King, Stephen. The Shining. Read by Campbell Scott. New York: Recorded Books, 2005.
Reason read: Stephen King was born in the month of September. Read in his honor.
The magic of King’s writing is this could be the story of any family anywhere. This sad tale is so middle America, it could be about you if you look in the mirror long and hard enough. Jack Torrence is a man struggling to be something other than a drunk with writer’s block. Fired from his Vermont teaching job after he is found guilty of assault, Jack takes a job in Colorado as caretaker for a massive mountainside hotel during the off season. How hard can it be to watch over a hulking, empty hotel when it is closed for the winter in the middle of nowhere? With only his wife and son to keep him company, Jack hopes to use the mountainside solitude to secure a spot more firmly on the sobriety wagon and break through his writer’s block. Only, this is no ordinary hotel and it’s not really empty. It lives and breathes tragedy and hones into each family member’s deepest and darkest secret. Paranoias of each family member are amplified and personified. Because Jack was accidentally and drunkenly violent with their son, Danny, wife Wendy sees Jack as a growing threat. She grows increasingly nervous for their safety. Jack in turn grows more and more resentful of Wendy’s distrust. Meanwhile, poor Danny (‘Doc’) has the gift of telepathy (the Shining) so he knows his parents have every right to be suspicious. Disaster is right around the corner for all of them.
As an aside, when you have The Shining read to you, you start to hear the psychological breakdown of each character.
Confessional: I can remember reading this book in high school. Here’s the weirdest part. What sticks in my head most is not the plot or even the characters. What I recall most is whenever I was sufficiently frightened enough I would stop reading and do push ups until I felt brave enough to continue.
So. In addition to listening to this on audio, I was also reading it as an e-book. Someone classified the book as “advice on parenting.” Funny.
Author fact: Stephen King was born in the same hospital as my nephew.
Narrator fact: Campbell Scott is great at the spooky voices. Not so much at the gender specific voices. Wendy sounded exactly like Jack.
Book trivia: I think everyone is familiar with Jack Nicholson’s performance in the horror classic, but what people forget is that legendary Stanley Kubrick adapted The Shining to film.
Nancy said: absolutely nothing.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the benign chapter “100 Good Reads: Decade By Decade (1970s) (p 178).
Smith, Thorne. Topper Takes a Trip. New York: Modern Library, 2000.
Reason read: to finish the series started in March in honor of Thorne Smith’s birth month.
When we pick up with Mr. Topper and his wife, Mary Topper, they are in the South of France enjoying a holiday on the Riviera. After his adventure frolicking with ghosts and nearly becoming one himself in the last installment Cosmos Topper decides to take his wife on a vacation to the beaches of the French Riviera. He is hoping to rekindle his marriage and make up for his previous shenanigans. Mr. and Mrs. Kirby and their companions have been left far behind…or have they? While taking a bath Mr. Topper washes someone else’s foot. And so it begin again. Only this time Mr. Topper’s ghostly girlfriend decides he would be more fun as one of them. The only problem? Mr. Topper is still alive.
I have to admit there were some scenes so outrageous I was embarrassed to read them. I don’t think I am spoiling the plot any by saying this, but when Mrs. Topper takes Marion’s leg and swings it around like a weapon I cringed throughout the entire scene. It was beyond ridiculous. I can only imagine what the movie version was like.
But back to the plot. As I was saying, this time Topper’s friends have missed him so much they want to make him one of them. Sound familiar? It’s a repeat of the end of Topper when he crashes into the infamous tree. I couldn’t help feel sorry for Mrs. Topper the whole time.
The best line I liked, “A cat had to get used to so many disagreeable facts of life” (p 121).
Author fact: Thorne Smith was a huge fan of Dorothy Parker’s.
Book trivia: my copy of Topper Takes a Trip has an introduction by Carolyn See. Very cool.
Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about Topper Takes a Trip.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Ghost Stories” (p 101).
What can I say about the previous month? Career-wise it was a busy month. I’m short staffed, budgets were due, accreditation teams loomed large, and my hockey team was breaking new records left and right. On the personal front friends were going through personal crisis after personal crisis (Just so you know, bad things are more than capable of arriving in multiples of five and six, not just three), I’m hip deep in planning a southwest trip with my sister and her sons, my mom’s dog is on Viagra, and! And. And, there was a little road race I always obsess about way too much. Somewhere in there I had a little time to read:
- Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais
- Topper by Thorne Smith
- Giant by Edna Ferber
- ADDED: Flashback by Nevada Barr – in honor of Barr’s birth month. (AB)
- ADDED: White Sky, Black Ice by Stan Jones – on honor of Alaska.
- Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam
- Cherry by Sara Wheeler
- Gemini by Dorothy Dunnett – I admit, I did not finish this one.
- Blackout by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
- Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
- The Moor by Laurie R. King
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – still reading
- Sharp by Michelle Dean – finally finished
- Calypso by David Sedaris (AB)
- Living with the Little Devil Man by Lina Lisetta
- Hidden Southwest by Ray Riegert
- 1,000 Places to See Before You Die edited by Patricia Schultz
- Exploring the Southwest by Tammy Gagne
- Arizona, New Mexico and Grand Canyon Trips by Becca Blond
Early Review for Librarything:
- Nothing. The book did not arrive in time to be reviewed in March.
Smith, Thorne. Topper: a Ribald Adventure. New York: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers, 1926.
Reason read: Thorne Smith’s birth month was in March.
Cosmo Topper is an odd duck and his story is an even goofier one. After hearing about a young couple tragically killed in a car accident he sets out to buy their automobile from a mechanic. He has never driven a car and so obviously he doesn’t have a license. Despite all that, something prompts him to hide the purchase of the car from Mrs. Topper as well as keep secret the subsequent driving lessons he needs in order to operate the motor vehicle. But the trouble really begins when the ghosts of George and Marion Kirby, the couple killed in the accident, start haunting Mr. Topper and their old vehicle. For lack of a better word they are troublemakers, materializing at will and causing general mayhem. Things turn scandalous when Mr. Kirby leaves his wife. Vixen Marion is left to haunt Mr. Topper by her playful self.
Quotes I actually smiled at: “Mr. topper could excuse nature and the Republican Party, but not man” (p 9), “Nearing forty and acquiring flesh” (p 17), and “Mrs. Kirby’s smile had caused Mr. Topper to feel much less married” (p 25).
Confessional: is it terrible that my favorite character was Scollops, the cat?
Author fact: Thorne lived from 1893 to 1934 and died at age forty one years of age.
Book trivia: Topper was made into a movie.
Nancy said: Pearl said “not to miss out on discovering or reacquainting yourself with Topper.” (Book Lust p 101). She then goes on to explain the plot.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Ghost Stories” (p 99).
October has always been my “hang on”” month. It’s the month I hold my breath for while waiting for September to release me. This October was no different. It started with a trip to Maine to see West Coast family (and a great foggy run), a trip homehome andandand Kisa got to go (yay), Hilltop got a much needed haircut, there were a ton of new Natalie sightings, and, dare I say, the promise of a Hilltop Thanksgiving? The end of the month was a little stressful – a lump in the breast and a missing ovary. No wonder I read so many books and here they are:
- Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis ~ sci-fi story about a man who is kidnapped and taken to Mars.
- The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis ~ coming of age story about a young girl who is a chess playing phenom.
- A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle ~ a ghost story about a man who lives in a graveyard for twenty years.
- Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters ~ a mystery about two unmarried women traveling through Egypt and being pursued by a mummy.
- The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan ~ nonfiction about the role of women through the ages (up to the 1960s when the book was written). Oh, how far we’ve come!
- House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier ~ a spooky tale about time travel.
- When Found, Make a Verse of by Helen Smith Bevington ~ a commonplace book full of poetry, proverbs and excerpts.
- Empire Falls by Richard Russo ~ a novel about small town life (read because October is the best time to visit New England).
- The Natural by Barnard Malamud ~ a novel about a baseball player (read because October is World Series month).
- In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu ~ a compilation of short stories all on the dark side (read in time for Halloween – you know…horror, fantasy, mystery, etc).
- The Life You Save May Be Your Own: an American Pilgrimage by Paul Elie ~ biographies of Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy in one book (read for Group Reading Month).
For fun, I am rereading Mary Barney’s Ring That Bell (2003) because I want to challenge my cooking and make every recipe in the book. So far I’ve cooked/baked my way through nine recipes.
For the Early Review program from LibraryThing I was supposed to read Ostrich Feathers by Miriam Romm. It hasn’t arrived as of yet, so it may very well turn into a November book.
October is a full month of spooky. October is a small 5k charity run and a 10k walk. October is homehome and everything emotional. October is also Mary’s memorial, the death of a few trees (finally) and the end of warmer weather. For books October is the hope of:
- Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters ~ in honor of National Crime Prevention month
- The Feminine Mystique by Betty Freidan ~ in honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month
- The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis ~ in honor of October being Group Reading Month
- Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis ~ in honor of Halloween (sci-fi being a little scary to read)
- A Fine and Private Place by Peter Beagle ~ in honor of Halloween ( a story about ghosts)
- House on the Strand by ~Daphne Du Maurier~ in honor of National Starman Month
For LibraryThing ~ I did get an October Early Review book. As always, I don’t want to name it until I actually see it.
For weeks now I have been trying to find more information on the upcoming run. Okay, I admit it. I really wanted to check out the course and scope out the hills. Yes, I’m afraid of hills. If you have knee problems then you know what going d-o-w-n hills can feel like. But, as time went on and I wasn’t finding the slightest bit of information I began to think I was being scammed. I actually started to believe I sent money in to a race/charity that didn’t exist. Despite claims that the run was sponsored by Amnesty International I couldn’t find anything on their site supporting that. I kept finding the same website that brought me to the run in the first place.
Then, just last night – two days before I am to make the trip to NY – I get a packet of information. Scammed by Schenectady not. Directions, check-in times, and that all-important course map. Of course, hills aren’t marked but at least now I know where I’m going. At first glance I thought we would be running through a cemetery. How cool would that be! I pictured Vale souls cheering me on from beyond the grave. I love the idea of ghosts and spirits by my side. I already have an angel and a few demons, why not have a whole party?
So, now my mind is at peace. I’m not thinking the worst of this run. Instead, I’m using it to free me from the crap that haunts me, the sh!t I need to leave behind. I’ll have Daoud Hari’s courage and determination to make me strong.
And just in case that doesn’t work I’m using music from BB’s Gasparilla run to kick my azz. Forget the African beat (for now). Setlist to follow…
James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw. New York: Dutton, 1963.
Even though October is more than half over I decided to read something scary for the rest of the month…in honor of Halloween and all that. Turn of the Screw seemed like the most obvious choice. A novella only 160 pages long, I knew it wouldn’t take too long to get through.
Written in 1898 and republished numerous times Turn of the Screw has also been adapted for the stage, television and the big screen. Someone told me it was even mentioned in an episode of “Lost” (I wouldn’t know). James’s technique is to tell the story within a frame – one story within another. We are first introduced to a man at a Christmas party telling a tale of a governess. From there we are in the story, told from the point of view of the governess. She has been hired to look after two small children after their parents are killed and they are sent to live on an uncle’s estate. Soon after the governess’s arrival she starts to notice strange occurrences, shadowy figures stalking the grounds. She learns they are former lovers and hired hands, back to supposedly recreate their relationship through the children.
While James uses words like “hideous”, “sinister”, “detestable”, and “dangerous”, there is great debate as to exactly what he is describing as so terrible. He refers to evil again and again, but his ghosts are not the usual specters. They only hint at danger rather than taking action and “attacking”. The other great debate is whether the governess is insane (or goes insane while at Bly). Because no one else really backs up her ghost sightings you have to wonder.
BookLust Twist: Mentioned several times in Book Lust. Once in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 113) and “Ghost Stories” (p 99). I would agree that The Turn of the Screw deserves ghost story status, but horror? Maybe I’m stuck in slasher movie mode where everything horrible has to end up in blood and gore.