Laytonwoman rediscovers America in 2014. Chapter Two
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As some of you know, LT member brainflakes (a/k/a Charlie Callahan) passed away 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. He was a charter subscriber to the Library of America 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. On my last thread I posted a photo of the books as they looked in Charlie's home. They now reside in my home, shelved as you see above, 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 Maxwell (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 Read 2-8-14
Sartoris / Flags in the Dust Two versions of the same book; I will probably read the later publication, which is more the way Faulkner wanted it to appear. Read Flags 2-24-24
The Sound and Fury Folio Society edition; multiple colors of ink Did not get to this in February, but I haven't given up on the idea of reading it this year.
Cormac McCarthy Suttree Finished 3-25-14
Toni Morrison Song of Solomon Finished 4-21-14
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.
EDIT 11-7-17 Tickers removed due to McAfee warning about TickerFactory.com
I'm doing the Bingo thingo, without any plan, just marking the squares when something I read satisfies a category:
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.
January 2, 2014
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.
February 2, 2014
I've been reading selections from the book I Thought My Father was God, a collection of true tales from NPR's National Story Project. They are of varying lengths, written by ordinary people, funny, touching, inspiring, incredible, just the right sort of thing to fill in two minutes here or there.
February 10, 2014
I've been trying to plow through "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman. Can't say I'm making much sense of it overall. An occasional stanza feels brilliant, but he rarely seems to be speaking to me. Totally lost me with reference to the wind's genitals, and I really hope that isn't an image that's going to stick with me.
A chapter at a time, intermittently, of The Book; A Global History, a beautiful history of...well, of the Book as a physical object.
Most of the Spring issue (No. 41) of Slightly Foxed
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
APRIL No real plans, except to read Toni Morrison for the AAC.
*34. The WOman in Black by Susan Hill
33. The Reserve by Russell Banks
32. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
*31. Desert by J. M. G. Le Clézio
*30. The Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling audio
29. Heartstones by Ruth Rendell
*28. Black Betty by Walter Mosley
MARCH I have concentrated on mysteries (Murder & Mayhem, Mystery March, etc.) in March in the past. I can see that probably won't happen this year. Suttree is going to take a lot of my reading time this month.
27. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
26. Mozart and Leadbelly by Ernest J. Gaines
*25. The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill
24. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy
23. Codex by Lev Grossman
*22. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling audio
21. The Foolish Gentlewoman by Margery Sharp
20. Bull River by Robert Knott
19. The Pearl by John Steinbeck LOA
*18. Storm Track by Margaret Maron
17. Flags in the Dust by William Faulkner
*16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone audio By J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
*15. The Pure in Heart by Susan Hill
*14. The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson
13. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
12. Home Fires by Margaret Maron
11. Mosquitoes by William Faulkner
*10. The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill
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
Well, I hope it's safe to pop in and snag a seat in the back. I did check to be sure you only used 3 posts at the beginning of your last thread. :-)
Where did she go? Hello?
Congrats on the new thread, Linda! Quick question: I have the corrected version of Light in August. Any thoughts? Praise? Disgust?
Sorry, had to prepare and eat dinner. The clean-up, however, ain't my concern...so. Welcome, Julia, Tui, Mark. The furniture is all in place now. Make yourselves t'home.
Mark, the corrected editions are based on scholarly comparison of various earlier texts with Faulkner's manuscripts, revisions in proofs and other sources, with the intent of determining how the author wanted his work to be presented. They were edited by good ole Noel Polk, of blessed memory. I'm all for 'em. They are the texts used for the Library of American volumes of Faulkner's novels in the collection featured in No. 1 above.
The L of A books look fantastic! Did you have to get new shelves for them?
I did, Tui, yes. I got the stackable, folding shelf units, with mantel pieces for the tops. They live in "Laura's room", or the "spare room", which is now often referred to here as "the Library". (As if it had any more books in it than several other rooms in the house!)
10. The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill Well, what to say about this one. A mystery, with a whole cast of wonderful characters; women gone missing without a trace; a colony of "alternative" healers, legitimate and otherwise; a mysterious pathological "pathologist"; a small cathedral town with its own minor set of "stones" on the Hill.... It grabbed me and kept me reading much like the Tana French Dublin murder squad series, or the Jackson Brodie books. But Hill does French and Atkinson one better, in a gutsy way I can't reveal without spoiling the story. Billed as the first Simon Serrailler mystery, it's really more about one of his squad, Detective Sergeant Freya Graffham, from whose point of view much of the story is told. There are other POV's as well, but she comes across as the primary character here. Serrailler is quite a minor player, apart from the fact that Freya falls hard for him and struggles with what to do about that. I loved it.
>12 laytonwoman3rd:: see that rectangular shape in my forehead that looks like a letter box? That's what a book bullet looks like after it has met its mark.
Linda, those LoA books look right at home, and they were wonderful in their original setting too. That is a glorious legacy that speaks of true friendship, and that touches me.
I'm excited that you enjoyed the first Simon Serrailler! I just got #7 in the mail today, and Suzanne says that #8 is slated for October. Happy Reading!
Dear Linda - February is in many ways Faulkner month and so I dare say you, as his biggest advocate in the group, will be much in demand. That won't change anything at all for me as your thread is always one I look out for anyway.
Congratulations on your new thread.
I was wondering what those books looked like in their new abode. How lovely to see them there Linda, years worth of wonderful reading, re-reading and reading adventures.
Happy new thread Linda! I love the story about the book legacy! They look wonderful in their new home.
That is such an adorable photo of your brother and Lily! Hard to tell who's enjoying it more.
>21 laytonwoman3rd: *baaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwww* my papaw circuits have fused from the adorable! I'm a little jealous, too, since I now have to wait for GREAT-grandkids to do this again.
>21 laytonwoman3rd:: Oh, now *that* is a beautiful photo in so *many* ways.
Your family has a long tradition of these beautiful Dad/Grandpa reading to young 'un pics. Someone should put them in a frame together!
Lovely photos of being read too. I remember it well.
Look at those eyelashes on you Linda!
>21 laytonwoman3rd: Very cool, Linda. That's exactly how to get them started on loving books. Six generations - wow!
Great pictures Linda. I love that you mentioned Faulkner's humor. He doesn't get enough credit for being very funny at times.
Thanks, everyone. My husband and I used to read to each other in college, especially when we were taking the same literature courses together. I'd like to get back to doing that sometimes. Why should the little kids have all the fun?
I've just noticed, in comparing the two pictures, that my brother's hands look very much like my Dad's...especially the left one, as it holds the book. In recent years (and especially since my Dad has been gone, nearly 10 years now), I've often done a double take when seeing my brother from the rear. His stance and attitude is so much like our father's, and yet I've never really thought he looked like Dad otherwise. Sometimes the genes lie in wait, I guess.
>35 laytonwoman3rd:. Sometimes the genes lie in wait, I guess. Very astute--I like the way you put that.
Tomm and I used to read to each other all the time. But that was BC.
Honestly, though, we still do, as Tomm sits on the bed with Charlie while I read the final bedtime story each night (we're working through the Pooh stories now) and we enjoy them as much or more, really, as Charlie does.
Delightful photos of your family! We still like to read to each other, last year we read the Silmarillion aloud! Start 'em young!
11. Mosquitoes by William Faulkner
Mosquitoes is Faulkner's 2nd published novel. It comes before he discovered that his "little postage stamp of native soil" would be the most fertile ground for his story-telling style to take root and grow in. It is set primarily on board the yacht of Mrs. Patricia Maurier, a wealthy woman who collects artists. She has invited a sculptor; a painter; a couple poets and a novelist; an art critic; her twin niece and nephew; an odd British businessman with a notion to sell laxatives to Americans who he says are "always constipated"; and a middle-aged Don Juan wannabe for a pleasure cruise on Lake Ponchartrain, north of New Orleans. The niece brings along a young couple she has met casually in the French Quarter. They are a motley crew, for certain; uncomfortably tossed together and subjected to Mrs. Maurier's proposed diet of dancing, bridge and grapefruit, they sort themselves rather differently than she had it planned. Some of the characters try for sophistication, but only manage superficiality. Others, (the seldom-named "Semitic man", for example) speak with some authority and even wisdom on the subject of art and the artist's perception of himself. Sexual tensions and attractions of every variation abound; plenty of whisky is consumed; the boat runs aground; tall tales are told round the dinner table; people disappear into the swamp and return. Someone is always scratching an ankle or an arm; the mosquitoes find them even in the middle of the lake when the wind is offshore. There is abundant satire, even farce; Faulkner sticks himself sideways into the tale with an amusing cameo appearance. It is almost too clear what Faulkner was attempting to do with this captive cast. In fact, the whole thing has a rather self-conscious feel to it. Some of the dialog, especially the "modern" slang, which may have rung true to contemporary readers, is so dated now that it fails to evoke real people talking at all. This has never felt true of Faulkner's hill people, whose dialect can be very broad, but sounds utterly authentic in a way that Patricia's ejaculatory "Gabriel's pants!" or her penchant for calling her brother by any male name but his own, never does. Most importantly, he was testing out some techniques, themes, images and characterizations that he would hone and improve magnificently in his later works. In retrospect you can see the ancestors of Eula Varner; Temple Drake; Gowan Stevens; Caddie, Quentin and Benjy Compson; and others floating along in the mists. Olga Vickery called this, along with his first novel, Soldiers' Pay, Faulkner's "literary apprenticeship". As such, and for some truly funny moments, it is worth reading if you're a Faulknerian. Otherwise, I won't recommend it to you.
12. Home Fires by Margaret Maron No. 7, I believe, in the Judge Deborah Knott series. Just pure escapist reading with interesting characters and setting (North Carolina), and an incidental mystery. Oh, OK, the mystery is meant to be central, but there's a lot going on that isn't necessary to the "plot". These are in my "bubble gum" stash. Another thing I have to thank Charlie Callahan for---he's the one who introduced me to this author.
13. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo Grabbed this at my thrift shop extravaganza last weekend, and read it this afternoon. A lovely children's book about a lonely 10-year-old in a new town, who "rescues" a stray dog, and finds that the benefits are mutual. Newbery Honor winner. Loved it.
Edited to take that extra "r" out of Newbery. I always make that mistake.
I've been reading some Maron lately myself, Linda. "Bubble gum" is a good word for them. Like you, I enjoy the characters and setting more than the actual mystery in pretty much all of them.
14. The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson Fast-paced, graphic, gruesome. A dreadfully vivid picture of the 17th century nightmare of suspicion, torture and paranoia that resulted in the trial of the Lancashire Witches. It is brilliantly told and leaves nothing to the imagination. I hope I forget it very soon.
ETA: February 2017 Bless my soul, I have forgotten it completely!
Mosquitoes seemed to me, as I finished it up, very much like an overachiever's book. He hadn't quite gotten his legs under him well enough to do a properly Faulknerian job of the story, which was a shame but not a surprise.
>47 richardderus: Oooh.."an overachiever's book"....yes, I like that. Someone called Soldiers' Pay and Mosquitoes Faulkner's "apprenticeship novels". They made a decent impression when they appeared. Conrad Aiken reviewed Mosquitoes in 1927, and, while pointing out its flaws, concluded that it was a "delightful" book, and that he was adding "Mr. Faulkner's name to the small list of those from whom one might reasonably expect, in the course of a few years, a really first-rate piece of fiction." Insightful man, that Aiken.
>48 scaifea: I don't know that I would recommend it to anyone, Amber, simply because it is relentlessly brutal, although mercifully short! Some of the characters are very compelling (reminded me of Hilary Mantel's portrayals in a way) and I couldn't stop reading once I'd started. I'm quite uneasy about that.
#12 - So glad you enjoyed this! It's a delightful (which seems a weird adjective to choose when discussing crime novels) series. The second is good too, but not as good, IMO. We get to know Simon a bit better. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but there it is. I will definitely keep going.
#46 - Just the other day, I was actually thinking that I should read more Jeanette Winterson (I've only read the big one) and looked for this on audio. Perhaps it's a good thing my library doesn't have it. Ha!
Will happily give the Winterson a pass. She doesn't do it for me anyway.
Never read anything of hers before, Tui. I may give another novel a chance, but think I will pass on her autobiographical work, which I think was more important for her to write than for me to read.
Interesting review of Mosquitos. Thanks for posting. Still pondering a possible book to make my first foray into Faulkner.
15. The Pure in Heart by Susan Hill No. 2 in the Simon Serrailler series. Just as good as the first one. Hill continues to defy convention with her characters and situations, and I love the community of Lafferton as some love Three Pines (where I never settled in.)
Hi Linda- Hope you are having a great Sunday. I LOVE the family photos of generational reading. Priceless.
I have just over a 100 pages left in Light in August. We might have to nickname him Mr. Darkness, but boy, is he a helluva storyteller.
Can you recommend a definitive bio? I NEED to learn more about this guy.
I must start that Simon Serailler series soon Linda.
I really enjoyed your generational meander through your families reading history via your photos above. I took real joy from reading to my kids when they were younger and I do hop it stays with them too. Belle and Yasmyne are both voracious readers but Kyran isn't. He does love GNs though and has a pretty splendid though thoroughly disorganised collection of mangga books.
>59 msf59: Mark, I think I have 4 or 5 biographies of Faulkner, all slighter different in perspective. THE definitive biography is generally agreed to be Joseph Blotner's comprehensive work first published in 1974 as a two volume tome, and later re-issued in a one-volume, shorter but rather more revealing edition in 1991. (Some subjects were more easily treated after MRS. Faulkner was no longer with us.) I have not read the 1991 version, and I don't suppose you want to read over 2000 pages of the original. SO...my recommendation to you is to find a copy of Jay Parini's One Matchless Time. It is not overwhelming in detail, is very well-written, and suffers only from the author's obvious admiration of his subject (with which, of course, I sympathize). I'm so happy you want and even NEED to learn more about Faulkner. When he gets you, you're damned well GOT, aren't you?
>60 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul. The generational connections are so important to me. My mother spent the weekend with us, and she was looking through the notebooks I've compiled of various branches of our family; it's so satisfying to re-visit the history of the people we've come from. I think it's just fine that Kyran loves graphic novels and Manga...storytelling is what it's about, really, whatever the format.
I'd heard good things about the Serailler series here and there, but there are so many popular series out there; this one is something different. Not formulaic at all, at least so far.
I started working on our family tree but after hitting a wall (a relative with a common name) and realizing how expensive ($30 to $40 for records) and difficult research was going to start getting, I gave it up. One day I might go back to it.
>63 Morphidae: When I started, Morphy, there was less information available on the internet, but it was ALL FREE. And searching was so much more productive because there weren't all the paid-for listings that come up at the top of the search and NEVER are what you're looking for. A subscription to Ancestry.com is a good investment if you decide to get back into the research. And I think you can do it for a month, rather than committing to longer, so if you had a stretch of time to devote to it, you could get a lot done.
Yes, but you can't get official records that way either.
But what is nice is that if I want to head over to the library, I can get onto Ancestry.com for free.
Have you ever checked out Wikitree? (It's free.) When I retired and finally had time for such things, I threw my family tree up on the site, what I have of it, but haven't done much else since (yet). Link is here.
The pictures of you and your daughter being read to as children are precious. I don't have any memories (or pictures) of being read to as a kid, but I read to my daughter a lot when she was young, and she has remained a lover of books as she enters her thirties. I doubt if there are any pictures of us reading, though, as I was a single mom so no one was around to take any.
Connie, my father's family and my husband's father's family could have Dutch connections. We've never been able to ascertain conclusively where they came from, whether Germany or the Netherlands. Some of my husband's ancestors did arrive here from Rotterdam, but it may not have been their home.
You know, Mary, I've often thought of that point about being a single parent...no one around to take photos of you doing ordinary things with your child. Of course, there aren't a lot of pictures of just me with my daughter either, because I was usually the photographer. My FIL took a lot on special occasions, but he wasn't around on a daily basis.
I didn't know about Wikitree. I have some excellent software (Family Tree Maker), which I've used for years, and it comes with a lot of on-line resources as well.
I'm loving the Serrailler series, too. I just finished The Risk of Darkness, which is #3. It was marvelous! I wish I'd read it a little sooner after reading The Pure in Heart, though. I know what you mean about Lafferton -- I find it much more realistic than Three Pines, though I have enjoyed that series, too.
16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling. Listened to the audiobook version of this while driving. I've read it before, of course. I'm impressed this time, knowing how it all comes out, at how much of the total story arc Rowling clearly already had planned out when she wrote this one.
>71 laytonwoman3rd: I watched one of the earlier movies with a couple of my grandchildren several years ago. The DVD had some of the extras with interviews with some of the cast. The director was saying that he was amazed that she had this detailed genealogy chart of all of the families, including people who hadn't been introduced into the story.
Where is the Serrailler series set, please and thanks?
I keep meaning to dig deeper in my family history but I just never seem to get around to it.
>73 tiffin: The books are set in Lafferton, a fictional Cathedral town somewhere in the south of England. It's similar to Salisbury, I think.
17. Flags in the Dust by William Faulkner This is the extended version of Faulkner's third novel, Sartoris, which was cut by about 25% before being published in 1929. It is the turning point in Faulkner's writing, where he realized that his home environment of rural and small-town Mississippi was fertile ground, and that he "could not live long enough to exhaust it". I'll have more to say about it when I have more time to say it.
I want to re-read the Harry Potter books some time, Linda. I wondered about what impressed you: can you tell whether she had it a lot of it planned out from the beginning. I'm not surprised, but glad to hear, the answer is yes.
18. Storm Track by Margaret Maron Another installment of the Judge Deborah Knott series. I really enjoy spending time with her and her North Carolina family. We almost never see her in Court...but there's lots of local color, family drama and whodunit excitement. In this one, there's a monster hurricane coming in, and several local men are on the suspect list when a run-around wife turns up dead in a motel room. It's bubble gum, but it won't rot your teeth or your brain.
Ha! Won't rot your brain? I beg to differ!
Wait, I like Judge Knott, never mind.
>78 richardderus: Hmmph.. Well, I should think so.
Today is John Steinbeck's birthday, and I'd be remiss as an Amurrican if I didn't mention it.
Take a peek at my thread, I linked to a wonderful Steinbeck letter on Luuuv.
>83 lauralkeet: No...Laura, you're not remiss. You don't have a reputation to uphold as a champion of American lit. ;>)
19. The Pearl by John Steinbeck Read this last night, in honor of his birthday. I think I first encountered this beautiful, heart-breaking, mythic tale in junior high school, but remembered only the vague feeling of doom rather than specifics of the story. Kino, an impoverished Indian pearl fisherman, finds the "Pearl of the World", and dreams of marrying his wife in church, in new clothes, and sending his baby son to school one day. His small village follows Kino and his wife Juana to the pearl dealers where he hopes to sell this natural wonder and secure his family's future. We know the dealers are out to cheat him, and from the beginning it seems that even Kino does not truly believe in his dream, but he has committed to it and must follow where it takes him. This is a perfect gem (pardon) of a story, with exquisite prose and a terrifying inevitability.
I haven't read The Pearl, and now you've pushed into my brain. I may need to do something about that.
20. Bull River by Robert Knott (For some reason this touchstone brings up The Call of the Wild!) I can't bear to give this one the publisher's full title, which is Robert B. Parker's Bull River. With his second installment in the Virgil Cole/Everett Hitch series, Knott has really blown it. His Cole and Hitch are caricatures, not characters. Although I thought he did a decent job of carrying on the Western adventures of Parker's characters in Ironhorse, his tendency to overdo the choppy dialog between Virgil and Everett was annoying at times. In this novel, it's ludicrous. It takes subtlety to do simplicity well; Knott manages somehow to be heavy-handed with it. The intelligent communication and wry humor that Parker managed to convey with few words is totally lost here, as if all Knott got from reading Parker is that Virgil likes one-word responses. As one of the scriptwriters on the movie version of Appaloosa, he should have known better. Furthermore, Knott has created a Mexican character named Alejandro Vasquez who is a total mess, by which I mean his creator had no idea whether this man was fluent in English or barely able to put together a sentence in his native language; whether he was a stone killer or Robin Hood; whether he was dangerous or trustworthy. Maybe he was trying to keep the reader guessing. Sure, that's what he was doing. But I think he lost track himself. And there's more wrong with Bull River than that. It's too long; it takes too long to get to the action; it's full of what feel like linguistic anachronisms; cliches that Parker would have given a nifty twist are just cliches; scenes that ought to advance the action don't. Granted I read this from an ARC, but one assumes it had been subjected to some editing. If it had not been an ER acquisition, I would not have finished it.
I indicated my approval of same. I cannot lower myself to catly behaviours. It would be unseemly.
>89 laytonwoman3rd: Oh, that's so not good. Especially since I have an ER copy waiting to be reviewed. I *knew* I should have stuck to my rule of "no series continuations by other authors". Rats.
>97 rosalita: Mmmm....rats is right. I rarely like it when new authors take over a series or a set of characters either, but I really hated to let go of Virgil and Everett, and Jesse Stone, and to a lesser degree, Spenser. Although he was my first Parker love, I think his series could easily have ended with Parker's last published novel. It felt like an ending, that one. I've been OK with the new Jesse Stone novels, by Michael Brand.
>89 laytonwoman3rd: Thanks for the good review of a not-good book. I will be avoiding it at all costs, particularly since I too usually find series continuations by other authors unpalatable.
>86 laytonwoman3rd:. I've never been able to appreciate Steinbeck. Over the years, I've tried East of Eden; I've tried Of Mice and Men; I've tried The Grapes of Wrath. I didn't make it very far in any of them. Do you have an opinion about why he isn't taught much in the universities? I myself don't have a good answer for that question; I only know that he wasn't taught in any of my lit classes.
Have you read The Moon Is Down? I might give that one a try one of these days.
>100 labwriter: That's a very interesting question about Steinbeck. I don't have much insight into academia, I'm afraid, but I'll explore it with a couple people I know who do. It seems to me that I read The Grapes of Wrath for some course when I was in college, but I could be wrong about that. As an English major way back then, I took a 2 semester "survey" course of American literature. Pretty much everything else concentrated more on the Brits. I suppose that's partly because they've been writing over there for so much longer and there's more ground to cover. I think I did read The Moon is Down in my "Steinbeck Summer" on the upstairs porch as a teenager. I don't remember it now, and I'll surely revisit it one of these days.
I took a lot of American lit classes, but Steinbeck never made an appearance.
You had a Steinbeck Summer as a teenager? Amazing.
>102 labwriter: Yes, on my parents' bookshelf was a copy of The Short Novels of John Steinbeck, which included Tortilla Flat, The Red Pony, Of Mice and Men, The Moon is Down, Cannery Row, and The Pearl. I read straight through it on the upstairs porch of this house, although I can't recall what year it would have been. Sometime before I turned 16, I think.
The current owners have enclosed the porch to make an additional room, as it appears in this photo. When we lived there it was more open, with a high solid balustrade; it felt like being in a tree house.
High school was when I was exposed to a great breadth of literature. Steinbeck was part of it and I think the end of my sophomore or start of my junior year was my "Steinbeck summer" year. I devoured almost everything he had written. In college what was considered literature was very different, although I did acquire a modest taste for Graham Greene and a few others. I didn't care for most of it and decided I must have pedestrian tastes and left it at that. I am very thankful for every English teacher I had in my four years of high school because they really opened the world of books to me.
Linda, that house looks fabulous.
>104 RBeffa: It was a grand place to live, Ron. I was married in front of the window on the left. I had a very good foundation in literature in high school too. Although I often think "there's no way I was ready for (fill in the title) when we studied it in high school", it is rather amazing that I seem to remember everything we read...maybe not too much about every selection, but the fact that we studied it...yes. And I've been re-reading a lot of it in recent years.
What a lovely house to grow up in Linda. I'd love to have had a porch or a treehouse!
I'm a Steinbeck fan, although I've never got far with East of Eden - it has mysoginistic qualities to my mind, but I will do it one day. And have not yet tried The Grapes of Wrath, however Of Mice and Men is one of those novels not to be lived without in my book, and I've read a number of the novellas and other books. Most recently re-read Tortilla Flat. Great stuff.
>105 laytonwoman3rd: Linda, I think when we are young we are just much more impressionable when an excellent book is read. And they do stick with us, tho as you say, not all the details. I too have wondered about "there's no way I was ready for (fill in the title) when we studied it in high school", because it seems true. Or maybe we don't give ourselves enough credit. I want to re-read many of the great books from my younger days - there is always that bit of fear that it will disappoint. When I had freshman English in college I was stunned by Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory and it has been in my mental top whatever list ever since. However I only re-read it once a few years later and never since! But I will re-read that one.
I read The Grapes of Wrath as a young'un, but I can't for the life of me remember if it was assigned in high school or college... Probably high school, as I avoided American Lit courses for my English degree. (sorry - I was young and silly).
I'm so glad I dropped by. I get to see a lovely picture of a house that brings fond memories of years long ago. Plus I am entertained by Linda ripping a book to shreds with the skill of a professional. Ain't we got fun!
>113 msf59: That's a very apt comparison, Mark. It does remind me of the denizens of Cannery row, now that you mention it.
>112 wildbill: Hi, Bill. I'm glad you dropped by too!
I'm so happy everyone loves my old home. I loved it too, but when my parents sold it (after I was married and gone), it was to move to what we call "The Farm", where my dad had grown up (and where his MOTHER had grown up), so when they asked me how I felt about the whole thing I had to say I'd rather they gave up this house than let the farm go out of the family---it was one or the other.
Here's a picture of the ridiculously young couple just married in the front room of that house over 40 years ago:
And the farm house as it looked a few years ago. My brother lives there now, and has added on to it, but it's fundamentally the same:
>103 laytonwoman3rd:, 114 Lovely houses, all the more interesting because they come with stories. Who are those carefree youngsters? :-)
>117 avaland: That picture always makes me think I married a Kennedy!
>118 laytonwoman3rd: : Yes! that is exactly what I saw! the Kennedy resemblance.
>114 laytonwoman3rd: - That's an adorable wedding photo!
>86 laytonwoman3rd: - I really should get back to some Steinbeck. I loved The Grapes of Wrath and Cannery Row.
I also didn't read Steinbeck in high school or college, but then I didn't take the later American literature survey course (we had to take three, and took the two British and the early American, which is, of course, some of the most painfully dull reading I've ever done in my life - the Puritan stuff, capture narratives, etc. UGH.)
21. The Foolish Gentlewoman by Margery Sharp After riding out the Blitz in Bath, Isabel Brocken returns to her home, Chipping Lodge, 8 miles outside of London, where she offers indefinite lodging to her recently de-mobbed nephew Humphrey, and her brother-in-law Simon, whose bombed out home nearby is under repair. Moved by a line from an otherwise forgettable sermon, Isabel becomes conscience-stricken over a heartless and possibly life-changing act committed upon one Tilly Cuff in their youth. She determines that she must make amends, and therefore invites Tilly to come to Chipping. It is her intention to turn over her modest fortune to Tilly, keeping only enough to maintain herself in respectable circumstances by sharing a flat with another widow in the village. When Tilly arrives, invited but unaware of the reason behind it, she proves to be a supercilious, interfering, thoroughly unlikeable and disruptive addition to the household. This, of course, is where the fun begins. Sharp takes her plot round the bush and through the hedge, delighting the reader with every twisty bit, and arrives where no one expected to land. Quite lovely.
Linda- Love the photos! What a handsome couple!
I am loving Suttree. He is mussel harvesting with that family. The old man just sold a pearl or 2. I should finish on Thursday.
>123 laytonwoman3rd: That has just appeared as an LT recomendation for me and, from your review, I think it's probably a good one.
>130 laytonwoman3rd: There are plenty going cheap on Amazon so it seems foolish not to get one...
Heh heh heh...I just clicked "Submit" on an Amazon order myself.
>128 NanaCC: I seem to have missed you somehow, Colleen. I commend you to Margery Sharp too.
>133 PaulCranswick: Paul, I would love to invite this whole crowd to a picnic at either of my "homesteads" above, complete with pig roast, barbecued chicken, steamed clams, horseshoe pitching, croquet, a canoe trip down the river or a jeep ride through the woods. To Paraphrase >112 wildbill: Bill "Wouldn't we have fun?"
In a way, Margery Sharp spends time on our Christmas tree every year ...
Ah, yes, The Rescuers. I haven't read any of Sharp's children's books, but I understand Disney did for her what he did for P. L. Travers, and not everyone considered that a good thing!
(Tried several times to post earlier, and nothing happened.)
22. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling No. 2 completed on audio. Jim Dale is quite amazing...his Gilderoy Lockhart is SO smarmy.
Came over to see how you are making out with discovering America and find you in a school in England! hahahahaha
Okay. I've been book bulleted, too, with The Foolish Gentlewoman. Dangit. Don't I have enough books on Mount TBR?
>138 tiffin: HA! Well, I am reading Cormac McCarthy and Lev Grossman, so...
Hi Linda- Did you finish Suttree? Doesn't seem to be much activity over on the McCarthy thread.
I liked the book quite a bit. It just missed 5 stars. I think it could have been shorter. I think he learned that in his later books, which all clock in at a 100-150 pages shorter.
Curious to hear what you think.
I'm still reading it, Mark. I haven't had a lot of reading time this last week, so it's taking me a while. I'm really enjoying it, though. His descriptive powers are just incredible. What an observant man he must be.
My copy of The Foolish Gentlewoman arrived today. I don't know whether to be happy or ticked.
>144 connie53: Well...my latest was a bit of a disappointment, as you'll see below when I've time to post about it.
23. Codex by Lev Grossman The premise is this: Edward Wozny, a young (very young) investment banker has two weeks' down-time before he is to leave New York to report to his new position in his firm's London office. First, though, he has been asked to "look in" on clients, the Duke and Duchess of Went, whose wealth is beyond comprehension, and who need to be kept happy. When he arrives at their Manhattan apartment he is greeted by an elegant woman (housekeeper? secretary?) in their stead, who offers him a very odd proposal that he should immediately set to cataloging several crates full of ancient books comprising a library sent to America before World War II for safekeeping, and untouched for over 60 years. Furthermore, he should keep his eyes open for one particular book by a 14th century monk named Gervase of Langford. Edward has no qualifications or interest for such a project, and he doesn't strike the reader as a wimp, but somehow he can't get the word "No" past his lips. Neither can he summon up the gumption to call the firm and ask his boss if there's been some kind of communication failure. He just lets himself be relegated to a huge room full of shelves, dust and crated books, and begins unpacking. Now, you and I might consider this a heaven-sent opportunity. But absolutely nothing we have learned (or ever do learn) about Edward suggests that he would have that reaction. He has an undergrad degree in English from Yale, and admits to having concentrated, if at all, on 20th century literature. So why him? He doesn't ask. He sets off to research Gervase, happens on a female graduate student using the very material he needs, and persuades her to assist him with the books. Although she is snarkily unpleasant and superior, she agrees, apparently swayed by the hourly fee he offers her (without any authority whatsoever). And the game is on. Oh...the "game". Did I mention the computer simulation game our hero plays (and becomes totally lost in) during his off moments? Well, it's interwoven with the real-life story line, and obviously we're meant to make associations, but neither Edward nor I seemed to get it until we were told what to get, and even then my response was "So what?" I came very close to skimming through those sections, and it probably wouldn't have mattered if I did. Edward and Margaret, the graduate student, become totally obsessed with finding the medieval codex, although initially Margaret had dismissed it as a well-known academic hoax--a book that never existed. There's some cloak-but-no-dagger stuff; the Duke insists the search be stopped; the Duchess insists it go on. No real suspense is ever generated. Some of Edward's colleagues, whose connection to the whole business is never explained, warn him he's messing with something that could turn ugly. Apparently, there's a centuries-old family secret in that book that could destroy the Duke. Really? This story could have been a rip-snorter. Unfortunately, it reads like an unedited first novel, and it just doesn't work. The ending is a total fizzle. I had a lot of issues with the The DaVinci Code, but at least that one was written by a master story-teller. It's cruel, I suppose, but based on this effort, I don't think Lev Grossman can hold a candle to Dan Brown when it comes to getting the pages to turn.
Wow, That started of really nice but ended in the gutter!
I hope your next one is much better!
Yes, Connie...it had potential, especially for us book nuts. That made it so much more disappointing.
Drat! Struck square between the eyes! The Foolish Gentlewoman now on order.
Ooh, nice negative review. Well done, Linda. I'll steer clear of that one!
>149 michigantrumpet: I hope you'll enjoy it, Marianne.
>150 lauralkeet: Yeah, too bad, too. It should have been a great plane-ride-read.
>151 tiffin: I know...doesn't it sound like our kind of story?
>152 richardderus: You'd have done a better job of plastering it with sarcasm, Richard. But then, you might not have bothered to finish it at all.
>154 labwriter: I notice there are already quite a few unenthusiastic reviews of it on the site. I don't usually read them beforehand when I find a book all on my own that appeals to me, because I don't want to be influenced one way or the other. But, of course, I do take what this group says into serious consideration, and I know others do too. That's why sometimes I say, "maybe it's just me", or "maybe I read this at the wrong time" so others won't be totally put off if I'm negative about a particular book. This one, though, I'm pretty comfortable giving a decided thumbs down.
>134 laytonwoman3rd:. Sounds like the perfect day. Count me in for the pig roast. For two decades, I belonged to a group that celebrated the start of a new year (in September) with a pig roast picnic. Dig a large hole, get the coals going, then sit up all night spraying that pig with water, drinking beer, and telling tall tales. Fun.
>158 PaulCranswick: I understand, Paul, about the pork...but be assured my family is unmatched when it comes to barbecuing chicken, so you will not be hungry. And if the timing was right, the river running well, and the prongers were lucky, there might be some eels to throw on the fire as well.
>160 labwriter: My brother has a rolling barbecue "wagon", so we don't dig a hole anymore, but otherwise, you've got it pegged. There would also be a bonfire later, with several guitars going, and maybe a singing dog.
That was dear old Augie, a sweet beagle. He had a tendency to head for the hills if not tethered, but he was a good dog. He's no longer with us, but I'm pretty sure some of the current dogs down there can sing too!
24. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy McCarthy has the most remarkable command of the English language, and he uses it to the max in every sentence in this book. It is the story of a few rather brutal years in the life of Cornelius Suttree, a man of uncertain age, who has left behind a "normal" life for reasons he does not fully share with the reader, and now lives in a houseboat along the Tennessee River in the harsh mythic underworld of 1950's Knoxville. McCarthy's writing is monstrously beautiful, as in this passage:
"It snowed that night. Flakes softly blown in the cold blue lamplight. Snow lay in pale boas along the black treelimbs down Forest Avenue and the snow in the street bore bands of branch and twig, dark fissures that would not snow full...Snow falling on Knoxville, sifting down over McAnally, hiding the rents in the roofing, draping the sashwork, frosting the coalpiles in the crabbed dooryards. It has covered up the blood and dirt and claggy sleech in gutterways and laid white lattice on the sewer grates...In the yards a switchengine is working and the white light of the headlamp bores down the rows of iron gray warehouses in a livid phosphorous tunnel through which the snow falls innocently and unburnt."
As the snow covers the black and the frozen, the grim and the ugly, McCarthy's words nearly bury the realities of the world he is showing us in a softening shroud, but never hide it completely. By the end of this rather too long novel, the reader and Suttree have both had enough, and need to move on. Where Suttree might be going, what he might have gained from this episode in his life, is no clearer than how he got there in the first place. That, I think is the greatest failure of this novel.
I loved parts of Suttree, the breathtaking word craft, the brilliant descriptions, the dark humor and often grotesque characters reminiscent of Faulkner's best. (I mean, a country boy shot and jailed for humping watermelons? Pappy surely gave McCarthy a commendatory nod for that one.) But it went on too long, sank a little too deeply into the mire too often, and made me grateful for its ending at last. Thankfully, McCarthy does not entice the reader into emotional involvement with his characters. As clearly as they are drawn, they remain at a safe distance from the heart; only one episode came close to touching my sympathy button, and it did so in part because it reminded me of another scene in another novel which was actually heart-rending. (I'm referring to The Dollmaker, a book I feel I need to read again, especially in this year of the American Author in this group.) I don't mean to imply that McCarthy doesn't care for his creations; he does, obviously, but he does it in a totally un-sentimental, no-BS, practical fashion, perhaps in the manner of a no-nonsense priest who runs a homeless shelter, or William Devane's prickly psychiatrist, Dr. Dix, from the Jesse Stone movies.
Suttree is a masterpiece, there's no denying it. It would surely benefit from re-reading, but I won't do that, because it's too damned difficult to live with for that long.
It is a difficult conundrum that Linda. When you know what you are reading is a masterpiece, but took less pleasure in the reading of it than you wish for in a book.
I find that with a few writers for whom I have great regard, Joyce Carol Oates for example, and so sometimes it takes me a while to pick up another one. Though at least with JCO she writes across and around genres, so it doesn't apply to all her work.
With a certainly finite reading time left for this aging reader, I just can't read books now without being in love with the characters, the actual story, fabulous writing skills notwithstanding. I want the cake of the matter, not just the icing.
Thanks, Richard and Mark.
>168 tiffin: I certain understand that, Tui. I admit I might have put it down about 3/4 of the way through, if I hadn't felt obligated to finish it for multiple reasons.
>167 Caroline_McElwee: Yes, Caroline---one of the reasons I did finish Suttree was that I loved it in the beginning, and knew I would be disappointed in myself if I didn't see it through.
I liked that review of Suttree too, Linda. It does sound like he got better in his later ones - both in terms of more economical writing, and getting us to care about his characters.
I liked your review of Suttree too, and Chris has it on her bookshelf. Only she has it marked as "Unread" so it will be a while before I will ask her for it.
25. The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill The third in the Simon Serailler detective series. As good as the first two, some unresolved crimes and issues from previous books are addressed, and new directions charted for the characters going forward. I find this series as compelling as anything of its type I've ever read; there hasn't been a predictable development in any of the three entries so far, yet everything makes utter sense in the end.
26. Mozart and Leadbelly by Ernest J. Gaines This is an uneven collection of "essays", short fiction, and a conversation between Ernest J. Gaines and two of his colleagues from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, that took place in 2002. The essays are really composites of talks Gaines has given at speaking engagements over the years, but they don't work very well as literary selections. Those same two colleagues, who compiled and edited the book, persuaded him to publish it, against his initial inclination. I think maybe he should have trusted his first instinct, and stuck to "no". As they say in the introduction, "reading and hearing are two different experiences", and the essays as produced here are missing the delivery, and off-the-cuff remarks of a talented speaker. While they do contain some interesting biographical information, and insights into Gaines' influences (literary, musical, spiritual), I just take issue with the form. The conversation is too much "them" and not enough "him", and meanders around with no clear destination in sight. The short fiction selections are the highlights of the collection, and one of them had not been published before; I'm glad to have them in print.
Edited for punctuation.
27. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson Finished this one last night in a snufflin' haze, so maybe I won't do it justice, but I found the whole thing a bit thin, despite some truly laugh-out-loud moments. Bryson, after living in Britain for 20 years, decided to "go home" to America for a while. But FIRST....he took 7 weeks to travel about the small island taking a look around to remind himself of all the things he loved about it. Well, such projects often don't work out well, and as a premise for a book (which is what I suspect he had in mind all along) it can feel somewhat forced. Bryson seemed to always arrive in places on the day of the week when everything was closed, or so late in the day that everything was closed; he wandered about a good bit without a plan, and ended up in a shabby guest house without dinner so often it got downright tiresome. But there were satisfactory stops (mostly in Scotland, so it seems) and lovely views, and delightful people (although he never understood a word anyone said to him in Glasgow) along with the one's-like-another villages; perverse train schedules; flat warm pints and surly public servants. I've read Bryson before, and I think a whole book of his stuff is too much. He's better taken in blog-sized bites.
I agree, both about this book and the size of the mouthfuls. Himself couldn't understand anything anyone said in Glasgow either but I didn't have any trouble whatsoever. So if you ever decide to go, I'll happily go along as a translator.
I had much the same reaction to Notes from a Small Island. The Australia one, though, that one pretty much tears along all the way through. The things what will eat you angle probably helps keep it inneresting.
I've liked other books by Bryson, especially At Home and A Walk in the Woods, but Notes from a Small Island was awful. I gave it 3/10 stars!
My micro-review: Imagine a bore at a party bitching about his neighborhood. And all the suburbs around his neighborhood. For hours. All the restaurants suck. All the motels are dirty. Customer service is awful, ad nauseum. Bryson's usual humor is missing and he comes across as a total jerk. I'm not quite sure how I finished this. Maybe because I'm used to so much better from him.
>181 tiffin: You're on. And we'll take >182 lycomayflower: with us, 'cause she knows her way around Edinburgh.
>183 Morphidae: Yeah, I wasn't going to say he was a jerk, but he really was. And why didn't he do a better job of planning ahead? So much of what he groused about seemed to be his own bloody fault.
Those are interesting comments on your last two books, Linda. I think I'll avoid both of them!
>182 lycomayflower: I had much the same reaction to Notes from a Small Island. The Australia one, though, that one pretty much tears along all the way through
Funny I had exactly the opposite reaction. I felt the Australia one was too affected by Bill Bryson being a celebrity by the time that he wrote it rather than a fairly anonymous traveller. I wonder if the miserable nature of a lot of the travels appeals more to the British sense of humour? Certainly Notes from a Small Island was a very popular book here. And there's a tradition of writers going around the worst bits: Paul Theroux did the same thing about twenty years earlier in The Kingdom by the Sea.
>191 tiffin: You're clairvoyant, Tui! I just finished
28. Black Betty by Walter Mosley An Easy Rawlings adventure. His usual combination of hope and desperation, love and hatred. I think I'll have to re-read the last chapter to be absolutely clear about one plot point, but that's probably because I should have gone to bed an hour ago!
>193 richardderus: I never quite got the involvement of the police "Commander" Styles.
>195 richardderus: It didn't even come together, let alone hang there. Disappointing.
I didn't find this one particularly scary, Tui...shivery, yes. It's all psychological and stuff. I'm not sure I've read anything else she wrote, but I probably will now.
Well the psychological stuff gets me more than anything. Just creeps me right out.
My husband just read Heartstones, at my
Linda I have to say you really do write such engaging reviews. Yours of Suttree was very impressive and, I think, just. The Bryson book I also recall as irritatingly contrived.
Ms. Rendell, whether writing under that name or as Barbara Vine, can be reliably expected to twist a tale.
30. The Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling Audio book. Love some of the plot developments in this one, but OH LAWZY, is it overwritten. Nary a scene without a face going red or a mouth dropping open or a heart pounding or something turning out to be the worst or fastest or biggest someone ever saw...
>207 laytonwoman3rd: but ... but ... but ... it's Harry Potter!! Actually I read this so long ago, and was so caught up in my kids' fanaticism, that I am certain I did not read it critically. I'm sure you're right.
>207 laytonwoman3rd: Linda, To add to Laura's point, she was writing them for kids (even the big ones like me). If I hear my grandchildren telling stories, everything is bigger, faster, more unbelievable than anything they've seen, done or heard before. Maybe not great literature, but she knew her audience.
>208 EBT1002: I kept it short, because there's not much new to be said!
>209 lauralkeet: but ... but ... but ... it's Harry Potter!! Yes, and that's why I was listening to it! I'm determined to go straight through the series on audio, to get the whole seven years in one go, so to speak. I only listen in the car, so it will take a while.
>210 NanaCC: A very good point, Colleen, and I kept reminding myself of it as I was listening. I think perhaps the audio performance highlights these irritating bits, too. I've already started No. 4, and I note a distinct difference in style. I thought I remembered that with this one the books began to "grow up".
>211 laytonwoman3rd: Linda, I think that from #4 onwards they kept getting more complex and much darker.
I expect you realize this, but this listen is probably my third go-round with the earlier books. I think I read 1 through 4 a second time, then the last 3 only once each. It's been several years since I finished the last one, and I did want to do the whole series together, so I thought audio on the commute would be the way to do it.
>214 laytonwoman3rd: I didn't know that for certain, but I thought it was highly probable this wasn't your first encounter.
Colleen has said what I would have said about it being the way kids see things and that it gets darker, more adult if you will, as Harry gets older. I thought she had that age spot on but then I'm a big kid in old fart's clothing.
>176 laytonwoman3rd: - Very glad to read the third Susan Hill is a good one. I must get to that.
>197 laytonwoman3rd: - I feel like I should read Ruth Rendell. Is this a good place to start. It appears to be a standalone, right? I'm a fan of The Turn of the Screw, but was a little disappointed by We Have Always Lived in the Castle, although I didn't exactly dislike it.
Yes, Kerri, Heartstones is a stand-alone. And it's a very fast read, so maybe a good one to start with. I will definitely read more of her "psychological thrillers", and her Inspector Wexford police procedurals as well.
31. Desert by J. M. G. Le Clézio Published in 1980, Desert was not translated into English until 2009, after its author had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. This is a highly descriptive novel, immersing the reader in the heat, cold, brilliant light and starry darkness of the Sahara, the rugged rocks and dunes of the Moroccan coast. I have never been in the desert (if you don't count Las Vegas and Red Rock Canyon, which you can't, in this context) but I now feel as though I have escaped from it. Although there are two stories interlaced here, there is very little in the way of Story in Desert. It is almost exclusively about Place. In the first segment, set in the early 20th century, we meet Nour, a young boy of the Tuareg tribe of "Blue Men", Saharan nomads traveling in caravan searching for a new home after failing to resist the French Colonial takeover of their home territories. The contrapuntal segments are contemporary with the writing, and show us Lalla, a descendant of the Blue Men, an orphan living in a shanty town outside a coastal city, perhaps Tangier. Her days are often spent wandering into the hills and along the rocky coast, with no particular aim. Occasionally, she has visions of a Blue Man, with whom she feels a spiritual connection. She also connects, in a more earthly way, with a young man known as the Hartani, a mute shepherd. Lalla is as free as can be, until she begins to be pressured by her Aunt to marry an old man; she retreats to the hills with the Martani, and eventually travels to France, where she survives as a hotel maid, and again spends her free time roaming, now through the streets, suburbs and environs of Marseille. The prose of Desert is often rhythmic, repetitive in a musical way, with many recurring metaphors and images. There is harsh beauty in it, as well as an homage to the traditional primitive way of life of the desert dwellers. It could have been a 5 star read for me, if only the characters had been a bit more multi-dimensional.
I've read and re-read the Harry Potter books several times. I've watched the movies several times. And now I'm listening to them, too. I'm up to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
32. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
This is my AAC read for April.
Macon Dead, III, is coming of age in the Southside of Chicago (you know, the "baddest part of town"), where his father is a prosperous and respected man of property (read "landlord"), his mother is the daughter of the first black physician in the city, and his two older sisters make velvet roses to sell to department stores while drifting into terminal spinsterhood. His parents' loveless marriage occasionally erupts into low-level violence. None of this seems to matter much to Macon (who is known in the community as "Milkman", for reasons unknown to him), until one night at the dinner table, when without forethought, he decks his father for hitting his mother. From that moment on, spurred partly by his father's peculiar version of the "she had it coming" speech, Milkman becomes more interested in his family, his identity, his life. He learns bits and pieces of his family history from various individuals; sometimes the pieces fit, but often they contradict one another and raise more questions than they answer. As Milkman grows older he becomes more and more determined to sort out his place in his "tribe", to learn why names are so important, and what Life and Love are really worth. His roots-journeys to his family's former homes in Danville, PA, and Shalimar, VA, as well as into his own head and heart, make for a captivating and beautiful story. This doesn't happen often, but I am tempted to turn back to the beginning of this marvelous novel and re-read the whole thing right now.
Great review, Linda. I read that so many years ago and your review makes me think I should read it again.
I like that review, too, Linda, and you've encouraged me to read Song of Solomon.
Song of Solomon is my planned read but I will be late getting to it. Your review makes me think I made a good choice with it. Thanks Linda.
>Linda, As I read your story of Charlie (Branflakes), it brought tears and smiles. I remember him well. Like many of us, I had no idea he was so ill. He bore the burden well. What a very, very special gift that he passed along to you.
I'm sure you touched his heart in a deep way, and of course, I'm not surprised. I can only imagine the feeling of receiving and categorizing the books.
Kudos to you for your lovely relationship with Charlie. And, what a lovely tribute to you that now, as you pass the book shelves, you think of him and the loving person he was.
Loved the reviews. Have you read any other Ernest Gaines? I particularly liked A Gathering of Old Men
Oh yes! A Lesson Before Dying!! Forgot about that one!
Have a wonderful Friday! hope you have good plans for the weekend.
Something someone posted this weekend made me think of and miss Charlie. If that happens to me with my very limited contact with him, can only imagine what it's like for you. I think, though, he would be happy he made such an impact.
Anyhoo, hope you had a great weekend.
33. The Reserve by Russell Banks Just noting I finished it. I 'll be back to say a few things about it later. Must arrive at work a bit early today.
34. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill Same deal.
If you like a good ghost story, this one has all the usual elements---a young man sent to a remote village with an assignment; a local populace that warns him mysteriously against the place he must go to complete this assignment; a healthy dose of skepticism gradually replaced by a healthy dose of the daylights scared out of said young man; strange noises and visitations in the night; a vision no one else sees (or admits to seeing); a retreat from the scene of the haunting; a partial explanation; and, finally, an ending with a barb in its tail. All told from the perspective of that young man, now grown old, looking back on it all many years hence. A little Shirley Jackson, a little Edgar Allan Poe, a little Daphne DuMaurier...
> I'm very curious about The woman in black. Someone in my bookclub is reading that one now and he is very enthousiastic about it.
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