Ng, Fae Myenne. Bone. Harper Perennial, 1993.
Reason read: September is the month for the Autumn Festival for China.
Here’s what you need to understand first and foremost. This is a story built around grief. Ona, the middle sister, jumped off the M floor of the Nam. M happens to be the thirteenth floor. Unlucky, unforgivable thirteen. Everything that happens to her surviving family centers on this one fact. Ona jumped. Everything is marked by the time Before Ona Jumped and the time After Ona Jumped. Confessional: I am like that, too. When I hear a specific date, I quickly do the math to determine if it is A.D.D. (after dad’s death) or before – B.D.D. Leila is the eldest of three daughters and the one most constrained by old China values versus modern American China. She is aware of the boldness of her actions (eloping when her ancestors had childbride arranged marriages), but she isn’t the boldest of the family. All three sisters are responsible for Mah’s shame. Her sister Ona committed suicide (shame) and her sister, Nina, had an abortion (shame). Even Mah carries shame (an affair while her second husband was away at sea as a merchant marine). Told from the perspective of Lei, she has to make a decision between dating and duty; between marriage with Mason and Mah. Having both seems impossible.
Lines I really liked: sorry. Can’t quote them.
Author fact: Ng has been compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Book trivia: As an aside, my internet copy of Bone was marked up. Every highlighted area made me think I needed to pay close attention to that specific passage.
Nancy said: nothing specific.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in two different chapters. Once in “Asian American Experience” (p 26). The second time in “California, Here We Come” (p 50).
Just, Ward. Stringer. Graywolf Press, 1984.
Reason read: Just celebrates a birthday in September. Read in his honor.
Stringer is a Civilian Intelligence Agent sent on a mission to Vietnam to destroy an enemy supply convoy. He has a sly sense of humor. When paired with a Captain named Price, Stringer must practice patience. Price is younger, more impulsive, yet in charge. There is no casual conversation between the two men. Neither has confidence in the other. They are on the same team but distrust keeps them miles apart. To keep himself from thinking too much about Price, Stringer recalls his failures: his marriage, their visit to a classmate in a mental institution, Stringer’s short time as a newspaper man. These recollections keep him on task in the present. Ever present is Just’s commentary on the damage of war.
As an aside, the double murder came as a shock and I don’t know why. I should have seen it coming. As an aside, is the trick to aiming and firing a gun to breathe out and pull the trigger when the lungs are at their emptiest and the heart has slowed? I seem to have read this before. Maybe Lee Child had Reacher fire a gun this way?
Quote to quote, “That was the wonderful thing about hindsight, it was morbid, no optimism in hingsight” (p 6), “Eyes and Brains were not equal to the circumstances, they were too selective” (p 118)
Author fact: Ward Just’s middle name is Swift. What an interesting name.
Book trivia: Despite being a slim volume, Just packs in a great deal of action, emotion, and character.
Nancy said: besides saying Ward Just is too good to miss, she mentions Stringer as another book by him.
Playlist: Brunis, Zutty, George Mitchell, Alcide Pavageau, Fitzhugh, Kid Ory, Sassoon, and the Oliver Band.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Ward Just: Too Good To Miss” (p 135).
Conroy, Pat. The Prince of Tides. Bantam Books, 1986.
Reason read: the memory of how Conroy described summers in the south has always stayed with me. Read in honor of the end of summer.
“If Henry Wingo had not been a violent man, I think he would have made a splendid father” (p 5). That sums up The Prince of Tides in a nutshell. Well, sort of. No. Not really. I want to say it is about loving someone so fiercely you love well beyond any pain they could bring you. The writing of Pat Conroy is so beautiful it is hard to believe the subject matter of Prince of Tides could be so dark. The damaged Wingo family will stay with you long after you have closed the massive 600-plus page book. Most affected is Savannah Wingo, the sister-twin of Tom, who speaks to the hidden ones, hallucinates angels hanging from lamposts and self-mutilates herself to stave off the voice of her father urging her to kill herself. In reality, the bad times roll in as constant as the South Carolina tide for all of the Wingos. The entire family experiences enough unimaginable terrors to last a lifetime. To name a few: a father badly wounded surviving the horrors of World War II with a little help from a priest; Grandpa’s black widow spiders used as a defense from a stalker intent on raping Lila, the Wingo mother; four stillborn children one right after the other, each kept in the freezer like porkchops until it was time to bury them in the backyard; a tiger trained to rip someone’s face off…Probably the worst offense is not Henry Wingo, a father who beats his wife and children. The inexplicable nightmare is Lila Wingo, a woman so hellbent on keeping a prestine and proud reputation she denies every horror. Is this southern living or a perpetual seventh circle of hell?
Savannah is only partially able to escape her violent past by moving to New York City. After her latest suicide attempt is very close to successful, Savannah’s therapist calls Tom, her twin brother, for insight into the Wingo family. In order to help Savannah Dr. Lowenstein needs to dig deeper into the entire family’s tumultuous history. What emerges is Tom’s own tragic story of coming of age as a souther male in an abusive household. In the beginning of Prince of Tides, the character of Tom Wingo was only slightly annoying with his “American Male” posturing. But by page 300 you realize after all that he and his family have gone through he is allowed to tell jokes when it hurts. He has survived by humor his entire life.
Conroy’s Prince of Tides is a strange love letter to the Southern way of life. It is a story of tenacity and tenderness.
As an aside, Savannah’s mysteries were so intriguing I kept a list:
- Dogs howling
- Spiders – the Wingo kids unleashed black widows on a man intent on hurting their mother.
- White house
- Caged tigers – Casaer the tiger.
- Three men – three rapists
- Woods – the forbidden property surrounding Callandwolde
- Callanwold – the rich people’s mansion in Atlanta, Georgia. Soon became code for a stalker who attacked Lila and her family.
- Rosedale Road
- Taps for TPot
- Brother’s mouth
- Caesar – the tiger
- Red pines
- Gardenias – the flowers Lila wore in her hair
- Giant – the 7′ man who tried to rape Lila
- Coca Cola – the owners of Coca Cola lived in Callanwolde
- Seals – another of father’s gimicks
- “a root for the dead men by the crow”
- Talking graves
- Snow angels
Haunting quotes to quote, “But there is no magic to nightmares” (p 7) and “We laugh when the pain gets too much” (p 188), and “Rape is a crime against sleep and memory; its afterimage imprints itself like an irreversable negative from the camera obscura of dreams” (483). There were many, many, many other lines I liked. Too many to mention here. Just go read the book for yourself.
Author fact: Pat Conroy also wrote Beach Music. It is not on my Challenge list, but I read it.
Book trivia: I think everyone knows the 1991 movie starring Nick Nolte and Barbra Steisand. In fact, this is one where a scene I vividly remember is NOT from the book.
Playlist: Bach, Vivaldi’s Chaconne, John Philip Sousa March, “Dixie:, “The Star Spangled Banner”, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”, “Pomp and Circumstance”, the Shirrelles, Jerry Lee Lewis, and “Blessed Be the tie that Binds”.
Nancy said: Pearl called Prince of Tides the definition of dysfunctional, a chronicle of dysfuntional families, a good “if not necessarily instructive on what mothers ought not to do” (Book Lust p 160), and “an interesting portrait of therapists of all stripes…” (p 221).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in a ton of places. First, in the chapter called (obviously), “Families in Trouble” (p 82), “Mothers and Sons” (p 160), “100 Good Reads Decade By Decade: 1980” (p 179), “Southern Fiction” (p 222), and “Shrinks and Shrinkees” (p 221).
Flagg, Fannie. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. McGraw Hill, 1987.
Reason read: August is Friendship month.
After reading Fried Green Tomatoes you will swear you just made a whole bunch of new and memorable friends. The characters will stay with you long after the last page. At the heart of Fried Green Tomatoes is the story of a friendship between two women. Mrs. Threadgoode, living out her old age in a nursing home, befriends Evelyn who is only there to visit her ailing mother. Held captive by the incessant chatter of Mrs. Threadgoode, middle aged and weary Evelyn is introduced to 1930s Whistle Stop, Alabama and its ecclectic community. The more Mrs. Threadgoode talks, the more Evelyn wants to know what happened next. She begins to visit more and more, bringing gifts each time. Between the present day nursing home and the flashbacks is Dot Weems and her weekly “Whistle Stop Bulletin” full of town gossip and humor. Despite its feel good narrative, startling examples of bigotry and violence are a reality. The very real thorns among the roses. But, back to the heart of Fried Green Tomatoes – the characters: Tomboy Idgie Threadgoode was by far my favorite. She is passionate, wild, and carries a great sense of humor and love in her heart.
Author fact: I had to look this up to confirm Fannie Flagg was an actress, screenwriter, director, comedienne, as well as author.
Book trivia: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe was made into a well-known movie starring Kathy Bates as Evelyn and Jessica Tandy as Ninny Threadgoode.
Playlist: Art Tatum’s “Red Hot Pepper Stomp”, Bessie Smith’s “I Aint Got Nobody”, “Big Rock Candy Mountain”, “Buffalo Gal, Won’t You Come Out Tonight?”, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Ethel Waters, Hank Williams, “I’m going Home on the Morning Train”, “I’m in Love with the Man in the Moon”, the Inkspots, “In the Baggage Car Ahead”, “Jingle Bells”, “Life is Just a Bowlful of Cherries”, “Listen to the Mockingbird”, “Nola”, “On the Good Ship Lollipop”, “Red Sails in the Sunset”, “Sheik of Araby”, “Smoke Rings”, “Stars Fell on Alabama”, “Sweet By and By”, “Tuxedo Junction”, “Wedding March”, “When I Get to Heaven, I’m Gonna Sit Down and Rest Awhile”, and “White Birds in Moonlight”.
Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Fried Green Tomatoes as another book exploring women’s friendships.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Women’s Friendships” (p 247). Also in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Southern Friend Fiction: Alabama” (p 205).
Saint-Exupery, Antione de. The Little Prince, 75th Anniversary Edition. Translated by Richard Howard. Editions Gallimard, 2018.
Reason read: July is considered Children’s Book Month.
The preface to this review is that I somehow picked up the 75th anniversary edition of The Little Prince. In addition to reading a cute short story designed for children of all ages, I am reviewing the history, making, and perceptions of the classic tale. It includes Saint Exupery’s biography, tons of beautiful photographs, and fourteen appreciation essays. Really cool. The story of The Little Prince starts with a downed aviator (probaly Saint-Exupery himself), trying to fix his plane. He encounters a young boy, “the Little Prince” who asks him to draw him a picture. From there, the story blooms into a tale about a child’s relationship with adult realities. The child ends up being more mature than the adults he encounters. Grownups always need explanations.
As an aside, it brought a shiver to my spine when the Little Pricne asked the pilot if he fell out of the sky for that is how Saint-Exupery died.
Quotes I liked, “One must command from each what each can perform” (p 111) and”You risk tears if you let yourself be tamed” (p 153). This last line reminds me of Natalie Merchant’s line, “To pick a pick a rose you ask your hands to bleed.”
Author fact: to look at Saint-Exupery is to hear a French accent. His face is oh so France.
Book trivia: the French version of The Little Prince was translated by Vali Tamm and published in April 1946, two years after Saint-Exupery’s death. The 75th anniversary edition was supposed to have a free audio download, but the url didn’t work. I found another version (or maybe it’s the same one) on YouTube for the 70th anniversary.
Nancy said: Pearl said Saint-Exupery is best known for The Little Prince.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Flying Above the Clouds” (p 89). In theory, The little Prince should not have been included in this chapter unless you call living on a tiny planet flying high above the clouds…
Munro, Alice. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories. Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.
Reason read: Munro’s birth month is in July. Read in her honor.
Munro has a way with words, as everyone knows. Here are four words I never thought I would see stitched together, “bug-eyed pickle ass”. Go figure.
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage is a collection of short stories with a common theme: relationships:
- Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage – a childish prank backfires.
- Floating Bridge – a woman deals with positive news concerning her cancer.
- Family Furnishings – a college student learns about a secret her aunt was keeping.
- Comfort – the suicide of a husband.
- Nettles – childhood taunts.
- Post and Beam – when a house is more than a house.
- What Is Remembered – the memory of an affair with a pilot lingers long after the romance has died.
- Queenie – A sister’s abandonment.
- The Bear Came Over the Mountain – An adultery gets his comeuppance.
Lines I really liked, “Her teeth were crowded to the front of her mouth as if they were ready for an argument” (p 3), “See the conquering hero comes” (p 125), “A stealthy, considering, almost married glance, its masquerade and its bland intimacy arousing to those who were after all not married” (p 233), and “As if he dared anybody to breathe while he was in there” (p 252).
Author fact: Munro has won a bunch of awards for her writing including the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Book trivia: I have six different Munro books to read on my list. I have already read Friend of My Youth and The Love of a Good Woman.
Nancy said: Pearl said Munro is among the authors who have “distinctly evoked sense of place that distinguishes Canadian fiction” (Book Lust, p 50).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Canadian Fiction” (p 50).
Milosz, Czeslaw. To Begin Where I am: Selected Essays. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2001.
Reason read: for the Portland Reading Challenge I needed a book from an Eastern European author.
I read To Begin Where I Am in stages.
Part One: These Guests
Part Two: On the Side of Man
Part Three: Against Incomprehensible Poetry
Part Four: In Constant Amazement
Czeslaw makes me question the meaning of history. I struggle with what becomes history and what is lost when memory fades. I guess it is a similar theory with stuff. What becomes a rare antique versus junk? The balance of life is all about contradictions and opposites. The history that flavored Milosz’s prose is World War II, the Holocaust, and exile.
The more enjoyable fragments of memory include traveling during spring break after law exams, being in nature, and the poignant portraits of his friends, mixed with descriptions of their political ideals.
As an aside, when when I was reading about the things that amazed Czeslaw I was reminded of when Kisa and I got married. We asked people to read and write something for the ceremony. My uncle stood up and talked about how different things amazed him. He mentioned cars and trees. I am pretty sure he was trying to say that the fact I found someone to marry was one of those “amazing” things.
Quotes to quote, “To kill a superphysical hunger, the best thing in a hike” (p 60), “True, from time to time one of us dropped out, shipped off to a concentration camp or shot” (p 121), “Identity crisis are thresholds in everyone’s life on which we can smash ourselves to pieces” (p 174),
Author fact: Milosz won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Milosz also wrote Issa Valley, which is on my Challenge list, and the Captive Mind, which is not.
Book trivia: Milosz’s essays range from a single page to over one hundred pages.
Nancy said: Pearl said To Begin Where I Am is an “entrée into the mind of an extraordinary thoughtful thinker” (Book Lust p 187).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Polish Poems and Prose” (p 187).
Estleman, Loren D. Thunder City: a Novel of Detroit. Tom Doherty Associates, 1999.
Reason read: to finally finish the series started in January in honor of Michigan becoming a state.
Once again Estleman takes a look at the history and controversies of the automobile industry and the lure and mystique of it’s counterpart, organized crime. It was interesting to think of the people in the streetcar business prepping for the advent of cars and Ford’s competitors who looked to bring him down on the basis of a broken moral compass. Even more interesting was the advent of the iconic Ford logo. The revolving door of characters will make your head spin if you let them. I was compelled to keep notes on all of them although it didn’t help. James Aloysius Dolan (aka Jimmy, Big Jim, Boss Dolan, Honorable James A. Dolan, Diamond Jim, Irish Pope, or Himself depending on who you ask) was my favorite character. Wealthy, knows Yiddish, fat and Irish, James has held the titles of Railway Commissioner and chairman of State Democratic Party. He is married with children and has a manservant named Noche. He’s an all around shady guy, but I liked him.
A note on the Novel of Detroit series: I read the books in the order in which they were written, but to get a sense of chronology they should be read differently. Start with Thunder City (1900-1910), then move on to Whiskey River (1928 – 1939), Jitterbug (1943), Edsel (1951 – 1959), Motown (1966), Stress (1973) and end with King of the Corner (1990).
Definition of a marriage: “Dolan had forbidden her to modernize her appearance, and she had decided to allow him to” (p 15).
Author fact: Estleman wrote a bunch of novels beyond the Detroit series. I am only reading one other book, Sugartown (book 5 of the Amos Walker series).
Book trivia: Thunder City is the last book I am reading for the Detroit Series.
Playlist: Caruso, “Star Spangled Banner”, “Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground” and “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean”.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Thunder City.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: the Literary Midwest, Michigan” (p 26).
Powers, Richard. The Time of Our Singing. Picador, 2004.
Reason read: Richard Powers was born in the month of June. Read in his honor.
Writing a review for this book was difficult considering our current national climate. Is it fair to bring a child into this world, knowing full well his or her life will be an uphill, hurtful, and potentially lethal journey? With Roe V. Wade being overturned, this is a burning question for me. In The Time of Our Singing it is 1939 and David Strom, a German Jewish white man meets and falls in love with an African American young lady from Philadelphia. Should they have an interfaith relationship? Could they succeed in a biracial marriage? What hardships would their children have in a world consumed with the hate and segregation and World War II? Is it blind faith to assume their offspring will thrive beyond race with the help of music? So many questions that kept me reading all 600+ pages to the very end. Time of Our Singing also tells the story of David and Delia’s children. Jonah, Joseph, and Ruth come of age during the early Civil Rights movement and the turmoil of racial unrest follows them through adulthood. Jonah and Joseph go the route of music and fame, while Ruth veers violently in the opposite direction. Over time, they cannot ignore their color or where they came from. Through music comes recognition and redemption.
What I liked the most was the clever writing in that there are hints of a disaster: a photograph that has escaped being burned. What a black boy from Chicago doesn’t know about deep south segregation. How hatred can burn like an inferno until it explodes in disaster.
Lines I liked, “Music was there lease, their deed, their eminent domain” (p 9), “She beat at the recipe with a force her daughter couldn’t fail to read” (p 131), “Death mixes all races” (p 145), “The puppet refused to sit up and speak” (p 495), and “Race’s worst injuries are color-blind” (p 553).
Author fact: Pearl really likes Richard Powers. He has his own chapter in Book Lust. For the Challenge I am reading five more books by Powers and I have already read Gain and Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance. Due to their length, I don’t think I finished either one.
Book trivia: Time of Our Singing is a hefty 600+ pages.
Playlist: Musicians: Andre Watts, Bach, Brahms, Cole Porter, Cherubini, Charlie Parker, Camilla Williams, Duke Ellington, Dvorak, Dorothy Maynor, Dizzy Gillespie, Debussy, David Strom, Delia, Doors, Eartha Kitt, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Ginger Kiltie, Hayden, Holst, Ice Cube, Josquin Absalom, Jules Bledsoe, Jim Morrison, Leontyne Price, Marian Anderson, Mimi, Mendelsohn, Mozart, Miles Davis, Pucci, Paula Squires, Phillipa Duke Schuyler, Robert McFerrin, the Supremes, Schubert, Tallis, and Wreckin’ Cru
Songs: “Alto Rhapsody”, “America”, “Asleep in the Deep”, “Auf Ewigkeit”, “Ave Maria”, “Ave verum corpus”, “Balm in Gilead”, “The Boy’s Magic Horn”, “By the Waters of Babylon”, “Come Again, Sweet Love Doth Now Invite”, “California Girls”, “Deceit Holds the World in Its Domain”, “Dance of the Seven Veils”, “Down by the Salley Gardens”, “Elija”, “Fascinating Rhythm”, “Floral Bandit”, “From the New World”, “German Dance #1”, “Go Down Moses”, “Good Vibrations”, “Gospel Train”, “Honeysuckle Rose”, “I Hear a Symphony”, “I’m a Believer”, “Ladonna e mobile”, “Lord God of Abraham”, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, “Marching to Freedomland”, “Miller’s Beautiful Daughter”, “My Soul is Anchored to the Lord”, “Motherless Child”, “O Mio Fernando”, “On That Great Gettin’ Up Morning”, “Ol Man River”, “Prelude to a Kiss”, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, “Se La Face Ay Pale”, “Satin Doll”, “Swanee River”, “Star Spangled Banner”, “Saint Matthew Passion”, “Sussestille”, “There’s a Rainbow Round My Shoulder”, “Time Stands Still”, “Trampin'”, “Trout”, “Turkey in the Straw”, “Werther”, “We Can Work It Out”, and “You Are My Sunshine”
Nancy said: Pearl dedicated a whole chapter to Powers so she had a lot to say about the author. Not so much about The Time of Our Singing.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Richard Powers: Too Good To Miss” (p 191).
Doctorow, E.L. Ragtime. Plume, 1996.
Reason read: Emma Goldman was born in June. Read in her memory.
Rich in historical fiction, Ragtime will parade past its readers men like Sigmund Freud, Winslow Homer, Henry Ford, Harry Houdini, J.P. Morgan, Theodore Dreiser, and Booker T. Washington.
All walks of life thrive within the pages of Ragtime. The sideshow freaks of the Barnum and Bailey circus, the curse of the Egyptian mummies, the advent of the Model Ford, the destruction of Tammany Hall, sexual fainting was a thing, segregation was strict in parts of the country, there was human trafficking by a different name, Robert Peary’s quest for the Arctic, L.L Bean boots, the Stanford White shooting, Charles Dana Gibson was asking the eternal question, the anarchist Emma Goldman, even Emiliano Zapata. At the center of this turn-of-the-century drama is ten years of one family. Their business is fireworks and flags and while they are profitable in business, they are poor in happiness. Everyone is undergoing personal strife. It isn’t until a seemingly abandoned black child wanders into their midst, followed by the depressed mother and musician father when things start to perk up.
Best lines: none because I am too lazy to seek permission. Blah, blah, blah.
Author fact: E.L. stands for Edward Lawrence.
Book trivia: Ragtime was made into a move starring James Olson in 1981. Of course I haven’t seen it.
Playlist: with a name like Ragtime you know music will be mentioned. Al Jolson, Scott Joplin’s “Wall Street Rag” and “The Maple Leaf”, Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody”, John McCormack’s “I Hear You Calling Me”, and “The Liberty Bell March”.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Ragtime except to describe a little of the plot.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “American History: Fiction” (p 22)
Kundera, Milan. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Translated by Michael Henry Heim. Harper Row, 1984.
Reason read: I honestly don’t remember why.
My favorite scene was when Tereza and Sabine spend time together. An odd friendship blossomed between wife and lover as they photograph each other in the nude.
I love it when books intersect one another. I am finishing up Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and learn that the dog in The Unbearable Lightness of Being is named after Karenin. The Unbearable Lightness of Being reminded me of another book as well, Orchard. I found myself asking the same question about morality. What form of “cheating” is worse, emotional infidelity or physical betrayal in the form of fornication? Is there something to be said for complete and utter loyalty? Either way, I didn’t like any of the characters so that made The Unbearable Lightness of Being all the more difficult to enjoy.
Quote that spoke to me, “and he knows that time and again he will abandon the house of his happiness.”
Author fact: People sell tee shirts with Milan Kundera quotes on them. I wonder what he would think of that.
Book trivia: The Unbearable Lightness of Being was published in the New Yorker as a serial.
Nancy said: Pearl called The Unbearable Lightness of Being Kundera’s best known novel. She also called it a “stellar example of literary erotica” (Book Lust p 218).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in two chapters. The Unbearable Lightness of Being shows up in the chapter called “Czech It Out” (p 70) and in “Sex and the Single Reader” (p 218). She is not wrong.
Doyle, Roddy. The Van. Penguin, 1997.
Reason read: to finish the trilogy started in March in recognition of St. Patrick’s Day.
The Van picks up pretty much where The Snapper left off. Daughter Sharon is now a new mom with a toddler, Gina. Jimmy Rabbitte’s house is getting too small even though some of his children have moved out. A baby can do that. Unemployed and bored, Rabbitte babysits Gina until his best friend, Bimbo, loses his job. Suddenly as men of leisure they have all the time in the world to play endless games of pitch and putt, ogle teenage girls and roam the bars drinking and trying to pick up women (or as they say, “chasing women who had “fine sets of lungs” and “their arses fit nicely on the stool; there was noting flowing over the sides” p 266). It isn’t until Bimbo buys a van with the hopes of turning it into a burger food truck that the two men start to have a purpose for getting up in the morning. They have no idea what they are doing and in the end it nearly destroys their friendship. By turns funny and desperate, The Van was my least favorite of the series.
Favorite parts: Jimmy Sr.’s boredom takes him to new heights. I laughed when he tried to understand the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins…and when he gets a library card.
Author fact: I have one last Doyle book to read, A Star Called Henry.
Book trivia: The Van is the final installment in the Barrytown trilogy. The cover illustration is weird…until it isn’t. It is a weird perspective of Jimmy, Bimbo, and their van. The view is of the underside of the van as if you are looking up from underwater, but at a floating angle.
Playlist: Bob Geldof, “New York, New York”, Kylie Minogue, The Cure, “Mighty Quinn”, “Teddy Bears Picnic”, Megadeath, Anthrax, The The, UB40, “Nearer My God to Thee”, “Hippy Hippy Shake”, and Georgia Satellites.
Nancy said: Pearl called the whole Barrytown trilogy humorous.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Irish Fiction” (p 125).
Lessing, Doris. The Golden Notebook. New York: HarperPerennial, 1999.
Reason read: October is Lessing’s birth month. Read in her memory.
At the center of The Golden Notebook is Anna. To understand The Golden Notebook is to understand the four sides of Anna. Author of four colored notebooks, Anna is a reviewer of her experiences and travels in Africa (black covered), a questioner of communism and her role in politics (appropriately red covered), an author writing a descriptive autobiographical novel (yellow covered), and a diarist expressing her undying love for an American author (blue covered). In an attempt to organize all aspects of her life, Anna strives to combine all four notebooks into one golden book called “Free Women.”
Drawing from her own life, Lessing knew she had to change some details in the Golden Notebook, but to this day, readers are left asking themselves, exactly how much of Golden Notebook was still the autobiographical truth?
I knew this to be an important piece of literature by just how many times other authors made mention of it by name. I likened it to hearing about a person long before meeting them face to face. Hello Golden Notebook! I’ve heard so much about you from so many other authors. “Good things, I hope” replies the notebook.
Author fact: I am reading a bunch of Lessing’s work. Six books in all (I have read two already). I think Pearl likes her a great deal and yet there isn’t a Book Lust chapter called “Doris Lessing: Too Good To Miss.” I wonder why?
Book trivia: Mashopi is the real town of Macheke. Lessing said she once wanted to walk around Macheke so that she might tease out what was real and what was of her own creation. Another good piece of trivia: Lessing wrote two introductions to the Golden Notebook.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Golden Notebook.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1960s” (p 175). for all the times other authors have referred to The Golden Notebook I would have thought Pearl would mention it more than once.
Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Penguin Books, 2000.
Reason read: Russia celebrates Victory Day in May.
Who doesn’t know the tragic story of Anna Karenina? When the story was complete I found myself asking does Anna our deserve pity? Many see her love for another man other than her husband as a tragedy. Indeed, Anna’s husband only cares about how society will view him in regards to her infidelity. Karenin is weak, cold and completely unlikable. However, there was another far more appealing couple. I found Konstantine Levin’s relationship with Kitty far more enthralling and far more tragic. As an aside, when I first picked up Anna Karenina I wondered to myself what made this story nearly one thousand pages long. The more I got into it, the more it became clear Tolstoy could spend entire chapters on the threshing of fields, the racing of horses, croquet competitions, and philosophical tirades about Russian society. Condensed down, Anna Karenina is simply about unhappy relationships; specifically an unhappily married woman who has to chose between her duty as a mother and her emotional attachment to a lover. We all know how that turns out.
Quote to quote: “Alexi Alexandrovich smiled his smile which only revealed his teeth, but said nothing more” (p 228).
Author fact: Tolstoy bears a striking resemblance to the Hermit of Manana.
Book trivia: according to practically everyone, the translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky is the edition to read.
Nancy said: Interestingly enough, Leo Tolstoy is not in the index of Book Lust To Go because she does not mention the author of Anna Karenina. Instead, she mentions Pevear and Volokhonsky as translators and they are indexed in Book Lust To Go. In other Lust books she called Anna Karenina “great” and “a classic”.
BookLust Twist: I have always said, the more Pearl mentions a title, the more I know she loved, loved, loved the book. I’m not sure, but Anna Karenina might be Pearl’s most often mentioned book. It is included in all three Lust books: from Book Lust in the chapters “Families in Trouble” (p 82) and “Russian Heavies” (p 210), of course. From More Book Lust in the chapters “Lines that Linger; Sentences that Stick” (p 140), “Men channeling Women” (p 166), and “Wayward Wives” (231). Finally, from Book Lust To Go in the chapter “Saint Petersburg/Leningrad/Saint Petersburg” (p 194). I will add that Anna Karenina also takes place in Moscow.
Morrison, Toni. Jazz. Alfred A Knopf, 1992.
Reason read: while it is not accurate, I read Jazz in honor of May being music month.
Joe and Violet are in the business of beauty. Joe sells cosmetics door to door and his wife is a home-visiting hairdresser. Usually a straight up and dependable man, Joe falls in obsessive love with a teenager named Dorcas. His passion for Dorcas forces him to kill her. At her funeral, in a fit of jealous insanity Joe’s wife, Violet, attempts to slash the dead girl’s face while she lay in her coffin. Violent Violet then goes home to free all of her pet birds. Her rage makes her human. The smartest character in the book is the City. I like the way the City makes people think they can do whatever they want and get away with it. The culture is full of passions, both right and wrong. Jazz will also take you back to July 1917, a time when Grandmother True Belle (great name) was afraid of Springfield, Massachusetts. (Kind of funny since I work in that urban area and sometimes I, too, am afraid of Springfield, Massachusetts.) Morrison’s vivid descriptions of culture are breathtaking.
Lines I loved, “Can’t rival the dead for love” (p 15) and “Two dollars will get you a woman on a store-bought scooter if you want it” (p 46). I have no idea what that means.
Playlist: Wings Over Jordan
Author fact: Princeton University could boast that Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison was on their payroll.
Book trivia: Jazz is part of the Dantesque Trilogy: Beloved, Jazz, and Paradise X.
Nancy said: Pearl used the words “jazzy syncopation” to describe Jazz.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: She Say” (p 12).