Anonymous. Beowulf. Translated by Seamus Heaney. New York: W. W. Norton, 2001.
Reason read: Another Halloween story.
Everyone raves about Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf and I have to wonder, is it just the translation or could the accompanying gorgeous illustrations and photography have something to do with it? Everyone knows the story of Beowulf the mighty warrior from an English lit class. As a poem, it is the courageous story of a man who learns of a King’s annual nightmare. A monster named Grendel destroys fifteen knights a year without fail and has been doing so for the past twelve years. Beowulf, upon hearing this sad tale, takes it upon himself to vanquish Grendel only to face Grendel’s vengeful mother. Yeah, he kills her, too. Then there’s the fire-breathing dragon (think Bilbo Baggins) who tragically wins over Beowulf. In truth, I had forgotten the graphic violence of men being mauled by the monster Grendel. The clash is pretty dramatic. It would make a great movie. Wait. Knowing my knowledge of movies…it probably is.
As an aside, I have to wonder if this was ever made into a movie? Think about it. The battles full of violence…the claw of Grendel’s as a trophy. What a great prop for the big screen!
Lines I liked, “But it was mostly beer doing the talking” (p 37),”He is hasped and hooped and hirpling with pain, limping and looped in it” (p 65). Even though hasped and hirpling are not used in everyday vocabulary, you can envision the monster in sever pain.
Author fact: No one has ever been given credit for writing Beowulf although hundred of people have translated it.
Book trivia: Heaney’s translation won the Whitbread Award.
Nancy said: Pearl said Heaney’s translation of Beowulf beautiful.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry: a Novel Idea” (p 186).
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).
International Centre for the Picture Book in Society, ed. Migrations: Open Hearts, Open Borders. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Studio, 2019.
Reason read: This was an Early Review from LibraryThing that I didn’t receive. I was curious about it so after publication I borrowed it from the local public library.
Coming from a place of spoiled privilege, I need more books like Migrations in my life, despite its deceiving simplicity. Growing up, my parents were not wealthy, but they provided. I always had a roof over my head, a safe and comfortable place to call home. It is hard to think of what life would be like without a secure or reliable place to live. The reality is we live in a world where thousands and thousands of people are displaced every single day.
With it’s beautiful hand painted art, illustrators of children’s books from all over the world took part in contributing postcards to the project. The layout of Migrations reminded me so much of Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine.
Mansfield, Katherine. “Garden Party.” Garden Party: and Other Stories. Garden City, New York: Garden City Publishing Company, Inc., 1922.
Reason read: June is National Short Story Month.
“Garden Party” illustrates many themes: wealth versus poverty, insensitivity versus compassion, death versus life.
Wealthy Mrs. Sheridan has been preparing for an elaborate garden party with flowers and tents, food and music. Servants and gardeners and workers toil like busy bees here, there, and everywhere setting up chairs, organizing the musicians, placing the flowers just so. The excitement catches with her four children, too. But when a terrible accident leaves a man dead right outside their gates daughter Laura doesn’t thinks it’s appropriate for the show to go on. She questions the sensitivity of their actions. Later Mrs. Sheridan allows Laura to bring a basket of food to the dead man’s family. Walking through the poor neighborhood gives Laura a new perspective and in the face of mortality she learns about living.
Quote to quote, “The very smoke coming out of their chimneys was poverty stricken” (p 71). What a devastating image.
Author fact: the location of the garden party was modeled after Mansfield’s own property.
Book trivia: my copy of Garden Party was marked up like someone was editing the book. Bummer.
Nancy said: Pearl asked her readers not to neglect Mansfield, calling “Garden Party” brilliant.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust to Go in the chapter called “Kiwis Forever! New Zealand in Print” (p 124).
What to say about this month? It was epic in a myriad of ways. First and foremost, I turned half a century old. I don’t mind the number; I am not bothered by the age. Never the less, friends and family gathered for a party to remember. And. And! And, I re-upped my commitment to running. It’s been slow but I have to admit something here – my breathing has been effed up. I have a scheduled appointment for early March so…I continue to read.
Here are the books:
- Take This Man by Frederick Busch. (EB & print)
- Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning by Alice Walker. (EB)
- Crossers by Philip Caputo. (EB and print)
- Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza. (EB and print)
- Tragic Honesty by Blake Bailey. (print only)
- Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner. (AB, EB and print)
- A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King. (EB and print)
- Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett. (print)
- Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov. (EB)
- A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow. (EB and print)
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg.
- Corregidora by Gayl Jones (reread).
- Exploring the Southwest by Tammy Gagne.
- Calypso by David Sedaris (started).
- Sharp by Michelle Dean (continuing)
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (continuing)
Walker, Alice. Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning. SanDiego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979.
Reason read: Walker’s birth month is in February.
Here’s how I read Good Night Willie Lee. I inhaled a poem, held my breath to ponder the collection of words within it, and exhaled my understanding of the connection to life. One poem at a time. Like rhythmic yoga breaths; like steady waves upon the shore, I took my time with each one of them. Each poem deserved to be fully digested as such. For when you read Walker’s poetry you get the sense she died a little with each offering. A small offering of her soul mixed with the words.
Favorite line – from the poem called Confession: “through cracks in the conversation.” What a beautiful image.
Author fact: Walker also wrote Meridian and Possessing the Secret of Joy, two novels also on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: the last poem in the book explains the title. I picture her father’s funeral.
Nancy said: Pearl said that Walker is best known for her award winning novel, The Color Purple, but “readers shouldn’t miss her poetry” (Book Lust p 2).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “A…My Name is Alice” (p 1).
We are nearly one full week into February and I have yet to report what is on the reading list. I have to admit, my other (non-book) life got in the way. I was selected for jury duty for a trial that lasted three days, a friend was admitted to the hospital with atrial fibrillation for three days, an uncle was taken off hospice, and oh yeah, I turned fifty with my family and friends in attendance. The last week of January going into the first week of February was all a bit nutty. And. And! And, I am running again. So, there’s that. But enough of that. Here are the books:
- Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning by Alice Walker (EB)- in honor of Walker’s birth month.
- Take This Man by Frederick Busch (EB & print) – in memory of Busch’s death month.
- Crossers by Philip Caputo (EB & print) – in honor of Arizona becoming a state in February.
- Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza (EB & print) – in honor of Brazil’s festival.
- Tragic Honesty by Blake Bailey (print) in honor of Yates’s birthday.
- Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner (AB) in honor of February being Feed the Birds Month.
- A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King (EB & print) – to continue the series started in honor of January being Mystery Month.
- Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett (print) – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month being in August.
- Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov (EB) – in honor of Asimov’s birth month being in January.
- A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow (EB & print) – to continue the series started in January in honor of Alaska becoming a state.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- How to Be a Patient by Dr. Sana Goldberg (confessional: I started this in January and haven’t finished it yet).
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.
I definitely didn’t do this on purpose because I never structure my reading this way, but January turned out to be a month of mostly woman authors (notated with a ‘w’). I am including the books I started in January but have not finished. Because they are not Challenge books they do not need to be finished in the same month. And. And! And, I have started running again. After a six month hiatus, I think I am back! Sort of.
- A Cold-Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow (w & EB)
- The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King (w & AB)
- Firewatch by Connie Willis (w & EB)
- The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry
- Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown (w & EB)
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov (AB)
- Take This Man by Frederick Busch
- ADDED: The Renunciation by Edgardo Rodriguez Julia
- Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn
- The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior edited by Chris Elphick, John Dunning & David Allen Sibley
- The Turk by Tom Standage
- ADDED: Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington
- Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
- To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett
Early Review Program for LibraryThing:
- Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim
- How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg – not finished yet
- Sharp by Michelle Dean – not finished yet
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – not finished yet
Mattison, Alice. Animals. Cambridge, MA: Alice James Books, 1979.
Reason read: July is Mattison’s birth month.
A collection of thirty poems rich and pulsating with human life make up Animals by Alice Mattison. Women come alive to argue, have sex, give birth, seek memories, laugh out loud, fiercely love family, change identities, experience sickness, learn to rescue, and accept failure. There is courage and wit in Mattison’s vision. Each poem is heartbeats and breath, like a roar of vibrant life.
Lines I liked, “throwing echoes between eardrums” (from Husband, p 11) and “The wildlife grows shameless in spring: it’s like putting out your hand in the dark and feeling a penis” (from Creatures, p 26).
Author fact: Mattison began her writing career as a poet.
Book trivia: Animals is Alice Mattison’s first book.
Nancy said: Nancy didn’t say anything specific about Animals but she did say Alice Mattison is “a multitalented writer” (p 1).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the very first chapter called “A…My Name is Alice” (p 1).
One of my all time favorite 10,000 Maniacs songs is “The Painted Desert” off the album, Our Time in Eden. If you have never heard it, the premise is simple. A couple is trying to have a long distance relationship. Or…one of them is anyway…While one is off in the Southwest, the other waits patiently for the time when he? she? can join the other. But, soon the patience tarnishes and the one left behind find themselves pleading, “I wanted to be there by May at the latest time. Isn’t that the plan we had or have you changed your mind? I haven’t heard a word from you since Phoenix or Tuscon. April is over. Can you tell how long before I can be there?” The underlying poison is that the partner has moved on and the answer to the question is “never.” How ironic.
Having said all that, April IS over. As far as the run is concerned, I begrudgingly ran a half mara and a 10k and despite not training for either, I am pleased with both races.
And I read a fair amount of books:
- Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell
- Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
- The Corner: a Year in the life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns
- The Evolution of Everyday Objects by Henry Petroski
- Bogey Man by George Plimpton
- To the Is-Land: an Autobiography by Janet Frame
- Charmed by Nora Roberts
- The Venus Throw by Steven Saylor
- “Unexplorer” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- “Travel” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz
- Deeply Grateful and Entirely Unsatisfied by Amanda Happe
Milosz, Czeslaw. New and Collected Poems (1931 – 2001). New York: Harper Collins, 2001.
Reason read: March is National Poetry Month in some parts of the world. Stay tuned because April is also a poetry month…in some parts of the world.
Milosz’s poetry touches on a myriad of topics. There are echoes of childhood, listening to a mother softly climb the shadowy stairs or watching a father quietly read in the library. There are a series of poems that lovingly describe a house and its inhabitants. Linked poetry that are meant to be read hand in hand with the next.
Confessional: I did not get through the entire collection. I could have kept the book through April since April is also a month for poetry, but I opted not to.
Favorite quote, “Love is sand swallowed by parched lips” (from Hymn, page 13).
Author fact: Milosz was a Polish cultural attache in France. As an aside, whenever I think of a cultural attache I think of Robin Williams in the movie, The Birdcage. I can’t help it.
Book trivia: New and Collected Poems celebrates the career of Milosz, including the very first poem he wrote at age twenty. I think it would have been cool to include angst-ridden/written poetry from when Milosz was a teenager, because you know he must have written some!
Nancy said: Nancy said Milosz’s New and Collected Poems was a “splendid introduction to those who don’t know his work” (p 187).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Polish Poetry and Prose” (p 187).
Millay, Edna St. Vincent. “Travel.” April Second. New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1921. p33.
Reason read: April is National Poetry Month. Note the title of the book from where “Travel” was published.
The poem “Travel” reminded me of Freya Stark in it’s restlessness and sense of adventure. To look at train tracks and wonder where they end up. To watch a plane make its way across the sky, the contrails fading bit by bit, and guess its final destination. Who hasn’t done that?
Confessional: As a child I did the reverse. While riding in my father’s car I used to watch the world passing by and if I saw someone in a yard raking leaves or watering a garden I would try to put myself in their shoes. To stand there, rake or garden hose in hand as the silver car flashes by with the little girl peering out the window, her blank face staring. What was it to be standing still as my other self rode by? Did the gardener wonder where I was going?
Author fact: Millay was born in Rockland, Maine.
Poem trivia: the theme of restlessness has been compared to Millay’s sense of sexuality and how she “traveled” between genders as a bisexual.
Nancy said: Nancy said she could identify with Millay’s poem “Travel” because it described how she wished she felt – that sense of adventure to ride the rails no matter where they took her (p 138).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the introduction to the chapter called “Making Tracks by Train” (p 138).
Oliver, Mary. “Wild Geese.” Wild Geese: Selected Poems. Bloodaxe, 2004.
Reason read: April is National Poetry Month
The title poem “Wild Geese” is a small slice of heaven in words. Taking just a little over a minute to read, it sends a mighty message. It’s all about hope, inspiration and self worth in the grand scheme of things. Nature is all around us and we are a part of it. We belong in the universe.
Author fact: YouTube has great videos of Mary Oliver reading “Wild Geese.” They are amazing. Check them out.
Poem trivia: I think everyone likes to quote “Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry Pleasers” (p 187). As an aside, this is a the last poem I had to read for the chapter. As soon as I read Perrine’s Sound and Sense I will be finished with the entire chapter.
Yes, it is now April 4th and I am just getting to this. April is slowly becoming one of those coulda, woulda months. I was supposed to run nine miles on Sunday. Instead, I had Easter dinner with the family and chilled out. I could have run on Monday but it snowed and I had Cairo. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, didn’t. April is supposed to he a half marathon (and you can see how well the training is going) and a 10k one week later. Here are the books:
- Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell – in honor of Lowell’s birth month being in April.
- Zeitoun by Dave Eggers – in honor of April being the month Louisiana was founded.
- Bogey Man by George Plimpton – in honor of the PGA tour.
- Corner by David Simon – in honor of Maryland becoming a state in April.
- Evolution of Useful Things by Henry Petroski – in honor of April being Math, Science, and Technology month.
- Venus Throw by Steven Saylor – to continue the series started in March for Saylor’s birth month.
- Charmed by Nora Roberts – to continue the series started in February for Valentine’s Day.
- New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz – to continue honoring Poetry Month
- A Few Figs From Thistles by Edna St. Vincent Millay – see above.
- “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay – see above.
If there is time:
- To the Is-Land by Janet Frame – in honor of Anzac Day in New Zealand.
- Jargoon Pard by Andre Norton (I had to request this one through interlibrary loan so I’m not sure it will be read in time to be in the April category.
March was one of those weird months. A few Nor’Easters. A few miles run. A few books read. We had two school closings in back to back weeks so that helped with the reading, but not the run. I finished the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race just two minutes off my time last year. Considering I didn’t train (again) I’m alright with that. There’s always next year! Here are the books:
- The Good Son by Michael Gruber
- Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
- White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling
- Witch World by Andre Norton
- Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis
- All the Way Home by David Giffels
- Slide Rule by Nevil Shute
Series Continuations –
- Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to finished the series started in honor of her birth month in January.
- Entranced by Nora Roberts
Early Review for Librarything –
- Oneiron by Laura Lindstedt (started)
- Infinite Hope – Anthony Graves
- New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz (not finished)
Fun – I’m not finished with either fun book so I won’t list them here.