Pamela

Richardson, Samuel. Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded. New York: Croscup & Sterling Company, 1802.

Reason read: April is Letter Writing Month. Apologies! Apologies! Somehow this missed the publication date. 😦

To read Pamela Andrews’s’s letters to her parents you have to surmise she is a really good girl. Who, as a fifteen year old maidservant, sends money home to his or her parents these days? Exactly. Keep in mind this was written in 1740.
Back to Good Girl Pamela. The trouble doesn’t really begin for Pamela until her mistress passes away and young Pamela is left deal with the grieving son…only he is not so distraught as one would think. As soon as his mother has passed, his advances while subtle are enough to cause Pamela’s parents concern, especially for…you guessed it…her father. Some things haven’t changed after all. Maybe dad is thinking as a man instead of a parent when he begins to urge his daughter to come home. Those urgings become more insistent the more Pamela tells them about her employer, Mr. B. After several assaults and an extended “kidnapping” and after Pamela repeatedly tries to return to the safety of her parents, Mr. B. reforms and finally wins Pamela’s heart the proper way.

I have to admit. If my master hid in a closet for whatever reason I would find that to be a bit creepy. No. Not a bit. A lot creepy!

Author fact: Like Benjamin Franklin, Richardson was an apprentice to a printer.

Book trivia: Pamela is Richardson’s first novel.

Nancy said: Pearl called Pamela one of the earliest novels written in the form of a letter.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Epistolary Novels: Take a Letter” (p 79).


“Ado”

Willis, Connie. “Ado.” The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2007.

Reason read: June is short story month.

Imagine a world where everything you could possibly say or do offends someone on some level. We are approaching that world fast and furious but Willis suspected its arrival thirty-one years ago. “Ado” is a tongue in cheek look at political correctness gone way too far. She uses the example of teaching Shakespeare to a group of students as an example. To teach the Bard the main protagonist must run it by the principal, take the particular play out of a vault, allow for students to refuse to attend the class, and then wait for the special interest groups to protest loudly. There is a computer that reads the Shakespearean text line by line to look for offensive material so that for example, a play like ‘As You Like It’ can be subject to a restraining order by the group Mothers Against Transvestites. The only safe subject is the weather. It’s such a ridiculous society you cannot help but laugh out loud while secretly shuddering over Willis’s apropos vision.

Author fact: I have more than a dozen Willis books on my Challenge list but she has written so much more.

Book trivia: The Winds of Marble Arch was nominated for a World Fantasy Award.

Nancy said: Pearl called “Ado” a “sly appraisal of where political correctness is taking us” (Book Lust p 247).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: Too Good To Miss” (p 246).


“At the Rialto”

Willis, Connie. “At the Rialto.” Impossible Things. New York: Bantam Books, 1993.

Reason read: June is Short Story month.

Dr. Ruth Baringer, a quantum physicist, runs into obstacles everywhere she turns trying to attend a conference in America’s playground, Hollywood, California. She can’t even check into her room without it becoming a major event. Trying to attend different events at the conference become confused and convoluted. Even trying to connect with her roommate is impossible. Everything is insane. Meanwhile, a colleague wants her to go to the movies instead…after all, they are in Hollywood.

Story trivia: “At the Rialto” won a Nebula Award for best novelette.

Author fact: Willis was given the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 2012.

Nancy said: Pearl said Willis also wrote “wonderful” short stories and mention “At the Rialto” as one not to be missed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: To Good To Miss” (p 246).


Soldiers of God

Kaplan, Robert D. Soldiers of God: with Islamic Warriors on Afghanistan and Pakistan. New York: Random House, 2001.

Reason read: Khomeini died in the month of June.

Soldiers of God provides the historical context for the emergence of the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist network. Given the devastation of September 11th, 2001 the republishing of this book was timely and smart on Kaplan’s part. Robert Kaplan first traveled to Afghanistan and lived among the mujahidin (soldiers of God) back in the mid 1980s. It was on this journey that Kaplan came to witness the rise of the Taliban. More than that, he acquired the colors to paint a vivid picture of a society few Americans see: refugee camps, harsh drought, pervasive illiteracy, militant indoctrination, fierce piety, and ethnic battle lines. In the unity of prayer was practically the only form of democracy; all whispering the name of God one hundred times.
Kaplan digs deep to uncover the hidden side effects of the Soviet invasion – malaria outbreaks, for example. Thanks to stagnant pools of mosquito infested water caused by pervasive destruction of irrigation systems.

Quotes to quote, “The idea of fighting for political freedom is an easy one to grasp until you see in the flesh what the cost is” (p 143) and “After twenty four hours in Querta, my instinct told me that if a man possessed no furniture, he also possessed no useful information” (p 200).

Author fact: According to the back cover of his book, Kaplan is a “world affairs expert.”

Book trivia: Soldiers of God was first published in 1990. Pearl mentioned a newer edition with a updated introduction and final chapter.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Soldiers of God as a good book about militant Islam.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Islamic World” (p 126).


Prelude to Foundation

Asimov, Isaac. Prelude to Foundation. New York: Spectra, 1989.

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

Prelude to Foundation begins the entire Foundation series chronologically. On the planet Tranton Hari Seldon is alive and well. He has just given a speech on mathematical formulas that could potentially predict the future of mankind. That’s when the trouble starts. The last galactic emperor has gotten wind of this phenomenon and he wants in. Seldon’s advance predictions could potential stabilize his dynasty. Seldon needs to go into exile in order to escape Emperor Cleon’s clutches. As Seldon puts it, “if a psychohistorical analysis is made and the results are then given to the public, the various emotions and reactions of humanity would at once be distorted” (p 17). He needs time to develop his notions further and perfect his psychohistorical technique so that it becomes mathematically valid predictions. With the help of mysterious Mr. Hummin Hari is spirited far away with Historian Professor Dors Venabili. Together they travel to different lands of intolerance like Mycogen where they discover a society that despises hair on adults. Another carries a severe prejudice against women which is ironic since Dors has the responsibility of protecting Seldon.

Best quote, “What is important is what people will or will not believe can be done” (p 497).

Author fact: I’ve already told you twice that Asimov was a professor of biochemistry. The “new” fact is Asimov supposedly coined the word “robotics” in his story, Liar!

Book trivia: Chronologically, Prelude to Foundation is the first book in the series.

Nancy said: nothing specific.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


Blue at the Mizzen

O’Brian, Patrick. Blue at the Mizzen. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of my dad’s birthday in May.

The Surprise had been a man-of-war vessel. It’s newest assignment as a research vessel was a hydrographical assessment. Captain Jack Aubrey has been charged with conducting a survey of Magellan’s Strait, the Horn, and the Chile coast. Additionally, Aubrey agreed to help Chile assert its independence from Spain. Aubrey just can’t stay away from a good political conflict and his decision has its consequences.
Blue at the Mizzen focuses a little more on the personal lives of Jack Aubrey and especially Doctor Stephen Maturin, which was a pleasant surprise. Jack’s brief romance with a married woman, his cousin Isobel was short lived, but Maturin’s was a little more substantial. As a widower, he travels to Africa where his birding adventure with fellow bird enthusiast Christine sparks a romance. While his proposal goes unaccepted in the heat of the moment, he continues to write to her from sea and his letters become a diary of sorts (extremely helpful with the narrative).
Of course O’Brian adds plenty of swashbuckling drama as well as international intrigue to his plot besides romance. At the end, Aubrey is set up to go aboard the HMS Implacable, hoist his flag “blue at the mizzen” and take control of the squadron. This will set the plot for the next Aubrey/Maturin saga.

Quote I laughed at, “…a damned awkward veering wind and as black as the Devil’s arse” (p 8).
Most truthful line, “The sea, if it teaches nothing else, does at least compel a submission to the inevitable which resembles patience” (p 154).

Author fact: I’m hearing rumors that O’Brian wasn’t a particularly nice guy, especially to his first wife.

Book trivia: Blue at the Mizzen was O’Brian’s last completed novel.

Nancy said: Pearl said the series was best read in order.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “Sea Stories” (p 217).


Bell Jar

Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2000.

Reason read: In June there are overnight Suicide Prevention Walks around the country.

Frances McCullough’s 1996 introduction to The Bell Jar calls it a twin to Catcher in the Rye as it was published on Rye’s twentieth anniversary.

I think it is safe to say The Bell Jar is a classic. Haunting and hurtful, you have to almost flinch away from the mental illness that descends on protagonist Esther Greenwood. Every time she fixates on a way to commit suicide you wonder, does she actually go through with it this time? Does she succeed? Then when you discover The Bell Jar is autobiographical it all makes sense and you think you know the answer.


There were so many different lines I wanted to quote. Because I connected to them so deeply, here are a few of my favorites, “There is something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room” (p 29), “There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends” (p 53), “I thought if only I had a keen, shapely bone structure to my face or could discuss politics shrewdly or was a famous writer Constantin might find me interesting enough to sleep with” (p 87) and “I tried to speak in a cool, calm way, but the zombie rose up in my throat and choked me off” (p 129).

Author fact: Plath died at the young age of 30 on February 11th, 1963. She used the pseudonym of Victoria Lucas from time to time. The Bell Jar was published under the name Lucas,

Book trivia: The Bell Jar was rejected as being too juvenile the first time it was submitted for publication.

Nancy said: Pearl called The Bell Jar “painful.” I would agree.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Girls Growing Up” (p 102).