Flying Carpet

Halliburton, Richard. The Flying Carpet. City Garden Publishing Company, Inc., 1932.

Reason read: Richard Halliburton celebrated a birthday in January. Read in his honor.

Richard Halliburton was a self-described vagabond of the clouds. In Flying Carpet he brings Moye Stephens Jr. along as pilot/captain and mechanic. Their journey takes them through the far reaches of North Africa and East Asia. They followed Alexander the Great’s path into Egypt, over Alexandria and through Babylon. They stop for a month or two in ever location and submerge themselves in the culture. Like on the island of Borneo, trying to impress the tribal chief with a plane ride. My favorite section was when they visited the Taj Mahal, calling it “the one perfect thing on earth.”
A tough portion of Halliburton’s memoir is his treatment of “Negros” and the buying of young slaves. He explained it away by saying his grandfathers were slave owners in Tennessee. He bought two ten year old children to wash dishes and fight the overpopulation of bats in Timbuctoo.
Halliburton seemed like a fun guy to hang out with. He brought a portable record player and liked to dance. He was bold enough to compete for the love of a woman with whom he could not communicate. He opted to live as a prisoner in Teheran “just to see” what it was like.
As an aside, Flying Carpet was the name of the plane Richard Halliburton flew.
As an another aside, I wonder what Halliburton would think of the traffic jams of Mount Everest today. In Halliburton’s time it was forbidden (“irresistible, unattained, and inviolate”). In 1920 Nepal and Tibet had staunchly refused foreigners. Only the Dalai Lama was able to allow English climbers to enter from the Tibetan side. That might have been the beginning of commercial tourism. Halliburton and Stephens were finally allowed to gain access to the airspace around Everest (at 18,000 feet) only because they impressed the Mararajah of Nepal.

Quotes to quote, “To my great annoyance and disappointment, he did not drown” (p 114), “Because it is monstrous, merciless, demanding the utmost of one’s energy and effort” (in answer to why climb Mount Everest), and “A head is a head, and its sex is of no consequence when it has been dried and smoked, and hangs from a ceiling at home” (p 327).

Author fact: I am reading five of Halliburton’s books. I cannot wait to learn more about this fascinating adventurer!

Book trivia: The Flying Carpet includes a few photographs of Stephens and Halliburton’s journey. While there are very many, they are cool.

Playlist: “Happy Days were Here Again”, Ravel’s “Bolero”, “St. Louis Blues,” Schubert’s Serenade “Song of India”, Hymn to the Sun – Coq d’Or, “Barnacle Bill the Sailor”, “Falling in Love Again”, “St. Louis Blues”, and “What Good Am I Without You?”

Nancy said: Pearl called Halliburton’s style of writing “you-are-there” prose. I agree completely.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Where in the World Do These Books Belong?” (p 260).

Digging Up Mother

Stanhope, Doug. Digging Up Mother: a Love Story. Da Capo Press, 2016.

Reason read: Do you ever feel like your life is too uptight or that you don’t laugh enough at stupid stuff? I was definitely feeling too severe and too closed minded. So when a friend practically threw Digging Up Mother on my desk, I thought to myself “Self! What the hell? Read the damn book.” Definitely not on the Lust Challenge List. Definitely not. This is my 2023 proverbial show-the-panties, thumb-the-nose, and stick-out-the-tongue moment. Deal with it.

How do you navigate the unchartered waters of assisted suicide when it is your own mother who wants to die? Stanhope compares this “adventure” of killing his mother to planning a wedding: at least you know where to start. First, take mother to your house. Second, find a boatload of alcohol…
But Digging Up Mother isn’t all about Dear Mommy Dearest. Think of it as a fast-paced memoir of how Stanhope got his start in life. But. But! But, also think of it as a love story. His mother was his biggest fan, and for many years, his best friend. She supported him through every moment of his life, whether he wanted that support or not. I think I can safely call Digging Up Mother crude and caring and, dare I say? beautiful.
P.S. I hope Bingo is well.

A line I liked, “Everything horrible in life was money in the bank on stage” (p 151). Here’s one more, “Anyone who says that suicide is never the answer hasn’t heard all of the questions” (p 179).

Author fact: Stanhope is from Worcester, MA. Right down the road from me.

Book trivia: Johnny Depp wrote the foreword. Yes, that Johnny Depp. Are you surprised?

Setlist: The Chamber Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today”, Cheap Trick, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, Tom Jones’s “Delilah”, Pink Floyd’s “Mother”, “In the Flesh”, and “Nobody Home”, Suspicious Minds”, Cop Killer by Ice T., P. Diddy, Limp Bizkit, Yakety Sax”, and “You’re Too Good To Be True”. True story. When I was in grade school a friend of mine and I choreographed a dance routine to that last song. I still remember some of the moves.

Fearless Jones

Mosely, Walter. Fearless Jones. Little, Brown and Company, 2001.

Reason read: Walter Mosely was born in the month of January. Read in his honor.

Paris Minton ingeniously builds his used bookstore from discards and sales from local libraries. For a Negro to own his business in 1950s Watts, California, Minton knows he is an anomaly. What he also is, is unlucky. Soon after a beautiful woman in distress hides in his bookstore he is badly beaten and his store, burned to the ground. Who was the impossibly beautiful woman? Who would want to burn down his store and do that has anything to do with the men who beat him? There is only one thing to do, bail his good friend Fearless Jones out of prison and enlist him to solve the mystery. As Minton tells the story he builds the character of Fearless Jones through their friendship, setting up the character development in future stories.
When you read Walter Mosely expect crackling humor, fast paced action, racial truths, and lots of quick-jab violence.
As an aside, one of the things I like about Walter Mosely’s writing is that his characters use the bathroom. Not many authors include the details of common bodily functions.

Lines I liked, “Being challenged by the law was a rite of passenger for any Negro who wanted to better himself or his situation” (p 4), “The best cop I ever saw was the cop who wasn’t there” (p 87), and “These were men who had lived with Satan before coming to God, and they were still willing to venture over to the wrong side of holiness if the situation demanded it” (p 227).

Author fact: I have twelve Mosely books on my Challenge list, including two nonfiction contributions.

Book trivia: Fearless Jones is the first book in the Fearless Jones series.

Setlist: Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday, and Pat Boone.

Nancy said: Pearl included Fearless Jones as part of the Fearless Jones series. She didn’t say anything beyond that about the book.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Walter Mosely: Too Good To Miss” (p 168).

Conversations Across America

Loya, Kari. Conversations Across America: a Father and Son, Alzheimer’s, and 300 Conversations Along the TransAmerican Bike Trail that Capture the Soul of America. XK Productions, 2022.

Reason read: as a member of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing, I occasionally review books. This was a December pick that I am just getting around to reading now.

Father and son embark on a 73 day, 4,200 mile adventure from Virginia to Oregon,
My favorite part in the entire book was when Kari’s life rolled by as if it were a memory from a movie.
From the moment I opened Conversations on my laptop I regretted not having the coffee table version Kari mentioned. Some of the landscape photography is absolutely gorgeous. However, here is what you need to know two-thirds of the book are photographs of ordinary people with their accompanying “stories.” Some of the stories are interesting or even heartfelt, but a great deal of them are exclamations about Merv’s age or the number of miles they are trying to bike. Wow is a common refrain.
My only detractor? The sheer volume of stories or conversations overshadowed the beauty of the father/son narrative. I tracked how many pages were dedicated to Loya’s personal journey compared to the pages of “conversations” and the ratio was 1:3. Additionally, the same “conversation” is in the narrative so I felt like I was reading the passages twice.
My favorite section of the book was the end where Loya included a partial list of the gear they carried, their itinerary of the different stages, and the half-time report about dogs and meals.

As an aside, were there really 2,000 filing cabinets? The bit about the trampoline was funny. I also felt Loya was a little judgmental about AT hikers. That’s acceptable if he has hiked the Appalachian Trail in its entity himself and can make a comparison based on his experiences.

Author fact: Kari was trying to sell his home in New Jersey while trying to bike across America with his father.

Book trivia: there is a ton of beautiful photography in Conversations.

Playlist: “New York” by Frank Sinatra, Chariots of Fire, Beach Boys, Def Leppard, Bela Fleck, Tony Trischka, Quincy Jones, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Vivaldi, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jack Johnson (Hawaiian music).

Chair Yoga

Chapshaw. Chair Yoga: Gently Build Strength, Flexibility, Energy, and Mental Fitness in Just Two Weeks to Improve Your Quality of Life and Grow Old Gracefully. Chapshaw Publications, 2022.

Reason read: as a member of LibraryThing I am a member of the Early Review Program and I occasionally review books (mostly nonfiction). This is one such book.

Before I started reading Chair Yoga my mind was not really open to all of the different possibilities a chair could bring. I could only think of seating poses like neck rolls, ear to shoulder moves, and spinal twists. Starting with examples of elders who have used chairs in their yoga practice helped set the tone of the rest of the book. Further validation came in the form of illustrating more complicated poses like warriors one and two. Advice concerning different areas of ailment like osteoporosis. sciatica, and hypertension took Chair Yoga from a basic starter yoga book to a more solid reference.
Offhand comments: Can I just say this book had me at David Bowie? To open Chair Yoga with a quote from this musical legend was brilliant.
Maybe I am too biased on the subject of yoga, but I am not sure how anyone can think of yoga at any age as “too woo-woo”…whatever that means.
I am enamored with the idea of eight limbs of yoga. I think of an octopus every time.
It is a shame to say you don’t have to read chapter one and you need only to skim chapter two. Are you saying the words therein are pointless and not worth the reader’s time? Like any good syllabus, Chair Yoga maps out learning objectives for each chapter. There is even homework for assessment. While Chapter nine offers the two week plan read everything leading up to it. It is worth your while.

Book trivia: Illustrations to go with the text are helpful.

Vinland the Good

Shute, Nevil. Vinland the Good. William Morrow & Co, Inc. 1946.

Reason read: Shute’s birth and death month is January. Read in his honor and memory. I also needed a book for the Portland Reading Challenge. The category is a book that is under 150 pages long. Vinland the Good is 126 pages.

This is the historical fiction story of Leif Ericsson and his quest to discover new lands. Cleverly hidden in a history lesson at a boy’s boarding school, teacher Callender describes Leif’s life’s adventures. Callender is back after six years to teach U.S. History and finds a clever way to keep the students engaged despite the headmaster’s disapproval. [Spoiler: there is a section of the story where Leif warns Thorgunna to keep her ladies away from Leif’s men. It is hinted that Leif worries the men could rape the fair maidens. Thorgunna replies that Leif gives sound advice because her ladies have been without variety…]
Vinland the Good comes to us in the form of a treatment for a script as if Shute planned it as a movie or theater production. Stage directions and props describe each scene before narratives begin. Themes in Vinland the Good include forgiveness (when King Olaf lifts Leif’s stigma of being the son of an outlaw and teaches Leif the art of shipbuilding) and the spread of Christianity. You could also call Vinland the Good a tragic love story as Leif and Thorgunna’s relationship blossoms into love and loyalty.

Best quote, “LEIF (Heavily) Thorgunna, as one goes through life one has to make the best decisions that one can, and work on them” (p 70). Amen to that.

As an aside, I love any book that uses the word ‘gloaming’ in some manner.

Author fact: I have read five of the twenty four Nevil Shute books on my list. He has written a bunch more.

Book trivia: Even though a map is included on the free and pastedown endpapers, there are no other illustrations. Bummer.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Vinland the Good.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Nevil Shute: Too Good To Miss” (p).

Confessional: this doesn’t happen to me often. I am proud of the fact that my Book Lust Challenge is very organized. I would like to think I have every book cataloged; so it came as a shock to learn Vinland the Good was NOT cataloged in LibraryThing. It was in all of my spreadsheets (TwistList, MBL list, ToGo list, and Schedule list), but somehow I missed the most important place of all, LibraryThing.

Rum Diary

Thompson, Hunter S. The Rum Diary. Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Reason read: to celebrate Eugenio Maria de Hostos, philosopher who campaigned for education for women. His life is celebrated on the second Monday in January in Puerto Rico. Additionally, for the 2023 Portland Public Library Reading Challenge, I needed a book with a person on the cover.

Paul Kemp, fresh in from New York, begins writing for the Daily News in San Juan. Throughout the entire Rum Diary he comes off as a bumbling and stumbling alcoholic cad who never really writes very much. He spends a great deal of time eating hamburgers at Al’s, chasing women, playing on the beach, getting into various troubles, and of course, drinking gallons of rum. Paul works off a tangle of conflicting emotions through an alcoholic haze. Rum on the island act as a currency.
Thompson’s portrait of Paul Kemp seems three quarters finished. Underneath the swagger and swaying, there lies a decent soul, but you never really understand Paul.
As as aside, I have never been to San Juan so I don’t know why this is a thing, but there seems to be a peculiar animosity towards stray dogs on the island.

Confessional: Reading Doug Stanhope’s Digging Up Mother at the same time as Hunter S. Thompson’s Rum Diary was like a lesson in debauchery. Even though Stanhope’s memories were thirty years later than Thompson’s, the attitudes were much the same. Here’s another trivial similarity – Johnny Depp starred in Thompson’s movie. He also wrote the foreword for Digging Up Mother.

Best lines, “Arriving half-drunk in a foreign place is hard on the nerves” (p 12).

Author fact: Thompson is better known for his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Book trivia: Rum Diary was made into a movie starring Johnny Depp.

Playlist: Braham’s Lullaby and “Maybellene”.

Nancy said: Rum Diary is an “exuberant” picture of the drinking life in Puerto Rico. She’s not wrong.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean (Puerto Rico)” (p 57).

Home is the Road

Glancy, Diane. Home is the Road: Wandering the Land, Shaping the Spirit. Broadleaf Books, 2022.

Reason read: this is an Early Review I couldn’t start until the holidays were over. Once I delved into it, I couldn’t put it down.
Glancy is a road warrior. Traveling by automobile is her thing. She can cover great distances in a single day. She should have been a long haul trucker. To pass the time she dreams while she is awake and aware. Kansas for a film festival. A conference in Arkansas. A book festival in Missouri. She travels to places where they even name the ditches. I believe Home is the Road was born in its entirety on such a journey. Glancy’s writing is akin to lyrical rap, spoken word, essays, poetry, scripture: all of it fragmented and in a storytelling language. Her imagery is astonishingly beautiful. Her reflections are jumbled. Like trying to mediate while the mind scatters thoughts like escaped marbles from a bag. She is discuss motherhood, fracking in West Texas, or Eminem as B-Rabbit, but the backbone to her tales is twofold – her profound religious beliefs and her heritage. Caught between two cultures, she never quite belongs to either.
Her migrant wanderings started when, as a small child, her father would transfer jobs and move the family from place to place. Her restlessness is deep rooted to the point where she is a loner, but never completely alone.
As an aside, when Glancy talked about depression at the end of a long-mile journey. Is it similar to the sadness I feel when ending a particularly difficult road race? After months and months of training and after the finish line has been crossed, I find myself asking now what, what’s next?
Another similarity: Glancy sees large trucks on the highway as herds of animals. I see the road as the ocean floor. Lots of traffic are schools of fish, all traveling in the same direction, darting in and out of lanes. Big double-rig trailers are whales slow on the incline and police cars are sharks, waiting to pounce. Cars waiting to join the flow are eels popping out of hiding places.

A last aside: I took the first and last sentences of Home is the Road just to see how they matched up: “My life began in travel – a wayfarer not on foot, but in a car. An act of disobedience (pages 3 and 209 respectively).

Author fact: As soon as Glancy started talking about making a movie I wanted to see what was produced and if it was possible to see it. I immediately went to IMDB and learned Glancy won an award for writer of the year for a screenplay, which is not the film she wrote about. in Home is the Road.

Playlist: “Amazing Grace”.