“The Answers”

Simak, Clifford. “The Answers.” Strangers in the Universe. New York: Berkley Publishing, 1950.

Reason read: June is National Short Story Month.

The Dog, the Human, the Spider and the Globe are exploring an abandoned village. They had stumbled upon it quite by accident and the discovery took them by surprise, especially the Human. So much so that he decides to stay behind. The ever loyal Dog leaves him some provisions, including his own food. The role reversal is telling.

Quote I liked, “There was more to the human race than gadgetry” (p 103).

Author fact: Simak won three Hugo Awards and a Nebula.

Book trivia: Strangers in the Universe was Simak’s first collection of short stories.

Nancy said: Pearl said Simak’s short stories shouldn’t be missed. She mentions “The Answers” as one of his best.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


Love in Amsterdam

Freeling, Nicholas. Love in Amsterdam. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.

Reason read: Police Week is May 15th – 20th…or something like that.

When we meet first Martin he has already been locked up for two weeks for allegedly murdering his ex-lover, Elsa.
In the first sections of Love in Amsterdam Inspector Van der Valk is an unusual cop with unorthodox methods of investigation. It is up to him to solve the crime and I have to admit, he is the most interesting part of the whole story. His philosophy this: it doesn’t matter whether Martin says or believes he is innocent or if he is in fact guilty as all get out. Inspector Van der Valk is going to let Martin into his confidences and listen to every rambling theory. He is going to allow Martin in on every part of the detailed investigation because the more he and Martin spend together the more the truth will emerge. Sooner or later Inspector Van der Valk will get his man. It is an unusual way to go about solving a crime, allowing his best suspect to be an active part of the investigation, but it works.
The second part of Love in Amsterdam is all about Martin’s past revealing motive for the murder: how he knew the victim, the subsequent relationship they had, and how it all fell apart in the end. Is this section supposed to cast doubt on Martin’s innocence?
The final section is a frantic wrapping up of the case. The murderer is revealed and Inspector Van der Valk gets his man.
Stanley Ellin said it best when he described Love in Amsterdam as having “the sinister, spellbinding perfection of a cobra uncoiling.” That is definitely true for the first part of the story.

Quotes to quote, “Dead bodies are not frightening nor are they communicative” (p 21) and “Professor Comenius watched everything with slightly protuberant, healthy lobster eyes” (p 142).

Author fact: Freeling was British, lived in Holland, and died in France.

Book trivia: Love in Amsterdam was Freeling’s first book. It was made into a television show for the BBC as well.

Nancy said: Pearl said “Freeling’s psychological mysteries…remain a classic of the genre” ( Book Lust p 120).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 117).


History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews…

Fielding, Henry. The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and His Friend Mr. Abraham Adams. Edited by R.F. Brissenden. London: Penguin, 1977.

Reason read: I needed a epistolary novel for the Portland Public Library 2019 Reading Challenge. Pearl said this was epistolary when it is not.

Joseph Andrews starts off as a parable of the Good Samaritan with chastity and charity the central themes. Main character Joseph Andrews is a footman for Lady Booby. When her husband dies suddenly, Joseph is forced to ward off her amorous advances. In an effort to get away from Mrs. Booby Joseph travels to see his true love, Fanny. Along the way he is robbed and beaten but no one wants to help him. Sound familiar? It seems as if Fielding is fixated on responding to Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. There are other ties to Pamela. Fielding makes Pamela the brother of Joseph.
Along Joseph’s journey is accompanied by tutor and pastor Mr. Adams. A large chunk of History of the Adventures is Parson Adams’s adventures.
As an aside, what is up with all the goofy names? Mrs. Slipslop, Mrs. Booby, Tow-Wouse, Peter Pounce, Gaffar and Gammar Andrews, to name a few.

Quotes to quote, “The law makes us provide for too many already” (p 29) and “Riches can set any man above the law” (p 59).

Author fact: So. I was reading the author biography in the Penguin edition of Joseph Andrews and was shocked to read, “he attempted to abduct an heiress” (p). What the what?! A more benign fact is that Fielding started his writing career as a satirical poet.

Book trivia: Joseph Andrews was written ten months after Shamela and was supposed to be a comic epic poem.

Nancy said: Shamela is part of Joseph Andrews. What I think she meant to say is that they are more often than not published together in the same volume. Shamela was published first. Joseph Andrews came later and is not epistolary in nature.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Epistolary Novels: Take a Letter” (p 79). In Book Lust it is indexed as just Joseph Andrews and not with the full title.


June Not Jumping

This has become a morbid joke but I’m not going to the island so there is no chance of me jumping off anything this month. There is time for books, though. Here’s the list:

Fiction:

  • Book of Reuben by Tabitha King – in honor of June being the month when a lot of people (my sister included) like to get married.
  • Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – in honor of Suicide Prevention Day being in June in some states.
  • Sun Storm by Asa Larsson – in honor of Larsson’s birth month being in June.

Nonfiction:

  • Soldiers of God by Robert Kaplan – in honor of Kaplan’s birth month being in June.
  • From a Persian Tea House by Michael Carroll – in recognition of Khomeini’s death in the month of June.

Series continuations:

  • Because of the Cats by Nicholas Freeling – to continue the series started in May.
  • Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the never-ending series started in January.
  • Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in April.
  • Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian – to continue the series started in May.

Short stories for National Short Story Month:

  • “Shadow Show” by Clifford Simak
  • “The Answers” by Clifford Simak
  • “The Life and Times of Estelle…” by Sherman Alexie
  • “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie
  • “Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield
  • “At the Rialto” by Connie Willis

May Flowers Books

I can’t even begin to describe May. My first time to the Southwest. My first time traveling with family. Many different firsts. But, enough of that. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • The Man in Gray Flannel by Sloan Wilson
  • Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler
  • Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor
  • Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
  • Five Children and It by E. Nesbit

Nonfiction:

  • Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs
  • Farthest North by Dr. Fridtjof Nansen

Series Continuation:

  • Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
  • Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters

Morbid Taste for Bones

Peters, Ellis. Morbid Taste for Bones. New York: Warner Books, 1994.

Reason read: the first Thursday in May is the start of Prayer Week.

Morbid Taste for Bones is the first book in the Cadfael Chronicles. In a nutshell: Prior Robert is looking a saint for his abbey. The abbey is in dire need of some reputable relics and not finding anything within his region Prior Robert has the idea to branch out to Wales. He has heard of a saint buried in Gwytherin where her ghost claimed in a dream mistreatment and neglect of her grave. She requests a burial elsewhere. Of course there is drama when Robert and a crew of support show up to exhume her. Words are exchanged but because of the late hour both parties agree to take up the argument the next day. The new day brings a fresh murder. Only Cadfael recognizes the death for what is truly was, a framing of an innocent man. This always happens when there is a love triangle. Read the book for more…

Author fact: Ellis Peters is the pen name of Edith Mary Pargeter.

Book trivia: The Cadfael Chronicles were adapted for television in 1996.

Nancy said: Pearl calls Morbid Taste for Bones one of her favorites. She includes it in the Book Lust section of amateur detectives (when the true occupation is something else). In More Book Lust she says Morbid Taste for Bones is “a pleasurable way to learn about British history” and that the best “pure mysteries featuring a member of the clergy are those by Ellis Peters (More Book Lust p 87).

BookLust Twist: from both Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 117) and More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: the Family of the Clergy” (p 86). As an aside, this last chapter always reminds me of Natalie’s Tiny Desk Concert with NPR when she teaches the staff to sing “Weeping Pilgrim.”


Man in Gray Flannel

Wilson, Sloan. The Man in Gray Flannel. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002.

Reason read: Wilson was born in the month of May. Read in his honor.

This is the story of Tom Rath and economic survival in the 1950s era. Tom’s wife, Betsy and their three children want the good life. Tom is determined to give it to them, even if it means slogging to work doing a job he doesn’t completely enjoy. When a new prospect for employment pops up Rath jumps at the chance to move up the ladder but it is not without consequences.
The Man in Gray Flannel epitomizes the proverbial meaning of life in a material world. It is also a study of 1950s conformity and climbing the corporate ladder. You have one man who is a slave to his workaholic lifestyle and is miserable because of it while another man is angry because he can never get ahead. Tom’s boss, from the outside, projects an image of ease and calm amidst his wealth while Tom encounters roadblocks in every aspect of his life. The new higher paying job is not what he thought it would be. Secrets from his time as a solider in World War II will not stay buried. His wife wants more and more. Even the seemingly straightforward last will and testament of his grandmother’s estate doesn’t seem to be in his favor.
Confessional: the odd thing is, despite all of Tom’s setbacks and struggles, I couldn’t entirely feel for him. I felt more for his boss.

Author fact: This is Sloan Wilson’s first book.

Book trivia: The Man in Gray Flannel is autobiographical.

Nancy said: Pearl said absolutely nothing about The Man in Gray Flannel.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade:1950” (p 177).