Casey, John. Spartina. New York: Vintage Books, 1998.
Reason read: Read in respect for the December storms that batter the New England coastline.
Rhode Islander Dick Pierce suffers from a throat-strangling envy of the rich people who flock to his touristy seaside town of Narragansett every summer. His mistress calls it “class-rage.” Money, or the lack of it, makes Dick an ornery man. Most of the time he is able to control his disdain for the wealthy nonsense, but every once in awhile his temper will flare. It is difficult for him, as a year-rounder, to make a back-breaking living as a commercial fisherman while watching his neighbors folic in the house his family used to own. With a wife and two sons to support Dick knows he needs to captain his own vessel to bring in a better profit. He can’t make ends meet crewing for someone else. His saving grace is a 50-foot boat he calls Spartina he has been slowly building in the back yard. Now all he needs is an engine. Desperation to put Spartina in the water leads Dick down a dangerous path of foolish choices and regrettable actions. Drugs, adultery, theft. Nothing is off limits when a man is driven.
Confessional: I couldn’t decide if I liked the main character.
Author fact: Casey has a very intimate knowledge of boats, down to the very last detail. He is from Worcester, just down the road from me.
Book trivia: the history of Rhode Island is threaded through Spartina. It was unexpected to get a little lesson on the Narragansett tribe and their intended use of wampum.
Playlist: “Autumn Leaves,” “Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Maybe, Baby,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison.
Nancy said: Pearl said “You could do far worse than spend a reading life perusing books by Iowa’s distinguished MFA alumni…” (Book Lust p 107).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. First in the chapter called “Ecofiction” (p 78) and again in “Growing Writers” (p 107). Even though Pearl included this in a chapter called “Ecofiction” it didn’t rule the plot.
Cook, Langdon. Upstream: Searching for Wild Salmon, From River to Table. New York: Ballantine Books, 2017.
Reason read: an Early Review for LibraryThing.
Simply put, Upstream is everything you would want to know about salmon and thensome. Understatement of the year. Like the dress on the internet that no one could decide its color, the salmon is arguably the most controversial fish. Historically speaking, salmon sustained native tribes long before cooking became a rock star occupation. Politically speaking, conservation efforts clash with modern day industry. On a human level, salmon represent sport, tradition, and the environment. Salmon represent where we have been just as much as where we are going.
As an aside, as a food source, as more and more consumers start to care about the who, what, where, when and why of nutrition and foods they put on their tables, the more books like Upstream matter.
I see June as jumping over spring. We went from low 50 degree temps to mid 90s overnight. Not sure what to make of this abbreviated spring. I’m not sure what to make of myself either. I all but stopped running (eleven miles for the entire month). Even when I was home on Monhegan I didn’t lace up. My only saving grace is I’m to start training for a half in July. Sigh…
Here are the books:
- American Pastoral by Philip Roth ~ in honor of Father’s Day (AB)
- Under the Gypsy Moon ~ by Lawrence Thornton
- The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett
- Death, Taxes and Leaky Waders by John Gierach
- Provence by Ford Madox Ford (DNF)
Series Continuations –
- Cider with Rosie (illustrated) by Laurie Lee
- Henry James: the Middle Year by Leon Edel (not finished yet)
For the Early Review program for LibraryThing:
- Upstream: Searching for Wild Salmon, From River to Table by Langdon Cook
- The World Broke in Two by Brian Goldstein (not finished yet)
Here are the short stories –
- “Artie Glick in a Family Way” by Joseph Epstein
- “Executor” by Joseph Epstein
- “Mendocino” by Ann Packer
- “Babies” by Ann Packer
- “General Markman’s Last Stand” by Tom Paine
- “The Spoon Children” by Tom Paine
- “Someone to Watch Over Me” by Richard Bausch
- “Aren’t You Happy for Me?” by Richard Bausch
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.
May was a month of real struggle. Suicides, known and unknown, sucked the life out of my psyche and I had a hard time staying afloat myself. I became obsessed with the sinking of the Lusitania and devoured every documentary I could find. Yet, I was unsure of my own mind’s footing; enough so I couldn’t trust me or myself to stand at Monhegan’s cliff edge. A first for me. Upon returning home I found myself amazed to be so relieved at being landlocked once again.
Here are the books I have planned for June:
- Under the Gypsy Moon by Lawrence Thornton
- Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett
- American Pastoral by Philip Roth (AB)
- Provence: by Ford Madox Ford
- Another Lousy Day in Paradise by John Gierach ~ June is Fishing Month
Short Stories (June is Short Story Month):
- “Artie Glick in a Family Way” by Joseph Epstein
- “The Executor” by Joseph Epstein
- “Mendocino” by Ann Packer
- “Babies” by Ann Packer
- “The Spoon Children” by Tom Paine
- “Gentleman Markman’s Last Stand” by Tom Paine
- Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
- Henry James: the Middle Years by Leon Edel
Early Review for LibraryThing (maybe – I haven’t received it yet):
- Upstream by Langdon Cook
MacLean, Norman. A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. New York: Pocket Books, 1992.
If you don’t at least know the title of this book you have been living under a rock somewhere. This has been a hit movie as well as a best selling book. It has had definite staying power since published in 1976. Comprised of three semi-autobiographical novellas the title story is the most popular and best known of the three. In fact, a lot of reviews don’t really mention the other two stories which are equally as good. Even the back of the 1992 copy I read recapped only the title story – about a family of fishermen. Father is a minister who instilled a love of fly fishing in his two sons. One son is an alcoholic while the other tries to balance a marriage with his love of the Montana wilderness. What is missing is mention of the two other stories: “Logging and Pimping and ‘Your Pal, Jim'” and “USFS 1919: The Ranger, the cook, and a Hole in the Sky.” The first is exactly what it sounds like, logging, pimping and a relationship with a logger named Jim. The USFS story is about MacLean as a teenager working as a forest ranger. While it is a subtle detail it is interesting to note MacLean’s stories have a reverse chronology. MacLean is in his 30s in “A River Runs Through It,” in his 20s in “Logging,” and in his teens in “USFS 1919.”
What surprised me the most about MacLean’s writing was the humor that surfaced with sudden hilarity. Here are three such moments: “The light picked up his brow which was serene…as mine would have been if my mother had spent her life in making me sandwiches and protecting me from reality” (p 54) and “You have never really seen an ass until you have seen two sunburned asses on a sandbar in the middle of a river” (p 73).
Another favorite quote I just had to mention because I know people like this (don’t you?): “He was one of those who need to be caught in a lie while he is telling it” (p 36).
Author Fact: A River Runs Through It and Other Stories was MacLean’s first fiction.
Book Trivia: The movie of the same name was made in 1992 and starred Brad Pitt, among others. The third story, “USFS 1919” was made into a made-for-television movie in 1995 and starred Sam Elliot.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Montana: In Big Sky Country” as an aside when mentioning another book (p 156) and also from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Gone Fishin'” (p 100).
Walton, Izaak. The Compleat Angler or, the Contemplative Man’s Recreation. Mount Vernon: Peter Pauper Press, 1947.
Considering this was first published in 1653 the language is fun to stumble over; full of ‘methinks,’ ‘thee,’ ’tis,’ that sort of thing. At first blush I would have said this is a nonfiction story of three gentlemen walking through the countryside bragging about their respective “hobbies.” One man is a falconer, all about the birds. Another man is a hunter, primed for the kill. The third man is, of course, the fisherman, the angler. It is this man we learn the most from (hence the title of the book). There is a great deal more to the story – an 17th century “how-to” on cooking, inn-keeping, religion, poetry and the like, but I got incredibly bored and gave up halfway through.
As a postscript, I did enjoy the illustrations by Boyd Hanna in my undated edition.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Gone Fishin'” (p 100). Of course.
June was a month of reconnection. By far, my favorite musical moment was the lovely Rebecca Correia at the Iron Horse. It is awful to say but every single artist that follows her on stage can’t compare. Not that they are NailsOnaChalkboard bad, but they have nothing on Rebecca. On the professional side of things June was a very frustrating month. On the personal sides I got one of the best hugs of my life (thanks, Gracie). For books, it was this:
- Happenstance by Carol Shields ~ this should be a movie
- Hatchet by Gary Paulsen ~ this also should be a movie
- The Confession of Nat Turner by William Styron ~ this was a hard one to read
- Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World by Carol Brightman ~ a very thorough biography that helped with my insomnia
- I Don’t Know Why I Swallowed the Fly by Jessica Maxwell ~ first year fly fishing story
- Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym ~ a sociology experiment in a land of anthropologists
- Master & Commander by Patrick O’Brien ~ this took some time to get into…so much so that I didn’t finish it.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald ~ I needed to lick my wounds with something enjoyable!
For LibraryThing’s Early Review program:
- The House on Oyster Creek by Heidi Jo Schmidt ~ once I got beyond the first chapter I loved it. Beautiful writing.
For the fun of it:
- Winning By Losing by Jillian Michaels ~ I’m most interested by the subtitle on the cover of her book, “Change You Life.” I’m up for that. Really.
Maxwell, Jessica. I Don’t Know Why I Swallowed the Fly: My Fly Fishing Rookie Season. Seattle: Sasquach, 1997.
Jessica Maxwell takes on fly fishing. I Don’t Know Why I Swallowed the Fly is an account of her very first year learning the sport. As with any hunting sport Jessica needed to learn how to think like her prey. She needed to teach her body, muscle, bones and nerve, to perform the movements necessary for a perfect, flowing cast. As psychological as the game of golf, Jessica found herself untangling the intricacies of throwing out the flawless line. Rod and reel in perfect harmony with human dynamics. Aside from Jessica’s expanse of humor throughout I Don’t Know Why.. I was drawn to the vibrant imagery of the landscapes around her. I adored the way she described, nature – especially when it came to light. Sunlight, especially. Her words had a way of dancing like rays on water, sparkling and bright.
But I Don’t Know Why… isn’t just about one woman’s fly fishing adventure. Jessica subtly deals with the loss of her father with poignant memories and in the end, revelations about the man who shaped her future with a simple love for nature and of course, fishing.
I don’t know anything about fly fishing so, for me, this was a nice 101 about a typically male-dominated sport.
Favorite lines: “Every day somebody somewhere becomes obsessed with an idea that won’t turn them loose” (p 50), “Now the radio static was so bad, Sting sounded like Bob Denver” (p 101), and “My mind was gone to the joy of the memory of what was for a moment so long ago but couldn’t last, and to the pain of what could have been but wasn’t” (p 214).
Small question for Jessica: where is the wrong side of Oregon? I couldn’t find it on a map…
Side note: Make no mistake about it. I always at least glance at the acknowledgments. They are usually a long blahblahblah list filled with family names and “I’d like to thank my editor…” It’s like looking at a yearbook from a school you have never heard of. Names and faces mean nothing. Jessica Maxwell’s acknowledgment page is another yearbook, but a fun one. True, it’s all names I don’t know, but for once Jessica made me want an introduction.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Gone Fishin’ (p 101).
June is fishing month. Go figure. Ninety-Two in the Shade is about a man (Thomas Skelton) who has always wanted to run a guided fishing tour off the Florida Keys. Not the fishing I had pictured for the month of June, but a form of it, I guess. Thomas is new to the business and even newer to competition. He is not without his share of problems. The opening “scene” is Thomas waking up in a hotel and finding four people standing naked in a tub. Right away you know this isn’t your typical River Runs Through It fishing story! Other quirks: violence that does (or doesn’t) happen, relationships that are (or aren’t) good, and the entire book is absent of chapters. I may have come across other books like this but never noticed this chapterlessness before. The only reason why this seems odd is because not having chapters makes it difficult to know where to stop!
I did a little extra research and found out that Ninety-Two in the Shade was made into a movie not long after it was written and while it’s Thomas McGuane’s third work of fiction many critics consider it his best.
I never did get used to McGuane’s “gritty” style of writing, but here are some quotes (and scenes) that caught me: “He walked to Homestead, then right on through town, tripping his brains out in the emptiness of 5 a.m.” (p 4).
A conversation between Skelton and “his girl.” May it confuse you as much as it did me:
Miranda~ “Tom, I had this incredible orgasm.”
Tom~ “Do I have to hear about your organism too?”
M ~ “Just this one. It was like a whole dream of sweet things to eat…Spun sugar, meringue, whipped egg whites…”
T ~ “How about when your chum shot off? Was it a blintz or an omelet?”
M~ “Ask him.”
To say that Ninety-Two in the Shade isn’t without humor would be a lie: “You should never kill somebody if it isn’t funny” ( 34).
BookLust Twist: In both Book Lust and More Book Lust. Book Lust: in the chapter “Montana: In Big Sky Country” (p 156) because Thomas McGuane is from Montana. This, by the way, takes care of a November read because that’s when Montana became a state and Ninety-Two in the Shade was on the November list. More Book Lust: in the chapter “Gone Fishin'” (p 101).