Angel at My Table

Frame, Janet. Angel at My Table: An Autobiography: Volume Two. New York: George Braziller, 1984

Reason read: to continue the autobiography started in April in honor of New Zealand’s Anzac Day.

Angel at My Table being the second volume in Janet Frame’s autobiography, covers her unwillingness to become a teacher, a myriad of mental health struggles, and Frame’s continued desire to impress people as a “true” poet. Despite being at the University for a teaching career Frame was dead set against becoming an educator. When it came time for her to be observed in the classroom she simply excused herself and walked out, never to return again. All she wanted to do was write and it was her ability to do so that ultimately saved her. Scheduled to have an lobotomy, her book, The Lagoon, a volume of short stories, was published just in time for her to receive a stay of operation. From there Frame floundered trying to make a living until she met Frank Sargeson. As a fellow writer he was able to develop a partnership and mentorship that ultimately shaped Frame’s future. At the end of Angel at My Table we leave Frame as she is ready to embark on a new journey; leaving New Zealand for the first time.

Lines to like, “Nola suffered from asthma and the complication of being in a family of brilliant beautiful people” (p 110) and “There is a freedom born for the acknowledgement of greatness in literature, as if one gave away what one desired to keep, and in giving, there is new space cleared for growth, an onrush of a new season beneath a secret sun” (p 153).

Author fact: When Frame died obituaries called her New Zealand’s “best known but least public” writer.

Book trivia: Angel at My Table was made into a movie in 1990, starring Kerry Fox.

Nancy said: Not much. She just mentioned that Frame’s second book was made into a movie.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Kiwis Forever!: New Zealand in Print” (p 123).


Bruised Hibiscus

Nunez, Elizabeth. Bruised Hibiscus. Seattle: Seal Press, 2000.

Reason read: There is a steel drum festival called the Pan Ramajay festival that sometimes takes place in May.

Lean into the narrative of Bruised Hibiscus lest you might miss something important or more likely, something sensuous. The lyrical language is like two songs being sung at the same time. Two love songs in different languages. First, there is the language of the Trinidad village of Otahiti, abuzz with the news of a mysterious white woman pulled from the sea, her eyes and lips eaten away by sea life. An evil has come into their community. Then there is the culture of sexuality, both good and bad, which circles two marriages. Two women share a dark secret from childhood; forever linked after witnessing the brutal violation of a young girl. Zuela is the mother of ten children and runs a grocery shop with her husband in Port-of-Spain. Rosa lives on the other side of town in a two-story house in Taccarigua. As adults Zuela and Rosa are mired in loveless and cruel marriages. When the body of the white woman was first discovered, each woman reacted differently but both shared the sensation of memories of the young girl’s violation flooding back.

Examples of the lyrical language, “She, too, had removed the boulder damming her memory” (p 43), and “Then the Chinaman insisted, and forced her lips to shape his words” (p 63).

As an aside, my mother used to play an album by a Calypso band called The Merrymen. They had a song about the Yankee dollar. This book reminded me of them.

Author fact: Nunez was born in Trinidad but lives in New York.

Book trivia: I found Bruised Hibiscus to be somewhat repetitive. Be prepared to feel like you are reading whole passages four or five times.

Nancy said: Nancy said she enjoyed the novels of Nunez (p 58).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean: Trinidad and Tobago” (p 58).


Thousand Hills

Kinzer, Stephen. A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It. Read by Paul Boehmer. Tantor Audio, 2008.
Kinzer, Stephen. A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2008.

Reason read: April 22, 2000 Paul Kagame became President of Rwanada. He is credited for bringing an end to the Rwanda genocide in 1994.

Kinzer had one simple motive for writing Thousand Hills. It is an amazing untold story that needed to be shared. One the one hand, it is the condense biography of a remarkable man who, born into poverty and nearly killed when he was only two years old, rose in military rank to single-handedly lead a rebel force that ended the largest genocide in Rwanda. On the other hand, it is the telling of a nation struggling with a metamorphosis of epic proportions. After the holocaust, Paul Kagame insisted on bringing Tutsi and Hutu together, demanding that murderer and victim work as one to repair relations.

Author fact: In 2008 Kinzer went on C-Span BookTV to talk about Thousand Hills. The video is over an hour long and still available for viewing on the C-Span site.

Nancy said: nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Africa: the Greenest Continent” (p 8).


Corner

Simon, David and Edward Burns. The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood. New York: Broadway Books, 1997.

Reason read: Maryland become a state in April.

The Corner is very similar to Simon’s other best selling book, Homicide: a Year on the Killing Streets. As a freelance writer he has been allowed access to the darkest and grittiest corners of West Baltimore. With Edward Burns as coauthor, Simon takes the reader on a cruel and complicated journey. Together they illustrate what junkies will and won’t do to score the next hit or blast; what crimes or capers they will commit or won’t…because even full blown addicts have their limits. West Baltimore is a shooting gallery where the drug war rearranges police priorities. It’s a harsh reality. The operative word is “real” because even though the plot line reads like a movie and the people you meet could be actors, they are all real. As readers, you get to know people and care about them. Be forewarned. It’s no fairy tale. It grips you as only a never ending nightmare could.

Quotes I need to repeat, “The corner is rooted in human desire – crude and certain and immediate” (p 57), and a couple of pages later, “For those of us riding the wave, the world spins on an axis of technological prowess in an orbit of ever-expanding information” (p 59). Here are two more, “Even heroine no longer suffices to obscure the daily insult that her life has become” (p 179), and “He knows what he likes and to some extent, he knows how to get what he likes, if God is in the details, when DeAndre’s view of the sexual world is decidedly agnostic” (p 225).

Author(s) fact: David Simon writes for the show “The Wire” and Edward Burns was a cop turned teacher.

Book trivia: The Corner has a few photographs of some of the main characters.

Nancy said: Nancy said she couldn’t go to Baltimore without first watching The Wire which was based on The Corner (p 34).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go  in the chapter called simply “Baltimore” (p 34).


A Few Figs From Thistles

Millay, Edna St. Vincent. A Few Figs From Thistles: Poems and Sonnets. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1922.

Reason read: April is National Poetry Month.

The poem Pearl wanted her readers to focus on from A Few Figs From Thistles is “The Unexplorer” (p 24). It is an incredibly short poem about a little girl who asks her mother where the road by their house leads. The mother replies it ends at the milk-man’s door. For some reason that information suddenly ends the little girl’s desire to go down the road. I am of a darker mind when I think the little girl is afraid of the milk-man and doesn’t want to run into him when really it could be she thinks the milk-man’s front door is not an exciting enough destination. So she has put it out of her mind. She is no longer curious. That’s the thing about poetry. It is ambiguous enough that it could mean anything you want it to. I prefer the darker version. the milk-man’s front door is not a place for young girls.

As an aside, from every aspect of my accounting, from the spreadsheets to the codes in LibraryThing, A Few Figs From Thistles is supposed to be a More Book Lust read as well as from Book Lust To Go. It’s not in the index of More Book Lust nor can I find it within the obvious chapters. Really weird.

Author fact: To her friends, Edna was called Vincent.

Book trivia: Read between the lines and you will find Millay’s viewpoint on feminism and sexuality.

Nancy said: This poem sets the tone for Pearl’s entire book, Book Lust To Go (p xiii). She is not a traveler and she cites “The Unexplorer” as explanation. It’s kind of funny.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the introduction (p xiii).


Zeitoun

Eggers, Dave. Zeitoun. New York: Vintage Books, 2009.

Reason read: Louisiana was founded in the month of April.

For the rest of the world, Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of her horrible devastation are receding images in the rear view mirror; images replaced by other natural and man-made disasters of bigger and nastier proportions. To the rest of the world what happened in New Orleans is fast becoming a series of footnotes in history’s troubled narrative. But, for the people of New Orleans, the nightmare is far from over. Zeitoun is just one man’s story. A man who stayed to wait out the storm. A man who tried to help those in need wherever and however he could. A man caught up in racial profiling, prejudices, and fast-ignited bad judgements. There were hundred of stories just like his. Dave Eggers makes the story more interesting than run of the mill.

When it was all said and done, I had to wonder about Zeitoun’s character. Here was a man who stubbornly made his wife and child walk four hours one way on a beach to reach a rock formation he could see in the distance.
As an aside, I tried to not let the rest of Zeitoun’s public story change how I read Eggers’s book. Like everyone else, I Googled Zeitoun and found out about his violent behavior towards his wife and their legal battles. So sad.

Quotes to quote, “The winds were still many days from being relevant to his life” (p 24).

Author fact: Dave Eggers was born in Boston and is my age.

Book trivia: Oddly enough, even though there are photographs in Zeitoun they are of his family and not what everyone would expect, of the devastation in New Orleans.

Nancy said: Nancy outlines the basic plot of Zeitoun.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “News From N’Orleans” (p 155).


“Travel”

Millay, Edna St. Vincent. “Travel.” April Second. New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1921. p33.

Reason read: April is National Poetry Month. Note the title of the book from where “Travel” was published.

The poem “Travel” reminded me of Freya Stark in it’s restlessness and sense of adventure. To look at train tracks and wonder where they end up. To watch a plane make its way across the sky, the contrails fading bit by bit, and guess its final destination. Who hasn’t done that?
Confessional: As a child I did the reverse. While riding in my father’s car I used to watch the world passing by and if I saw someone in a yard raking leaves or watering a garden I would try to put myself in their shoes. To stand there, rake or garden hose in hand as the silver car flashes by with the little girl peering out the window, her blank face staring. What was it to be standing still as my other self rode by? Did the gardener wonder where I was going?

Author fact: Millay was born in Rockland, Maine.

Poem trivia: the theme of restlessness has been compared to Millay’s sense of sexuality and how she “traveled” between genders as a bisexual.

Nancy said: Nancy said she could identify with Millay’s poem “Travel” because it described how she wished she felt – that sense of adventure to ride the rails no matter where they took her (p 138).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the introduction to the chapter called “Making Tracks by Train” (p 138).