White, Dan. The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind – and Almost Found Myself – On the Pacific Crest Trail. New York: Harper Perennial, 2008.
Reason read: June is National Hiking Month.
Pure fun. From the comfort of my couch I took great pleasure in reading about Dan White’s adventures while hiking the 2,650+ mile Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to Canada. With his girlfriend Allison for companionship Dan’s account is in turn both funny and didactic. He can be snarky and scholarly in a single sentence. What starts out as an avoidance of the real world turns into a journey of self reflection and maybe, just maybe, a little growing up.
What makes Cactus such a pleasure to read is this is Dan’s account of the first time he hiked the PCT. He has no idea what he’s doing, despite reading up on it in the months leading up to the hike. He isn’t a seasoned through-hiker expertly navigating arid blazing hot deserts. He isn’t a blase professional warding off bear visits with a ho hum attitude. He is cocky in his naivete.
All time favorite line, “I could not stop the racing thoughts about Todd the Sasquatch somewhere out there, tearing up the foothills while exuding massive amounts of man sweat” (p 63).
Author fact: I could tell from the songs White enjoyed singing while on the PCT that he is about my age. An internet search revealed he was born just a few years before me.
Book trivia: The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles long and covers three countries and yet White doesn’t include a single map or photograph. To be fair, his camera didn’t have film in it for part of the trip and he did include one illustration of a journal entry.
Nancy said: Nancy dedicates 25% of the chapter to describing the plot of Cactus Eaters, but not much else.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Hiking the (Fill in the Blank) Trail” (p 94). Confessional: this the second book I am reading from the chapter and I just now noticed while Pearl mentions the four major long-distance trails in the Americas, she only recommends four books. Three of them are about the PCT and the final one is about the Appalachian Trail. Why bring up the Continental Divide or the American Discovery Trail if you aren’t going to include a book or two about them? There certainly was room for a few more recommendations for the chapter.
June is going to go by lightning fast. For starters, there is a concert in Bangor, Maine that I cannot wait for! Then, a concert at home. After that, a week later, an art show reception for my talented sister’s work. Then, a vacation with my best friend (Maine for the third weekend in a row). I will have many opportunities to read. Hence, the huge list:
- Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson – in honor of the first month of boating weather (EB & print).
- Stories of Alice Adams by Alice Adams – June is short story month (EB & print).
- Afterlife by Paul Monette – in honor of gay and lesbian pride month (EB & print).
- Jar City by Arnaldur Andridason – National Icelandic Day is in June (AB).
- Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Middle East by Michael B. Oren – the Six Day War started in June.
- Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind and Almost Found Myself by Dan White – June is national hiking month.
- I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallman – in honor of Gallman’s birth month.
- Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn – in honor of Zinn’s birth month.
- Pearl Cove by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April in honor of Lowell’s birth month.
- Envoy From Mirror City by Janet Frame – to finish the series started in April in honor of New Zealand’s Anzac Day.
Townsend, Sue. Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years. New York: Soho, 1999.
Reason read: Mother’s Day is May 13th and Pearl included this in her chapter about “Mothers and Sons.”
Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years could be seen as a cautionary tale for men in their 30s: do not get too dependent on mama. Adrian, at this stage in his life, is divorced, lusting after a former flame while being the father (a decent one, I might add) to two boys, and yes, still living with mother. As he tells his journal, he is frequently constipated and suffers from bad breath and ill penis health.
This was a silly read. I almost gave up on it a few times, especially when it became over the top ridiculous. Case in point, Townsend seemed to be poking fun at the Food Network with the creation of “Ping with Singh,” a cooking show aimed at microwave users. The show becomes popular enough to create a stage adaptation to satisfy the masses. Adrian’s own show “Offally Good” produces a book deal (which his mother ultimately ends up ghost writing, go figure).
The best parts were the current events of the times: Tony Blair’s election, Lady Di’s love affair with Dodi and Bill Clinton’s Monica scandal. The latter got a chuckle out of me.
The one line I laughed at, “‘Your money, Mr Mole, is an abstraction wafting in the air between financial institutions, at the mercy of inflation and interest rates, dependent on the health of the global economy'” (p 151). That, sadly, is banking in a nutshell.
Author fact: Townsend wrote a whole series of Adrian Mole books. I felt a little lost jumping in when Adrian is thirty years old. I imagine it’s like coming in late to a really wild party. Everyone is too drunk to talk to you and you can’t get drunk fast enough to catch up.
Book trivia: The entire story is Adrian’s journal.
Nancy said: Nothing. It is listed as a “Mothers and Sons” book.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Mothers and Sons” (p 160).
This is the first month since September that I don’t have some kind of race looming. It feels weird to not worry about the run. I guess I can concentrate on the books:
- Landfall: a Channel Story by Nevil Shute – in honor of the month the movie was released.
- Main Street by Sinclair Lewis – in honor of Minnesota becoming a state in May (AB).
- Bruised Hibiscus by Elizabeth Nunez – on honor of the Pan Ramjay festival held in May.
- Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years by Sue Townsend – in honor of Mother’s Day.
- Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer – in honor of the failed Mount Everest climb in May 1994.
- Jade Island by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April in honor of Lowell’s birth month.
- Warding of Witch World by Andre Norton – to continue the series started in March to honor the month of Norton’s passing.
Something new! I just discovered archive dot org! They are brilliant! I have been able to find a bunch of the books I have on my Challenge list, including two for this month. That means I will be able to leave the print at home and still read on my lunch break!
One of my all time favorite 10,000 Maniacs songs is “The Painted Desert” off the album, Our Time in Eden. If you have never heard it, the premise is simple. A couple is trying to have a long distance relationship. Or…one of them is anyway…While one is off in the Southwest, the other waits patiently for the time when he? she? can join the other. But, soon the patience tarnishes and the one left behind find themselves pleading, “I wanted to be there by May at the latest time. Isn’t that the plan we had or have you changed your mind? I haven’t heard a word from you since Phoenix or Tuscon. April is over. Can you tell how long before I can be there?” The underlying poison is that the partner has moved on and the answer to the question is “never.” How ironic.
Having said all that, April IS over. As far as the run is concerned, I begrudgingly ran a half mara and a 10k and despite not training for either, I am pleased with both races.
And I read a fair amount of books:
- Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell
- Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
- The Corner: a Year in the life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns
- The Evolution of Everyday Objects by Henry Petroski
- Bogey Man by George Plimpton
- To the Is-Land: an Autobiography by Janet Frame
- Charmed by Nora Roberts
- The Venus Throw by Steven Saylor
- “Unexplorer” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- “Travel” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz
- Deeply Grateful and Entirely Unsatisfied by Amanda Happe
Plimpton, George. The Bogey Man: A Month on the PGA Tour.
Reason read: the Professional Golf Association tour usually ends in April. This year it ended on April 1st but there are other tournaments still going.
George Plimton was a journalist who liked to get into the thick of things when writing about his subjects. When composing articles for Sports Illustrated he played tennis, boxed with, and swam with professionals. Later he found himself pitching with the Yankees and throwing the football with the Detroit Lions. His involvement with professional golfers was no different when writing Bogey Man. He played as a participating amateur in the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, the Lucky International, and the Bob Hope Desert Classic for a month. During that time he absorbed stories about the professional golf circuit, from the caddies to the fans and, the professional golfers and the game, of course.
Author fact: The perception I have of George Plimpton is that he had quite the ego. For starter, many of the photographs in Bogey Man are of Plimpton. Then, there is the author information. Most authors chose a short paragraph to be inserted on the back flap of a book. Plimpton’s takes up the entire back cover.
Book trivia: There are a smattering of photographs in Bogey Man mostly of Plimpton looking wistfully after an ill-struck ball.
Nancy said: Pearl said she would buy Bogey Man for “David” who eats, sleeps, and dreams golf (p 117).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the catch-all chapter called “A Holiday Shopping List” (p 115).
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.