March was one of those weird months. A few Nor’Easters. A few miles run. A few books read. We had two school closings in back to back weeks so that helped with the reading, but not the run. I finished the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race just two minutes off my time last year. Considering I didn’t train (again) I’m alright with that. There’s always next year! Here are the books:
- The Good Son by Michael Gruber
- Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
- White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling
- Witch World by Andre Norton
- Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis
- All the Way Home by David Giffels
- Slide Rule by Nevil Shute
Series Continuations –
- Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to finished the series started in honor of her birth month in January.
- Entranced by Nora Roberts
Early Review for Librarything –
- Oneiron by Laura Lindstedt (started)
- Infinite Hope – Anthony Graves
- New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz (not finished)
Fun – I’m not finished with either fun book so I won’t list them here.
Giffels, David. All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House. New York: William Morrow, 2008.
Reason read: All the Way Home takes place in Akron, Ohio. Ohio became a state in March.
Who buys a house they describe with adjectives and nouns such as these: rusty, dusty, decay, debris, ruin, smelly, stained, treacherous, flaking, rotted, grime, filthy, cluttered, damaged, wreckage, decomposed, dark, cracked, dingy, chilly, ugly, broken, dirty, scratched, soot, dangerous, rotten, warped, collapsed, cramped, broken, discolored, disintegrated, discolored, poisonous, fermenting, or crusted? You half expect to find, buried deep in the debris, a mummified body a la Bates Motel. In fact, when Giffels first tours the house there is a woman, perched amid the disaster. But, buy the house he does.
Giffels, a self described handyman, needs projects. When he buys the 1913 mansion on North Portage Path (Akron, Ohio) there is every indication he has bit off more than he can chew. That only becomes apparent to himself when he attempts to remove paint from every single door hinge in the house. The master bedroom alone has seventeen doors with at least two hinges…you do the math. And that’s just hinges. Never mind the structural damage like a leaking room that requires 55 roasting pans to catch the downpour whenever it rains, or the jungle of wisteria growing in through the cracks. Then there are the uninvited guests: mice, squirrels, raccoons, termites, carpenter ants, gawkers…it’s a wonder Gina didn’t divorce him.
One of a thousand quotes of humor, “more than anything else, I do not want to die a cartoon character’s death” (p 5).
Quote of foreshadowing, “And I honestly couldn’t decide which I wanted more; to get the house, or to get the house out of my system” (p 73). Indeed, there are numerous times he hoped to get out of buying the house. Starting with his sister-in-law’s neighbor, Earl. Hoping seventy-plus-year-old realtor Earl would advise him it’s a lost cause after seeing it; praying the inspector would say it’s his professional opinion the house is hopeless; and wishing the owners will refuse his insultingly low ball offer. Giffels is seeking any and all opportunities to wriggle out of the fantasy; to escape the choke hold of unreasonable and borderline fanatical desire. None of “outs” happen for Giffels and All the Way Home is born.
Author fact: Giffels used to write for MTV’s Beavis and Butt-Head so you know he has to be funny. And. And! And, I think it goes without saying he must like music since he worked for MTV. Indeed, he quotes Tom Waits right off the bat. Other musicians mentioned:
- Lou Reed
- Henry Rollins
- Paul Westerberg
- Rage Against the Machine
- Judas Priest
- Henry Mancini
- P.J. Harvey
- Dave Brubeck
- Guided By Voices
- Suzanne Vega
- Liz Phair
- Duane Allman
- Janis Joplin
- Sonic Youth
- No Doubt
- Gewn Stefani
- Henry Rollins
- Circle Jerks
- Rod Stewart
- Guns ‘n Roses
- Cyndi Lauper
- Joe Strummer
- The Clash
- Andy Summers
- Pete Townsend
- Jimi Hendrix
- Kurt Cobain
- Chrissy Hynde
- Yngwie Malmsteen
- Mark Sandman
- They Might Be Giants
The list was so eclectic I thought about making a mixed tape (because that’s how old I am coming from an era when mixed tapes were a thing). I would call it “All the Way Home.” Here is my (short) fantasy track listing:
- “You’re Innocent” (when You Dream)” – Tom Waits
- “Unsatisfied” – Paul Westerberg
- “So. Central Rain” – R.E.M.
- “Moon River” – Oranji Symphony
- “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper
- “Money (that’s What I Want) – Beatles
- “I’m Just a Girl” – No Doubt
- “Cats in the Cradle” – Cat Stevens
- “Swing it Low” – Morphine
Book trivia: Aside from a smattering of photographs in the beginning All the Way Home is mostly devoid of pictures. Bummer.
Nancy said: “This is more than a do-it-yourself memoir; rather it’s a paean to his hometown” (p 168).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply “Ohioana” (p 168).
The only run I have planned for March is St. Patrick’s Day. No surprise there. Here are the books planned for March:
- The Good Son by Michael Gruber (AB) – in honor of the start of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
- White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling – In honor of Dooling’s birthplace (Nebraska) becoming a state in March.
- Roman Blood by Stephen Saylor – in honor of Saylor’s birth month in March.
- All the Way Home by David Giffels – in honor of Ohio becoming a state in March.
- Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to continue the series started in January for Stark’s birth month. This will end the autobiography.
- Entranced by Nora Roberts (EB) – to continue the Donovan Legacy started in February in honor of Valentine’s Day.
- Infinite Hope by Anthony Graves
- New and Collected Poems by Czeslaw Milosz – in honor of National Poetry Month.
If there is time:
- Slide Rule: the Autobiography of an Engineer by Nevil Shute – in honor of the birth month of William Oughtred
- Which Witch? by Andre Norton – to remember Norton (who died in the month of March).
- Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis in honor of Reading Month.
Salzman, Mark. Iron & Silk. New York: Vintage Departures, 1990.
Reason read: Mark Salzman was born in December. Read in his honor.
Funny. You would not expect a memoir about a cello playing martial arts master in China for the purpose of teaching English to medical students a funny book and yet it is. It is very funny and eye opening. Salzman’s adventures are, truth be told, a string of essays laced with tongue-in-cheek wit and culture. You cannot help but laugh out loud at some of his exploits as he tries to make his way through Chinese bureaucracy and customs. Take for example, his attempt to receive a package containing medication for athlete’s foot. It’s so maddening you almost think he’s making the whole thing up. But then you remember, in South Central China, there is a regulation for everything real or otherwise.
Author fact: Salzman wrote The Soloist which I have already read. There are three other Salzman books on my list which I cannot wait to read.
As an aside, look Salzman up on YouTube. You won’t be disappointed. His interview in a phone booth is great.
Book trivia: I wish Salzman had included photographs…or is that asking too much considering it was made into a movie in 1990 starring Mark Salzman as himself?
Nancy said: In both chapters Iron & Silk is mentioned Pearl just describes the book.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in two chapters. First in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 900s” (p 77) and again in the chapter called “Mark Salzman: Too Good To Miss” (p 194). As an aside, the first chapter shouldn’t include Iron & Silk. Nancy was mentioning Salzman was a companion of Stuart Stevens when Stevens traveled to China.
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.
Robillard, Jason. Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel: a Trail Running, Ultramarathon, and Wilderness Survival Guide for Weird Folks. Barefoot Running Press, 2013.
This has got to be the strangest guide to running I have ever come across. Okay, to be fair it is chock full of useful information and thensome. Hey, you even learn the names of clouds…as in cirrostratus and stratocumulus. I kid you not. That’s the tame stuff. Azz wiping is even more informative. But. But! But, it’s all organized in a bizzarro way. Here’s an example: you are reading all about wilderness dangers (because nature can kill). Robillard is covering what to do in cases of ticks, snakes, even cougars. Then all of a sudden he jumps to information about foam rollers and stretching. Just when you think he’s moved on from the hazards of nature he returns to tripping on tree roots and the importance of learning to fall correctly. More safety information. The stick/roller information seems really out of place. Having said all that, one look at the table of contents and you know this isn’t your typical runners’ guide. I would say beginner runners shouldn’t attempt to use this book as a serious guide. Serious ultrarunners will know everything he’s talking about and I would say, the more experienced the runner, the funnier Robillard gets.
Can’t quote anything from the book, even for a review…mostly because I’m too lazy to seek permission. Pretend I inserted funny examples of why you should read this book here -> “—-“(p).
Reason: okay, I admit it. The title caught my attention.
Author fact: Robillard likens himself to Tucker Max. I would say Robillard is just as funny except his writing is more interesting.
Book trivia: Oodles of typos. Not sure what to make of that.
Moore, Tim. French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France. Read by Andrew Wincott. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2009.
Funny. Funny. Funny. I like that Moore’s writing is unapologetic snarky. If you are sensitive to sarcasm and foul language, stay away! This book is lightly peppered with words only a hearty rant could benefit from. Take a slightly out-of-shape, thirty something year old British guy who gets it into his head he can ride the Tour-de-France. Outfit him with a bike and ridiculous clothes and the fact he has no idea what he’s doing. Suddenly you’ve got a beyond hilarious story. Tim Moore ignores all common sense reason and sets out to bike all 2,256 miles of the race before the actual professionals take the stage. Each chapter is a different leg of the Tour and what’s great about Moore’s account (aside from his incessant bellyaching) is the historical perspective he gives along the way. He isn’t shy about providing graphic descriptions of the trials and tribulations of the male body after eight to ten hours in the saddle, either. I could open French Revolutions any page and find something hysterically funny, and more often than not, off color.
Quotes: As I said, nearly every page had something worthwhile and funny, but here are just a few of my favorites: “Sadly, Dennis was an awful boy who cheated at Monopoly and avenged yet another Belgian victory in that year’s race by running amok in our flower-beds with the big lawnmower, so I did not at the time ascribe positive attributes to the focus of his obsession” (p 5), “I didn’t know whether to be glad or sad when I looked down while grabbing for a towel and saw that the elemental rigours of the day had apparently inspired my genitals to eat themselves” (p 116), and “The blathering torrent of self-pity was by this stage a staple of our telephonic encounters, and she listened patiently, as, dispensing with respiration or punctuation, I stated that I was in a town with no hotels, that she had the hotel book, and that having cycled 94,000 miles I had forgotten how to speak French” (p 255).
As an aside, I don’t know why all my audio books are read by people with accents.
Reason read: May is Bicycle Month…so go out there and ride!
Author fact: Moore has an incredibly patient and understanding wife named Birna.
Book trivia: Moore makes mention of taking photographs while “on tour” but sadly, none of them make the book. Not even one of himself.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Bicycling” (p 35). Simple and to the point.