The Numbers

DATE: 11/1/18 – Well, what do you know? I’m on time.

Titles Finished (Totals To Date):

  • Books: 1,222
  • Poetry: 78
  • Short stories: 55
  • Plays: 2

Titles Finished Totals for 2018:

  • Books: 102
  • Poetry: 3
  • Short stories: 3
  • Plays: 2
  • Early Reviews: 9

All titles left to go for Challenge: 4,348

Next count: 12/1/2018


Ceremony

Silko. Ceremony. New York: Penguin Books, 1986,

Reason read: November is American Indian Heritage month.

I like to compare reading Silko to drinking a icy cold glass of limoncello. It is not the kind of thing you gulp down in chug-a-lug like fashion. It is better to take in small sips of the scenes in order to let them slide over your subconscious and filter slowly into your brain. Think of it this way. It is as if you have to give the words time to mellow and ultimately saturate your mind.

First things first. When you get into the plot of Ceremony what you first discover is that Tayo is a complicated character. After being a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, alcoholism, battle fatigue (now called post traumatic stress disorder), mental illness, and guilt all plague Tayo. It’s as if threads of guilt tangle in his mind, strangling his ability to comprehend reality, especially when other veterans on the Laguna Pueblo reservation turn to sex, alcohol and violence to cope. Friends are no longer friendly.
Next, what is important to pay attention to are the various timelines. There is the time before the war and the time after at the mental health facility with the timeline with Thought (Spider) Woman, Corn Woman, and Reed Woman. Each timeline dips back and forth throughout the story. Tayo struggles to reconcile what it means to be Native American, with all its traditions and beliefs, with the horrors of war and captivity. How does one as gentle as Tayo forgive himself for being a soldier? “He stepped carefully, pushing the toe of his boot into the weeds first to make sure the grasshoppers were gone before he set his foot down into the crackling leathery stalks of dead sunflowers” (p 155). He can’t even inadvertently harm a bug.
Interspersed between the plot are pages of lyrical poetry.
Throughout it all, I found myself weeping for Tayo’s lost soul.

Quotes I liked, “Somewhere, from another room, he heard a clock ticking slowly and distinctly, as if the years, the centuries, were lost in that sound. (p 98) and “But as long as you remember, it is part of the story we have together” (p 231).

Author fact: Silko was born in Albuquerque in 1948, the same year as my mother.

Book trivia: As I mentioned earlier, Silko’s poetry is part of the story.

Nancy said: Nancy said Leslie Marmon Silko is one of her favorite American Indian writers.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “American Indian Literature” (p 23).


Expecting Adam

Beck, Martha. Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth and Everyday Magic. Ready by Joyce Bean. Tantor Media Inc., 2012.

Reason read: my mom’s birthday falls in the month of November. Read in her honor.

I love it when overly intellectual people have to rely on unscientific phenomenons like faith and hope and magic. I think being able to let go of factual reasoning and open our minds to blind trust stretches our narrow minded boundaries a little wider. Beck speaks to having a premonition before her son, Adam, was born. There had been almost mystic signs he was not going to be an ordinary child. Throughout Beck’s pregnancy inexplicable events pushed her to believe in decidedly unscientific miracles. The problem is both Beck and her husband, John, were obsessed with facts. Overly driven to be successful (two Harvard degrees each), they couldn’t wrap their brains around giving birth to a Down syndrome baby. Expecting Adam is the story of letting go to perfection; the releasing of ambitions; the saying goodbye to lofty goals…and saying hello to an angel.

As an aside, Beck made some references that I was unfamiliar with, enough so that I needed to look them up and keep track:

  • Deng Xiaping
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

 

Lines I liked, “It works for me to think that I will be lumped together with the right-to-lifers, not to mention every New Age crystal kisser who ever claimed to see an angel in the clouds over Sedona” (p 8), “If we saw people as they really are, the beauty would overwhelm us” (p 308), and “Not I think that the vast majority of us “normal” people spend our lives trashing our treasures and treasuring our trash” (p 317).

By the way, I thought that the word retarded wasn’t political correct and should be avoided at all cost. Or, is it one of those words you can use on yourself and it’s okay? All I know is it was jarring every time I saw it in print.

Book trivia: There is a lovely picture of Martha and Adam on the back inside flap of Expecting Adam. It made me smile.

Author fact: Beck is a Harvard grad, receiving multiple degrees in sociology (B.A., M.A. and a Ph.D). I guess this is what we would call this a serial student.

Nancy said: Nancy said Expecting Adam “is a unique mixture of sophisticated humor, satire, self-deprecation, and spirituality.” She also called it, “hysterically funny” (More Book Lust, p 172).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Nagging Mothers, Crying Children” (p 172).


Caliph’s House

Shah, Tahir. The Caliph’s House: a Year in Casablanca. New York: Bantam Dell Books, 2006.

Reason read: Morocco’s independence was obtained in November.

Everyone has a story of an event in their lives; how they met their sparkling spouse, how they came into their fascinating occupation, how they started an odd hobby for which they are extremely passionate. The most interesting stories are the ones that are life changing; an abrupt 180 degree turn from where they used to be. A hobby turning into a business so they can quit their dead end job, for example. Tahir Shah has such a story in The Caliph’s House. The London based travel writer was looking to move to Morocco. Tired of grey weather and bland food, he wanted to get back to the culture of his ancestry. After many false starts a classmate of his mother’s contacted him out of the blue in 2004 with an offer he couldn’t refuse: the sale of Dar Khalifa, the once home of a Caliph, a spiritual leader of Casablanca. Even though this is a story about living through a house renovation it goes beyond tiles and plumbing. Shah explores what it means to buy and restore a house in a post 911 society. Morocco struggles to be a paradise of tolerance. At the same time, Shah becomes intimately and intensely aware of “how things get done” when he hires a man of ill repute to be his right hand man. Encounters with thieves, possible murderers, even the mob are the norm. But, it is the exorcism that readers all wait for with breath held. Who in their right mind would slaughter a goat in every room of a mansion-sized abode?

Most startling takeaway – even Casablanca has a mafia.

Quote to quote, “There was a sadness in the still of the dusk” (p 1). Yes! I have always felt the melancholy amid the gloaming, especially on Monhegan. I can’t explain it.
Some funny quotes, “We were both blinkered by our upbringings” (p 105), “The nervous man pulled the lid off one of the toilets and fishes out half a dozen samples of cedar” (p 294), “But it was the first time I had hired a troupe of exorcists, and I didn’t know the protocol” (p 314), and “I like my meat to be anonymous, severed from its connection to life” (p 318). Don’t we all?

Author fact: Shah has a few videos on YouTube, including one of a tour of Dar Khalifa that is pretty cool. He talks about having to placate the Jinns and how he ended up having a grand exorcism with twenty-four exorcists.

Book trivia: the illustrations by Laura Hartman Maestro are wonderful, but what is most impressive is the assumed photograph of Dar Khalifa.

Nancy said: Pearl just describes a tiny bit of the plot.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “So We/I Bought or Built a House In…” (p 210).


Patience and Sarah

Miller, Isabel. Patience and Sarah. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 1969.

Reason read: Alma Routsong was born in November; read in her honor.

This is such a fascinating story. Isabel Miller learns of two real life pioneering women, Mary Ann Willson and her partner, known only as “Miss Brundage,” and has to write about them. Willson and Brundage set off to find a place where they could live as an openly homosexual couple. Their courage sparked a story in Miller and Patience and Sarah was born.
To meet the women: Sarah Dowling was raised as a boy; taught to shoot a gun and chop firewood like a man. In Patience’s mind, Sarah needed rescuing from that existence. Patience White was a demure and quiet painter, but it was she who started planting the seeds of running away early in her relationship with Sarah. “But could you take it pioneering with you?” Patience asked of the ax Sarah was wielding.
Patience and Sarah was originally published under the title, A Place For Us. The book ends with Patience and Sarah leaving their old lives behind to find a new place where they could be themselves as a couple. Their love endures ridicule and prejudice and even among themselves they harbor doubts. Sheer courage carries them forward.
Patience and Sarah could be considered the very first lesbian historical novel.

Lines I loved (and there were many), “Women might peck at her with their sharp mean noses” (p 18), “There would be no way out except through” (p 49), and, “…but as soon as he kissed me I knew I could not live a life where that happened all the time” (p 102).
Lines about love, “I keep thinking every shadow is you” (p 47), and “I felt my heart melt and drip off my fingertips” (p 105).

Author fact: Isabel Miller is a pseudonym for Alma Routsong. Alma took her mother’s maiden name (Miller) and an anagram of the word lesbia (Isabel) to form her pen name. Another interesting fact is that Isabel left her husband and four children. Luckily, they all forgave her.

Book trivia: The American Library Association honored Patience and Sarah with its first ever Gay Book of the Year Award in 1971. Another last piece of trivia: the book was made into an opera in 1998. That seems a little odd to me.

Nancy said: Pearl said it would be “interesting to compare” The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall to Miller’s Patience and Sarah. (Book Lust p 94).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Gay and Lesbian Fiction: Out of the Closet” (p 93).


Race of the Scorpions

Dunnett, Dorothy. Race of the Scorpions. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.

Reason read: to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.

Race of the Scorpions is the third installment in the House of Niccolo series. Nicholas vander Poele is a mere twenty-one years old and already a widower. His stepdaughters want nothing to do with him and summarily locked him out of house and business.
Of course there are interesting character maneuvers as well. Niccolo has a new enemy in Katelina van Borsten. She seduced Claes into taking her virginity and after their second tryst became pregnant. She ended up marrying Simon who’s first wife gave birth to Claes. Ultimately, Kate married Claes’s stepfather and together they are raising Kate and Claes’s child, unbeknownst to Simon. All the while, Nicholas is growing in power. His business sense is blossoming which further irritates his enemies.

Dunnett continues to masterfully weave fictional story-lines around real people, places and events. It’s what could have happened and probably did.
As an aside, her sex scenes are only hints of trysts and conquests, tastefully done.

Quotes to quote, “She long ago concluded that the world would be a more efficient place if managed by women” (p 9), “He assumed the face of an owl” (p 137), “No matter what you did, no matter what you planned, the unexpected happened” (p 203), and my favorite, “you don’t inherit three hundred years of scorpion blood and end up a buttercup” (p 265).

Author fact: Taking a break from author facts for this one. I will have several opportunities to say more as I am reading lots of Dunnett in the future!

Book trivia: the introduction to Race of the Scorpions spells out exactly what has happened in Niccolo Rising (Vol. One) and Spring of the Ram (Vol. Two).

Nancy said: Nancy said it would be “a shame to miss out on [the] House of Niccolo series” (More Book Lust p 80).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up the Past Though Fiction” (p 79).


Playing For Pizza

Grisham, John. Playing for Pizza. New York: Bantam Dell, 2007.

Reason read: the Verdi Fest in Parma is traditionally held in October.

When we first meet Rick Dockery he is laid up in a hospital bed after a nasty American Football Conference championship game collision. After this latest concussion third string quarterback Dockery’s career is more than over. His agent, Arnie, is told over and over no one will touch him with a ten foot pole. Don’t even ask. Like many athletes with a less than stellar career, but the passion to play, Dockery heads to another country to continue playing the game he loves so much. He arrives in Italy with the stereotypical chip on his shoulder. Where are the cheerleaders? In his mind, it’s only a matter of time before he’ll be back in the States, playing for the NFL…or so he dreams. What follows is Dockery’s slow acceptance of Italy, his education of what Europeans consider football, and (gulp) what true loyalty means. Grisham keeps the plot light and uncomplicated for a quick and easy read.

Confession: when Dockery gets tangled up in a budding romance with a woman already involved in a seven year relationship I thought I would see more drama. Not so. I think that plot line was designed to introduce opera and not much else.

As an aside, Grisham’s descriptions Italy made me want to plan a visit. I made a list of every region and landmark he mentioned.

Funny quote, “Later he learned that Sly and Trey had been driven away by a drunk uncle who couldn’t find Parma” (p 101).

Author fact: Grisham makes a huge departure from his legal mysteries with Playing for Pizza but he didn’t go into it blind. Parma really does have a football team with a few American players.

Book trivia: Playing for Pizza is short enough to read in a weekend.

Nancy said: Nancy called Playing for Pizza “captivating” and described the plot a little.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply called “Parma” (p 172).


November New

What do you do when the most inappropriate sentiment unexpectedly comes out of someone’s mouth? A confession that should never have left the lips of the confessor? Instead of thinking of the actions I should take I chose to take none. I do nothing. Distance makes it easy to ignore and deny. When I can’t avoid I read. Here are the books started for November:

Fiction:

  • Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone – Malone was born in the month of November; reading in his honor.
  • Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – in honor of November being Native American Heritage month.
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – November is National Writing month. Choosing fantasy for this round.
  • Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller – Routsong’s birth month was in November. Reading in her honor.
  • Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser – reading in honor of Millhauser’s birth place, New York City.

Nonfiction:

  • Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck – in honor of my mother’s birth month.
  • The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah – in honor of Morocco’s independence was gained in November.

Series continuation:

  • Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month in August.

Fun: nothing decided yet.

Early Review: I have been chosen to receive an early review but I will refrain from naming it in case it doesn’t arrive.