November ’12 was…

I don’t know what makes me feel this way, but November arrived and left before I knew it.  It felt like it was one of those elusive party-goers who pops in for a quick hello and is gone before anyone else knows. Something I would do. We had a fit of snow to add insult to New Jersey/New York injury. My neighborhood survived just fine but mother nature had it in for my old stomping grounds in the worst way.

My routine of reading during my lunch break hasn’t changed. I’ve come to look forward to camping out in the stacks, listening to students pass my study carrel. It gives me perspective. This month I seemed to read nothing but really short, easy to read books.

  • Good Thief’s Guide to Paris by Chris Ewan ~ a continuation of the series I started last month. I think I read this over a weekend.
  • Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Vol 2 by Giorgio Vasari ~ a continuation of the series I started last month.
  • Breakfast with Scot by Michael Downing ~ in honor of national adoption month. This was cute. I was able to read it in one day.
  • Camus, a Romance by Elizabeth Hawes ~ in honor of Camus being born in the month of November. I took my time with this but still managed to finish it in two weeks.
  • Scar Tissue by Michael Ignatieff ~ in honor of national Alzheimer’s month. Read over a weekend, I was glued to the words because almost a year ago I lost my uncle to dementia. This really hit home.
  • Before the Knife: Memories of an African Childhood by Carolyn Slaughter ~ in honor of November being a good time to visit Africa. Or so they say. Another quick, weekend read.
  • Edward Lear in Albania: Journals of a landscape Painter in the Balkansby Edward Lear ~ in honor of November being the best time to get to Albania (which I never thought of doing). This took me three weeks to get through.
  • The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth Duncan ~ in honor of Dylan Thomas living in Wales. Don’t ask. It’s a long story. Read in four days.
  • The Viceroy of Ouidah by Bruce Chatwin ~ in honor of November being a good time to visit Africa (yeah, yeah I read two books for the same reason). This was really short. I was  able to read it over four lunch breaks.
  • Corregidora by Gayl Jones ~ in honor of Jones’s birth month. Another short (but difficult) read. Read this in one day.
  • The Akhenaten Adventure by P.B. Kerr ~ in honor of November being Fantasy convention month. Read this over two lunch breaks. Really cute.

For audio books I listened to:

  • Churchill, a Life by Martin Gilbert ~ in honor of Churchill being born in the month of November. A few trips to the eastern part of the state allowed me to finish this sooner than I thought.
  • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers ~ for the fun of it. This was hard to listen to simply because of the heavy dialogue.
  • Complications: a Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande ~ in honor of National Health Month. This was only six cds long so it was a great way to finish out the month.

What else was November about? I got to see a pretty exciting Patriots game thanks to my husband. I also got to stay home alone and read for an entire Sunday thanks to another Patriots game. Staying local for Thanksgiving definitely allowed for more reading time, too.


Before the Knife

Slaughter, Carolyn. Before the Knife: Memories of An African Childhood. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

Before the Knife is a very quick read. Sometimes I felt I was reading fast because I wanted to get through the truly disturbing parts. In truth they were always there, lurking  behind the words Slaughter didn’t say, or worse, only alluded to. Because Slaughter announces early on, in the preface, that she was raped by her father the knowledge is out. “…the moment when everything changed only really came the night that my father first raped me” (p 4). However, she promises her story is not about that horror in particular. True to her word, Before the Knife isn’t about that trauma but having announced it, we readers are always aware of it. We translate innuendo to mean abuse every time. The story of an African childhood is lost to the knowledge something darker is at play. What a different book this would have been if we didn’t know! As expected Slaughter comes back full circle to the first night of the rape, describing it in more detail. Why, I do not know. The entire book is a tangled and confused mess of emotions.

Line that punched me in the stomach: “But once it happened, we decided that it never happened at all” (p 4). Story of my life.
Line that brought me solace: :I hoarded his words in my heart for weeks and brought them out like a talisman any time I was at my wit’s end” (p 182).

Reason Read: November is another good time to visit Africa, only not Slaughter’s Africa. Most of the places she described are no more.

Author Fact: Slaughter has written a bunch of other things including Dreams of the Kalahari.

Book Trivia: This memoir does not include any photographs.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Dreaming of Africa” (p 76).