Abraham Lincoln: the Prairie Years, Vol II

Sandburg, Carl. Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Yeas, Volume Two. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1926.

Reason read: to continue the series started in February in honor of Lincoln’s birth month.

When we delve back into Sandburg’s volume two of Abraham Lincoln: the Prairie Years Lincoln is now in his forties. He is a family man. His political life is becoming more and more entangled with his career as a lawyer. His direct, plain-speaking, and honest approach has people trusting him and he soon has a following of stump-speech fans. In the courtroom, his ability to deliver calm closing arguments that sway even the toughest juries has people wanting him to run for President of the United States. As Sandburg eloquently put it, “His words won him hearts in unknown corners of far-off places” (p 155). His role as a leader of our country is starting to come into shape.
[As an aside, it was interesting that I was reading about town gossip while at a salon getting my hair cut. There is no better place to hear tongues wagging than in a salon (except maybe in a bar).]

Author fact: Carl and his wife were married just shy of 60 years.

Book trivia: Best part of the book was when Lincoln was having a conversation with a goat. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, thinking of tall, gangling Abraham bending low to converse with an animal.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about either volume of Abraham Lincoln: the Prairie Years.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1920s” (p 176).


The Dog Next Door

Robertson, Keith. The Dog Next Door. New York: Viking Press, 1950.

Reason read: April is National Dog Month. For the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge I needed a book with an animals in the title.

Thirteen year old Hal has wanted a dog all of his life. His neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Perkins, have never wanted a dog in their lives. Ever. Unfortunately, Mrs. Aylesworth, boxer breeder and sister to Mrs. Perkins, unceremoniously sends the Perkins a beautiful dog named Beau as a gift. So begins a dilemma with a seemingly easy fix: the Perkins should give Hal the dog. Right? Only, Hal’s parents think a dog would be too much responsibility for Hal and the Perkins, knowing Beau is a pure bred, think he could be sold for a lot of money (once they get over the guilt of selling a gift). Stalemate. As a consolation prize, Hal’s parents tell him he can build a treehouse in the back yard complete with a telescope. With the help of elderly boat builder and friend, Mr. Seward, Hal not only builds a shipshape treehouse, he develops a keen sense of responsibility. He watches helplessly as Beau, the new canine about town, is blamed for dog fights and attacks on community members. Beau is getting the reputation of being a vicious dog. Hal needs to set the record straight, but how?
The Dog Next Door was beautifully yet sparsely illustrated by Morgan Dennis. I wish there had been more illustrations.

Author fact: Robertson has written other books, but The Dog Next Door is the only one I am reading for the Book Lust Challenge.

Book trivia: This was a hard book to find. Not many libraries had it on their shelves. As an aside, my edition (published in 1950) had seen better days. It had pen marks, rips and holes.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned The Dog Next Door when reminiscing about the books she used to read as a child. I have to admit, it was cool to hold a book old enough that my dad could have read the same copy. He would have been twelve years old and definitely interested in reading about a boy who longed for a boat and a dog of his own.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Great Dogs in Fiction” (p 104). Both Keith and the title of his book were left out of the index.


The Blessing

Orr, Gregory. The Blessing: a Memoir. San Francisco: Council Oaks Books, 2002.

Reason read: April is National Poetry Month. Gregory Orr is known for his fantastic poetry.

This is Gregory Orr’s painful memoir of not only the terrible moment when he shot his brother to death in a hunting accident, but the uncharacteristic way he and his family, tight lipped and stoic, dealt with the pain. Only one week after the tragedy the Orr children were back in school as if nothing happened. Gregory was in the seventh grade at this point. When Orr’s father uprooted the family and took them to Haiti, Gregory, as an adult, is able to look back at the episode and as delve briefly into Haiti’s turbulent political history and conflicting cultures (a mention of Castro and Papa Doc Duvalier) as a perfect comparison to his own family’s unsettled time. It is unbelievable, but even more tragedy followed the Orr family after arriving in Haiti. Once in full adulthood, Orr tries to make sense of his past and his responses to all of its shocking heartache. For example – when his mother died, none of her children were invited to the funeral. Father, a man Gregory once worshiped and wanted all to himself, is later described as having “not a nurturing bone in his body.” What father gives bottles of amphetamines as going away presents to his son while he carrying on a relationship with a girl barely older than Gregory? All of this sounds like a book unbearable to read. It is not. In the end, Gregory is able to find his way through the maze of mixed emotions and come out with the determination to become an accomplished poet.

Lines to ponder, “We were grateful to let something so mysterious and disturbing pass out of memory” (p 85), “Violent trauma shreds the web of meaning” (p 134), and “Poems are discrete artifacts of language that prove someone’s imagination and linguistic gifts have triumphed over disorder in a definitive, shaped way” (p 144-145).

Playlist: “Ti Oiseau,” “Greensleeves,”Somnambule Ballad,” “Keep Your Eye on the Prize,” “Aint Gonna Study War No More,” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “Birmingham Jail,” “We Belong to a Mutual Admiration Society (My Baby and Me),” “We shall Overcome.” Fats Domino, Chubby Checker, Bob Dylan.

To look up: To Die in Madrid: a documentary on the Spanish Civil War and the sculptor, David Smith.

Author fact: Orr also wrote The Caged Owl which is also on my Challenge list. It will be interesting to read the poetry now that I’ve read the memoir. Will I see hints of Orr’s personal life in his lines of poems?

Book trivia: There are no photographs in Orr’s memoir.

Nancy said: Pearl included The Blessing in her list of “beautiful and moving memoirs by poets.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Prose By Poets” (p 194).


Cheaper by the Dozen

Gilbreth, Jr., Frank B. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. Cheaper by the Dozen. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1948.

Reason: April 1st is known as April Fools Day. Cheaper By the Dozen is a foolish story.

The parents of Frank and Ernestine make an interesting couple. She is a psychologist and he is a motion study engineer. Together, they work to make processes more efficient for various business and by default, their twelve children are efficiency aficionados. Why twelve children? As Mr. Gilbreth explains, they were “cheaper by the dozen.” It’s a running joke in the family. Be forewarned, the family has a lot of running jokes.
An example of making a process more efficient: Mr. Gilbreth evaluated surgeons during operations to make their procedures go smoother.
While the bulk of Gilbreth’s story is humorous, it must be said that at the time of writing no one thought it politically or socially incorrect to call a Native American a “red indian.”
I don’t want to give too much away, but the birth control scene was hysterical. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud more than once. And I don’t think it is a spoiler alert to say that I loved the ending. Mother Gilbreth steps fearlessly into her husband’s shoes and carries on the family business. Brilliant.

Favorite dad line, “Some simpleton with pimples in his voice wants to talk to Ernestine” (p 220).

Author fact: Frank and Ernestine are siblings and wrote the book together.

Book Audio trivia: my copy of the audio book was narrated by Dana Ivey and had music before each chapter.
Book trivia: Cheaper by the Dozen was made into a movie more than once. Myrna Loy starred in the first version. My music connection: Josh Ritter has a song called Myrna Loy and the print version was illustrated by Donald McKay.

Playlist: “stumbling,” “Limehouse Blues,” “Last night on the Back Porch,” “Charlie, My Boy,” I’m forever Blowing Bubbles,” “You’ve got to See Mama Every Night or You Can’t See Mama at All,” “Me and the Boy Friend,” “Clap Hands, Here Comes charlie,” “Jadda Jadda Jing Jing Jing.”

Nancy said: Pearl said Cheaper by the Dozen remains one of the funniest books ever.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Humor” (p 166).


Golden Gate

Seth, Vikram. The Golden Gate: a Novel in Verse. New York: Random House, 1986.

Reason read: April is National Poetry Month. I also needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge under the category of a novel in poem form.

This is an early eighties story of a group of people living in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridget in San Francisco. John is a successful but lonely executive looking for some kind of love. His ex-girlfriend-turned-loyal-good-friend, Janet Hayakawa, takes pity on him and places an ad in the personals (a la Rupert Holmes: if you like Pina Coladas). As John goes on bland blind date after bland blind date he finds ways to avoid second encounters with each woman until he meets Liz. It’s practically love at both sight for both of them…until he moves in with her and meets her cat. Competition with a pet is not easy.
Philip Weiss is also looking for love after his wife, Claire Cabot, left him and their young son, Paul. When Philip tries a different sort of love he is confronted with conflicting feelings. Morality, religion, and society’s attitudes guide his choices. These are just a few of the characters in Golden Gate. As the reader, you get to delve into their work, their relationships, their responsibilities. It’s all about human connections. Attitudes towards homosexuality. The loss of love. The ridiculous fights you can have in the throes of love. The fact it is one giant poem is just icing on the cake. I was captivated until the (surprising) end.
It took Vikram thirteen months to finish The Golden Gate.

As an aside, I like the names of the cats: Cuff, Link, and Charlemagne.

Line I liked, “Their brains appear to be dissolving to sugary sludge as they caress” (p 52). Isn’t that what true love is all about?

Playlist: “Apple of My Heart,” Brahms, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Mozart, Schonberg, Grateful Dead. “Beat It” by Michael Jackson.

Author fact: Seth also wrote A Suitable Boy which is on my Challenge List.

Book trivia: Even the Dedication and Acknowledgements are in verse.

Nancy said: Pearl called Golden Gate funny and warm.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. First in the chapter called “California, Here We Come” (p 49), and again in “Poetry: a Novel Idea” (p 186).


Lucky in the Corner

Anshaw, Carol. Lucky in the Corner. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002

Reason read: April is National Dog Month.

In a word, Lucky in the Corner is about relationships. Okay, two words: complicated relationships. Nora and Fern have a strained mother-daughter relationship. Nora had Fern at a young age essentially defying her own deep rooted lesbian reality: she first kissed a girl at age twelve. Now, in a romantic relationship with sophisticated Jeanne, Nora is trying to find common ground with defiant Fern. Her daughter is the type of girl to get a tattoo just to piss off a parent.
Fern works as a psychic knowing full well this too is something her mother will never understand. To be fair, Fern has an uneasy relationship with her mother because she can never quite trust Nora will always be there for Fern. She has felt her mother could disappear at any second, exactly like a not-quite-there hologram. Call it her psychic abilities but Fern senses her mother’s betrayals before they happen. Beyond navigating a complicated relationship with her mother, Fern is also coping with a breakup, the changing relationship with her best friend (who is now a mother herself), and the peripheral relationships with her mother’s girlfriend, Jeanne and Fern’s cross dressing uncle, Harold. The only relationship not changing too much is the one Fern has with her dog, Lucky.

Quote to quote, “One of the most excellent things about him is that he is able to let observations roll to a comfortable spot on the side of the road” (p 203).

Playlist:

  • Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,”
  • “Turn the Ship Around” by David Marquet,
  • Della Reese’s “Someday,”
  • “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin,
  • “Different Drum” by the Stone Poneys,
  • Lena Horne’s version of “Stormy Weather”
  • “If It Makes You Happy” by Sheryl Crow,
  • “Book of Love,”
  • The Supremes’ “Stop in the Name of Love,
  • “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee,
  • “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” by Teresa Brewer,
  • Radiohead,
  • “Volare,”
  • “Misty,”
  • Rage Against the Machine,
  • Beck,
  • Yo-Yo Ma,
  • Judy Garland.

Author fact: Anshaw has written a bunch of other things. I am only reading Lucky in the Corner.

Book trivia: this should be a movie.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Lucky in the Corner as having a character who is either gay or lesbian.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Gay and Lesbian Fiction: Out of the Closet” (p 93). Lucky in the Corner is also mentioned in “Great Dogs in Fiction” (also from Book Lust p 104).


Alice, Let’s Eat

Trillin, Calvin. The Tummy Trililogy: Alice, Let’s Eat. New York: Farrah, Straus and Giroux, 1994.

Reason read: to continue the series started in March for Food Month.

Calvin Trillin has an ever-patient wife. In Alice, Let’s Eat Mrs. Alice Trillin practically steals the show in every chapter she appears. She has great wit. As an example, I loved her “Law of Compensatory Cashflow.” My husband has the same law: if you save a bunch of money by not buying something, you are free to use that savings on something equally as frivolous. At the time of writing, an in-flight meal cost $33. Trillin packs his own “flight picnic” so he can spend the “saved” money somewhere else, maybe on an oyster loaf. Much like American Fried, Alice, Let’s Eat is a collection of humorous essays all about eating and finding the best food across the globe.

As an aside, I need to look up Steve’s Ice Cream in Somerville to see if it still exists.

Sound track: “Hello, Dolly.” Musically related, Trillin visited Owensboro and I couldn’t help but think of Natalie Merchant coving the song, “Owensboro.” No one knows who wrote the old folk song, but it’s a good one.

Author fact: I wanted to find some fact that was “Alice” related. I learned that Trillin and his wife were married just shy of 40 years. She passed away in 2001, just four years shy of their fortieth anniversary.

Book trivia: Alice, Let’s Eat can be read independently of any other book in the Tummy Trilogy.

Nancy said: Pearl called Alice, Let’s Eat a treasure.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Food For Thought” (p 91). Curiously, Alice, Let’s Eat was not included in the index of Book Lust.


Ghost Soldiers

Sides, Hampton. Ghost Soldiers. Anchor Books, New York: 2001.

Reason read: I read somewhere that March has a “Hug a G.I. Day” so I put this on the list. Even though I already had two books for this category, I am also reading Ghost Soldiers for the Portland Public Library’s Reading Challenge for the category of a book where a group works toward one goal. In this case, a group of 121 soldiers work towards rescuing 513 prisoners of war.

A group of 121 personally picked soldiers are called into action. Their mission: to march thirty miles to rescue 513 prisoners of war; survivors of the Bataan Death March. Sides is thorough in his storytelling. Side by side narratives of the rescued and the rescuers. One minute the reader is with the Rangers, planning the daring rescue; the next getting to know the prisoners of war. All the while the Japanese are launching deadly attacks and no one can predict their next erratic move. Using reliable documentation to recreate the drama, diaries, scrapbooks, oral recollections, interviews, correspondence to loved ones, and autobiographies make for an intimate feels-like-you-are-there narrative.
For me, the most moving exploit of the Rangers was when they had the villagers assist them in building an airstrip in one night (a mere five hours) to evacuate a critically wounded doctor. It brought me to tears to think of every man, woman, and child working their hardest in the dead of night to create an airstrip in the jungle for a complete stranger.
An interesting side story is the one of Claire Phillips, aka “High Pockets” working as a spy disguised as a cabaret owner. After she is exposed as a traitor, Sides seemingly ends her story but there is a postscript to her tale.

As an aside, I had to laugh when the deaf soldier was in the latrine during the raid. He missed the entire event; never heard Rangers calling for him; never noticed how quiet the camp was once everyone left.

Quotes I enjoyed, “But you would be amazed at what you can take if you have to” (p 306). Spoken by Robert Body about the march to freedom.

Playlist: Amazing Grace, Home on the Range, Don’t Fence Me In.

Author fact: Sides wrote many other books but I’m not reading any of them.

Book trivia: Ghost Soldiers has a decent collection of photographs including a group of the surviving Prisoners of War and Rangers fifty-five years later. Sides also lists every man held as a prisoner of the Cabanatuan camp. It’s pretty sobering to see all the names compiled on two pages.

Nancy said: Pearl calls Ghost Soldiers a “dramatic story.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “World War II Nonfiction” (p 253).


The Godfather

Puzo, Mario. The Godfather. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1969.

Reason read: March is usually when the Academy Awards are held. The Godfather was awarded nine out of twenty-eight awards. Another reason: The Godfather movie was released on March 15th, 1972. Also: I decided to read it for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge in the category of PPL Book of the Week Pick.

Who does not know the name Don Vito Corleone? Who doesn’t know the infamous “horse head” scene? I haven’t seen the movie but even I have known about these details of The Godfather for decades. People just couldn’t stop talking about the son who was hung like a horse (speaking of horses).
The year is 1945 and World War II is over. Mr. Corleone can go back to his “olive oil” business, if that’s what you want to call it. In reality, this is the story of the Mafia society and all its inner workings. Vito Corleone rules his family from Long Island inside a well fortified compound. Outwardly, he is a quiet, friendly, benevolent, and fair man. He never forgets a debt. Underneath his reasonableness is a ruthless and vengeful gang leader who will stop at nothing to protect his empire of gambling, bookmaking, and controlling the unions. Other “families” are branching out; delving in drugs and prostitution. Don Corleone wants no part of that action but how long can he control business when these vices grow stronger? Even his own sons look like they might betray him. Who will take up the charge and protect the Corleone name?

As an aside, I found it really hard to picture the characters in The Godfather. All of my imagination was consumed by stereotypical Italian traits.

Quotes to quote, “If you had built up a wall of friendships you wouldn’t have to ask for help” (p 38). A true life lesson.

Author fact: Puzo has also written The Fortunate Pilgrim and Dark Arena. Has anyone heard of these books…especially when The Godfather overshadows them all?

Book trivia: The Godfather is part of a larger series.

Nancy said: Pearl compares The Godfather to the HBO show “The Sopranos.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Italian American Writers” (p 129).


American Fried

Trillin, Calvin. American Fried. New York: Noonday Press, 1983.

Reason read: March is Food Month

American Fried takes its readers from Kansas City (okay, mostly Kansas City) to New York to Louisiana and beyond on a culinary journey of “good eats” as Guy Fieri would say. Trillin approaches the subject of food and eating with humor and, dare I say, a little sarcasm? He takes a few jabs at the notion French cuisine is superior to all others. He is not one for “fine” dining and he is a man who takes his cream cheese seriously. Pardon the pun, but each essay is loaded like a baked potato: full of fun tidbits.
Not to point out the obvious but American Fried is a little dated. The price of a steak in the mid-1970s is drastically different than today.
As an aside: have you ever seen the show, “Somebody Feed Phil” on I-Forget-Which-Channel? At the end of each episode Phil Skypes with his family and shares a delicacy with them over the screen. Phil’s wife is great and while reading American Fried I wondered if Alice was anything like her.
As another aside, rugelach is Trillin’s favorite pastry. It’s very high on my list, too.

Line I liked, “Hallucinations people suffer when gripped by the fever of Hometown Food Nostalgia” (p 10-11).

Author fact: American Fried was first published as “Adventures of a Happy Eater” in 1974.

Book trivia: American Fried is the first book in the Tummy Trilogy. My edition of American Fried has a new foreword.

Nancy said: Pearl said Trillin “approaches food with humor and much gusto” and called the essays “a treasure” (Book Lust p 91).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Food For Thought” (p 91). Interestingly enough, all three of Trillin’s books were left out of the index.


Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years

Sandburg, Carl. Abraham Lincoln: the Prairie Years, Volume One. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1926.

Reason read: February 12th the is birthday of President Lincoln. Read in his honor.

Sandburg’s portrait of Abraham Lincoln is detailed, expressive, poignant, and at many times, repetitive and rambling. In the Prairie Years Sandburg, despite filling the book with long and meandering passages, has an overall lyrical language which is to be expected from a writer who is a talented poet first and foremost. He introduces our nation’s sixteenth president as being a captivating and complicated human being long before Lincoln entered the White House. Sandburg starts Lincoln’s story by portraying him as a quiet and sensitive child whose dreams were very important to him; catching the symbolisms of life at an early age. Later, as an adult, Lincoln would see his dreams and symbolisms as a connection to his future. As a teenager, learning became Lincoln’s obsession. He was said to always have a book in his hand; that he was constantly reading. I have an image of him studying big law books while plowing his father’s fields. All that book reading didn’t mean Lincoln was a soft sissy, though. Lincoln was the Superman of his day. As Sandburg frequently points out, because Abe was so tall and strong with “bulldog courage,” people were constantly challenging him to foot races, wrestling matches, and fist fights: anything to prove their strength against him. Sandburg seems proud to report most times these challengers lost.
In the midst of industry’s wheels just starting to turn, slavery was seen as a profitable business. At the same time, at the age of twenty-three, Lincoln’s political wheels were just starting to turn as well. He wasn’t interested in drinking or fishing. He wanted to continue to learn the law. He became a postmaster so he could have access to newspaper. In the first installment of Sandburg’s biography, we learn Lincoln grew into a complicated man with many sides. Lincoln the storyteller, always telling jokes and stories. Lincoln the neighbor, ready to help a friend, stranger, or animal in need. Lincoln the silent and sad, afraid to carry a pocketknife for fear of harming himself. Sandburg quotes Lincoln as once saying, “I stay away because I am conscious I should not know how to behave myself” (p 22).

Just think of the contemporaries of Lincoln’s day! John Marshall, Daniel Webster; Andrew Jackson was President, Edgar Allan Poe had just been thrown out of West Point and decided to become a writer, Charles Darwin started his journey on the Beagle, Johnnie Appleseed was starting to walk about with seeds in his pockets…

I have come to the conclusion I would have liked to have known Abraham Lincoln, even before he became President of the United States. He had a quick wit and an even faster sense of humor. I would have been drawn to his melancholy, too.

Lines I loved, “Days when he sank deep in the stream of human life and felt himself kin of all that swam in it, whether the waters were crystal or mud” (p 77).

Author fact: Carl Sandburg is better known as a poet. However, he did win a Pulitzer in History for Abraham Lincoln: the War Years (which I am not reading for the Challenge. Go figure.

Book trivia: Abraham Lincoln is a six volume set. I am only reading the first two volumes.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about either volume of Abraham Lincoln: the Prairie Years.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1920s” (p 175).


Riddley Walker

Hoban, Russell. Riddley Walker. New York: Summit books, 1980.

Reason read: Hoban’s birth month is in February. Read in his honor.

I wanted to like Riddley Walker. I really, really did. The problem is that I am not a science fiction consumer by any means. This book will demand your entire attention and hijack your time, thanks to a language that at first blush just looks like horribly spelled English. It’s trickier than that and way more brilliant. I didn’t have the time or inclination to get into it beyond fifty pages. The story opens with Riddley becoming a man at twelve years old. In post-apocalyptical English Kent, civilization is starting over from tribal scratch. Men carry spears and need to relearn skills like rediscovering fire in order to survive. Once man’s best friend, dogs are now killing machines that roam the streets in packs. Riddley finds symbolism in everything.
As an aside, the salvaging of iron reminded me of the opening scene of the movie “The Full Monty.” Aha! A movie I have seen! 😉

Lines I managed to like, “I don’t think it makes no differents where you start the telling of a thing” (p 8). Too true.

Author fact: Hoban was inspired to write Riddley Walker after seeing medieval wall art in a cathedral.

Book trivia: Riddley Walker won a few sci-fi awards and was nominated for a Nebula in 1981. It was also the inspiration for many plays. The movie “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” used themes from Riddley Walker.

Nancy said: Pearl had a lot to say about Riddley Walker. She starts by calling it one of the best of the postapocalyptic genre of novels. She then goes on to say she “doesn’t know of another novel that could arguably be called science fiction which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award as well as the Nebula Award” (More Book Lust p 115). She finishes her praise by offering a suggestion for understanding the language: read it out loud, as her mother did.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter “Russell Hoban: Too Good To Miss” (p 114). This book finishes the chapter for me.


Liar’s Game

Dickey, Eric Jerome. Liar’s Game. Rockland, MA: Wheel Publishing, Inc., 2000.

Reason read: Read in recognition of Black History month being in February. Also, I needed a book for the Portland Public Reading challenge for the category of a book written in multiple perspectives.

Vincent Calvary Browne, Jr. is a Negro Black Man trying to date after divorce. His ex-wife cheated. Adding insult to injury, she left him taking their three year old daughter out of the country. Baggage, baggage, baggage. Dana Ann Smith is a single woman trying to land on her feet in Los Angeles after leaving heavy debts and an even heavier romance in New York. Baggage, baggage, baggage. When Vince and Dana meet they are immediately attracted to one another. They seem like the perfect fit. However, in an effort to present their best selves to one another they hide their secrets under a pile of lies and more lies. Sooner or later, those lies start to reveal themselves as the couple gets more and more involved and Dana’s ex arrives from New York. Can Dana see beyond Vince’s lie about never being married or having children? Can she respect him as a father with an ex-wife? Can Vince hear Dana over the warning bells about her debt? Can he trust she is truly over her rich and hunky ex? What makes Liar’s Game so much fun is the varying perspectives of the same story. As the saying goes, there are are always three sides to every story: his side, her side, and the truth. Dickey gives us all three.
A word of warning – the writing is a little dated. In today’s society, I don’t think many people would consider a cell phone a piece of technology for players.
I have to admit even though the sex scenes were a bit cliché it was refreshing to see a condom play a major role in the hot and heavy relationships. There is even a scene when the condom gets “lost.”

Simple but great lines to quote, “Hard living and bad loving ages a man” (p 2), “A smile is the shortest distance between two people” (p 6).

Author fact: Dickey died of cancer in January of this year. Sad.

Book trivia: I could see this as a movie or a daytime soap opera.

Nancy said: Pearl mentions Liar’s Game as another good example of fiction written by an African American male.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “African American Fiction: He Say” (p 13).


Blanche on the Lam

Neely, Barbara. Blanche on the Lam. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.

Reason read: January is Mystery month. Reading Blanche on the Lam in honor of the month. Additionally, for the Portland Public Library 2021 Reading Challenge, I needed a book for category of Agatha Award winner.

Blanche White is a special kind of sassy woman; not your average maid. When we first meet her in Farleigh, North Carolina, she is waiting to go to jail; convicted of writing bad checks. This is her second offense so she knows the judge is going to throw the book at her: thirty days in jail if only to set an example. When she unexpectedly finds an opportunity to slip away from the bailiff, she takes it quiet as you please. Just slips out the back door of the courthouse.
Through a series of misunderstandings Blanche ends up working as “the help” for an upper class white family: Everette, Grace, Mumsfield, and Aunt Emmeline. Luckily, Blanche has her wicked humor and uncanny intuition because from the moment she starts working for the family, she can tell something is wrong with all of them except mentally challenged Mumsfield. It wasn’t just from eavesdropping on Everett’s conversation with the sheriff, despite the sheriff’s death the very next day. It wasn’t from observing the odd behavior of alcoholic and seemingly senile Aunt Emmeline, who never leaves her room. It wasn’t from the gardener who perishes in an “accidental” house fire. It was from watching and talking with Mumsfield. From the moment they met Blanche had a special connection to the boy; he was always on her radar whether she liked it or not.
Blanche on the Lam, while humorous also carries the stark reality of sexism, racism and prejudice. Neely deftly weaves these sobering themes through an otherwise funny plot.

As an aside, I listened to an audio recording of Blanche on the Lam read by Lisa Renee Pitts. Her performance was brilliant.

Author fact: Blanche on the Lam is Barbara Neely’s first novel.

Book trivia: Blanche on the Lam won the Agatha Award in 1992.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Blanche on the Lam.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 119).


Will Eisner’s New York: the Big City: New York

Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: the Big City: New York. New York: D.C. Comics, 1981.

Reason read: Will Eisner passed away in the month of January. Read in his memory.

Every time I think of New York I cannot help but also think of Natalie Merchant’s song, “Carnival.” How could I not? It’s an homage to a great city of contradiction. Her line, “A wild-eyed mystic prophet, on a traffic island, stopped and he raved of saving me” evokes so many conflicting emotions. Thanks to my nephew being born in New York City, I got to waken a dormant love for the Big Apple. Sights, smells, and sounds that are often times distasteful to some (like my husband), fill me with inexplicable energy and ambition. I want to run Central Park like I live on the upper west side. It’s as if New York’s grit and grime are tangible forms of strength and tenacity that speak loudly to me. In New York, Will Eisner captures perfectly the stark reality of the big city’s silent and subtle struggles. You can smell the stench of all corners of New York, hear the frenetic activity in every sentence. But, look and look again very carefully. There is power in what isn’t said. Look at the illustration of the people riding the subway. You can almost hear the rattle of the rails; and when the train grinds to a halt during a blackout there’s that one guy who doesn’t change expression. As the minutes tick by, the people around him slowly start to panic while he stoically stares ahead. There truly is always that one guy and if you were on that train, you would see him. This is a portrait of an important city doing unimportant things, all lovingly expressed in a series of vignettes; the constants of New York: Avenue C which connect the East side to West, the importance of stoops, the sentinels of the City (hydrants, mailboxes, traffic signals, lampposts, windows, and sewers), and the people. You can read the entire thing in minutes, but that only means you have time to read it again and again and again.

Best quotes, “The big city is after all a hive of concrete and steel in which living things swarm. Depositing, in the course of their lives, the residue of their existence, in the countless garbage cans that sit dumbly amid the swirl” (p 41).

Author fact: Will Eisner popularized the term “graphic novel.”

Book trivia: After New York the tribute to New York continues with The Building, City People Notebook, and, Invisible People.

Nancy said: Pearl said she really enjoyed New York.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “New York City: A Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).