Positively 4th Street

Hajdu, David. Positively 4th Street: the Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina, and Richard Farina. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.

Reason read: May is music month. This is a proper book about music.

All it takes is one moment to allow your greatness to shine. Quarterback Tom Brady knows that without Drew Bledsoe getting hurt he wouldn’t have had the chance to prove himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks of NFL history. The band Imagine Dragons knows that without the lead singer from Train getting sick they wouldn’t have played the festival that changed their lives practically overnight. Joan Baez discovered that when she took part of someone else’s time to perform at the Newport Folk Festival she was given the opportunity of a lifetime. I enjoy a biography when the world of another human opens up to me and I discover that I probably would have liked them as an everyday person. When Joan Baez was quoted as saying she was afraid to take music lessons because she thought she would discover that she wasn’t all that good I liked her a little more. She had a sense of humor and wit to boot. But Positively 4th Street is not just about Joan Baez. Hadju takes us into the world of her sister, Mimi, and the influential men in their lives, Bob Dylan and Richard Farina. I have to admit, I knew next to nothing about Mimi and Dick before this book. Now I feel I have some catching up to do (musically). I think it’s incredibly tragic that Farina died on the same day his only book was published and his wife celebrated her 21st birthday.

As an aside, Joan was referred to as the Virgin Mary of music. This made me think of Natalie Merchant and how she was referred to as the Emily Dickinson of music. Why do men have to come up with these strange labels for women artists?

Author fact: Hajdu wrote a bunch of books around the topic of music. I am not reading anything but Positively 4th Street for the book Challenge.

Book trivia: Positively 4th Street includes two sections of black and white photographs.

There is an insane amount of music mentioned in Positively 4th Street. Hang on to your hats!
Playlist (musicians): Alan Lomax, Almanac Singers, Animals, Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys, Beatles, Bobby Rydell, Bessie Jones, Burl Ives, Blind Boys of Alabama, Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly, Brownie McGhee, Burt Bacharach, Chuck Berry, Clarence Ashley, Carolyn Hester, Conway Twitty, Charles River Valley Boys, Count Basie, Charlie Christian, Carl Perkins, Cole Porter, Chambers Brothers, Doris Day, Duke Ellington, Doc Watson, Everly Brothers, Eddy Arnold, Elvis Presley, Eric von Schmidt, Frank Sinatra, Frankie Valli, Frankie Avalon, Greenbriar Boys, George Wein, Hank Williams, Harry Belafonte, Horace Sprott, Hawks, James Field, Jimmy Reid, Joan Baez, John Cooke, John Sebastian, John Lee Hooker, Judy Collins, Josh White, Jean Ritchie, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Lennon, Kingston Trio, Kate Smith, Lead Belly, Lionel Hampton, Leonard Bernstein, Lesley Gore, Lotte Lenya, Little Richard, Levon Helm, Marianne Faithfull, Mel Torme, Mance Lipscomb, Muddy Waters, Mahalia Jackson, Mississippi John Hurt, Nat Cole, New Lost City Ramblers, Odetta, Oscar Brand, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Peter, Paul and Mary, Paul Simon, Pete Seeger, Peter Yarrow, Ricky Nelson, Robert Gray, Rudy Vallee, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr, Sleepy John Estes, Staple Singers, Sonny Terry, Teddy Wilson, Theodore Bikel, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Tom Rush, Van Morrison, the Weavers, Woody Guthrie,

Playlist (songs):
A
“All the World Has Gone By”, “Always Something There To Remind Me”, “A Swallow Song”, “Amazing Grace”, “Annie Had a Baby”, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, “Another Country”, “All I Really Want to Do”, “All My Trials”,
B
“Blue Suede Shoes”, “Ballad of Donald White”, “Black is the Color”, “Ballad of Peter Amberley”, “Bob Dylan’s Dream”, “Boots of Spanish Leather”, “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”, “Ballad of Hollis Brown”, “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Birmingham Sunday”, “Bye, Bye Love”, “Ballad in Plain D”, “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”, “Bringing it All Back Home”, “Brown-Eyed Gril”, “Ballad of a Thin Man”,
C
“Car, Car”, “Cumberland Gap”, Careless Love”, “Come Back, Baby”, “Chipmunk Song”, “Cocaine”, “Celebration for a Gray Day”, “Corrina, Corrina”, “Chimes of Freedom”, “Catch the Wind”,
D
“Dopico”, “Diamonds and Rust”, “Death of Emmett Till”, “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind”, “Don’t Weep After Me”, “Drive It On”, “Down on Penny’s Farm”, Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”, “Dog Blue”, “Donna, Donna”,
E
“El Preso Numero Nueve”,
F
“Farewell to Bob Dylan”, “Falcon”, “Field Near the Cathedral at Chartres”, “Farewell”, “Freight Train Blues”, “Fare Thee Well”,
G
“Gates of Eden”, “Glory, Glory”, “Good Night, Irene”, “Girl From the North Country”, “Gospel Plow”, “Green Historical Bum”,
H
“Hard-Loving Loser”, “Homeward Bound”, “Hold On”, “Henry Martin”, “Hard Travelin'”, “House of the Rising Sun”, “Hard Times in New York”, “He Was a Friend of Mine”, “Hard-Loving Loser”, “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance”, “Hound Dog”,
I
“I am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger”, “If I Had a Hammer”, “I Don’t Believe You [She Acts Like We Never Have Met]”, “Island in the Sun”, “I’ll Fly Away”, “I Was Young When I Left Home”, “If You Gotta Go, Go Now”, “It’s Alright Ma”, “It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry”, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, “I Came to Jesus”, “I Once Loved a Lass”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “It Aint Me Babe”,
J
“John Riley”, “Jordan River”, “Jonny’s Gone to Hi-Lo”, Judy’s Turn to Cry”, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”,
K
“Kitty”,
L
“Lay Down Your Weary Tune”, “Lord Franklin”, “La Bamba”, “Lowlands”, “London Waltz”, “Long Ago, Far Away”, “Lord Randall”, “Leaving of Liverpool”, “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”, “Ludlow Massacre”, “Love is Just a Four-Letter Word”, “Like a Rolling Stone”,
M
“Miles”, “My Back Pages”, “Mixed-Up Confusion”, “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind”, “Mary Hamilton”, “Masters of War”, “Man of Constant Sorrow”, “Maggie’s Farm”, “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “My Little Red Book”, “Michelle”,
N
“Nottamun Town”, “No More Auction Block”,
O
“One-Way Ticket”, “Old Blue”, “Only Pawn in Their Game”, “Once I Knew a Pretty Girl”, “On the Banks of the Ohio”, “On Top of Old Smokey”, “O What a Beautiful Morning,” “Overseas Stomp”, “Only a Hobo”, “Once I Had a Sweetheart”, “Oh Boy”, “Once in Love with Lyndon”, “One Too Many Mornings”,
P
“Pastures of Plenty”, “Pack Up Your Sorrows”, “Poor Boy Blues”, “Pal of Mine”, “Patriot Game”, “Poor Miner’s Lament”, “Puff the Magic Dragon”,
R
“Roll On Columbia”, “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie”, “Rake and Rambling Boy”, “Reno Nevada”,
S
“Sweet Sir Galahad”, “Sail Away Ladies”, “Sound of Silence”, “Sally Ann”, “Scarborough Fair”, “Silver Dagger”, “So Soon in the Morning”, “Song to Woody”, “Swing and Turn Jubilee”, “Standing on the Highway”, “Surfaris’ Wipe Out”, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, “She Belongs To Me”,
T
“Talkin’ New York”, “This Life is Killing”, “This Land is Your Land”, “Talkin’ Hava Negeilah Blues”, “Tom Dooley”, “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues”, “Tomorrow is a Long Time”, “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues”, “Troubled and I Don’t Know Why”, “There But for Fortune”, “To Ramona”, “Turn, Turn, Turn”,
V
“Virgin Mary Has One Son”, “V.D. Blues”,
W
“Wild Mountain Thyme”, “Watermelon Man”, “What You Gonna Call Your Pretty Little Baby”, “Who Killed Davey Moore”, “Wimoweh”, “With God on Our Side”, “Wagoner’s Lad”, “Wild Colonial Boy”, “When the Ship Comes In”, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”, “Wildwood Flower”,
Y
“Your Cheating Heart”, “Young Blood”, “You’re No Good”, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feelin'”, “Yesterday”.

Nancy said: Pearl experienced a musical trip down memory lane when she read Positively 4th Street.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The 1960s in Fact and Fiction” (p 178).


Dickey Chappelle

Garofolo, John. Dickey Chappelle Under Fire: Photographs by the First American Female War Correspondent Killed in Action. Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2015.

Reason read: I was supposed to review this book as part of the Early Review Program with LibraryThing way back in 2015. The book never arrived, but the entry lingered still on my spreadsheet in an irritating way. In an effort to clean up loose ends, I decided to read and review it. I’m glad I did.

This book will haunt you. Made up primarily of Georgette Louise Meyer, aka Dickey Lou Chappelle’s amazing wartime photography, her eye on humanity will move you to tears. As she journeyed around the world, from the Pacific theater of World War II to the rice paddy fields of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, her images captured a raw humanity more seasoned photographers failed to notice. By her own standards, her photography skills weren’t perfect, but nor did she care. Her fighting spirit shimmered in the images. I had never heard of Dickey Chappelle before reading this book. In truth, it was someone else’s final photograph of Dickey that will make Ms. Chappelle, the woman and not the photographer, unforgettable to me.

Author fact: John Garofolo used to be in the entertainment industry.

Book trivia: Dickey Chappelle was slated for a stage production. Not sure what happened to the idea.


Testament of Friendship

Brittain, Vera. Testament of Friendship. New York: Seaview Books, 1981.

Reason read: I dropped the ball on finishing Brittain’s trilogy. I was supposed to read this in August. Woops.

As both Carolyn G. Heilbrun and Vera Brittain noted in her introduction and preface respectively, the recording of a friendship between women is rare. Both Heilbrun and Brittain cited the Biblical relationship between Ruth and Naomi as being one of the few female friendships not only documented but widely accepted. Brittain set out to record her sixteen year friendship with Winfred Holtby and produce a detailed biography of a woman who died too soon, “She seemed too vital and radiant a creature for death to touch” (p 1). Indeed. It is stunning to think what Holtby could have accomplished when you think she was writing poetry by the age of eight and by age eleven was published. [Okay, okay. So her mother paid to have the poems published.] She was the Charlotte Bronte of her time. On a personal note, I think women should celebrate their friendships more often. This prompted me to reach out to friends I’ve known for nearly 40 years.

Author fact: Brittain was the author of 29 books. I am only reading the three Testament books for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Testament of Friendship does not contain any photographs. Too bad.

Setlist: “Fight the Good Fight,” “Give Me the Moonlight,” “Because,” “Until,” and “K-K-K-Katy.”

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Testament of Friendship except to say that it continues the trilogy Brittain started with Testament of Youth.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living Through War” (p 154).


Lindbergh

Berg, Scott A. Lindbergh. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1998.

Reason: Charles Lindbergh died in the month of August – read in his memory.

From the moment Charles Lindbergh watched the Aeronautical Trials at Fort Meyer in June of 1912, he was hooked on planes and flying. Watching the maneuvers sparked his young mind’s imagination. Fast forward fifteen years and May 21st, 1927 is a date for the record books. It is the date Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, nonstop between America and Europe.
As an aside, I think it’s fantastic that Lindbergh made the Spirit of St. Louis trip in 33 hours, 30 minutes and 30 seconds. That’s one for the numerophiles. From that moment on Lindbergh became a global sensation. Like a folk hero, dozens of songs and poetry were written for and about him. A dance was created in his name. People wrote books and plays about his achievement and clamored to have a piece of his fame for their very own. For men and women alike, touching him was like experiencing nirvana. To talk to him was like seeing the face of God. He was that famous.
But Charles Lindbergh was not just a pilot. Flying aside, he became interested in finding a way to transplant body organs safely. He became interested in Anne Morrow, enough to marry her and have a son. Thus began Lindbergh’s second bout with unwanted notoriety. When his first born son was kidnapped and killed the entire world was rapt with the horrific drama. Every update had people sitting on the edge of their seats. How could this happen to a famous colonel? When the tragedy had come to its terrible conclusion Lindbergh wanted to give up all aspects of aviation. It all led to publicity. The fame and notoriety got to be too much. Then came the Louise Brooks-like slide into scandal. The world was positioned for another Great War and this time Lindbergh was making headlines for all the wrong reasons. He had been enamored with the Germans for their ingenuity for a long time, but siding with them at this tumultuous time was the absolute wrong move. Berg’s biography of Lindbergh is thorough and compelling through the good, the bad and the ugly.

As another aside, Berg reports Anne’s mother, Elizabeth Morrow, was a “prime exemplar of someone who devoted her life to public service through volunteerism.” That’s all well and good, but if my annual income from only interest and dividends from stocks and bonds was approximately $300,000 (in 1930s dollars), I too would be spending a great deal of time volunteering. If I didn’t need to punch a time clock to pay my bills what else could I do with the hours of my day?

Author fact: Berg was the first and only writer to have been given unrestricted access to the Lindbergh archives.

Book trivia: Lindbergh includes three sections of black and white photographs.

Playlist: “Star-Spangled Banner,” “Marseillaise,” “When Lindy Comes Home,” “Der Lindberghflug,” “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” and “Eternal Light,”

Nancy said: Pearl points out Lindbergh contains a beautiful and moving chapter on Lindbergh’s flight.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Flying Above the Clouds” (p 89).


Burning Blue

Cook, Kevin. The Burning Blue: the Untold Story of Christa McAuliffe and NASA’s Challenger Disaster. New York: Henry Holt, 2021.

Reason read: as a member of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing, I occasionally win books to read and review.

If someone asked, you probably couldn’t remember where you were on January 28th, 1986, but if the question was phrased a little differently I know you can: “Where were you when NASA’s space shuttle Challenger exploded?” Say the name Christa McAuliffe and everyone knows her name. Personally, I know exactly where I was when the tragedy occurred: high school, in the Vortex, cozying up to a guy named Jim. I remember hiding my face when the plumes of white smoke arced across the sky. No escaping the tragedy.
As outsiders witness to the unforgettable horror, we all have preconceived notions of what really happened that day. Cook takes the Challenger tragedy and puts a face to all who were impacted. Christa and her fellow space travelers were not the only souls lost on 1986’s twenty-eighth day. It is obvious from the level of personal detail, Cook researched the entire event and those leading up to it very carefully and was extremely thorough with every detail. All in all, it is a well-told tale. In truth, as the pages went by I had a hard time reading it. Just knowing every chapter would take me closer to the time of McAuliffe’s demise made it hard to continue. As an aside, I felt the same way about reading Anne Frank’s diary. This is a story that doesn’t have a Hollywood ending. It is strange how NASA provided some resistance to the Challenger accident investigation and even stranger that simple 0-ring problems were reported for years and no one listened when Sally Ride leaked the information.
Here’s what I fully believe: Rumor has it Reagan was going to cut funding if the shuttle didn’t launch on January 28th, 1986.
An added eeriness to McAuliffe’s story is just how often people alluded to the dangers as she trained for the event. It was if there were signs trying to tell her not to join the launch.

Playlist: Jefferson Airplane, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Madonna, Queen, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, U2, “A Time for Us,” “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” “Rocky Mountain High,” Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” “We are The World, “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “God Bless America,” “Flying for Me” by John Denver, and “God Bless the USA.”

Author fact: Kevin Cook has written for the New York Times, Men’s Journal, GQ, etc., but the coolest fact is that he currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts. That’s just up the road from me.

Book trivia: The Burning Blue was scheduled to go on sale in June and should have 16 pages of photographs.


Abraham Lincoln: the Prairie Years, Vol II

Sandburg, Carl. Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Yeas, Volume Two. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1926.

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

When we delve back into Sandburg’s volume two of Abraham Lincoln: the Prairie Years Lincoln is now in his forties. He is a family man. His political life is becoming more and more entangled with his career as a lawyer. His direct, plain-speaking, and honest approach has people trusting him and he soon has a following of stump-speech fans. In the courtroom, his ability to deliver calm closing arguments that sway even the toughest juries has people wanting him to run for President of the United States. As Sandburg eloquently put it, “His words won him hearts in unknown corners of far-off places” (p 155). His role as a leader of our country is starting to come into shape.
[As an aside, it was interesting that I was reading about town gossip while at a salon getting my hair cut. There is no better place to hear tongues wagging than in a salon (except maybe in a bar).]

Author fact: Carl and his wife were married just shy of 60 years.

Book trivia: Best part of the book was when Lincoln was having a conversation with a goat. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, thinking of tall, gangling Abraham bending low to converse with an animal.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about either volume of Abraham Lincoln: the Prairie Years.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1920s” (p 176).


Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years

Sandburg, Carl. Abraham Lincoln: the Prairie Years, Volume One. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1926.

Reason read: February 12th the is birthday of President Lincoln. Read in his honor.

Sandburg’s portrait of Abraham Lincoln is detailed, expressive, poignant, and at many times, repetitive and rambling. In the Prairie Years Sandburg, despite filling the book with long and meandering passages, has an overall lyrical language which is to be expected from a writer who is a talented poet first and foremost. He introduces our nation’s sixteenth president as being a captivating and complicated human being long before Lincoln entered the White House. Sandburg starts Lincoln’s story by portraying him as a quiet and sensitive child whose dreams were very important to him; catching the symbolisms of life at an early age. Later, as an adult, Lincoln would see his dreams and symbolisms as a connection to his future. As a teenager, learning became Lincoln’s obsession. He was said to always have a book in his hand; that he was constantly reading. I have an image of him studying big law books while plowing his father’s fields. All that book reading didn’t mean Lincoln was a soft sissy, though. Lincoln was the Superman of his day. As Sandburg frequently points out, because Abe was so tall and strong with “bulldog courage,” people were constantly challenging him to foot races, wrestling matches, and fist fights: anything to prove their strength against him. Sandburg seems proud to report most times these challengers lost.
In the midst of industry’s wheels just starting to turn, slavery was seen as a profitable business. At the same time, at the age of twenty-three, Lincoln’s political wheels were just starting to turn as well. He wasn’t interested in drinking or fishing. He wanted to continue to learn the law. He became a postmaster so he could have access to newspaper. In the first installment of Sandburg’s biography, we learn Lincoln grew into a complicated man with many sides. Lincoln the storyteller, always telling jokes and stories. Lincoln the neighbor, ready to help a friend, stranger, or animal in need. Lincoln the silent and sad, afraid to carry a pocketknife for fear of harming himself. Sandburg quotes Lincoln as once saying, “I stay away because I am conscious I should not know how to behave myself” (p 22).

Just think of the contemporaries of Lincoln’s day! John Marshall, Daniel Webster; Andrew Jackson was President, Edgar Allan Poe had just been thrown out of West Point and decided to become a writer, Charles Darwin started his journey on the Beagle, Johnnie Appleseed was starting to walk about with seeds in his pockets…

I have come to the conclusion I would have liked to have known Abraham Lincoln, even before he became President of the United States. He had a quick wit and an even faster sense of humor. I would have been drawn to his melancholy, too.

Lines I loved, “Days when he sank deep in the stream of human life and felt himself kin of all that swam in it, whether the waters were crystal or mud” (p 77).

Author fact: Carl Sandburg is better known as a poet. However, he did win a Pulitzer in History for Abraham Lincoln: the War Years (which I am not reading for the Challenge. Go figure.

Book trivia: Abraham Lincoln is a six volume set. I am only reading the first two volumes.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about either volume of Abraham Lincoln: the Prairie Years.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1920s” (p 175).


Little Wonder

Abramsky, Sasha. Little Wonder: the Fabulous Story of Lottie Dod, the World’s First Female Superstar. Brooklyn, New York: Akashic Books, 2020.

Reason read: as a member of LibraryThing, I was chosen to review this for the Early Review program.

Charlotte Dod. If you don’t know her name, you don’t know the history of women in sports. Don’t feel bad though. Despite being a multitalented athlete, her fame as a star burned bright in many arenas, but faded from all of them just as quickly. First known as a tennis sensation at the age of fourteen, Lottie (as she was known), only played competitively for five years. In that time she became the doyenne of tennis, winning five Wimbledons. The only years she didn’t win she didn’t even compete. Sadly, it was as if she grew tired of smashing the competition and needed new thrills. She left the sport…at twenty one years of age. After tennis, Dod set her sights on field hockey. She helped pioneer the sport for women. Then came skating. Obsessively training for hours on end, Dod was not only able to pass the rigorous women’s skating test, she passed the much more difficult men’s test as well. When she was done with ice skates and cold weather , she moved on to golf and mountaineering and archery and Voluntary Aid Detachment nursing and choral singing. She climbed mountains in support of women seeking equal rights and won a silver medal for archery at the 1908 summer Olympic games.
While Abramsky does a great job detailing Lottie’s life, he has to fill in the gaps with speculation because sadly, much of her correspondence was lost or deliberately destroyed. Expect words like “maybe” and “perhaps” and “might.” The photographs are fantastic.
Arabella Garrett Anderson, Agatha Christie, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Nelly Bly were contemporaries of Dod’s.


More Than Petticoats

Kennedy, Kate. More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Maine Women. Guilford, CT: The Globe Pequot Press, 2005.

Reason read: to satisfy a Portland Public Reading Challenge category: Maine history.


More Than Petticoats is a series of biographies focusing on historically significant women by location. I believe every state in the country has a book and some states, like California, have a second volume. For the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge, I read More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Maine Women. Thirteen biographies of some women you might know and others you may not recognize: Marguerite-Blanche Thibodeau Cyr, Kate Furbish, Abbie Burgess Grant, Lillian M.N. Stevens, Sarah Orne Jewett, Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby, Lillian “La Nordica” Norton, Josephine Diebitsch Peary, Florence Nicolar Shay, Marguerite Thompson Zorach, Florence Eastman Williams, Sister R. Mildred Barker, and Margaret Chase Smith. From 1738 – 1995. I love Maine’s rich history. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Sarah Orne Jewett, Franklin Pierce. I could go on and on.

As an aside, my sister takes pictures of a water fountain close to her library. I now know the history of the girl: the Women’s Christian Temperance Union dedicated the fountain to Lillian M.N. Stevens. Very cool.

Confessional: I want to visit Abbie Burgess Grant’s grave. According to Kennedy, Grant is buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery in South Thomaston. Her final resting place should be easy to find. Her headstone is the one with the lighthouse.
I also want to visit Sarah Orne Jewett’s house in South Brunswick. I hear it’s open to the public. I should just go on a Maine Women vacation.


January Jumping

Believe it or not, I’m kind of happy with the way January is shaping up already, five days in. After the disappointments of December I am definitely ready for change. I’m running more these days. I convinced a friend to see sirsy with me. I’m not sure what she thought, but I am still in love with the lyrics. Anyway, enough of that. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett – in honor of Bennett’s birthday being on the 14th of January. (EB)
  • Sanctuary by Ken Bruen – in honor of Bruen’s birthday also being in January. Confessional: I read this book in one day. (EB)
  • The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat – in honor of Danticat’s birthday also being in January. (EB)
  • Graced Land by Laura Kalapakian – in honor of Elvis’s birth month also being in January.
  • Passage to India by E.M. Forster – in honor of Forster’s birth month also being in January. Yes, celebrating a lot of birthdays this month!

Nonfiction:

  • Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten – in honor of a Cuban Read Day held in January.
  • Beijing of Possibilities by Jonathan Tel – in honor of China’s spring festival.

Series continuations:

  • Persuader by Lee Child – the last one in the series, read in honor of New York becoming a state in July (and where Child lived at the time I made this whole thing up). (AB)
  • The Master of Hestviken: the Son Avenger by Sigrid Undset – this is another series I am wrapping up. I started it in October in honor of a pen pal I used to know in Norway.

Early Review:

  • I am supposed to receive an Early Review from November’s list, but it hasn’t arrived so I can’t mention it. For the first time in a long, long time (perhaps ever, I’ll have to look), I did not request a book for the month of December.

October Okay

Fiction:

  • The Master of Hestviken: the Axe by Sigrid Undset.
  • October Light by John Gardner.
  • Jamesland by Michelle Huneven.
  • The Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows by Patrick Chamoiseau.
  • Isabel’s Bed by Elinor Lipman.

Nonfiction:

  • Wyoming Summer by Mary O’Hara.
  • Obsession with Butterflies by Sharman Apt Russell.

Series continuation:

  • Running Blind by Lee Child.

Early Review for LibraryThing

  • Lou Reed: Notes From the Velvet Underground by Howard Sounes.

Lou Reed: Notes from the Velvet Underground

Confessional: I had a really hard time reading about Lou Reed. I had always heard stories about his despicable character and was hoping most of it was a lot of bunk; I wanted it to be that Lou felt he had to keep up a persona cultivated by his involvement with Andy Warhol and the drug infested 1960s. I was wrong. He was a dick seemingly from birth.
There is no doubt Sounes is very sympathetic towards Reed and his less than admirable character. He made excuses for his bad behavior throughout the entire book, calling Reed a “provocateur extraordinaire” as early as the high school years. It is very obvious Lou loved to push buttons early on and did not care in the very least about the consequences. It was if he had a bone to pick with the entire world and spent his entire life trying to get even. He was a troublemaker. He was mean. He acted strange. He was often cranky. Drugs made him even more paranoid than he naturally was. He was a chauvinist and had a thing against women. He welcomed violence against women and had a habit of smashing, shoving, smacking, slapping them. At times Sounes seems conflicted. He states Reed clearly meant to project an image by being a prick, but in the very same sentence admits Reed was the person he projected (p 160).
Reed and his “provocateur extraordinaire” personality aside, Sounes’s exhausted research and attention to detail jumps out of every page of the biography. You can smell the grit of New York’s grungy streets and feel the beer soaked stickiness of the music scene. Warhole, Nico, Bowie, Iggy…they all live and breathe with vibrancy in Lou Reed. It’s as if Sounes bottled their souls and that alone makes the read worth it.


October Late

I am so frigging late with this it’s not even funny. Here are my excuses: I was home-home the first weekend in October. I am hosting an art show. I’m trying to hire a new librarian. And. And! And, I have been running. Only 13.25 miles so far but it’s a start, right? I’m thrilled to be putting one foot in front of the other. But, here are the books:

Fiction:

  • October Light by John Gardner – in honor of October being in the the title of the book and the fact that it takes place in Vermont, a place that is simply gorgeous in the fall.
  • Jamesland by Michelle Huneven – in honor of October being Mental Health Awareness month.
  • Long Day Monday by Peter Turnbull – in honor of police proceedurals.
  • The Axe by Sigrid Undset – in honor of the fact I needed a translated book by a woman for the Portland Public Library challenge. Weak, I know.
  • Isabel’s Bed by Elinor Lipman – in honor of Lipman’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • Wyoming Summer by Mary O’Hara – in memory of O’Hara dying in October.
  • An Obsession with Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair by Sharman Apt Russell – in honor of Magic Wings opening in October and the fact that Monhegan was inundated with monarch butterflies for the month of September. We even saw a few while we were home.

Series Continuation:

  • Running Blind by Lee Child – started in honor of New York becoming a state in July (where Lee Child lives). However, big confessional: I am reading this out of order. My own fault completely.

LibraryThing Early Review:

  • Notes from the Velvet Underground by Howard Sounes

Agony and the Ecstasy

Stone, Irving. The Agony and the Ecstasy: the Biographical Novel of Michelangelo. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1961.

Reason read: September is the month of the Italian holiday Feast of St. Gennaro.

I enjoyed the biographical novel of Michelangelo very much. The great master became flesh and blood before my very eyes: from early childhood Michelangelo was audacious. He could get his master to pay for his apprenticeship when it should have been the other way around. He could connive the mortuary key from a priest so that he could do the unthinkable – dissect corpses; all to better understand the muscles and bones that make up human body. He steals another man’s mistress because he could. He count strand up to a Pope and not take no for an answer. His loves were passionate: while he loved three women dearly, his art meant more than anything. He believed he was freeing his subjects from their marble prisons. He battled Pope Julius II who insisted Michelangelo work in every medium except marble. He was capable of emotional outbursts of jealousy and despair like when his competition with Leonardo da Vinci became too much or when the woman of his dreams held him at arms length and never offered him more than a hand to kiss…
He was such a tragic figure, but I also enjoyed getting to know Michelangelo as a physical human being; learning that he was ambidextrous while chiseling his sculptures. When his right hand grew tired of driving the chisel he would simply switch hands to keep working. The fact he became an architect at age seventy was astonishing.

Quotes I liked, “Strange how his heart could stand empty because his hands were empty” (p 169), “I need my complete self-respect” (p 439), and “Michelangelo’s ears were plugged with the bubbling hot wax of anger” (p 369). Oh! And the countless times Michelangelo said, “I’ll put my hand in fire” when he was extremely confident he could accomplish something.

Author fact: Irving Stone also wrote The Origin, a biographical novel about Charles Darwin (also on my Challenge list).

Book trivia: at the end of The Agony and the Ecstasy Stone includes a bibliography, glossary, and the present locations of Michelangelo’s works (present for 1961).

Nancy said: Pearl called The Agony and the Ecstasy a “great biographical novel. I would have to agree!

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 48).


September Psycho

I don’t even know where to begin with September. It was the month from hell in more ways than one. The only good news is that I was able to run twice as many miles as last month. That counts for something as it saves my sanity just a little bit more than if I didn’t do anything at all.

Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • In the City of Fear by Ward Just
  • Jim, The Boy by Tony Earley
  • The Shining by Stephen King

Nonfiction:

  • Thank You and OK! by David Chadwick
  • Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks
  • Ayatollah Begs to Differ by Madj Hoomin
  • Agony and Ecstasy by Irving Stone

Series continuations:

  • Tripwire by Lee Child
  • Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • My Life on the Line by Ryan O’Callaghan