Patience and Sarah

Miller, Isabel. Patience and Sarah. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 1969.

Reason read: Alma Routsong was born in November; read in her honor.

This is such a fascinating story. Isabel Miller learns of two real life pioneering women, Mary Ann Willson and her partner, known only as “Miss Brundage,” and has to write about them. Willson and Brundage set off to find a place where they could live as an openly homosexual couple. Their courage sparked a story in Miller and Patience and Sarah was born.
To meet the women: Sarah Dowling was raised as a boy; taught to shoot a gun and chop firewood like a man. In Patience’s mind, Sarah needed rescuing from that existence. Patience White was a demure and quiet painter, but it was she who started planting the seeds of running away early in her relationship with Sarah. “But could you take it pioneering with you?” Patience asked of the ax Sarah was wielding.
Patience and Sarah was originally published under the title, A Place For Us. The book ends with Patience and Sarah leaving their old lives behind to find a new place where they could be themselves as a couple. Their love endures ridicule and prejudice and even among themselves they harbor doubts. Sheer courage carries them forward.
Patience and Sarah could be considered the very first lesbian historical novel.

Lines I loved (and there were many), “Women might peck at her with their sharp mean noses” (p 18), “There would be no way out except through” (p 49), and, “…but as soon as he kissed me I knew I could not live a life where that happened all the time” (p 102).
Lines about love, “I keep thinking every shadow is you” (p 47), and “I felt my heart melt and drip off my fingertips” (p 105).

Author fact: Isabel Miller is a pseudonym for Alma Routsong. Alma took her mother’s maiden name (Miller) and an anagram of the word lesbia (Isabel) to form her pen name. Another interesting fact is that Isabel left her husband and four children. Luckily, they all forgave her.

Book trivia: The American Library Association honored Patience and Sarah with its first ever Gay Book of the Year Award in 1971. Another last piece of trivia: the book was made into an opera in 1998. That seems a little odd to me.

Nancy said: Pearl said it would be “interesting to compare” The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall to Miller’s Patience and Sarah. (Book Lust p 94).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Gay and Lesbian Fiction: Out of the Closet” (p 93).


Bridge on the Drina

Ivo, Andric. The Bridge on the Drina. Translated by Lovett F. Edwards. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.

Reason read: Mehmed Pasha built the bridge on the Drina and was born in October. Read in his honor.

The bridge on the Drina stands as a silent character in Bridge on the Drina and acts as a symbol for life. As civilization is buckling, the bridge stands solid, spying on and witness to all humanity. . It is an integral part of the community. If you were Christian and lived on the left bank you had to cross the bridge to be christened on the right side. It was a sources of food as people fished from it or hunted doves from under it. It had historical significance as families shared legends about it. Andric takes us through the sixteenth century and the laborious construction of the bridge to four hundred years later and the modernized twentieth century and how the bridge became a symbol across generations. It all started with the tortured memory of the grand Vizier. How, as a young boy, he was forcibly removed from his mother during the Ottoman crusades. The river Drina is where he lost sight of her. Hence, the bridge.

Quote I liked, “The story was noised far and abroad” (p 36).

Author fact: Ivo Andric won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. Another piece of trivia: Andric grew up on the banks of the Drina.

Book trivia: the introduction to Bridge on the Drina gives the history of Bosnia. It helps ground the reader to a sense of place.

Nancy said: “The Bridge on the Drina describes the relationships between various ethnic groupings in a small Bosnian town from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries” (Book Lust p 32).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Balkan Specters” (p 31).


Call It Sleep

Roth, Henry. Call It Sleep. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006.
Roth, Henry. Call It Sleep. Read by George Guidall. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 1994.

Reason read: The Yom Kippur War in October.

[For my own state of mind I really should ban reading overly sad books with traumatic endings.] Told from the perspective of six year old David Schearl, Call It Sleep relates the hardships of immigrant life in turn of the century gritty New York City. In the prologue, David and his mother arrive from Austria to join her abusive and angry husband. This is the of the few times the narrative is outside little six year old David’s head. The majority of the story is a stream of consciousness, skillfully painting a portrait of inner city life from a child’s point of view.
As an aside, in the beginning I questioned why David’s father would abhor David to the point of criminal abuse. It took awhile to figure out why.
But, back to little David. His young life is filled with fear. He is overwhelmed by language differences between Yiddish and English, overly sensitive to the actions of his peers, clings to his mother with Freudian zeal. I found him to be a really hopeless child and my heart bled for him. While most of the story is bleak, there is the tiniest ray of hope at the end. The pessimists in the crowd might have a negative explanation for what David’s father does, but I saw it as a small gesture of asking for forgiveness.
As another aside, Roth’s interpretation of the Jewish Austrian dialect was, at times, difficult to hear in my hear. Listening to George Guidall was much easier.

Quotes I liked, “Go snarl up your own wits” (p 157), “David’s toes crawled back and forth upon a small space on the sole of his shoe” (p 186), and “…clacking like nine pins before a heavy bowl of mirth they tumbled about the sidewalk” (p 292).

Author fact: Henry Roth is often confused with Philip Roth. I’m guilty of doing it a few times. The real Author Fact is that Henry Roth didn’t write another novel after Call It Sleep until he was 88 years old, sixty years after Call It Sleep was first published.

Book trivia: Call It Sleep was Henry Roth’s first novel, written when he was under thirty.

Nancy said: Nancy simply explains a little of the plot of Call It Sleep.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Jewish American Experience” (p 133).


Finding the Dream

Roberts, Nora. Finding the Dream. New York: Severn House Publishing, 1996.

Reason read: to finish the series started in August in honor of dream month.

Finding the Dream ends the Templeton trilogy.  Just to recap: In Daring to Dream flamboyant Margot Sullivan found love. In Holding the Dream Serious Kate Powell found love. In Finding the Dream finally, it is practical Laura Templeton’s turn in the spotlight. Would she find love again after all she had been through? Here is my favorite part of the entire series: throughout the pages of Daring to Dream and Holding the Dream, Laura’s bad marriage and equally awful divorce had been playing out. It’s the one story line that successfully weaved its way through the entire trilogy (aside from the cheesy Seraphina treasure hunt). Peter Ridgeway, a Templeton employee, seduced Laura when she was a teenager. He only wanted to marry her so that he had a permanent “in” with the family hotel business. But after cheating on Laura and stealing their two daughter’s inheritance he flew the coop, marrying a Templeton rival. (Another story line that ran through all three books but was unsuccessful.) Now, it is time for Laura to climb out of the ashes of a failed marriage and find a true love for herself. Just as Margot and Kate had climbed out of the wreckage of their own personal traumas. And just like Margot and Kate, Laura finds a love interest who is wrong for her in every way. True to the Nora Roberts formula, refined Laura and rough-around-the-edges Michael Fury clash at every turn. How will they ever fall in love?

Author fact: Roberts has written as J.D. Robb for her Death series.

Nancy said: nothing specific.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203).


Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Grimes, Tom, ed. Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: 43 Stories , Recollections, & Essays on Iowa’s Place in Twentieth-Century American Literature. New York: Hyperion, 1999.

Reason read: Grimes celebrates a birthday in September. Read in his honor.

The Iowa Writers’ Workshop became a national institution in the early 1950s, but before that, as early as the late 1890s, the Workshop was designed to teach “verse making.” The University of Iowa wanted to cultivate writers with something creative to say. They developed the first creative writing program in the country and it continues to be one of the best. Why? Obviously, it is the writers who come out of the program. Then there’s this: “Unsurprisingly, a psychological survey of the Iowa Workshop showed that 80 percent of writers in the program reported evidence of manic-depression, alcoholism, or other lovely addictions in themselves or their immediate families” (p 9).

Stories:

  • Chip off the Old Block by Wallace Stegner.
  • And In My Heart by R.V. Cassill. Best line: “As if the arrow at the heart could listen to the merely human cry that protests its flight” (p 55).
  • The Comforts of Home by Flannery O’Connor.
  • The Illegibility of This World by Richard Stern. Best line: “Fear gets so loud, I can’t sleep” (p 118).
  • The Fisherman Who Got Away by Thomas Williams.
  • Offspring of the First Generation by Bette Pesetsky.
  • The Hustler by Walter Tevis.
  • Put Yourself in My Shoes by Raymond Carver.
  • Saints by Bharati Mukherjee.
  • Dunkleblau by Clark Blais.
  • Falling in Love by Andre Dubus.
  • The Last Generation by Joy Williams.
  • A More Complete Cross-Section by John Casey.
  • A Sorrowful Woman by Gail Godwin.
  • Thirty-Four Seasons of Winter by William Kittredge.
  • Mouses by Thom Jones. “I’m embarrassed to admit that I was a little afraid to confront the consequences” (p 247).
  • A Solo Song: For Doc by James Alan McPherson.
  • Paper Latern by Stuart Dybek.
  • Work by Denis Johnson
  • His Dog by Ron Hansen
  • A Woman’s Restaurant by T. Coraghessan Boyle.
  • Aren’t You Happy For Me? by Richard Bausch.
  • Blessed Assurance: a Moral Tale by Allan Gurganus.
  • Long Distance by Jane Smiley.
  • Alma by Jayne Anne Phillips.
  • White Angel by Michael Cunningham.
  • Mundo’s Sign by Bob Shacochis.
  • The Story of My Life by Kim Edwards.
  • Birthmates by Gish Jen.
  • The Year of Getting to Know Us by Ethan Canin.
  • The Zealous Mourner by Marly Swick.
  • The Commuter by Colin Harrison.
  • Planting by Kathryn Harrison.
  • The Sutton Pie Safe by Pinckney Benedict.
  • Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry by Elizabeth McCracken.
  • Out of the Woods by Chris Offutt.
  • Open House by Charles D’Ambrosio.
  • Lilacs by Abraham Verghese.
  • A Hole in the Sheets by Susan Power.
  • Brownsville by Tom Piazza.
  • Pipa’s Story by Lan Samantha Chang.
  • Buckeye the Elder by Brady Udall.
  • Speaking in Tongues by ZZ Packer.

Other quotes I liked, “Good writers are ruthless, and willing to say anything” (p 377).

Author  Editor fact: Not surprising, Tom Grimes is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. At the time of The Workshop publication, he directed the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Southwest Texas State University.

Book trivia: There was only one story I had a problem with. Marly Swick in The Zealous Mourner has a detail about her character making a point of locking a bathroom door and yet, there is no mention of anyone UNlocking it when the husband stands in the doorway, blinking in the harsh light and announcing he has to pee.

Nancy said: Nancy suggested if you wanted to read up on more writers who spent time in Iowa to check out The Workshop.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Growing Writers” (p 108).


Fuzz

McBain, Ed. Fuzz. New York: Warner Books, 2000.

Reason read: to finish the series started in July in memory of McBain’s passing.

McBain is a master of character development and dialogue detail.

The 87th Precinct has met its match in Fuzz. After a prominent citizen of a fictitious New York City is gunned down witnesses can only say they saw a man wearing a hearing aid. Dubbed the Deaf Man, it isn’t long before he strikes again. His modus operandi is to call the precinct to extort a sum of money or else someone is going to die. In the case of Parks Commissioner Cowper, it was $5,000. The next threat was aimed at the deputy mayor for $50,000. Finally, it was the mayor’s turn to die. Meanwhile on a different assignment, Steve Carella tries to figure out who is setting homeless people on fire. Dressed as a derelict Carella puts himself in danger and isn’t fast enough to get out of harm’s way…

Quotes I liked, “In a city notorious for its indifference, the citizens were obviously withdrawn now, hurrying past each other without so much as eyes meeting, insulating themselves, becoming tight private cocoons that defied the cold” (p 23),

Author fact: So, here’s a really odd one. McBain can describe the weather so well the heat detailed on the page can send trickles of sweat down your back or the lack of it can freeze your fingertips. Impressive, considering all the while you are in the comfort of your own temperature controlled home.

Book trivia: Fuzz was made into a movie in  starring Burt Reynolds.

Nancy said: I read Fuzz and Big Bad City out of order because Pearl listed Big Bad City before Fuzz. I should have known better than to trust Pearl to put the series in the order in which they should be read. It’s an attention to detail I would have appreciated.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust  in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 120).


Holding the Dream

Roberts, Nora. Holding the Dream. New York: Berkeley Books, 2012.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of August being Dream Month.

The “Dream” series sets you up to meet the Templeton family one by one. In Daring to Dream Margo Sullivan (now Templeton after marrying Josh) dared to give up a life of glamour to own her own second hand shop. In Holding the Dream, it’s Kate Powell who takes center stage. If Margo is the sexy one, Kate is the outwardly dowdy accountant, the sexy-behind-the-scenes-but-good-with-numbers one. Orphaned by a childhood tragedy, she joins the Templeton household as the ugly and odd duck; she grows up to be the ambitious accountant striving to pull her weight and forever indebted to the Templetons for their generosity. She is no nonsense and serious and to the letter with everything she does so how it that Kate is accused of embezzling from the firm she wants to make partner? Of course it’s a Templeton connection who swoops in to save the day.

Spoiler: It’s a little gimicky, but you meet Roger Thornhill briefly. Roger is someone Kate dated briefly within the firm. As a coworker he used her to get at her client list and snag her largest account. Frustratingly enough, I knew he was behind the embezzlement because he doesn’t factor into the story again until the very end. The scene between him and Kate early on is a vehicle only to introduce his character so that later on his guilt will make sense.

Book trivia: As with every Roberts romance, the fight scenes are a little cheesy. The “I’m in love with you but I hate you” push-pull is totally in play.

Nancy said: Holding the Dream is an example of a romance novel in which “the answer is always yes” according to Jayne Ann Krentz (Book Lust p 204).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203).