Halberstam, David. The Amateurs: the Story of Four Young Men and Their Quest for an Olympic Gold Medal. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1985.
Reason read: Halberstam’s birth month is in April. Additionally, the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge has the category of a group working towards a goal. This time it’s a team of amateur rowers trying to qualify for the 1984 Olympics.
An interesting look at a little-known sport. Even though Halberstam’s story centers around the mid-1980s not much has changed with the popularity of rowing. People can name basketball stars, football greats, even Olympic marathon runners and sprinters, but not many can name one let alone all of the members of the last Olympic crew team. I never thought about crew being a faceless sport; a sport that is not very camera friendly. Think about it – to photograph the action accurately you cannot focus on any one particular face. I never thought about it that way. As an aside, I was doing an iFit hike with a trainer named Alex Gregory. He casually mentioned he was a rower on the U.S. Olympic team and retired in 2016. See? I had no idea who he was. Additionally, I recently finished a different iFit walk around Boston and the Charles River. The trainer talked about Harvard, rowing, and competition. Sure enough, a team of eight rowed by. It was cool to see the sport I had been reading about as I worked out.
Halberstam digs deep into this relatively unknown sport to reveal how for athletes like Tiff Wood, the seeds of a competitive spirit were planted in childhood by these rowers’ families: emulating older brothers or spurred on by critical fathers wanting to win, win, win. Encouragement was expressed by failure, (“better luck next time”), and compliments were reserved for the fastest times and first place wins. Reverse psychology at play. The Amateurs is a veritable who’s who of the 1980s rowing world. The dozens of names bogged down the writing and made it difficult to remember who was supposed to be in which boat. I catalogued all the names of the rowers and coaches but I am sure I missed a few:
- Andy Fisher
- Andy Sudden
- Al Shealy
- Bill Hobbs
- Bill Purdy
- Blair Brooks
- Bob Ernest (C)
- Bobby Pearce
- Brad Lewis
- Bruce Ibbetson
- Buzz Congram (C)
- Charley Altekruse
- Charley Bracken
- Chris Allsopp
- Cleve Livingston
- Dan Goldberg
- Dave Potter
- Dick Cashin
- Ed Chandler
- Eric Stevens
- Frank Cunningham (C)
- Fritz Hobbs
- Fritz Hageman
- George Pocock
- Gordie Gardiner
- Greg Montessi
- Gregg Stone
- Hans Svensson
- Harry Burk (C)
- Harry Parker (C)
- Jim Dietz
- Joe Biglow
- Joe Bouscaren
- Joe Burk (C)
- Joe Ratzenburg (C)
- John (Jack) Frackleton
- John Kelly, Jr.
- John Von Blon
- Karl Adam (C)
- Kris Korzeniowski
- Larry Klecatsky
- Mad Dog Loggins
- Mike Ives
- Mike Livingston (C)
- Pat Walker
- Paul Enquist
- Paul Most
- Pertti Kappinen
- Peter Raymond (C)
- Peter-Michael Kolbe
- Ricardo Ibarra
- Richard Davis (C)
- Ridgley Johnson
- Rudiger Reiche
- Sean Colgan
- Steve Klesing
- Stuart McKenzie
- Sy Cromwell
- Ted Nash (C)
- Ted Washburn (C)
- Tiff Wood
- Tony Johnson (C)
- Uwe Mund
- Uyacheslav Ivanov
- Vasily Yakusha
As another aside, I was too young to remember Jimmy Carter boycotting the United States’ participation in the 1980 Olympics. What a disappointment to all those athletes!
A third aside,
Author fact: Halberstam has written a good many books. Nancy Pearl has dedicated a whole chapter to his work. I think I am reading twenty for the Book Lust Challenge.
Book trivia: there are a few black and white photographs in the book.
Nancy said: Pearl said she noted her favorite Halberstam books with an asterisk. The Amateurs did not have an asterisk. Oh well. Overall, she said, she has never read a dull book by Halberstam. That’s good.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 112).
Fontenoy, Maud. Across the Savage Sea: The First Woman to Row Across the North Atlantic. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2006.
Reason read: my good friend Frank was born in January and he loved, loved, loved boats and the sea. Read in his memory. Also as a selection for the Portland Public Library 2021 Reading Challenge: An extreme survival story.
Maud Fontenoy was twenty-five years old when she decided to embark on a nearly four month journey across the North Atlantic in 2003. She was officially at sea for 117 days. While she kept in constant contact with family, friends, sponsors, and news agencies, Fontenoy was alone with only what the ocean could offer her for company. She was entertained by dolphins, mesmerized by whales, stymied by fish, and terrorized for a short time by sharks. Occasionally, a tanker would cross her path, as she was squarely in their shipping lane for a good part of the journey. The real threat to her journey, however, was not the sharks, nor the tankers but the weather. Tropical storms would wreak havoc on Fontenoy and her little boat. Despite the fact meteorologists kept her abreast of developing weather patterns, there was little she could do to avoid the high seas and violent winds that came with them. Her strength and fortitude to just survive were astounding.
Confessional: I read this book before I started the Book Lust Challenge. I opted to read it again because I couldn’t remember many details. Plus, it’s a pretty short book so it was easy to add it back on the list. If I ever met Fontenoy in person I would like to ask if anyone ever found her message in a bottle.
Somebody helped me out. There is a moment when Fontenoy was convinced a much larger vessel was bearing down on her. She describes how her radar detector went off, beeping like crazy. However, she later shares that her detector was defective and said it “detected no vessels during the crossing.” So, what was the beeping? Does that mean the droning of the vessel’s engine and the smell of exhaust was all in her imagination? Was there a near miss with another vessel or not?
Quote to quote, “I wondered why the god of the sea had chosen to keep me in the palm of his hand” (p 95).
Author fact: Fontenoy has written two books about sailing. Both are on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: there is a small section of photographs for which I am grateful. I had a hard time picturing Fontenoy’s craft, Pilot.
Nancy said: Pearl said Across the Savage Sea is “well worth your reading time.” I completely agree. So much so that I’m reading it again for the Challenge. I said that already.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Row, Row, Row your Boat” (p 191).
I can’t even begin to describe May. My first time to the Southwest. My first time traveling with family. Many different firsts. But, enough of that. Here are the books:
- The Man in Gray Flannel by Sloan Wilson
- Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler
- Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor
- Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
- Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
- Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs
- Farthest North by Dr. Fridtjof Nansen
- Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
- Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
I will be traveling for part of May so who knows how many books I’ll be able to read for this month. Here is the list I will attempt:
- Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson – in honor of May being Wilson’s birth month.
- Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs – in honor of Graphic Novel month being in May.
- Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler – in honor of May is Museum Month.
- Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor- in honor of May being Music Month.
- Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters – in honor of the first Thursday in May being Prayer Week.
- Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian – in honor of my father’s birth month. As a kid he read this book.
- Five Children and It by E. Nesbit – in honor of May being Nesbit’s birth month.
- Farthest North by Fridtjof Nansen – in honor of Peary’s birth month being in May. From one explorer to another.
- Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
- Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in honor of Trollope’s birth month in April.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- The Race of Scorpions by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print). Detailed.
- Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB). Cute but glad the series is over.
- 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.
What can I tell you about July? What a crazy effed up month! For my state of mind it was better than the last simply because the Kisa and I ran all over California for a week. I was terribly distracted from the run and the books. Once you see the numbers you’ll understand. For the run I conquered only two runs in sunny CA and totaled 20.5 miles for the entire month. Here are the books:
- Anna and Her Daughters by D.E. Stevenson
- The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins
- Pacific Lady by Sharon S. Adams
- Hawthorne: a Life by Brenda Wineapple
- Moment of War by Laurie Lee
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- The World Broke in Two by Bill Goldstein
Did Not Finish (still reading):
- Henry James: The Middle Years by Leon Edel -STILL! Since June!
- Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
Never Started (didn’t arrive in time):
- In Tragic Life by Vandis Fisher
Angus, Colin and Julie Angus. Rowed Trip: a Journey by Oar from Scotland to Syria. Birmingham: Menasha Ridge Press, 2009.
There are several different subject categories in which I could put Rowed Trip: adventure, boating, bicycling, travel, culture, or even marriage to name a few, because all of these subjects are covered in Colin and Julie’s account of their journey from Scotland to Syria. Everything about their trip is either informative or funny but always entertaining. To start from the beginning, Colin’s ancestors are from Scotland while Julie’s are from Syria. While studying a map (I forgot why) they realized there are various waterways the entire distance between their homeland countries. As seasoned adventure travelers they asked themselves wouldn’t it be fun to travel the entire distance by boat? Both Colin and Julie have considerable experience in this area and have written books about it. As newlyweds, married less than a year, what better way to break in a marriage?
To be fair, in actuality Rowed Trip is a misnomer. The entire trip wasn’t by oar as the subtitle suggests. There were miles traveled by ingenious bicycles and trailers as well. Due to complicated lock systems most of France was traversed by bike, to name one instance. Because Colin and Julie each take turns writing the chapters their individually personalities reveal themselves. Colin’s style of writing is more descriptive of the surroundings while Julie has more introspective emotion. Both narratives are didactic at times. It was interesting to read how they handled navigating the locks in each country (which seems to be one of their biggest challenges besides getting their trailer stolen and blown bike tires).
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Rowed Trip and breaking with the Lust rules, I probably will research Colin and Julie’s other books not on my list.
Favorite quote: I didn’t really have a favorite quote or at least no passages jumped out at me. However, I did enjoy the couple’s efforts to navigate in countries where neither spoke the language. They lived by one of my favorite philosophies, “it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission>”
Reason read: July is ocean month. Maybe not nationally recognized as such, but it’s one of my favorite times to be on the water.
Author(s) fact: Colin and Julie are married and each have written other books about their adventures as I have mentioned before.
Book trivia: Rowed Trip includes a smattering of photos. I think there could have been more. Or, at least, I would have liked to seen more.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” (p 191).
Masefield, John. “Sea-Fever.” Salt Water Poems and Ballads. Illustrated by Chas. Pears. New York: The MacMillan Campany, 1916. p 55.
As a girl who grew up
by the sea no, surrounded by the sea as only small island living can be, I loved everything about John Masefield’s Salt Water Poems and Ballads. The version I picked up was published in 1916 and had the inscription, “Evelyn, from Cerisi (?) Estelle – Christmas 1916.” Awesome. The illustrations are beautiful (my favorite is on page 73). The particular poem I was to read, “Sea Fever” evoked so many different memories for me. What comes across the strongest is there is a real need to be on the water; a need that cannot be denied. Just give me a ship the narrator cries. It’s all he needs. From that he hears the gull’s cry and tastes the salt wind.
Favorite line, “I must go down to the seas again.” Let me repeat it. I MUST go down to the seas again. Amen.
Reason read: Last time I checked April was National Poetry Month…still.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse’ (p 237).
August was a little of this and a little of that. Some people will notice I have made some changes to the book challenge – some changes more noticeable than others. For starters, how I review. I now add a section of why I’m reading the book. For some reason I think it’s important to include that in the review. Next, how I read. I am now adding audio books into the mix. I am allowing myself to add an audio book in “trapped” situations when holding a book and keeping my eyes on the page might be an inconvenience (like flying) or endanger someone (like driving). I’m also making a effort to avoid wasting time on books I don’t care for (like Honore de Balzac). One last change: I am not as stringent about reading something within the month. If I want to start something a little early because it’s right in front of my face then so be it.
What else was August about? August was also the month I lost my dear Cassidy for a week. I spent many a night either in an insomniac state or sitting on the back porch, reading out loud in hopes the sound of my voice would draw my calico to me. The only thing it yielded was more books finished in the month of August. She finally came home one week later.
Anyway, enough of all that. I’ll cry if I continue. Onto the books:
I started the month by reading and rereading Tattoo Adventures of Robbie Big Balls by Robert Westphal. This was the first time I read and reviewed a book after meeting the author. I wanted to get it right. I also wanted to make sure I was an honest as possible about the situation. Everything about this review was unusual. For the challenge:
- After You’ve Gone by Alice Adams ~ I read this in three days and learned a valuable lesson about Adams’s work: read it slowly and parse it out. Otherwise it becomes redundant.
- Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin ~ I read this in ten days, tucking myself in a study carrell and reading for an hour everyday.
- Fahrenheit 541 by Ray Bradbury ~ an audio book that only took me nine days to listen to.
- Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum ~ read with Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I took both of these to Maine and had oodles of car-time to finish both.
- We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich ~ this was probably my favorite nonfiction of the challenge. Rich’s Maine humor practically jumped off the page. I read this to Cassidy.
- The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder ~ I read this in three days, again hiding myself away in a study carrell.
- Ten Hours Until Dawn by Tougis ~ another audio book. I’m glad I listened to this one as opposed to reading it. Many reviewers called it “tedious” and I think by listening to it I avoided that perspective.
- The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson ~ I read this in two days (something I think I thought I was going to get to in June).
- All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque ~ I read this in honor of World War I ending. I also read it in one night while waiting for Cassidy to come home.
- The Lives of the Saints by Nancy Lemann ~ also read in one night. In honor of New Orleans and the month Hurricane Katrina rolled into town.
- Kristin Lavransdatter: the Cross by Sigrid Undset ~ finally put down the Norwegian trilogy!
For the Early Review Program with LibraryThing:
- The Most Memorable Games in New England Patriots History by Bernard Corbett and Jim Baker. This was supposed to be on my list a year ago. Better late than never.
- Sex So Great She Can’t Get Enough by Barbara Keesling. This took me an inordinate amount of time to read. Guess I didn’t want to be seen in public with it.
This should be a ps at the end of the Tougias review but somehow it doesn’t seen appropriate to put it there. What I am about to say has nothing to do with the review but is essential to the enjoyment of the book. LISTEN TO THE AUDIO BOOK! Seriously. I wrote my review before listening to the acknowledgments and thank yous and the I-couldn’t-have-written-this-book-without-you spiel. I should have waited until all that was over. Here’s what I would have included:
Listen to the very end of Ten Hours Until Dawn. What you will hear will chill your heart and break your soul. Listening to the actual radio calls between Coast Guard stations Glouster, Salem and Peabody and Frank Quirk, Captain of the “Can Do” is breathtaking. You spend so much time hearing an actor portray these people and you spend so much time with Tougias’s words that when the real exchange is finally heard it’s like a punch to the gut. On a personal note, I felt actual anger listening to the captain of the Global Hope fumble for the correct terminology to describe his situation. I felt sheer helplessness listening to Charlie Bucko make the mayday call from the “Can Do”. Listening to these people blew my mind. Maybe I am so moved because my father was a tried and true Coastie. To be sure I have been thinking of him as I heard Frank Quirk’s brave voice on the radio. Next month marks the 20th anniversary of my father’s passing; a man who died while trying to save the life of another.
But, back to Ten Hours Until Dawn. I have to admit this is one of those rare times when I want to read the book even after hearing the audio version. This is a story that truly resonated with me.
Latham, Jean Lee. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1955.
Read this in a day. May is National History month and while that alone was a good excuse to read Carry On I also chose to read it because of Kon-Tiki. Seemed like the perfect transition.
This was reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s account about growing up in the unorganized territories of the midwest in the Little House series; better known as historical fiction. I call it biographical with a little imagination thrown in. It covers the life of Nathanial Bowditch, navigator extraordinaire. While the details of his childhood and subsequent personal adult years are somewhat abbreviated for adults, the content is perfect for children. I appreciated the way Latham didn’t minimized or sugarcoat the tragedy in Bowditch’s life. Nor did she gloss over his relationships with his first wife Elizabeth, or Polly, his second. What does come across is Bowditch’s love of mathematics and the seriousness with which he applies it to navigating the high seas. He does not suffer fools easily but his passion for teaching is enthusiastic and patient.
Favorite lines: “Sometimes women get a little upset about the sea” (p 71). Well, can you blame them? Husbands were gone for months and even years. Sometimes they didn’t come home at all. Another line I liked “You know, you’re real humanlike – in spite of your brains” (p 86). Funny.
Book Trivia: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch won Latham a Newbery Medal.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Historical Fiction for Kids of All Ages” (p 114).
Sometimes, and it doesn’t matter how old you are, you feel like a kid at the adults’ table. At least, that’s what it felt like to me when Kisa and I finally escaped to explore San Diego by ourselves. We were leaving that afternoon to visit La Jolla, Ontario & Upland but wanted to get in a little time in SD before we said goodbye. As the song goes, who knows when we would pass this way again?
My aunt and uncle had raved about the harbor tour they had taken the day before (“best thing we ever did” they vowed) and suddenly it was all I wanted to do, too. I had boat envy. I wanted to be on the water in the worst way. So, we picked a tour and went. We opted for the deluxe version – two hours, both sides of the harbor. It turned out to be a sparkling fantabulous day – like the day before and the day before and the day before. Thanks to Tom, we reached the marina in plenty of time to park, buy tickets, use the restrooms and find front row seats in the bow. It felt like running away.
For two hours we toured San Diego’s harbor, north and south. At times I could barely hear the guide over the wind in my hair and fellow passengers around me. I didn’t mind missing out on the spiel. To me, it started to drone anyway. Instead I enjoyed the military ships, the brown pelicans, hefty sea lions, fellow boaters speeding by, splashing green water, white foam spray and dazzling sunshine.
My uncle described the Queen Mary as “the rusting mistake in the harbor.” He went on to say that he didn’t even think it was floating anymore, that it has somehow rooted itself to the bottom of the bay and was just sitting there, waiting to crumble into the persistent tide. I could only nod and somewhat agree with him, thinking back on the holes, rust, wear and tear I saw while touring the once majestic ship. It all seemed so sad.
Even while we explored the ship, Kisa’s aunt explained the great ballrooms were for rent, but the prices were so extravagent no one could afford them. As a result, the ballrooms remained majestic and silent. Decidedly grand, but moreso empty. Faded and forgotten. As I stood in the middle of one such cavernous room I tried to picture the parties at sea. Diners headed from England for who knows where. My grandmother traveled in such style. I can remember a picture of her, decked out in her finest Dine with the Captain wear. I could almost hear the melody of silverware, wine being poured, waiters moving in between tables with steaming plates. Ghosts from a finer era. We don’t sail like that these days.
Later, out on deck I spotted a hole in a lifeboat. The rust of time had bore a hole in the hull and a patch of bright blue sky peeked through. I imagined the boat upon the high seas, the sky to disappear, replaced by dark, dangerous, rushing green water. Filling the boat and sinking the load. The cold of the ocean closing in over the cooling and soon chilled skin unprepared to drown.
Elevators with confusing floor numbers. Rooms for rent. A nonfloating, floating hotel. Buffet breakfasts to bring back the grandeur. Brass half shined. They still blow the horn three times a day. A signal to those all around. The Queen Mary is grounded. Going nowhere. But come aboard for eggs.
Sometimes I think I walk through parts of my life with my eyes closed. I really didn’t consider all that the Carpenter’s Boat Shop does until the loss of Ruth. I guess it’s fair to say I take for granted that which has been in my life forever. Forever and a day. A constant presence is never questioned. Such is the case with the Carpenter’s Boat Shop in Pemaquid, Maine. I’ve known “the Boat Shop” every minute of my existence whether I was aware of it or not. Skiffs on the beach came from there. People from the island went there. An exchange as subtle as clouds in the sky. Taken as truth and never thought more about.
Imagine a life on the rocks, for whatever reason. Hopes dashed. Dreams in ruins. Desperate for a break. Hungry for a fresh start. Not knowing where to turn. The Carpenter’s Boat shop is that safe haven. No. Harbor. They use the metaphor of a harbor on their website. That’s a better way to describe what they do. The Boat Shop is a place where someone can go for guidance, security and redemption on many, many levels. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. Especially the spiritual. In the process of healing, they teach a trade: woodworking. Boats, furniture. Repair on all levels.