The Numbers

DATE: 10/17/21

Challenge Titles Finished (Totals To Date):

  • Books: 1,577
  • Poetry: 79
  • Short stories: 84
  • Plays: 4

Titles Finished: Totals for 2021:

  • Books: 99
  • Poetry: 1
  • Short stories: 0
  • Plays: 0
  • Early Reviews: 11

All titles left to go for Challenge: 4,010

Next count: 12/1/2021


Ragtime

Doctorow, E.L. Ragtime. Plume, 1996.

Reason read: Emma Goldman was born in June. Read in her memory.

Rich in historical fiction, Ragtime will parade past its readers men like Sigmund Freud, Winslow Homer, Henry Ford, Harry Houdini, J.P. Morgan, Theodore Dreiser, and Booker T. Washington.
All walks of life thrive within the pages of Ragtime. The sideshow freaks of the Barnum and Bailey circus, the curse of the Egyptian mummies, the advent of the Model Ford, the destruction of Tammany Hall, sexual fainting was a thing, segregation was strict in parts of the country, there was human trafficking by a different name, Robert Peary’s quest for the Arctic, L.L Bean boots, the Stanford White shooting, Charles Dana Gibson was asking the eternal question, the anarchist Emma Goldman, even Emiliano Zapata. At the center of this turn-of-the-century drama is ten years of one family. Their business is fireworks and flags and while they are profitable in business, they are poor in happiness. Everyone is undergoing personal strife. It isn’t until a seemingly abandoned black child wanders into their midst, followed by the depressed mother and musician father when things start to perk up.

Best lines: none because I am too lazy to seek permission. Blah, blah, blah.

Author fact: E.L. stands for Edward Lawrence.

Book trivia: Ragtime was made into a move starring James Olson in 1981. Of course I haven’t seen it.

Playlist: with a name like Ragtime you know music will be mentioned. Al Jolson, Scott Joplin’s “Wall Street Rag” and “The Maple Leaf”, Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody”, John McCormack’s “I Hear You Calling Me”, and “The Liberty Bell March”.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Ragtime except to describe a little of the plot.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “American History: Fiction” (p 22)


Introduction to the Whole Food Plant Based Lifestyle to Restore Your Health

Rieder, Stefan. Introduction to the Whole Food Plant Based Lifestyle to Restore Your Health: How 5 Healthy Habits Can Transform Your Life, Regain Your Mind and Reward You With Youthful Longevity. Digital File, 2022.

Reason read: I am a member of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing. This is an early spring review.

Confessional: I usually like to test out a diet before writing a review. Since this is a lifestyle change, you would have to wait for a long time before I was able to say if the book did anything it promised.

Right off the bat, I have comments about the title. First, what a mouthful, especially with the even longer subtitle! Second, I’d like to think Rieder was not only thinking pie in the sky results (the reward of “youthful longevity”), but also tongue-in-cheek humor (“regain your mind”, implying you lost it some time ago).
A few negatives: reading this on a phone was note enjoyable; the announcements of a free gift more than once was a little gimmicky; I wished that there were recipes included in the sample diet menu; some portions of the book were geared towards men; most of the information was what I would consider common sense.
Now for the positives: even though reading the whole book on a phone was not particularly fun, I appreciated the shopping lists being at my fingertips as I don’t go anywhere without my phone. The list made going to the grocery store very convenient. No excuses! The e-gift ads were easy to scroll past. The list of resources gave other places for recipes and more information. Authors should write what they know. Rieder is male, so it makes sense he would offer more advice to his gender. Previously I said most of the information is what I would consider common sense. Not all. I did learn a few things. Probably my best compliment for Introduction to the Whole Food Plant Based Lifestyle to Restore Your Health is how much I appreciated Rieder’s attitude. He is clearly very passionate about eating healthy, his enthusiasm for helping others was inspiring, and his personal story was touching. I know I will turn this book into a reference I will refer to from time to time.

Author fact: Rieder wrote a guidebook for couples seeking adventure.

Book trivia: the e-version of this book is a little hard to read. I would have much rather reviewed a print version so I could take notes and bookmark pages.


Castle

Macaulay, David. Castle. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1977.

Reason read: so in the month of June Kisa took me to a castle in Colorado. I’ll never forget Castle Marne because it is where we got engaged. Read Castle on honor of that memory.

Despite the fact the castle and surround community are imaginary, the construction of the castle itself, in 1286 Wales, is a realistic blueprint. A lot of detail went into explaining the process, complete with a layout of all the tools for a carpenter’s trade as well as the weapons of war. And speaking of war, I have to admit I had to look up the difference between a siege and an attack. I had heard them used interchangeably on the news. Thank you, Mr. Macaulay. All of the illustrations are spectacular. As an aside, I loved the little culprit sitting in the dungeon. Equally amusing was how they disposed of human waste. Yes, I have that kind of humor sometimes. I heard that Castle was also made into a documentary.

Author fact: Macaulay also wrote about the construction of cathedrals (which I already read), mills, pyramids, and mosques. I am reading about them all for the Challenge.

Book trivia: the dedication is to the past – farewell!

Nancy said: Pearl said all of Macaulay’s books are wonderful but Castle is her favorite.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Building Blocks” (p 38).


Angry Wind

Tayler, Jeffrey. Angry Wind: Through Muslim Black Africa by Truck, Bus, Boat, and Camel. Houghton Mifflin Co., 2005.

Reason read: so this is a stretch, but there is a sand castle building competition during the month of June somewhere in the world. I can’t remember why I know that. Sand is needed to build a castle and there is a lot of sand in Angry Wind.

I am always reading about the journeys of foreigners deliberately visiting war zones because, as they say, they’ve “always wanted to visit the area”. Never mind that the country in question is under rebel attack or that the natives hate “you people”. With the help of drivers, translators, and fixers, these fearless authors describe how they reluctantly hand over bribes along with precious passports, visas, and other important documents as if they trained a lifetime for such a vulnerable event. I am always reading from the perspective of the cavalier authors who have to wait for permissions to be granted, roadblocks and barriers to be cleared, bribes to be bestowed upon the greedy; all to be allowed safe passage. These people who somehow just know things will work out in their favor. I am never on the other side where the viewpoint is of the bandit, the enemy, or the political bigwig with all the power and hatred to let a traveler pass. However, I thoroughly Tayler’s description of getting past these same people. Some of the episodes are funny. As an aside, I loved the white-out people. Dab, dab, dab.
Tayler has a keen eye for society, no matter how archaic. The tradition of slavery: the Bellas being captive but not. Female circumcision as a tradition of misconception that cannot be logically argued away. The varying cultures make everyone suspicious of one another. I was relived when Tayler recognized he couldn’t change these cultures, but he argued against them just the same.
Confessional: an army of people helped Tayler cross five countries. I was pleased when he recognized all the people who had helped him as kind and generous.

Book travesty – someone decided to mark up a library copy of Angry Wind. I get the impression this person didn’t like Tayler’s opinion of Bush, especially when describing how the President came into power by force and manipulation. The notations are almost like a one-sided conversation, daring Tayler to say more. He or she actually calls Tayler a nitwit at one point! The more the writing went on, the more taunting the scribbler became.

Lines I liked, “My barren eschatological speculations left me with no hope of…” and “But the desert is really about….”. Oops. I don’t have permission to quote these remarkable lines. I take them back.

Author fact: Tayler also wrote Facing the Congo, River of No Reprieve, Glory in a Camel’s Eye, and Murderers in Mausoleums. All of these books are on my Challenge list. And! And. And, I just have to say, when I first saw Tayler’s author photo I thought I was looking at Simon Cowell.

Book trivia: I was hoping for some photographs….

Playlist: Stevei Wonder, “Silent night”, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “Feelings”, and “Hey, Jude”.

Nancy said: Pearl said Angry Wind is “a thoughtful description” and Tayler writing is powerful, fluent, and meaningful.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Sahara: Sand Between Your Toes” (p 192). As an aside, I don’t always make mention of this, but Angry Wind is the first book I am reading for this chapter.


Jitterbug

Estleman, Loren D. Jitterbug. Tom Doherty Associates Book, 1998.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Michigan becoming a state.

Confessional: sometimes reading Doyle gives me the sensation of being dropped into a foreign city at rush hour. People are buzzing with energy all around me, all coming and going, going and coming. Worst case in this scenario, I’m blindfolded and spun around until I can’t walk straight. There are so many characters and side plots I’m bumping into everything. So far, Jitterbug is my favorite. It is the least chaotic. I like the viewpoint from the serial killer masquerading as a soldier. Police think the killings are mafia related because someone is targeting citizens who hoard ration stamps. Is it a punishment of sorts? I also liked the time period of life during World War II, a time when desegregation was an attempt to support the war effort, yet racism and prejudice still thrive. Some of the murders are a little hard to take because Estleman lets you into the victim’s life enough so that you begin to care. You learn a little about their struggles before they die and that makes their demise a little harder to take. (Kind of like Game of Thrones when you like a character and are completely bummed when they are killed off too early in the series.) True to form, Estleman brings back well known characters, like my favorite Connie Minor.
Be warned – Estleman uses language of the time to describe ethnic groups. It isn’t always pretty.

As an aside, I loved the reference to Myrna Loy. Who remembers her? Josh Ritter wrote a song titled “Myrna Loy.” Is it about the actress? I’m not sure.

Author fact: Estleman is the author of over forty novels. This is the penultimate one for the Challenge list.

Cars: Auburn, Chrysler, De Soto, Dodge, Ford, GM, Lincoln Zephyr, Model T, Nash, Oldsmobile, Packard Clipper, Plymouth Coupe, Pontiac Torpedo,
Fashion: argyles, bow tie, beanie, bobby sox, cloche hat, coveralls, cowboy boots, cummerbunds, cordovan loafers, denim, evening gloves, fedora, gabardine, galoshes, kupperheimer tropical suit, khakis, leather vests, linen, peg tops, poncho, rayon pajamas, saddle shoes, seersucker suit, tweed, trench coat, wingtips, worsted wool, Wittnauer, zoot suit,

Playlist: Artists – Anita O’Day, the Anderson Sisters, Benny Goodman, Bessie Smith, Billy Eckstine, Billy Holiday, Bing Crosby, Blind Lemon, Bob Eberly, Cab Calloway, Chick Webb, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Earl Fatha Hines, Frank Sinatra, Fritz Kreisler, Glenn Miller, Helen O’Connell, Hot Lips Page, Jelly Roll Morton, Jimmy Dorsey, Kate Smith, King Oliver, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong (Satchmo), McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Red Onion Jazz Babies, Sidney Bechet, Scrapper Blackwell, Xavier Cugat, Yuhudi Menhuhn, and Zue Robertson,
Songs – “Amapola”, “Cielito Lindo”, “Contrasts”, “Cow Cow Boogie”, “Cuban Pete”, “Don’t Be That Way”, “Gimme a Pig Foot”, “God Bless America”, “Green eyes”, “In the Mood”, “Let Me Off Uptown”, “Lost Your Head Blues”, “My Shawl”, “Saint James Infirmary”, “Song of India”, “Swanee”, “Star Spangled Banner”, “South of the Border”, “Tangerine”, and “White Cliffs of Dover”

Nancy said: Pearl called the entire series sweeping and gritty.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest, Michigan” (p 25).


Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me

Farina, Richard. Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me. Penguin Classic, 1996.

Reason read: I just finished the biographies of Farina, Baez, and Dylan. This seemed like the natural choice for the next book to read.

Which is better? To know more about the author than his work or vice versa, especially when starting to read his debut novel? I had just finished reading a biography that included Farina and it seemed like a natural progression to dive into his novel. But before I began I questioned, was this a good idea? What if my reading and interpretation would be skewed by knowing Farina’s life more intimately than not? Pynchon admits Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me is transparently autobiographical. Gnossos Pappadopoulis (“the G is silent”) is Richard Farina in more ways than probably the author intended. Art imitates life in this case. There is a collision of blood with the manic boo to make everything a little more celestial in its demise.
In addition to being autobiographical, Been Down So Long is a tribute to the culture of the late 1950s. Drugs, relationships, music, college, sex, religion, all show up and parade past the reader waving their colors of glory. Amidst the electric blue imagery seethes black comedy. There is a jaunty style of half lying that simply cannot be believed. Buzzy. I am sure with all the farmland there are plenty of rainbows and you should not forget about the umbro horrors rocks in the roots that fall down like marshmallows in cloudlike wisps. Gnossos, like Farina, was the king of tall tales, as he says “ovarian doom waiting to be fertilized” (p 12).

Quotes to quote, “Wise mother, though, hanging on in Athene, existence through academic osmosis, eluding the asphalt seas outside” (p 106). Amen. Another, “In the cobalt night he dreamed of disaster to come and cursed her sweetly into the sulfur cauldrons of hell” (p 233). Sure. Last one, “The loose beads of perception seemed to be falling through a hole in the tangible surface of the world and spilling all over the four-dimensional floor” (p 303). My favorite.

Author fact: Farina died in a motorcycle accident two days after the publication of Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me.

Book trivia: Thomas Pynchon wrote the introduction to Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me.

Playlist: Harry Belafonte, Corelli, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis (the best of all the jazz cats), Peter Yarrow, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Buddy Holly, Leadbelly, Mose Allison, Weill and Breck, and of course Mimi Baez. “Peggy Sue” and “Silent Night”.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me because he is the subject of a memoir from the 1960s. Been Down So Long… shouldn’t be in More Book Lust (or at least the chapter on the 1960s).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The 1960s In Fact and Fiction” (p 178).


Away

Bloom, Amy. Away. Random House, 2007.

Reason read: the Tunguska explosion happened on June 30th, 1908. Read in remembrance of that day even though neither the event or the place is relevant to the story.

Away begs the question – as a mother, how far would you go to save your child? Lillian Leyb is a Russian widow, an orphan, and a mother who has lost her child to horrible violence during a Russian pogrom. As seemingly the only survivor of her family, she makes her way to America and it is in New York City where she tries to build a better life for herself as a seamstress in a theater company. When she hears that her four year old daughter might still be alive somewhere in Siberia, Lillian risks everything to get to her. She prostitutes her body, mind, and soul to get to Sophie. Lilian learns sex can be a weapon, a coping mechanism, but also her power and her comfort.
It is one thing to say Lillian traveled to Siberia from New York, but it is quite another to see a map of her arduous journey from Manhattan to Chicago, to Fargo, to Spokane, to Vancouver and Dawson. The miles stretch out in an impossible-to-fathom line from one coast to the other.

Confessional: towards the end of the book Lillian meets someone who is the epitome of safety and home. I had to skim further pages to make sure they stayed connected. I was way too impatient to let the story play out for itself.

Favorite quotes, “But in the morning everything can, and must, be seen” (p 219).

Author fact: I am also reading Bloom’s A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, but she has written a bunch more.

Book trivia: Away is also in audio book format. Find it!

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything about Away except to include it in the fiction about Siberia. It would have been more appropriate in a chapter about journeys or immigration.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Siberian Chills” (p 203).


Rabbi’s Cat

Sfar, Joann. The Rabbi’s Cat. Pantheon Book, 2005.

Rabbi’s Cat is a clever way of introducing Talmudic teaching…sort of like sneaking spinach into a burger to make it “healthier” (yeah, right). The philosophical arguments with a cat about God and love are pretty funny yet serious. To start from the beginning. A parrot annoyed a cat, so the cat ate the bird and gained the ability to speak and lie, not necessarily in that order. Even as a liar, the cat is a straight shooter, albeit a little sarcastic. The cat is also a true cat, randomly knocking over things, or walking on piano keys when you are trying to play, or sitting directly on the very book you are trying to read. But, remember, this cat can talk so it should be no surprise it is demanding a Bar Mitzvah. The rabbi needs to consult his rabbi on that one (although he doesn’t faze him to hear a cat speak). Thus begins the argument, what does it mean to have faith? Does what you practice define your level of spirituality? What about the differences between being a Jew or an Arab? I loved the argument between the cat and the donkey about the name ‘Sfar.’ Truly a clever book.

Great lines to quote, “He tells me that they don’t circumcise cats” (p 10), “You know, sometimes you kill just one person and it takes care of everything” (p 82), and “I love my master, too, it doesn’t mean I have to act like an electric fan” (p 128),

Author fact: Sfar won the Jury Prize for The Rabbi’s Cat.

Book trivia: The Rabbi’s Cat is a graphic novel and the illustrations express volumes (like being underwater and drowning to symbolize helplessness). Really cool designs.

Nancy said: Pearl recommended The Rabbi’s Cat “for a change of pace” (Book Lust To Go p 161).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “North African Notes: Algeria” (p 158).


Unbearable Lightness of Being

Kundera, Milan. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Translated by Michael Henry Heim. Harper Row, 1984.

Reason read: I honestly don’t remember why.

My favorite scene was when Tereza and Sabine spend time together. An odd friendship blossomed between wife and lover as they photograph each other in the nude.

I love it when books intersect one another. I am finishing up Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and learn that the dog in The Unbearable Lightness of Being is named after Karenin. The Unbearable Lightness of Being reminded me of another book as well, Orchard. I found myself asking the same question about morality. What form of “cheating” is worse, emotional infidelity or physical betrayal in the form of fornication? Is there something to be said for complete and utter loyalty? Either way, I didn’t like any of the characters so that made The Unbearable Lightness of Being all the more difficult to enjoy.

Quote that spoke to me, “and he knows that time and again he will abandon the house of his happiness.”

Author fact: People sell tee shirts with Milan Kundera quotes on them. I wonder what he would think of that.

Book trivia: The Unbearable Lightness of Being was published in the New Yorker as a serial.

Nancy said: Pearl called The Unbearable Lightness of Being Kundera’s best known novel. She also called it a “stellar example of literary erotica” (Book Lust p 218).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in two chapters. The Unbearable Lightness of Being shows up in the chapter called “Czech It Out” (p 70) and in “Sex and the Single Reader” (p 218). She is not wrong.


Name of the Rose

Eco, Umberto. The Name of the Rose. Everyman Library, 2006.

Reason read: Religion = Easter. Easter = Religion.

Author fact: Eco looks every part the crime writer. He could even star in his own crime movie thriller.

If you can ignore the reviewers who point out historical inaccuracies, The Name of the Rose is a great postmodern murder mystery set in 1327. How many debut novels can boast of a serial killer thriller set in that medieval era? The book opens with Brother William of Baskerville and his scribe, Adso of Melk, traveling to a wealthy North Italy monastery to attend a heresy hearing. Soon after their arrival strange deaths start piling up, a total of seven in all. William of Baskerville (with an obvious nod to Sherlock Holmes) must catch the killer before the entire monkhood is murdered. This was a reread for me.

As an aside, the image of a man murdered and drowned in a vat of pig’s blood has stayed with me since the first time I read the book.

Book trivia: The Name of the Rose was Eco’s first novel and it was made into a movie in 1986, starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater. If that wasn’t enough, The Name of the Rose was also brought to life on the theater stage, as a radio program, in video games, and even referenced in music. A miniseries also came out in 2019. I’ll have to look that up.

Nancy said: Pearl said The Name of the Rose “simply should not be missed” (More Book Lust p 87).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: the Family of the Clergy” (p 86).


The Van

Doyle, Roddy. The Van. Penguin, 1997.

Reason read: to finish the trilogy started in March in recognition of St. Patrick’s Day.

The Van picks up pretty much where The Snapper left off. Daughter Sharon is now a new mom with a toddler, Gina. Jimmy Rabbitte’s house is getting too small even though some of his children have moved out. A baby can do that. Unemployed and bored, Rabbitte babysits Gina until his best friend, Bimbo, loses his job. Suddenly as men of leisure they have all the time in the world to play endless games of pitch and putt, ogle teenage girls and roam the bars drinking and trying to pick up women (or as they say, “chasing women who had “fine sets of lungs” and “their arses fit nicely on the stool; there was noting flowing over the sides” p 266). It isn’t until Bimbo buys a van with the hopes of turning it into a burger food truck that the two men start to have a purpose for getting up in the morning. They have no idea what they are doing and in the end it nearly destroys their friendship. By turns funny and desperate, The Van was my least favorite of the series.

Favorite parts: Jimmy Sr.’s boredom takes him to new heights. I laughed when he tried to understand the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins…and when he gets a library card.

Author fact: I have one last Doyle book to read, A Star Called Henry.

Book trivia: The Van is the final installment in the Barrytown trilogy. The cover illustration is weird…until it isn’t. It is a weird perspective of Jimmy, Bimbo, and their van. The view is of the underside of the van as if you are looking up from underwater, but at a floating angle.

Playlist: Bob Geldof, “New York, New York”, Kylie Minogue, The Cure, “Mighty Quinn”, “Teddy Bears Picnic”, Megadeath, Anthrax, The The, UB40, “Nearer My God to Thee”, “Hippy Hippy Shake”, and Georgia Satellites.

Nancy said: Pearl called the whole Barrytown trilogy humorous.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Irish Fiction” (p 125).


Edson

Morrissey, Bill. Edson. Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

Reason read: June is the month a lot of small towns celebrate different things. Just yesterday Kisa and I went to an asparagus festival.

While I was reading Edson I had the sense that the town and the story of the main character were partly autobiographical in nature. Center stage is Edson, a small New Hampshire town with a cast of quirky characters. Most intriguing is former singer/songwriter Henry Corvine. Recently returned after a divorce and a disastrous stint on a fishing boat in Ketchikan, Alaska, Henry didn’t want the divorce and he couldn’t maintain even the smallest passion for the ocean. Acting as his refuge, Edson is where Henry returns to start over. Doing just what, he doesn’t know. The tiny town of Edson is brimming with other characters, including Caroline, a young waitress with her eye on bigger and better things and Pope Johnson, a singer who has stolen Henry’s former Edson life, right down to the songs Henry wrote and used to perform on a nightly basis. Resigned to the fact time has erased the true creator of the lyrics (think Dave Matthews singing “All Along the Watchtower”), Henry lets Pope take his former spotlight while Henry meanders from one job possibility to another. He may be lost in Edson, but it’s still the place to which he keeps coming back.
As an aside, the Edson mill closing down in the dead of night was exactly like Josh Ritter’s “Henrietta, Indiana” song. There are probably hundreds of stories about factories shuttering their doors without warning and putting thousands out of work.

As another aside, there is lot of smoking and drinking in Edson.

Author fact: Bill Morrissey is a real life singer-songwriter. I had a chance to listen to some of his performances on the internet. I would definitely go to a bar to hang out to enjoy his music.

Book trivia: this should be a movie. Josh Ritter could play the lead.

Playlist: Mississippi John Hurt, Joni Mitchell, Grace Paley, Johnny Hodges, the fictional Tyler Beckett, Righteous Brothers (“Unchained Melody”), Beethoven, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly,

Nancy said: Pearl explains some of the plot.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Small-Town Life” (p 203).


Golden Notebook

Lessing, Doris. The Golden Notebook. New York: HarperPerennial, 1999.

Reason read: October is Lessing’s birth month. Read in her memory.

At the center of The Golden Notebook is Anna. To understand The Golden Notebook is to understand the four sides of Anna. Author of four colored notebooks, Anna is a reviewer of her experiences and travels in Africa (black covered), a questioner of communism and her role in politics (appropriately red covered), an author writing a descriptive autobiographical novel (yellow covered), and a diarist expressing her undying love for an American author (blue covered). In an attempt to organize all aspects of her life, Anna strives to combine all four notebooks into one golden book called “Free Women.”
Drawing from her own life, Lessing knew she had to change some details in the Golden Notebook, but to this day, readers are left asking themselves, exactly how much of Golden Notebook was still the autobiographical truth?

I knew this to be an important piece of literature by just how many times other authors made mention of it by name. I likened it to hearing about a person long before meeting them face to face. Hello Golden Notebook! I’ve heard so much about you from so many other authors. “Good things, I hope” replies the notebook.

Author fact: I am reading a bunch of Lessing’s work. Six books in all (I have read two already). I think Pearl likes her a great deal and yet there isn’t a Book Lust chapter called “Doris Lessing: Too Good To Miss.” I wonder why?

Book trivia: Mashopi is the real town of Macheke. Lessing said she once wanted to walk around Macheke so that she might tease out what was real and what was of her own creation. Another good piece of trivia: Lessing wrote two introductions to the Golden Notebook.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Golden Notebook.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1960s” (p 175). for all the times other authors have referred to The Golden Notebook I would have thought Pearl would mention it more than once.


Stress

Estleman, Loren D. Stress: a Novel of Detroit. Warner Books, 1996.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January when Michigan became a state.

There is always some kind of special assignment in an Estleman book. This time, it’s a cop going undercover in the STRESS (Stop The Robberies Enjoy Safe Streets) unit: a plain clothes undercover commando unit accused of using less than law abiding tactics to take crime off the streets. Charlie Battle, nephew to a pro wrestler from an earlier book, tries to make sense of the violence. I like the way characters reminisce about incidents and characters described in earlier books. Their memories tie past books together because the plots are not continuous. The real constant is the biography of the Motor City and the cars on its streets. You can also count on Estleman to make reference to real people and historical events (like Jane Alpert and the New York City bombings in 1969). Mix in gun dealers and a child abduction and you have a different story altogether.

As an aside, Estleman must have had fun with the fashions of the 1970sd with all of its corduroy, wide lapels, crushed velvet, and bell bottoms.

Quote to quote, “If being rich meant having to listen to live music all the time, Kubicek would just as soon take his $300 a week and an eight-track player” (p 3). Thanks, but no thanks!

Book trivia: Stress is the fifth book in the series.

Author fact: Estleman is an authority on American West history.

Playlist: Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower”, Tennessee Ernie Ford, “Sixteen Tons”, Stevie Wonder, James Brown’s “Mama Don’t Lie”, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, “I Could Have Danced All Night”, “Thank you Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin”, and Elvis.

Nancy said: Pearl called the entire series sweeping and gritty.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest – Michigan” (p 25).


Gaining Insight

Utley, F.K. Gaining Insight: the Edge of Wisdom.

Reason read: Dr. Utley was a mentor to me during my early library days. He strongly encouraged me to get my Masters in Library and Information Science degree. I will be forever in his debt for literally handing me my career.

There is so much I could say about Gaining Wisdom. Dr. Utley tries to end every section with a pearl of wisdom gleaned from the span of his life, but I gained more by what he didn’t say. Always the gentleman, Utley conveys the unfairness of inequality. For example, in the mid 1950s women could accompany their husbands on a job interview, but men couldn’t be in the delivery room while their wives gave birth to their children. I’ve never accompanied a man to his job interview and I’ve never been pregnant so this is something that never received much thought.
However, there were so many other elements of Gaining Wisdom I connected with: the descriptions of old stone walls and rusted barbed wire fences (There is a trail not to far from here I currently sit where you can find a ginormous tree with barbed wire running straight through the middle of its trunk.); the heating of well-drawn water on the stove for washing children and dishes; the walk to and from school.
As an aside, cutting grass with a scythe reminded me of a scene in Anna Karenina.

On a personal note, I was surprised to learn just how many times Dr. Utley cheated death, starting with childhood illnesses. A head-on car collision as a newlywed starting the cheating of death as an adult. Then came a heart attack, being held up at gun point during a bank robbery, and cancer (three times!).

Playlist: “How Great Thou Art.”