Angel at My Table

Frame, Janet. Angel at My Table: An Autobiography: Volume Two. New York: George Braziller, 1984

Reason read: to continue the autobiography started in April in honor of New Zealand’s Anzac Day.

Angel at My Table being the second volume in Janet Frame’s autobiography, covers her unwillingness to become a teacher, a myriad of mental health struggles, and Frame’s continued desire to impress people as a “true” poet. Despite being at the University for a teaching career Frame was dead set against becoming an educator. When it came time for her to be observed in the classroom she simply excused herself and walked out, never to return again. All she wanted to do was write and it was her ability to do so that ultimately saved her. Scheduled to have an lobotomy, her book, The Lagoon, a volume of short stories, was published just in time for her to receive a stay of operation. From there Frame floundered trying to make a living until she met Frank Sargeson. As a fellow writer he was able to develop a partnership and mentorship that ultimately shaped Frame’s future. At the end of Angel at My Table we leave Frame as she is ready to embark on a new journey; leaving New Zealand for the first time.

Lines to like, “Nola suffered from asthma and the complication of being in a family of brilliant beautiful people” (p 110) and “There is a freedom born for the acknowledgement of greatness in literature, as if one gave away what one desired to keep, and in giving, there is new space cleared for growth, an onrush of a new season beneath a secret sun” (p 153).

Author fact: When Frame died obituaries called her New Zealand’s “best known but least public” writer.

Book trivia: Angel at My Table was made into a movie in 1990, starring Kerry Fox.

Nancy said: Not much. She just mentioned that Frame’s second book was made into a movie.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Kiwis Forever!: New Zealand in Print” (p 123).


April is Over

One of my all time favorite 10,000 Maniacs songs is “The Painted Desert” off the album, Our Time in Eden. If you have never heard it, the premise is simple. A couple is trying to have a long distance relationship. Or…one of them is anyway…While one is off in the Southwest, the other waits patiently for the time when he? she? can join the other. But, soon the patience tarnishes and the one left behind find themselves pleading, “I wanted to be there by May at the latest time. Isn’t that the plan we had or have you changed your mind? I haven’t heard a word from you since Phoenix or Tuscon. April is over. Can you tell how long before I can be there?” The underlying poison is that the partner has moved on and the answer to the question is “never.” How ironic.

Having said all that, April IS over. As far as the run is concerned, I begrudgingly ran a half mara and a 10k and despite not training for either, I am pleased with both races.
And I read a fair amount of books:

Fiction:

  • Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell

Nonfiction:

  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
  • The Corner: a Year in the life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns
  • The Evolution of Everyday Objects by Henry Petroski
  • Bogey Man by George Plimpton
  • To the Is-Land: an Autobiography by Janet Frame

Series continuations:

  • Charmed by Nora Roberts
  • The Venus Throw by Steven Saylor

Poetry:

  • “Unexplorer” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • “Travel” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz

Early Review:

  • Deeply Grateful and Entirely Unsatisfied by Amanda Happe

To the Is-Land

Frame, Janet. To the Is-Land. New York: George Braziller, 1982.

Reason read: Anzac Day in New Zealand is celebrated in April. Janet Frame was born in New Zealand.

Janet Frame had written at least ten novels and a series of poetry over the course of her career before it seemed the natural next step to tell her autobiography. Her life story gave perspective to the fiction she had been writing for so many years. Why else does one assume his or her life story would be interesting to someone else, a complete stranger, if only to explain their actions or, in Frame’s case, her craft? To the Is-Land starts when Frame is a very young child in Dunedin, New Zealand. She recounts the trials and tribulations of growing up poor and longing to fit in. She found solace in writing and at the the end of To the Is-Land a poet starts to emerge.

As an aside, if you know my blogs you know I love to make connections to Natalie Merchant, no matter how far fetched. This time I came across a song Frame’s father used to sing, “Come for a trip in my airship…” Of course, Natalie sang a version of that for Stay Awake, a tribute to Disney music.

Quotes I thought worth mentioning, “I don’t attempt to search for the commonplace origins of such a feeling” (p 23), and only a few of you will get why this one is so funny, “””It could be his spine,” someone said, adding that they knew someone who’d been miraculously cured by a chiropractor who insisted that the answer was always in the spine” (p 99).

Author fact: Janet Frame started her career as a teacher. She only spent one year as an educator before deciding to become a writer. That takes guts!

Book trivia: To the Is-Land is part one of Frame’s autobiography and does not include any photography. Boo. If anything, I would have loved seeing the New Zealand landscape.

Nancy said: Janet Frame “is best known for her three-volume autobiography” (p 124).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Kiwis Forever!: New Zealand in Print” (p 123).


Library Week and the April Reads

Yes, it is now April 4th and I am just getting to this. April is slowly becoming one of those coulda, woulda months. I was supposed to run nine miles on Sunday. Instead, I had Easter dinner with the family and chilled out. I could have run on Monday but it snowed and I had Cairo. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, didn’t. April is supposed to he a half marathon (and you can see how well the training is going) and a 10k one week later. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell – in honor of Lowell’s birth month being in April.

Nonfiction:

  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers – in honor of April being the month Louisiana was founded.
  • Bogey Man by George Plimpton – in honor of the PGA tour.
  • Corner by David Simon – in honor of Maryland becoming a state in April.
  • Evolution of Useful Things by Henry Petroski – in honor of April being Math, Science, and Technology month.

Series continuations:

  • Venus Throw by Steven Saylor – to continue the series started in March for Saylor’s birth month.
  • Charmed by Nora Roberts – to continue the series started in February for Valentine’s Day.

Poetry:

  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz – to continue honoring Poetry Month
  • A Few Figs From Thistles by Edna St. Vincent Millay – see above.
  • “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay – see above.

If there is time:

  • To the Is-Land by Janet Frame – in honor of Anzac Day in New Zealand.
  • Jargoon Pard by Andre Norton (I had to request this one through interlibrary loan so I’m not sure it will be read in time to be in the April category.

Marching Out

March was one of those weird months. A few Nor’Easters. A few miles run. A few books read. We had two school closings in back to back weeks so that helped with the reading, but not the run. I finished the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race just two minutes off my time last year. Considering I didn’t train (again) I’m alright with that. There’s always next year! Here are the books:

Fiction –

  • The Good Son by Michael Gruber
  • Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
  • White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling
  • Witch World by Andre Norton
  • Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis

Nonfiction –

  • All the Way Home by David Giffels
  • Slide Rule by Nevil Shute

Series Continuations –

  • Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to finished the series started in honor of her birth month in January.
  • Entranced by Nora Roberts

Early Review for Librarything –

  • Oneiron by Laura Lindstedt (started)
  • Infinite Hope – Anthony Graves

Poetry –

  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz (not finished)

Fun – I’m not finished with either fun book so I won’t list them here.


Slide Rule

Shute, Nevil. Slide Rule: the Autobiography of an Engineer. New York: William Morrow & Company, 1954.

Reason read: William Oughtred, the inventor of the slide rule, was born in March. Read in his honor.
Confessional: my father, being a man in love with boats and the ocean and nautical charts, taught me how to use a slide rule for navigation when I was really young. It was such a long time ago I doubt I could plot a course these days, though.

This is supposed to be Nevil Shute’s autobiography but I would say it is more a memoir about his career in aviation. He doesn’t delve into his personal life too deeply. There is nothing about his childhood, his marriage, becoming a father, or much of his writing career, for example. You don’t know much about his family life/childhood, how he met his wife, when he had children, or even how he became a writer in the first place. Slide Rule is more about Shute’s life in aviation; how he became a calculator for the firm of DeHavilland when they were designing rigid airships. What’s fascinating is his company was in competition with the government to build airbuses. After an airbus disaster Shute founded the company Airspeed, Ltd and had lukewarm success being profitable building private planes. At the start of World War II the nature of the business changed and Shute slowly started to withdraw emotionally from Airspeed. The memoir ends with him leaving Airspeed after being voted out by the board. Meanwhile, his career as an author was just starting to take flight.

Quotes I liked, “The happily married man with a large family is the test
pilot for me” (p 67), and “A man’s own experiences determine his opinions, of necessity” (p 140).
Author fact: Nevil’s full name is Nevil Shute Norway. He explains his reasons for using his Christian names alone in Slide Rule.

Book trivia: Slide Rule has a small sections of photographs, including a couple of the author.

Nancy said: Shute thought of himself as more of an engineer than a writer, according to Pearl.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Nevil Shute: Too Good To Miss” (p 198).


Coast of Incense

Stark, Freya. The Coast of Incense: Autobiography 1933 – 1939. London: John Murray, 1953.

Reason read: to finish the autobiography of Freya Stark, started in January in honor of her birth month.

Freya Stark was born to travel. Unafraid. Unconcerned with custom, tradition or the assumed proper behavior of the single woman, Stark was a woman who did as she pleased. Long fascinated with maps she set out to be a lady “traveller” in the middle east. She thought it fun to be “a speck on the map of Arabia” (p 58). The only reoccurring obstacle in her way was illness, whether it be dysentery or the measles, or her heart, she was frequently bed ridden. Never the less she traveled throughout the Hadhramout of South Arabia. As with her other autobiographies, Stark introduces each chapter with a present day impression followed by alternating letters from the time frame. She is careful to weave memory with retrospection to build a compelling portrait of her life.

Personally, I loved her descriptions of Himyar, her pet lizard the best.

Best quotes, “…for no iron curtain yet discovered will stand against the pressure and persistence of life, and I still hope to live long enough to write about an opening door” (preface, p xiii), “..and again astonished me with the strangeness of being rewarded for what one likes to do – although it is, perhaps the best thing to be rewarded for” (p 15), and “A young Yemeni teacher comes three hours a week and Arabic is pouring back into my brain” (p 40).

Author fact: Stark was one feisty woman. Take these quotes for example, “I spent a long time the night before wondering whether I should take our little revolver and shoot the Duce as he came by” (p 6). Then there is this: “Little details one would never think of, such as one’s hostess stopping in the middle of dinner to see if there is vaseline on your knife, as it has just come out of someone’s waistband” (p 72) and “…”but I walked on, stolid and angry, with an occasional remark, on the wickedness of robbing travellers, thrown behind me” (p 246).

Book trivia: The Coast of Incense has a great collection of photographs. There is one of Freya looking like a model in Athens that I just love.

Nancy said: nothing that hasn’t already been said somewhere else.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Lady Travellers” (p 142).