October Okay

Fiction:

  • The Master of Hestviken: the Axe by Sigrid Undset.
  • October Light by John Gardner.
  • Jamesland by Michelle Huneven.
  • The Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows by Patrick Chamoiseau.
  • Isabel’s Bed by Elinor Lipman.

Nonfiction:

  • Wyoming Summer by Mary O’Hara.
  • Obsession with Butterflies by Sharman Apt Russell.

Series continuation:

  • Running Blind by Lee Child.

Early Review for LibraryThing

  • Lou Reed: Notes From the Velvet Underground by Howard Sounes.

Obsession with Butterflies

Russell, Sharman Apt. An Obsession with Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair with a Singular Insect. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 2003.

Reason read: there is a place in Western Massachusetts called Magic Wings. It opened in the month of October. Originally, this was the reason I chose to read Obsession in the month of October. Joyously, I have a new yet fleeting new reason. Monhegan has been inundated with monarch butterflies since September, resting before their journey to Mexico and beyond. We haven’t seen such a migration in years so it is nice to have them back.

This was a fun read. Right off the bat it was interesting to learn about string theory and the idea that there are ten dimensions, butterflies being one of them. But, Russell goes on from there. Recounting mythologies, symbolisms, scientific studies, pop cultures, history, evolution, obsessions, butterflies play an enormous role in our lives, sometimes in the center of it, sometimes on the periphery. Russell has a way with words that is pure magic.
And. And! And, who doesn’t love an author who can compare the antics of caterpillars to Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, with the line, “This is a sprint, the ultimate chase scene” (p 25). There is such a witty humor to Russell’s writing.

I loved this droll little line, “Birds don’t eat their own droppings” (p 21). Okay. Here is an example of Russell’s humor if butterflies posted personals, “Personal ad #24: M seeks F, no pets, no parasites, no kinky hobbies, must like kids and nectar” (p 85) and “Personal ad #189: M, forceful type, wants F any age, minor role-playing, must enjoy airplane rides” (p 88). Too funny.

As an aside, butterflies have long been thought to be the souls of children no longer with us. Indeed, my aunt got a tattoo of a butterfly on her forearm to mourn the loss of her only son.

Author fact: Russell taught writing at two different institutions at the time of publication.

Book trivia: Obsession with Butterflies was illustrated by Jennifer Clark.

Nancy said: Pearl said Obsession with Butterflies is “designed to introduce readers to the (brief) life and behavior of one of the most varied, fascinating, and graceful creatures in the world” (p 69). She goes on to say more but you’ll just have to read More Book Lust to be in the know!

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 500s” (p 69).


October Late

I am so frigging late with this it’s not even funny. Here are my excuses: I was home-home the first weekend in October. I am hosting an art show. I’m trying to hire a new librarian. And. And! And, I have been running. Only 13.25 miles so far but it’s a start, right? I’m thrilled to be putting one foot in front of the other. But, here are the books:

Fiction:

  • October Light by John Gardner – in honor of October being in the the title of the book and the fact that it takes place in Vermont, a place that is simply gorgeous in the fall.
  • Jamesland by Michelle Huneven – in honor of October being Mental Health Awareness month.
  • Long Day Monday by Peter Turnbull – in honor of police proceedurals.
  • The Axe by Sigrid Undset – in honor of the fact I needed a translated book by a woman for the Portland Public Library challenge. Weak, I know.
  • Isabel’s Bed by Elinor Lipman – in honor of Lipman’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • Wyoming Summer by Mary O’Hara – in memory of O’Hara dying in October.
  • An Obsession with Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair by Sharman Apt Russell – in honor of Magic Wings opening in October and the fact that Monhegan was inundated with monarch butterflies for the month of September. We even saw a few while we were home.

Series Continuation:

  • Running Blind by Lee Child – started in honor of New York becoming a state in July (where Lee Child lives). However, big confessional: I am reading this out of order. My own fault completely.

LibraryThing Early Review:

  • Notes from the Velvet Underground by Howard Sounes

Chasing Monarchs

Pyle, Robert Michael. Chasing Monarchs: Migrating with the Butterflies of Passage. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.

Robert Michael Pyle (I just like using his whole name) set out to answer three questions about monarch butterflies:

  1. How do they physically do the migrating that they do?
  2. Do they navigate or follow the wind? and lastly,
  3. Why do some monarchs end up in Mexico and others in California.

My off the cuff answers would be: 1) They train. 2) Both navigation and following the wind (I like to think of butterflies riding the jet stream), and 3) I think the ones who didn’t train hard enough for Mexico, when they reached CA, said, “close enough!” I know I would!

Much like Where Bigfoot Walks, Chasing Monarchs is all about chasing something elusive, something nearly impossible to track. Like Bigfoot, Chasing Monarchs is awash with lush descriptions of the landscapes Pyle traverses; this time British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Nevada and California with a little dip into Mexico. I find it amazing Pyle was able to tag butterflies without hurting them. What I didn’t notice with Bigfoot is Pyle’s kaleidoscope use of colors. Here are a bunch of them from Chasing Monarchs: sage, umber, bronze, blonde, amethyst, yellow, ocher, brown, yellow, burnt sienna, apricot, coral, conch, mauve, french vanilla, buff, crimson, purple, chartreuse, beige, gold, green, cerise, emerald, indigo, jade, honey, cream, blue, copper, lime, olive, turquoise, chocolate, maroon, flesh, silver, lemon, rust, fawn, blueberry, pearl, ultramarine, wheat, cinnamon, rose, russet, persimmon, tan, and scarlet. Then there are the hyphenated colors: ham-pink, chalky-white, Mylar-blue, marine-blue, toast-brown, fox-red, fire-engine red, candy-apple red, matte-black, coal-black, and cat-black. And all the oranges: mandarin-orange, orange-juice, orange-yellow, oriole-orange, Halloween-orange, yellow-orange and lox-orange. I’m sure I’ve missed a few. One aspect of color that I didn’t appreciate is that Mr. Pyle needed to describe black folks. He doesn’t say, “I met up with so-and-so, a white woman from Omaha” but he will point out “the black family on the banks fishing.”

Reason read: March is supposedly insect month. Yay bugs!

Author fact: Pyle also wrote Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide which I read in September of 2010. I also learned that Pyle is a man who likes to name inanimate objects. His butterfly net is Marsha. His car is Powdermilk. He has an ornament hanging from his rear-view mirror named Danae.

Book trivia: Unfortunately, even though Pyle states that most people call all big and beautiful orange and black butterflies “monarchs” he doesn’t include any photographs to educate people on the differences. I would have liked some lush, vivid photographs! Even some illustrations would have been nice.

As an aside, I had been very excited to read Chasing Monarchs for some time now. Monhegan Island has annual migration of monarchs every late summer/early fall. As kids we used to watch their fiery orange and black wings beat against reedy pale green milkweeds by the dozens. Also, I would like to thank Mr. Pyle on clearing up a mystery for me. Monhegan has these weird orange spaghetti-like vines growing down at Pebble Beach. I have always wanted to look them up. I now know they are called Dodder weeds.

Convergence: Reading this was a natural extension of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 500s” (p 70).