Orchard

Watson, Larry. Orchard. Random House, 2003.

Reason read: Wisconsin became a state in May.

Don’t be fooled by the simple plot. This is more than a story about a husband and wife. This is a historical piece. [The reader will drop in on 1947 and 1954 and learn about emerging technologies, and my favorite – how to be unladylike (chew gum, smoke, drink alone, swear or sweat).] It is a cultural commentary on what it means to be a foreigner in a strange land, language barriers and all. This is a heartbreaking romance. It is what happens when grief complicates a marriage, misunderstanding about propriety tangles it, and opportunity finally destroys it. The grief of losing a child to an avoidable accident serves as the catalyst for a downward spiral for all involved. Orchard begs the question who is the bigger betrayer, the one who builds an emotional obsession or the one whose carnal desires explode in a single act? Is emotion infidelity more of a sin than a physical one? Larry Watson is becoming one of my favorite authors.
I have read a few reviews that mention this scene, for better of for worse. I myself held my breath when Sonja went to the barn to shoot the family horse. the scene was only seconds long but I seemed to be suspended in dread forever.

Favorite lines (and there were quite a few), “You wanted stillness, but not the repose of a cadaver” (p 5), “Desperation did not enter one room of a family’s house and stayed out of others” (p 18), “Thus do our own fantasies cripple us” (p 39).

As an aside, I am sorry I read a review which mentioned Andrew Wyeth’s Helga paintings and the similarities to Watson’s Orchard. Now I cannot reconcile Sonja’s face as her own now that I see Helga in my mind’s eye.

Author fact: I am also reading Montana 1948 by Larry Watson.

Book trivia: This should be a movie.

Playlist: Nat King Cole’s “Pretend”, Eddie Fisher, “O Mein Papa”, and, “Joy to the World”.

Nancy said: Orchard is not given any special treatment by Pearl.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest (p 21).


Anna Karenina

Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Penguin Books, 2000.

Reason read: Russia celebrates Victory Day in May.

Who doesn’t know the tragic story of Anna Karenina? When the story was complete I found myself asking does Anna our deserve pity? Many see her love for another man other than her husband as a tragedy. Indeed, Anna’s husband only cares about how society will view him in regards to her infidelity. Karenin is weak, cold and completely unlikable. However, there was another far more appealing couple. I found Konstantine Levin’s relationship with Kitty far more enthralling and far more tragic. As an aside, when I first picked up Anna Karenina I wondered to myself what made this story nearly one thousand pages long. The more I got into it, the more it became clear Tolstoy could spend entire chapters on the threshing of fields, the racing of horses, croquet competitions, and philosophical tirades about Russian society. Condensed down, Anna Karenina is simply about unhappy relationships; specifically an unhappily married woman who has to chose between her duty as a mother and her emotional attachment to a lover. We all know how that turns out.

Quote to quote: “Alexi Alexandrovich smiled his smile which only revealed his teeth, but said nothing more” (p 228).

Author fact: Tolstoy bears a striking resemblance to the Hermit of Manana.

Book trivia: according to practically everyone, the translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky is the edition to read.

Nancy said: Interestingly enough, Leo Tolstoy is not in the index of Book Lust To Go because she does not mention the author of Anna Karenina. Instead, she mentions Pevear and Volokhonsky as translators and they are indexed in Book Lust To Go. In other Lust books she called Anna Karenina “great” and “a classic”.

BookLust Twist: I have always said, the more Pearl mentions a title, the more I know she loved, loved, loved the book. I’m not sure, but Anna Karenina might be Pearl’s most often mentioned book. It is included in all three Lust books: from Book Lust in the chapters “Families in Trouble” (p 82) and “Russian Heavies” (p 210), of course. From More Book Lust in the chapters “Lines that Linger; Sentences that Stick” (p 140), “Men channeling Women” (p 166), and “Wayward Wives” (231). Finally, from Book Lust To Go in the chapter “Saint Petersburg/Leningrad/Saint Petersburg” (p 194). I will add that Anna Karenina also takes place in Moscow.


Jazz

Morrison, Toni. Jazz. Alfred A Knopf, 1992.

Reason read: while it is not accurate, I read Jazz in honor of May being music month.

Joe and Violet are in the business of beauty. Joe sells cosmetics door to door and his wife is a home-visiting hairdresser. Usually a straight up and dependable man, Joe falls in obsessive love with a teenager named Dorcas. His passion for Dorcas forces him to kill her. At her funeral, in a fit of jealous insanity Joe’s wife, Violet, attempts to slash the dead girl’s face while she lay in her coffin. Violent Violet then goes home to free all of her pet birds. Her rage makes her human. The smartest character in the book is the City. I like the way the City makes people think they can do whatever they want and get away with it. The culture is full of passions, both right and wrong. Jazz will also take you back to July 1917, a time when Grandmother True Belle (great name) was afraid of Springfield, Massachusetts. (Kind of funny since I work in that urban area and sometimes I, too, am afraid of Springfield, Massachusetts.) Morrison’s vivid descriptions of culture are breathtaking.

Lines I loved, “Can’t rival the dead for love” (p 15) and “Two dollars will get you a woman on a store-bought scooter if you want it” (p 46). I have no idea what that means.

Playlist: Wings Over Jordan

Author fact: Princeton University could boast that Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison was on their payroll.

Book trivia: Jazz is part of the Dantesque Trilogy: Beloved, Jazz, and Paradise X.

Nancy said: Pearl used the words “jazzy syncopation” to describe Jazz.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: She Say” (p 12).


Positively 4th Street

Hajdu, David. Positively 4th Street: the Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina, and Richard Farina. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.

Reason read: May is music month. This is a proper book about music.

All it takes is one moment to allow your greatness to shine. Quarterback Tom Brady knows that without Drew Bledsoe getting hurt he wouldn’t have had the chance to prove himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks of NFL history. The band Imagine Dragons knows that without the lead singer from Train getting sick they wouldn’t have played the festival that changed their lives practically overnight. Joan Baez discovered that when she took part of someone else’s time to perform at the Newport Folk Festival she was given the opportunity of a lifetime. I enjoy a biography when the world of another human opens up to me and I discover that I probably would have liked them as an everyday person. When Joan Baez was quoted as saying she was afraid to take music lessons because she thought she would discover that she wasn’t all that good I liked her a little more. She had a sense of humor and wit to boot. But Positively 4th Street is not just about Joan Baez. Hadju takes us into the world of her sister, Mimi, and the influential men in their lives, Bob Dylan and Richard Farina. I have to admit, I knew next to nothing about Mimi and Dick before this book. Now I feel I have some catching up to do (musically). I think it’s incredibly tragic that Farina died on the same day his only book was published and his wife celebrated her 21st birthday.

As an aside, Joan was referred to as the Virgin Mary of music. This made me think of Natalie Merchant and how she was referred to as the Emily Dickinson of music. Why do men have to come up with these strange labels for women artists?

Author fact: Hajdu wrote a bunch of books around the topic of music. I am not reading anything but Positively 4th Street for the book Challenge.

Book trivia: Positively 4th Street includes two sections of black and white photographs.

There is an insane amount of music mentioned in Positively 4th Street. Hang on to your hats!
Playlist (musicians): Alan Lomax, Almanac Singers, Animals, Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys, Beatles, Bobby Rydell, Bessie Jones, Burl Ives, Blind Boys of Alabama, Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly, Brownie McGhee, Burt Bacharach, Chuck Berry, Clarence Ashley, Carolyn Hester, Conway Twitty, Charles River Valley Boys, Count Basie, Charlie Christian, Carl Perkins, Cole Porter, Chambers Brothers, Doris Day, Duke Ellington, Doc Watson, Everly Brothers, Eddy Arnold, Elvis Presley, Eric von Schmidt, Frank Sinatra, Frankie Valli, Frankie Avalon, Greenbriar Boys, George Wein, Hank Williams, Harry Belafonte, Horace Sprott, Hawks, James Field, Jimmy Reid, Joan Baez, John Cooke, John Sebastian, John Lee Hooker, Judy Collins, Josh White, Jean Ritchie, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Lennon, Kingston Trio, Kate Smith, Lead Belly, Lionel Hampton, Leonard Bernstein, Lesley Gore, Lotte Lenya, Little Richard, Levon Helm, Marianne Faithfull, Mel Torme, Mance Lipscomb, Muddy Waters, Mahalia Jackson, Mississippi John Hurt, Nat Cole, New Lost City Ramblers, Odetta, Oscar Brand, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Peter, Paul and Mary, Paul Simon, Pete Seeger, Peter Yarrow, Ricky Nelson, Robert Gray, Rudy Vallee, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr, Sleepy John Estes, Staple Singers, Sonny Terry, Teddy Wilson, Theodore Bikel, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Tom Rush, Van Morrison, the Weavers, Woody Guthrie,

Playlist (songs):
A
“All the World Has Gone By”, “Always Something There To Remind Me”, “A Swallow Song”, “Amazing Grace”, “Annie Had a Baby”, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, “Another Country”, “All I Really Want to Do”, “All My Trials”,
B
“Blue Suede Shoes”, “Ballad of Donald White”, “Black is the Color”, “Ballad of Peter Amberley”, “Bob Dylan’s Dream”, “Boots of Spanish Leather”, “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”, “Ballad of Hollis Brown”, “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Birmingham Sunday”, “Bye, Bye Love”, “Ballad in Plain D”, “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”, “Bringing it All Back Home”, “Brown-Eyed Gril”, “Ballad of a Thin Man”,
C
“Car, Car”, “Cumberland Gap”, Careless Love”, “Come Back, Baby”, “Chipmunk Song”, “Cocaine”, “Celebration for a Gray Day”, “Corrina, Corrina”, “Chimes of Freedom”, “Catch the Wind”,
D
“Dopico”, “Diamonds and Rust”, “Death of Emmett Till”, “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind”, “Don’t Weep After Me”, “Drive It On”, “Down on Penny’s Farm”, Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”, “Dog Blue”, “Donna, Donna”,
E
“El Preso Numero Nueve”,
F
“Farewell to Bob Dylan”, “Falcon”, “Field Near the Cathedral at Chartres”, “Farewell”, “Freight Train Blues”, “Fare Thee Well”,
G
“Gates of Eden”, “Glory, Glory”, “Good Night, Irene”, “Girl From the North Country”, “Gospel Plow”, “Green Historical Bum”,
H
“Hard-Loving Loser”, “Homeward Bound”, “Hold On”, “Henry Martin”, “Hard Travelin'”, “House of the Rising Sun”, “Hard Times in New York”, “He Was a Friend of Mine”, “Hard-Loving Loser”, “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance”, “Hound Dog”,
I
“I am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger”, “If I Had a Hammer”, “I Don’t Believe You [She Acts Like We Never Have Met]”, “Island in the Sun”, “I’ll Fly Away”, “I Was Young When I Left Home”, “If You Gotta Go, Go Now”, “It’s Alright Ma”, “It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry”, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, “I Came to Jesus”, “I Once Loved a Lass”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “It Aint Me Babe”,
J
“John Riley”, “Jordan River”, “Jonny’s Gone to Hi-Lo”, Judy’s Turn to Cry”, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”,
K
“Kitty”,
L
“Lay Down Your Weary Tune”, “Lord Franklin”, “La Bamba”, “Lowlands”, “London Waltz”, “Long Ago, Far Away”, “Lord Randall”, “Leaving of Liverpool”, “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”, “Ludlow Massacre”, “Love is Just a Four-Letter Word”, “Like a Rolling Stone”,
M
“Miles”, “My Back Pages”, “Mixed-Up Confusion”, “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind”, “Mary Hamilton”, “Masters of War”, “Man of Constant Sorrow”, “Maggie’s Farm”, “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “My Little Red Book”, “Michelle”,
N
“Nottamun Town”, “No More Auction Block”,
O
“One-Way Ticket”, “Old Blue”, “Only Pawn in Their Game”, “Once I Knew a Pretty Girl”, “On the Banks of the Ohio”, “On Top of Old Smokey”, “O What a Beautiful Morning,” “Overseas Stomp”, “Only a Hobo”, “Once I Had a Sweetheart”, “Oh Boy”, “Once in Love with Lyndon”, “One Too Many Mornings”,
P
“Pastures of Plenty”, “Pack Up Your Sorrows”, “Poor Boy Blues”, “Pal of Mine”, “Patriot Game”, “Poor Miner’s Lament”, “Puff the Magic Dragon”,
R
“Roll On Columbia”, “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie”, “Rake and Rambling Boy”, “Reno Nevada”,
S
“Sweet Sir Galahad”, “Sail Away Ladies”, “Sound of Silence”, “Sally Ann”, “Scarborough Fair”, “Silver Dagger”, “So Soon in the Morning”, “Song to Woody”, “Swing and Turn Jubilee”, “Standing on the Highway”, “Surfaris’ Wipe Out”, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, “She Belongs To Me”,
T
“Talkin’ New York”, “This Life is Killing”, “This Land is Your Land”, “Talkin’ Hava Negeilah Blues”, “Tom Dooley”, “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues”, “Tomorrow is a Long Time”, “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues”, “Troubled and I Don’t Know Why”, “There But for Fortune”, “To Ramona”, “Turn, Turn, Turn”,
V
“Virgin Mary Has One Son”, “V.D. Blues”,
W
“Wild Mountain Thyme”, “Watermelon Man”, “What You Gonna Call Your Pretty Little Baby”, “Who Killed Davey Moore”, “Wimoweh”, “With God on Our Side”, “Wagoner’s Lad”, “Wild Colonial Boy”, “When the Ship Comes In”, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”, “Wildwood Flower”,
Y
“Your Cheating Heart”, “Young Blood”, “You’re No Good”, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feelin'”, “Yesterday”.

Nancy said: Pearl experienced a musical trip down memory lane when she read Positively 4th Street.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The 1960s in Fact and Fiction” (p 178).


Great and Terrible Beauty

Bray, Libba. A Great and Terrible Beauty. Ember, 2003.

Reason read: May is birds and bees month. A Great and Terrible Beauty is a book written for teenagers. I think you can figure it out from there.

Even though this is a book best for teens I found myself enthralled with the story of Gemma. After her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, Gemma is sent to an finishing school in London. Everyone is saying her mother died of cholera because the truth is far more scandalous for the Victorian era. Despite taking place in Victorian England, Gemma’s boarding school could be in western Maine in the 21st century. The cattiness of school girls is as timeless as it is universal. In short, there will always be a crew, a posse, a clique, or gang. Some group of individuals designed to alienate and torture others. The names of these groups will change, but for the outsider the unfathomable desire to belong to one of them will never change. The act of self-mutilation in an effort to feel “something” is timeless, as well. Cutting in an effort to feel something is also represented in the story. The title of the book comes from the great and terrible beauty of power. There is an unspoken responsibility when bestowed with power. Gemma has the power to visit another realm; one filled with beautiful visions and terrible evils.

Two lines I liked, “Your mind is not a cage” (p 128) and “What kind of girl am I to enjoy a kiss I’ve seized so boldly, without waiting to have it asked for and taken from me, the way I should?” (p 210).

Author fact: according to the author bio, Libba is a cat person. Cool.

Book trivia: A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first of three books in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy. I am not reading Rebel Angels or The Sweet Far Thing. Too bad because I liked A Great and Terrible Beauty.

Playlist: “God Save the Queen”.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about A Great and Terrible Beauty other than to indicate it is best for teenage girls. I would disagree. Boys need to know about prejudices against women. Gemma’s brother is a prime example of what was (and still is) wrong with our society. Girls, females, women are not supposed to be pretty objects for men to own no matter the century. We can’t erase how long it took women to have a vote or to play professional sports, but we can educate our boys, males, men to make better choices when it comes to the representation and treatment of women. [Stepping down from soap box now…]

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Teens” (p 23).


Ghosts of Walter Crockett

Crockett, W, Edward. Ghosts of Walter Crockett: a Memoir. Islandport Press, 2021.

Reason read: as a member of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing, I review books from time to time. I chose this one because it takes place in Portland, Maine. A city know and love very well.

Let me be upfront and honest. Crockett’s words will make you wince. If you have an alcoholic in your life, his words will ring truer than you can to admit. If you have poverty in your life, his words will ring truer than you can to admit. If you have ever had to struggle on the dark side of town, his words will ring truest of all. Crockett might not be the most elegant of writers, but he is one of the most honest and engaging authors I have read in a long time. He does not shy away from his own faults and failures. The moral of the story is that everyone has a story. I hope he keeps writing. I think he has more to say.

As an aside, there was a lot I could relate to in Ghosts of Walter Crockett. I have stood on dirty, moldy carpets in dark, dank homes where the smells of blood, shit, vomit and mold fought for dominance in my nose. I have eyed hardened piles of crap and wondered which of the eighteen animals was responsible at the same time trying hard not to let the possibility of human involvement creep into my mind.
Even more specific, I have spent a great deal of time in Portland, Maine. I knew it before it became boutiques and big time. I know some of the establishments Crockett referenced. I dated someone who graduated from Chevrus (this guy also pledged Sigma Nu). I know Togus as my grandfather died there. Even more personal: my father quit school after the eighth grade, but instead of hitching from Maine to New York City, he did the south to north route. My mother never got her license to drive either.

Playlist: Frank Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady Tonight”, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind”, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”, “Jail House Blues” by Elvis, “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin, “Rags to Riches” by Tony Bennett, and the Beatles’ classic, “Let It Be”. Jonathan Edwards, Irish Rovers, Carole King, Elton John, Rolling Stones, the Cars, Aerosmith, and James Taylor.


Roads to Santiago

Nooteboom, Cees. Roads to Santiago: a Modern-Day Pilgrimage Through Spain. Translated by Ina Rilke. Harcourt Press, 1992.

Reason read: there is a festival in Madrid in May.

Prepared to be swept away by Nooteboom’s luxurious descriptions of Spain. Everything seen through his lens is treated with lavish prose. I could see the styles of Roman and Gothic architecture as if I were standing in front of each structure. Renaissance and Baroque art come to life with vivid reality. I now want to visit the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela with its pillars marked with fingerprints. While Nooteboom subtitles his book “a modern-day pilgrimage” we look in on the 8th century in a time of Beatus, King Silo, and the Carolingian Empire. Nooteboom draws parallels between Antigone of Sophocles and the Spanish state after Euzkadi ta Askatsuna targeted violence. We dance between historical and modern Spain with personal anecdotes thrown in for good measure. Aside from the beautiful writing, Nooteboom included stunning black and white photographs. Too bad they are not in color.
Sadly, I cannot quote anything from Roads to Santiago without contacting the authorities first. I don’t have time for that.

After reading Picasso’s War it seems impossible that some people would long for the days of Francisco Franco.
As an aside, I always like drawing comparisons to Natalie Merchant. Any mention of Andalusia or Majorca make me think of her music as she has songs about both.

Author fact: Nooteboom has written a great deal over the years. I am only reading Roads to Santiago for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Is there a different subtitle? I must be reading a different edition. From Book Lust To Go it should be “Detours and Riddles in the Lands of History of Spain” and not “A Modern-Day Pilgrimage Through Spain.”

Playlist: Handel’s “The Messiah”.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Roads to Santiago.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the incredibly simple chapter called “Spain” (p 220).


From Mumbai to Mecca

Trojanow, Ilija. From Mumbai to Mecca. Translated by Rebecca Morrison. Armchair Traveller, 2007.

Reason read: May was the month I used to walk sixty miles for a grassroots nonprofit to raise money for cancer research and holistic patient care. Read Mumbai to Mecca to remember the journey.

Those of us curious about what happens during a Hajj, the pilgrimage to the holy sites of Islam, can be thankful Trojanow made the journey. He writes with such beauty and grace, it is easy to get caught up in his descriptive words. Take the ritual of wazu, for example. There is a precise way to wash before any kind of prayer. At the end of the complicated process, one is supposed to feel calm, as if in a meditative state before prayer. I felt almost zen-like just reading about the process. I enjoyed learning about the Mumbai tea ceremonies and had a good laugh when Trojanow lost his sandals after a prayer session. Like any good travelogue, there is a decent mix of historical and personal.

As an aside, okay, I admit it. as I read about Trojanow losing his sandals, I was thinking of the episode when Carrie lost her $400 shoes when she attended a no-footwear party for a friend.

Favorite lines: It is too bad I need to seek permission to quote anything from Mumbai to Mecca because Trojanow is witty and lyrical, all at the same time. There were dozens of lines I liked and half a dozen more I would have shared here.

Author fact: Trojanow is a German citizen and I am reading two other books by him.

Book trivia: in Book Lust To Go Ilija Trojanow’s book is cataloged as having a subtitle: A Pilgrimage to the Holy Sites of Islam. My copy doesn’t have the subtitle and depending where you look, inside cover or spine, the title is either From Mumbai to Mecca or just Mumbai to Mecca.

Nancy said: Pearl said From Mumbai to Mecca is bound to be a classic.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “A is for Adventure” (p 3).


Color

Finlay, Victoria. Color: a Natural History of the Palette. Ballantine Books, 2002.

Reason read: April is fashion month and whenever I think of fashion, I think of color.

To research the history of color is brilliant like a box of sixty-four. Who, for example, has thought about from where ochre originated? According to Finlay, ochre is the first color(s) of paint. I did not know that and to be totally honest, nor have I ever thought about ochre in this way. [My only thoughts in ochre were to be confused about what shade of yellow, red, or brown it is supposed to be.] Did you ever wonder what the HB on a pencil meant? Hardness and blackness. How about the origin of the phrase, “cut through all this red tape”? Who knew? Apparently, Finlay. That’s who. She took the time to travel the globe looking for answers about color: Australia for ochre, England for black and brown, China for white, Chile for red, Italy for orange, India for yellow,…I wanted to make a map of all her travels. On the heels of reading Travels in a Thin Country I couldn’t stop comparing Sara Wheeler’s adventure to that of Victoria Finlay.
There is a fair amount of humor in Color. To see what I mean, find the section where Finlay describes the interesting practice of boiling cow urine after the bovine have been fed a steady diet of mango leaves for two weeks straight.

As another aside, I got a little excited when I saw Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s name in the index. My Natalie connection is that she put Lawrence’s daughter’s poem, “If No One Every Marries Me” to music. I need to thank Finlay for bringing the artist Joseph Mallord William Turner to my attention. ‘Waves Breaking Against Wind’ is a painting I identify with in a strong way.

Author fact: At the time of publication, Finlay was living in Hong Kong (according to the dust jacket).

Book trivia: Color includes a section of photographs…in color! I guess black and white wouldn’t necessarily work for a book about color…

Playlist: Bach

Nancy said: Pearl said she would buy Color for a textile designer.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “A Holiday Shopping List” (p 116). In the index Color is incorrectly listed on page 1216.


Love Thy Neighbor

Maass, Peter. Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War. Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

Reason read: History books state the Bosnian War started in on April 6th 1992 despite earlier acts of violence.

April 1st, 1992. My father was five months and twenty days away from dying. On that day, Serbians commenced their brutal attack on Bosnia. I think I might have done damage to my psyche to read about Bosnia and Guernica in the same month…To wipe out an entire community or ethnicity for absolutely no reason other than pure dominance is unfathomable.
Line that gave me pause, “There was even a slip of paper from the library saying they didn’t posses any overdue books” (p 86). Imagine giving up everything you own, including items you don’t, like books borrowed from the library. The business of the bureau for ethnic cleansing demanded Bosnians claim they handed over all worldly possessions to a Serbian. This act does not encompass the horrific violence, but rather the senseless humility.
About the violence. Most of the time I found myself twisting and twitching in my chair, wanting to turn away from the sentences of torture Maas wrote. I am one of those fat and happy and white privileged people who blissfully and ignorantly cite misunderstanding when it comes to the war in Bosnia. I was oblivious to the death and destruction with the exception of what the U.S. media decided or cared to reveal to me. What baffles me the most is that, like the Hutu and Tutsi, Serbs and Bosnians at one time got along like neighbors and family. Another war similarity from forty years earlier, like Franco denying the bombing of Guernica, Serbia denied the bombing of Bosnia was their responsibility. Death and destruction is not a macabre mirage and yet they do refuse see or own it. The practice of modern warfare with age-old atrocities was hard to read. Reporters and journalists had the luxury of escaping Sarajevo – taking a break was not an option for its entrapped residents. Maas takes his time to carefully humanize the narrative by inserting personal anecdotes from his own life.

Quotes to quote, “They didn’t wear normal uniforms, they didn’t have many teeth, and they didn’t want us there” (p16), “At the time, I didn’t think there was anything strange about flying through the air with 35,000 pounds of feta cheese” (p 23), “If surrealism had not existed, Bosnia would have invented it” (p 28).

Playlist: Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way,” Ringo Starr, Guns N’ Roses, Edith Pilaf’s “Je ne regrette rien,”Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” Ella Fitzgerald, Mick Jagger, Louis Armstrong, Ike and Tina Turner.

Author fact: Maas has written a bunch of other books, but I am only reading Love Thy Neighbor for the Challenge.

Book trivia: As an aside, it is a shame the public library from which I borrowed Love Thy Neighbor had to plastic cover the book. The original material would have felt good to hold.

Nancy said: Peter said Love Thy Neighbor “expose(s) the horror of life during wartime in the former Yugolavia” and Maas is more “visceral” about his writing (Book Lust p 31).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Balkan Specters” (p 31).


Housewrights

Corriveau, Art. Housewrights. Penguin Books, 2002.

Reason read: April has a week dedicated to librarians.

The early 1900s. It is an age when nature is stepping aside for the steamroller that is science. A father with twins so identical even he can’t tell them apart shows up in eight-year-old Lily’s Vermont yard, looking for carpentry work. Unabashed and unconventional, Lily takes to the boys and they can’t help falling in love with her as only little boys can when a girl can climb a tree faster or shows no fear diving into a pond from a great height.
Fast forward ten years and one of the twins, Oren, comes calling. He has never forgotten Lily. Eighteen years old, Lily now works as a librarian in the same town she never left. Did she stay where she was just so Oren or Ian could find her? Oren came back first. They marry, build a house and settle into the community as husband and wife. Soon after brother Ian arrives in town after surviving the horrors of the First Great War. He is a shell-shocked sleepwalking mess and Lily feels the old pull towards him; with Oren’s blessing she welcomes Ian into their home. The three set up house as if time has stood still and they are once again children, locked in the play of deep friendship. Only now with adult alcohol to go with the games and music and loud laughter. It isn’t long before their unconventional arrangement becomes the talk of the town.
More than a story about conformity and appearances, Housewrights is a lesson in identity and acceptance. It is about changing with the times and making peace with the past.

Quote to quote, “She also knew not to trust everything men said when they were drinking” (p 4). Good girl. I should note, there were many, many more passages I could quote. This just set up a premonition perfectly.

Book trivia: Housewrights has a pretty accurate account of how maple syrup is produced and how a house brought from a catalog is put together.

Author fact: Housewrights is Art Corriveau’s first novel. It should be made into a movie.

Playlist: “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” “The Wedding March,” and “The Gentlemen’s Waltz.”

Nancy said: Pearl did not say much about Housewrights.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Libraries and Librarians” (p 138).


Snapper

Doyle, Roddy. The Snapper. Penguin Books, 1992.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland.

I can safely say most everyone knows about Doyle’s first novel, The Commitments. It was made into a pretty good movie and had a phenomenal soundtrack. I am willing to bet more people know the music than the book or the movie combined. The Snapper is like an episode of Seinfeld where a whole lot of nothing happens to an ordinary group of people. The plot centers around the fact Jimmy Rabbitte’s sister is pregnant. If you remember Jimmy Rabbitte, Jr., he was the guy who started the band, the Commitments. He wanted to be a manager of someone famous in the worst way. Remember how, in The Commitments he was always practicing his interview? In The Snapper his dreams have changed slightly. Still looking for fame, he now wants to be a disc jockey. But enough about Jimmy Jr. This time he isn’t the lead character. He is firmly in the background while his sister, Sharon Rabbitte, takes center stage as a twenty year old unwed mother-to-be. Like The Commitments, the dialogue carries the story. Family members and friends all try to guess the baby daddy. I felt bad for Sharon’s highly emotional and confused father. One day embarrassed about who knocked up his daughter, the next reading everything he can about what she is going through. The Snapper gives a spot-on account of the good, bad, and ugly elements of pregnancy.

Author fact: Doyle has also written books for children.

Book trivia: The Snapper is the next book in the trilogy, but can easily read on its own. Aside from the Rabbitte family, there is nothing to tie The Snapper back to The Commitments.

Playlist: Jennifer Rush’s “Power of Love,” “The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music,” “Just a Spoonful of Sugar,” Bon Jovi, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Tina Turner, Victor Sylvester, Alison Moyet’s “Is This Love,” Alexander O’Neil’s “Fake,” and James Brown’s “Living in America.”

Nancy said: Pearl thinks of Doyle when she thinks of Irish fiction.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Irish Fiction” (p 125).


Edsel

Estleman, Loren D. Edsel: a Novel of Detroit. The Mysterious Press, 1995.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Michigan becoming a state. I also needed a one-word title for the Portland Public Library’s Reading Challenge.

For Edsel: a Novel of Detroit, we jump back to the 1950s. Former reporter Constance “Connie” Minor has been hired to come up with an advertising pitch to sell the Ford “e-car” Edsel. At the same time, he is hired to be a spy for the United Auto Workers labor union. As he bounces between loyalties and the law, Connie also juggles dating two women. Per the usual Estlemen plot, Connie burrows underground into the world of mobsters, corrupt politicians, and ex-cops with hidden agendas. Once again, it is the dialogue that keeps Edsel hopping.
Like the other Estleman novels, Edsel is a parade of cars: Skyliner, Studebaker (my dad had one of those), Lincoln Capri, Ford Fairlane, Hudson Hornet, Bel-Air, Mercury Montclair, deVille, corsair, Citation, and Roadmaster.
This is going to sound strange, but I loved the last few pages of Edsel. If this had been a movie, the end roll of credits would have been a political and economic snapshot of how 1950s fared. Like the voiceover of the crime noir detective wrapping up the solving of a crime.
What was that movie when someone soandso goes back in time and laughingly asks her family, “you bought an Edsel?” knowing that in the future, this model was doomed to fail in a big way. I think it was “Peggy Sue Got Married” but I can’t remember the name of the actress who goes back in time.

Quote I liked, Israel Zed’s advice, “Time isn’t as important as attitude” (p 85). Two more lines to like, “I had to maneuver my lips out of the way of my words” (p 72), “Young women who are out to seduce fossils don’t begin by telling them they’re two years younger than their fathers” (p 147), and “Never plead problems of health to the man who holds your professional future in the file drawer of his desk” (p 278).

Author fact: Estleman was nominated for a Pulitzer.

Playlist: Little Richard, “After the Ball,” “The Black Bottom,” “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window,” “Shake, Rattle, and Roll,” “Sixteen Tons,” Teresa Brewer, Xavier Cugat, Frank Sinatra, Al Jolson, Rosemary Clooney’s “Come On-a My House,” Elvis’s “Hond Dog,” Jerry Lee Lewis, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Billy Eckstine, Frankie Lane’s “Mule Train,” and Bill Haley and the Comets.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Country Country: the Literary Midwest (Michigan)” (p 26).


Roar of the Sea

Vanasse, Deb. Roar of the Sea: Treachery, Obsession, and Alaska’s Most Valuable Wildlife. Alaska Northwest Books, 2022.

It is if Alexander MacLean’s whole life was leading up to the day he would become a pirate. At twenty-one he was jailed for fighting. He was such a bad ass Jack London used him as inspiration for a novel. Less than 200 pages long, Roar of the Sea may be short, but it packs a lot of information between its pages. As didactic and dense as it was, I found myself interested in what happened next. Pitted against Alex in the fur seal war was Henry Wood Elliott. Henry had himself a losing battle for as fascinating a subject of biological study the fur seals were, it was no match for the monetary worth of one luxurious seal pelt.

This has nothing to do with the writing of Roar of the Sea, and I am only going on assumption by first name, however I had to bring this to attention: author of the book, female. Publishing director, female. Marketing manager, female. Project specialist, female. Editor, female. Design and production, female. The only review on the book is by a woman. Last one. Roar was edited and indexed by a woman.

Reason read: As part of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing, I occasionally review new and republished works.

Author fact: While Vanasse is all things Alaskan, she lives in Oregon.

Book trivia: Maybe the finished publication will have photography, but I was missing it in the early proof. I would have liked to see what Alex and Henry looked like.


Picasso’s War

Martin Russell. Picasso’s War: the Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece that Changed the World. Dutton, 2002.

Reason read: the bombing of Guernica happened on April 26th, 1937. Read in honor and memory of the lives lost that day.

On May 11th, 1937, only two weeks after the insurgent Nazi Condor Legion bombed Guernica, Spain, Pablo Picasso commenced painting his famous masterpiece. While Picasso’s War celebrates Picasso’s work of art, “Guernica,” it also paints a biography of Picasso, the passionately flawed man. Picasso who couldn’t stay faithful to one woman; Picasso who saved everything ever given to him. As an aside, these two details make me believe I would have never gotten along with him. As a painter, his art was as polarizing as cilantro. In 1981 the famous painting still had to be protected from terrorists with armed guards.
Coincidentally, Martin was standing in from of “Guernica” on September 11th, 2001.
As an aside, I love books that make me want to explore more. I looked up Picasso’s cartoons “Dream and Lie of Franco” because of Russell’s book.
The biggest surprise for me was learning of Herbert Southworth, an unsung hero of the Guernica saga. He had a clerical job at the Library of Congress and he was convinced he could get to the bottom of who actually bombed Guernica. Despite denials, he needed to convince the American public of Franco’s threat to Democracy.

Author fact: Martin also wrote Beethoven’s Hair which was a bestseller. I am only reading Picasso’s War for the reading Challenge.

Book trivia: I wanted photography in Martin’s book. If nothing else, just a picture of Picasso’s famous Guernica for reference.

Playlist: Beatles and Joan Baez.

Nancy said: Pearl said Picasso’s War was “wonderfully readable” (Book Lust To Go p 90).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter called “Guernica” (p 89).