Naslund, Sena Jeter. Four Spirits. New York: William Morrow, 2003.
Reason read: Alabama became a state in December.
Stella Silver, at five years old, stands with a gun in her hand. Her father, over her shoulder, teaches her how to pull the trigger. He wants her to know “what happens to a bullet fired” (p 4). Welcome to Four Spirits. Sena Jeter Naslund sets out to tell the story of a group of ordinary people trying to live their lives in the deep south during one of the most tumultuous times in our country’s history, the early 1960s. Amid the pages of Four Spirits you will meet civil rights activists, racists, musicians, students, families. You will watch relationships fall apart while others thrive. Sacrifices made, lives taken, hope clung to, and most importantly, resilience take root. There is power in courage as the characters of Four Spirits will show you. Five year old Stella grows up to be a passionate intelligent young woman whose world is rocked when President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Texas. But, she is just one character in a host of others who will break your heart. Amidst the turmoil and violence, people went about doing ordinary things, trying to live ordinary lives.
This is a tough book to read. For me, the domestic violence between Ryder and his wife was the hardest to take in, but be warned, his violence as a Ku Klux Klan member is far worse. The Klan is one of those realities of Birmingham, Alabama; their existence is something you wish you could pretend was not part of the historical fabric of our nation, but there they are.
As an aside, it gave me great joy that Ryder was afraid of Dracula.
I always seem to find Natalie connections. There is a reason why she wrote Saint Judas (Motherland album).
Lines I liked: “There’s a seed in me and it’s starting to grow” (Gloria says on page 89) and “Admiration and gratitude collided in her heart and scattered throughout her body” (p 68).
Author fact: Four Spirits takes place in Naslund’s home city of Birmingham, Alabama.
Book trivia: You get the sense Four Spirits is about four actual women when you read the dedication” Addie MacCollins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley. They were killed on September 15th, 1963 in a Baptist church.
Nancy said: Pearl explained that Naslund “intersperses her fictional characters with real ones” (More Book Lust p 207).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Southern Fried Fiction” (p 205).
Lovell, Jim, and Jeffrey Kluger. Lost Moon: The Perilous Journey of Apollo 13. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.
Reason read: On December 18th, 2018 NASA scheduled a rocket launch.
Lost Moon reads like a drama. The language isn’t bogged down by rocket science verbiage even through at the time of publication Jim Lovell was a famous astronaut and Jeffrey Kluger was an adjunct instructor (in other words, two really smart men). You pretty much know what is going on at all times. Lost Moon is suspenseful even though factually you know how it all turns out in the end. You should know, if not through the news (because you lived it), then because of the movie of the same name (because it starred Tom Hanks and won a whole bunch of awards). Here’s a ten second recap: On April 11th, 1970 Apollo Lucky 13 lifts off into space. By April Lucky 13th an oxygen tank explodes and the crew abandons the mission and Odyssey and moves into Aquarius. Two days later, on April 15th, a battery explodes in Aquarius. A day later a helium disk bursts. A day later, six days after liftoff, Aquarius splashes down in the Pacific ocean.
One of the most interesting facts I learned after reading Lost Moon was the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space. Article five of the document talks about ensuring the safe return of space travelers clause. In the event of an unplanned or off-target landing in hostile territories the space traveler would be safe and not be punished, imprisoned, or held responsible for the emergency landing in their territory.
Second interesting fact – astronauts are “star sailors.” I like that a lot.
Author fact: Jeffrey Kluger is a senior writer at Time magazine. Jim Lovell was also a Navy captain.
Book trivia: There is a great section of photographs in Lost Moon. The cover is of the blast off. “Because of the incredible speed of your rocket, your trip is short.” If you don’t know, don’t ask!
Nancy said: Pearl said “though you may have enjoyed the movie, don’t miss the book…it brings a new dimension to the now familiar account of heroism” (Book Lust p 158).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Moon’s My Destination” (p 157).
Le Guin, Ursula K. The Dispossessed. London: Orion Publishing, 2002.
Reason read: Le Guin died in January of this year. I just had to squeeze in one of her books in 2018 to honor her memory.
Shevek, a physicist, is researching something he calls his Ground Temporal Theory. He wants to unite his mother planet of Anarres with the sister planet, Urras. Anarres is an anarchist planet that has become isolated. Shevek’s people are in exile. With his invention of instantaneous communication, Shevek could potentially change society. Unfortunately, his own planet of Anarres is at war, making it impossible for him to progress on his Principle of Simultaniety. Hoping to find a more accepting atmosphere he travels to Urras where he is somewhat accepted. There he lectures, builds a relationship, and fathers a child while working on his theory, working towards free exchange between Urras and Anarres. Little does Shevek know but he has fallen into a trap.
As an aside, the range of different internal societies was interesting. For example, “propertarians” believe in the ownership of something whereas other societies don’t. On the planet Urras Shevek encounters a woman who enthralls him completely, but he can’t help but make feminism comparisons between her and the women on his planet of Anarres.
Probably my favorite part was when Shevek meets Takver. The attraction was instantaneous and Shevek came alive after meeting her. He has been awakened to a whole new life. This life leads him in interesting directions.
I always like it when I can play “six degrees of separation” between books. This time, in The Dispossessed there is a Dust with a capital D; a literal Dust that is consuming and controlling. Meanwhile in The Golden Compass the Dust, again with a capital D, is mysterious and confusing.
Line I liked, “It is hard, however, for people who have never paid money for anything to understand the psychology of cost, the argument of the marketplace (p 79).
Author fact: Le Guin has written fiction, science fiction, short stories, poetry, nonfiction, and has acted as editor on several projects.
Book trivia: The Dispossessed won a Hugo Award in 1975.
Nancy said: Pearl considers The Dispossessed a “great read” but she did not say anything more than that (Book Lust p 215). Additionally, Pearl makes no mention that The Dispossessed is part of a series (Hainish Cycle #6).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).
I try not to think about white rabbits running around with time pieces muttering about being late. Whenever I do I am reminded this is being written three days behind schedule. Nevertheless, here are the books:
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov – in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
- Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown – this is a stretch…All Creatures Great and Small first aired as a television show in January and there is a creature in the title.
- The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry – in honor of Barry’s birth month.
- A Cold Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow – in honor of Alaska becoming a state in January.
- Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn – in honor of Australia’s National Day on January 26th.
- The Turk by Tom Standage in honor of Wolfgang Von Klempelen’s birth month.
- Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington – in honor of January being National Yoga month.
- Sibley’s Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by David Allen Sibley – in honor of Adopt a Bird Month. I read that somewhere…
- To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
- Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman – to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month (Fantasy).
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim – I know what you are thinking. I am neither black nor a girl. I am a middle-aged white woman who barely remembers being a girl. I requested this book because I work in an extremely diverse environment and let’s face it, I want to be known as well-read, regardless of color.
- Sharp by Michelle Dean – my sister gave this to me as a Christmas gift. I wonder if she is trying to tell me something.
I may not be happy with my personal life in regards to fitness, health, and so on, but I am definitely satisfied with the number of books I was able to check off my Challenge list for the month of December. Special thanks to my kisa who did all the driving up and back and around the great state of Maine.
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (EB/print).
- Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess.
- Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund.
- This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun.
- Time Machines: the Best Time Travel Stories Ever Written edited by Bill Adler, Jr.
- The Black Tents of Arabia: (My Life Among the Bedouins by Carl Raswan.
- Lost Moon: the Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger.
- The Female Eunuch by Germain Greer.
- Stet: a Memoir by Diana Athill (EB and print).
- Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens (EB and print).
- Unicorn Hunt by Dorothy Dunnett. Confessional: I did not finish this.
- The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (EB/print/AB).
Raswan, Carl R. The Black Tents of Arabia: My Life Among the Bedouins. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1935.
Reason read: The movie, Lawrence of Arabia, was released in December of 1962.
Raswan spent more than twenty years with different Bedouin tribes of Arabia. He went along with them hunting, raiding, battling and surviving as they migrated across the unforgiving arid desert. He submersed himself in the Ruala tribe, learning their customs and traditions on an intimate level. This intimacy and his passion for Arabian horses helped him escape enemy clutches when they were ambushed more than once. How he managed to avoid certain death was beyond me.
Raswan’s language has the ability to take the reader on his adventurous journey. In Black Tents of Arabia he had a way of describing sights and sounds that brought his wild experiences to life. Here’s one of my favorites, “In our tumble-down car there were now no less that seven men: Ibrahim, Ali, two Bedouin rafiqs, two soldiers, and myself; also a gazelle, a greyhound, and two hens. We were packed like sardines: we had to hold on to anything that we could and change grips when the hand threatened to go to sleep. But with thirteen arms interlaced (Ibrahim’s free arm controlled the steering-wheel) we prevented the car from falling apart, nor could any passenger fall out without the knowledge of the others” (p 122).
Quote I needed to quote: Here’s an example of romance in the desert. Faris says to his love, “The blade of my dagger reminds me that I shall never be at peace until the slender blossom bends before the storm of my love” (p 61).
Author fact: Raswan took all of the photographs featured in Black Tents of Arabia.
Book trivia: There are a generous number of photographs in Black Tents of Arabia. I counted over 65 photographs and they are remarkable.
Nancy said: Pearl said Black Tents of Arabia is “a hymn of joy and affection for the nomadic life” (p 25).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called Arabia Deserta” (p 23).
Dunnett, Dorothy. The Unicorn Hunt. New York: Vintage Books, 1999.
Reason read: to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
If you are keeping track, it is now mid 15th century and the world, especially Europe, is standing on the doorstep of modernism. Our hero Nicholas has a new name. He is now Niccolo de Fleury. If you remember from Scales of Gold he married Gelis (the woman who had a love-hate relationship with him). She might have had a child with his archenemy, Simon de St. Pol. Gelis, instead of seeking revenge for Nicholas supposedly killing her sister, is now angry with him for having a child with her. You would think Nicholas would be used to this kind of incrimination from vengeful individuals, especially the women in his life! He believes that Gelis really had his child and like a fabled unicorn, he’s on the hunt to find this child. But, does it even exist?
Despite all this Nicholas tries to be all business. Instead of gold like in the last book, he is also on the hunt for silver in Tyrol. Upon hearing rumors of treasure in Alexandria Nicholas is off again on a feverish fast paced adventure. This time, he is not the fun-loving nice guy of past books. He has an edge to him that borders on asshole. He also has special powers to divine precious metals (?!). Many readers didn’t care for this new personality or the plot, as it is utterly strange and complex. Myself, I am getting tired of him being imprisoned and tortured in every book. The betrayals don’t phase him at all.
Quote to quote: “Henry had often thought of killing his grandfather, there was so much of him, and Henry disliked all of it” (p 3). This, coming from a seven year old.
Book trivia: This is book V of the House of Niccolo series and the list of characters in The Unicorn Hunt is amazingly long.
Nancy said: this is another of Dunnett’s books Pearl said “it would be a shame” to miss out on” (More Book Lust p 80).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up the Past Through Fiction” (p ).