Colwin, Laurie. Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object. New York: Viking Press, 2001.
Reason read: August is Grief Awareness month and there is oh so much grief in this book.
How do you love an individual who constantly flirts with the potential for death? How do you behave in a relationship or a partnership with someone who has a history of self destructive behavior such as this: breaking his collarbone after being thrown by a horse, snapping his leg after skiing, or gouging his shoulder after rock climbing (more like rock falling)? How does a marriage survive such reckless disregard for staying together? The answer is it really doesn’t. But Elizabeth Bax is attracted to James Dean. She likes the bad boys.
She knew she had every right to worry when Sam, her daredevil husband of five years, went for “one last” sail before an autumn squall picked up. Sam’s brother Patrick was already calling the coast guard knowing full well something bad was about to happen or more likely, already had. It is not a spoiler to tell you Sam died. What follows is an in depth examination of the human heart and how it tries to put itself together after being shattered. Shine On is a short book that asks the question is grief coupled with love a betrayal?
Lines I liked, “He had squashed his recklessness down to an ironic sort of caution that was a slap in his own face” (p 3), “You have to commit experience to your heart and let it change you..” (p 178).
Author fact: Colwin died at the very young age of forty-eight after suffering a heart attack.
Book trivia: This is a super short book. You could read it in a weekend.
Nancy said: Pearl said not to miss Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object even though the chapter was about Colwin’s books on food.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the interesting chapter called “Food for Thought” (p 91)…except Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object has absolutely nothing to do with food.
Fielding, Henry. An Apology for the Life of Mrs Shamela Andrews. Cambridge: Gordon Fraser at St. John’s College, 1930.
Reason read: This was supposed to be read way back in April with Pamela by Samuel Richardson. It sort of didn’t happen that way.
Everyone loves a good cat fight…but a fair one. An Apology… was Fielding’s direct satirical attack on Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, however Fielding was a coward. He first published An Apology…under the false name of Conny Keyber. It was supposed to be the true events or what really happened with Pamela in a mere sixty pages. According to Fielding, Pamela is not a chaste and sweet girl. Instead she is wicked and full of lust. Instead of being seduced by her former employer’s son, Fielding thinks she entrapped him into marrying her.
I have to admit I can’t speak to the steadfast morality of a teenager, but I agreed with Fielding in that I found it completely unbelievable that a fifteen year old girl would continue her diaries through all the chaos and upheaval.
Author fact: Henry Fielding also wrote the novel, Tom Jones which is not on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: According to the introduction to Shamela, written by Brian Downs, it is necessary to be familiar with Pamela in order to understand Shamela. Of course.
Nancy said: Pearl said Shamela is a portion of the novel Joseph Andrews. In actuality, Shamela was published before Joseph and if they are one and the same I completely missed it..
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Epistolary Novels: Take a Letter” (p 79).
Murdoch, Iris. An Accidental Man. New York: Viking Press, 1971.
Reason read: Murdoch was born in July. Read in her honor.
While the story of An Accidental Man opens with American Ludwig Leferrier and his British girlfriend, Gracie Tisbourne, getting engaged, the “accidental man” is actually middle aged Austin Gibson Grey. He is a hapless man followed by trouble with a mentally unstable wife.
As an FYI, the thing about Murdoch’s writing is that there are a lot of other characters to keep track of and the plot is dark and convoluted, but after a while the characters become old friends which makes the plot easier to follow. Kind of like when you are stuck in an elevator and everyone becomes familiar by the time the doors open and you are freed.
There are a lot of tragic moments in An Accidental Man so it’s surprising to think of it as a comedy. Take, for example, the scene of Gracie’s wealthy grandmother dying. Her children are desperate for the doctor to speed up the process because they just want it to be over or do they want her money? the sooner the better. The doctor tries and tries to leave but the family keeps finding excuses to make him stay.
Or, when Austin, driving Matthew’s car while drunk, hits and kills a child. Matthew helps cover up the crime because it was his automobile that struck the child. How they avoid detection from the police, I don’t know.
Or when Mitzi and Charlotte attempt suicide…see what I mean? Dark, dark, dark! However, one of the best things about Murdoch’s writing was how descriptive she could be with her characters. Grace Tisbourne is described as small calm radiant unsmiling. Just like that. It’s the “radiant unsmiling” that grabs you.
One of the worst things about Murdoch’s writing is how disjointed the story line could be. Because of the multitude of characters the plot jumps around a lot.
The message of the story is we all have to determine our moral obligation towards one another.
Lines I liked, “Crushed close together, two hearts battered in their cages” (p 4), “His parents were grateful to America, and the glow of that gratitude was shed over his childhood” (p 10), “The terrible solipsism of youth can offend the old” (p 26) and last one, “A police car kerb-crawled him and then drove away leaving the scene empty” (103). Brilliant.
As a trivial aside, I found a Natalie connection to Accidental Man. The cover is a man with puppet strings. All I could think was, “You Happy Puppet” when I saw it.
Author fact: Murdoch was also a philosopher.
Book trivia: Accidental Man is Murdoch’s fourteenth book.
Nancy said: One of Pearls all time favorite quotes is from An Accidental Man. She also indicated this was one of her very favorite Mudoch books.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the very obvious chapter called “Iris Murdoch: Too Good To Miss” (p 161).
Coelho, Paulo. By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept: a Novel of Forgiveness. Translated by Al;an R. Clarke. New York: Harper Perennial, 2006.
Reason read: July is the month of summer romances…or returning to one. One of the most romantic places on earth, in my opinion, is Monhegan Island, Maine. Ten miles out to sea there is something about the smell of the salty ocean, the cries of gulls and crashing surf amidst summer wildflowers and dusky fireflies. Boats rock in the harbor shrouded by early morning fog. I was able to read the novella By the River… in two nights amidst all this on said island.
By the River Piedra romances its reader from start to finish. Protagonist Pilar is twenty eight years old and making her way through life as an independent and capable young woman in Spain. By coincidence she reunites with her boyfriend from eleven years ago. He has turned into a handsome spiritual guru who happens to be a much trusted healer. Together they rekindle their romance while on a journey to the French Pyrenees. Age and time have given them a fresh perspective on love, forgiveness, and spirituality.
Author fact: Coelho also wrote the more famous novel, The Alchemist, which is not on my list for whatever reason.
Book trivia: By the River Piedra… was an international best seller.
Nancy said: absolutely nothing.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Latin American Fiction” (p 144).
Trollope, Anthony. Framley Parsonage. New York: Penguin, 1993.
Reason read: to continue the series started in April in honor of Trollope’s birth month.
As usual Trollope’s fourth novel in the Barsetshire Chronicle is laden with characters. One of the first people readers meet is Mark Robarts, a vicar with ambitions to further his career. The gist of the story is that Robarts loans Nathaniel Sowerby money even though Robarts realizes Sowerby is an unsavory character, always gambling and up to no good. Of course there is some good old fashioned courting of the ladies going on that complicates the story.
Trollope explores human emotions such as humiliation (Robarts not being able to afford to give a loan but does it anyway), romance (between Mark’s sister, Lucy, and Lord Lufton), greed (inappropriate relationships because of lower class status) and affection (bailing a friend out of a sticky situation). The subplot of Lucy and Lord Lufton is my favorite. Lady Lufton doesn’t think Lucy is good enough for her son (what mother does?).
Author fact: Trollope wanted to be a political figure at one point in his life.
Book trivia: At the end of Framley Parsonage Doctor Thorne gets married. Remember him?
Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about Framley Parsonage but she did say that Trollope is one of her favorite writers.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Barsetshire and Beyond” (p 15).
Asimov, Isaac. Forward the Foundation. New York: Bantam Spectrum, 1994.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month. If you are keeping track then you know I am off by a month or two.
In the beginning of Forward the Foundation Hari Seldon is forty years old and a professor at Streeling University. He is still trying to define psychohistory as something more than a mathematical way of analyzing society to predict the future. There are those who expect his predictions to save the Empire. Luckily, he is not alone in his efforts, but surrounded by key characters from the previous novel (Prelude to Foundation):
Dors Venabili, acting as guardian in Prelude to Foundation, is now Seldon’s wife but still insists on protecting him wherever he goes. When their granddaughter, Wanda, has reoccurring dreams of Seldon’s death it is reason enough Dors needs to be extra attentive to Seldon’s safety. We learn she has superhuman skills and never ages.
Raych is twenty years old at the beginning of Forward the Foundation and Seldon has adopted him as his son.
In Prelude to Foundation Yugo Amaryl had been a heatsinker in the Dahl Sector, the lowest rung on society’s ladder, but Seldon had seen something in him worth saving. In Forward the Foundation Yugo is now a respected mathematician, intellectual, and budding obsessive psychohistorian. For all intents and purposes he has become Seldon’s right hand man.
Eto Demerzel, Emperor Cleon’s First Minister and the “person” responsible for Seldon meeting his wife, steps aside to let Seldon take the position. After ten years as First Minister he grows sick of it and finds a way to retire. Fast forward twenty more years and Seldon is now seventy. As the empire dies Seldon finds himself struggling to keep up with the demands of researching psychohistory.
Asimov has a subtle and sly humor that threads its way through Forward the Foundation. One of my favorite moments was when Seldon was describing mathematical symbolism using water themes – rivers, rivulets, and currents. After listening to this Amaryl replies to Seldon “dryly.” Oh, the irony. My second favorite moment was when librarians were described as “the oldest Guild in the Empire.” Exactly.
Quotes I liked, “A paradox arises only out of an ambiguity that deceives either unwittingly or by design” (p 32) and “People tended to avoid the humiliation of failure by joining the obviously winning side even against their own opinions” (p 31).
Author fact: Asimov wrote or edited over 500 books.
Book trivia: The “Zeroth Law” comes up in Forward the Foundation. Instead of applying to the laws of thermodynamics it is in regards to robots and first appears in a different Asimov story called “Runaround.”
Nancy said: Pearl said the Foundation series should be read in order.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).
Llosa, Mario Vargas. Aunt Julia and the Script Writer. Translated by Helen R. Lane. New York: Avon, 1982.
Reason read: July is the busiest time to visit Peru.
As a struggling writer, eighteen year old Marito (Mario) makes ends meet by writing news stories for a local Peruvian radio station while in law school. He welcomes two new distractions into his life and uses them to spice up his storytelling: his beautiful aunt (by marriage only), Julia, and the brilliant but crazy radio scriptwriter, Pedro Comancho. Thirteen years his senior, Aunt Julia begins a clandestine romance with Mario and at the same time Comancho takes Marito under his wing as his ever-growing confused confidant.
It is the differing point of view narratives that keep the story interesting as the reader bounces between the first person account of Marito and Comancho’s soap opera dramas told in the third person.
As an aside, when Aunt Julia says she’s old enough to be Marito’s mother I just had to do the math. Julia is only thirteen or fourteen years older than Mario. Yes, fourteen year olds have babies. It is possible, but it made me shudder all the same.
Lines I liked, “He was a creature given to short-lived, contradictory, but invariably sincere enthusiasms” (p 10), and “In the span of just a few seconds I went from hating her with all my heart to missing her with all my soul (p 157).
Author fact: Aunt Julia and the Script Writer is autobiographical. Also, Llosa has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Book trivia: Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter was made into a 1990 movie called “Tune in Tomorrow.”
Nancy said: Pearl called Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter her favorite Llosa novel.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Latin American Fiction” (p 144).