Angry Island

Gill, A. A. The Angry Island: Hunting the English. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005.

Reason read: Gill was born in the month of June; read in his honor.

From the very beginning you know you are going to laugh out loud at least once or twice while reading Angry Island. Right in the preface Gill starts off with, “Facts are what pedantic, dull people have instead of opinions.” Well okay! He later states “the national character of the English is anger.” At the time of this writing he was a food and travel critic so he was required to be a little…well…critical. It was expected of him. In The Angry Island his snarky essays cover all kinds of topics from language to war memorials, from sports and animals to drinking. Needless to say, he has a well-barbed opinion about everything. My big question is this, if he was born in Scotland and considers himself Scottish and hates England, why stay there? Why didn’t he move away? He has even less of an opinion about America but that (or Ireland or Australia) would have been an option for an English speaking bloke, especially one with a sharp tongue.

Other quotes I liked, “The purpose of an army must surely be to put itself out of business” (p 237),

Author fact: A.A. Gill is Anthony Andre Gill, born on June 28th. He died of cancer in 2016.

Book trivia: since Angry Island is a collection of essays I was surprised to find an index.

Nancy said: Gill’s essays are “filled with biting, sometimes snarky commentary about morals and mores of England” (Book Lust To Go p 78). I had to laugh when I read the word “snarky” because it’s a favorite of mine and it describes Gill perfectly.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Entering England” (p 76).


Practicing History

Tuchman, Barbara. Practicing History: Selected Essays. Read by Wanda McCaddon.  Ashland, OR: Blackstone Audio, 2009.

Reason read: Tuchman’s birth month is in January.

Right off the bat I have to admit some of my cds skipped while listening to the audio version of Practicing History so I missed some parts. Then, and this is even more embarrassing, I found myself tuning out from time to time. McCaddon’s voice had that Charlie Brown’s teacher effect on me.

Unlike Nero Wolfe of West Thirty Fifth Street by William Baring-Gould, which I believe should be read after completing the Rex Stout mysteries, Practicing History should be read before Tuchman’s other books. The first part of Practicing History, “The Craft,” is Tuchman’s way of explaining how she wrote her books without giving too much away. She makes it possible to look forward to reading The March of Folly and Proud Tower with anticipation.
The second part of Practicing History, called “The Yield” presents various topics from different articles she has written over the years (Japan, the Spanish Civil War, Woodrow Wilson and the Six-Day War in the middle east). The third and final part of Practicing History includes editorials on the Vietnam War, Watergate and how we can learn from history if one would only listen. We have a hard time doing that as a nation. Why start now?
Tuchman always writes with sharp wit and humor. Practicing History is no different and does not disappoint.

Favorite quote, “To a historian libraries are food, shelter, and even muse” (p 76). I like this sentence so much I thought I was going to stop there. But, then I found this one: “Women being child bearers, have a primary instinct to preserve life. Probably if we had a woman in the White House and a majority of females in Congress, we could be out of Vietnam yesterday” (p 264). Swap Vietnam for any war torn country in the middle east and that statement is true today.

Author fact: I have seven Tuchman books on my Challenge list. After finishing Practicing History I will be halfway through the list.

Book trivia: Because these are simply Tuchman’s essays there isn’t an index or bibliography to support the narrative.

Nancy said: Nancy said Tuchman explains her thoughts about her craft in Practicing History (p 225).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter, “Barbara Tuchman: Too Good To Miss” (p 224).


January’s Time

This year, more than ever, I am struck by time’s marching; the relentless footfalls of days and weeks passing by. I know that is mortality speaking, but it rings eerie in my mind nonetheless. Not helping the doom and gloom is the first book on my list, On The Beach by Nevil Shute. I wanted a different book from Shute but there isn’t a library local enough to loan it to me.

Here are the planned books for January 2018:

Fiction:

  • On The Beach (AB) by Nevil Shute (previously mentioned) – in honor of Shute’s birth month.
  • Clara Callan by Richard Wright – in honor of Sisters Week being in January.
  • Tea From an Empty Cup by Pat Cadigan – in honor of January being Science Fiction Month.

Nonfiction:

  • Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals by David Laskin – in honor of January 26th being Spouses’s Day.
  • War Child: a Child Soldier’s Story by Emmanuel Jal – in honor of the end of the Sudan civil war.
  • Travellers’ Prelude: Autobiography 1893-1927 by Freya Stark – in honor of Freya Stark’s birth month.
  • Practicing History by Barbara Tuchman (AB) – in honor of Tuchman’s birth month.

Series Continuations:

  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle by Dorothy Gilman – started in September in honor of Grandparents’ Day.

For the Early Review program for LibraryThing:

  • Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power by Lisa Mosconi, PhD (finishing).
  • Pep Talk for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo by Grant Faulkner (also finishing).

Gastronomical Me

Fisher, M.F.K. The Gastronomical Me. New York: North Point Press, 1989.

Reason read: November is Hunger and Homelessness Awareness month.

This is a series of essays written about Fisher’s life between 1912 and 1941. She covers a wide range of topics; from the first time food became significant to her as a teenager in boarding school to her adventures as a newly married wife living in France. When she said goodbye to her Californian-American palate and encountered French cuisine it was like having an epiphany for Fisher. Her ears (and taste buds) were open to a whole new way of experiencing food and drink. Sprinkled throughout the stories are glimpses of Fisher’s personal history. Her relationship with sister Norah and brother David, the demise of her first marriage with Al, the slow death of her second love, Chexbres, and her awakening to a different culture in Mexico. At times I found Fisher’s language to be overly dramatic. I wondered if she spoke like that in real life.

Confessional: I found Fisher to be a bit snobbish. Every time she called someone stupid or simple for whatever reason, I cringed.

Quote I cared for, “Everyone knows, from books or experience, that living out of sight of any shore does rich and powerful things to humans (p 40).

Author fact: Fisher has written over thirty books. I have already read A Considerable Town for the Challenge and have two more to go. Another more basic piece of trivia is that M.F.K. stands for Mary Frances Kennedy.

Book trivia: Gastronomical Me has been called Fisher’s most autobiographical work and has been considered her best.

Nancy said: M.F.K. Fisher “expresses her love of good food and its importance in the lives of families and communities” (p 91).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Food for Thought” (p 91).


Death, Taxes, and Leaky Waders

Gierach, John. Death, Taxes, and Leaky Waders: a John Gierach Fly-fishing Treasury. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.

Reason read: June is Fishing Month or something like that.

You all have heard the fishing story about the one that got away. Well, Death, Taxes, and Leaky Waders could be about the one that got away but is actually moreso about the one that got caught. And the other one that got caught. And the other one. Again and again. Leaky Waders is a ‘Best Of’ compilation from several different books already published. As a side note, I found the details about the types of flies and the technique to tying them to be a bit tedious. To an avid angler this definitely wouldn’t be the case, but I was far more interested in Gierach’s fabulous friendships (especially the one with his friend A.K.) and the adventures they found themselves taking across the country in search of the perfect fishing spot. The story about sitting through a tornado was funny.

Quotes to quote, “A trip is an adventure, and on an adventure things should be allowed to happen as they will” (p 77), “Creeps and idiots cannot conceal themselves for long on a fishing trip” (p 85), and my favorite, “Fishing and running – solitary exercises that are usually practiced in groups” (p 156). So true.

As an aside, I had to smile when Gierach described going through his mantra before a trip, “rodreelvestwaderscamera” so as not to forget anything. I smiled because it is very similar to my husband’s mantra of “phonewalletkeysreadingglassessunglasses” before he leaves for work.

As another aside, I have to disagree with Gierach. Dr. Juice looks nothing like Allen Ginsberg except to say they both have beards and glasses.

Author fact: Gierach wrote a whole bunch of other books about fishing. I have a couple more on my Challenge list. From what I understand there is a bunch of overlap with Death Taxes and Leaky Waders so the others (Sex, Death & Fly-Fishing and Another Lousy Day in Paradise) be quick reads.

Book trivia: Death, Taxes, and Leaky Waders was illustrated by Glenn Wolff.

Nancy said: Death, Taxes, and Leaky Waders is the best Gierach book to start with.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Gone Fishin'” (p 100). Simple enough.


Big Empty

Randolph, Ladette and Nina Shevchuk-Murray. The Big Empty: Contemporary Nebraska Nonfiction Writers. University of Nebraska Press, 2007

Reason read: Nebraska became the 37th state in March of 1867.

Big Empty is comprised of 27 essays and excepts covering a variety of subjects but all centered around the geography of Nebraska. Ted Kooser will often quote the Bohemians and the proverbs while telling you about the land. Bob Ross will tell you how to mend fences to keep the cattle in. William Kloefkorn will have you smiling as he remembers an ill-fated trip down the river with a group of friends. Kenneth Lincoln will have you weepy-eyed as he remembers his coming of age. You get the point, this is Nebraska from every angle. Some of the stories will bring tears to your eyes. Some will make you laugh out loud. But most will educate you to the Nebraskan landscape.

My big takeaway from reading Big Empty: Nebraska means flat water. Just kidding. Nebraska has gone from a place I knew absolutely nothing about to something of intrigue. I am more than a little curious about the state now.

Confessional: I used to say I didn’t know anyone from Nebraska until someone told me my deceased uncle was from Nebraska. Then I discovered he was actually from Arkansas. So I still don’t know anyone from Nebraska.

Line I liked from the preface: “Instead of sleeping away the drive through, they are awake and taking notes” (p xi).
Other lines to mention, “My argument is this: if it floats and gets you there, it is a boat” (“This Death By Drowning” by William Kloefkorn, p 73), and “…and when the auctioneer hammered “Sold!” Vic had bought that mule for a price that even brought a smile to the mule’s face” (“Uncle Vic’s Mule” by Roger Welsch, p 84), and “Grandpa’s plate was where the talk stopped and the patriarchal authority started” (“Excerpts from Prairie Homeboys” by Kenneth Lincoln, p 151). There were many, many other lines I could quote but I’ll just let you read the book. You should.

Author Editor fact: Ladette Randolph is also a writer. She published Leaving the Pink House in 2014 (University of Iowa Press).
Nina Shevchuk-Murray was born in the Ukraine.

Book trivia: I know this is a collection of essays but I would have loved a few photographs as well.

Nancy said: Big Empty “offers a diverse look at people’s lives in the state at various times and under various conditions” (p 149).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go from the chapter called “Nebraska: The Big Empty” (p 149). Gee, I wonder where she got that title from?


In the Words of E.B. White

In the Words of E.B. White. Martha White, ed. Cornell: Cornell University Press, 2011.

It is hard to believe I started this blog/book review four years ago. This was a gift from someone in my family (mother or sister, I can’t remember) and I’ve picked it up and put it down several times. It’s not the kind of book you can read straight through, nor would you want to. It’s meant to be savored in bits and pieces.

Martha is Elwyn Brooks White’s granddaughter. She begins In the Words of E.B. White with a lovely introduction to who E.B. was to her, as a paternal member of her family. What follows are sections of E.B.’s writings on a variety of topics from aging and animals to writing and the weather and everything in between. These quotations were culled from a variety of places: essays E.B. wrote for the New Yorker, personal letters to friends, even introductions to books written by other people. Martha White left no stone unturned when looking for ways to quote her grandfather. So, pick up this book when you need E.B.’s thoughts on love or spiders or commerce, but expect to find a biography of the man hidden in humor and wit.