publications I noticed that reviewed more female than male authors were The Boston Review (9 female/5 male) and possibly Granta (34/30, but this is a combination of articles, book reviewers and authors reviewed). Most of the publications reviewed roughly 3 books by male authors for every book by a female author, and some were even worse, particularly The New Republic (17/75) and The New York Review of Books (71/293). The New York Times was actually a bit better than most, although the paper reviewed far fewer books by women than men (273/520), and had fewer female than male reviewers (368/448). Considering that women read far more books than men, this disparity makes no sense at all.

>187 Cariola: I like the NYRB and LRB reviews far better than the ones in the NYT, IMO. I subscribe to all three publications, but I don't read the NYRB and LRB as much as I should. I refer far more Commonwealth fiction than US fiction, so The Guardian remains my preferred source of fiction reviews, and the NYRB is my favorite source for nonfiction reviews, since I read more nonfiction from the US than elsewhere.

>188 richardderus: I completely agree; the number of pages dedicated to the Saturday Guardian Review dwarfs that of the Sunday New York Times Book Review, particularly if you eliminate the children's fiction portion of the latter paper.

>189 jnwelch: Needless to say, I highly recommend the Guardian Review, Joe. Fortunately, the paper is online, with no restrictions for nonsubscribers as the NYT does. Here's the link:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books

For those unfamiliar with the Guardian, it's published Monday through Saturday, and its sister paper, the Observer, comes out on Sunday. The Saturday Guardian is the equivalent of most of the Sunday papers in the US, and the Saturday Guardian Review section (http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/guardianreview) is primarily dedicated to books; the Sunday Observer Review (http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/new-review) focuses mainly on performance arts, with a much smaller section on books. IMO, the Guardian easily outranks the New York Times, still my favorite US newspaper despite its many flaws, as it provides more in depth coverage on practically every topic, including books and the arts, and is both well written and entertaining. Obviously the downside for US readers is that it reviews books that are currently available in the UK.

I think I'll start posting links to some of the most interesting reviews and articles I run across in the Guardian, starting today.

>190 tangledthread: Right. I loved that mental image of people holding their hands to their faces in horror upon learning than Munch's The Scream had been stolen (which has happened at least twice in the recent past), which is the main reason I loved that poem so much.

It's a deal. I'll feast on the oyster po'boy, request soup dumplings as an appetizer, and leave the rest to you (although I'll probably ask for at least a taste of the crawfish étouffée).

I need to start looking at the reviews in the Washington Post. I used to like the reviews in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle, but the Book Review section has been almost completely eviscerated.

192Chatterbox
Edited: Apr 28, 2012, 4:43pm Top

OK, can I weigh in on the NYT reviewer issue?

Firstly, a lot of the decisions on when to run a review have nothing whatsoever to do with how well it's selling. There is no way the review would have been delayed until it was clear that it was selling well and then published in an effort to hurt it. (And I say this as the recipient of a rather nasty NYT review myself.) If a book is by a very well established author, or is considered noteworthy or timely for some other reason (eg the bio of Steve Jobs), they will try to run it as close to publication date as possible. (which often means several days later, or two or three weeks later). Other than that, it's about setting priorities and striking a balance in terms of the content. It's entirely possible that the review wasn't commissioned until the book made the Orange shortlist -- it's a first novel by a relatively unknown author getting a lot of attention. But I have NEVER heard of a reviewer being handed a book and told to trash it. The selection of the reviewer? Well, that's another matter. I'm not sure why Daniel Mendelsohn was picked -- he's not really a classical scholar (that I know of); he's not a novelist.

Do I agree with the review? Nope. The tone? Well, that is the reviewer's, as are the opinions. I don't see anything here that tells me that the reviewer's purpose was to tear down or discredit Madeline Miller and her book, any more than my purpose in writing a scathing review of that dreadful book Mr. Churchill's Secretary was to tear down Susan Elia MacNeal. I was expressing my opinion; Mendelsohn; his. I don't think Felix Salmon's nasty review of my own book in the NY times was an effort to demolish my career (and implicitly boost his own), although I suppose that would be one way I would be able to feel better about it. I don't think Mendelsohn "got" the book; I don't think Salmon "got" my book, and I'm sure MacNeal would argue I didn't "get" hers. A friend of mine just got a crappy review from Library Journal and is going through the same kind of process -- he doesn't understand where the review is coming from (and those reviews are unsigned -- I think that's FAR more egregious, esp. since they will directly affect buying decisions by institutions) and is very upset but also reminding himself that not every book is for every reader. Ideally, a publication assigns a book to a reviewer it feels is able to understand that book and what the author is trying to do (I know; I've been part of that process off and on, on both sides.) I don't know what the rationale is here, but I'm fairly sure there was one.

No reviewer is under an obligation to take into consideration that a book is being read with joy by lots of people when forming their own opinion. (If it was, The Da Vinci Code would be critically acclaimed...) Mendelsohn advances his views, supports them. I don't agree with most of them; in a few cases I found myself saying, yeah, I could see how someone might think that, but I don't care enough one way or the other and it didn't affect my overall view of the book. But if we assume that Mendelsohn went into this with the goal of discrediting the author and her novel, then we have to admit the possibility that we sometimes do that to.

Was Mendelsohn perhaps not the right reviewer? Well, I would have preferred a novelist or a classics scholar to weigh in on it, since neither Marguerite Yourcenar nor Mary Renault (the natural reviewers) are available. The only book of his that I have read was The Lost: The Search for Six of Six Million, which I found fascinating and an intriguing attempt to point out the kinds of personal tragedies that are lost in collective disasters like the Holocaust.

Richard, I also need to point out that the NY Times is NOT a rich newspaper. In fact, it has been struggling (as is the case with most papers) to make money as the media world transitions to online. Resources have been slashed to the bone. Ask anyone who works there, whose salaries have been frozen and benefits slashed. (Or ask any of the folks who have lost their jobs, or been told to take buyout offers.) They do a larger amount of cultural coverage than any other N. American daily newspaper (i.e. not a dedicated publication like NYRB) does, as best I can figure. I think possibly even more than the Times of London. Not sure about the Guardian, but I think the latter's cultural coverage may be larger, but also broader.

Are there flaws with reviewing? Of course. Reviews are judgments; judgments reflect our personal tics and fancies. Part of this comes down to how we react to reviews. We aren't sheep; reviews aren't the last word on a subject. I remember Caro told me of a guy in line to purchase my book in a Borders store near her who told his gf he was buying it BECAUSE of the bad review from Salmon in the NY Times. A good book will always transcend a bad review. And sometimes a harsh or critical review pushes people to think about the book and examine what they liked about it with fresh eyes, or realize that something the critic loathed is something that you might have loathed in another book -- but that in this one, that element didn't bother you because of the overall charms of the narrative or the author's style, or the topic, etc.

(Non sequitur: I'd def. read The Guardian for its reviews, including the theater coverage and its music writing, but not so much for its news. I find it incredibly biased; its coverage of the banking crisis routinely displays major errors that come directly from its political point of view, for instance. A friend of mine who has covered the Middle East for 30 years has similar problems with Robert Fisk's writing, which he -- and others I know -- says has included coverage of scenes at which he wasn't even present.)

193richardderus
Apr 28, 2012, 6:08pm Top

Further to our Pulitzer discussion, I've finally written my review of an antique race-relations novel that *should* have won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, The Voice at the Back Door by Elizabeth Spencer. It's over in my thread...post #181.

~meh~ and another case where, possibly, no deserving book was nominated that year...I can't find the nominees the jury gave their close consideration to anywhere.

194richardderus
Apr 28, 2012, 6:28pm Top

>192 Chatterbox: Certainly we agree on the Mendelsohn issue, insofar as I think he was the wrong reviewer for the job; he demonstrably did not get the book.

His criticism of Miller's writing choices reflects his personal tastes...errrmmm, well, not that I can tell after slogging through the turgidity that is The Lost and reading a Pearl Rule 67pp of The Elusive Embrace, his personal meditation on gayness, identity, language, and mores, in which his prose is brightly purple and his subject slightly blue.

He holds a PhD in Classics from Princeton and is a prof of same at Bard. He's queer and Classical...let's send it to him! He'll get it! Plus it's only across town, we can get it there and back in no time!

I am clearly imputing motives on no basis but animus there, but really...choosing this reviewer seems very odd, a man with no fiction writing on his CV, and a strong interest in guarding his piece of territory...gayness in Classical times...from encroachment.

That said, I agreed with a few of his points. The language does careen about a little bit. The "Judy Blume-ish" crack was clearly that, a crack, but it points up a modern-sensibility choice that the author made, one that merely adds a detail never given to the data point in The Iliad...that Patroclus was raised in Peleus's court, an exile.

So Miller did what writers do, she found a rock and built on it. That Mendelsohn didn't like her choice of building materials is allowable...his snark simply reduces one's respect for his opinion. This is the NEW YORK TIMES, for all its faults the best this sad little country has in journalism. Write like it! It's like saying "FUCK YEAH!" when the Queen asks if you enjoyed your dinner.

Anyway. Stella needs walking. Arrivederci.

195lauralkeet
Apr 28, 2012, 7:07pm Top

>188 richardderus:: I agree about the paltriness of the NYT Book Review and about the preponderance of nonfiction that often doesn't sound the least bit interesting to me. When we first began taking the Sunday Times, I really looked forward to reading the Book Review. It's still the first section I read, but lately I've been flipping through rather quickly in search of an interesting crumb.

I agree with Darryl, The Guardian's books coverage is much better.

196roundballnz
Apr 28, 2012, 8:19pm Top

I am with the above & prefer the Guardian model ( & they do a mighty fine podcast as well) & "The Listener" (a NZ publication) ....NYT bleh it's not my thing my time is better spent elsewhere

197tiffin
Apr 28, 2012, 11:00pm Top

I haven't read the book in question (but hope to), nor have I read the review, so nothing much to add except that I always read The Guardian reviews, while reading the NYT reviews less and less.

198alcottacre
Apr 28, 2012, 11:19pm Top

I obviously need to get some more sleep. I read your review of Panther Baby and now have the book title going through my head to the tune of 'Santa Baby.' Ugh. It is going to be a long night! lol

199richardderus
Apr 28, 2012, 11:25pm Top

LOLOL

Panther Baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

HA!

200alcottacre
Apr 28, 2012, 11:26pm Top

#199: You are terrible, Richard, just terrible! :)

201richardderus
Apr 28, 2012, 11:29pm Top

Shoulda seen the lyrics I wrote but censored....

202alcottacre
Apr 28, 2012, 11:40pm Top

I can just imagine. . .

203kidzdoc
Apr 29, 2012, 7:10am Top

Today's poem:

Deer Dancer
by Joy Harjo

Nearly everyone had left that bar in the middle of winter except the
hardcore. It was the coldest night of the year, every place shut down, but
not us. Of course we noticed when she came in. We were Indian ruins. She
was the end of beauty. No one knew her, the stranger whose tribe we
recognized, her family related to deer, if that's who she was, a people
accustomed to hearing songs in pine trees, and making them hearts.

The woman inside the woman who was to dance naked in the bar of misfits
blew deer magic. Henry Jack, who could not survive a sober day, thought she
was Buffalo Calf Woman come back, passed out, his head by the toilet. All
night he dreamed a dream he could not say. The next day he borrowed
money, went home, and sent back the money I lent. Now that's a miracle.
Some people see vision in a burned tortilla, some in the face of a woman.

This is the bar of broken survivors, the club of the shotgun, knife wound, of
poison by culture. We who were taught not to stare drank our beer. The
players gossiped down their cues. Someone put a quarter in the jukebox to
relive despair. Richard's wife dove to kill her. We had to keep her
still, while Richard secretly bought the beauty a drink.

How do I say it? In this language there are no words for how the real world
collapses. I could say it in my own and the sacred mounds would come into
focus, but I couldn't take it in this dingy envelope. So I look at the stars in
this strange city, frozen to the back of the sky, the only promises that ever
make sense.

My brother-in-law hung out with white people, went to law school with a
perfect record, quit. Says you can keep your laws, your words. And
practiced law on the street with his hands. He jimmied to the proverbial
dream girl, the face of the moon, while the players racked a new game.
He bragged to us, he told her magic words and that when she broke,
became human.
But we all heard his voice crack:

What's a girl like you doing in a place like this?

That's what I'd like to know, what are we all doing in a place like this?

You would know she could hear only what she wanted to; don't we all? Left
the drink of betrayal Richard bought her, at the bar. What was she on? We all
wanted some. Put a quarter in the juke. We all take risks stepping into thin
air. Our ceremonies didn't predict this. or we expected more.

I had to tell you this, for the baby inside the girl sealed up with a lick of
hope and swimming into the praise of nations. This is not a rooming house, but
a dream of winter falls and the deer who portrayed the relatives of
strangers. The way back is deer breath on icy windows.

The next dance none of us predicted. She borrowed a chair for the stairway
to heaven and stood on a table of names. And danced in the room of children
without shoes.

You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille With four hungry children and a
crop in the field.


And then she took off her clothes. She shook loose memory, waltzed with the
empty lover we'd all become.

She was the myth slipped down through dreamtime. The promise of feast we
all knew was coming. The deer who crossed through knots of a curse to find
us. She was no slouch, and neither were we, watching.

The music ended. And so does the story. I wasn't there. But I imagined her
like this, not a stained red dress with tape on her heels but the deer who
entered our dream in white dawn, breathed mist into pine trees, her fawn a
blessing of meat, the ancestors who never left.

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15475

204kidzdoc
Edited: Apr 29, 2012, 8:32am Top

>192 Chatterbox: Interesting comments, Suz. I don't think the NYT Book editors intentionally choose or instruct reviewers to tear apart books and their authors, but there seems to be a nasty tone to many of the reviews that appear in the paper that seems unnecessary and at times vindictive. The well known and widely loathed Michiko Kakutani is exhibit A in this regard; she seems to relish eviscerating books that don't meet her personal standards or beliefs.

I think there is a difference between writing an unfavorable and critical review of a book, and writing a mean-spirited one. I certainly don't want a reviewer to give undue praise on a book that is popular, selling well or has received glowing reviews elsewhere. IMO, a good example of this is the review of A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard, which will be published this week by Archipelago Books under the title My Struggle, in yesterday's Guardian Review. I thought it was a very good critique of the book, one which did not resort to simple pettiness.

A good book will always transcend a bad review. And sometimes a harsh or critical review pushes people to think about the book and examine what they liked about it with fresh eyes, or realize that something the critic loathed is something that you might have loathed in another book -- but that in this one, that element didn't bother you because of the overall charms of the narrative or the author's style, or the topic, etc.

That may be true, particularly for people like us who read multiple reviews of a single book, on LT and elsewhere. If you and I like a book and say so in our reviews (e.g., our view of The Finkler Question), but others (e.g. Rebecca, Laura, et al.) don't and explain why, that is very helpful to me, as it does make me rethink about the book. I would suspect, though, that most readers don't look at multiple sources for reviews of books, and can be unduly swayed by a positive or negative review of a book that they are unfamiliar with. I was one of those readers before I joined LT, and I did look to the NYT Book Review as a guide to what books I should read. If I had read that scathing review of The Song of Achilles and knew nothing else about the book, I would have crossed it off my list of books to consider reading.

>193 richardderus: Nice review of The Voice at the Back Door, Richard. I won't be picking that one up anytime soon, despite its Pulitzer Prize win. I'm interested in reading most (but probably not all) of the Booker Prize winners, but most of the Pulitzer Prize winning novels make my eyes glaze over.

>194 richardderus: So Miller did what writers do, she found a rock and built on it. That Mendelsohn didn't like her choice of building materials is allowable...his snark simply reduces one's respect for his opinion.

Right. The problem I have with his review is not that it is a negative one, but that it is condescending and mean-spirited. The tone in his review immediately makes me want to label him as being sexist and elitist. As Suz said, a well written and impersonal negative review would have been helpful here.

>195 lauralkeet: When we first began taking the Sunday Times, I really looked forward to reading the Book Review. It's still the first section I read, but lately I've been flipping through rather quickly in search of an interesting crumb.

I've been reading the Sunday NYT on a daily basis for the past 35 years, and I've been a daily subscriber for the past 12 years. The Book Review used to be the first thing I looked at, but lately that's changed. I'll save it for later reading, but more and more I scan it, rather than reading it in detail.

>196 roundballnz: I agree, Alex; my reading time is generally better spent reading reviews on LT than in the NYT, although I still think it's the best daily paper published in the US. I don't subscribe to my local paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which is a complete waste of time (except for the store ads and coupons).

205kidzdoc
Apr 29, 2012, 8:15am Top

>197 tiffin: Excellent! Another Guardian fan. Do you also read the Books section in the Globe and Mail? How does it compare to the Guardian Review?

>198 alcottacre:-202 Stasia! Richard! Turn out those lights and go to bed!

One more day of work today (10 am to 10 pm), then I'm off for 10 more days. I'll fly to Philadelphia on Tuesday to visit my parents, and return to Atlanta the following Tuesday. I'd like to attend author talks at the PEN World Voices Festival in NYC on Saturday, but I'm not sure what plans my family has for the weekend. Is anyone else planning to go?

206mckait
Apr 29, 2012, 8:30am Top

I have little to add to your discussion as I typically do not read professional reviewers .. and if I do,
I ( try not to faint ) dismiss their opinions. I frankly don't care a fig for their inflated opinions of their own opinions. I look to LT or Amazon reviewers and then decide for myself it it looks like something I want to read HOWEVER, as per the mention in my own thread, I agree that by and large women writers are given less respect then men, at least when it comes to fiction. But that was an older discussion about professional reviewers .. one that I suspect you remember.

207kidzdoc
Apr 29, 2012, 8:36am Top

>206 mckait: Yes, I remember that discussion, and I agree with that opinion.

*faints*

208mckait
Apr 29, 2012, 8:39am Top

LOL :)

209PaulCranswick
Apr 29, 2012, 10:42am Top

I religiously buy Literary Review and BBC History magazines but try not to be put off by the reviews. I get them (certainly the former) as it tips me off as to what books will be coming to my shores in the near future.

210cameling
Apr 29, 2012, 2:14pm Top

I loved your review of Book of My Mother, Darryl. I'd started it but had to put it aside because I didn't want to bring it with me on the plane. I may pick it up again later this week.

Thankfully I already have Song of Achilles and Gillespie and I in my obese wish list because your reviews would have had me scurrying to add them if they weren't already there.

211richardderus
Apr 29, 2012, 2:25pm Top

PEN World Voices...I would love to go...TDM is a board member of PEN, and was instrumental in getting the Prison Writing Committee's Saturday night festschrift all done, and I just cannot make the trip.

Damn this disorder.

212kidzdoc
Apr 29, 2012, 4:23pm Top

>210 cameling: I receive way too many magazines, not counting the medical journals I subscribe to and the free throw away publications I receive. I subscribe to the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, the Bellevue Literary Review, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Callalloo,"a journal of African Diaspora arts and letters". I used to subscribe to Poetry and Granta, as well.

>211 richardderus: I'm not a definite for Saturday, as I'm getting a colonoscopy on Friday by my parents' gastroenterologist, and I'm not sure if I'll be up for a trip to NYC the following day. I may not make it to NYC at all on this trip, since a cousin of mine that I haven't seen in years will be also staying at my parents' house for at least a day or two between tonight and Thursday, when she flies back to Michigan.

213kidzdoc
Apr 30, 2012, 7:16am Top

Today is the last day of April, and the last day of my daily poems. So, I thought this was an appropriate one to finish the month.

An Ending
by Philip Levine

Early March.
The cold beach deserted. My kids
home in a bare house, bundled up
and listening to rock music
pirated from England. My wife
waiting for me in a bar, alone
for an hour over her sherry, and none
of us knows why I have to pace
back and forth on this flat
and birdless stretch of gleaming sand
while the violent air shouts
out its rags of speech. I recall
the calm warm sea of Florida
30 years ago, and my brother
and I staring out in the hope
that someone known and loved
would return out of air and water
and no more, a miracle a kid
could half-believe, could see
as something everyday and possible.
Later I slept alone and dreamed
of the home I never had and wakened
in the dark. A silver light sprayed
across the bed, and the little
rented room ticked toward dawn.
I did not rise. I did not go
to the window and address
the moon. I did not cry
or cry out against the hour
or the loneliness that still
was mine, for I had grown
into the man I am, and I
knew better. A sudden voice
calls out my name or a name
I think is mine. I turn.
The waves have darkened; the sky's
descending all around me. I read
once that the sea would come
to be the color of heaven.
They would be two seas tied
together, and between the two
a third, the sea of my own heart.
I read and believed nothing.
This little beach at the end
of the world is anywhere, and I
stand in a stillness that will last
forever or until the first light
breaks beyond these waters. Don't
be scared, the book said, don't flee
as wave after wave the breakers rise
in darkness toward their ghostly crests,
for he has set a limit to the sea
and he is at your side. The sea
and I breathe in and out as one.
Maybe this is done at last
or for now, this search for what
is never here. Maybe all that
ancient namesake sang is true.
The voice I hear now is
my own night voice, going out
and coming back in an old chant
that calms me, that calms
-- for all I know -- the waves
still lost out there.

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/an-ending/

214kidzdoc
Apr 30, 2012, 8:12am Top

My planned reads for May (you know the drill by now):

Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (TIOLI challenge #1) {TBR}
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (#2) {assuming that I receive it by mid May from the UK}
Painter of Silence by Georgia Harding (#4) {2012 Orange Prize shortlist}
The City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee (#11) {TBR}
The Line by Olga Grushin (#11) {TBR}
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (#11) {TBR}
Source by Mark Doty (#11) {TBR}
The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright (#12) {2012 Orange Prize shortlist}
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable (#12) {TBR}
The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa (#14) {TBR}
Lighthead by Terrance Hayes (#14) {TBR}
Splay Anthem by Nathaniel Mackey (#14) {TBR}
State of Wonder by Anne Patchett (#14) {2012 Orange Prize shortlist}
Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick (#16) {2012 Orange Prize shortlist}

215mckait
Apr 30, 2012, 8:34am Top

Planned reads make me sad... and edgy!
I look forward to seeing what books pop up for me..
I do have some on my radar...enjoy the visit with family :)

216kidzdoc
Apr 30, 2012, 8:42am Top

Kath, I use this list mainly to remind myself of what books I intend to read, particularly for TIOLI challenges. I am not beholden to this list, though, and typically I read a little more than half of the books on it. So, it isn't as inflexible as it may seem to be.

Hmm...I wonder how I did in April. Here's that list:

Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
J.G. Farrell, The Singapore Grip
James Hannam, God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science
Jane Harris, Gillespie & I - completed
Terrance Hayes, Lighthead
Michel Houellebecq, The Map and the Territory - completed
Yusef Komunyakaa, The Chameleon Couch
Giuseppe di Lampedusa, The Leopard - reading
?Alice LaPlante, Turn of Mind
Nathaniel Mackey, Splay Anthem - reading
Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles - completed
Sherwin Nuland, Maimonides
Elizabeth Nunez, Boundaries - completed
Ann Patchett, State of Wonder
Antonio Tabucchi, The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro- completed
Antonio Tabucchi, Little Misunderstandings of No Importance - completed
C.D. Wright, One with Others - completed

I read 14 books in April, seven of which came from this list (assuming that I don't finish The Leopard today), and I read seven of the 17 books in the list.

I'll probably buy Trapeze by Simon Mawer tomorrow, after Suz's enticing review of it, and I wouldn't be surprised if I read it this week or next.

Thanks for the good wish; I'm looking forward to seeing my parents and brother, as always.

217jnwelch
Apr 30, 2012, 10:24am Top

I love it when I see someone is going to read The Master and Margarita, Darryl. Great and unusual book.

218kidzdoc
Apr 30, 2012, 10:27am Top

Thanks, Joe. It's been near the top of my TBR pile for awhile, but other books have gotten in the way. Hopefully I'll get to it in the second half of May.

219rebeccanyc
Apr 30, 2012, 10:50am Top

Loved, loved, loved The Master and Margarita! Hope you do get to it sooner rahter than later. And have a great time with your family.

220ChelleBearss
Apr 30, 2012, 10:52am Top

I see you are planning on reading The Satanic Verses. I've been eyeing that one up but I'm not sure I'm ready for another Rushdie yet. I'll be keeping an eye out for your thoughts on it!

221EBT1002
Apr 30, 2012, 11:09am Top

Excellent choice for the last daily poem, Darryl. I've enjoyed this feature of your April thread!

222kidzdoc
Apr 30, 2012, 12:16pm Top

>219 rebeccanyc: Thanks, Rebecca. The Master and Margarita is high on the list of books I want to read this year. So, even if I don't get to it next month, I'll plan to read it soon.

>220 ChelleBearss: I haven't read anything by Rushdie for a long time, probably not since I read The Enchantress of Florence in 2008. The Satanic Verses has been on my TBR list for longer than that, so I'm eager to get to it next month or later in the year.

>221 EBT1002: Thanks, Ellen. This won't be the end of the poetry on this thread; I'll continue to post poems I come across that are enjoyable or moving.

223kidzdoc
Apr 30, 2012, 1:18pm Top

From the "Credit Where Credit Is Due" department:

As you know, I ranted about the poor quality of the book reviews in the NYT last week. So, it's only fair that I give praise to Michiko Kakutani, for her fabulous review of The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro, which appears in today's paper. This latest installment in Caro's study of LBJ covers the years 1958-1964, during his last years as the Senate Majority Leader, followed by his defeat by JFK in the 1960 Democratic primary, his unhappy and frustrating years as JFK's Vice-President, and the months following Kennedy's assassination. It's certainly one of the best reviews I've read by the often irascible Kakutani, and I'll definitely pick up Caro's latest masterpiece soon.

A Nation’s Best and Worst, Forged in a Crucible

224EBT1002
Apr 30, 2012, 1:39pm Top

Thanks for posting the link, Darryl. I agree; it's an excellent review.

225richardderus
Apr 30, 2012, 3:04pm Top

Darryl, with your penchant for reading four-hankies-and-a-pistol books, I can't believe you haven't gotten around to Behind the Beautiful Forevers yet. Talk about depressing! It makes Frantz Fanon look upbeat. I put up my review, though I suspect it's not likely to sway you, given the number of others yodeling its praises. It's in my thread in post #131.

As many children of poverty as your hospital treats, I imagine it will have an impact on your viscera.

226Donna828
Apr 30, 2012, 4:01pm Top

Hi Darryl, I hope you are safely ensconced in family affection in Philly when you read this. I think it's really cool that you enjoy spending time with your parents. I'm sure they do, too!

Thank you for your recent review of Gillespie and I. I'll add some more accolades for the book, although it isn't my favorite book of the year. I have trouble warming up to a first person narrator, although Harriet Baxter is truly an unforgettable narrator and will be with me for a long time. Now, if The Song of Achilles holds up to the LT love I will be a happy camper. I'm due to get it within the next week or two from the library.

As far as professional reviews go, I read them but don't rely on them as much as I do the recommendations from friends on LT. Suzanne made some very valid points about reviews and reviewers in her post upthread. "We aren't sheep!" Love it.

227tangledthread
Apr 30, 2012, 6:08pm Top

>225 richardderus: "four-hankies-and-a-pistol books" .......

LOL what a good description.

228kidzdoc
Apr 30, 2012, 6:35pm Top

>224 EBT1002: If most of the book reviews in the NYT were as well written and about such important books, I would be thrilled.

>225 richardderus: Nice review, Richard; a well deserved thumbs up from me. Um...you seem to be reading quite a few of these four-hankies-and-a-pistol books yourself, sir.

I was sold on Behind the Beautiful Forevers from the first LT review I read earlier this year. It's very near the top of my wish list, so I'll definitely get it, and probably read it this year.

The last patient I admitted to the hospital last night, although not poor, broke my heart into small pieces. She has a chronic disease that is more common in adults than kids, and at six years of age she is the youngest child I've ever seen with this illness. She wasn't terribly sick and isn't in immediate danger, but tomorrow is her birthday, and she was very upset to learn that she would likely have to spend her 7th birthday in the hospital (and, unfortunately, it's likely that she'll spend many more days in the hospital in the future, due to the disease that she has). Her father and I each held one of her hands while she sobbed, and, misty eyed, I kissed her on the forehead after I left her room.

>226 Donna828: Thanks, Donna; I'm actually leaving for Philadelphia tomorrow morning. These visits are becoming more special, as both I and they get older. Fortunately they are both doing well, all things considered.

I'm glad that you also enjoyed Gillespie and I. Harriet Baxter is definitely one of my favorite first person literary narrators, and I'm eager to read it again to see what I missed the first time. I think you'll be in for a treat with The Song of Achilles; all of the reviews I've read on LT (in the 75 Books, Club Read, and Orange January/July groups) have been strongly positive.

>227 tangledthread: Yes. Richard attached that label to the books I tend to read last year or the year before, quite unfairly I must say.

229avatiakh
Apr 30, 2012, 6:55pm Top

Appreciated all the postings above about reviewing. Like Alex, I love the weekly Art & Books section of our NZ Listener. When I read a negative review of a book I tend to seek out other reviews to see what others are saying, I won't let one bad review put me off. I also skim read a lot of book blogs.

Darryl, I've started Gillespie and I but haven't made much headway as yet, though finding the little girl, Sybil, a treat.

230Chatterbox
Apr 30, 2012, 9:12pm Top

Yes, reviewing is tricky. But it also comes down to readers, too. It's hard for me to put myself in the place of someone who doesn't haunt bookstores and libraries, but I can't remember having reviews shape my decisions on what to avoid. If a book was in my interest area -- I'd nab it, perhaps from the library if a review was bad. In fact, to this day, I don't base book buying decisions on reviews. The reason I like the NYRB reviews is that they typically are mini-articles in their own right, and sometimes draw my attention to books I wouldn't automatically discover. But I'd rather read something for myself and make up my mind, and I can usually tell, reading a review, if it's likely to appeal to me. For instance, had I read Mendelsohn's review before hearing about the book, I would have been ambivalent -- as indeed I was before I opened it. On the one hand, I love historical novels; on the other, I don't like military history all that much, or novels based on myths and legends. But Mendelsohn's criticisms wouldn't have deterred me from reading it.

there are a lot of books, many of them probably wonderful, that I'll never read. Some, because they are out of print. Some, because they aren't translated into a language that I can read. Some, because the subjects don't appeal to me or because I've read another book by the author that I didn't like. Some, because there simply isn't enough time. And that's probably the same for everybody. If people choose to limit their reading by allowing reviewers to filter their potential reading, I kinda see that as a choice. It's like a movie critic telling you what movies you'll like. It's only by reading a lot that you can adjust for a particular critic's bias and figure out when a movie he/she loathes you'll like and vice versa. The problem with books is trickier, as few reviewers are frequent enough. And I've had the opposite problem, too, reading a positive review from a novelist trying to support a new talent, IMO. So, I might let reviewers suggest things to me, but I won't let them shape my reading decisions. If people do, that's a choice they make, too. If the subject appeals, and they are curious enough, they can google the book or the topic. They don't need to rely on any single review or reviewer. It's a tradeoff, and if people believe that any critic is an arbiter of what is good or bad, and they miss out on good books as a result, well (a) they may well never know what they are missing and (b) they are doing it because it isn't (yet) important enough for them to make that extra effort.

Interesting debate...

231alcottacre
Apr 30, 2012, 9:18pm Top

I have only been meaning to get to The Master and Margarita for the past 2 years or so now. Maybe you will finally inspire me to get it read, Darryl.

232cameling
Apr 30, 2012, 10:03pm Top

I second Stas, Darryl ... I keep meaning to read Master and Margarita but something else keeps catching my eye. I'm sure your review will be just the nudge I need to dust it off my TBR Tower.

233kidzdoc
Apr 30, 2012, 10:30pm Top

>229 avatiakh:, 230 I do depend on reviews, here and in the media, to inform me of new books, particularly ones that I haven't heard of or from authors I'm not familiar with, such as The Song of Achilles and Madeline Miller. I don't remember reading the glowing review of it last year in the Guardian, and I hadn't read any professional reviews before the evisceration of it in yesterday's NYT. Had I only heard about it from this review, and not from the flurry of attention it has received here (thanks Richard, Bonnie, et al.) and as a result of being selected for the Orange Prize longlist, there's a good chance I wouldn't have given it a try, because the book's topic isn't one that I would have been interested in. Had it been a book by a familiar author or a topic that appealed to me, I may have decided to give it a try.

I suspect that the vast majority of readers don't look to multiple sources for book reviews, if they read them at all. (That was certainly true for me, pre-LT.) I can't tell you the last time I looked for books to read in a public library, but I suspect that I haven't been in one in the 21st century (seriously). Now that my local Borders stores have closed and the Druid Hills Bookstore at Emory has transferred operations to a cookie cutter Barnes & Noble on the edge of campus, I haven't set foot in a bookstore since the NYC Boxing Day meetup. So, unlike Suz (and many others here, I suspect), I don't regularly peruse bookshops or libraries, particularly because there aren't any selective bookshops like City Lights, the London Review Bookshop or Book Culture here in Atlanta.

I think that a newspaper as important as the NYT should publish book reviews that are critical, balanced and free of personal opinions and biases, as I would expect from the news stories that appear in the paper. The paper, IMO, has a responsibility to its millions of readers and a reputation to uphold, and I think the current editors in the Books department are not living up to the task. I'm overly idealistic in my opinion, but it is what I believe should be the case, or at least the goal. Publishing a mean-spirited, petty review such as that one doesn't serve the reading public, and it only makes the author of the review look foolish and the Books section seem biased and unreliable.

234kidzdoc
Apr 30, 2012, 10:35pm Top

>231 alcottacre:, 232 I definitely intend to read The Master and Margarita this year, although it's very possible I may not read it next month. I chose it as a book to read this month mainly for a TIOLI challenge, but I probably would be better off waiting until the summer or fall, when I'll have more free time to dedicate to it.

235alcottacre
Apr 30, 2012, 10:37pm Top

#234: I never seem to have free time to read anything these days, so I am not sure when The Master and the Margarita is ever going to get read! I own the book though, so perhaps some day?

236kidzdoc
Apr 30, 2012, 10:42pm Top

Changing gears completely for a moment; non-baseball fans please ignore this message.

The Phillies beat the Chicago Cubs tonight, 6-4. The Phillies' starting pitcher threw a great game, giving up one run in seven innings, and he left the game with a 4-1 lead. The two relievers that pitched the eighth inning managed to give away the lead, with the second reliever giving up a two run home run that tied the game, 4-4. The Phillies scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth to retake a 6-4 lead, and the third reliever threw a perfect ninth inning to preserve the win. So, who gets the win? The second reliever who gave away the lead! Where's the fairness in that?

*mini-rant over*

237alcottacre
Apr 30, 2012, 10:43pm Top

I understand your mini-rant. I do not like the way things like that play out in baseball either!

238kidzdoc
Apr 30, 2012, 10:46pm Top

>235 alcottacre: That's understandable, Stasia, although it must seem weird to you. I hardly read anything for pleasure when I was an undergraduate and medical student, and during most of my residency. I read 14 books this month; I'm certain that I didn't read that many books during my four years in medical school. How much longer do you have before you finish?

239alcottacre
Apr 30, 2012, 10:49pm Top

The program I am in is 2 years long and since I just started in January - a long time before it is done! lol

240brenzi
Apr 30, 2012, 10:57pm Top

I have to say that professional reviews, when they are positive, may nudge me towards a book that I would not have thought tom read. But when they are negative, that doesn't mean I won't read the book. If I was really interested, I would seek out other opinions. A raft of negative reviews would certainly sway me. But one critic, panning a book, would have little or no effect on me.

Another thing is, as I read the NYT review of The Song of Achilles, I felt as if the reviewer had put himself on a tower on high where his almighty opinion was was more intelligent than anything I could possibly have to say about the book. That's why I value the opinions of other LTers so much more. Even when they dislike a book, they don't make me feel like they are smarter than me because we have different opinions about a book. But Mendelsohn came across as thinking that he was so much more intelligent than anyone else and so, had the only valid opinion.

241kidzdoc
Apr 30, 2012, 11:02pm Top

>239 alcottacre: I'll bet that the time will pass by more quickly overall, although there will likely be times that it seems as though you'll never be finished, if your experience is similar to mine. On a day to day basis medical school seemed nearly interminable, but the last two years seemed to go by in a blur.

I'll never forget graduation day from med school, which oddly enough was one of the saddest days of my life. My class was especially close, and there were many tearful goodbyes just prior to the actual commencement, as many of the graduates and nearly all of my closest friends were leaving Pittsburgh to fulfill their residencies. One of my closest friends, who I didn't see before or during commencement, found me talking with my family, and she sobbingly told my parents how much my friendship meant to her and how much she would miss me, which deeply touched them and me. Other than those emotional goodbyes I don't remember much from that day.

242richardderus
Apr 30, 2012, 11:06pm Top

The second relief got the win...? A perfect ninth, and the SECOND relief got the win.

::verschmeckeled::

243kidzdoc
Apr 30, 2012, 11:40pm Top

>240 brenzi: I agree with you, Bonnie. A positive review, particularly from a someone I trust such as the Guardian's Maya Jaggi, is likely to induce me to buy a book I may not have otherwise. A negative review from her would probably be fatal, unless I had a very good reason to read the book. I generally dislike Michiko Kakutani's negative reviews, but her positive ones, such as the one in today's NYT, are very compelling. I am less likely to be overly swayed by a single positive or negative review for a book that I'm interested in or have heard about than one I an unfamiliar with, and I'm much more likely now to read multiple reviews for these books.

I couldn't agree more with you about your assessment of that reviewer! He seemed to have an inflated sense of importance, due to his academic credentials, and came across as the self appointed Voice of Authority on Classical literature. A sizable number of the academic types I've encountered in science and medicine seem to take a special delight in ripping apart anyone who they feel is beneath them, or, worse yet, a rival to them, so I would imagine that he relished the opportunity to eviscerate the little high school teacher who dared to interpret The Iliad in the manner that she did, which was probably blasphemous to him.

244EBT1002
Apr 30, 2012, 11:49pm Top

>236 kidzdoc: Ahh, the vicissitudes of baseball.

245kidzdoc
Edited: May 1, 2012, 4:31am Top

>242 richardderus: Right. The starting pitcher, Vance Worley, gave up one run in seven innings, and left with a 4-1 lead. The second pitcher, Antonio Bastardo, faced two batters in the top of the eighth inning, getting the first guy out and giving up a walk to the second one. For some reason, the manager replaced him with Chad Qualls. One out, one on base, still 4-1. The runner on first steals second, and then Qualls gives up a single, making it 4-2, still one out and a runner on first. He then gives up a two run home run to the next batter, tying the game at 4. Qualls manages somehow to get two of the next three batters out, preventing any further damage, making him the pitcher of record; Worley is left with a no decision, despite his stellar outing. The Phillies score twice in the bottom of the eighth to take a 6-4 lead. Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies' closer, shuts the door on the Cubs in the top of the ninth, preserving a 6-4 Phillies win. Qualls was the pitcher of record at the time the Phillies regained the lead. So, he gets the win, despite a piss poor outing (2/3 of an inning, 2 runs, 3 hits). Qualls should hand over his win to Worley, or at least his day's salary, since he did nothing to earn that win.

246richardderus
May 1, 2012, 12:20am Top

Explain to me why Worley gets ND. I know, I know, pitcher of record and all, but...

Oh, never mind, I guess I'm still smarting over the tied All-Star game ten years ago...they broke the rules then and called a tie, in perfect weather, just to make life easier on the pitchers; what up with not giving Worley the win? I mean, if nothing else, let's break another rule and give Papelbon a save.

247kidzdoc
May 1, 2012, 9:24am Top

Papelbon did get the save, as he entered the game with his team ahead by two runs (or is it three?) or less.

I read yesterday's NYT while I rode the train to ATL airport a little while ago, and it seems as though the same thing happened to the Mets' Johan Santana on Sunday. He pitched six innings of shutout ball, but the Mets won 6-5 in 11 innings.

I think if a starting pitcher qualifies for a win, i.e. he pitches at least five innings and his team is in the lead when he departs, and if the relief staff gives up the lead but comes back to win the game, the starter should get the win. I'm a bit less sure about the opposite scenario; should a pitcher who is in line to take a loss at time he is pulled, whose team rallies to tie or take the lead, only to see the relief staff give up the lead be responsible for the loss? Probably not.

I don't watch All-Star games, whether MLB, NBA, NFL, or NHL. The only reason I pay any attention to the MLB All-Star game is that the winner has home field advantage in the World Series.

Flight's about to board; back later.

248EBT1002
May 1, 2012, 10:24am Top

I agree with your analysis in 247, Darryl. Felix Hernandez pitched a great game yesterday, came away with no decision (this happens to him far too frequently). The Mariners took the lead in the 11th but couldn't keep it and ended up losing the game. I would have been in favor of Felix getting the win if the Mariners could have held that 11th inning lead, but I would hate to see him get the loss when it was the bullpen that blew it.

249mckait
May 1, 2012, 1:12pm Top

Too much sports and too many opinions to add my own.. so I am just trying to keep up.
It has already been a rather long day...

250kidzdoc
May 1, 2012, 1:22pm Top

>247 kidzdoc: I guess if you make one change, that opens the door for other, similar exceptions.

I'm in Philadelphia, waiting for the commuter train that will take me to the suburb north of the city where my parents live. It was a pleasant flight, with an amiable and quiet seat mate, and I managed to read the first 75 pages of Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw, a novel I bought in London in 2009 after a glowing review by Maya Jaggi in the Guardian. I've been meaning to get to it for awhile, and when I looked at Jaggi's reviews online yesterday, I remember that she had highly recommended this book. It's set in Indonesia in the troubled mid 1960s during the Sukarno regime, and is narrated by a ?mixed race orphan who is adopted by a Dutch man, and seeks reconciliation with his brother, who was adopted by a wealthy family. The writing is sublime and captivating.

I'll create a new thread later today.

251lauralkeet
May 1, 2012, 2:36pm Top

Kinda sorta just missed you in PHL today Darryl. I had a 9:40 outbound flight. I, too, got a lot of reading done en route to the Windy City.

252Chatterbox
May 1, 2012, 3:45pm Top

I remember really liking Map of the Invisible World when I read it bout two years ago, but oddly enough, the reasons I liked it haven't stuck with me!!

253richardderus
May 1, 2012, 7:06pm Top

*grumble* Opening doors bah humbug look at the DH debacle and that door's wide open after 40 years blech boo hiss

254kidzdoc
May 1, 2012, 10:27pm Top

>249 mckait: Yep, I didn't think there would be much participation in our discussion of the nuances of baseball, Kath. I hope that tomorrow is a better day for you.

>251 lauralkeet: Howdy, neighbor! We missed each other by a little over two hours. I normally fly on Delta, so I arrived at terminal D at PHL. I picked up a burrito there, grabbed my suitcase from baggage claim, and ate lunch while I waited for the SEPTA train. Fortunately for me, every other train becomes a West Trenton local after it passes through Center City, which stops at Langhorne station, a 5 minute drive from my parents' house.

>252 Chatterbox: I remembered that you had reviewed Map of the Invisible World two years ago; I think yours is the only one on its home page on LT. I was interested to see that you're planning to read his debut novel, The Harmony Silk Factory, which I also own. I look forward to your comments about it.

I started Map of the Invisible World because I wanted a cracking good read, as opposed to the pleasurable but deliberate pace of The Leopard, which I also brought with me (along with my Kindle, of course).

>253 richardderus: I'm with you. I've never liked the DH rule, and it should be scrapped pronto, IMO. What other sport has a different rule for different teams?

255Ireadthereforeiam
May 1, 2012, 10:46pm Top

Hi Darryl, nice to see how your planned reads for April ended up. You got pretty close hey? Must be nice to tick so many off your list.
Lovely long poem/story up there (#203), what a story it tells. Would you believe I was scrolling past it when the word "tortilla" caught my eye....it made me want to go back and read it. I think because of reading Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, the tortilla strikes me now as an exotic and exciting food, and reminds me of camping and horses and freedom :) All that from a tortilla!

256kidzdoc
May 1, 2012, 11:04pm Top

Thanks, Megan. I read 14 books in April, so it was a good reading month. I doubt that I'll do as well in May, but hopefully I can knock off 10-12 books.

I had to scroll up to see which poem was in message #203; it was Joy Harjo's poem set in a bar, with the dancing woman who shed her clothes. I was tickled by your description of tortillas as "exotic and exciting". Mexican food is practically standard fare in most major US cities, and it's easy to get freshly made burritos or tacos here; tortillas, tamales or chimichangas are a bit more difficult to find, unless you go to an authentic taquería (taco shop).

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2012

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