Wicked Pavilion

Powell, Dawn. Novels 1944 – 1962: The Wicked Pavilion. New York: Library of the America, 2001.

Reason read: Powell was born in November. Read in her honor. Powell also died in the month of November. Also read in her memory.

The first word that comes to mind when I think of The Wicked Pavilion is snarky. To flesh that out, it is a snarky satire about New York in all its glory. This is the second postwar satire Powell published and with every intent, laid bare all of Greenwich Village’s shortcomings. Set mostly in Cafe Julien, Pavilion’s characters are all hot messes. Unsuccessful in romance and unsuccessful at success they spend a great deal of time whining and complaining to and about each other.

Quotes I really liked, “We get sick of our clinging vines…but the day comes when we suspect that the vines are all that hold our rotting branches together” (p 697) and “She was never to be spared, Ellenora thought, a little frightened at the role he had given her of forever forgiving him and then consoling him for having hurt her, inviting more hurt by understanding and forgiving it” (p 720). Such a hopeless situation.

Author fact: Powell also wrote My home is Far Away, The Locusts Have No King, and The Golden Spur. All of these titles are on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: According to the chronology in Novels 1944 – 1962, Powell begins work on Wicked Pavilion in 1950 but doesn’t publish it until four years later (p 950 – 952).

Nancy said: Pearl just said Gore Vidal wrote an essay about the works of Dawn Powell for David Madden’s Rediscoveries and Rediscoveries II (both on my Challenge list) which is how Pearl came to include them in More Book Lust.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Book Lust of Others” (p 33).


Echo Burning

Child, Lee. Echo Burning. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2001.

Reason read: to continue the series started in July…

Jack Reacher always seems to end up on the wrong side of the law. It’s almost as if he thrives on being framed. Damned if he does…damned if he doesn’t. This time, on the run for beating up a cop, Reacher finds himself involved with helping a battered Mexican woman escape her racist white husband. Even when all signs point to Carmen being a liar Reacher stays. Even when he has the means to walk away from this prejudice drama Reacher stays. He stays because he believes Carmen and her small daughter really are in grave danger. [My comment here is for all Reacher’s insistence to avoid real world attachments, for he has no clothes, no house, no bank accounts, no car, no family or friends…he certainly gets entrapped by attachments of the heart often enough. He can’t say no to a lady in need. But, this is the first time in the series Reacher doesn’t get sexually involved. Carmen certainly tries to seduce him in order to guarantee his help getting away from her husband; and the woman Reacher is attracted to turns out to be a lesbian.
But, back to the plot. This is Texas where the heat is oppressive and ranch families are even more so. Reacher’s damsel in distress finally takes matters into her own hands. Again, Reacher could walk away. Case closed. But. He can’t.

As an aside, I love how crafty Child can get with the details. He makes one villain of a subplot smoke in a rented vehicle leaving ash everywhere thereby forcing the rental agency to thoroughly clean the car of his existence when he returns it.

Author fact: In a previous novel, Child gave us a play by play of exactly how a gun works. This time, he knows horses; how to saddle them, ride them, care for them.

Book trivia: a Crown Vic and a gun of some kind always seems to show up in a Jack Reacher novel. Additionally, Echo Burning is the fourth book out of eight Pearl recommended reading.

Nancy said: Pearl said it was not necessary to read Child’s books in order. However, I find it helpful to stick to the chronology because Reacher’s story continues in each installment. For example, at the end of the previous book Reacher’s girlfriend leaves him to take a job in London. He wasn’t too broken up about it by the time you catch up with him in Echo Burning, but how he explained the situation to his new damsel in distress is interesting because I already knew the situation.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter “Lee Child: Too Good To Miss” (p 41).


Sporting Club

McGuane, Thomas. The Sporting Club. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1968.

Reason read: The Mackinac Bridge was built in November of 1957.

To be honest with you, I’m not really sure what this book was trying to say. I could spout off about a general plot, the characters and the like, but really I don’t know if I landed on the reality what I read.
You have Vernon Stanton and James Quinn for main characters. All Quinn wants to do is be a gentleman and have gentlemanly sex with Janey or anyone who will have him, but unfortunately he keeps running into trouble with loose cannon Stanton; constantly getting caught up in the childish antics of his childhood chum. Stanton is a millionaire with a nasty habit of picking up dueling pistols at the slightest provocation. His behavior is often times outrageous and crass. I couldn’t land on a solid plot that made sense and I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities in the characters I met. There was an abundance of posturing, butt sniffing, and pardon my language, dick measuring. Luckily, it was a short read.

Quote I happened to like, “He was close enough to his success to be spurred on by amazement” (p 22).

Author fact: McGuane is better known for his third book, Ninety-Two in the Shade (also on my Challenge list and completed) which was nominated for a National Book Award in 1974.

Book trivia: The Sporting Club is McGuane’s first novel.

Nancy said: Pearl called the fiction of McGuane “exquisitely tough and gritty” (p 101).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Gone Fishin'” (p 100). I have to say The Sporting Club doesn’t really belong in this chapter. The sport of fishing does take place in the book but not often enough.


Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows

Chamoiseau, Patrick. Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows. Translated by Linda Coverdale. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska, 1988.

Reason read: October is the month to celebrate Magical Realism.

The spiritual awakenings of the long dead undead and the magical presence of the beam of everlasting moonlight across the wayward ocean of the Caribbean. Siloce, Hepla, Kouli, Mam Elo, Ti-Boute, Fefee Celie, Anatase, Ti-Choute, Bidjoule, and all the others thread their way through witchcraft markets teeming with childbirth and djobbers like Didon, Sirop, Pin-Pon, Lapochide, Sifilon and our hero, Pipi Soleil. It takes thirty pages to get to Pipi Soleil through abundant pregnancies and whatnot, but Pipi as as king of the wheelbarrow takes center stage. The first thing you need to understand is this is a story told by ghosts and witchcraft and moves back and forth through time as though sequence is of no matter, because it isn’t. Spanning thirty years from the mid 1940s to the mid 1970s, Martinique’s Fort-de-France teems full of djobbers, independent transporters of wares and Pipi Soleil rules them all. He once hauled his wares by boat but after one particularly stormy night he gave up the sea for a wheelbarrow. Even if the plot does not grab you, the lyrical writing will.

Confessional: I have said this before. I am not a good reader of magical realism. I find myself annoyed by the seemingly unrelated fantastical. Seems like more of a trick to me than a treat.

Lines I lived, “She was going to grab fate, she said, by a different end” (p 18), “the young couple made their love debut in this setting – which isn’t of the slightest importance” (p 29), and “She dumped out a big basket of weariness and brought laughter and smiles back form some lost corner of her mind” (p 85).

Author fact: Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows was Chamoiseau’s first novel.

Book trivia: Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows was first published in France in 1986.

Nancy said: Peal called Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows a “vivid” novel.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Contradictory Caribbean: Paradise and Pain” (p 55).


October Light

Gardner, John. October Light. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.

Reason read: Autumn in New England is pretty fantastic. October Light takes place (mostly) in Vermont.

When I first picked up October Light I thought it was going to be this old-timey story about two elderly siblings, living in seething resentment of one another in a farmhouse somewhere in Vermont. Admittedly, the book jacket didn’t give me much to go on.
So, the plot: James Page is angry at the world. So angry he can’t stand his sister Sally’s droning television and ends up silencing it with a shotgun blast. The shooting of the television sets in motion a series of events – James locks Sally in a room (but seemingly not her own room because she finds a trashy novel which doesn’t belong to her). She becomes absorbed in said trashy novel; literally can’t put it down and refuses to come out of the bedroom, even when her niece convinces James to free her. James doesn’t care either way. In truth, he is not without deep rooted grief, a grief that has hardened to him. One son committed suicide and another died in an accident. James’s sister, widowed and a polar opposite, does nothing to comfort him. The epic sibling battle lasts for the entire book and escalates to a catastrophic ending.
I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy the frame novel technique. Sally’s trashy novel seemed to be the story Gardner really wanted to write. There is no explanation of how this trashy novel came to be in her room until the end. In truth, the story came alive for me in the last fifty pages.

Confessional: the phrase “New England piss and vinegar” had me smiling. Yes, I know the type.

Line I liked, “It was a fact if life that if people knew what you were feeling they could work you around” (p 64).

Author fact: October Light uses the framed novel technique of a story within a story. Gardner does a great job with both voices.

Book trivia: October Light was illustrated by Elaine Raphael and Don Bolognese.

Nancy said: Pearl said October Light was another good novel set in New England. Really, I would beg to differ. Because this is a framed novel only a portion of it takes place in Vermont and even then the location is a rundown Vermont farmhouse. Not a lot of it takes place out and about in New England. Only at the end do you get a real sense of what it is like to live in New England…the covered bridges, mud season, endless waiting for spring…

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “New England Novels” (p 177).


Running Blind

Child, Lee. Running Blind. New York: Berkley, 2000.

Reason read: to continue the series started in July (the month New York became a state) because Lee Child lives there…or did at the time of publication. Confessional: I thought I was supposed to read Echo Burning next. I am glad I was wrong.

There are so many twists to Running Blind that it might feel a little like walking through a haunted house. You never know when something is going to pop out at you, but because stuff does pop out at you, and with alarming frequency, you come to expect the surprises. They might not even shock you over time. The premise of Running Blind is former military women are being murdered all over the country. The cause of death is a mystery. There are no fatal wounds, no signs of a struggle, none of the women defending themselves, there wasn’t even forced entry into their homes. The commonality between each murdered victim besides military connections is Jack Reacher. Of course. What makes this story like all the others is that government officials keep trying to pin the murders on Reacher. He’s always guilty in every book. What makes this story slightly different from the rest is this time Reacher has a serious girlfriend, a lawyer to help bail him out.

Author fact: Child calls himself an “insatiable reader” (from an interview). Indeed, his website’s homepage has him reading on a couch. It’s a great photo.

Book trivia: confessional: the end of this book is a little hokey. I had a hard time swallowing the “whodunit” at the grand finale. Yes, pun totally intended. Once you read the book you will get it. I promise. Another book trivia: Running Blind was published as The Visitor in the United Kingdom.

Nancy said: Pearl said to read child in order. Luckily for me I didn’t pay attention to her order. She places Echo Burning before Running Blind. According to Wikipedia and Child’s own site, Echo was published the year after Running.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Lee Child: Too Good To Miss” (p 41).


Jamesland

Huneven, Michelle. Jamesland. New York: Random House, 2003.

Reason read: October is Mental Health Awareness month.

The theme for this book is crazy. Seriously. Every character has their own special brand of crazy. Alice Black think she’s going crazy after confronting a deer in her living room in the middle of the night. Former crazy talented head chef Pete Ross knows he’s going crazy after attempting suicide a few times for no apparent reason. Unitarian minister Helen Harland has her own brand of crazy dealing with a mean-spirited church administration who gave her a lukewarm performance evaluation. How these three meet and deal with their separate brands of crazy is the heart and soul of the story. They are completely different people and yet. Yet! Yet, they bond over the insanities (my word) in their lives.
Alice Black is trying to get over a breakup with a married man. As she struggles to make sense of the lies (“For sure I’m going to leave my famous-actress wife…”) she befriends Helen in the hopes of understanding the meaning of a frightened deer in her living room. Helen is desperate for any kind of friends and has a habit of pulling anyone and everyone, including the wife of Alice’s affair, into her orbit. She hopes they help her make sense of her life. Then there is divorced and messy Pete who still lives with his mother, who still lives under the thumb of his mother. Helen insists on keeping him in her crazy circle of friends.
At the center of all this drama is Alice’s great-great grandfather, William James, Henry James’s lesser known brother. He is the key to spiritual awakening, with the help of a crazy medium, of all three.

Quotes to quote, “Walking in such public areas made him feel more acutely the lunatic at large” (p 257) and “It counts as an honor to cut up a euthanized hippopotamus” (p 379).

Author fact: Huneven also wrote Round Rock, which is not on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: I could see this as a movie.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Jamesland but in the intro to the chapter she said some of the books “have unexpected depth” I think she was talking about Jamesland.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Just Too Good To Miss” (p 132).