Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991.
Reason read: Dickens was born in the month of February. Read in his honor.
David Copperfield is a classic: character driven and autobiographical in nature. Dickens illustrates the varying sides of human nature; how we all have faults. His portrayal of young David as a naïve child is brilliant. I could picture the boy being unreasonably afraid of a large bird because he acted just as I had when confronted with a gigantic angry fowl; or when Copperfield was bored at church and nearly falling asleep, slipping off his pew; or when he didn’t realize the adults were openly discussing him. His innocence is at the heart of his personality. As David matures and enters adulthood he learns relationships often fail and the motive of some people are not always pure at heart. Malicious people are everywhere. In the end (and I do mean the very end) Copperfield finds true happiness.
As an aside, I heard that the audio book read by Richard Armitage is very good. I didn’t listen to it.
Author fact: I read somewhere that Dickens was born in Landport, Portsea, England. What the what? That sounds like a very interesting place.
Book trivia: David Copperfield is the eighth novel of Dickens and it is his favorite story. Maybe because it is a thinly veiled autobiography?
Nancy said: Pearl said the opening line of David Copperfield was a classic that had slipped her mind.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter “Lines that Linger, Sentences that Stick” (p 140).
Austen, Jane. Mansfield Park. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2004.
Reason read: Austen published her first work in the month of October. Read in honor of that accomplishment.
My copy of Mansfield Park contained a biography of Austen, a timeline of what was happening during Austen’s short life, and an introduction.
I have to admit, Mansfield Park is not my favorite Austen novel. All the characters seem sniveling and persnickety. Fanny Price is a victim, first of poverty; then a victim of her family’s snobbery as they take her in and abuse her for the sake of morality. Her cousin, Edmund, is the only decent chap. One could argue that Austen was only commenting on the life she keenly observed.
Author fact: Austen died way too young.
Book trivia: Mansfield Park was first published in three volumes and was her third novel.
Nancy said: Pearl said “much lighter in view and tone” when referring to the house Austen wrote Mansfield Park, but nothing specific about the novel.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “An Anglophile’s Literary Pilgrimage” (p 20).
Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. Illustrated by Joseph Ciardiello. New York: Reader’s Digest, 1989.
Reason read: August is the month to be by the sea.
Who doesn’t know the story of Captain Ahab and his obsessive hunt for the albino whale he calls Moby Dick?
What makes Moby Dick such an iconic story is Ishmael and his keen observations, not just of monomaniacal Captain Ahab, but of the entire crew of the Peaquod and the everlasting mythology surrounding whales. While his voice changes throughout the narrative, he remains the iconic character driving the story. There is a rage in Ahab that is mirrored in Ishmael. There is also a lack of faith in Ishmael that is mirrored in Ahab. While there is an adventure plot, Moby Dick also has a mix of religion (sermon of Jonah and the Whale); the study of the color white as it relates to mountains, architecture, and of course, inhabitants of the ocean, whales and sharks; a lecture of the different types of whales, including the narwhal. Additionally, Moby Dick offers didactic lectures on a variety of subjects: art, food, religion, slavery. [As an aside, although it is a realistic exchange between the cook, Fleece, and sailor Stubb, it made me uncomfortable.]
Quotes to quote, “It’s only his outside; a man can be honest in any sort of skin (p 38), “Yes, as anyone knows, meditation and water are wedding forever” (p 24), and “All our arguing with him would not avail; let him be, I say: and Heaven may have mercy on us all…for we are somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending” (p 89).
Author fact: it is sad to think that Herman Melville did not find success as a writer until after death.
Book trivia: The illustrations by Joseph Ciardiello are pretty cool.
Nancy said: Pearl said the opening line to Moby Dick slipped her mind and that is why it wasn’t included in her first book, Book Lust.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Lines that Linger, Sentences that Stick” (p 140). As an aside, the title is hyphenated as Moby-Dick in the index while my copies (print and audio) are not. As another aside, I have to argue with the inclusion of Moby Dick in this chapter. If another lesser book started off “Call me Harold” would it have been included? Probably not. What makes “Call me Ishmael” is not the opening line itself, but the epic story that follows. Those three words are only the gateway to an unforgettable and insane adventure.
Forster, E.M. Passage to India. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Janovich, 1924.
Reason read: Forster was born and died in January, the first and seventh, respectively.
Much has been written about Passage to India. Hundreds of writers had offered up their opinion on the classic. I won’t bore you with the plot except to say India is at odds with British rule in every sense. It clouds judgement beyond reason, as most prejudices do. Indian-born Aziz is curious about the English and offers to take two British women to see the infamous caves of Marabar. My comment is Aziz acts oddly enough for me to question what exactly did happen in those isolated and mysterious caves?…which is exactly what Mr. Forster wanted me to do.
Every relationship in Passage to India suffers from the affects of rumor, doubt, ulterior motive, class, and racism. Friends become enemies and back again as stories and perceptions change and change again.
Quotes to quote, “One tip can buy too much as well as too little; indeed the coin that buys the exact truth has not yet been minted” (p 10), “Any man can travel light until he has a wife and children” (p 106), and “The racist problem can take subtle forms” (p 141).
Author fact: E. M. stands for Edward Morgan. Everyone knows that. But, did you know E.M. spent six months in India?
Book trivia: Passage to India was made into a movie starring Alec Guinness in 1984. It won two Oscars. Passage to India was also adapted to the stage twice and to television for the BBC.
Nancy said: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade” (p 176).
January is a month of great indecision. I can’t decide if I want to say more…
If there is one thing I can say for the January books, it is that most all of the fiction made mention of great music. Some musicians I knew, some I didn’t. Some songs I knew, some I didn’t. I had fun looking it all up though.
- Sanctuary by Ken Bruen (EB & print). Music: Philip Fogarty, Anne Lardi, Rolling Stones, Snow Patrol, Johnny Duhan.
- The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat (EB & print).
- Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland (EB & print). Music: Lucinda Williams, Slim Dusty, Nick Cave, The Warumpi Band, Ry Cooder.
- The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett (EB & print). Music: Charles Tenet.
- Graced Land by Laura Kalpakian (EB & print). Music: Elvis, Elvis, and more Elvis.
- The Beijing of Possibilities by Jonathan Tel (print). Music: Leonard Cohen, Beethoven, and the fictional heavy metal band, Panda Bear Soup.
- The Passage to India by E.M. Forster (EB & print).
- Barcardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten (EB & print).
- Master of Hestviken: the Son Avenger by Sigrid Undset (EB & print).
- The Persuader by Lee Child (EB & AB).
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Fine, Thanks by Mary Dunnewold (EB). Music: Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck, Mose Allison, Talking Heads, Aaron Copeland (can you tell, Dunnewold really likes music!).
Believe it or not, I’m kind of happy with the way January is shaping up already, five days in. After the disappointments of December I am definitely ready for change. I’m running more these days. I convinced a friend to see sirsy with me. I’m not sure what she thought, but I am still in love with the lyrics. Anyway, enough of that. Here are the books:
- The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett – in honor of Bennett’s birthday being on the 14th of January. (EB)
- Sanctuary by Ken Bruen – in honor of Bruen’s birthday also being in January. Confessional: I read this book in one day. (EB)
- The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat – in honor of Danticat’s birthday also being in January. (EB)
- Graced Land by Laura Kalapakian – in honor of Elvis’s birth month also being in January.
- Passage to India by E.M. Forster – in honor of Forster’s birth month also being in January. Yes, celebrating a lot of birthdays this month!
- Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten – in honor of a Cuban Read Day held in January.
- Beijing of Possibilities by Jonathan Tel – in honor of China’s spring festival.
- Persuader by Lee Child – the last one in the series, read in honor of New York becoming a state in July (and where Child lived at the time I made this whole thing up). (AB)
- The Master of Hestviken: the Son Avenger by Sigrid Undset – this is another series I am wrapping up. I started it in October in honor of a pen pal I used to know in Norway.
- I am supposed to receive an Early Review from November’s list, but it hasn’t arrived so I can’t mention it. For the first time in a long, long time (perhaps ever, I’ll have to look), I did not request a book for the month of December.
Forester, Cecil Scott. The African Queen. New york: The Modern Library, 1940.
Reason read: I needed a classic I’ve always wanted to read for the Portland Public Library 2019 Reading challenge. This one fit the bill. And, and! And, it was short!
Who doesn’t know the movie version of this book? Thanks to Katherine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and a little Academy Award for Best Actor, everyone has seen it. Nearly everyone that is, except me. Fear not, it’s on the list.
To set the stage: Africa, World War I. Rose is high spirited, a spunky woman despite being a strait-laced and virginal missionary’s sister. She is out for revenge for the death of her brother; she wants to torpedo the Germans to strike a blow for England. Enter gin-swilling mechanic Charlie Allnut and his river boat, the African Queen. Rose is only too eager to learn all about the African Queen to determine its full usefulness to exact her revenge – torpedoing the German police boat, the Konigin Luise. Rose’s patriotism and lust for adventure adds up to a woman Allnut has never seen the likes of before. She somehow convinces him to take on her quest and it is her feisty nature that gets her and Allnut through deadly rapids, thick mangroves, choking weeds, malaria infested swarms of mosquitoes and stifling heat down the Bora delta.
Typical and predictable, a relationship blooms between Rose and Charlie, but how could it not when confined on a river boat for days on end? As they say, misery loves company. Despite seeing the relationship a mile away Forester reissued his story so that he had the opportunity to present the end of the story as he originally intended. It’s not what you expect.
Lines I just had to quote, “Allnut tried to keep his amusement out of sight” (p 39), while Rose was described thusly, “A woman sewing has a powerful weapon at her disposal when engaged in a duel with a man” (p 91). He’s bumbling and she’s feisty.
More lines I liked, “Allnut would not have exchanged Rose for all the fried fish shops in the world” (p 165). Aint romance grand?
As an aside, I just love an author who uses the word willynilly.
Author fact: C.S. Forester might be better known for his Horatio Hornblower sea adventures.
Book trivia: The African Queen was made into a movie in 1951 as I mentioned before.
Nancy said: Pearl only mentioned The African Queen because Forester is known for it, above and beyond his Horatio Hornblower series.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Sea Stories” (p 217). As you guessed it, I deleted this from the Challenge list because The African Queen takes place on an African river, not the high seas.
Trollope, Anthony. Framley Parsonage. New York: Penguin, 1993.
Reason read: to continue the series started in April in honor of Trollope’s birth month.
As usual Trollope’s fourth novel in the Barsetshire Chronicle is laden with characters. One of the first people readers meet is Mark Robarts, a vicar with ambitions to further his career. The gist of the story is that Robarts loans Nathaniel Sowerby money even though Robarts realizes Sowerby is an unsavory character, always gambling and up to no good. Of course there is some good old fashioned courting of the ladies going on that complicates the story.
Trollope explores human emotions such as humiliation (Robarts not being able to afford to give a loan but does it anyway), romance (between Mark’s sister, Lucy, and Lord Lufton), greed (inappropriate relationships because of lower class status) and affection (bailing a friend out of a sticky situation). The subplot of Lucy and Lord Lufton is my favorite. Lady Lufton doesn’t think Lucy is good enough for her son (what mother does?).
Author fact: Trollope wanted to be a political figure at one point in his life.
Book trivia: At the end of Framley Parsonage Doctor Thorne gets married. Remember him?
Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about Framley Parsonage but she did say that Trollope is one of her favorite writers.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Barsetshire and Beyond” (p 15).
December did not suck entirely. I was able to run 97 miles out of the 97 promised. The in-law holiday party was a lot of fun and I got to most of the books on my list:
- Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming (DNF)
- Rainbow’s End by Lauren St. John
- Paul Revere and the World He Lived in by Esther Forbes
- On the Ocean by Pytheas (translated by Christina Horst Roseman)
- Geometry of Love by Margaret Visser
- Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre .
- River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard (AB)
- Tu by Patricia Grace – I read this in four days because it was due back at a library that didn’t allow renewals.
- Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright. I listened to this on audio on my lunch breaks. It was a good way to escape for a little while each day. Confessional: I didn’t finish the whole thing but since it is a continuation of the series it doesn’t matter.
- Yoga for Athletes by Ryanne Cunningham – this was an October book that took me a little time to review because I was too busy using it to run!
- Disaster Falls: a family story by Stephane Gerson
September was a cool month. On the 10th I ran a half marathon (2:10:16), was able to get to Monhegan (and introduce the island to some new people), and get to a lot of reading:
- Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill
- Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng
- Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
- Consul’s Wife by W.T. Tyler
- Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry (AB)
- Life and Death of Edwin Mullhouse by Steven Millhauser
- Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright
- Best Game Ever by Mark Bowden
- The Trial by Franz Kafka
- Which Side Are You On? by Elaine Harger (ER)
- Which Side Are You On? by George Ella Lyon (for fun)
AB = Audio book
ER = Early review
Kafka, Franz. The Trial. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.
Reason read: Czech Republic is lovely in September. Some say that is the best time to visit.
Where does Franz Kafka get his ideas? Everyone knows Metamorphosis and The Trial is no different. It has been made into theater productions, television shows and movies. Everything Kafka has ever written has been analyzed within an inch of its life so I will not be able to add anything new with my review of The Trial. In one sentence, The Trial is about a man on trial for an unknown crime. The end. Why Josef K was indicted is a mystery; why he was convicted is even more so. What is so haunting about The Trial is the tone of voice. The frightening subject matter is told in such a robotic, matter of fact manner. The outrage just isn’t there.
As an aside, I can remember reading this in World Lit class in college.
Author fact: Kafka studied law and received a degree in 1906.
Book trivia: The Trial was published posthumously.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Czech It Out” (p 70).
I’m not exactly sure what September will bring. The renovations for the library are finally finished (with a crazy punch list, I might add). The backyard is complete minus the hot tub, fire pit and patio furniture (that’s stage II). I have a half mara in ten days so I’m anticipating a good run month. Here are the planned books:
- Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day
- Edwin Mullhouse: the life and death of an American Writer – to honor kids in September
- Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng – Mao died of cancer in September.
- Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry – Cold War ended in September
- The Trial by Franz Kafka – September is the best month to visit the Czech Republic.
- Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner – September is Southern Gospel month
- Which Side are You On? by Elaine Harger – an Early Review from LibraryThing.
Woops! December left us without me writing about the reading. Not sure how that happened (other than to say “life”), but anyway – here’s what was accomplished for December:
- Beth Shaw’s Yoga Fit by Beth Shaw (an Early Review book for LibraryThing)
- Cod by Mark Kurlansky
- Flashman and the Angel of the Lord by George MacDonald Fraser
- How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
- The Man Who Was Taller Than God by Harold Adams
- Ringed Castle by Dorothy Dunnett
Here’s a belated look at January 2016 (already started, as you will see):
- Flashman and the Tiger by George MacDonald Fraser (the LAST book in the series on my list)
- Always a Body to Trade by K.C. Constantine (already read in honor of January being National Mystery month. Read this in a day)
- Blue Light by Walter Mosley (already read in honor of Mosley’s birth month. Another quick read)
- Checkmate by Dorothy Dunnett (the LAST book in the Lymond Series). It bears noting I am also consulting The Prophecies by Nostradamus (translated by Richard Sieburth) while reading Checkmate.
- Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (an audio book in honor of New Mexico becoming a state in January)
- Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (in honor of Nabokov’s wife, Vera. Pale Fire is dedicated to her and her birthday is in January)
- Up, into the Singing Mountain by Richard Llewellyn (to continue the series started last month).
I have been chosen to review a book about the photography of Dickey Chapelle but since it hasn’t arrived yet I can’t put it on the list. I was also chosen to review Liar by Rob Roberge, but I don’t expect that one until February.
On a personal note: December ended with writing to 12 complete strangers. I am really hoping one or two of them become pen pals.
Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake. New York: Viking, 1939.
Confessional: I was doomed right from the start. I have been calling this book Finnegan’s Wake. That should tell you something…when I can’t even get the title right. I have read a lot of reviews of Finnegans Wake. Lots of advice on how to even read the thing. When you have more reviews suggesting how to read a book rather than what the book was actually about, that should tell you something. In all honesty, I have no clue what it was about. But, I’m not alone. Tons of other people have been scratching their heads, too. But, but, but that’s not to say they aren’t without advice: I tried reading it aloud, as many suggested. I tried not taking it too seriously, as others promised would help. I tried drinking with each chapter and even that didn’t make the going any easier. Drinking just made me laugh when something wasn’t funny. It’s much like the lyrics to Phish. I don’t understand a jiboo so I don’t “get” the song. End of story.
Reason read: James Joyce was born in February – just like me, myself and moi.
Author fact: Joyce took 17 years to write Finnegans Wake and it shows. I think he randomly forgot where he was in the story and picked up any old place, even in the middle of sentences.
Book trivia: Finnegans Wake was Joyce’s last book. He died two years after its publication. I can see that.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called simply “Irish Fiction” (p 175) but more importantly, from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Ireland: Beyond Joyce, Behan, Beckett, and Synge” (p 110). Technically, I never should have picked Joyce up. As the chapter suggests, I should be reading anything but Joyce, Behan, Beckett or Synge.
Bellow, Saul. Herzog. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1964.
Moses Alkanan Herzog is a man experiencing a midlife crisis. His coping mechanism is to write letters in his head; if they make do it to paper, they are letters he most often does not mail. With each letter comes a flashback to a particular monumental time in Herzog’s memory. Most of his reminiscing centers on his two failed marriages and all the relationships to which he cannot commit. He is a well intentioned, extremely intelligent yet sad man. An example: sometime after the divorce from his second wife Herzog visits a friend and her husband on Martha’s Vineyard. Soon after arriving he realizes his friends are way too happy for his state of mind. He decides, moments after arriving, he he must leave immediately. Instead of facing his well-intentioned friends to explain the mistake, Herzog writes a note and slips away unnoticed. There is a singular self-satisfaction in the fact that he makes it back to New York City by 11pm. Herzog has a heart and deeply cares, despite the fact he is so misunderstood. When he suspects his daughter is being abused he travels to his ex-wife’s home to confront the abuser. His motives are good even though the end is not what he intended.
Confessional: I have this friend who passed away over a year ago. I don’t know why, but at times, Herzog reminded me of him. Maybe it was the multiple marriages and all the exotic relationships with women?
Favorite lines, “A person of irregular tendencies, he practiced the art of circling among random facts to swoop down on the essentials” (p 18), and “A free foot on a summer night eases the heart” (p 194). This last line totally made me think of my husband.
Reason read (April 20th – May 4th): Mr. Bellow passed away in April of 2005 and May is National Jewish American month. In this (rare) instance I am reading one book in two different months. It just worked out that way.
Author fact: Bellow was awarded the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize for literature.
Book trivia: Herzog won the National Book Award for fiction and was a New York Times best seller (also named top 100 of all “Time” by Time Magazine).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Jewish American Experience” (p 132).