Laytonwoman rediscovers America in 2014
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As some of you know, LT member brainflakes (a/k/a Charlie Callahan) passed away nearly two years ago. Although I never met him in person, we had some grand conversations on LT, and on the phone, and our brief friendship was a treasure. The photo above is Charlie's Library of America collection as he shelved it; he was a charter subscriber to their publications, and when he knew he was going to have to leave them before long, he asked me if I would accept them as his legacy. They now reside in my home, and I'm determined to give them the attention they deserve in the coming reading year.
I've long considered myself an "Americanist", with Faulkner being No.1 on my list of favorite authors. This year, I will participate in the American Authors Challenge; will read extensively from the Library of America; and will re-visit some authors whose work I've sampled and enjoyed already, but who have much more to offer than I've read so far, particularly Walker Percy, Eudora Welty, Jeffrey Lent, Reynolds Price, Annie Proulx, Cormac McCarthy, Robert Penn Warren, Louise Erdrich, William Maxewell (the list is endless). I will also continue my ongoing quest to read more books from my own shelves than I acquire in the course of a year. I don't do especially well with planned reads, so this is an overall intention, not an obligation by any means, but as they are overlapping goals, it may work out. I'll leave room for reading outside the US too. And as I have learned, there will always be books I grab on impulse for one reason or another, and that's often where the most rewarding experiences come from.
My tentative list for the American Authors Challenge:
Willa Cather Alexander's Bridge Read 1-1-14
My Antonia Read 1-17-14
William Faulkner Mosquitoes (a very early novel I have never read)
Cormac McCarthy Suttree
Toni Morrison Song of Solomon
Eudora Welty Delta Wedding
Kurt Vonnegut A Man Without a Country (at Richard's suggestion)
Mark Twain Life on the Mississippi
The Prince and the Pauper
Philip Roth No enthusiasm here...will cogitate; may substitute
James Baldwin Go Tell it on the Mountain
Edith Wharton The Custom of the Country
John Updike Due Considerations I don't care for his
fiction, and this collection of essays and criticism is on my
Larry Watson American Boy
This is my "Faulkner shelf", which is not to suggest that it contains all I own by and about the man:
This man, also no longer tramping the earth with the rest of us, may be responsible for my Faulkner obsession; he taught me, among other things, that the man is FUNNY. His name was Robert Byington, (or "Little Bobby Byington", as he often referred to himself) and he was a professor of American literature and folklore at Lycoming College, in Williamsport, PA, in the early 1970's. He was pretty funny himself, and had one of those memorable laughs that simply can't be duplicated or forgotten.
Here's a link to my last thread for 2013, if anyone wants to jump over and browse. And so I don't lose track of it.
My total books read as the year goes along.:
My ROOT (Reading Our Own Tomes), or Books-off-the-shelf total:
AND a little thing I'll call "What Else Am I Reading", where I'll post any comments I'd like to preserve about magazine articles, individual short story reads, poetry and the like.
Slightly Foxed I've been sampling from No. 40, the 10th anniversary issue of this "Real Reader's Quarterly" magazine, which I simply love. Oliver Pritchett's "Felling a Little Wembley', Daisy Hay's "Not So Plain Jane", and Hazel Wood's "Cambridge Canvas" went down very well this morning before breakfast.
I will keep track of my reads by month in this post, adding to it as I complete each book. The title links will take you to the post where I review (or at least comment on) that particular book.
* indicates a library book
LOA means I read it from a Library of America edition
9. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
8. One Arm by Tennessee Williams
*7. The Black Country by Alex Grecian
6. My Antonia by Willa Cather LOA
* 5. Ironhorse by Robert Knott audio performed by Titus Welliver
4. Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming
3. Outside the Southern Myth by Noel Polk
2. Alexander's Bridge by Willa Cather
1. In Pursuit of Spenser edited by Otto Penzler
Linda - You are going to re-discover America and I'll try to discover. I am not one of the world's chumps in not realising the tremendous role America has played in allowing everybody their freedoms. I will be reading at least one Faulkner this year; maybe Sanctuary. I will be an ardent follower of your journey of re-discovery. xx
>4 PaulCranswick:, 5. I urge you both, if you want to enjoy Faulkner, to save Sanctuary until you have read The Hamlet or Sartoris or The Unvanquished. All three of those are more approachable, and more likely to "hook" you on his world than Sanctuary, which is certainly powerful, but also one of the targets some people use to disparage his work for containing too much violence and sensationalism.
Linda, the photo and the tip-of-your-hat to brainflakes in your topper --- well, you actually made my eyes mist up. I love your plan to read, during the coming year, many of the works in the lovely collection he left you.
I think there is a Faulkner February thing brewing. I plan to read Absalom! Absalom! and am looking forward to discussions thereof.
Wishing you the very best in 2014. My star here has been appointed.
Ah, yes, Ellen, Absalom, Absalom! is, I would argue, Faulkner's masterpiece. I hope you're going to enjoy it.
Who is behind the Faulkner February? Is there a thread yet?
Hello Linda -- I was blessed to have had a short correspondence with brainflakes about book reviewing and the ettiquette/politics of negative ones. He was sweet, wise and a real charmer. Wish I had known him as long and well as so many others here.
I've set myself several goals for 2014 -- taking on my first challenge ever, as well as learning how to post onto LT. I was clicking through the other posters on the 75 in 2014 group and was completely moved to see your lovely photo and tribute here. I've checked out and am quite impressed with your library and profile as well.
Happy reading in 2014! You are inspriing me to consider a little Faulkner sometimein the future. Please let me know especially if you take on a guided read at some point.
I'm so glad you're joining us, Trumpet. I just visited your profile page, and see that post from Charlie, about your critical review of Edgar Sawtelle. (I've left that one alone, in part because he didn't rate it highly. Taking the advice and counsel of a reader you trust can not only bring you to rich reading, but save you time wasted on a disappointing book.) I also seriously love the reading chair in your photo. Yours? If so, I'm a bit green with envy. And that quote from A Child's Christmas in Wales gets a lot of usage in our house! Have you seen the video version?
I would feel totally inadequate to leading a guided read any time soon, but I will happily discuss any Faulkner novel you might consider reading, and point you to some older posts of mine where my brain was in high gear and I said some things I still consider worth sharing!
Thanks Linda! You are so right about the advice and counsel of trusted readers. I think this is why I enjoy LT so much.
Yep -- the reading chair is mine and my favorite spot in the house. Must be inviting to many people -- seems everyone who comes to visit gravitates to sit in that chair! Something to be said for a sunny spot with the reading lamp just so and a small table to put one's cup of tea.
The quote from A Child's Christmas in Wales is an all time favorite. I can still remember hearing the line spoken in a high falsetto during a reading by a dear friend! It never fails to draw a smile in our house either. Haven't seen the video. Always was afraid the screen wouldn't live up to Thomas' lyrical prose. May have to give it a shot.
When I start working through my goals for the year, I'll try to give Faulkner a try. I'll check in on some recommendations from you at some point if I might.
Linda - I'll have to add the ones you suggest first. And I really, really, really need encouragement to buy more books. xx
I think I'm through with that opening post now, so if you read it when there was only one picture, feel free to re-visit.
>15 PaulCranswick: And I really, really, really need encouragement to buy more books. Stop...you're killing me! I can't stop laughing, and the boss wonders what I'm up to!
Hi Linda - I'm starring your thread as well. I'm also a Faulkner enthusiast and believe we should stick together. :-)
What a wonderful story in post #1!
If I'm not totally imagining this, I think Faulkner February was something Ellen, Beth, and I were imagining a few months ago (although none of us have yet shown talent in the realm of group read organization, if I may be so bold to say it). I wonder if Mark might move his Faulkner thing to February so we might ride his coattails. Perhaps I'll ask him.
>14 michigantrumpet: Always was afraid the screen wouldn't live up to Thomas' lyrical prose It does, though, with Denholm Elliot narrating. And the Protheroe house fire scene is priceless. Trouble is, it's impossible to find at a respectable price. We have a second generation copy on DVD, transferred from VHS, originally recorded from PBS. It's too bad that the commercial edition seems to be no longer available except through second-hand dealers.
>17 DorsVenabili: Yes, yes we must stick together. There are lovers and haters and those who "see his worth" but don't care to read him. We won't mention those who never read him but think they can take his measure anyway! Have you seen the new movie of As I Lay Dying?
Just checked online and you're right -- prohibitively expensive. I'm now crushed because I LOVE Denholm Elliott. I didn't know until a fw minutes ago that I had to have this, now I do and I can't. *sigh* Isn't that the way of the world!!
I'm almost sorry I mentioned it! I don't know if PBS stations ever re-broadcast it these days...it's something to look out for.
EDIT: Eureka! I find it's on YouTube. A Child's Christmas in Wales
EDIT AGAIN: Even more good news. You can get this production in a six-pack of Christmas films (never heard of any of the others except Music of the Heart, a good one too) from Amazon for a total of $7.49. How could you go wrong? I got this information from the company that put out the original DVD of "A Child's Christmas in Wales" I e-mailed them to ask about it, and they responded that they had lost the rights to it a couple years ago, but pointed me to this multi-disc offer on Amazon. Good on ya, Hen's Tooth Video---never heard of you before, but I'm keeping you on my radar now!
Am a HUGE fan of PBS -- am hoping the lending library of our local WGBH has a copy. Fingers crossed! Thanks for the suggestion and pointing me in that direction.
#18 - No, I haven't seen it, but I should probably throw it on the film wishlist. Have you seen it? What do you think?
>21 michigantrumpet: Note my edit above. Your PBS station has a lending library? What a wonderful idea! My husband worked for our local PBS station for 20+ years, but they didn't do that.
>22 DorsVenabili: I have seen it, and I thought it was very well done, but a little lacking in the black humor department. I could see it, because I know where to look, but I'm afraid people not familiar with the book, or not tuned in to Faulkner's style might miss it because it wasn't really "activated" by the production. Still, well worth seeing.
wow Linda, you have a treasure there in that LOA collection. I really like that photograph. A beautiful display! The 75ers are so ambitious. I still need to finish 2013 before I think of 2014 too much. Happy Holidays to you.
#11, 17> It might have been Kerri, Beth, and myself who tossed around the idea of Faulkner February. I think Kerri is spot on in saying that none of us might have strengths in the area of leading a group read. And, of course, this is a group read of an author, so it's even more complicated.
I do think it would be cool if Mark would trade so that he's reading Faulkner in February since I think he has a host of followers in his AAC.....
Hey, I just noticed that there is a thread in the 75-in-2014 group for monthly themes. I believe they are looking for broad concepts like "January Joyrides" (I speak the truth) but I boldly (literally) proposed Faulkner February.
Linda, what a great story about Charlie's books! I remember chatting with him online a couple of times, and I was sad when he left us. But how awesome that you have his books and plan to read them this year! Your first post just touched my heart.
Faulkner February would probably draw me in...I'm almost always ready to re-read some of my favorites.
#23 - Interesting. I will check it out. I must admit that As I Lay Dying was the first Faulkner I read and also one of my least favorites. It might be due for a reread by an older and perhaps slightly wiser (although that's debatable) Kerri.
Linda - thanks for the link to YouTube! It made quite a scene last night: Setting: Evening commuter rail train out of Boston filled with the usual assortment of workers, students and occasional day trippers. Video purring along on my IPad, with me listening delightedly through earbuds. Eventually, I noticed people giving me strange looks. Apparently, I was chortling out loud. Oops! Yes, the Protheroe fire scene was wonderfully done and now I have another memory of the story to add to the others. Thanks.
>30 michigantrumpet: I love that image, of you engrossed in the video, chortling unself-consciously among the poor commuters who wondered what they were missing! Now, did you see my further edit above, that apparently we CAN get the commercial DVD from Amazon without pledging our first-born child or going into bondage ourselves?
>24 RBeffa: Hey, there, Ron! Missed your post before. Thanks for dropping by. I'm still reading for 2013 too, no worries.
Linda, love the pictures of your American Library at the top of your thread. And now I'm also going to look for A Child's Christmas in Wales.
Mosquitoes...I'm comin' up with nothin' in my mental card file or my liberry. I don't recall ever even hearing of this one before! I shall procure and Faulknerize this February.
*trembles in terror*
>32 SandDune: We'll have enough people doing it that they'll think it's a Movement! Amazon will sell right out of that six-pack, and somebody with an interest will catch on that it's free on YouTube and force them to take it down.
>33 richardderus: I don't think there's anything to fear, except maybe learning the reason WHY you've never heard of this. I gather this one isn't too good, as it was written when he still had a lot to learn.
Hi, Linda! I see I am already behind, but I'll try to keep up!
Faulkner, huh? I've been meaning to read one of his novels (I've only read a short story of his ~ Barn Burning ~ and tried Absolom, Absolom, but it needed more time and effort to read it than I had to give at the time. Maybe now that I'm retired...
Hi Linda! I love your reading plans for 2014. There are so many American authors that I have yet to explore. I'll be following your journey with interest. I also appreciated your tribute to Brainflakes and "Little Bobby Byington" in your thread topper. A shared love of reading can certainly forge some strong connections.
Hi there Linda-- aren't you the wonderful detective! Showed the YouTube video to my husband last night -- even though I'd just watched it, I was still chortling away. Must be a sickness ....
>5 scaifea:, 37 Look, Amber, I captured another one! You might want to take a look at the YouTube video too. I think the quality is better than the copy you have now. ;>)
I'm excited that others are discovering the movie, too,now! I'll stick with the disk you all sent, though - the quality is really good!
I'd love to have a go at the American Author challenge but there are too many on the official list that I dislike or have no desire to read further. I decided I'm going to be cheaty and swap in about half a dozen that I'd rather tackle such as Carson McCullers, Shelby Foote, Kingsolver, Steinbeck and Hemingway. I'm going to be very focused on books off the shelf this year. Whenever possible I want to tie it in to my plans to read on The Great War, so Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" fits nicely there.
>41 RBeffa: Swapping is encouraged, Ron, if the selected authors aren't your cuppa. I'd love to see more attention paid to the lesser known greats like Foote, McCullers, Robert Penn Warren, Louise Erdrich, Annie Proulx...I could go on and on. I think this Challenge is going to foster some of that.
Happy New Year, Linda. I'm looking forward to following your reading adventures in 2014, and I'm so happy to read someone with nice things to say about Faulkner! I am looking forward to becoming better acquainted with him this year, thanks to Mark's AAC.
Hello, Linda. Dropping a star here - kept seeing you on the threads and came to check out your place.
Julia, Mamie, welcome, welcome! I've seen you both here and there, and I'm glad to have you Here.
Yours is always one of the threads that I lurk on, so here I am finally de-lurking! I am contemplating the American Authors Challenge - I swore I wouldn't commit to any challenges this year, but I am woefully under-read when it comes to American lit....
Linda, your plans are ambitious and admirable. As you know, I have nearly none.
Absalom, Absalom has been on the shelves of shame for a while. Count me in the Faulkner Fan Club. Like you, I learned from a professor that WF could be laugh-out-loud funny, even in a twisty sort of way. A much more recent (like last year) prof taught me to analyze more closely... Clearly he's a difficult yet fascinating writer who leaves readers panting for more or completely nauseated. I'm on the panting side, where it can get lonely.
Looking forward to following you this year.
Happy New Year, Linda! I've starred your thread, and hope to get more suggestions for my overloaded wishlist. :)
You made my eyes mist over with that tribute to Charlie. What a dear darling he was. How glad I am that you two clicked so well. xo
Love, love, love your thread topper Linda. I'm happy to begin another year of reading with you!
Happy New Year, Linda! I love the story behind your inspiration for your 2014 reading plans.
Happy New Year, you ""Americanist"! And congrats on starting your 2014 thread. I can not believe how gorgeous that book collection is.That's breath-taking and it's all yours! How very cool.
Linda - I have enjoyed the last year keeping up with your erudite and welcoming thread and will certainly try to do so in 2014. Have a wonderful new year my dear. xx
ooohh..."erudite"...that's a heavy mantle. Not sure I deserve that! But thank you, Paul, (she said, graciously) and I hope to see you here regularly in 2014.
So, let the reading begin.
1. In Pursuit of Spenser edited by Otto Penzler An enjoyable and often enlightening look at one of my favorite literary heroes, Robert B. Parker's literate, liberal and lovable hard-boiled PI, Spenser (like the poet). As the subtitle tells us, these essays were written for the most part, by other "mystery" writers. Seriously? Parker didn't write "mysteries"; he wrote detective fiction, and so do most of these people. I have a couple other quibbles with the editors and publishers of this book (the term is "ward heelers" not "ward healers; the word for a reliable, uncomplaining performer of duty is "trouper", not "trooper"); but the content had me nodding in agreement, smiling with satisfaction, occasionally frowning in puzzlement (who knew there was a large body of readership who hate Susan and think Spenser would have been better off without her?) and making notes of authors in the genre that I need to explore for myself. Oh, and all you'all who can't bother to figure out whether Susan Silverman is a psychologist or a psychiatrist, and therefore use the terms interchangeably? Plllbbbbbbbt. She has a PhD, not a medical degree. So you can call her a "shrink", if you want to---Spenser sometimes does. But she isn't a psychiatrist. She doesn't dispense medications, and she herself is not dispensable.
A political worker, vote wrangler, bill-poster, often used pejoratively to refer to Tammany Hall low-level operatives whose methods were downright illegal.
#58 - I keep hearing about Robert B. Parker and am starting to think I should check out the Spenser books. I'll see what I can find on audio at the library.
I hope you're having a lovely New Year's day!
certainly an old fashioned term but maybe spell check was at fault? I can't imagine why someone would write healer. That makes no sense. These things still irk me in books, although so many people on the internet seem to 'loose' the ability to spell correctly. With books , though, reading is how one learns to write well and to spell correctly and I am much less tolerant of errors. Someone will read that and think it is the proper usage.
I've gotten sloppy myself with punctuation esp since my keyboard is more than a little flaky.
Ooo, neat word. But, surely, a "ward healer" would be the opposite of that?
Huh. Saw your post on Paul's thread and came to investigate. How the heck did I miss this? You're in the Threadbook now!
Cripes, you've already read a book! I haven't even got the laundry done. *sigh*
Happy New Year, Linda! I will be back soon asking for recommendations for Faulkner February, as it seems you are definitely the woman who set me straight! Thanks for your review of the Spenser anthology; I've had that one on my wishlist for a little while but knowing it's worth looking for.
>65 lycomayflower: I think so, yes. If such a creature were to exist.
>66 drneutron: Hi, Jim. Thanks. Now I officially exist!
>67 rebeccanyc: Oh, good, then it isn't just me?
>68 tiffin: Confess to having started it last year, by which of course I mean yesterday, but it was a very quick read, and I devoted much of Tuesday afternoon to it. The laundry we have always with us.
>69 rosalita: I hope I can steer you to something you'll enjoy, Julia...or at least appreciate? No, I mean enjoy!
Hello, Mary. May 2014 be a grand one for you as well. (Any champagne left? Anywhere?)
I am hoping to have some champagne tonight. I was driving last night, so after a glass of wine at 7:00, I had to be happy with coffee. :-(
We didn't have champagne last night, Linda, but I think there's a bit of the nice little pinot grigio left! Come on over and we'll toast the New Year. :)
I had a swallow of Asti Spumante at about 3:00 p.m., at work. One of our partners always supplies a couple bottles so we can all toast each other before we close the office for the holiday. Unfortunately, he bows to the majority who LIKE that stuff, and I can barely manage enough to be polite---it's just. too. sweet.
Happy New Year, Linda! We had champagne, and managed to stay up until the new year with the help of the good movie Roman Holiday.
Hi, Linda! Starring your thread. In regards to Faulkner, I was thinking of starting with Sanctuary precisely BECAUSE it's sensational/violent and it looked interesting lol. Is there a more accessible novel that has similar elements?
Happy New Year Linda! It is good to see that Charlie's collection found a good home. I love the way it looks. I have about 200 volumes, including the American Poets Project, but they are scattered around the house. I will have to get them on one shelf.
I starred your thread so I can come visiting when I want to.
That's a wonderful story about Charlie's collection, Linda. And it looks great.
>77 allthesedarnbooks: Marcia! Good to see you here. It's been a while since our paths crossed. No, I'd say if you want the sensational stuff, then Sanctuary is the place to go!
>78 wildbill:, 79 Thanks, Bill and Joe. One of these days I will post a picture of how the collection looks in my house. It's all in one room, but I couldn't get a single shelving unit large enough to hold it all into the space available, so it's a bit tough to get in all into one photo.
2. Alexander's Bridge by Willa Cather A not-very-engaging-or impressive first novel from an author who later achieved something marvelous with Death Comes for the Archbishop, which I read a couple years ago. Even the author herself noted the weakness of this work in a preface she reluctantly wrote for a new edition in 1922. This is the story of a successful bridge-builder whose life is unraveling. He is forced to cut corners on his latest project; he half-heartedly re-connects with an old flame although he acknowledges that he has married the perfect woman for him, and loves his life. He seems to have no gumption to stand up for his work or his marriage, and he is such a flat and uninteresting character that I couldn't care less whether he ever found his spine or not. Having read one excellent novel written by Willa Cather, I'm not going to toss her in the trash with this book, but instead will try to read My Antonia before the month is out.
Good to know you loved My Antonia, Joe. It's one I've been meaning to get to for several years.
Hey, there, Darryl! I trust you're well out of the range of Hercules by now. I do love reading from the LOA editions, with their ribbon markers, and appropriate size and heft. A good experience, all around.
Right, Linda. I'm now back in Atlanta, and I missed the precipitation from Hercules entirely, although the flight from PHL to ATL was a pretty bumpy one. I hope that it doesn't hit you too hard.
I own at least 20 LoA editions, and I'm always happy to acquire another one. LoA does a great job in publishing 1000+ page books in manageable sizes, without making the font so small that you need a magnifying glass to read it.
This meme was fun last year, and it's fun again: Use titles of books read in 2013 to fill in the answers:
Describe yourself Civil to Strangers
Describe how you feel: Peace Like a River
Describe where you currently live: Wonderland
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: The Country of the Pointed Firs
Your favorite form of transportation: The Driver's Seat
Your best friend is Friend of My Youth
You and your friends are The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
What’s the weather like Sweet Thunder
You fear: The Racketeer
What is the best advice you have to give Show Red for Danger
Thought for the day: Think of Death
How I would like to die: Rounding the Mark
My soul’s present condition Less Than Angels
I'm also going to post here what will pass for a round-up/summation of my reading in 2013. I'm not much for the statistics and analysis, but here's what I did glean from my 2013 lists:
Total books read: 82
Books by Male Authors: 40
Books by Female Authors: 38
Books by one of each: 4 (Frances & Richard Lockridge)
I find I usually come out about 50/50 on the male/female author thing, without consciously trying at all.
Non-fiction books read: 10 (That's just pitiful)
Volumes of Poetry read in entirety: 2 (Again, shameful)
Books from the library: 16
Books from my shelves: 39
(in my possession for at least 1 year before reading)
Top Reads of the Year:
Nothing blew me away this year, but I enjoyed a large percentage of what I read, and I would recommend all of the following:
My Promised Land by Ari Shavit
Twenty Thousand Roads by David N. Meyer
Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
Song of Achilles
Pride and Prejudice
Death of a River Guide
In the Bedroom
Two children's books impressed me this year:
If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet and
The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
DUDS There were a few...
The Rebel Angels
Pylon (YES, a Faulkner novel made my poo list)
I didn't get blown away last year either but, like you, I did have some enjoyable reads. Hope you aren't in line for that storm we're hearing about up here.
We sort of had the storm, Tui...only about five inches of snow, and it's the light fluffy kind. BUT COLD. Today the wind is fierce, and Craig's gloved fingers were burning just walking across the road to get the newpaper out of the box. So...staying in and watching the prettiness of it out the windows.
I'm with you, Linda. It looks pretty, but I will be happy looking at it from my window.
This lurker is waving a big hello and Happy New Year to you, Linda. You've read two books already? Off to a great start. My Antonia is my favorite Cather book. I'll be reading One of Ours for my fist American Author choice. Bonus! It also fits in with my planned WWI reading.
It's good to know the book about Spenser is decent despite the few flaws. I have it on the Kindle app and plan to read it when I make it halfway through the series. I'm only on Book #9 so it will be awhile.
Hi, Linda! I'm glad you're feeling Peace Like a River. A good goal for all of us. Lots of good '13 reading. Among others, I liked Song of Achilles a lot, too. Please forgive me if I already pushed this with you, but if you enjoyed Pride and Prejudic, you might take a peek at Longbourn. It gives a well done servants' POV.
My daughter got a copy of Longbourn for Christmas, Joe. I expect I'll be allowed to borry the loan of it (as a Faulkner character might say) one of these days.
Just to prove I'm not oblivious to the literary world outside of the USofA, even in this year of American concentration, I stand and raise my glass, and offer my annual toast: The Professor!
*chin tilted in proud agreement as inspirational music swells in the background* The Professor!
Happy snowy chilly (brr!) Friday...
Linda I've been talking to you on Mark's thread but finally the light turned on and I realized I had not visited here yet. Now I've got you starred and I look forward to reading Faulkner with you next month.
Mamie, Donna and I read eight Spenser books last year. We are reading one a month until we are done. I've enjoyed most of them but I do feel Spenser is at his best on his home turf of Boston. I absolutely love Susan.
Chiming in as another great believer in the LOA books; I'm reading one currently, in fact: Philip K. Dick: Four Novels of the 1960's.
I belatedly raised my teacup to the esteemed Professor already this morning, over on your relation's thread...
Glad to see all the love for the Professor...better hide the glasses before Richard comes in here and breaks up the party!
Thanks, Lori. Glad you could stop by.
Hey, Roberta! Spenser fans always welcome here!
Well, Amber, I'll be interested to know what you think of Dick. I've put his volumes in a box in the closet, because shelf space is at a premium, and I "assume" he isn't my thang. But if you want to try to prove me wrong, I'll listen.
I'm reading The Man in the High Castle, which is my first ever Philip Dick. I was hesitant, myself, but I am indeed enjoying it. It's not exactly a romp in the park, but his writing is delicate, or subtle, or something. Clearly I don't have his knack with words just now. But I can say that he's a talented wordsmith, and the story, although intricate to the point of head-scratching (alternative history - if Hitler had won the war sort of thing), has me right riveted.
JRR looks like he has Bilbo shining his shoes in your shot, Linda.
I'll drop my message about the great man and run before another great man gets here in a bad mood.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Linda - I have a favor to ask. I have never read Faulkner and would like to join in Faulkner February. Do you have a suggestion? I'm not Faulkner-phobic, but it would like to have a good first experience. I saw on the AAC thread that The Sound and the Fury might not be the best place to start. Someone recommend Light in August as accessible. What do you think? Thanks for sharing your insights!!!
Light in August isn't a bad place to start, Amy. The story is told mainly by an omniscient narrator, rather than through the stream of consciousness internal monologues of his tormented characters that Faulkner uses in The Sound and the Fury, for example. It is also more linear, more "comprehensible", perhaps. Faulkner may have considered himself a "failed poet", but the writing in Light in August is often profoundly poetic, although the story itself is fairly grim. I usually recommend that readers new to Faulkner start with The Hamlet (first novel in the Snopes trilogy), or The Unvanquished, to get the feel of his county, his characters, his language and his sense of humor. Moving on to the heavier and more difficult stuff makes much more sense that way. But, again, if you're motivated to read him and are not phobic, as you say, give Light in August a go. It's one of his best.
3. Outside the Southern Myth by Noel Polk Noel Polk was a professor at Mississippi State University (not to be confused with Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi) , an expert on Faulkner and Welty, and an editor whose name you will find everywhere in recent editions of their works, most especially the Library of America volumes, and the "corrected" editions of Faulkner. Sadly, he passed away in 2012. I think he could have given us even more to think about if he had stayed with us a few more years.
In Outside the Southern Myth, Polk makes the case for his hometown, Picayune, Mississippi, fitting much more into the "normal American" mold than the stereotypical "Southern" small town so commonly portrayed in the media. This is a memoir, but Polk works persistently to make it more about a large segment of Southern males than just about himself, giving us a picture of a small American town with no connection to the Civil War (Picayune has no antebellum history; it did not exist until just after the turn of the 20th century); no racial conflict (which is not to say there was no racism, just that both sides followed the rules, so it never erupted into violence or even confrontation); no glorious traditions to uphold or be buried under. It's very good reading, indeed, especially when he gets to the chapter entitled "One Baptist Son", in which he deconstructs Baptist theology from the perspective of a "survivor" who once (at the age of 11 or 12) felt the call to preach, but grew up and out of it, despite the lingering appeal of the certitude of fundamentalist faith. Polk treats his hometown, the people in it, and his own childhood, with respect, even tenderness at times, but never drifts over the line into sentimentality, often explaining but never rationalizing the kind of racial attitudes and conditions that unquestionably existed then and there.
Was surprised to see there was no photo on Polk's author page, so I e-mailed MSU and asked for permission to use the picture from his faculty profile here, and they quickly replied to say "Sure".
I've done that a few times, Amber, often communicating directly with the author involved through their website. It's kind of a rush. I started with a couple people I know personally, who at the time only showed up on LT at all because I entered their books in my library. Then I thought, what's the harm in asking, so I did it with a few more to whom I was nobody. The response has been uniformly positive, from those who replied; I think only 2 have ignored me and my stats say I've loaded a total of 20 author photos to the site.
Good for you for doing that, Linda! I've loaded one and I can't even remember who that was.
Okay, then. Light in August it is for my first Faulkner novel.
Happy Friday! Have a great weekend!
I'm still dithering Linda. Mainly because I can't find The Hamlet.
Will be reading another Faulkner in February whatever. Whether the experience is fun or fraught, you are worth the effort. xx
4. Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming No. 8 in the Reverend Clare Fergusson/Chief Russ Van Alstyne series. Spencer Fleming hasn't lost it yet. This one got an early grip on me and didn't let go. I didn't want to put it down, hurried to get back to it, and didn't really want it to end. For a bit near the end, I thought she was going to tie everything up, and leave everybody happy, and maybe there wouldn't be any more adventures in Millers Kill. But NO.... And I'm glad of that. I'm also glad (hard as it is to wait) that she takes her sweet time bringing out each new installment. I think she's still really invested in her characters, not getting burned out, and it shows. In this one, a sick child's life is at stake when she is kidnapped; Russ and Clare and the whole MKPD throw themselves heartily into the hunt in the midst of a record-breaking ice storm that makes any kind of traveling treacherous to impossible. Meanwhile both Clare and Russ find their jobs in jeopardy and hesitate to share that information with each other. The pacing is mighty fine, the tension builds just enough with each set of characters, and in context every development seems perfectly plausible. I'll avoid mentioning other plot elements that may not be known to readers who haven't made it this far into the series yet, or *gasp* haven't made its acquaintance at all yet. The finest kind of escapist reading.
>119 laytonwoman3rd: Linda, you have already put this series on my wishlist. But I have to start at the beginning. I will, I will....
Very happy to read your review of the latest JSF. I've been thinking of reading it sooner rather than later.
Hi, Linda; I hope you have had a good week-end. Your review of the Fleming book made me move the first one up in the cue for this year. I'm enjoying the AAC so far, and am looking forward to Faulkner February.
>119 laytonwoman3rd:: she kind of lost me a couple of books ago. I loved this series when it started but something happened with it for me when Clare got back in the military. I got this one out of the library but I just couldn't get into it. Sorry, Debbie Downer here.
I've lost the love for a series or two over time, Tui. I know how it happens. No need to feel sorry. I wasn't thrilled with the themes of PTSD and substance abuse in the last one, to tell you the truth, and one character elimination struck me as much too convenient, but I'm glad now that I didn't give up on the series.
5. Ironhorse by Robert Knott This is the first Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch outing for Robert Knott, the Robert B. Parker Estate's successor to the great man for this series. I listened to the audio version, performed by Titus Welliver, who was simply wonderful. The story is pure Western Romance. Train Robberies. Damsels in Distress. Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. Good Guys Win. Bad Guys Bite the Dust. Damsels are Rescued. Nothing too complicated or surprising. Well, there were a few nuances: some of the damsels can take care of themselves; there's only one Indian, and he's one of the good guys; the whores don't have hearts of gold. Knott got Virgil's laconic manner down pat, and then he overdid it a little. Other than that, it was fine entertainment for the commute.
Love your thread, particularly the picture up top and what you have to say about your friend and American fiction. What a gift, and what a legacy! I think 2011 was my year for really focusing on American lit (although I consider myself, if anything, an Americanist as well, having studied so much of that stuff when I was in grad school), and I was always surprised that here at LT there seemed to be less enthusiasm for American lit than for other literature. I always try to be reading something American-lit-ish, although I've been less diligent about that for the past 6 months or so. IMO, people simply don't get Faulkner and never will if all they read is The Reivers. I love his short stories, and I cherish my copy of Collected Stories, dipping into it every now and again. And Absalom, Absalom! is my all-time favorite, sitting here on my desk waiting for a re-read. I'm also still waiting for my copy of the Blotner biog--it's been shipped, but it's not here yet.
I see you have no love for Philip Roth (post #1, August), which (at least to my mind) is understandable. He's certainly no particular favorite of mine either. However, the Library of America published a collection of four short novels under the collective title, Nemeses. I've promised myself that before writing off Roth, I will read these books. The collection has been sitting on my shelf since 2011 with that same promise attached. I think 2014 will be the year.
Julia Spencer Fleming lost me at One Was a Soldier, probably because of my soldier-son who did two tours in Baghdad. Not everyone came home with explosive anger issues, life as a double amputee, traumatic brain injuries, and derailed marriages, thank God. It was a bit much for me to take, and I never returned to the series, which I had enjoyed up to that point.
Anywho, happy reading!
One Was a Soldier was not my favorite entry in the series, either, but I hoped she might move on from the PTSD issues, and it appears she is doing that. Evil Days is the next in the series. I certainly understand getting fed up with the direction an author takes with characters you've grown fond of. It's happened to me with other series too.
I see from your profile that you are the great grand niece of H. L. Mencken! Forgive me if I'm making you much too old, but did you know him?
I see from your profile that you are the great grand niece of H. L. Mencken! Forgive me if I'm making you much too old, but did you know him?
HLM lived until 1956, so I could have known him, as I was born in 1952. But Oh Dear, I've been caught out. On one of my particularly snarky days, in response to being fed up with someone or something here at the 75 group, as I recall, I deleted everything in my profile and replaced it with the one-liner about HLM. I'd forgotten I did that. I did it because I love Mencken, and if I could choose my own great grand uncle, it would be him (he was born in 1880, the same year as one of my "real" great grand uncles, whom I wildly love and respect, a wild horse dealer and genuine cowpoke from Colorado). I like to think HLM would appreciate my snarkiness, as I appreciate his (although of course his is genius while mine is mainly angst). I was probably feeling a bit "unappreciated" (read, misunderstood) that day.
Mencken's diary is really wonderful, for all the mentions in it of people in (American) literature, publishing, etc. I highly recommend it: The Diary of H.L. Mencken. For a different side of him, his letters to his wife Sara Haardt Mencken are surprising and wonderful: Mencken and Sara: A Life in Letters. It's a great book if you like literary correspondence.
LOL...well, you could have kept your cover, and I would never have known! I have a lot of Mencken on my shelves, and have dipped in and out, but haven't read his letters. I read a biography years ago. I'm not sure I'd have liked him a lot, but I sure do appreciate his snarkiness!
These are my real Great Uncles (except the one that is my grandfather, front row middle, no 'starshes), and they were all long gone before I arrived. I truly wish I could have met them. I'm only about a year older than you, but my own grandfather was born in 1865. I love that close connection with the 19th century, even though it means he left my grandmother and two young boys on their own when he died in 1932.
I believe this picture must have been taken somewhere in the vicinity of what we call "the farm" (my grandmother's family home) in Northeastern Pennsylvania, within walking distance of the Delaware River and the New York state border. I think that may be a house that still stands on a bluff overlooking the river, where the hatless fellow on the right in the back row (Uncle Bill) lived. After numerous renovations, my brother and his multi-generational family live on the farm, making it six generations of "us" that have occupied the same house and land.
*smooch* I've been lurking, but felt it time to send a greeting.
>132 richardderus: Once you felt there was sufficient distance from the gentleman in No. 94, Richard? Glad you showed yourself at last.
Love the pic of your grandfather and grand-uncles. These kinds of family photos give me a warm feeling inside. May be in part, as you said, the connection to the 19th century. Also the sense of continuity. Anyway, I just had a quick question: if he was born in 1865 and died in 1932, that would have made him 67 at his death. Did he marry late in life (if his kids were still young)?
He married several times in life, Mary! My grandmother was his third wife, and 20-some years younger than he was. He had grown children almost her age when they married. This happened on both sides of my family. Both my parents were raised by their mothers alone from an early age. One of my grandmothers re-married, the other did not. And, in fact, my Dad's mother had lost both her parents by the time she was 11 years old. Times were tough in the 19th and early 20th century in rural PA.
Wow! That is a story! Yes, times were tough back then everywhere. My paternal grandmother lost her mother in around 1898 when she was 12 and ended up having to raise her 3 younger siblings on the farm in southern Illinois. My maternal grandmother emigrated from Lithuania when she was a young woman in the early 1900s, lost one husband to a coal mining accident (also in southern Illinois) and her second husband (also a miner) to alcoholism, then raised her 6 children on her own through the worst of the Depression. I have been blessed by good fortune in contrast!
What an absolutely wonderful photograph! You are so lucky to have such a treasure! Were all of those gentlemen, including your grandfather, farmers or just Uncle Bill? What brought them to that part of the world?
Oh, wow, what a fantastic photo, and I love the story that goes with it!
My mom's mom was 6 when her mother died. Her father never remarried, and it was left to her to keep house and raise her younger siblings (although I should say here that her father was apparently very kind and loving, and helped out as much as he could outside of his own job). She told my mom that she taught herself to cook and remembered having to stand on top of an upturned soapbox to be tall enough to reach the counter to roll out biscuits. I never met her (she was gone a couple of years before I hit the scene), but my mom says that she was an amazing cook, and that's saying something coming from Mom, who is, herself, one of the best cooks/bakers I've ever known. She, of course, learned from her mom.
That photo is a treasure; a framed copy of it hangs right here in my study, keeping me company, reminding me of my paternal roots. (My username comes from my mother's family, which was English; these guys are obviously "Dutchmen"!) None of these men were primarily farmers, in fact. Uncle Bill and Aunt Liza ran a boarding house; Bill also operated a stone quarry, and from time to time his brothers helped him with that endeavor. They supposedly supplied the stone for the sidewalk in front of the Bank of America at Wall & William Streets in New York City. I don't know when that would have been. My grandfather married a farm, so to speak, when he married my grandmother; she had inherited it from her parents. ( I'm fairly sure the house in this picture is not the farm house.) Prior to that my grandfather had been a mechanic on early automobiles, and probably on the railroad. He was also a musician. Several of the men, including my grandfather, were excellent stone masons. One or two of them were blacksmiths. The prosperous looking fellows on either side of my grandfather, Howard and James, moved to Syracuse, NY, and Elizabeth, NJ, respectively. Howard was a gunsmith. Not sure about James. Mike (in hat, next to Bill) was a raftsman on the Delaware River, moving log rafts down to New Jersey, then riding the train back home (and occasionally causing a ruckus along the way). He and a man named Boney Quillen are legendary in the Catskills for their exploits. In later years he was a carpenter, and a millwright. The two in the middle of the back row, who look like twins but are not, are Charlie and Leroy (I never remember which is which). The one on the far left in back is John, the oldest of the brothers. He was a river guide, fisherman and woodsman. He accompanied his father to enlist with the NY 4th Heavy Artillery in 1864, although he was not quite 16 years old. Most likely what brought them to our part of the country originally was the booming lumber industry, and they probably all worked the woods, one way or another, at some time. I have never been able to pin down what part of Europe the family came from or when; their father, Jacob, was born in New York State in 1816. Beyond that, I cannot be certain of anything; the surname is too common in the area, and there are several possibilities for his parents, all with very similar names. My grandmother's parents arrived here from Austria-Hungary (the part that is now the Slovak Republic) in 1887.
Great photo, Linda. It's wonderful that you have it.
I don't know Julia Spencer-Fleming but "The finest kind of escapist reading" is quite an endorsement.
then riding the train back home (and occasionally causing a ruckus along the way). He and a man named Boney Quillen are legendary in the Catskills for their exploits.
What a wonderful colorful history. I love anything with a character like your uncle and Boney Quillen!
Oh, yes, Richard...it's written down in several places. I contributed a chapter about the Snyder boys to Once Upon a Memory: The Upper Delaware II published by the historical society where I grew up, and a newspaper article about my Dad's life after he died, and I have at least half a dozen ring-binders full of old letters (many of them in Slovak that no one I know can read), remininscences, photographs and other documents pertaining to both sides of my father's family, my mother's family (descendants of a Mayflower passenger--whence cometh part of my daughter's username), and my husband's family. I'm a genealogy junkie. My username, for those who haven't heard this before, comes from my maternal grandmother's family name. She was a Layton. When she married a man who had already outlived two wives, someone commented that he must be hard on women. Her father, a man of few but pithy words, observed "He never married a Layton woman before." So I count myself the third generation from that particular Layton woman, who proved herself tough enough to raise his 7-year old son and six of her own children, who were between the ages of 14 and 4 when he died.
6. My Antonia by Willa Cather The word for this novel is "exquisite". There isn't a lot of story, but there is deft characterization, and beautiful descriptive language that turns the commonplace into the iconic. Page after page I marveled at Cather's ability to show the beauty of landscape, the vitality of young children at play, the difficulties of early 20th century life on the prairies of North America...all in terms that sound both original and inevitable. And by the time I reached the last chapters, the adult Antonia was speaking in my Slovak grandmother's voice. I said somewhere else that this book feels like Little House on the Prairie for adults. That's a bit glib, perhaps, but true still. And I hate to leave this world of hers, hard as it sometimes is to live in it. "Brilliant" is another word for it. All five stars.
Read from the LOA volume Willa Cather The Early Novels.
I'm not reading Cather this month, but sure am enjoying everyone else's experience.
Is January Willa Cather month? And yes, Linda, isn't that a lovely book? Must reread that one day.
*grumble, grumble* @ 146. You make me think I ought read it again, and I hated it the first time.
In the American Authors Challenge, it is Willa Cather month, Tui. I managed to combine it with a Virago read as well (Alexander's Bridge), AND, both Cathers were off-the-shelf, for the ROOT challenge. I'm smokin'!
>149 lycomayflower: Why on earth would you hate it? I can't imagine. How old were you at the time?
>141 EBT1002: The first book in the series in called In the Bleak Midwinter, Ellen. The protagonists are an Episcopal priest (Claire Fergusson) and small town police chief (Russ Van Alstyne). There are fireworks and chemistry a-plenty. I know a few readers have lost patience with the series (it happens), but even they will probably tell you the earlier books are not to be missed.
>142 michigantrumpet: I love being able to reach back and claim that history, Marianne. Even though I didn't know any of the characters personally, they feel mighty real to me.
BTW, I'm not great at responding to each and every post individually as some of you are on your threads. I hope no one feels slighted. I absolutely love having you all stop by. You can guarantee an individual response by asking me a question, though! (Be warned you might get more information than you bargained for.)
>152 lycomayflower: We'll talk. You'll see the error of your ways. Or to put it another way, I love Cather. And so will you.
Oh, I'm glad you enjoyed My Antonia so much, Linda. Me, too. Exquisite, brilliant. Yup.
No worries about not responding to every one of my posts, Linda. I sometimes don't say much of import but just want to leave a sign that "I Was Here."
I think I read My Antonia at a perfect time: I was in my 40s, and it was for a college English class. I had to read it and then do a thesis on other reviewers' analyses of it. (It was also the first time I'd read anything by Wallace Stegner, who wrote beautifully about My Antonia, and I've been meaning to read his fiction ever since.) I think if I'd been forced to read it for high school in my teens, I might not have liked it much either. As it was, reading it (somewhat) carefully and then analyzing it seems to have been the key to my loving it.
Linda, I love the photo of your great uncles, and their stories.
I have My Antonia but it is part of my College of One project, 38 books that F Scott Fitzgerald recommended to Sheilah Graham. I have had the complete set for a while, and may actually think about doing his course in the next year or so, Graham never took a degree, so he created this literary education for her. I have a 'collection' on my profile if you want to see what the other books are.
>153 laytonwoman3rd:: Hear hear! I'm pretty sure you're responsible for introducing me to Julia Spencer-Fleming. At the time I would have staunchly proclaimed "I don't read mysteries," and you convinced me these were intelligent ones, not formulaic. So I gave in. I've thoroughly enjoyed them and hope to get to the latest one soon.
Morning Linda- Just checking in. I loved your review of My Antonia. It was my first Cather and I also loved it but could easily go back and reread it now. Have a great weekend.
>154 wildbill: And then there are those posts that I just didn't see for some reason....sorry about that, Bill. I loved both Death Comes for the Archbishop and My Antonia. I think maybe if I were you, and both are readily available, I'd decide whether I'd rather spend some time in the Southwest with the Archbishop, or on the plains with Antonia.
Very cool photo and family story. One day, I'd like to get my family history together, before it's too late. I mean, not that it's all that interesting, but still.
Glad you enjoyed My Antonia. I loved it, but I'm not sure I got the Little House on the Prairie for adults vibe. :-)
Also, what is your favorite ice cream flavor? (Ha!)
>164 DorsVenabili: Cherry Garcia, why? (I feel I've missed something.) And sorry for squealing over on your thread, but come on...you should warn a person when you're going to post half-nude boys in Nudie suits.
#165 - You said you respond to posts if someone asks you a question. I was being obnoxious, as usual. :-)
I'm glad you appreciate the photo! I sort of went back and forth on whether or not to use it, thinking maybe it's too crass for LT. Ha!
>166 DorsVenabili: Oh.....of course! I'm a bit dense tonight, I guess. And I don't think you were obnoxious. Smart alecky, maybe, but not obnoxious!
Linda - Isn't it amazing what a store of memories can unfold from a wonderful old photo?
The tales of your forebears would as RD adjudged be worth paying the admission fee to see re-enacted or taken from the shelves and gobbled down in a single reading session. It would appear to be a tale typical of how your wonderful country was made; colourful, brave and full of incident and enterprise. Thanks for sharing with us.
Still can't decide on WF but it will be either Light in August or As I Lay Dying.
Have a lovely weekend. xx
7. The Black Country by Alex Grecian This is the second entry in Grecian's Victorian Scotland Yard Murder Squad series, featuring Inspector Walter Day, Sargent Nevil Hammersmith and Dr. Bernard Kingsley, pioneer of forensic medicine. It's set in the Midlands, in a small town where superstition reigns, there's "something" in the water, people disappear, and buildings periodically sink into the mines. Dark, chilling and thrilling. Occasional colloquialisms sounded much too 20th century American to me, but overall I was totally "there" (to the point of claustrophobia during a trip down a well). I ripped through it.
#1: God bless Charlie Callahan for his making sure his books had a good home! I was just thinking of Charlie the other day, believe it or not.
>169 laytonwoman3rd: I believe it, Stasia. He's a hard man to forget. And I'm glad others remember him fondly.
That one sounds quite good, Linda, despite seeing the dreaded word "series" mentioned. :-)
It was a gripper, Julia. And I don't think you'd have any trouble reading it on its own. There's only a little back-story you need to know about the main characters, and I think you'd pick it up easily by reading a couple reviews of The Yard. It doesn't end with a cliff-hanger, or anything.
The Black Country looks great! And our library has it, and the earlier volume in the series.
>169 laytonwoman3rd:, 173: I've taken to forcing myself to stop reading reviews if my eyes come upon the word "series" - it's tough love, but I need it!
>178 NanaCC: I will try to bear up under the guilt, Colleen. ;>)
Julia: One of my favorite phrases is, "Whelp, you can't save everyone." Always a guaranteed eye-roll from Tomm at that one. Ha!
Dagnabbit, I *need* to start this series. I keep hearing good things about it!
>175 rosalita:, 176, 178, 182....*dusts off hands* My work here is done.
I'm only here to look at those bookshelves up top. You ain't gittin me with none of your pesky series, Ms. Linda. Oh geesh, Scotland Yard...well...maybe...
Loved the photo of your great uncles and grand-pa, as well as the accompanying stories about them. 1865 is impressive for a grandpa, one of mine was born in 1878! Always thought that was quite a stretch.
>186 sibyx: It is quite a stretch, Lucy. And, in fact, after I posted that, I checked my memory, and find that my grandfather was actually born in 1863. He was 56 years old when he married my grandmother.
>187 PaulCranswick: Hi, Paul. I hope you enjoy Grecian. Five days to go to FF! (I may cheat and start a day or two early.)
8. One Arm by Tennessee Williams A collection of short stories exhibiting Williams' genius for creating drama with memorable characters, sexual electricity and atmosphere. I am not a fan of reading plays, but the availability of performances of Williams' work to watch over and over would be reason enough for me to sustain a video service subscription of whatever sort indefinitely. These short stories, published in 1967 during Williams' long depression, are frequently brilliant, often heart-breaking, occasionally bizarre and macabre. Two of the selections, "A Girl Made of Glass'" and "The Night of the Iguana" tell stories previously dramatised. Other powerful selections include the title story, in which a former boxer turned hustler finds his inner spark, just a bit too late; and "Desire and the Black Masseur", one of those that takes a turn to the very very dark side. Remarkably, there is even a flash or two of humor in the final piece, "Yellow Bird", before it takes off into outright fantasy. One or two of these stories left me a bit at a loss, but after completing the entire collection, I think I will go back and reread those, as I may just possibly have missed something, given the quality and impact of the rest.
I liked The Yard a lot, and haven't read the second one yet, Linda. Good to see your positive reaction to it. I liked the Victorian atmosphere and the intro of forensics in the first one.
It sounds like The Black Country might fit into my Scotland reading this year.... but not actually set in Scotland?
>>189 laytonwoman3rd: - Linda, I do have some of Williams' short stories, I should nudge it up a pile.
He always blows me away. I try and see his work whenever it is performed in London (unfortunately Glenn Close was sick the night I had a ticket to see her as Blanche, and someone else took over grr!). He is one of those writers who's work can lead to 'electric' performances.
I do read playscripts, but not often now. I tend to get on a run with them and read a batch, then don't read them for years.
>191 EBT1002: No, Ellen, it's set in the Midlands, Blackhampton, England. But go on...read it anyway!
>192 Caroline_McElwee: He certainly is powerful, isn't he, Caroline? I have lost track of how many times I've seen The Glass Menagerie performed, and I thought every cast was simply amazing. I'd really like to get my hands on Paul Newman's version of it again, with Joanne Woodward, John Malkovich and Karen Allen. But it isn't commercially available anymore. He didn't try to make a "movie" of it, really just filmed a play, which I think works well.
Linda - Grecian is playing games a little with his geography. The Black Country in England is centred around the town of Wolverhampton and that is obviously the place he means.
>194 PaulCranswick: Did he simply make up "Blackhampton" or is that another place, Paul?
I had The Glass Menagerie on video Linda. It was good. Got rid of all my videos though as I now only have a DVD player!
I liked Newman in Cat on the Hot Tin Roof and Sweet Bird of Youth, and have both of them.
For me the American playwright who has most taken up the baton from Williams is Sam Shephard, especially his work in the 1980s and early 1990s.
I also loved Lanford Wilson's Burn This!, I saw John Malkovitch burn the stage and electrify everyone in that. I went to see it 3 times.
Nice review of the Tennessee Williams collection, Linda. I don't think I even knew he wrote short stories, which is embarrassing since he is an Iowa alum. I've added that one to the wishlist.
I love Lanford Wilson's Fifth of July, Caroline. It's the only one of his works I've seen performed, I think. And the movie of Paris, Texas may be the only one of Shepard's works I've seen in any form.
>197 rosalita: I was surprised to find Williams so adept with the short story form, Julia. It would be like learning that a poet had written an excellent novel. It doesn't seem to happen often.
American Playhouse did a good production of Fifth of July many years ago, with Richard Thomas, Jeff Daniels, Swoosie Kurtz and a very young Cynthia Nixon. I think it's still available from Netflix.
Thanks Linda, I don't subscribe to Netflix at the minute, but will keep it in mind.
9. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf This one has been too long waiting, like the children for their trip to the lighthouse. And, like the children, when they finally got to go, I approached it with mixed feelings and a little reluctance. It's one thing to love, love, love a difficult work you've known for 40 years and read multiple times with increasing understanding and appreciation. It's another to take on a new one, by a relatively unfamiliar (to me) author, and find an affinity. Virginia Woolf has lingered in the background of my literary experience, a bit of an intimidating presence, but no one ever forced me to reach out and take her hand. I'm quite glad that I have now done so, but I wasn't wrong to be trepidatious. Some scholar has probably counted the number of point-of-view shifts in this book; they come, usually, just as the reader is settling into one character's mind, and starting to feel comfortable there. The book is mainly about impressions, perceptions, images, and imaginings. There is virtually no plot. A few major life events are given parenthetical nods ("you need to know this happens, but you don't need to see it happen"). The setting is compelling--an island in the Hebrides, a shabby house, lawns, gardens and vistas of the open sea. The people are quite ordinary, with a few oddities among them, just like the people you know. The whole is a sum of the parts...a rather unexpected, but absolutely correct sum. This is a novel I am sure to return to, as there is simply too much to take in in a single reading.
What a wonderful review of To the Lighthouse, a book (and author) I've never read but often thought I should. Perhaps I shall!
Virginia Woolf is the British Faulkner in terms of how 'difficult' she is percieved. She always, always, always, gives more the more often you read a book. In fact on some levels I would say I never rave about the first reading of any of her novels (I think there is now only one I haven't yet read at least once).
I'm going to take The Waves away with me for its second reading in February. I read it at a time when my mind was all over the place, and although I could really see what an amazing novel it was, it didn't have my full attention. It is also the book that Virginia's husband Leonard thought was her best, but it is rarely read now. Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse and her diaries are probably what most people will have read, if they have read anything of hers.
I'm glad it grabbed you Linda.
Oh, thanks for the lovely review of the Woolf - she's been lingering and intimidating me in the background, too, but you've given me hope that I won't be disappointed when I finally do get round to her.
>206 Caroline_McElwee: Yes, Caroline...I've felt right along that what you feel for Woolf is what I feel for Faulkner, and with similar reasons. I knew she would have a lot to offer---worried that I'd pick her up at the wrong time and be put off by not being able to sink right in. Maybe all that Faulkner cheerleading I've been doing in the AAC helped me get in the proper frame of mind!
>207 lycomayflower: You helped too! And I love what Margaret Atwood wrote about TTL...go the the book page and see.
Let's all stop being intimidated by the stuff we think we might want to get to. (Notice I don't say "ought" to get to.)
I really liked To the Lighthouse. I should read (and re-read) more Woolf.
Have you read Oldest Confederate Widow Tells All? - In that a man who was a drummer boy, very very young, in the Civil War marries a very young woman in his late fifties, who lives to be seriously ancient and tells her story - it is a wonderful book and you might relate to the sheer breadth of time in it.
You know, Lucy, I think I did try that one years ago, and for some reason it didn't grab me. It should have, it seems. I'll put it on the list to try again.
Isn't it lovely to discover just what all the accolades are about, and to agree, Morphy? I neglected Willa Cather until lately myself, and have found her to be just wonderful.
Had a bag o'stuff to drop off at the Salvation Army yesterday, so naturally had to check out their bookshelves. While I was at it, I nipped into the big new Goodwill thrift shop just down the road from the SA as well. Ended up with 13 books for around $20.00. Here's the haul:
Blues Highway Blues by Eyre Price
Masquerade by Tivadar Soros
Snow by Orhan Pamuk
The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway (posthumous publication)
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
The Paris Review Book for Planes, Trains, Elevators and Waiting Rooms
An Open Life by Joseph Campbell
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Frederic Chopin by Franz Liszt
Listen to the Warm by Rod McKuen
And to each season... by Rod McKuen (McKuen's poems were "groovy" when I was in college, and a couple of them made decent songs when rendered by Glenn Yarborough)
Elizabeth Costello by J. M. Coetzee
Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
What a great stack of books for 20 bucks, Linda! I've only read one of those, Notes From a Small Island but I can report that it made me laugh and choke and sputter merrily out loud, so I think you might like it. :-)
Nice, inexpensive book haul, Linda! Well done.
I'm very glad you liked Woolf. Having been a Faulkner fan for many years I found V.W.'s work...well, not easy reading, but certainly not intimidating. Another author to read in a "go-with-the-flow" sort of way, and one who richly rewards re-reading.
Looking forward to Faulkner February, as I've completed Absalom, Absalom, and have the short story collection. And my brother is bringing me his omnibus copy of the Snopes trilogy! This may turn out to be a mini Faulkner Festival for me.
Good job with the book bargains, Linda! I remember Rod McKuen. We had some of his books around my house when I was growing up.
>220 laytonwoman3rd: All for $20!! Yum. Rod McKuen! Good gracious, I'd forgotten all about him. I wonder if anything of his survives in my liberry.
ps nope, nary a McKuen book...he was so sentimental I purged him entirely early in the 1970s. I wonder what I'd think now...
I'm especially happy about the book haul because several of them are things I'd never heard of. Maybe I can hit somebody ELSE with a book bullet for a change, if they're any good.
>226 NanaCC: I've been meaning to try Mankell, and apparently Faceless Killers is THE first Wallender, so that's why I brought it home with me. I've come across his books at various sales in the past, but left them because they were later entries in the series.
>229 richardderus: I had at least one of his books back then, too, Richard. And like you, I'm fairly sure I got rid of it/them. But the sentiments were real to me in the early '70's, and for some reason it feels proper to give them shelf space again for old times' sake.
>230 PaulCranswick: like it more than The Sound and the Fury Well, that's something, isn't it? (I'm chuckling, really. You're a good sport to give it a chance.)
I don't know if "A Cat Named Sloopy" is in Listen to the Warm the book - I think it was on the album. I always loved that one. I enjoyed McKuen songs far more than the books of poems. His voice made them better I think.
This is one of my all-time favorites http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfKJOesKuiw
2:10, 6:18, 10:44 aka doesn't anybody know my name
ETA: (and I agree about Glenn Yarborough doing great versions of them. The Kingston Trio did also.)
"A Cat Named Sloopy" is the first selection in one of those books, Ron. I don't have them in front of me to check which it is. I think I probably heard Yarborough sing them before I knew they were poems, as such, and I'm not sure if I ever heard McKuen sing them himself. Will have to check your link when I get home.
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