Raphael, Amy. A Seat at the Table. London: Virago, 2020.
Reason read: I wanted to read this when it was first published in Great Britain in 2019 because I heard the interview with Natalie Merchant was pretty interesting. I ordered it on Amazon. Two years later, it finally showed up.
You hear stories by the hundreds about women in the music industry having a difficult time “making it.” This could be said for almost every male-dominated industry but it seems music has the hardest stereotypes to break. Musicians in general are supposed to be larger than life superstars. Sex symbols. Unobtainable idols high up on that stage. This was a role for men while women demurely sang backup or tapped a tambourine against a swiveling hip. Women as lead singers, guitarists, drummers, producers, DJs, and song writers were not to be taken seriously. Amy Raphael returns with a second book of interviews, tackling these subjects and more.
As an aside, I can remember a musician friend telling me she couldn’t let the fans know she was married to her bassist because it would “ruin the fantasy” for some followers (his and hers). Gulp. Natalie Merchant was badgered during her younger years in 10,000 Maniacs to wear tighter, sexier clothes. Nowadays, she’s getting grief about letting her hair go gray.
- Jessica Curry
- Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
- Maggie Rogers
- Emmy the Great
- First Love
- Second Love
- Three Cities
- Dream Wife
- Natalie Merchant
- What’s The Matter Here?
- Lauren Mayberry
- The Bones of What You Believe
- Love is Dead
- Poppy Ajudha
- Love Falls Down
- Spilling Into You
- Tepid Soul
- She is the Sum
- Kalie Shorr (from Portland, Maine)
- Fight Like a Girl
- He’s Just Not into You
- Two Hands,
- Tracey Thorn
- A Distant Shore
- Walking Wounded
- Mitski – who had the best quote, “In a way I am always in translation” (p 234).
- Bag of Bones
- Retired from Sad, New Career in Business
- Bury Me at Makeout Creek
- Puberty 2
- Be the Cowboy
- Catherine Marks
- Clara Amfo
- Alison Moyet:
- Winter Kills
- Nobody’s Diary
- Don’t Go
- Miss World
- Softer Softest
- Debbie Harry:
- Heart of Glass
- Christine and the Queens:
- Be Freaky
- Mama Says
- No Man is Big Enough for My Arms
- Nadine Shah:
- Love Your Dum
- Fast Food
- Stealing Cars
- Holiday Destination
- Kate Tempest:
- Everybody Down
- Other (my apologies if I missed someone):
- 10,000 Maniacs
- A – Anita Mui, Archie Marsh, Annie Lennox, Ani DiFranco, Anna Calri, Adele, Aztec Camera, Alanis Morrissette, Al Jarreau, Al Green, Amy Winehouse
- B – Backstreet Boys, Blondie, Best Coast, Billy Bragg, the Beach Boys, Bjork, Bob Dylan, Britney, Belle & Sebastian, Bon Iver, Bright Eyes, The Beatles, Blak Twang, Bahamadía, Bikini Kill, Beck, Billy Boy Arnold, Beyoncé, Buzzcocks, Brian Eno, Buju Banton, Biggie Smalls, Blur, Breeders, Beethoven, Bridget St. John, Buena Vista Social Club, Bob Marley, Bauhaus, Boomtown Rats, Britney Spears, Big Star, Bonnie Tyler
- C – Cardi B., Connie Traverse, Carly Rae Jepson, the Cure, Cocteau Twins, the Clash, Cole Porter, Christina Aguilera, Confucius MC, Chester P., Cream, the Cranberries, Cat Stevens, CHVRCHES, Crowded House, the Carpenters
- D – Dixie Chicks, Diane Cluck, Dr. Feelgood, D’Angelo, Depeche Mode, David Bowie, DELS, Damon Albam, Diana Ross, Daft Punk, Debbie Harry, Daniel Johnston
- E – Elastica, Elephant Man, Ella Fitzgerald, Erykah Badu, Elvis Costello, Elton John, Edie Piaf, Everything but the Girl
- F – Faces, Foals, the Fureys, Ferry Lawrenson, Fairport Convention, Feminist Frequency, Florence Welch, Fungazi, Faye Wong, Fiona Apple, Faith Hill, the Frames
- G – Guns ‘N Roses, Ghostface Killah, Green Day, Gustav Holst, Gravediggaz, Genesis, Glen Hansard, Gang of Four
- H – Harlocks, Hot Chocolate
- I – Ian Drury
- J – Jeff Buckley, John Bonham, Jarvis Crocker, Jack the Lad, Jah Shaka, Jack White, Jimi Hendrix, Jaco Pastorius, Joni Mitchell, Jill Scott, Jacques Brel, Joanna Newson, Jesus and Mary Chain, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Cliff, Joy Division, Joan Jett
- K – Karen Dalton, the Killers, Karen O, Kimya Dawson, Keith Jarrett, Kate Bush, the Kinks, Kathleen Hanna, Kelly Rowland, Kanye West, Kwes, Kelela
- L – Laura Branigan, the Lettermen, Leftfield, Lauryn Hill, Leslie Cheung, Leonard Cohen, Liam Gallagher, Led Zeppelin, Lily Allen, Le Tigre, Luther Vandross
- M – Missy Elliot, My Bloody Valentine, M.I.A., Marine Girls, Metallica, Mary J Blige, Mo Def, Moldy Peaches, Mariah Carey, Miles Davis, Michael Jackson, Meshell Ndegocell, Madonna, Mirah, Mos Def, Melanie, Michael Stipe, Meg White, The Microphones, Marvin Gaye, Marvelettes, Massive Attack, Micachu, Martin Gore, Mozart
- N – N.E.R.D., Nick Cave, Nirvana, Nadine Shah, Nina Simone, New Order, New Christy Minstrels, Nick Drake
- O – Orange Juice, Organized Konfusion, Outkast
- P – Paramour, Pussycat Dolls, the Pretenders, Peter Tosh, the Police, Paul Simon, Peter, Paul and Mary, the Platters, Pharoahe Monch, Pantera, Poly Styrene, Prince, Pharrell Williams, Patti Smith, Pixies, P!nk, Pussycat Dolls, PJ Harvey, Paul Weller, Pig Bag
- R – Reba McEntire, Ringo Starr, Rebecca Black, Rolling Stones, Radio Head, Ryan Adams, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Robbie Williams
- S – Slipknot, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Solange, Shania Twain, St. Vincent, Sound of Rum, Stone Roses, Spice Girls, Selena Gomez, Smashing Pumpkins, Sleepers, Skinnyman, the Supremes, Style Council, the Shirells, Sade, Sandy Denny, Sleater-Kinney, Steely Dan, the Shangri-Las, Sujan Stevens, Sonic Youth, Status Quo, the Smiths, Sugababies, the Saturdays, Spear of Destiny, the Slits, Solange Knowles, Serg Gainsbourgh, Sigrid
- T – Tom Robinson Band, Tallest Man on Earth, Talking Heads, Taylor Swift, Tina Turner Tchaikovsky, Tracy Chapman, Take That, T-Rex, Tegan and Sara
- U – U2
- V – Vince Clark, Vampire Weekend, Vivaldi, Velvet Underground
- W – White Stripes, Wilko Johnson, Wolf Alice, Weezer, Whitney Houston, the Who
- X – X-Ray Specs, XTC
- Y – the Young Marble Giants, Yazoo, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs
Bahrampour, Tara. To See and See Again: a Life in Iran and America. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1999.
Reason read: The Portland Public Library Reading Challenge has a category called “a book by an Iranian or Iranian American author.”
Tara Bahrampour was eleven years old at the height of the Islamic Revolution. As the bullets flew over garden walls, she and her family escaped Iran to the Pacific Northwest with one suitcase each. Old enough to remember her Iranian culture, but young enough to embrace America’s freedoms, Bahrampour balanced two very different lifestyles in her heart and mind. Having an Iranian father and American mother partially helped Bahrampour navigate the divide while she was young. When Bahrampour returns to Iran for a wedding, she is the first in her family after fifteen years to do so. The perspective from a twenty-six year old woman blossoms from remembered street games and childhood toys into the realities of the treatment of women, ceremony surrounding meals, and the strict regime after the Islamic Revolution. She is understandably nostalgic for the Tehran of her youth but fiercely protective of her Americanized viewpoints and attitudes. At first Bahrampour is naïve to the changes of her homeland’s rule and is shocked when she has trouble repossessing her American passport or when she hears stories of people escaping the military by wearing sheepskin and crawling over the border with a herd of sheep. Reality sets in when she is detained for talking to two blond tourists. As a Moslem Iranian woman officials fear her morality could be in danger. In the end, aside from rebuffing marriage proposal after marriage proposal, Bahrampour comes to an understanding about where she belongs. The Iran of her youth has left an indelible mark on her memory. At the core, it is who she is no matter where she goes.
Quotes to quote, “Everyone was so dazzled with what they wanted Iran to be that they missed seeing what it was” (p 248) and “…if that is how it is with loss – that you never really let go of the thing you are missing” (p 356).
Author fact: Bahrampour has written for predominantly New York-based publications. To See and See Again is her first memoir.
Book trivia: Each chapter is introduced with a black and white photograph. Nothing more, nothing less.
Playlist: “Love Story,” “Grease is the Word,” “You’re in My Heart” by Rod Stewart, “Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys, “Take a Chance on Me” by ABBA, “Slip-Slidin’ Away” by Paul Simon, Boney M., Supertramp, REO Speedwagon, the Bee Gees, “Carry on Wayward Son,” “Tavern in the Town,” “Cider Through a Straw,” Ace of Base, Metallica, Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, and of course, Bahrampour’s mother, Karen Alexander.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about To See and See Again except to describe the plot.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter called “Iran” (p 107).
Picardi, Carrie. Leadership Essentials You Always Wanted to Know. Vibrant Publishers, 2021.
I should preface this review by saying I read Leadership Essentials on my phone. I have no idea what the print version will look like. The very first thing I noticed about Leadership Essentials is that it is a very short book. It’s made even shorter by pages of expert reviews, a page of author information, a page for acknowledgements, a page of a table of contents, and a few blank pages thrown in for good measure. The second thing to jump out at me was the discount code for three books for the price of two. That set the tone for me. It’s all about the sale.
As an author fact, Picardi is also a professor which is apparent when she presents learning objectives as deliverables for her book. I thought that was a nice touch – here is what I promise you will get out of this book. Not many “self help” books do that. What I didn’t appreciate were the quizzes – at least on the phone. When I went to find the answers (using the outside link) I was confronted with someone wanting to chat with me. There was no clear way to find just the answers so I gave up. I also gave up reading the book entirely because, at least on the phone, it wasn’t user-friendly. Picardi gives sound advice on how to be a good leader. I just found the delivery method to be lacking.
Book trivia: Leadership Essentials is part of a self learning management series.
Kamkwamba, William and Bryan Mealer. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. New York: Puffin Books, 2015.
Reason read: Recognizing the Malawi cabinet crisis of August 1964.
William Kamkwamba was no ordinary child from Malawi. He had imagination, ambition, and a curiosity that couldn’t be kept down even when his family couldn’t afford to send him to school. His drive was to improve his family’s situation after a severe drought left the landscape barren and his community on the brink of starvation, but really he loved to learn. He loved school so much he found a way to sneak into classes after he had been kicked out for nonpayment. Once found out he resorted to borrowing books at the library. One particular physics textbook resonated with him. Using money from a wealthy friend and the knowledge gained from reading and scrounging for supplies anywhere he could find them (flip flops, his father’s bicycle, melted PVC pips, the spring from a ball point pen…) Kamkwamba set out to build a windmill. His first invention in 2001 was modest, creating enough power to light a lightbulb. From there, Kamkwamba went bigger – big enough to charge cellphones and light his parent’s living room. The bigger the windmill, the more he could power. Soon his ambition went beyond his family and friends to extend to his entire community of Wimbe and he attracted the attention of powerful people. Doors opened across the world for Kamkwamba.
As an aside, I had a penpal from Malawi. He was killed in a car accident.
Author fact: William Kamkwamba received a degree from Dartmouth.
Book trivia: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind became a NetFlix documentary.
Playlist: Dolly Parton, Black Missionaries, Billy Kaunda, and “Silent Night.”
Nancy said: Pearl called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind “heartwarming (but not soppy) and inspiring.” She also gave a shout out to librarians and libraries.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust to Go in the chapter called “Africa: the Greenest Continent” (p 7).
Reynolds, David K., Playing Ball on Running Water: the Japanese Way to Building a Better Life. New York: Quill, 1984.
Morita psychotherapy is Japan’s answer to Freud. There are so many different takeaways from Playing Ball on Running Water. How about this: live life. Don’t think about it or talk about it. Just live life. How about that for simple?
Think about this philosophy: you can never step into the same river twice. As you can tell, this short book resonated with me in more ways than I expected. I struggle with procrastination (otherwise known as avoidance) and social anxiety. Reynolds addresses both. On a personal level the strange phenomenon is once I address the issue I had been previously avoiding I am pleasantly surprised at how easy completion turned out to be. Like going to a party for example. I dread the arrival, but on the way home I’ll reflect on the event, and ultimately be pleased with myself that I went. My takeaway is to be as present as possible. Sometimes, paying very close attention and staying focused will clear the mind. A tea ceremony, for example, is set at a very deliberate pace. There is no rushing the event and each moment is well-practice, providing a safe space for familiarity.
The second half of Playing Ball on Running Water is a series of short stories that illustrate the Moritist principles. The entire book is constructed to help the reader play ball on running water.
As an aside – another interesting aspect of awareness is the art of combining different foods to make unusual meals for variety. Would peanut butter and pickle sandwiches count?
Lines I liked, “When our attention is alert to notice what reality has brought to us in this moment and to fit ourselves to it by doing what needs to be done, we are living fully during each of those waking hours” (p 56), “Risk and struggle are essential to life” (p 60), and “…I know that these tactics for playing ball on running water are helpful for the extremely sensitive person” (p 96).
Author fact: Reynolds lived in Japan for awhile and spent time in Zen Buddhist and Tendai Buddhist temples.
Book trivia: Playing Ball on Running Water is less than 180 pages but it took me almost a month to read.
Nancy said: Pearl called Playing Ball on Running Water nontechnical, practical, and compelling.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the presumptuous chapter called “Help Yourself” (p 109).
Cook, Kevin. The Burning Blue: the Untold Story of Christa McAuliffe and NASA’s Challenger Disaster. New York: Henry Holt, 2021.
Reason read: as a member of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing, I occasionally win books to read and review.
If someone asked, you probably couldn’t remember where you were on January 28th, 1986, but if the question was phrased a little differently I know you can: “Where were you when NASA’s space shuttle Challenger exploded?” Say the name Christa McAuliffe and everyone knows her name. Personally, I know exactly where I was when the tragedy occurred: high school, in the Vortex, cozying up to a guy named Jim. I remember hiding my face when the plumes of white smoke arced across the sky. No escaping the tragedy.
As outsiders witness to the unforgettable horror, we all have preconceived notions of what really happened that day. Cook takes the Challenger tragedy and puts a face to all who were impacted. Christa and her fellow space travelers were not the only souls lost on 1986’s twenty-eighth day. It is obvious from the level of personal detail, Cook researched the entire event and those leading up to it very carefully and was extremely thorough with every detail. All in all, it is a well-told tale. In truth, as the pages went by I had a hard time reading it. Just knowing every chapter would take me closer to the time of McAuliffe’s demise made it hard to continue. As an aside, I felt the same way about reading Anne Frank’s diary. This is a story that doesn’t have a Hollywood ending. It is strange how NASA provided some resistance to the Challenger accident investigation and even stranger that simple 0-ring problems were reported for years and no one listened when Sally Ride leaked the information.
Here’s what I fully believe: Rumor has it Reagan was going to cut funding if the shuttle didn’t launch on January 28th, 1986.
An added eeriness to McAuliffe’s story is just how often people alluded to the dangers as she trained for the event. It was if there were signs trying to tell her not to join the launch.
Playlist: Jefferson Airplane, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Madonna, Queen, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, U2, “A Time for Us,” “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” “Rocky Mountain High,” Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” “We are The World, “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “God Bless America,” “Flying for Me” by John Denver, and “God Bless the USA.”
Author fact: Kevin Cook has written for the New York Times, Men’s Journal, GQ, etc., but the coolest fact is that he currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts. That’s just up the road from me.
Book trivia: The Burning Blue was scheduled to go on sale in June and should have 16 pages of photographs.
Guibert, Emmanuel, Didier Lefleve, and Frederic Lemercier. The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders. New York: First Second, 2009.
Reason read: Afghanistan gained its independence from British rule in July 1919.
I didn’t know what to expect when I read a review of The Photographer, calling it a “photographic graphic novel.” It is quite unique and simply put, amazing. In three parts, The Photographer tells the story of how the aid workers of Medecins Sans Frontieres, smuggled across the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan disguised as women in chadri, provided medical support to small communities during conflict. Didier Lefleve, a French photojournalist, traveled with the group to Zaragandara during the Afghan-Soviet War of 1986. In this district of Yaftali Sufla MSF establishes a field hospital while staffing a second one. The final part is Didier Lefleve’s nearly disastrous solo departure from Afghanistan. As the tagline for MSF reads, “We go where we are needed most,” The photographs and journal of Lefleve tell the entire story in intimate detail. It is a powerful print documentary.
It seems impossible for there to be humor in The Photographer, especially when you read of children with their eyes apparently glued shut and paralyzed by shrapnel, but it exists. One word: peaches. I confess. I giggled. That’s all I can say about that.
Most amazing fact: despite the reality they are fighting the Russians, Afghan doctors are able to obtain x-rays for patients, disguised as English speaking colleagues. they send men who are too old to be conscripted. No one suspects the men of being part of the resistance.
As an aside, I have supported MWF (known by the American subsidiary as Doctors Without Borders), for years. I first learned of the organization when Natalie would invite members to speak about their work during a set break in her concerts. I shared Natalie’s pride when they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. I appreciated learning about Juliette Fournot, the woman who started the US arm of Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Author facts: Emmanuel Guibert is an accomplished graphic novelist. I am only reading one of his works. Didier Lefleve died way too young at only 49 years of age. Frederic Lemercier was the mastermind behind the layout and coloring of The Photographer.
Book trivia: The English translation of The Photographer was publisher in 2009. Lefleve didn’t live long enough to see it. He passed from a heart attack in 2007.
Playlist: Michel Jonasz
Nancy said: Pearl called The Photographer “one of the best books” she read in 2009.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires” (p 3).
Brittain, Vera. Testament of Experience: An Autobiographical Story of the Years 1925 -1950. Wide View Books, 1981.
Reason read: to continue the series started in May in honor of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. As an aside, Vera watched the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
At the start of Testament of Experience Vera is newly married and trying to juggle a relationship with a man she has only known for two years and a career as a writer and journalist. From her style of writing the reader can find evidence of Brittain maturing her focus since Testament of Youth. She no longer speaks of an entire generation experiencing war. On the brink of World War II and focusing on herself personally, she repeatedly feels the strain of inequality as she watches her husband enjoy a balance of employment and home life while she is expected to chose between relationships, motherhood, and a career. This only fuels her feminist fire as she hungers for a life she can put into words. She needs to experience life in order to have something to convey to the world. What does she write about if she cannot experience extraordinary things? As time goes by the threat of war becomes reality and as Brittain starts traveling, her life grows increasingly imbalanced. Living more often apart than together, her marriage to “G.” is a series of rendezvous when their careers allow. As an author she experiences the threat of rejection at the same time as the thrill of success as Testament of Youth becomes a best seller. Motherhood is a confusing conflict with her pacifist endeavors lecturing around the globe. As an aside, Vera’s advocacy for peace through her fortnightly Peace Letters attracts the attention of the Gestapo and as a result Testament of Youth was banned in Germany.
Author fact: Brittain wrote a fourth “Testament” book called Testament of a Generation which is not on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: Testament of Experience is the sequel to Testament of Youth even though Testament of Friendship was published in between Youth and Experience.
Playlist: “Old Man Noah,” “The Bells of Hell,” and “Sweet Adeline,”
Nancy said: Pearl only called Testament of Experience a continuation of Testament of Youth. Nothing more specific.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living Through War” (p 054).
Scarmuzzi, Don J. Day Hikes in Washington State: 90 Favorite Trails, Loops and Summit Scrambles.
Reason read: I am a member of the Early Review program for LibraryThing.
Day Hikes in Washington State is a follow up to Day Hikes in the Pacific Northwest. Having not read the Pacific Northwest guide I had no idea what to expect from the Washington State guide. Even more so, since I am on the East Coast and have never been to Washington State, this seems like an odd book to request as an Early Review. I am an avid hiker and wanted to review a book based solely on its information. I feel I would review a guide differently if I was intimately familiar with the area.
In truth, I can only find one thing to criticize. Scarmuzzi is uber current by talking about social distancing. Hopefully we won’t always be in this Covid predicament and that information will become obsolete. The good news is I can imagine this book dog-eared, sun-faded, and well-read in the back of some car’s back window. There is a good deal of valuable information and all of it is incredibly organized. The photography is gorgeous. The maps are clear. What is unique about Scarmuzzi’s book is each trail is intimately detailed all along the route. He includes more turn by turn descriptions than your standard guide book, going beyond just stating level of difficulty and elevation.
I enjoyed this guide so much I may have to make a trip to Washington just to hike the trails, loops and summit scrambles Scarmuzzi recommends. In the meantime, I urge him to visit Monhegan Island and write a book about their coastal trails. It would be fantastic!
Book trivia: This book is a little oversized to be carried in one’s day pack. It would have be awesome if it had smaller dimensions to allow for portability.
Author fact: Scarmuzzi has three books to his name according to LibraryThing’s catalog.
Bangs, Richard and Christian Kallen. Rivergods: Exploring the World’s Great Wild Rivers. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1985.
Reason read: June is National River Cleanup Month.
Rivergods balances adventurous text from Bangs and Kallen with gorgeous photography. Christian Kallen and Richard Bangs bring many of the most powerful, yet mostly unheard of, rivers to life as they describe trying to raft or kayak each one. By traveling all corners of the globe, they are able to meet indigenous peoples in South America, Australia, Africa, and Asia. By studying their anthropologies, they learn a little about each culture including head hunting and cannibalism. Each river teaches them about the power of Mother Nature and the real dangers of trying to tame her.
As an aside, when I started running with Dr. Tommy Rivs, one of the things he taught me early on was about Islamic religion. In accordance with the beliefs of Islam, no humans or animals can be portrayed or duplicated by man. All art such as tile work, tapestries, and carpets must be of geometric shapes and flowers. It was cool to see Bangs and Kallen talk about it in Rivergods.
Lines to like, “It was like trying to admire a beautiful painting after having been mugged” (p 108). I wish I could quote all of the reviews from the back cover of Rivergods. Admiration, humor, and maybe a little envy are evident in the reviewer’s words.
Author fact: Richard Bangs has a pretty cool website here. Christian Kallen coauthored another book with Bangs called Riding the Dragon’s Back.
Book trivia: Rivergods is oversized and full of gorgeous photography.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Rivergods.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Water, Water Everywhere” (p 252).
Perry, Paul. On the Bus: the complete guide to the legendary trip of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and the birth of the counterculture. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1990.
Reason read: Allen Ginsberg’s birthday is in June. He was not a bus rider with the Merry Pranksters, but he was on the scene and subsequently interviewed for the book. Additionally, the famed bus trip started on June 14th, 1964.
Written in 1990, twenty-five years after the famed Kool-aid acid trips, Paul Perry pulls together interviews from the most influential mindbenders of the day: Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Ram Dass, and of course, Neal Cassady…to name a few. They look back on the time when a total of thirteen free spirits (fourteen, if you count the teenaged neighbor) called themselves the Merry Pranksters, boarded a psychedelically painted school bus, and hit the road in search of the ultimate trip. What started as acid parties in Neal Cassady’s San Francisco home soon became experimentations on the road in the converted bus they christened, “Furthur.” Traveling through Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, New York, and Calgary before heading home to Big Sur, California, they conducted their LSD tests, made new friends, connected with musicians like Wavy Gravy and Jerry Garcia, and rode the wave of the psychedelic revolution. By the time the Merry Pranksters got home they were never the same again.
What I am constantly wondering about is how much of the tapes and recordings of the trip survived?
Line to linger over, “Arvin Brown, who drank several [cupfuls] of the green stuff, tells me what he didn’t recover full consciousness for 24 hours” (29). Good times. Here are a few more, “Mercy and goodness were swallowed by cannons and bombs” (p 84), “I live in a world where there is no error, so that is what was meant to happen” (p 102). Last one, “Speed was the thing keeping him awake” (p 190).
Author fact: Paul Perry was once the editor of a running magazine. Cool.
Book trivia: my copy of On the Bus was so weird. There wasn’t any publishing information anywhere within the book. I could only find the last name of the author on the spine and I needed to look at the marc record from the library I borrow the book to find more information.
Playlist: “Love Portion Number Nine,” Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, Jefferson Airplane, Wavy Gravy, Country Joe and the Fish, Rolling Stones, “Turn on Your Love Light,” and “The Flower.”
Nancy said: Pearl included On the Bus in a list of books she said “no discussion of books about the 1960s would be complete without” (More Book Lust p 179).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The 1960s in Fact and Fiction” (p 178).
Brittain, Vera. Testament of Youth: the Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900 – 1925. New York: MacMillan Company, 1937.
Reason read: The United States entered World War I on April 6th, 1917. Additionally, I needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge in the category of historical event.
Confessional: this took me a long time to finish.
The world can thank Vera Brittain for keeping a detailed diary during World War I. Through her writings, Brittain is able to not only give a personal account of how the war changed her life, but the impact the conflict had on the world at large around her. When she says the war “smashed her youth” and “interrupted her personal plans” you get the sense of the level of personal destruction the violence left in its wake. She led a sheltered life in England, never leaving the country until she was twenty-one. She had both a brother and a fiancé serve in the war. Through their letters and poems, how they were affected by the conflict represents how a good majority of the soldiers coped with battle. In order to feel closer to her brother and fiancé, Vera volunteered to darn socks, but as the war dragged on, the desire to “do something more” led her to sign up as a probationer in a hospital. There she had an up close and personal view of war’s terrible price. There is a growing sense of dread when Brittain describes reading the list of casualties and not having a single word from loved ones. The war matures Brittain. At the start of the conflict she naively hoped Roland would suffer a war wound so they could see each other. After some time changing the dressings of the amputees Brittain realizes she couldn’t wish that kind of horror on anyone.
Brittain’s autobiography continues after the war has ended and the struggle to return to civilian life becomes a reality. She has lost everyone she loved, friends and family alike.
As an aside, it is unclear if Vera was agnostic before the war or if the tragedies in France solidified an already growing idea idea.
Quotes to quote, “Someone is getting hell, but it isn’t you – yet,” (p 150), “Truly war had made masochists of us all” (p 154), “Too angry and miserable to be shy any more, we clung together and kissed in forlorn desperation” (p 189), “The world was mad and we were all victims, that was the only way to look at it” (p 376) and “I was not the culprit, for I was still too deeply and romantically in love with a memory to have any appetite for sexual unorthodoxies, but I am not sure that I should have owned up if I had been” (p 328).
Here is the sentence that had the most profound effect on me, “I entirely failed to notice the assassination on the previous morning, of a European potentate whose name was unknown to me, in a Balkan town of which I had never heard” (p 85).
Author fact: Even though Brittain is best known for her autobiographies she was also an accomplished poet.
Book trivia: Brittain includes a great deal of poetry from several different poets. Testament of Youth was a Masterpiece Theater dramatic series present on PBS by WGBH in Boston.
Playlist: “Elizabeth’s Prayer,” “Jewel Song,” “Clair de Lune,” “Te Deum Patreum Colimus,” “L’Envoi,” “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” “If You Were the Only Girl in the World,” “We are Soldiers of the Queen, Me Lads,” “Good-bye Dolly, I Must Leave You,” “When the Heart is Young,” “Whisper and I Shall Hear,” “Distant Shore,” “Robert the Devil,” “Dreaming,” “The Vision of Salome,” “Elgar’s Lament for the Fallen,” Beethoven’s 7th Sonata, Verdi’s Requiem, Bram’s Requiem, “Sweet Early Violets,” “Down in the Forest,” “Auld Lang Syne,” “O Hel-, O Hel-“
Nancy said: Pearl called Testament of Youth “moving.” She also called it “One of the finest accounts ever written of World War I” (More Book Lust p 155).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “World War I Nonfiction” (p 251). Again in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living Through War” (p 154).
MacDonald, Betty. Onions in the Stew. Philadelphia: JB Lippincott, 1954.
Reason read: to finished the series started in April in honor of Humor Month.
In truth, Onions in the Stew can be read independently of any other Betty MacDonald memoir. All three are very different from one another. Onions in the Stew tells of the period in MacDonald’s life when she and her children, with her second husband, buy a house on Vashon Island in Puget Sound. It starts off as a humorous commentary on island living but morphs into the trials and tribulations of raising two teenager daughters who just have to rebel against everything you want for them. By the end of it, the reader can’t help but sigh. MacDonald blends just the right amount of laugh-out-oud funny with sweet poignancy. This was my favorite of the three memoirs by far.
Author fact: MacDonald might be better known for her Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle stories for children, but Onions in the Stew was delightful.
Book trivia: Onions in the Stew is another memoir about Betty MacDonald’s life. The Egg and I and The Plague and I are two others. These do not necessarily need to be read in order to be fully enjoyed.
Playlist: “Tangerine,” “Rock of Ages,” “You’re Mine, You,” “Embraceable You,” “Sweet Lorraine,” “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home,” “Paper Moon,” Frank Sinatra, Frankie Laine, Billie Holliday, and King Cole.
Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Onions in the Stew as one of those books that will be so funny you will fall off your chair from laughing.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Tickle Your Funny Bone” (p 218).
Trillin, Calvin. Third Helpings. New Haven: Ticknor & Fields, 1983.
Reason read: to finish the Tummy Trilogy started in March in honor of National Food Month.
Trillin is at it again with a third and final installment of the Tummy Trilogy; another series of essays all about his idea of good eating. Third Helpings starts with Trillin’s belief that Spaghetti Carbonara should be the national dish at Thanksgiving. It’s a quirky idea, but I get his point. Fourteen essays follow.
The more I read Trillin, the more I admire his wife and her ability to travel to strange lands to eat even stranger foods without complaint, but my favorite character was Mrs. Rome. The list of food she sampled between pages 97-99 is very impressive. It is no wonder she gained nine pounds on that trip!
Irony: the last chapter of Third Helpings is about Crescent City, Florida. I guess there used to be a big catfish festival along the St. John River. At the time I was finishing Third Helpings I was in Florida, not far from Crescent City.
Author fact: According to IMDB, Calvin Trillin is also an actor. What the what? He was in Sleepless in Seattle. Mind blown.
Book trivia: Third Helpings is the final book in the Tummy Trilogy, but Trillin has also written a memoir about his father and a few books about his wife, Alice. None of those books are on my Challenge list.
Playlist: “Oh Marie,” “Tell Me That You Love Me,” “The Streets of Laredo,” “Rock Around the Clock,” “Moon Over Miami,” and “Let’s Go To the Hop.”
Nancy said: Pearl called Trillin’s essays “treasures.”
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Food for Thought” (p 91).