Ethel and Ernest

Briggs, Raymond. Ethel and Ernest: a True Story. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.

Reason read: May is Graphic Novel month. I read that somewhere.

This is Raymond Brigg’s story of his parents as a couple from the moment they met until death did them part. Simplistic in graphic novel form but powerful in message. What started off as an accidental communication for the couple kicked off a poignant romance that lasted fifty years. Brigg’s loving tribute continues through his parents’s courtship and marriage, his mom giving birth to him at 38 years old (their only child), the war and the political aftermath, the ravages of aging, and finally each of their deaths. What makes the retelling so heartwarming is Brigg’s ability to communicate parental emotion. Every fear, hope, happiness and expectation they felt towards their son was delivered and exposed in loving detail.

Author fact: Briggs was removed from his parents (evacuated during the war for safety) when he was five years old.

Book trivia: Ethel and Ernest is a graphic novel.

Nancy said: Pearl called Ethel and Ernest a “touching story” (Book Lust p 103).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Graphic Novels” (p 103). Interestingly enough, the title Ethel and Ernest and author Raymond Briggs are missing from the index.


Spring Pages

I will be traveling for part of May so who knows how many books I’ll be able to read for this month. Here is the list I will attempt:

Fiction:

  • Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson – in honor of May being Wilson’s birth month.
  • Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs – in honor of Graphic Novel month being in May.
  • Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler – in honor of May is Museum Month.
  • Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor- in honor of May being Music Month.
  • Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters – in honor of the first Thursday in May being Prayer Week.
  • Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian – in honor of my father’s birth month. As a kid he read this book.
  • Five Children and It by E. Nesbit – in honor of May being Nesbit’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • Farthest North by Fridtjof Nansen – in honor of Peary’s birth month being in May. From one explorer to another.

Series continuations:

  • Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
  • Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in honor of Trollope’s birth month in April.

Crossers

Caputo, Philip. Crossers. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.

Reason read: Arizona became a state in February.

Be prepared to go on an epic journey crisscrossing time when you read Crossers. Caputo will seize you by the scruff of your psyche to take you back and forth from the New York of September 11th, 2001 to the wild west of the early 1900s. You will bounce from the dirty roads of rural Mexico to the tranquil streets of Connecticut. Characters from all walks of life will march across the page: ruthless drug lords and crusty wild west outlaws; graceful artists and desperate illegal aliens. At the center of the story is one man, Gil Castle. Consumed by grief after losing his wife in the 9/11 attacks, Gil retreats to his generations old family’s ranch in a remote corner of southwest Arizona. There he joins his uncle and cousin and tries to rebuild his heart while mending fences, tending cattle, and fighting off mules and murderers. In this respite he thought he could escaped the senseless violence of the terror attacks, but when the present day ancestors of ancient ghosts come seeking revenge for something his grandfather had done, Gil realizes his own family’s past has a dark and dangerous story to tell and he will pay the price.

The line that gripped me, “The interregnum of fear that had gripped him on the train had passed; as grief, the true monarch of his heart, resumed its oppression” (p 32).

Author fact: Caputo also wrote Horn of Africa, which is also on my list.

Book trivia: This could have been a movie.

Nancy said: Pearl said “There are many good reads, both fiction and nonfiction, about an important but bleak subject: the hazards of illegally crossing the Arizona-Mexico border. Two of the best novels I’ve discovered are Philip Caputo’s Crossers and…” (Book Lust To Go p 31).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “AZ You Like It” (p 30).


Alice in Sunderland

Talbot, Bryan. Alice in Sunderland. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books,  2007

Reason read: April Fools

One word: savor. Savor this book slowly. It’s only 319 pages but let every page have it’s moment in time. This is a beautiful piece of art, chock full of culture, biography, history, creative use of the English language (“follow your spirit” with a picture of someone chasing a vodka truck), a comic book inside a graphic novel, brimming with literary references (Thirty-Nine Steps and Rugby, the same school made infamous by Tom Brown’s Schooldays, to name a few) and much, much more. This is a comprehensive walk through history with a myriad of people and places leading the way. In Book Lust To Go Nancy Pearl called it “one of the richest experiences of her life (p 68).

The premise is really quite simple. Bryan Talbot has researched his hometown of Sunderland and found every possible parallel connection to Lewis Carroll’s famed The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland. It’s brilliant. Read this alongside The Annotated Alice for a healthy dose of all things Wonderland.

Best quote, “All the lives seen tonight…so many lives…” (p 290). Case in point: here’s the ridiculously long list of Who’s Who in Alice in Sunderland. How about a game? How many people do you recognize?:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Al Davison
  • Alan Hargreaves
  • Alexandria “Xie” Kitchin
  • Alfred Jarry
  • Alice Liddell
  • Ally Sloper
  • Andy Capp
  • Arthur Racham
  • Arthur Frost
  • Bande Dessinee
  • Beatles
  • Bede
  • Benedict Biscop
  • Benny Hill
  • Beryl Formby
  • Bessie Wilcox
  • Betty Boop
  • Bill Shakespeare
  • Blondin
  • Bobby Thompson
  • Bram Stoker
  • Bryan Ferry
  • Caedmon
  • Capt. Edward Robinson
  • Capt. Joseph Wiggins
  • Capt. William Bligh
  • Caryl Hargreaves
  • Cary Grant
  • Catherine Cookson
  • Charles Dickens
  • Charles Kingsley
  • Charles Lutwidge Dodson
  • Charles Weiss
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Chaz Brenchley
  • Chster P Hackenbush
  • Chico Marx
  • Chris Mullin
  • Clarkson Stanfield
  • Colin Wilbourn
  • Craig Knowles
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • Dave Stewart
  • David Malan
  • David McKean
  • Dennis Potter
  • Dick Turpin
  • Disraeli
  • Doctor Who
  • Dorothy Williamson
  • Dracula
  • Duke of Wellington
  • Earl Zetland
  • Earl of Bute
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Edgar Atheling
  • Edith Liddell
  • Edward Bulwer Lytton
  • Edward Burne Jones
  • Edward Hylton
  • Edward Schoeder
  • Edwin Moss
  • Eileen O’Shaughnessy
  • Elizabeth I
  • Elizabeth Liddell
  • Ellen Terry
  • Emily Pankhurs
  • Emperor Claudius
  • Eric Gill
  • Florence Becker Lennon
  • Frank Caws
  • Franz Kafka
  • Frederick Cotton
  • Fredericka Liddell
  • Friar Tuck
  • George “Dubya” Bush
  • George Formby
  • George Hudson
  • George Lightfoot
  • George Lilburne
  • George Orwell
  • George Stephenson
  • George Washington
  • Gerald Frow
  • Gertrude Bell
  • Grace Slick
  • Grant Morrison
  • Harry Furniss
  • Harry Lauder
  • Harry Potter
  • Henry VIII
  • Hedworth Williams, Sr.
  • Henry George Liddell
  • Henry Holiday
  • Henry Hylton
  • Henry Irving
  • Henry Lambton
  • Henry Stanley
  • Houdini
  • Hunt Emerson
  • Ian Watson
  • Irving Berlin
  • Isabella Hazard
  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel
  • Jack Crawford
  • Jack the Ripper
  • James Herriot
  • James Joyce
  • Jan Svankmeyers
  • Jeff Smith
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Joe Nattras
  • John Bunyan
  • John George Lambton
  • John Humble
  • John Lawrence
  • John Lennon
  • John Lilburne
  • John Millais
  • John Paul Jones
  • John Proctor
  • John Ruskin
  • John Tenniel
  • Jonathan Hanker
  • Jonathan Miller
  • Jordan Smith
  • Joseph Conrad
  • Joseph Swan
  • Joseph Wiggins
  • Joshua Wilson
  • Karl Fisher
  • Karl Marx
  • Kate Adie
  • Keanu Reeves
  • Kelly Osbourne
  • Ken Russell
  • Kevin Cadwallender
  • King Athelstan
  • King Charles I
  • King Ecgfrith
  • King George I
  • King Harold
  • King James I
  • Lady Montagu Wortley
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Leo Baxendale
  • Leopold Hargreaves
  • Les Dawson
  • Lewis Carroll
  • Lily Lumley
  • Lizzie Webster
  • Lord Ravensworth
  • Luther Arkwright
  • MacDonald Gill
  • Manfred Mann
  • Manuella Bute Smedley
  • Margaret Thatcher
  • Marie Lloyd
  • Marilyn Manson
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Mark Lemon
  • Marlene Dietrich
  • Mary Ann Robson Cotton
  • Mary Shelley
  • Mary Wortley
  • Max Ernst
  • Mervyn Peake
  • Michael Bute
  • Michelangelo
  • Mike D’Abo
  • Miles Standish
  • Mother Shipton
  • Mr T
  • Nannie Scott
  • Ned Kelly
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Nellie Melba
  • Nicholas Hawksmoor
  • Odo of Bayeux
  • Olga Lowe
  • Olive Hardy
  • Oliver Goldsmith
  • Oswald Moseley
  • Oswald Stoll
  • Ozzy Osbourne
  • Patrick Lavelle
  • Paul McCartney
  • Peter Camm
  • Peter O’Toole
  • Peter Smart
  • Peter Sutcliffe
  • Prince Leopold
  • Queen Elizabeth II
  • Queen Victoria
  • Ralph Steadman
  • Ravi Shankar
  • Reginald Hargreaves
  • Rev. Charles Collingwood
  • Rev. John Wesley
  • Rev. Robert Gray
  • Rex Hargreaves
  • Rhoda Liddell
  • Richard Nixon
  • Richard Thornton
  • Richard Wallace
  • Rick Griffin
  • Robert Bowes
  • Robert Graves
  • Robert Heinlein
  • Robert Liltburne
  • Robert Stephenson
  • Robin Hood
  • Robinson Duckworth
  • Roger Skelton
  • Roland Wilson
  • Rudolf Toffer
  • Saint Cuthbert
  • Saint Godric
  • Saint Hilda
  • Sally Geeson
  • Salvador Dali
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Sarah Junner Lawrence
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar
  • Scott McCloud
  • Septimus Scott
  • Sheri Holman
  • Sidney James
  • Sir Henry Havelock
  • Sir Humphrey Davy
  • Sir John Lambton
  • Sir John Conyers
  • Sir Walter Scott
  • Sir William of Hylton
  • Stan Laurel
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Stuart Dodgson Collingwood
  • Suzy Varty
  • T Arthur
  • TS Eliot
  • Tennyson
  • Thomas Dixon
  • Thomas Edison
  • Thomas Edward Lawrence
  • Thomas Henry Liddell
  • Thomas Paine
  • Thomas Randall
  • Tom Taylor
  • Tony Blair
  • Tove Jansson
  • Trina Robbins
  • Ulysses S Grant
  • Vesta Tilley
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Vladimir Nabokov
  • WC Fields
  • WH Auden
  • Wee Georgie Woods
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Wilkie Collins
  • William Bell Scott
  • William Blake
  • William Clanny
  • William Hogarth
  • William Hylton
  • William Joyce
  • William McGonagall
  • William Mills
  • William Morris
  • William Mowbray
  • William Reid Clanny
  • William the Bastard
  • William the Conqueror
  • William Wilcox
  • Windson McKay
  • Winnie Davies
  • Woody Allen
  • Yehudi Menhin

Fun stuff: Ever wonder why all public doors are supposed to open outward? The answer is in Alice in Sunderland. Did you know there is a missing Alice chapter called Wasp in a Wig? Or that Grace Slick is such a huge fan of Alice that she created a whole series of Wonderland inspired paintings when she retired from music.

Favorite line, “Don’t confuse the genre with the medium” (p 187).

Author fact: Talbot has his own website here.

Book trivia: I know I said it before but this book is an oversized visual treat.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Comics with a Sense of Place” (p 68).


April Comes Quickly

I don’t know where March went. I’ve looked under calendars and in date books and I still can’t figure it out. The month went by so fast! Here are the books finished for March:

  • Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
  • The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
  • Family Man by Jayne Krentz
  • Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (AB)
  • The Brontes by Juliet Barker (DNF)
  • Means of Ascent by Robert Caro (DNF)
  • Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan (Fun)
  • In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White (would have been an Early Review book a long time ago)

On tap for April (besides a little Noodle 5k run):

  • A Considerable Town by MFK Fisher ~ in honor of April being the best time to visit France
  • The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman ~ for fun
  • Green Thoughts by Eleanor Perenyi ~ in honor of gardening month
  • Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot ~ in honor of April Fools
  • Don’t Eat This Book by Morgan Spurlock ~ in honor of April being Food Month (AB)
  • The Grand Tour by Tim Moore ~ in honor of Harvey Ball passing in April

Remembering February

So, February was a weird month. Being sick and injured didn’t help except that both ailments gave me more time to read. Turning 47 turned out to be not a big deal. Just another number in the grand scheme of things. The groundhog didn’t see his shadow either so there are less numbers in winter… And speaking of numbers – here are the books:

  1. A.D.: After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld
  2. Beautiful Place to Die by Philip Craig
  3. If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now by Sandra Loh
  4. Rocksburg Railroad Murders by K.C. Constantine
  5. As She Crawled Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem (AB)
  6. Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan
  7. Her First American by Lore Segal
  8. Down Where the Moon was Small or And I Shall Sleep…Down Where the Moon was Small by Richard Llewellyn
  9. Path to Power by Robert Caro – finishing TODAY!
  10. Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (AB)
  11. Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes (DNF)
  12. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie  (AB) Рwill finish in March
  13. The Art of Dying by Patricia Weenolsen

For Fun:

  1. Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
  2. Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
  3. The Ultimate Treadmill Workout by David Siik

For LibraryThing’s Early Review program:

  1. Liar by Rob Roberge

I also spent some time revisiting the Challenge list. Because of all the missed individual titles I wanted to redo the schedule. That took up a great deal of my time!


A.D.

Neufeld, Josh. A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010.

Reason read: Mardi Gras is held in New Orleans every February. Rather than read this in August (typical because of the date of Hurricane Katrina) I decided to twist it up a little. Just as Pearl did (see BookLust Twist at the end of this review).

Right from the very beginning you know you are in for something deeply moving and very special when reading the graphic novel A.D. (although technically it is not a novel. Novel implies fiction, right?). Neufeld starts the reader off looking at Earth from outer space. As we look down on North America we almost get a sense of the calm before the storm. On the next page the graphic orientates us to the tragedy to come as we get a bird’s eye view of the city of New Orleans. We are coming in closer. We see the city as one entity and the storm as another, as if they are two strangers being introduced at a party. As the days go by we follow the lives of seven New Orleans residents. This becomes a biography of each individual.
To me, what is incredibly sad is the emphasis on their naivete, their attitude of “this is no big deal” all because hurricanes in their corner of the world come and go. They have lived through them before. They are experts in the realm of weather. That may be true, but no one expected the levies to go…

Yes. You can read this in one day as posting this on the first implies. My recommendation? Read it several times. Read and share it. There is a message hidden in the comic.

My favorite StopYouInYourTracks quote: “At least then we wouldn’t have had to walk on top of the things I cared about the most” (Leo, on page 171).

As an aside: Neufeld wasn’t the only artist to be shocked by Hurricane Katrina. Many talented individuals expressed their grief through art. But, listen to Natalie Merchant. She wrote a song called “Go Down Moses” (on her self titled album) that addresses not only the city of New Orleans after the hurricane, but the Danziger Bridge tragedy as well. Danziger is what she was referring to when she says, “let your people cross over.” Sad.

Author fact: the author of A.D. is JOSH Neufeld. Josh, not Joshua as Nancy Pearl refers to him. He is Josh in twelve different places in the book: on the front cover, on the title page, four times on the copyright page, in the afterward, on the “about the author” page, on the back flap and three in separate instances on the back cover. Not once does the name “Joshua” appear anywhere. Call me crazy, but I think he wants to be called Josh. For more information on Josh and this project, check out this link.

Book trivia: this was a New York Times best seller. Of course it was.

BookLust Twist: in Book Lust To Go but not for the reasons you would think. You’re thinking this would be in the chapter “New Orleans” but it’s not. It’s in “Comics with a Sense of Place” (p 68).