Tandia

Courtenay, Bryce. Tandia. London: William Heinmann, Ltd., 1991.

Reason read: to finish the series started in August in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.

This starts off as the story of Tandia Patel. Like Peekay in The Power of One, Tandia’s life begins with violence, prejudice and corruption. Her father, a famous Indian boxing referee, fathered her with his African American mistress. A racially mixed offspring in hyper color-sensitive South Africa is only asking for trouble. While Patel was alive, Tandia’s identity was one of confusion – going to school as Indian but coming home to be a black servant to her father’s household. After his heart attack and subsequent death, Tandia is predictably banished from his household and must rely on the kindness of strangers, much like Peekay did when he was a child. And speaking of Peekay, his life story continues in Tandia. Fans of Peekay’s character will not be disappointed. He only grows more and more admirable as he moves from boxing champion to lawyer, champion to the black community.
Other Power of One similarities include the kindness of an obese and jolly woman, the loyalty of a devoted and deformed servant, and the hatred of a powerful bigot and bully.

It is not a spoiler alert to warn readers of the horrific violence Tandia suffers at the hands of white policemen. I had a hard time reading those early scenes.
As an aside,like some other reviewers, I was disappointed by Courtenay’s ending. It was almost as if he didn’t know how to end it and I have to wonder if he was leaving himself room for another sequel.

Author fact: Courtenay died in November of 2012.

Book trivia: settle in to read Tandia as it is a healthy 900 pages long.

Nancy said: Nancy said Tandia as the sequel to The Power of One is, “just as good” (More Book Lust p 3).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Africa: a Reader’s Itinerary (p 2).


Finding the Dream

Roberts, Nora. Finding the Dream. New York: Severn House Publishing, 1996.

Reason read: to finish the series started in August in honor of dream month.

Finding the Dream ends the Templeton trilogy.  Just to recap: In Daring to Dream flamboyant Margot Sullivan found love. In Holding the Dream Serious Kate Powell found love. In Finding the Dream finally, it is practical Laura Templeton’s turn in the spotlight. Would she find love again after all she had been through? Here is my favorite part of the entire series: throughout the pages of Daring to Dream and Holding the Dream, Laura’s bad marriage and equally awful divorce had been playing out. It’s the one story line that successfully weaved its way through the entire trilogy (aside from the cheesy Seraphina treasure hunt). Peter Ridgeway, a Templeton employee, seduced Laura when she was a teenager. He only wanted to marry her so that he had a permanent “in” with the family hotel business. But after cheating on Laura and stealing their two daughter’s inheritance he flew the coop, marrying a Templeton rival. (Another story line that ran through all three books but was unsuccessful.) Now, it is time for Laura to climb out of the ashes of a failed marriage and find a true love for herself. Just as Margot and Kate had climbed out of the wreckage of their own personal traumas. And just like Margot and Kate, Laura finds a love interest who is wrong for her in every way. True to the Nora Roberts formula, refined Laura and rough-around-the-edges Michael Fury clash at every turn. How will they ever fall in love?

Author fact: Roberts has written as J.D. Robb for her Death series.

Nancy said: nothing specific.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203).


The Chronoliths

Wilson, Robert C. The Chronoliths. New York: Tor, 2001.

Reason read: October is “Star Man” month and The Chronoliths is sort of about time travel…

Scott Warden as an old man is writing his memoirs about his involvement with the Chronoliths. When he begins his story the year is 21st century. The place is Thailand. Scott and his family are hanging out in a beach side town “busy doing something close to nothing” when a huge 200 foot structure in the form of monument appears in the jungled interior. This is no ordinary monument. Its arrival changed the climate, destroyed acres worth of trees and spewed ionizing radiation. But even more curious is the inscription, commemorating a victorious battle sixteen years into the future. Then, another monument appears in downtown Bangkok, killing thousands. Again it commemorates a victory years into the future. Because Scott and a friend the first ones to arrive on the scene of the original monument, they are irrevocably linked to the phenomenon. A scientist from Scott’s past recruits him to study the structures in an effort to thwart a future warlord from destroying society.

The Chronoliths is futuristic enough to acknowledge the world had progressed but not so much that it wasn’t recognizable to the reader. Some examples: Scott lived in a society where smokers needed to hold an “addict’s” license. Wilson makes some interesting predictions about human behavior and advances in technologies. Portable communication technologies are very similar to what we have today but were virtually unheard of in 2001.
But interestingly enough, the world had also regressed (the draft was introduced in 2029).

As an aside – I wish the editor had done a little better job of catching inconsistencies. Adam on page 146 was eighteen but by page 149 he was seventeen.

Quotes to quote: “But what the hard admits isn’t always what the heart allows” (p 60) and “Adulthood is the art of deceit” (p 153).

Author fact: Wilson is an American-born science fiction writer living in Canada. Given the climate of today, lucky him.

Book trivia: the disclaimer reads, “This is a work of fiction. All of the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or used fictitiously.”

Nancy said: The Chronoliths is included in a list of other books about time travel that might be enjoyed.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Time Travel” (p 220). As an aside, I should note, humans do not time travel but monuments celebrating military victories twenty years into the future randomly appear, at first across Asia and then North America.


Always a Distant Anchorage

Roth, Hal. Always a Distant Anchorage. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1988.

Reason read: October is Library Friend month. I had to borrow this book from Byfield, Massachusetts; a town I have never heard of before.

Hal and Margaret Roth had an epic mission to sail around the world. Good thing they had the kind of relationship that could withstand being trapped together on a boat for nearly two years (46 months)! Their boat, Whisper, was a 10.7 meters long, black hulled fiberglass vessel that weighed 7.2 tons.
Their journey took them from the coast of Maine to Bermuda and the Virgin Islands, though the Panama Canal, across the South Pacific, winding through Tahiti and Fiji, crossing the Coral Sea and Australia, Bali, Africa, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, and finally back through the Atlantic and the Caribbean, ending in Somes Sound, Maine. The amazing thing is, Roth did not come from a sailing background. Luckily, he was a gifted writer and this is his account of that epic journey (with excerpts from Margaret’s journal thrown in). Weather, fishing, the mechanics of boats and sailing, the culture and customs of each community and port, getting to know and establishing relationships with other sailors, even being shipwrecked on coral reef and observing drug runners. Everything Roth writes about is fascinating. He loves the word “squally.”

As an aside, Roth’s description of Greece makes me want to visit even more.

Quote to giggle over: from Margaret’s journal, “I don’t know why men have to swear when they fix things” (p 81).
Another quote, “I don’t mind the prayers and the ritual washing that used up my buckets of fresh water, but I wished the pilot had made some sign to me that he was giving up steering” (p 219). One last quote, “What was life anyway but a collection of new timbers, the seasoning and shaping into a useful hull, the long voyage, a gradual collapse, and the final rotting away (p 303)?

Author fact: Roth also wrote We Followed Odysseus which I will be reading a few years.

Book trivia: the hand drawn maps are fantastic, but the photographs are great too! I wish there had been more of the couple. On the back cover there is a photograph I must describe because it is so intimate and lovely: Margaret is cradled between Hal’s legs. She is clutching his bare foot while he has one arm casually slung over her shoulder. His hand barely brushes her breast…

Nancy said: Always a Distant Anchorage is “the perfect choice for those who dream of one big voyage” (p 201).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “See the Sea” (p 201).


The Most Offending Soul Alive

Heimann, Judith M. The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrisson and His Remarkable Life. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 19997.

Reason read: Tom Harrisson’s birth month is September. Read in his honor.

Tom Harrisson lived from 1911 to 1976 and was, as Heimann puts it, “an adventurer who lived among cannibals.” That in and of itself is enough to write a book about but Tom was also a man who even as a child loved to push buttons. He had an ongoing battle with hierarchy and thrived on seeing what he could get away with on a daily basis. In his adult life, often drunk and disorderly, it was his brilliant mind that made him forgivable to most people; everyone except his own father. His brilliance is the only reason I can think of for his friend to turn a blind eye when Tom begins a blatantly obvious affair with the friend’s wife. Aside from “stealing women from their men” as the Grateful Dead said, Tom’s passion was researching flora and fauna and traveled to such places as Sarawak and New Hebrides to study new species. Later, when he met the cannibals, he became interested in sociology and became an expert at observing culture. Even though the rest of The Most Offending Soul Alive isn’t as interesting Heimann goes on to colorfully detail the rest of Harrisson’s  life, ending with his fatal accident in January 1976. While not much else has been written about Harrisson otherwise, I feel that Heimann’s is a bias laden, no-stone-left-unturned kind of biography.

Author fact: Tom Harrisson was a neighbor of Heimann’s on Borneo.

Book trivia: The Most Offending Soul Alive is chock full of interesting photographs.

Nancy said: Judith Heimann’s biography “brings him [Harrisson] to vivid life” (Book Lust To Go p 39).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Borneo and Sarawak” (p 38).


Spring of the Ram

Dunnett, Dorothy. The Spring of the Ram: Book Two of the House of Niccolo. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.

Reason read: to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.

The Spring of the Ram is book two in the House of Niccolo series. Judith Wilt, in her introduction recaps the first book, Niccolo Rising to orient those who have missed out. When we rejoin Nicholas de Fleury he is now nineteen years old and married to the owner of the dye shop for which he had apprenticed. As a budding entrepreneur this is a well played move. In terms of intelligence and cleverness, Nicholas is certainly showing his mettle. His business sense is growing; and as head of an army he is becoming well traveled and worldly. The is an era when trade and exploration are burgeoning. Art and politics are duplicitous, and sensuality and relationships are used as weapons against human emotion. In the opening chapter Nicolas’ eleven year old step-daughter, Catherine, is seduced by his arch rival. He chases Catherine only to find she is in love with her captor and is perfectly content to marry him “when she is a woman” which is after he first menstrual cycle.
Niccolo’s personality is as entertaining as they come. His bad boy ways earn him a reputation known far and wide as reckless and daring. Entering Florence, he aims to secure the Silk Road, the only accessible trade route to the East. That is his singular quest for the rest of The Spring of the Ram.

Quotes to quote: “She didn’t miss Noah; not at all; except when she needed someone to take out her dog” (p 145) and “Her features were build on the thigh bones of mice; her eyes lay fronded in fish pools, their lids upper and lower like mollusks” (p 168). Errr…okay.

Author fact: Dunnett passed away in 2001.

Book trivia: Even if you have read Niccolo Rising Judith Wilt’s recap is a nice setup to The Spring of the Ram and shouldn’t be skipped.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up History Through Fiction” (p 79).


Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Grimes, Tom, ed. Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: 43 Stories , Recollections, & Essays on Iowa’s Place in Twentieth-Century American Literature. New York: Hyperion, 1999.

Reason read: Grimes celebrates a birthday in September. Read in his honor.

The Iowa Writers’ Workshop became a national institution in the early 1950s, but before that, as early as the late 1890s, the Workshop was designed to teach “verse making.” The University of Iowa wanted to cultivate writers with something creative to say. They developed the first creative writing program in the country and it continues to be one of the best. Why? Obviously, it is the writers who come out of the program. Then there’s this: “Unsurprisingly, a psychological survey of the Iowa Workshop showed that 80 percent of writers in the program reported evidence of manic-depression, alcoholism, or other lovely addictions in themselves or their immediate families” (p 9).

Stories:

  • Chip off the Old Block by Wallace Stegner.
  • And In My Heart by R.V. Cassill. Best line: “As if the arrow at the heart could listen to the merely human cry that protests its flight” (p 55).
  • The Comforts of Home by Flannery O’Connor.
  • The Illegibility of This World by Richard Stern. Best line: “Fear gets so loud, I can’t sleep” (p 118).
  • The Fisherman Who Got Away by Thomas Williams.
  • Offspring of the First Generation by Bette Pesetsky.
  • The Hustler by Walter Tevis.
  • Put Yourself in My Shoes by Raymond Carver.
  • Saints by Bharati Mukherjee.
  • Dunkleblau by Clark Blais.
  • Falling in Love by Andre Dubus.
  • The Last Generation by Joy Williams.
  • A More Complete Cross-Section by John Casey.
  • A Sorrowful Woman by Gail Godwin.
  • Thirty-Four Seasons of Winter by William Kittredge.
  • Mouses by Thom Jones. “I’m embarrassed to admit that I was a little afraid to confront the consequences” (p 247).
  • A Solo Song: For Doc by James Alan McPherson.
  • Paper Latern by Stuart Dybek.
  • Work by Denis Johnson
  • His Dog by Ron Hansen
  • A Woman’s Restaurant by T. Coraghessan Boyle.
  • Aren’t You Happy For Me? by Richard Bausch.
  • Blessed Assurance: a Moral Tale by Allan Gurganus.
  • Long Distance by Jane Smiley.
  • Alma by Jayne Anne Phillips.
  • White Angel by Michael Cunningham.
  • Mundo’s Sign by Bob Shacochis.
  • The Story of My Life by Kim Edwards.
  • Birthmates by Gish Jen.
  • The Year of Getting to Know Us by Ethan Canin.
  • The Zealous Mourner by Marly Swick.
  • The Commuter by Colin Harrison.
  • Planting by Kathryn Harrison.
  • The Sutton Pie Safe by Pinckney Benedict.
  • Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry by Elizabeth McCracken.
  • Out of the Woods by Chris Offutt.
  • Open House by Charles D’Ambrosio.
  • Lilacs by Abraham Verghese.
  • A Hole in the Sheets by Susan Power.
  • Brownsville by Tom Piazza.
  • Pipa’s Story by Lan Samantha Chang.
  • Buckeye the Elder by Brady Udall.
  • Speaking in Tongues by ZZ Packer.

Other quotes I liked, “Good writers are ruthless, and willing to say anything” (p 377).

Author  Editor fact: Not surprising, Tom Grimes is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. At the time of The Workshop publication, he directed the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Southwest Texas State University.

Book trivia: There was only one story I had a problem with. Marly Swick in The Zealous Mourner has a detail about her character making a point of locking a bathroom door and yet, there is no mention of anyone UNlocking it when the husband stands in the doorway, blinking in the harsh light and announcing he has to pee.

Nancy said: Nancy suggested if you wanted to read up on more writers who spent time in Iowa to check out The Workshop.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Growing Writers” (p 108).