February’s Finale

What to tell you? I spent February in a tailspin of old memories. To blame it on one singular event would be too simplistic. As they say, it’s complicated. Very. In other news I have been running! Successfully, I might add. February saw 40 miles conquered. Here are the books planned and completed:

Fiction:

  • Anna In-Between by Elizabeth Nunez (EB & print).
  • Little Havana Blues edited by Julia Poey and Virgil Suarez (EB & print).
  • The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber (EB, AB & print).
  • The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley (EB & print).

Nonfiction:

  • All Deliberate Speed: reflections on the first half century of Brown v. Board of Education by Charles J. Ogletree, Jr (EB & print).
  • Barrow’s Boys by Fergus Fleming (EB & print).
  • Rome and a Villa by Eleanor Clark (EB & print).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • The 21: a journey into the land of the Coptic martyrs by Martin Mosebach (just started reading).

Leisure (print only):

  • Migrations: Open Hearts, Open Borders: The Power of Human Migration and the Way That Walls and Bans Are No Match for Bravery and Hope by ICPBS.
  • Pharos Gate by Nick Bantock.
  • Morning Star by Nick Bantock.
  • The Museum at Purgatory by Nick Bantock.
  • Alexandria by Nick Bantock.
  • The Gryphon by Nick Bantock.

All Deliberate Speed

Ogletree, Charles. All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half Century of Brown v. Board of Education. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2004.

Reason read: February is the month to celebrate Civil Rights. Well, we should be proactively doing something all year long…

You could call All Deliberate Speed a history book as it is filled with didactic chapters and faculty could use it as a textbook, but I would argue it is more of a beautifully written memoir. Ogletree shares his personal reflections on the civil rights decision of Brown v. Board of Education, the conundrum of legalized racial inequality, and how the words “all deliberate speed” allowed the end of segregation to become a reality at a snail’s pace. Rest assured, this isn’t an autobiography. Ogletree doesn’t delve too deep into his personal life with the exception of how it relates to the topic at hand and his part in it. Ogletree writes, not as one who did his homework on a singular subject, as one standing outside the topic at hand, but rather as one who actually lived the history and had a tangible part of the action. “Present at the creation,” if you will. Ogletree’s narration is as much from fact as it is from memory.

The tradition of “Black Graduation” at Stanford originated as a protest of which author Ogletree had a part.

As an aside, I always love it when an author rights a wrong. Somehow there was a research error and Professor Jack Balkin was not given credit. Ogletree made a point to mention that.

Author fact: Ogletree has a strong family history connection to Brown v. Board of Education.

Book trivia: The black and white photographs in All Deliberate Speed are great.

Nancy said: Pearl called All Deliberate Speed “excellent.” Agreed.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Civil Rights and Wrongs” (p 49).


February Fixed

I am consistently running (yay). My head is finally screwed on straight – somewhat (yay). Things are not perfect but I can say February is mostly fixed.

Fiction:

  • The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber – in honor of Charles Dickens and his birthday being in February. Weird, I know.
  • Anna In-Between by Elizabeth Nunez – in honor of my childhood.
  • Little Havana Blues: A Cuban-American Literature Anthology edited by Virgil Suarez and Delia Poey – in honor of Cuba’s reformed constitution.
  • The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley – in honor of February being friendship month.

Nonfiction:

  • Rome and a Villa by Eleanor Clark – in honor of Clark’s birthday.
  • All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half Century of Brown v. Board of Education by Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. – in honor of February being Civil Rights month.
  • Barrow’s Boys: A stirring Story of Daring, Fortitude, and Outright Lunacy by Fergus Fleming – in honor of Exploration month.

Leisure:

  • Making Tracks by Matt Weber – a Christmas gift from my sister.

December Updates

So, by the end of November I was a blathering mess, wasn’t I? I know I was. Mea culpa. Three xrays, five vials of blood taken, one CT scan, and two therapy sessions later, here are the updates. The protruding ribs are being blamed on chiropractic appointments even though I felt the rib cage move before I started see Dr. Jim. The nerve pain is being controlled by medication. The spot on the lung and possibly tumor…no results as of today. White blood cell count still elevated. Possibility of cancer…still a possibility.
But. But! But, enough of all that. Here are the books: I have a week off at the end of the month so I am anticipating it will be a good reading month. Here are the books planned:

Fiction:

  • Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess (EB) – in memory of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th.
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin – in memory of Le Guin passing in 2018.
  • Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund – to honor Alabama becoming a state in December.

Nonfiction:

  • The Female Eunuch by Germain Greer – to honor women’s suffrage law.
  • Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens (EB) – to honor the wedding anniversary of Mark and Delia.
  • Lost Moon by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger – in honor of the moon landing.
  • Stet: an Editor’s Life by Diana Athill (EB) – in honor of Athill being born in December.

Series continuation:

  • The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (AB) – to continue the series His Dark Materials, started in November in honor of National Writing Month.
  • The Unicorn Hunt by Dorothy Dunnett (EB) – to continue the series Niccolo House, started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Squelched by Terry Beard.

If there is time:

  • Black Tents of Arabia by Carl Raswan – in honor of Lawrence of Arabia.
  • This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun – in honor of Jelloun’s birth month.

Riot Days

Alyokhina, Maria. Riot Days. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2017.

Reason read: This is the August book for the Early Review program for LibraryThing. Riot Days is to be published on September 26th, according to Amazon’s website.

A word of caution before reading this blog or Alyokhina’s Riot Days: we both use strong language. Case in point: Alyokhina uses the see-you-next-Tuesday word not even ten words into Riot Days. Forgive me, but I draw the line at the c-word. No clue why.

Riot Days is sharp, choppy and biting. Words fly off the page like the staccato of machine gun fire. Even the illustrations are crude and unpolished; but all are perfect for the message Alyokhina wants to relay. The facts are such – in February of 2012 members of an all-girl punk band smuggled an electric guitar into an Orthodox church in Moscow to perform a “Punk Prayer” in protest to Putin’s regime. Alyokhina and another member of the band were finally arrested and sentenced to two years in a penal colony. Alyokhina’s side of the story is interspersed with the court proceedings as if to say,  “look how reality can get twisted; this is what happens when you have convictions; you get convicted.” This is a quick but extremely worthwhile read. I don’t know how it will look when it is published, but my copy ends abruptly…with her freedom.

As an aside, I had a chance to check out Pussy Riot’s videos on YouTube. All I can say is wow.

Quote I hope stays in the book, “Right after our ‘Punk Prayer’ performance, I took the metro to my son’s kindergarten – it was noon” (p 29).


Feb ’11 was…

February was a strange, strange month. On the one hand, my birthday (which was good), yet on the other hand, many different family dramas (not so good). Other oddities include getting robbed, the roof leaking, a mysterious flat tire, and lots of great PT (what’s different?). My list of books for the month included some behemoths – two over 700 pages long. It took me longer than expected to get through my list because I also got an Early Review book from LibraryThing and I decided to read a few “off-list” titles. February was also a month of personal challenges (yay for physical therapy and the return to running for real). I can’t forget to mention that!

  • Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution by Diane McWhorter ~ in honor of National Civil Rights month. This was a nice blend of didactic and personal.
  • Big Year: a Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik ~ in honor of February being a bird feeding month (as apposed to watching). Funny, funny, funny.
  • Night Soldiers by Alan Furst ~ in honor of Furst’s birth month. This was really heavy, but I actually got into it.
  • Belly of Paris by Emile Zola ~ in honor of Charles Dickens (writing style is similar). Word to the wise – don’t read this when you are hungry. The food descriptions are amazing!

For the Early Review Program with LibraryThing I finally received and read My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe. I’m still waiting for a second Early Review book from LibraryThing.

  • Runner’s World The Complete Book of Running: Everything You Need To Run For Weight Loss, Fitness and Competition by Amby Burfoot. I picked this up because someone had given me a gift certificate for B&N and I wanted to get something I would keep for a very long time.
  • It Must Be..(a Grand Canyon Trip : Drawings and Thoughts From a Winter’s Trip From Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek (December 19, 2010 – January 2, 2011).. by Scott P. Barnes ~ this was such a surreal read for me! I’ve always wanted to see this author’s name in print.

Carry Me Home

McWhorter, Diane. Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: the Climatic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

There is no doubt Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution is testimony to McWhorter’s nineteen year mission. Her conviction to expose the truth is on every page. What makes Carry Me Home so compelling in the unflinching examination of McWhorter’s own family’s beliefs and involvements in the tumultuous time of civil unrest. Interjecting personal biography give the book a unique drama. The detail with which McWhorter writes allows readers to not just walk in the footsteps of history but experience as if they are walking side by side in real time.

Interesting lines: “One did not need to know what was wrong in order to know something was wrong” (p 27), and “Over the two decades of solitary toil, my driving aim had been to “solve” the church bombing, to bring the murderers if not to justice then at least to truth” (p 589).

I have to point out that a friend didn’t like the title of this book. He felt that the use of the word “climatic” was incorrect. Climatic for the era, maybe, but certainly not climatic for all time.

Book Trivia: Carry Me Home was compared to Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch by author David Herbert Donald, and by writers for the Boston Globe and The Nation. Also, Carry Me Home won a Pulitzer.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Civil Rights and Wrongs” (p 49).


Feb 2011 is…

February is a month of renewal for me. I haven’t put too many books on the list because I plan to do a lot more running and socializing this month. 🙂
Anyhoo, here are the books:

  • Carry Me Home, Alabama by Kathryn Stern ~ in honor of February being National Civil Rights Month
  • Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes ~ in honor of February being a National Bird Feeding month. I guess our feathered friends have a hard time finding food in February so someone made a month for feeding them.
  • Aint Nobody’s Business if I Do by Valarie Wilson Welsey ~ in honor of Black History Month
  • Belly of Paris by Emile Zola ~ in honor of February being the month of Dicken’s birth.

Maybe, just maybe I’ll get the EarlyReview books from LibraryThing as well. Who knows?


February ’10 was…

Where in hell do I begin? February was a month of answers. Can I leave it at that? I know why I haven’t been feeling well. I know what I now need to do. I know who I am and how far I’ve come. And – taking a deep breath – I know how far I need to go. I know. Here’s the list of books, for better or worse:

  • A Certain World by W.H. Auden ~ in honor of Auden’s birth month
  • Why Things Bite Back by Edward Tenner ~ an interesting book on the pitfalls of technology (in honor of science month).
  • Company of Three by Varley O’Connor ~ in honor of February being theater month.
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin ~ in honor of Black History month.
  • Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba P. Beals ~ in honor of February being civil rights month
  • The Hiding Place by Tezza Azzopardi ~ in honor of immigrant recognition
  • Wall of the Sky, Wall of the Eye by Jonathan Lethem ~ in honor of Lethem’s birth month
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder ~ in honor of Haiti
  • Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin ~ in honor of Franklin’s birth month

Sadly enough, I forgot all about my Early Review book for LibraryThing. I promise I will review that next month!


Warriors Don’t Cry

Beals, Melba Pattillo. Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High. New York: Pocket Books, 1994.

If you stop and think about it, 1957 was not that long ago. Think about the span of a lifetime, on average. Think about the course of history and how slowly it moves. 1957, given all that, was yesterday. While we do not have clear lines of segregation that we did back then (water fountains, bathrooms and backs of buses to name a few) we still have the invisible lines that separate white from black. If that were not the case we wouldn’t have the rash of “firsts” that we have had recently: first black coach to win the Superbowl, first black President of the United States…These firsts would have happened years ago if the invisible line didn’t still exist to a certain degree.

I cannot imagine Melba Patillo Beals’s life. One of the scariest scenes for me was when she first tried to go to Central High after desegregation was declared. The hatred and violence she described seemed subhuman, barbaric even. Could we really live in a society that contained so much hatred? The obvious answer is yes, and we still do.

True to Beals’s title, Warriors Don’t Cry is a “searing memoir of the battle to integrate.” Every day was a struggle. Civil rights were hardly observed in a civil manner. Utter hatred spawned uncontrolled violence. For Melba Beals this hatred was not something she read about or glanced at on the television. She live it in every step she took. She experienced it first hand simply because of the color of her skin. How brave of her to write it all down! How lucky for us she decided to remember it all! Warriors Don’t Cry is not an eye-opener. We have seen these things all along. Her memoir keeps it all in view.

While I didn’t find any quotes that struck me one way or another I was moved by Melba’s experience with her “own” people. In addition to whites who were having an extremely hard time accepting integration, there were a fair number of blacks who didn’t want it either. Melba was making enemies on both sides of the color divide.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Civil Rights and Wrongs” (p 49).


‘Sippi (with a spoiler of sorts)

Killens, John Oliver. ‘Sippi. New York: Trident Press, 1967.

In honor of Mississippi becoming a state in the month of December I put ‘Sippi on my list. What an incredibly expansive, volatile story! It follows the lives of two very different people growing up Wakefield County, Mississippi in the 1960s. Carrie Louise Wakefield was born into white money privilege about the same time as Charles Othello Chaney was born into black poverty servitude. “Chuck” and his family worked as servants for Carrie Louise’s extremely wealthy family and would forever be intertwined in each others lives. Over the ever growing turbulent years, events like the Vietnam war, the Civil Rights Movement and the death of Malcolm X stoked the fires of racial unrest. Despite Carrie and Chuck’s vastly different upbringings they both manage to go to college, see a world larger than little Wakefield County. Black and white becomes more and more complicated.        

Favorite lines:
“…seriously wondering how a little bouncing hunk of human essence could possibly emerge from this organized confusion” (p 4). If you couldn’t guess Killens is describing childbirth.
“She was time enough and overtime” (p 69). Here, he’s describing a beautiful woman.
“He had been daydreaming in the nighttime”  (p 129).
“Actually he had drunk the kind of whiskey that would not let you walk. It made you run. He was running drunk” (p 218).

A few complaints. It took a long time to get to the only place the story could end up. Some places were a little drawn out and repetitive. And, yes – I’m gonna blow it – the sex scenes between Carrie and Chuck are a little drawn out and more than a little ridiculous.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter, “Southern Fried Fiction” (p 208).


December Was…

img_0030December started off being my fresh start. New houses, new atttitude. It would have been a return to charity walks (or runs?) had a little thing called house hunting not gotten in the way! December ended up being a really, really difficult month. Lost another house, craziness at work, mental health taking a trip south, a passing of a friend and coworker… Here are the books I read escaped with. It may seem like a lot but, keep in mind, I cheated. I was able to read the first two in November.

  • The Quiet American by Graham Green ~ I read this in three days time…in November. Was really that good!
  • A Dangerous Friend by Ward Just ~ Another book I read in just a few days time, again…in November.
  • Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver ~ probably one of the best court-room dramas I have ever read.
  • I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away by Bill Bryson ~ funny, but repetitive!
  • A Family Affair by Rex Stout ~ very strange yet entertaining.
  • Lincoln’s Dreams by Connie Willis ~again, strange but entertaining!
  • Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella ~ okay. I’ll admit it. This one made me cry.
  • ‘Sippi by John Oliver Killens ~ powerful – really, really powerful. That’s all I can really say.
  • Snobs by Julian Fellowes ~ silly story about what happens with you combine boredom with good old fashioned English snobbery.
  • Choice Cuts by Mark Kurlansky ~ really interesting, but a bit dry at times (no pun intended).

For LibraryThing it was the fascinating Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moaveni (really, really good).

Confession: I started Le Mort d’Arthur and couldn’t deal with neither volume one or two. Just not in the mood for the King, no matter how authoritative the version.

So. 11 books. Two being in the month of November and nine as the cure for what ailed me.

Edited to add: someone asked me to post “the count” at the end of each “— Was” blog. What a great idea. I will be starting that next month – something new to start 2009 with. Thanks, A!