Crazy Days of October

I don’t know where to begin with trying to explain October. From the beginning, I guess. It started with a trip home; a lovely week off with lots of reading accomplished. Then it was a New England Patriots football game followed by two Phish shows and a political rally for a state in which I do not live. If that wasn’t weird enough, I hung out with a person who could have raped or killed or loved me to death. Take your pick. Any one of those scenarios was more than possible. It was a truly bizarre month.
But, enough of that. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. Quick but cute read.
  • Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (AB/print). Sad.
  • The Chronoliths by Robert C. Wilson. Interesting.
  • Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (EB). Boring.

Nonfiction:

  • Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris (EB/print). Only slightly less boring than Bridge.
  • Always a Distant Anchorage by Hal Roth. Really interesting.
  • African Laughter by Doris Lessing. Okay.

Series continuations:

  • The Race of Scorpions by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print). Detailed.
  • Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB). Cute but glad the series is over.

Fun:

  • We Inspire Me by Andrea Pippins. Cute.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Gardening Under Lights by Leslie F. Halleck. When I set up the reads for October I didn’t include this because it hadn’t arrived yet.

I should add that October was a really frustrating month for books. I never really liked anything I was reading.


Oxford Book of Oxford

Morris, Jan, ed. The Oxford Book of Oxford. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978.

Reason read: Morris’s birth month is in October. Read in her honor.

The grand and illustrious Oxford University. What can you aay about an institution which has its foundation firmly planted in the Middle Ages? Jan Morris carefully selected the best documentation across history to give readers an accurate portrayal of one of the world’s oldest and respected institutions. Using a comprehensive inclusion of journal entries, letters, poetry, newspaper articles, institution records and recollections, memoirs and memories Oxford University from 1200 – 1945 is exposed and celebrated.
Favorite anecdotes:

  • Professor Buckland, the legendary carnivore supposedly ate the one of the Kings of France’s carefully preserved heart.
  • Theologian and president of Magdalen for 63 years, Martin Routh, was extremely funny.

Quotes to quote, “Proud Prelate, you know what you were before I made you; if you do not immediately comply with my request, by G-d I will unfrock you. Elizabeth.” (p 46), “I really think, if anyone should ask me what qualifications were necessary for Trinity College, I should say there was only one, Drink, drink, drink” (p 182).

Author fact: Jan also wrote under the name James and was transgender. She underwent sex “reassignment” in 1972, way before Bruce Jenner made it a television event.

Book trivia: The Oxford Book of Oxford has some great photographs of the buildings that make up Oxford. My copy had a stamp from the San Mateo Public Library which on the book pocket read, “Questions answered.” I wish they could tell me the one exception to Morris’s dedication!

Nancy said: The Oxford Book of Oxford “is a good place to get an overview of the city” (Book Lust To Go p 170). I would slightly disagree inasmuch that The Oxford Book of Oxford (EDITED by Morris) is predominantly about the institution and the colleges that make up Oxford rather than the city itself. I would like to think Pearl meant to include the travel book simply called Oxford written BY Morris. Maybe she did. At the end of the chapter she references Morris’s Oxford which is a different book and yet NOT in the index of Book Lust To Go.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Oxford” (p 170). See my ramblings in “Nancy said” for more.


Last Best Place

Kittredge, William and Annick Smith, ed. The Last Best Place: a Montana Anthology. Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 1988.

When this book first arrived I took one look at it and freaked out. How in the world did I manage to order a book that is not only 1161 pages long but also is not renewable? How would I ever get through 1000+ pages in two weeks? It was ridiculous. When I did the math it equalled out to approximately 90 pages a day in order to finish it on time. Ridiculous. Ridiculous because I was still struggling through the 900+ page biography on Winston Churchill. Luckily, Last Best Place was fun to read!
Starting with Native American Indian folklore and diary accounts of expeditions through the virgin geography of Montana Last Best Place opens in the early 1700’s. It ends with a section of contemporary poetry. The folklore was probably the dullest part. I firmly believe stories like these are best communicated orally because of their repetitious nature. First hand accounts of settlers seeking new land were the most interesting.This is not a book to read all at once. Its 1161 pages encourage random readings and not necessarily in chapter order.

Favorite lines: “Curiosity, a love of wild adventure, and perhaps also a hope of profit, for times are hard, and my best coat has a sort of sheepish hang-dog hesitation to encounter fashionable folk…” (p 170).
“The situation of a man gliding over a beautiful river in a boat always has something magical about it…(p 205).

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Montana: In Big Sky Country” (p 156).


Don’t Tell Mama!

Dont Tell MamaBarreca, Regina. Ed. Don’t Tell Mama! The Penguin Book of Italian American Writing. New York: Penguin. 2002.

I like reading anthologies in between the longer stuff. It makes both books read faster, if that makes sense. Don’t Tell Mama! is a mix of stuff it takes me forever to read and the stuff I could read all day. True to days of our lives, some stories are better than others. One of my favorite stories was from Louise DeSalvo, from Vertigo. It’s a simple story about bringing a man home for dinner and having reason to be angry at mom. Looking back on the scene, Louise says “If I could do that night over, I would remember these things and I would look across the table at my mother and say, Thank you. Thank you very, very much” (p 140). It touched me because there have been many times in my life when I’ve tried to please someone and thought my mother was playing the fool, going overboard to the point of embarrassing. Now, I realize she was nervous for me; wanted the best for me; anxiousness led to exaggeration. Another quote that hit home for me was, “self-loathing became my second skin” from Mary Saracino’s Ravioli & Rage story (p 488). Been there, done that. Or. “So whenever I was being chased, I’d head straight for the library. The library became my asylum, a place where I could go crazy and be myself without my family finding out” from Fred Gardaphe’s The Italian-American Writer: An Essay and an Annotated Checklist (p 222).
But, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are stories of humor, too. Chris Mellie Sherman’s story, “How to Marry an Italian-American Man” (p 496) is better described as what to do with him once you’ve landed an Italian-American husband. It’s damn funny and worth reading outloud to your spouse, Italian descent or not.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust chapter simply called “Italian American Writers” (p132).


Here First

Krupat, Arnold, and Brain Swann, eds. Here First: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers. New York: Modern Library, 2000.

Here First was, well, here first so I’m reading it first. I’m a little over 100 pages in and my first reaction is voyeurism. I’m peering into lives and seeing cultures I know little to nothing about. There is bitterness in their words, humor on the surface. Poetry in pieces. I’m having a tough time with the prejudice because I’m one of Them (being white) and not them. A perfect example is a favorite quote:
“The neighbor boy pointed to the screen laughing at the hooting Indians being chased by cavalry and told her that she was an “Indian.” I hugged my heartbroken daughter and said, “But you are an Indian.” She told me right back, “But I’m not that kind of Indian.” None of us are.” (Bird, Gloria. Autobiography as Spectacle: An Act of Liberation or the Illusion of Liberation? p65)

Booklust Twist: Categorized as “American Indian Literature”, (Book Lust, p.23).