When I look back at August my first thought is what the hell happened? The month went by way too fast. Could the fact that I saw the Grateful Dead, Natalie Merchant (4xs), Trey Anastasio, Sirsy, and Aerosmith all in the same month have anything to do with that? Probably. It was a big month for traveling (Vermont, Connecticut, NYC) and for being alone while Kisa was in Charlotte, Roanoke, Erie, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Colorado. And. And, And! I got some running done! The treadmill was broken for twenty days but in the last eleven days I eked out 12.2 miles. Meh. It’s something. Speaking of something, here are the books:
- African Queen by C.S. Forester
- Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas
- Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object by Laurie Colwin
- Strong Motion by Jonathan Frazen
- Beauty by Robin McKinley
- Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes
- American Chica by Marie Arana
- Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge
- Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson
- Die Trying by Lee Child
- Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov
Early Review cleanup:
- Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm
- Open Water by Mikael Rosen
Colwin, Laurie. Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object. New York: Viking Press, 2001.
Reason read: August is Grief Awareness month and there is oh so much grief in this book.
How do you love an individual who constantly flirts with the potential for death? How do you behave in a relationship or a partnership with someone who has a history of self destructive behavior such as this: breaking his collarbone after being thrown by a horse, snapping his leg after skiing, or gouging his shoulder after rock climbing (more like rock falling)? How does a marriage survive such reckless disregard for staying together? The answer is it really doesn’t. But Elizabeth Bax is attracted to James Dean. She likes the bad boys.
She knew she had every right to worry when Sam, her daredevil husband of five years, went for “one last” sail before an autumn squall picked up. Sam’s brother Patrick was already calling the coast guard knowing full well something bad was about to happen or more likely, already had. It is not a spoiler to tell you Sam died. What follows is an in depth examination of the human heart and how it tries to put itself together after being shattered. Shine On is a short book that asks the question is grief coupled with love a betrayal?
Lines I liked, “He had squashed his recklessness down to an ironic sort of caution that was a slap in his own face” (p 3), “You have to commit experience to your heart and let it change you..” (p 178).
Author fact: Colwin died at the very young age of forty-eight after suffering a heart attack.
Book trivia: This is a super short book. You could read it in a weekend.
Nancy said: Pearl said not to miss Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object even though the chapter was about Colwin’s books on food.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the interesting chapter called “Food for Thought” (p 91)…except Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object has absolutely nothing to do with food.
Last month (okay, yesterday!) I whined about how I have been feeling uninspired writing this blog. I think it’s because I haven’t really been in touch with what I’ve been reading. None of the books in July jump started my heart into beating just a little faster. “Dull torpor” as Natalie would say in the Maniacs song, Like the Weather. Maybe it comes down to wanting more oomph in my I’mNotSureWhat; meaning I don’t know if what I need or what would fire me up enough to burn down my yesterdays; at least so that they aren’t repeated tomorrow. I’m just not sure.
Hopefully, these books will do something for me:
- African Queen by Cecil Forester – in honor of the movie. Can I be honest? I’ve never seen the movie!
- Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas (EB/print) – in honor of August being Friendship month.
- Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object (EB/print) by Laurie Colwin – in honor of August being National Grief Month.
- Strong Motion by Jonathan Frazen (EB/print) – in honor of August being Frazen’s birth month.
- Beauty: the Retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley (EB/print) – in honor of August being Fairy Tale month.
- Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge (EB/print) – in memory of Florence Nightingale. August is her death month.
- American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood by Maria Arana (EB/print) – a memoir in honor of August being “Selfish Month.”
- If there is time: What Just Happened by James Gleick – in honor of Back to School month.
- Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov (EB/print) – the penultimate book in the Foundation series.
- Die Trying by Lee child (AB/EB/print) – the second book in the Jack Reacher series.
- Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm (started in July).
- Open Water by Mikael Sturm.
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
Gerson, Stephane. Disaster Falls: a Family Story. New York: Crown, 2017.
Reason read: a selection for the Early Review Program of LibraryThing.
Grief is hard to explain to another individual. As a listener, unless you have experienced the kind of trauma that changes your whole life it is hard to wrap your brain around it. How does one comprehend an emotion like grief? You may recognize pieces of trauma like how small recognitions in a foreign town you swear you have never visited before give you a sense of deja vu.
Gerson’s story might be redundant in its telling, but that is a part of the grieving process; to tell the story as many times as possible to anyone who will listen. You go over details, searching for truths; for explanations and when you have exhausted your examination you do it again and again, hoping for a different outcome. It’s a never ending cycle of trying to find the Why in tragedy. Especially when the real tragedy of the situation is they (the Gerson family) had real misgivings about the falls before even running the rapids. They had doubt and doubt is the great provoker of the “what if?” game.
I connected with Gerson on one small detail: how chronology becomes “before the accident/after the accident”. For me, everything relating to time became either “before dad died” or “after dad died”. If someone gave me a date I would quickly calculate which side of death my father was on. I say this as a matter of fact, but it is a product of my grief.
Confessional: my aunt lost her son five years ago. In the days, weeks, months and even several years following his death I seriously wondered if she would die of a broken heart and my family would be burying her as well. Her grief was profound and in some ways, complete. It took over her entire existence. I can only imagine Gerson suffered the same hollowing out as my aunt. As my grandmother once said after losing my father, “no parent is supposed to bury a child.”
As an aside: people have been reviewing Disaster Falls since late September so I feel a I am a little late to the party. Not as late as the people who will win an advanced copy in the next month or so, but late just the same.
Author fact: Gerson lost his father in the exact opposite manner of losing his son. Whereas as his son was taken suddenly, Gerson’s father planned his death to the minute.
Book trivia: no photos
Erlandson, Eric. Letters to Kurt. New York: Akashic, 2012.
I was wrong about this book. I previously said I thought I could read it in a weekend. What I was really thinking was that I could read it in an hour. I was oh so wrong. Very wrong. On both accounts. Here’s how it really went: I could read it for 15-20 minutes and then had to walk away. Words blended and sentences started to sound the same. I lost my place among the pages often. Letters became redundant if I read too much. How do I describe this book accurately? Here are the words I jotted down while reading this on a Sunday morning, coffee balanced on knee, propped up in bed: Clever. Cliche. Rambling. Private. Joking. Culture. Pop. Jealousy. Sexy. Rude. And finally, a sentence. “I’m feeling left out.” Even if you were parked in front of every media outlet in the 1990s you will still miss some of the reference Erlandson makes. I wavered between thinking this was a glorified writing assignment, “write for ten minutes straight” and feeling it was an outpouring of grief and rage in the form of stream of consciousness prose. It babbles and barks. There is bite. It’s sad and strangely beautiful. But, as I said earlier it is not something to devour in one sitting. You will get indigestion, for sure. Bite small. Chew slowly. Push the book away often and everything will taste better in the end.
Hood, Ann. Ruby. New York: Picador, 1998.
Olivia has lost her husband, David, to a reckless driver, killed while jogging along a country road. Olivia, only 37, is faced with immeasurable grief and the nagging guilt that she had something to do with his death. In an effort to move on with her life she resolves to sell their summer cottage and put the past behind her. Only she can’t. A pregnant, defiant, wayward teen has made herself at home in Olivia and David’s seemingly abandoned house. Within a few minutes of confronting her, Olivia begins to bond with Ruby, seeing more of herself in the teenager than she would like to admit. What Ruby and Olivia can admit to is the fact they need each other. From this point forward Ann Hood’s storytelling is a psychological dance between the needy yet tough Olivia and the tough yet needy Ruby. Both of them want something from the other. Both are willing to manipulate the other to get it. The story becomes a page turner because you want to know who wins.
I like books that make me wander off topic. I enjoy small tangents every now and again. Olivia mentions her plan of stenciling the words to “a William Carlos Williams poem about plums” on her cottage wall. After surfacing from the instant sadness of lost dreams the image made me want to reread the poem in question, ‘This is Just to Say.’ Of course after rereading ‘This is Just to Say’ I had to find and reread Flossie Williams’s reply to “Bill.” Together they are a poetic commentary on marriage; communication between husband and wife.
Favorite line-, “Better to share the blame than to carry it all alone” (p 19). I found this interesting because most people want to put the blame 100% on someone else, never mind sharing it.
Some nitpicking. The reader is first introduced to Olivia’s world after Olivia’s husband has been killed by a reckless driver. Because the tragedy has already occurred the reader is anticipating the demise. You never get a chance to fall in love with Olivia and David as a couple. As a result the impact of Olivia’s grief is diminished. You don’t end up feeling as sorry for her situation as you could if you had been confronted with the shock of loss at the same time.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the very first chapter called Adapting to Adoption (p 2). Nancy Pearl calls Olivia ‘Livia.’ Interesting. It must be a (another) typo because nowhere in the book does anyone call Olivia ‘Livia.’
PS~ A Review in Library Journal called Ann Hood “Barbara Kingsolver without the whimsy.” I think it’s the other way around. Barbara Kingsolver is Ann Hood without the whimsy. I don’t see Kingsolver as whimsy at all. The Lacuna and The Poisonwood Bible are far from whimsy!