Little Prince

Saint-Exupery, Antione de. The Little Prince, 75th Anniversary Edition. Editions Gallimard, 2018.

Reason read: July is considered Children’s Book Month.

The preface to this review is that I somehow picked up the 75th anniversary edition of The Little Prince. In addition to reading a cute short story designed for children of all ages, I am reviewing the history, making, and perceptions of the classic tale. It includes Saint Exupery’s biography, tons of beautiful photographs, and fourteen appreciation essays. Really cool. The story of The Little Prince starts with a downed aviator (probaly Saint-Exupery himself), trying to fix his plane. He encounters a young boy, “the Little Prince” who asks him to draw him a picture. From there, the story blooms into a tale about a child’s relationship with adult realities. The child ends up being more mature than the adults he encounters.

Quotes I liked, “One must command from each what each can perform” (p 111) and”You risk tears if you let yourself be tamed” (p 153). This last line reminds me of Natalie Merchant’s line, “To pick a pick a rose you ask your hands to bleed.”

Author fact: to look at Saint-Exupery is to hear a French accent. His face is oh so France.

Book trivia: the French version of The Little Prince was translated by Vali Tamm and published in April 1946, two years after Saint-Exupery’s death. The 75th anniversary edition was supposed to have a free audio download, but the url didn’t work. I found another version (or maybe it’s the same one) on YouTube for the 70th anniversary.

Nancy said: Pearl said Saint-Exupery is best known for The Little Prince.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Flying Above the Clouds” (p 89). In theory, The little Prince should not have been included in this chapter unless you call living on a tiny planet flying high above the clouds…


Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage

Munro, Alice. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories. Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.

Reason read: Munro’s birth month is in July. Read in her honor.

Munro has a way with words, as everyone knows. Here are four words I never thought I would see stitched together, “bug-eyed pickle ass”. Go figure.
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage is a collection of short stories with a common theme: relationships:

  1. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage – a childish prank backfires.
  2. Floating Bridge – a woman deals with positive news concerning her cancer.
  3. Family Furnishings – a college student learns about a secret her aunt was keeping.
  4. Comfort – the suicide of a husband.
  5. Nettles – childhood taunts.
  6. Post and Beam – when a house is more than a house.
  7. What Is Remembered – the memory of an affair with a pilot lingers long after the romance has died.
  8. Queenie – A sister’s abandonment.
  9. The Bear Came Over the Mountain – An adultery gets his comeuppance.

Lines I really liked, “Her teeth were crowded to the front of her mouth as if they were ready for an argument” (p 3), “See the conquering hero comes” (p 125), “A stealthy, considering, almost married glance, its masquerade and its bland intimacy arousing to those who were after all not married” (p 233), and “As if he dared anybody to breathe while he was in there” (p 252).

Author fact: Munro has won a bunch of awards for her writing including the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Book trivia: I have six different Munro books to read on my list. I have already read Friend of My Youth and The Love of a Good Woman.

Nancy said: Pearl said Munro is among the authors who have “distinctly evoked sense of place that distinguishes Canadian fiction” (Book Lust, p 50).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Canadian Fiction” (p 50).


To Begin Where I Am

Milosz, Czeslaw. To Begin Where I am: Selected Essays. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2001.

Reason read: for the Portland Reading Challenge I needed a book from an Eastern European author.

I read To Begin Where I Am in stages.
Part One: These Guests
Part Two: On the Side of Man
Part Three: Against Incomprehensible Poetry
Part Four: In Constant Amazement

Czeslaw makes me question the meaning of history. I struggle with what becomes history and what is lost when memory fades. I guess it is a similar theory with stuff. What becomes a rare antique versus junk? The balance of life is all about contradictions and opposites. The history that flavored Milosz’s prose is World War II, the Holocaust, and exile.
The more enjoyable fragments of memory include traveling during spring break after law exams, being in nature, and the poignant portraits of his friends, mixed with descriptions of their political ideals.

As an aside, when when I was reading about the things that amazed Czeslaw I was reminded of when Kisa and I got married. We asked people to read and write something for the ceremony. My uncle stood up and talked about how different things amazed him. He mentioned cars and trees. I am pretty sure he was trying to say that the fact I found someone to marry was one of those “amazing” things.

Quotes to quote, “To kill a superphysical hunger, the best thing in a hike” (p 60), “True, from time to time one of us dropped out, shipped off to a concentration camp or shot” (p 121), “Identity crisis are thresholds in everyone’s life on which we can smash ourselves to pieces” (p 174),

Author fact: Milosz won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Milosz also wrote Issa Valley, which is on my Challenge list, and the Captive Mind, which is not.

Book trivia: Milosz’s essays range from a single page to over one hundred pages.

Nancy said: Pearl said To Begin Where I Am is an “entrĂ©e into the mind of an extraordinary thoughtful thinker” (Book Lust p 187).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Polish Poems and Prose” (p 187).


Thunder City

Estleman, Loren D. Thunder City: a Novel of Detroit. Tom Doherty Associates, 1999.

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

Once again Estleman takes a look at the history and controversies of the automobile industry and the lure and mystique of it’s counterpart, organized crime. It was interesting to think of the people in the streetcar business prepping for the advent of cars and Ford’s competitors who looked to bring him down on the basis of a broken moral compass. Even more interesting was the advent of the iconic Ford logo. The revolving door of characters will make your head spin if you let them. I was compelled to keep notes on all of them although it didn’t help. James Aloysius Dolan (aka Jimmy, Big Jim, Boss Dolan, Honorable James A. Dolan, Diamond Jim, Irish Pope, or Himself depending on who you ask) was my favorite character. Wealthy, knows Yiddish, fat and Irish, James has held the titles of Railway Commissioner and chairman of State Democratic Party. He is married with children and has a manservant named Noche. He’s an all around shady guy, but I liked him.
A note on the Novel of Detroit series: I read the books in the order in which they were written, but to get a sense of chronology they should be read differently. Start with Thunder City (1900-1910), then move on to Whiskey River (1928 – 1939), Jitterbug (1943), Edsel (1951 – 1959), Motown (1966), Stress (1973) and end with King of the Corner (1990).

Definition of a marriage: “Dolan had forbidden her to modernize her appearance, and she had decided to allow him to” (p 15).

Author fact: Estleman wrote a bunch of novels beyond the Detroit series. I am only reading one other book, Sugartown (book 5 of the Amos Walker series).

Book trivia: Thunder City is the last book I am reading for the Detroit Series.

Playlist: Caruso, “Star Spangled Banner”, “Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground” and “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean”.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Thunder City.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: the Literary Midwest, Michigan” (p 26).


Time of Our Singing

Powers, Richard. The Time of Our Singing. Picador, 2004.

Reason read: Richard Powers was born in the month of June. Read in his honor.

Writing a review for this book was difficult considering our current national climate. Is it fair to bring a child into this world, knowing full well his or her life will be an uphill, hurtful, and potentially lethal journey? With Roe V. Wade being overturned, this is a burning question for me. In The Time of Our Singing it is 1939 and David Strom, a German Jewish white man meets and falls in love with an African American young lady from Philadelphia. Should they have an interfaith relationship? Could they succeed in a biracial marriage? What hardships would their children have in a world consumed with the hate and segregation and World War II? Is it blind faith to assume their offspring will thrive beyond race with the help of music? So many questions that kept me reading all 600+ pages to the very end. Time of Our Singing also tells the story of David and Delia’s children. Jonah, Joseph, and Ruth come of age during the early Civil Rights movement and the turmoil of racial unrest follows them through adulthood. Jonah and Joseph go the route of music and fame, while Ruth veers violently in the opposite direction. Over time, they cannot ignore their color or where they came from. Through music comes recognition and redemption.
What I liked the most was the clever writing in that there are hints of a disaster: a photograph that has escaped being burned. What a black boy from Chicago doesn’t know about deep south segregation. How hatred can burn like an inferno until it explodes in disaster.

Lines I liked, “Music was there lease, their deed, their eminent domain” (p 9), “She beat at the recipe with a force her daughter couldn’t fail to read” (p 131), “Death mixes all races” (p 145), “The puppet refused to sit up and speak” (p 495), and “Race’s worst injuries are color-blind” (p 553).

Author fact: Pearl really likes Richard Powers. He has his own chapter in Book Lust. For the Challenge I am reading five more books by Powers and I have already read Gain and Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance. Due to their length, I don’t think I finished either one.

Book trivia: Time of Our Singing is a hefty 600+ pages.

Playlist: Musicians: Andre Watts, Bach, Brahms, Cole Porter, Cherubini, Charlie Parker, Camilla Williams, Duke Ellington, Dvorak, Dorothy Maynor, Dizzy Gillespie, Debussy, David Strom, Delia, Doors, Eartha Kitt, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Ginger Kiltie, Hayden, Holst, Ice Cube, Josquin Absalom, Jules Bledsoe, Jim Morrison, Leontyne Price, Marian Anderson, Mimi, Mendelsohn, Mozart, Miles Davis, Pucci, Paula Squires, Phillipa Duke Schuyler, Robert McFerrin, the Supremes, Schubert, Tallis, and Wreckin’ Cru
Songs: “Alto Rhapsody”, “America”, “Asleep in the Deep”, “Auf Ewigkeit”, “Ave Maria”, “Ave verum corpus”, “Balm in Gilead”, “The Boy’s Magic Horn”, “By the Waters of Babylon”, “Come Again, Sweet Love Doth Now Invite”, “California Girls”, “Deceit Holds the World in Its Domain”, “Dance of the Seven Veils”, “Down by the Salley Gardens”, “Elija”, “Fascinating Rhythm”, “Floral Bandit”, “From the New World”, “German Dance #1”, “Go Down Moses”, “Good Vibrations”, “Gospel Train”, “Honeysuckle Rose”, “I Hear a Symphony”, “I’m a Believer”, “Ladonna e mobile”, “Lord God of Abraham”, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, “Marching to Freedomland”, “Miller’s Beautiful Daughter”, “My Soul is Anchored to the Lord”, “Motherless Child”, “O Mio Fernando”, “On That Great Gettin’ Up Morning”, “Ol Man River”, “Prelude to a Kiss”, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, “Se La Face Ay Pale”, “Satin Doll”, “Swanee River”, “Star Spangled Banner”, “Saint Matthew Passion”, “Sussestille”, “There’s a Rainbow Round My Shoulder”, “Time Stands Still”, “Trampin'”, “Trout”, “Turkey in the Straw”, “Werther”, “We Can Work It Out”, and “You Are My Sunshine”

Nancy said: Pearl dedicated a whole chapter to Powers so she had a lot to say about the author. Not so much about The Time of Our Singing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Richard Powers: Too Good To Miss” (p 191).


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)


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).


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.


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).


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.


Anna Karenina

Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Penguin Books, 2000.

Reason read: Russia celebrates Victory Day in May.

Who doesn’t know the tragic story of Anna Karenina? When the story was complete I found myself asking does Anna our deserve pity? Many see her love for another man other than her husband as a tragedy. Indeed, Anna’s husband only cares about how society will view him in regards to her infidelity. Karenin is weak, cold and completely unlikable. However, there was another far more appealing couple. I found Konstantine Levin’s relationship with Kitty far more enthralling and far more tragic. As an aside, when I first picked up Anna Karenina I wondered to myself what made this story nearly one thousand pages long. The more I got into it, the more it became clear Tolstoy could spend entire chapters on the threshing of fields, the racing of horses, croquet competitions, and philosophical tirades about Russian society. Condensed down, Anna Karenina is simply about unhappy relationships; specifically an unhappily married woman who has to chose between her duty as a mother and her emotional attachment to a lover. We all know how that turns out.

Quote to quote: “Alexi Alexandrovich smiled his smile which only revealed his teeth, but said nothing more” (p 228).

Author fact: Tolstoy bears a striking resemblance to the Hermit of Manana.

Book trivia: according to practically everyone, the translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky is the edition to read.

Nancy said: Interestingly enough, Leo Tolstoy is not in the index of Book Lust To Go because she does not mention the author of Anna Karenina. Instead, she mentions Pevear and Volokhonsky as translators and they are indexed in Book Lust To Go. In other Lust books she called Anna Karenina “great” and “a classic”.

BookLust Twist: I have always said, the more Pearl mentions a title, the more I know she loved, loved, loved the book. I’m not sure, but Anna Karenina might be Pearl’s most often mentioned book. It is included in all three Lust books: from Book Lust in the chapters “Families in Trouble” (p 82) and “Russian Heavies” (p 210), of course. From More Book Lust in the chapters “Lines that Linger; Sentences that Stick” (p 140), “Men channeling Women” (p 166), and “Wayward Wives” (231). Finally, from Book Lust To Go in the chapter “Saint Petersburg/Leningrad/Saint Petersburg” (p 194). I will add that Anna Karenina also takes place in Moscow.


Jazz

Morrison, Toni. Jazz. Alfred A Knopf, 1992.

Reason read: while it is not accurate, I read Jazz in honor of May being music month.

Joe and Violet are in the business of beauty. Joe sells cosmetics door to door and his wife is a home-visiting hairdresser. Usually a straight up and dependable man, Joe falls in obsessive love with a teenager named Dorcas. His passion for Dorcas forces him to kill her. At her funeral, in a fit of jealous insanity Joe’s wife, Violet, attempts to slash the dead girl’s face while she lay in her coffin. Violent Violet then goes home to free all of her pet birds. Her rage makes her human. The smartest character in the book is the City. I like the way the City makes people think they can do whatever they want and get away with it. The culture is full of passions, both right and wrong. Jazz will also take you back to July 1917, a time when Grandmother True Belle (great name) was afraid of Springfield, Massachusetts. (Kind of funny since I work in that urban area and sometimes I, too, am afraid of Springfield, Massachusetts.) Morrison’s vivid descriptions of culture are breathtaking.

Lines I loved, “Can’t rival the dead for love” (p 15) and “Two dollars will get you a woman on a store-bought scooter if you want it” (p 46). I have no idea what that means.

Playlist: Wings Over Jordan

Author fact: Princeton University could boast that Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison was on their payroll.

Book trivia: Jazz is part of the Dantesque Trilogy: Beloved, Jazz, and Paradise X.

Nancy said: Pearl used the words “jazzy syncopation” to describe Jazz.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: She Say” (p 12).


Love Thy Neighbor

Maass, Peter. Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War. Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

Reason read: History books state the Bosnian War started in on April 6th 1992 despite earlier acts of violence.

April 1st, 1992. My father was five months and twenty days away from dying. On that day, Serbians commenced their brutal attack on Bosnia. I think I might have done damage to my psyche to read about Bosnia and Guernica in the same month…To wipe out an entire community or ethnicity for absolutely no reason other than pure dominance is unfathomable.
Line that gave me pause, “There was even a slip of paper from the library saying they didn’t posses any overdue books” (p 86). Imagine giving up everything you own, including items you don’t, like books borrowed from the library. The business of the bureau for ethnic cleansing demanded Bosnians claim they handed over all worldly possessions to a Serbian. This act does not encompass the horrific violence, but rather the senseless humility.
About the violence. Most of the time I found myself twisting and twitching in my chair, wanting to turn away from the sentences of torture Maas wrote. I am one of those fat and happy and white privileged people who blissfully and ignorantly cite misunderstanding when it comes to the war in Bosnia. I was oblivious to the death and destruction with the exception of what the U.S. media decided or cared to reveal to me. What baffles me the most is that, like the Hutu and Tutsi, Serbs and Bosnians at one time got along like neighbors and family. Another war similarity from forty years earlier, like Franco denying the bombing of Guernica, Serbia denied the bombing of Bosnia was their responsibility. Death and destruction is not a macabre mirage and yet they do refuse see or own it. The practice of modern warfare with age-old atrocities was hard to read. Reporters and journalists had the luxury of escaping Sarajevo – taking a break was not an option for its entrapped residents. Maas takes his time to carefully humanize the narrative by inserting personal anecdotes from his own life.

Quotes to quote, “They didn’t wear normal uniforms, they didn’t have many teeth, and they didn’t want us there” (p16), “At the time, I didn’t think there was anything strange about flying through the air with 35,000 pounds of feta cheese” (p 23), “If surrealism had not existed, Bosnia would have invented it” (p 28).

Playlist: Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way,” Ringo Starr, Guns N’ Roses, Edith Pilaf’s “Je ne regrette rien,”Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” Ella Fitzgerald, Mick Jagger, Louis Armstrong, Ike and Tina Turner.

Author fact: Maas has written a bunch of other books, but I am only reading Love Thy Neighbor for the Challenge.

Book trivia: As an aside, it is a shame the public library from which I borrowed Love Thy Neighbor had to plastic cover the book. The original material would have felt good to hold.

Nancy said: Peter said Love Thy Neighbor “expose(s) the horror of life during wartime in the former Yugolavia” and Maas is more “visceral” about his writing (Book Lust p 31).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Balkan Specters” (p 31).


Snapper

Doyle, Roddy. The Snapper. Penguin Books, 1992.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland.

I can safely say most everyone knows about Doyle’s first novel, The Commitments. It was made into a pretty good movie and had a phenomenal soundtrack. I am willing to bet more people know the music than the book or the movie combined. The Snapper is like an episode of Seinfeld where a whole lot of nothing happens to an ordinary group of people. The plot centers around the fact Jimmy Rabbitte’s sister is pregnant. If you remember Jimmy Rabbitte, Jr., he was the guy who started the band, the Commitments. He wanted to be a manager of someone famous in the worst way. Remember how, in The Commitments he was always practicing his interview? In The Snapper his dreams have changed slightly. Still looking for fame, he now wants to be a disc jockey. But enough about Jimmy Jr. This time he isn’t the lead character. He is firmly in the background while his sister, Sharon Rabbitte, takes center stage as a twenty year old unwed mother-to-be. Like The Commitments, the dialogue carries the story. Family members and friends all try to guess the baby daddy. I felt bad for Sharon’s highly emotional and confused father. One day embarrassed about who knocked up his daughter, the next reading everything he can about what she is going through. The Snapper gives a spot-on account of the good, bad, and ugly elements of pregnancy.

Author fact: Doyle has also written books for children.

Book trivia: The Snapper is the next book in the trilogy, but can easily read on its own. Aside from the Rabbitte family, there is nothing to tie The Snapper back to The Commitments.

Playlist: Jennifer Rush’s “Power of Love,” “The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music,” “Just a Spoonful of Sugar,” Bon Jovi, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Tina Turner, Victor Sylvester, Alison Moyet’s “Is This Love,” Alexander O’Neil’s “Fake,” and James Brown’s “Living in America.”

Nancy said: Pearl thinks of Doyle when she thinks of Irish fiction.

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


The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

Hijuelos. Oscar. The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1989.

Reason read: March is Music month.

Delve into this book if you want a cultural education in Cuba and its music. Taking place in the 1950s, two Cuban brothers emigrate to the United States with big dreams of conquering the music scene. Cesar Castillo looks back on his life, playing mambo music with his brother, Nester and having a small spotlight in the fame arena after a guest appearance on an episode of I Love Lucy. I read this book on the heels of the Netflix documentary about Desi and Lucy so it seemed as if the couple was everywhere. Confessional: I couldn’t really get into this book. The parts where Desi Arnez makes an appearance were my favorite and, as the story went on, I began to skip scenes that involved sex or Nestor pining over “Beautiful Maria.” I grew weary of the repetition. I did appreciate all the references to music of the era.

Author fact: Hijuelos was honored with the 1985 Rome Fellowship in Literature of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Book trivia: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love was made into a movie starring Antonio Banderas in 1992.

One of the best aspects of Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love is the musical education you will get. Singers, composers, pianists, violinists, and lyricists from Catalan, Dominican, Cuban, Columbian, and Puerto Rican backgrounds flood the pages of Mambo.

Playlist (because this is a book about music, there was a lot to mention.): Musicians and composers – Alberto Beltran, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Bing Crosby, Beny More, Cesar Nestor, Desi Arnaz, Enric Madriguera, Ernesto Lecuona, Fletcher Anderson, Glorious Gloria Parker, Maurio Bauza, Mongo Santamaria, Miguelito Valdez, Manny Jimenez, Nelson Pinedo, Nat King Cole, Noro Morales, Paul Whiteman Orchestra, Olga Chorens, Ornette Coleman, Rene Touzet, Tito Rodriguez, and Vincento Valdez.
Songs: “Acercate Mas,” “Besame Mucho,” “Beautiful Maria of My Soul,” “Cielito Lindo,” “Frenesi,” “Hong Kong Mambo,” “In the Still of the Night,” “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” “Moonlight Becomes You,” “Mambo de Paree,” “Mambo Nine,” “Mambo for a Hot Night,” Mambo Number Eight,” and “Twilight in Havana.”

Nancy said: Pearl included a sentence about the plot for The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called Cuba Si!” (p 68)