Female Eunuch

Greer, Germain. The Female Eunuch. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1971.

Reason read: Women’s Suffrage Law was passed in December.

In the 1970s this was a landmark book supporting feminist ideals. While the statistical data might be a little out of date, the rest of the narrative is sharp, funny, and in some cases, spot on. Even today. Through her seminal work Greer will take you through a sometimes sarcastic, sometimes sad, and always intelligent journey regarding every aspect of a woman’s world in the 1970s. She begins with the obvious, the female body and moves onto soul, love and hate. She ends with a powerful chapter on rebellion and revolution.

There were lots and lots of quotations to chose from. Here are some of my favorites, “In any case brain weight is irrelevant, as was swiftly admitted when it was found to operate to male disadvantage” (p 93), “Most likely a sued Other Woman would have to ask her husband undertake payments for her” (p 118), and “Genuine chaos is more fruitful than the chaos of conflicting systems which are mutually destructive” (p 234).

Author fact: Greer is extremely funny. However, when she admitted to being groped in Female Eunuch it prompted me to do a little more digging about her life. I was a little surprised by her 2018 thoughts regarding punishment for convicted rapists. It’s an example of how Greer thinks, always pushing boundaries.

Book trivia: Female Eunuch is chock full of various quotations, the most being from Mary Wollstonecraft’s oft-quoted work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (also on my list).

Nancy said: Pearl called The Female Eunuch an influential political book from the early ’70’s” (p More Book Lust p 121).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “I am Woman – Hear Me Roar” (p 121).


Time Machines

Adler. Jr., Bill. Time Machines: the Greatest Time Travel Stories Ever Written. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1998.

Reason read: December is Star Man month and that makes me think of time travel.

Time Machines is made up of twenty-two really diverse short science fiction stories all centered on time travel or time machines.

  • A Shape in Time by Anthony Boucher – Agent L-3H is hired to prevent marriages until she fails to seduce her man. This story has one of my favorite quotes, “Temporal Agent L-3H is always delectable in any shape; that’s why the bureau employs her on marriage-prevention assignments” (p 1).
  • Who’s Cribbin’ by Jack Lewis – someone from the past is stealing a young sci-fi writer’s work. Who is the plagiarist?
  • The Business, As Usual by Mack Reynolds – a 20th century souvenir hunter visits the 30th century.
  • The Third Level by Jack Finney – Somewhere in the bowels of Grand Central Station there is another level which will take you to 1894 New York.
  • A Touch of Petulance by Ray Bradbury – what happens when you meet your future self and he tells you you will murder your wife.
  • The History of Temporal Express by Wayne Freeze – what if you could go back in time to meet a deadline you previously missed?
  • Star, Bright by Mark Clifton – a widower’s child, abnormally bright, learns how to transport herself through time but her father isn’t as smart. Interestingly enough, someone drew a Mobius slip in the book possibly to illustrate the phenomenon of a one-sided plane.
  • The Last Two Days of Larry Joseph’s Life – In This Time, Anyway by Bill Adler, Jr. – Two roommates watch as their third roommate quietly disappears.
  • Three Sundays in a Week by Edgar Allan Poe – Two lovers get around the stipulation they can only marry when there are three Sundays in the same week.
  • Bad Timing by Molly Brown – an archivist in the 24th century falls in love with a woman from the 20th century but he’s a bumbling idiot when it comes to time travel. As an aside, this story reminded me of the movie, “Lake House.”
  • Night by John W. Campbell – a pilot testing out an anti-gravity coil has an accident and he needs the help of aliens to get home.
  • Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt – a crazy story about a man who has two deaths.
  • Rotating Cylinders and the Possibility of Global Causality Violation by Larry Niven – what if time travel doesn’t work?
  • What Goes Around by Derryl Murphy – a ghost from the future comes to help a washed up actor.
  • You See, But You Do Not Observe by Robert Sawyer – Sherlock Holmes visits the future to find alien life.
  • Ripples in the Dirac Sea by Geoffrey A. Landis – a man tries to flee his own destiny by using a time machine but keeps returning to the same moment when he is to die.
  • The Odyssey of Flight 33 by Rod Serling – an airplane en route to New York curiously picks up speed and somehow lands 200 million years ahead of schedule.
  • Fire Watch by Connie Willis – not read (on Challenge list elsewhere)
  • What If by Isaac Asimov – not read
  • There and Then by Steven Utley – not read
  • Wireless by Rudyard Kipling – not read
  • The Last Article by Harry Turtledove – a sad tale about the nonviolence moment being unsuccessful against the Nazis of World War II.

Author Editor fact: Adler has written a few books of his own (including a short story in Time Machines.

Nancy said: Time Machines was in a list of other books about time travel the reader might enjoy.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Time Travel” (p 220).


This Blinding Absence of Light

Ben Jelloun, Tahar. This Blinding Absence of Light. Translated by Linda Coverdale. New York: New Press, 2002.

Reason read: This one was chosen a little off schedule. I needed something for the Portland Public Library 2018 Reading Challenge for the category of a book that has won an International Dublin Literary Award.

This book was a hard, hard , hard read. Based upon true events, it is the story of an inmate of the Tazmamart Prison. Aziz was a soldier who took part in a failed assassination attempt on King Hassan II of Morocco. Hassan ordered his political enemies to be held in an underground desert concentration camp where they were kept in 6 x 3′ cells devoid of light or proper ventilation. Aziz and twenty-one other prisoners locked away without proper food or sanitary conditions. Many men went insane or died from uncontrolled illnesses and starvation. After nearly two decades in captivity, only four survived their experience. Because Ben Jelloun takes Aziz’s experiences and fictionalizes it with a first person narrative the story becomes even more intimate and heartbreaking.
If you are ever wallowing in your own pathetic cesspool of pity, try barricading yourself in a darkened room with only a hole to piss and crap in, a ceiling less than five feet from the floor, no heat or air conditioning with only a bucket of water too filthy to drink and starchy food too filled with maggots to eat. Or, if you are short on time just read this book. Your little life can’t be as bad.
Here is the heart of the story, “The hardest, most unbearable silence was that of light” (p 51).

Lines that stopped me short (and there were a lot of them), “What does a man think when the blood of other men runs down his face?” (p 6), “I felt death making itself at home in his eyes” (p 12), “Strangely enough, becoming time’s slave had set him free” (p 29), “It was a question of chance: you tell yourself you have plenty of time, you save a few books for later…and forget to read them” (p 68), “That night I tried again to sleep on the bed. It was just too comfortable for me” (p 181).

Author fact: Ben Jelloun has also won the Prix Maghreb award in 1994.

Book trivia: This Blinding Absence of Light won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2004.

Nancy said: Pearl said This Blinding Absence of Light is “a difficult, soul-destroying read” (p 162). Interestingly enough, someone on Wikipedia said prisoners were not “actively” tortured. I find this really interesting. The decision to withhold light and food IS a form of active torture. True, these people were not tortured with acts resulting in pain but they faced starvation to the point of eminent death. I’m guessing the author of the Wiki page has never been hungry to the point of starvation; has never gone without light; has never experienced confining and unsanitary conditions for an extended period of time or faced the threat of scorpions stinging them in the dark. As Ben Jelloun said, “the entire body had to suffer, every part, without exception” (p 3).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “North African Notes: Morocco” (p 162).


Any Old Iron

Burgess, Anthony. Any Old Iron. New York: Washington Square Press, 1989.

Reason read: the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December. We remember the event every December 7th.

If you are familiar with A Clockwork Orange please put that out of your head when you read Any Old Iron. This is a completely different style of book (and somewhat easier to read; less cringe-worthy). Having said all that, you will need to hang onto your seats because in Any Old Iron Burgess will take you on a fifty year journey through history at breakneck speed. Along this journey you will travel with two families, one Welsh-Russian (told in third person), the other Jewish (told in vague and ghostly first person). You will careen through World War I, the founding of Israel, the sinking of the Titanic, and World War II, just to name a few historic events. All the while you are submersed in the Welsh, Russian, and Jewish cultures of these two larger than life families.
The title comes from word play as King Arthur’s sword also factors into the plot (as an aside, there is an old British music hall song of the same name of which I admit, I was less familiar).
Maybe I am making a generalization, but the thing about multi-generational sagas than span fifty years is that you tend to get attached to certain characters as you watch them age. I know I did.

Confessional: I had a “Natalie” moment when the aunt says of some illustrations they were “pornography in the manner of Alma-Tadema” (p 96). Thanks to the poem “If No One Ever Marries Me” I knew exactly what family the aunt (and Burgess) was referencing. Although Burgess could have meant Pre-Raphaelite Lawrence or his second daughter, Anna, who was also an artist.

Lines I liked, “I am no metallurgist, merely a retired terrorist and teacher of philosophy” (p 3), “Perhaps everybody was mad and war was the great sanitizer” (p 96), and “None had been taught to look at a map as a picture of human pain” (p 188).

Author fact: Burgess is probably most famous for A Clockwork Orange. As an aside, I had to watch ACO for a film class. It haunted me for weeks months. I couldn’t get the fear of not being able to close my eyes out of my psyche.

Book trivia: Any Old Iron has been categorized as historical fantasy.

Nancy said: Pearl said “there are some moving sections about World War II” in Any Old Iron (Book Lust p 253).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “World War II Fiction” (p 253).


Four Spirits

Naslund, Sena Jeter. Four Spirits. New York: William Morrow, 2003.

Reason read: Alabama became a state in December.

Stella Silver, at five years old, stands with a gun in her hand. Her father, over her shoulder, teaches her how to pull the trigger. He wants her to know “what happens to a bullet fired” (p 4). Welcome to Four Spirits. Sena Jeter Naslund sets out to tell the story of a group of ordinary people trying to live their lives in the deep south during one of the most tumultuous times in our country’s history, the early 1960s. Amid the pages of Four Spirits you will meet civil rights activists, racists, musicians, students, families. You will watch relationships fall apart while others thrive. Sacrifices made, lives taken, hope clung to, and most importantly, resilience take root. There is power in courage as the characters of Four Spirits will show you. Five year old Stella grows up to be a passionate intelligent young woman whose world is rocked when President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Texas. But, she is just one character in a host of others who will break your heart. Amidst the turmoil and violence, people went about doing ordinary things, trying to live ordinary lives.
This is a tough book to read. For me, the domestic violence between Ryder and his wife was the hardest to take in, but be warned, his violence as a Ku Klux Klan member is far worse. The Klan is one of those realities of Birmingham, Alabama; their existence is something you wish you could pretend was not part of the historical fabric of our nation, but there they are.
As an aside, it gave me great joy that Ryder was afraid of Dracula.

I always seem to find Natalie connections. There is a reason why she wrote Saint Judas (Motherland album).

Lines I liked: “There’s a seed in me and it’s starting to grow” (Gloria says on page 89) and “Admiration and gratitude collided in her heart and scattered throughout her body” (p 68).

Author fact: Four Spirits takes place in Naslund’s home city of Birmingham, Alabama.

Book trivia: You get the sense Four Spirits is about four actual women when you read the dedication” Addie MacCollins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley. They were killed on September 15th, 1963 in a Baptist church.

Nancy said: Pearl explained that Naslund “intersperses her fictional characters with real ones” (More Book Lust p 207).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Southern Fried Fiction” (p 205).


Lost Moon

Lovell, Jim, and Jeffrey Kluger. Lost Moon: The Perilous Journey of Apollo 13. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.

Reason read: On December 18th, 2018 NASA scheduled a rocket launch.

Lost Moon reads like a drama. The language isn’t bogged down by rocket science verbiage even through at the time of publication Jim Lovell was a famous astronaut and Jeffrey Kluger was an adjunct instructor (in other words, two really smart men). You pretty much know what is going on at all times. Lost Moon is suspenseful even though factually you know how it all turns out in the end. You should know, if not through the news (because you lived it), then because of the movie of the same name (because it starred Tom Hanks and won a whole bunch of awards). Here’s a ten second recap: On April 11th, 1970 Apollo Lucky 13 lifts off into space. By April Lucky 13th an oxygen tank explodes and the crew abandons the mission and Odyssey and moves into Aquarius. Two days later, on April 15th, a battery explodes in Aquarius. A day later a helium disk bursts. A day later, six days after liftoff, Aquarius splashes down in the Pacific ocean.
One of the most interesting facts I learned after reading Lost Moon was the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space. Article five of the document talks about ensuring the safe return of space travelers clause. In the event of an unplanned or off-target landing in hostile territories the space traveler would be safe and not be punished, imprisoned, or held responsible for the emergency landing in their territory.
Second interesting fact – astronauts are “star sailors.” I like that a lot.

Author fact: Jeffrey Kluger is a senior writer at Time magazine. Jim Lovell was also a Navy captain.

Book trivia: There is a great section of photographs in Lost Moon. The cover is of the blast off. “Because of the incredible speed of your rocket, your trip is short.” If you don’t know, don’t ask!

Nancy said: Pearl said “though you may have enjoyed the movie, don’t miss the book…it brings  a new dimension to the now familiar account of heroism” (Book Lust p 158).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Moon’s My Destination” (p 157).


The Dispossessed

Le Guin, Ursula K. The Dispossessed. London: Orion Publishing, 2002.

Reason read: Le Guin died in January of this year. I just had to squeeze in one of her books in 2018 to honor her memory.

Shevek, a physicist, is researching something he calls his Ground Temporal Theory. He wants to unite his mother planet of Anarres with the sister planet, Urras. Anarres is an anarchist planet that has become isolated. Shevek’s people are in exile. With his invention of instantaneous communication, Shevek could potentially change society. Unfortunately, his own planet of Anarres is at war, making it impossible for him to progress on his Principle of Simultaniety. Hoping to find a more accepting atmosphere he travels to Urras where he is somewhat accepted. There he lectures, builds a relationship, and fathers a child while working on his theory, working towards free exchange between Urras and Anarres. Little does Shevek know but he has fallen into a trap.
As an aside, the range of different internal societies was interesting. For example, “propertarians” believe in the ownership of something whereas other societies don’t. On the planet Urras Shevek encounters a woman who enthralls him completely, but he can’t help but make feminism comparisons between her and the women on his planet of Anarres.

Probably my favorite part was when Shevek meets Takver. The attraction was instantaneous and Shevek came alive after meeting her. He has been awakened to a whole new life. This life leads him in interesting directions.

I always like it when I can play “six degrees of separation” between books. This time, in The Dispossessed there is a Dust with a capital D; a literal Dust that is consuming and controlling. Meanwhile in The Golden Compass the Dust, again with a capital D, is mysterious and confusing.

Line I liked, “It is hard, however, for people who have never paid money for anything to understand the psychology of cost, the argument of the marketplace (p 79).

Author fact: Le Guin has written fiction, science fiction, short stories, poetry, nonfiction, and has acted as editor on several projects.

Book trivia: The Dispossessed won a Hugo Award in 1975. 

Nancy said: Pearl considers The Dispossessed a “great read” but she did not say anything more than that (Book Lust p 215). Additionally, Pearl makes no mention that The Dispossessed is part of a series (Hainish Cycle #6). 

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


Black Tents of Arabia

Raswan, Carl R. The Black Tents of Arabia: My Life Among the Bedouins. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1935.

Reason read: The movie, Lawrence of Arabia, was released in December of 1962.

Raswan spent more than twenty years with different Bedouin tribes of Arabia. He went along with them hunting, raiding, battling and surviving as they migrated across the unforgiving arid desert. He submersed himself in the Ruala tribe, learning their customs and traditions on an intimate level. This intimacy and his passion for Arabian horses helped him escape enemy clutches when they were ambushed more than once. How he managed to avoid certain death was beyond me.
Raswan’s language has the ability to take the reader on his adventurous journey. In Black Tents of Arabia he had a way of describing sights and sounds that brought his wild experiences to life. Here’s one of my favorites, “In our tumble-down car there were now no less that seven men: Ibrahim, Ali, two Bedouin rafiqs, two soldiers, and myself; also a gazelle, a greyhound, and two hens. We were packed like sardines: we had to hold on to anything that we could and change grips when the hand threatened to go to sleep. But with thirteen arms interlaced (Ibrahim’s free arm controlled the steering-wheel) we prevented the car from falling apart, nor could any passenger fall out without the knowledge of the others” (p 122).

Quote I needed to quote: Here’s an example of romance in the desert. Faris says to his love, “The blade of my dagger reminds me that I shall never be at peace until the slender blossom bends before the storm of my love” (p 61).

Author fact: Raswan took all of the photographs featured in Black Tents of Arabia.

Book trivia: There are a generous number of photographs in Black Tents of Arabia. I counted over 65 photographs and they are remarkable.

Nancy said: Pearl said Black Tents of Arabia is “a hymn of joy and affection for the nomadic life” (p 25).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called Arabia Deserta” (p 23).


Unicorn Hunt

Dunnett, Dorothy. The Unicorn Hunt. New York: Vintage Books, 1999.

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

If you are keeping track, it is now mid 15th century and the world, especially Europe, is standing on the doorstep of modernism. Our hero Nicholas has a new name. He is now Niccolo de Fleury. If you remember from Scales of Gold he married Gelis (the woman who had a love-hate relationship with him). She might have had a child with his archenemy, Simon de St. Pol. Gelis, instead of seeking revenge for Nicholas supposedly killing her sister, is now angry with him for having a child with her. You would think Nicholas would be used to this kind of incrimination from vengeful individuals, especially the women in his life! He believes that Gelis really had his child and like a fabled unicorn, he’s on the hunt to find this child. But, does it even exist?
Despite all this Nicholas tries to be all business. Instead of gold like in the last book, he is also on the hunt for silver in Tyrol. Upon hearing rumors of treasure in Alexandria Nicholas is off again on a feverish fast paced adventure. This time, he is not the fun-loving nice guy of past books. He has an edge to him that borders on asshole. He also has special powers to divine precious metals (?!). Many readers didn’t care for this new personality or the plot, as it is utterly strange and complex. Myself, I am getting tired of him being imprisoned and tortured in every book. The betrayals don’t phase him at all.

Quote to quote: “Henry had often thought of killing his grandfather, there was so much of him, and Henry disliked all of it” (p 3). This, coming from a seven year old.

Book trivia: This is book V of the House of Niccolo series and the list of characters in The Unicorn Hunt is amazingly long.

Nancy said: this is another of Dunnett’s books Pearl said “it would be a shame” to miss out on” (More Book Lust p 80).

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


Cry of the Kalahari

Owens, Mark and Delia. Cry of the Kalahari: Seven Years in Africa’s Last Great Wilderness. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Press, 1984.

Reason read: Mark and Delia Owens were married in the month of December. Read this in honor of their anniversary.

In 1974 Mark and Delia headed to Africa to start a research project just one year after their wedding day. Cry of the Kalahari is the story of their seven years in the Kalahari Desert. Taking turns, they share their experiences living with brown hyenas, lion prides, and unpredictable jackals, among many other animals. Because most of the animals have never seen humans before they are neither threatened or antagonized by Mark and Delia’s presence. At face value, Cry of the Kalahari is romantic and idealistic.

Admittedly, I have a few issues with Cry of the Kalahari, beginning with the trivial. One, how many times they mentioned the temperatures being 120 degrees in the shade. You are in the Kalahari desert! What did you expect?
Two, their so-called research. They went to Kalahari not really sure what they wanted to work on. When they discovered there was little known about the brown hyena they set about to learn all they could about the species, then they added jackals, and yet after Bones, a male lion, was murdered by hunters they changed their focus to protecting all wildlife of the Kalahari. By the end of the book their focus had widened to include wildebeest. How they received funding for such vague and vast research is beyond me. However, the couple is quick to point out Cry of the Kalahari is not detailed report of their research. That will show up elsewhere they promised.
My third issue is probably the most personal. They claimed over and over they didn’t want to interfere with the wildlife because it would change the validity of their research. They cried as animals starved to death outside their food-laden tent. Yet they had no problem performing a makeshift surgery on Bones, a lion who had broken his leg, or smearing motor oil on Blue, another lion who suffered from parasites. Most likely both of these animals would have died without human intervention. Essentially, the Owenes actions disrupted the circle of life in the Kalahari.

As an aside, the description of the cheetah hitting the wire fence at 70 miles an hour is heart breaking.

Author(s) fact(s): The Owenses are no strangers to the media spotlight. They have been on numerous talk shows. 

Book trivia: there is a generous selection of color photographs in Cry of the Kalahari, along with a smaller section of black and whites.

Nancy said: Pearl was actually talking about another book written by the Owenses when she mentioned Cry. Interestingly enough, in relation to Cry Pearl said Mark and Delia were “expelled from Botswana” because of this book (Book Lust To Go p 267).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Zambia” (p 266). Confessional: I deleted Cry Of the Kalahari from the true list of books I needed to read for the Challenge because Cry does not take place in Zambia.


Subtle Knife

Pullman, Philip. The Subtle Knife. Scholastic UK, 2007.
Pullman, Philip. The Subtle Knife. New York: Listening Library, 2000.

Reason read: to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month.

In The Golden Compass Pullman introduced his readers to the possibility of more than one universe. He hinted there were actually three – the one we were in currently, a completely different universe and a third being a combination of the two. In The Subtle Knife we experience those different worlds first hand as Lyra and her new friend, Will Parry, move between them to escape their enemies. In The Golden Compass readers were also introduced to daemons. Now, we learn that people without daemons are without free will. They lack fear and imagination so they make perfect soldiers for the evil Mrs. Coulter. In addition to Mrs. Coulter, the otherworld of Cittagazze hides other enemies. Soul-eating Specters haunt the streets while children run wild without daemons or parents and rule Lord-of-the-Flies style. 
As Lyra and Will travel from world to world they discover the Subtle Knife, a blade that can cut through anything. It’s power has yet to be fully understood.

Author fact: Pullman helped perform the audio version of The Subtle Knife.

Book Audio trivia: The Subtle Knife won an Audie Award in 2000. 

Nancy said: The Subtle Knife is an “epic battle btween good and evil” (Book Lust p 209).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 209).


Stet: a Memoir

Athill, Diana. Stet: a Memoir. New York: Grove Press, 2000.

Reason read: Read in honor of Athill’s birth month being in December.

In the editing world, stet means “let it stand” when a copy-editor wants to rescue a deletion.
To explain this book, here are Athill’s own words, “All this book is, is the story of one old ex-editor who imagines that she will feel a little less dead if a few people read it” (p 5).
The first part of Stet reads like any other job related memoir, “here is how I came into my occupation and kept it for nearly fifty years.” Athill is careful to keep her private life out of the equation until she gets to part two. Here she dishes about her favorite authors who became quasi friends in the process. The story of Jean Rhys sadden me the most.
Confessional – the didactic history of the Caribbean Dominica bored me just a little.

Quotes I liked, “Even now I would rather turn and walk away than risk my voice going shrill and my face going red as I slither into sickening humiliation of undercutting my own justified anger by my own idiotic ineptitude” (p 58) and  “Jean has been right – she was the only person who could make sense of the amazing muddle seething in those bags” (p 165).

Author fact: a Google search of Diana Athill’s name told me Athill will be 101 years old at her next birthday (on the 21st).

Book trivia: Sadly, there are no photographs in Stet.

Nancy said: the only thing Pearl said was Stet is an “interesting book about [Athill’s] career in the publishing industry” (p 163).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Me, Me, Me: Autobiographies and Memoirs” (p 163).


Squelched

Beard, Terry. Squelched. Hybrid Global Publishing, 2018.

Reason read: as a member of LibraryThing’s Early Review program, this is the pick for September.

Terry Beard’s Squelched spends a great deal of time explaining how his voice was silenced (squelched) during his formative years. Grade by grade, he cites examples of all the times he had been a victim of domestic violence. From his grandmother telling him he shouldn’t be a lawyer to his parents not buying him the newest and fashionable of clothes. It gets a little tiresome to hear about the kids who had it better than he because, according to Beard, rich kids didn’t have the traits of compassion and kindness. Every time he was put down he never tried to prove anyone wrong. He lived down to their low expectations of him, describing his attitude as “rock and roll.”

A smaller issue was Beard’s timeline. It moved around a lot. For example, in the fifth grade chapter he talks about getting married, flying to Mexico City as a 12 year old, and driving a car even though he felt like a clown driving around in his parent’s station wagon. 

Pet peeve: Beard’s pity-me childish attitude during Part One. He was constantly talking about his economic need. He sniveled about not being first string on the baseball field. He was a “bad boy” for being benched, but never mentioned if he had any talent. He bellyached when he didn’t have his grandmother to do his laundry or access to grandpa’s liquor hidden in the garage. His first mother-in-law’s one redeeming quality was that she smoked like President Roosevelt. His detailing of the formative years inched along while ten years of married were barely mentioned, probably because he subsequently got a divorce. He spent 84 pages on examples of how his was voice “squelched” and only 52 on how he found his voice. But, those 52 pages were the most entertaining.

One last comment is out of confusion. The last section of Squelched is titled “Speeches: A Sampling of Speeches Delivered at a Variety of Venues” and yet, the first, “Wet ‘n Wild” does not seem like a speech he would deliver. Would Beard really tell an audience Miss D.’s butt is bigger than the state of New York? I was a little confused.

Book trivia: Do not think of this book as a self-help, instructional guide to becoming a better public speaker. There is very little universal advice worth sharing to make this a guide for the masses. Even through the subtitle is directed at you, this is more of a memoir than anything else.

Bottom line: I had a hard time reading Squelched. Where Beard saw negativity I saw tough love. When people questioned him about his business ventures (“How will you make this work?”) the queries were not negative or positive. But Beard chose to see the questions as criticisms.


Golden Compass

Pullman, Philip. His Dark Materials Book One: The Golden Compass New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.

Reason read: November is National Writers Month and this month we are celebrating a writer of fantasy.

The Golden Compass seemingly takes place in Oxford, England, but there is an alternate universe at play. Young wild child Lyra Belacourt isn’t afraid of much, especially an alternate universe. But in the beginning of The Golden Compass all Lyra cares about is getting into the Retiring Room of Jordan College, a room where, if women are not allowed, then children definitely are not. Tell Lyra she can’t do something and of course, that’s all she wants to do. She lives in a world where shape-shifting spirit animals called daemon familiars are the norm. Every person has a daemon and when they die their daemon fades away like a wisp of smoke. Lyra’s daemon familiar is Pantalaimon, a fiercely protective companion who can be a moth, bird, mouse,  ermine…whatever the situation requires. Pantalaimon won’t fix on a permanent shape until Lyra is older, closer to adulthood. But, I digress. Back to Lyra and the Retiring Room. She and Pantalaimon find a way to sneak into the room and eavesdrop on a secret meeting between her uncle and college officials. Uncle Asriel tells a tale of danger and mystique involving Dust in the North. Soon Lyra finds herself more than eavesdropping. Because of unknown talents she is pulled into a terrible world of evil scientists, kidnapped children, witch clans, and armored fighting bears. In The Golden Compass you will meet Gobblers, Tartars, Windsuckers, Breathless Ones, gyptians, Nalkainers, and many others, but it is Lyra and her daemon who will captivate you.

Author fact: Pullmann graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English. This is the third book in less than thirty days that mentions Oxford University.

Book trivia: Pullman took “His Dark Materials” from John Milton’s Paradise Lost in Book II. Also, The Golden Compass is the first book in a three volume set. The other two books are also on my list.

Nancy said: Nancy describes the overarching theme of Pullman’s His Dark Materials. She then goes on to say Pullman’s “finest invention was the daemon” (Book Lust p 209).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 208).


Scales of Gold

Dunnett, Dorothy. Scales of Gold. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

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

It is now the fifteenth century. We are in the Age of Discovery. Nicholas vander Poele is in need of restoring order and fortune to his banking business. He and former slave, Loppe travel to Africa in search of gold. Also traveling along with him is Gelis van Borselen. If you remember the name from Race of the Scorpions,  she is on board, secretly seeking revenge. (As an aside, there is always a beautiful woman who has a love-hate relationship with Nicholas and seeking some kind of revenge.) Gelis van Borselen’s sister, Katelina, was killed in The Race of the Scorpions. It was mentioned earlier that whenever Nicholas is ill and feverish he spills secrets. This time, struggling with a swamp-induced illness Nicholas tells Gelis he is the father of her sister’s child. This changes the course of their relationship. Of course it does.

Underlying all the adventure and violence is Dunnett’s sly humor. She gives this comedy to Scales of Gold in the form of witty repartee. When Nicholas asks Gregorio if anyone has tried to kill him lately, Gregorio replies, “I suffer from overwork and neglect but apart from that, no” (p 8).

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