Fifteen

Cleary, Beverly. Fifteen. HarperCollins, 1956.

Reason read: a Christmas gift to myself (something I could read in a day without thinking).

If you know Cleary’s books you know they can be inhaled in one sitting. Written for children and young adults, Fifteen tackles, well, being fifteen. Jane Purdy is exactly that age and anxious to break free of stereotypical teenager dilemmas like mean girls and being boy crazy. She tires of babysitting brats, longs for a boyfriend she can call her own, and is sick of being the homely girl Marcy always teases. As it is, Jane is an easy target with her sensible shoes, no nonsense hairstyle and round collars. I found it distressing that Jane needed a boy to feel like she belonged at Woodmont High, but that’s fifteen for you. This is definitely one book best read as a young child or early teen.

Author fact: Cleary also write the Ramona series. I am only reading Fifteen for the Challenge.

Book trivia: I couldn’t remember reading this book until I saw a different cover of it. Interesting fact: the cover of that book had a boy putting an identification bracelet on a girl’s wrist as a sign they were going steady. I was disappointed in the cover because that’s not how it happened in the book. Spoiler alert.

Nancy said: Pearl included Fifteen as a book that is better remembered than reread. She actually said it was one book she couldn’t reread without feeling “disappointed, betrayed, and embarrassed” (Book Lust p 165).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “My Own Private Dui” (p 165).

Deadwood

Dexter, Pete. Deadwood. Random House, 1986.

Reason read: the Dakotas were issued into statehood in the month of November.

Things you need to know about Deadwood: most of the characters are real. Some of the events are real. Pete Dexter is funny AF in Deadwood, but take caution because there are just as many of disturbing scenes to match. Taking place in mid 1870s, readers plop themselves down in the middle of the Dakotas during the Gold Rush era. Violence and prostitution rule the plot. This should not be a surprise as Wild Bill Hickok, Charley Utter, Calamity Jane, China Doll, and Bill’s wife, Agnes, all get a chapter in Deadwood. Confessional: I didn’t see much of a point to Deadwood. I never connected with any of the characters and I got weary of all the gunslinging.

Is it a spoiler to say I was surprised Wild Bill died as early as he did in the story?

Lines I liked, “The war didn’t leave anybody the same” (p 30). Isn’t that true of any war?

Author fact: Dexter wrote The Paperboy, which I read in 2007 and Train, which I plan to read in November of 2031. Yes, I plan that far out.

Book trivia: There is a television series of the same name, as well as a movie. Neither are connected to Pete Dexter’s novel.

Playlist: “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, “I Know My Redeemer Liveth”, “The Days of the Forty-Nine”, and “Beautiful Dreamer”.

Nancy said: Pearl called Deadwood well written and funny. Agreed.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Great Plains: the Dakotas” (p 105).

Raised Bed and Container Gardening

Andrews, Emma. Raised Bed and Container Gardening: 9 Practical Steps For Turning Your Backyard or Balcony into Your First Successful Vegetable Garden. SNK, 2022.

Reason read: As a member of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing, I review books from time to time.

Confessional: I read Raised Bed and Container Gardening on a desktop using the Google doc Andrews supplied. In this format it was challenging to read. The spacing issues, oddly misplaced page numbers and mispelled words were a distraction from the content. Example: Questionstohelpyouplan all as one word took an extra second to decipher, not something I was planning to encounter.
Raised Bed and Container Gardening is a great starter book for those wanting to explore growing gardens in tight spaces. She has a boatload of information, both unique and common sense. It is nearing winter so I will table any report on how well her advice and instruction worked until next year. 🙂
As an aside, in this age of acknowledging diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging it was nice to see Andrews consideration for people with mobility issues.

Second confessional. It is coming on winter, as the song says. I can’t apply any advice or instruction from Andrews until next spring.

Black Country Music

Royster, Francesca T. Black Country Music: Listening for Revolutions. University of Texas, Austin, 2022.

Reason read: I am a member of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing. Every once in a while I review something.
On the surface, Royster will give you musical biographies of Tina Turner, Darius Rucker, Charlie Pride, Beyonce, Valarie June, Rhiannon Giddens, and Lil Nas X. Delving deeper, Royster takes you behind the curtain and into the dark heart of country music. A place where some songs sung by white people are most likely referring to slavery, the KKK, or white supremacy. The Black country community is singing about much the same things, but from a different and more significant reality. Royster’s research in Black Country Music is thorough. She makes mention of more musicians than I have ever heard of. A near complete list is at the end of this review. The analysis of mistrel traditions was fascinating. Royster’s self-prescribed goal of writing Black Country Music was to capture the heart and emotion of Black country music and, in my opinion, she succeeded in finding that revolution for which she was listening.
In all honesty, Royster gave me more questions to ponder. As a musician, does the sound you chose to create identify you as a person? Do you have to “be” country music or heavy metal in order to perform that particular sound or can you go where the money is? Can you “be” pop if that is what sells? What about if you “cross over” or collaborate with someone outside your prescribed genre? Are you defined by the instruments you use or the tenor of your voice?

As an aside, I questioned the meaning behind the kiss between Wllie Nelson and Charlie Pride. I have never thought about Willie or Charlie in a bromance kind of way, so it was an interesting slant to question the nature of a gesture fraught with potential intimacy. Another aside: I watched the video for “Wagon Wheel” and I got a completely different take than Royster. While, yes, there is one part where Darius is kept from entering a bar, but I felt it was because he wasn’t paying the cover and the bouncer had no idea Darious was the entertainment for the night. That happens all the time. Royster also makes frequent mention of the women Darius’s videos being pale skinned. Surely she has seen his wife? The women in both “Wagon Wheel” and “If I Told You” videos look a lot like his partner, Beth.

Confessional: I have always believed the power of music can make statements, move emotions, and mobilize a revolution. I am a lyrics junkie. I love picking apart what people say in music. I am not a fan of “ooh baby, baby” or a great deal of repetition. How many times can you hear “little pink houses” in one four minute song? So, when Royston talked about Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” my eyes were opened wide to a different side of the story. Much like how for years have tried to figure out what Phil Collins was trying to say in “In the Air Tonight”, I couldn’t wrap my brain around Lynrd Skynyrd. To be fair, their music is not high on my list of pleasurable listening so it’s not like I listened closely or sought them out to solve the mystery.
Another confessional: I had never heard of the subgenre of Atlanta-based trap drums.

Playlist: Aaron Neville, Alice Randall, Amythyst Kiah’s “Black Myself” and “I’ll Fly Away”, , Al Green’s “For the Good times”, Al Jolson, Allison Russell’s “You Are Not Alone”, Anderson.Paak’s “Lockdown”, Ariana Grande, Beatles’s “Get Back”, Bela Fleck, Bessie Smith, Beyonce’s “Daddy Lessons” “Sorry”, “Hold Up” “Black Parade”, and “All Night”, Billy Ocean’s “Suddenly”, Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart”, Billy Whitlock, Birds of Chicago, Blanco Brown’s “The Git Up”, Bob Dylan, Bobby Womack, Boyz to Men, Brad Paisley, Breland’s “My Trusk”, , Brittany Howard, “Brown Girl in the Ring”, “Brown Sugar”, BT’s “RM”, Cameo’s “Word Up”, and “She’s Strange”, Cardi B., Carla Thomas’s “Call Me a Fool”, Carolina Chocolate Drops’s “Leaving Eden”, “One Dollar Bill”, and “Texas Easy Street”, the Carter Family, Charlie Daniels Band, Charley Pride, Chase Rise, the Chicks’s “Long Time Gone” and “Goodbye Earl”, Childish Gambino, Chris Stapleton, Clint Black, “Country Honk”, Commodores, Cowboy Troy, “Cripple Creek”. Con Funk Shun, Crystal Gayle, Cupcake, Da Butt, Daddy Yankee, Dan Emmett, Darious Rucker’s “It Won’t Be Like This for Long”, “Wagon Wheel”, “Homegrown Honey”, “Southern Style”, “If I Told You”, “Going to Hell”, “Drinkin’ and Dialin'”, “Beer and Sunshine”, “Why Things Happen”, “History in the Making”, “Alright”, and “Don’t Think I Don’t Know About It”, DeFord Bailey’s “Fox Chase”, DeLila Black, Diana Ross, Diplo, Dolly Parton, Dom Flemons, Don Gibson’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You”, Drake, Eagles’s “Desperado”, Earth, Wind and Fire, “Electric Slide”, Elizabeth Cotten, Elvie Thomas, Elvis Costello, Elvis Presley, Emmett Miller, Etta Baker’s “Railroad Bill”, and “Carolina Breakdown”, Fiddlin’ John Carson, Francesco Turrisi, Freddy Fender’s “Before the Next Teardrop Falls”, Garth Brooks’s “Rodeo”, Geeshie Wiley, “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”, George Jones, George Wallace, Glen Campbell, Grace Jones, Gus Cannon, Hank Snow, Hank Williams’s “Lovesick Blues”, Harry Belafonte, Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Let Her Cry”, “I Just Want to Be With You”, and “Hold My Hand”, Horace Weston, Howlin’ Wolf, Ike Turner, Isley Brothers’s “Shout”, Jake Blount, James Brown, James Taylor, Jay-Z, Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley P.T.A.”, Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Jett Holden, Jim Reeve’s “This World Is Not My Home (I’m Just Passing Through)”, Jimmie Allen, Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing”, Jimmie Rogers, Joe Thompson, Johnny Cash, Jump Jim Crow, Justin Bieber, Kara Kater, Kamara Thomas’s “My Kentucky”, Kansas, Kanye West’s “Spaceship”, “Keeping it on the One”, Keith Richards, Kendrick Lemar, Kenny Rogers, Khalid’s “Talk”, Kid Rock, Kris Kristopherson, the Kronos Quartet, “Lady Marmalade”, Laura Love, Leadbelly, Lewis Capaldi’s “Somebody You Loved”, Leyla Hathaway, Leyla McCalla’s “I Knew I Could Fly”, , Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road”, “Monero (Call Me By Your Name)”, and “That’s What I Want”, Lil Wayne, Lilli Lewis, “The Loco Motion”, “Lil’ Liza Jane”, Linda Martell’s “Color Him Father” and “Bad Case of the Blues”, Lionel Richie’s “Stuck on You”, “Little Sally Walker”, Lizzo’s “Juice”, Lynette Williams, Lynryd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”, Ma Rainey, Mac Davis, Madonna, Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear’s “Down in Mississippi”, “Mama’s Been Cryin’ Long”, Mariah Carey, Marty Robbins, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”, Mason Ramsey, Master Juba, Mavis Staples, Megan Thee Stallion, Mel Tillis, Merle Haggard, “Merry Mack”, Merry Clayton, Mick Jagger, Mickey Guyton, Mills Brother’s “If I Don’t Care”, Miko Marks’s “Freeway Bound”, Miley Cyrus’s “Slide Away”, Millie Jackson, “Moon Meets the Sun”, Muddy Waters, Mumford and Sons, Nas, Neil Young’s “Southern Man”, Nelly, Nina Simone, Nine Inch Nails, Oakridge Boys’s “Elvira”, Odetta, Our Native Daughters, Parliment Funkadelic’s “Mothership Connect”, Patsy Cline, Patti Labelle, P.J. Morse’s “Bayou Song”, Phil Spector’s “River Deep – Mountain high”, Polly Johnson’s “The Three Maids”, Porter Wagoner, Prince, Queen Esther, Ray Charles, Radney Baker, Reverend Gary Davis, Rhiannon Giddens’s “Mama’s Crying Long”, Rick James, Rico Nasty, Rissi Palmer’s “Country Girl”, Rita Coolidge, RMR, Robert Johnson, “Rock Lobster”, Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May”, Rolling Stones’s “Honky Tonk Women”, Ronnie Van Zant, Roy Clark, Roy Orbison, Shawn Mendez and Camilla Cabello’s “Senorita”, “Shortnin’ Bread”, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Solange Knowles’s “Almeda” and “Binz”, Star De Azlan, Stevie Wonder, Styx, Sule Greg Wilson, Swamp Dogg, Taj Mahal’s “Colored Aristocracy”, Tammy Wynett, T.I., Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits”, “Help Me Make It Through the Night”, “A Fool in Love”, “Private Dancer”, “Proud Mary”, and “Funky Worm”, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue”, Tom T. Hall, Toots Thieleman, Toshi Reagan, Tracy Chapman, Valerie June’s “Shotgun”, “The No Draws Blues”. “Workin’ Woman Blues”, “Tennessee Time”, “Astral Weeks”, “Somebody to Love”, and “Organic Moonshine Riots Music”, Vince Staples, Virginia Minstrels, “Watch Me [Whip/Nae Nae]”, Waylon Jennings, Whitney Houston’s “You Give Good Love” Willie Nelson, Woody Guthrie, Yo Yo Ma, Yola, “You are My Sunshine”, “You Don’t Know Me”, Young Thug, and “Your Cheating Heart”.

Anthills of the Savannah

Achebe, Chinua. Anthills of the Savannah.Anchor Press, 1988.

Reason read: Achebe was born in the month of November. I also needed a book written by a Nigerian author for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge 2022.

The entire time I was reading Anthills of the Savannah I was suspicious of every single character. I knew going into it there was going to be a betrayal of some kind and that put me on edge. I was always questioning who would be the one to fall from grace. A friendship can be detroyed by a single misconception or a rumor born out of paranoia. All it takes is for one slight and lovers become enemies in an instant.
Reading Anthills of the Savannah was like being a vulture, soaring over the fictional African state of Kangan, hungry for the kill. From drought to political tribal disputes with city villages, the themes of love, friendship, and loyalty weave a complicated story. What with the Commissioner for Information, Commissioner for Education, Commissioner for Justice, Commissioner for Words, Commissioner for Works, Inspector General of Police, Chief Secretary, Master of Ceremonies, Superintendent of Traffic, and His Excellency all being introduced at once I felt like governance was a farse.

Author fact: Achebe also wrote Things Fall Apart which I read in 2006. Such a long time ago, but it has stuck with me ever since.

Book trivia: Anthills of the Savannah includes the legend of Idemili.

Quotes to quote: “For Cliche is but pauperized ecstasy” (p 11), “Worshipping a dictator is such a pain in the ass” (p 41), and “May you put that your useless story for inside your pocket” (p 214).

Nancy said: Pearl was including Things Fall Apart for her chapter on Nigeria, but said to check out Anthills of the Savannah as well.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust to Go in the chapter called “Nigeria” (p 156).

Hiroshima

Hersey, John. Hiroshima. Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.

Reason read: There is a day in November that is celebrating in Japan called “Cultural Day.” Read Hiroshima to celebrate the day. I also needed a book with a one-word title for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge of 2022.

Isn’t it strange that in times of intense tragedy (like your country being at war), that one could be lulled into a false sense of security just because of the Boy Who Cried Wolf syndrome? When the village of Hiroshima was bombed many people didn’t heed the warnings. Even those responsible for alerting others to oncoming attacks didn’t see it coming or want to believe it. As a common citizen, what are you supposed to do when the system you are taught to trust gives the “all clear” signal? How are you supposed to react to false alarm no. 42,364?
Hiroshima follows the lives of six Hiroshima bombing survivors from the moments before the blast on August 6th, 1945 at 8:15 a.m. to the aftermath of the following year: Miss Toshiko Sasaki, Dr. Masakazu Fujii, Mrs. Hatsyo Nakamura, Dr. Terufumi Sasaki (no relation to Miss Toshiko), Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, and Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto.
Fair warning: you will be privy to excruciating details about their injuries and subsequent health issues. People with no outward visible wounds had a delayed response to radiation sickness with symptoms difficult to fathom. Your heart will break to read of their confusion when trying to understand what happened to them. Theories and rumors about the “strange weapon” abounded. For example, for a while people assumed powdered magnesium was dumped on power lines, creating explosions and subsequent fires. Survivors believed they were doused with gasoline from airplanes high above them. As an American, born nearly twenty-five years after the attack, I hung my head in shame to read of the atrocities.
The edition of Hiroshima I read included a section called “Aftermath” and carefully detailed the rest of lives of the six survivors; how they lived out their remaining years. A few thrived after the attack, but most didn’t.

I like to learn things new when reading outside my comfort zone. The Japanese culture of families who move into their loved one’s hospital to care for them during an illness was fascinating. Family is everything. A decent burial for a loved one is far more crucial than adequate care for the living.

Quotes to quote, “…they could not comprehend or tolerate a wider circle of misery” (p 40).

Author fact: when I was reading up on John Hersey, I discovered his style of storytelling journalism was in its infancy and John was an early adopter of the method.

Book trivia: Do not let the size of the book fool you. While this is a short read (less that 200 pages), it packs a wallop. My 1988 edition included an additional chapter written forty years after the original.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Hiroshima.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1940” (p 175).

Fury

Ford, G.M. Fury. Avon Books, 2001.

Reason read: Washington became a state in November. I needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge for the categories of book with a one-word title and title with an emotion in it.

Meet former journalist and perpetual liar Frank Corso. He resembles Stephen Segal as a big man with a black ponytail. Meet Leanne Samples, another liar; only her lies occured under oath as a witness in a death row case. Together, with the fellow outcast and heavily tattooed photographer Meg Dougherty, they try to prove the innocence of a criminal on death row. What a bizarre group of characters. I had to ask myself if I would like any of them. We meet them six days before the execution of Walter Leroy Hines. He was convicted of murdering eight women based on the testimony of one woman who survived…you guessed it, liar Leanne Samples. Fury is a hour by hour, play by play of the unfolding drama. Can they save Hines or did he actually do it because Leanne recanted her recant. The only complaint I have about Fury is the fact that the twist at the end wasn’t a twist at all. As soon as the timeline started to count back up you know there is more to the story. Totally predictable.
One of the best things about Fury is the introduction to Washington state: the Elliott Bay, the Bainbridge Island ferry, Myrtle Edwards Park, Puget Sound, the spring rains that last until August. Is King County Jail on the corner of 5th and James?

I have to ask. Is it possible to tattoo someone from head to toe in 36 hours? I guess it is if the artist is crap…

Author fact: Ford died in 2021. He was 75 years old.

Book trivia: Fury starts a new series for Ford.

Playlist: Billy Preston’s “Nothin’ From Nothin'”, Doobie Brothers, Lynryrd Skynard’s “Sweet Home Alabama”, Del Shannon’s “Runnaway”, Rob Thomas and Carlos Santana’s “Smooth”, Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff’s “The Glory of Love”,

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Fury.

BookLust twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living High in Cascadia” (p 148).

Oryx and Crake

Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. Read by Campbell Scott.

Reason read: Atwood was born in the month of November. Also, I needed a book for the Portland Public Library reading challenge for the categories of speculative fiction and a book I have read before.

I need to condense the plot of Oryx and Crake for simplicity’s sake. There is a lot going on in this dystopia drama. Here is the shortest recap ever: Snowman was once a boy named Jimmy. He lived in a world dominated by bioengineering companies capable of creating new species of nonhuman lifeforms and genetic modifications for future humanoids. Jimmy befriends a boy named Glenn (who becomes Crake). During their pubescent years Jimmy and Crake spend an inordinate amount of time doing drugs, playing over the top violent video games, and watching live videos of murder, beastiality, and child pornography. This shapes Crake’s future invention of a health and happiness pill with an unadvertisized side effect of sterilization. Another result of this happiness pill is a lethal and extremely contagious global pandemic. When Jimmy goes to work for Crake he discovers a woman he recognizes from the porn videos he and Crake used to watch. Crake introduces her as Oryx and Jimmy becomes smitten. Does he dance with the devil? Yes, yes he does.

Confessional: I had completely forgotten how disturbing Oryx and Crake is.
Second confessional: I read Oryx and Crake while our world is still struggling with Covid-19. I couldn’t help but make comparisons to O&C.

Lines I liked, the phrase “turn memory into white noise” was the best.

Author fact: Atwood has called Oryx and Crake as romance. She is both brilliant and twisted.

Book trivia: Oryx and Crake is the first book in a trilogy. While this is a reread for me, I have not read the other two books in the series.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anthing specific about Oryx and Crake except to include it in the list of other dark and stormy novels.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “It was a Dark and Stormy Novel” (p 129).

Maine in America

Belanger, Pamela J. Maine in America: American Art at the Farnsworth Art Museum. The Farnsworth Art Museum, 2000.

Reason read: a gift from a dear friend.

There is something to be said for the romance of the sea, especially when that sea is off the coast of Maine. The art of the Farnsworth is nostalgic and home all at once to me. It has been cool to learn more about my hometown. I never knew there was a failed art school on the island. Not all of the art in Maine in America focuses on the ocean or even Maine. Places like Glouster, Massachusetts and the wilderness of New Hampshire are appropriately represented. Thanks to Maine in America I think of the creation of art differently. I never thought about how artistis perferred different weathers for different sceneries and landscapes. It will be interesting to return to the Farnsworth Museum and view the art in a different way.
As an aside, I also have to wonder, where did Samuel Peter Rolt Tricott live on Monhegan? What about the Robert Henri House? I am fascinating to think there were different roads on Monhegan that are now completely obscured by overgrowth.

I have a degree of separation to Rockwell Kent besides growing up in a neighboring house. He took painting classes at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island. My grandmother has a connection to Shinnecock as well.

God of Small Things

Roy, Arundhati. God of Small Things. Random House, 1997.

Reason read: God of Small Things won the Booker Prize, a prize that is normally awarded in October.

The God of Small Things opens with a lush description of the monsoon season of Ayemenem and the statement, “Baby Kochamma was still alive” (p 4). The simple statement hooks your breath back into your lungs while your mind jumps the rail, “what do you mean still alive?” Still? As in to imply not supposed to be of this earth? As reader, be prepared to bounce between time and space. In one chapter we will cremate a woman, in the next she will be alive and flirting.
Rahel and Estha, twins who are separated after tragedy. Death is a tragedy. Divorce is one, too. But lack of social standing is the most tragic of them all. Like a pervasive black and choking smoke, the ancient Indian caste system hangs dark and poisonous in the air. The ongoing separation of Paravan and Brahmin, touchable and untouchable, inhaled through nostrils and accepted as common as air to breathe. I was reminded of Dr. Seuss and his star bellied Sneetches. But like all unfair systems, the order of life doesn’t always work when there is a tilt, an upset in the balance. Especially when opposites attract. I don’t know how to review this book without giving too much away so I speak in circles. Jusr read it.

Quotes to quote, “On their shoulders they carried a keg of ancient anger, lit with a recent fuse” (p 67). I love it when writers take the intangible, like anger, and make it something touchable. Here’s another, “Shadows gathered like bats in the steep hollows near her collarbone” (p 154). One more: “They were not arresting a man, they were exorcising fear” (p 293). If that doesn’t say it all about racism…

Author fact: Roy studied to be an architect. she decided to write a book. God of Small Things is her first novel and wouldn’t you know it? she wins the Booker Prize.

Book trivia: I watched a short Ted video on why one should read God of Small Things. I don’t know if the makers of the video had this intention but I thought it was cute.

Nancy said: Pearl said God of Small Things was “simply glorious.”

Playlist: Elvis Presley, Handel’s Water Music, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “The Sound of Music”, “Baby Elephany Walk”, “Colonel Bogey’s March”, Little Richard, “Ruby Tuesday”, “My Favorite Things”, “So Long Farewell”,

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “India: a Reader’s Itinerary” (p 125). Also from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Scenes from Sri Lanka” (p 197).

Dune

Herbert, Frank. Dune. Ace Trade, 2005.

Reason read: Herbert began his career as a novelist in November 1955. I also needed a book with a one-word title for the Portland Public Library’s Reading Challenge.

At the center of Dune is a drug known to be a truth seeker called Melange. It acts as an extension of human youth and has the ability to produce multidimensional awareness, the foresight ncessary for space navigation, increased mental abilities, and vitality in the form of being able to diagnose illnesses and treat them accordingly. Quite the wonder drug and in obvious high demand. It is the proverbial fountain of youth and very addictive, as one might suspect. It is mined on the planet of Arrakis, otherwise known as “Dune” the desert planet. As mentioned earlier, Melange gives people the ability to change metabolism with each wound or injury, making survival that much easier when faced with a poisoned blade which makes an appearance frequently.
When it comes to the subject of breeding, I was reminded of The Handmaid’s Tale. Jessica, Paul’s mother, was “ordered” to give birth to a girl but ultimately disobeyed to give her husband a son. Mothers can chose the gender of her child. Imagine that. Another simularity to Handmaid is the idea of a strict caste system society.
Dune is the kind of book that drives me crazy. Suspensor lamps and glowglobes abound. WTF are they? Despite the “otherworldly” details, there is a fundamental truth within Dune. Water is precious in the desert. After the drought we just endured last summer, I can relate. In Dune people can be killed for the fluid in their bodies.

Confessional: how hated would I be if I said I never had the desire to read Dune? Everyone knows how I feel about science fiction in general, but there was something detracting about the vibe I got from the movie and (I say this with one eye open, cringing), I’ve never been a fan of self-centered Sting. There. I’ve said it. Sand worms aside, I wasn’t looking forward to Dune. I wasn’t even sure I would get through the requisite 50 pages. I opted for the audio version which was fantastic. I now want to see the movie. Imagine that!

Lines I connected with, “Dreams were predictions” (p 4). I believe that as well. Here is another phrase I liked, “sift people to find the humans.” I feel like I do that on a daily basis.

Author fact: Herbert based everything in Dune on magic mushrooms.

Book trivia: my audio version included a whole cast of characters. Instead of just one person reading the story, it was acted out by a bunch of people. In addition to that, sound effects were fantastic.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything in particular about Dune.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 215).

Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Complete Sherlock Holmes: Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

Reason read: It’s Sherlock.

Here are the short stories that make up The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes:

  • “Silver Blaze” – who killed a jockey and where is the famous horse, Silver Blaze?
  • “Yellow Face” – this was my favorite mystery of the book.
  • “Stock-broker’s Clerk” – What is a true connection and how can it be bought?
  • “The Gloria Scott” – a glimpse into Holmes’s past. We learn of a friendship that comes from a dog bite.
  • “Musgrave Ritual” – my favorite line came from this story, “Pistol practice should be an open air pasttime.” Amen to that.
  • “Reigate Puzzle” – holmes is supposed to be resting after an illness but cannot help getting involved with a murder mystery.
  • “Crooked Man”- it was at this point that I decided it would be exhausting to have a conversation with Shelock Holmes; to have all of his observations and elementary deductions punctuating his every sentence.
  • “Resident Patient” – Watson picks up on Sherlock’s method of deducation.
  • “Greek Interpreter” – it is revealed Sherlock Holmes has a brother, Mycroft. The two brothers share the same powers of deduction so a conversation with them would be twice as annoying.
  • “Naval Treaty” – we meet a college friend of Watson’s.
  • “Final Problem” – the story that makes everyone think Homes has died.

As an aside, what constitutes a fabulous forehead?

Author fact: Doyle studied medicine. I think that education helped his writing.

Book trivia: Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is odd in the sense that it was published in 1893 with a ’94 date.

Nancy said: Memoirs of Sherlock Homes was so under the radar or Pearl since she only indexed The Complete Sherlock Holmes.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 123). Confessional: when I realized I would be reading more than one title within a single book, I started listing out the individual titles. For example, Remembrance of Things Passed has seven volumes (seven titles). I am listing each title separately because there is no way I can read Remembrance in its entirety in one month. So. Same with the Complete Sherlock Holmes. Pearl doesn’t mention each compilation of short stories or novel within but since that’s how I’m reading them, I decided to list them that way. My true confessional is that I have started to list out the short stories and this is where I have gotten myself confused. I haven’t been listing out the short stories in other collections, so why now?

Italian Days

Harrison, Barbara Grizzuti. Italian Days. Worldenfeld and Nicolson, 1989.

Reason read: there once was talk of going to Italy in September or October. Read in memory of that aborted excursion. Also, some people celebrate Italian Heritage Month in October. Read in the offchance that is a thing.

From the very first few pages I knew I was going to enjoy Italian Days. Harrison is funny, witty, smart, and even a little sarcastic at times. She peppers her prose with interesting personal annectdotes about her connections to Italy. Sometimes it is about motherhood or her marriage. She comes alive when writing about her daughter Anna. Other times she talks of old lovers and new friends with such a sensuality there is an undertone of sexuality to her confessions, as if to say “I know I am beautiful. What of it?”
Harrison’s observations about Italian people and places are spot on. She has a running commentary on everything from feminism in Milan to artificial insemination by an unknown donor. She enjoys movies and references them from time to time.
It is obvious Harrison has an appreciation for the words of others who have written so beautifully about Italy’s charms. There are lots of quotes from Stendhal, Ruskin, George Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, and Henry James, but mostly Italian Days is a thoughtful blender concoction of cultural, spiritual, historical, and personal observations. Art, science, food, family, architecture, memories, religion, philosophy, and society swirl on every page. You’ll pick up a little Italian in the process. My favorite phrase was “qui sono felice” or “Here I am happy.”
Interesting that Piazzare Loreto bears no recognition of Mussolini’s demise.
As an aside, since Italian Days was published in 1989 I have to wonder if Milan is still as dependent on America as some seemed to think.
Thanks to Harrison’s descriptions of Italy there are a few places I would like to go: the church of Santa Maria Sacravia with its basalt stones; Rome, the city of Saints Peter and Paul (does anyone else think of Josh Ritter’s “Girl in the War” when hearing those names?); the Capuchin Cemetery to “cultivate a taste for the memento mori” (p 300). I now want to see the statue of David just to see his curiously small…ears.

As an another aside, remind me never to try the chocolate panforte – Harrison’s description of it sounds absolutely awful. Who would want to eat a spongy rock impregnated with gravel? On the other hand, when I go to Italy I want to try every flavor of gelati and I want to find the final resting place of Patrician Cecilia, the virgin patron saint of music and musicians. Supposedly, she is buried in a catacomb on the Appian Way.

Favorite lines: First, this is the one that made me laugh, “I have never but once had the occasion to threaten to knock someone’s pearls down her throat” (p 5). Then came, “It is very hard to be charming in a foreign language” (p 13), and “I have always wanted to live in an enclosed world, but when I did, I wanted to get out” (p 348). Spoken like a true cat. Meow.

Author fact: Everyone has their “thing” that makes them nervous. It was interesting to learn Harrison does not like masks or puppets.

Book trivia: there is a nice section of black and white photographs.

Setlist: Bach, Prince, Ben Webster, Ethel Merman, Mario Lanza, Tina Turner, Mozart, Vivaldi, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Jerome Kern, “Once There Were Three Marys”, “Amapola, My Pretty Little Poppy”, “O Sole Mio”, “Arriverderci Roma”, “Be Silent Mortal Flesh”, “Edelwiess Forever”, Frank Sinatra’s “New York”, “Agnis Dei”, “Puff the Magic Dragon”, “If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus”, “Day is Done”, “Little Boxes”, “Love Walked In”, “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild”, “Jesus is My Friend”, “Tea for Two”, “Ave Maria”,

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Italian Days other than to outline what the book is about.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).

Sense of Sight

Berger, John. Sense of Sight. Pantheon Books, 1986.

Reason read: October is Art Appreciation Month

To read Sense of Sight is to jump into a world of essays on various topics, each one taking you on a journey for the senses. You will discover Albrecht Durer is an interesting looking guy. Berger tells us he is the first painter to be obsessed with his own image. A ride on the Bosphorus can be somewhat romantic if you are patient and watchful. Manhattan, seen as a chaotic paradox and a land of severe contradictions, will astound you. [As an aside, while reading about Manhattan I was simultaneously reminded of Natalie Merchant’s “Carnival” and Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City with their displays of weak and strong, poverty and wealth, intimacy and strangeness, darkness and light. One of my favorite quotes comes from Berger’s essays on Manhattan, “Manhattan is haunted by the dead” (p 65). And to think the essay in question was written in the mid-1970s. What would Berger think of the dead after 9/11 attacks?]
But. I digress. Back to Sense of Sight. I wish Berger were standing before me. I would ask if it is true the body of the Duchess of Alba was exhumed and her skeleton compared to the Goya paintings (according to Google, it is very much true). Talk about the scrutiny of art! And speaking of Alba, Durer’s conceit was on display in Sense of Sight whereas Maja dressed and indressed evokes a curiosity within us. Because Berger does not provide her image like he did for Durer, are we prompted or subliminally urged to look her up? If so, does that mean we have been artfully played into Berger’s cunning trap of intrigue? He talks of Maja undressed and dressed in such great detail we might not need the investigation if we are to trust our imaginations. But we will want to all the same. In reading Sense of Sight the reader is treated to a mini biography of Claude Monet (did he really love the sea? why do I only think of ponds and lilies?), learn of a hotel that once serves as the interogation and death and torture headquarters during World War II, and come to the realization that poetry is anguish.
Sense of Sight made me think. I have always wondered when a painting is truly finished. What prompts an artist to put down the paint brush for the final time? And this – when a person is no longer with us, are they no longer real? If they become just a memory does what was once tangible become a figment of our imagination?

As an aside, I made this comment in my notes “why can’t it be a social commentary on this is how life is at this very moment? Why can’t we say this is how we do things now?” I have no idea what I was talking about except to say it is under the quote, “heroizing the farm laborer.”
Another aside, I am fascinated by the idea that nomadic people took their art with them. Of course.

Lines I liked, “The nomadic land is not just an image, it has history” (p 55), “The finction of painting is to fill an absence with the simulacrum of a presence” (p 212),

Author fact: Berger also wrote Ways of Seeing and About Looking in addition to Sense of Sight. I just have About Looking as my last Berger book to read.

Book trivia: Sense of Sight includes photographs. That’s how I know Albrecht Durer is an interesting looking guy.

Nancy said: Pearl said Sense of Sight was an extension of Ways of Seeing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the simple chapter called “Art Appreciation” (p 25).

The Man Who Ate Everything

Steingarten, Jeffrey. The Man Who Ate Everything: and Other Gastronomic Feats, Disputes, and Pleasurable Pursuits. Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.

Reason read: November is the month the U.S. celebrates Thanksgiving…whatever that is to you. All I know is that it is a day people eat a lot of food and it seemed appropriate to read a book with the title The Man Who Ate Everything. I also needed a book for the category of a book about food that wasn’t a cookbook for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge.

Even though The Man Who Ate Everything was published over twenty years ago, I have to think some of the truths Steingarten uncovered about food and the consumer industry are still true. Prices and other forms of economic data might be outdated but doesn’t Heinz still rule the ketchup competition? Is there still a Wall Street branch of McDonald’s at 160 Broadway, two blocks north of Trinity church? Steingarten will amuse you on a variety of topics from the safest time to eat an oyster, the chemical makeup of the best tasting water and the discussion of Campbell’s soup recipes to instructions on how to produce perfectly mashed potatoes and french fries (is it the potatoe, the oil, the salt, or the technique?). Even Jane Austen gets a mention into his book. You will pay more attention to the waitstaff in a fancy restaurant after you read The Man Who Ate Everything.
One surprise while reading Steingarten. His quest to be thin. I have a hard time picturing any man looking attractive and healthy at a mere 116lbs. Okay, except maybe Prince.
On a side note, after fifty plus years on this planet, I have finally learned the secret to removing the metalic taste of canned tomatoes, or at least I think I have. I didn’t try the trick.

As an aside, when I was finished reading The Man Who Ate Everything I had so many more questions than answers. What did Steingarten do with the thirty plus brands of ketchup he and his wife sampled? Why have I never heard of 80% of these brands? Are the phone numbers he listed now out of date? (Probably.) What would happen if I tried to call a few of them? Is there any truth to that claim that chlorine in water inhibits the growth of yeast? It gives me enough pause for me to want to try spring water in my dough next week.

Line I liked, “My mind feels at half mast” (p 113). Brilliant.

Author fact: Steingarten started out as a lawyer. At the time of publication he wrote for Vogue. Confessional: when I first saw Jeffrey’s name, I thought he was the cute man married to Ina Garten. Close, but nope.

Book trivia: My copy of The Man Who Ate Everything has a photograph of a piece of bread with a bite taken out of it. The slice is a very close up shot and makes me hungry.

Playlist: “There Will Never Be Another You”, “Love Potion #9”, and Madonna.

Nancy said: Pearl called Staingarten’s column “entertaining.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Food for Thought” (p 91).