August Awakenings

What can I tell you about August? I still have moments of wanting to hurl myself off a cliff. But, but. But! The good news is, by default, that recklessness has made me shed my fear of flying, ants, and flying ants. I went zip lining in Alaska and found myself the first to volunteer; literally throwing myself off every platform.
I was forced to dedicate more time to the run while I punished myself with late-read books from July. As a result of all that, August’s mileage was decent considering 10 days were spent traveling (25 – the most since April) while the reading list was a little lackluster:

Fiction:

  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (AB left over from July)
  • In Tragic Life by Vardis Fisher – such a sad book!

Nonfiction:

  • Hawthorne: a Life by Brenda Wineapple (left over from July)
  • Miami by Joan Didion

Series Continuations:

  • The Eagle Has Flown by Jack Higgins
  • Henry James: the Middle Years by Leon Edel (left over from JUNE)

Early Review:

  • Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea J. Ritchie

For Fun:

  • Pharos Gate by Nick Bantock – I know, I know. I shouldn’t be reading anything for fun while I had so many July books still on my plate. This took me all over an hour to read and besides, Bantock is one of my favorites. How could I not?

Miami

Didion, Joan. Miami. New York: Vintage International, 1998.

Reason read: Here’s the whole train: Miami has an extremely strong Cuban culture. Fidel Castro was Cuban. Fidel Castro also had a birthday in August. Reading Miami to acknowledge the connection.

It took me some time to navigate Didion’s true focus for Miami. I was expecting an overarching, historical portrait of a city in Florida which is rich in culture and diversity today and yesterday. Instead, Miami started out as a tirade about how Cubans in Miami are often ignored (when they aren’t being misunderstood). Cuban ethnicity is left out of the equation when Anglos describe Miami. The naive gringos err on the side of stereotypes or misconception when trying to describe or name something that is uniquely Cuban. I wasn’t expecting this us against them narrative. It is more accurate to say Didion’s Miami is about the Cuban Exile Community, past and present. Didion moves the reader directly into the eye of a political hurricane which is in a nutshell government conspiracies and corruptions, the underbelly of wheeling and dealing like failed and successful assassinations. Organized crime and car bombs that go boom in the night. Bay of Pigs. Watergate. Ronald Reagan. Nightmares in the light of day. Sunny Miami.

I am distracted easily. Put in front of me a sentence that is too long winded and my mind starts to wander and my eyes jump all over the page, forgetting what I just tried to read. Miami is full of crazy long (in my mind run-on) sentences that drove me to distraction. Case in point: “On the morning of the anniversary ground was being broken for the renovation of the bungalow, an occasion for Claud Pepper, fresh from the continuing debate in the House of Representatives over aid to the Nicaraguan contras, to characterize the landing at Giron as “one of the most heroic events in the history of the world” and for many of those present to voice what had become by that spring the most urgent concern of the exile community, the very concern which now lends the occasion its retrospective charge, the “the freedom fighters of the eighties” not be treated by the Reagan administration as the men of the 2506 has been treated, or believed that they had been treated, by the Kennedy administration” (p 16).

Here is a short quote I liked, “To spend time in Miami is to acquire a certain fluency in cognitive dissonance” (p 99).

Author fact: At the time of Miami’s publication Didion had published a combined ten books, both fiction and nonfiction.

Book trivia: I was hoping for some good photographs of historic Miami but none were included.

Nancy said: Pearl said Miami had gorgeous writing (p 146).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the incredibly obvious chapter called “Miami and Environs” (p 145).


August and Alaska

If I was California dreaming in July, then I will be Alaska cruising in August. Since there were a few books on the July list I didn’t finish I am punishing myself by not starting my August list until the July list is completely cleared. This is a first and totally off the Challenge protocol. Here’s how the reading should go:

To Finish:

  • Henry James: the Middle Years by Leon Edel (280 pages to go)
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (300 pages to go)

When those are finished I can tackle the AUGUST READS:

Fiction:

  • Possession by A.S. Byatt ~ in honor of Byatt’s birth month

Nonfiction:

  • Miami by Joan Didion ~ in honor of Castro’s birth month

Series Continuations:

  • Henry James: the Master the Treacherous Years by Leon Edel (will this series ever end? Apparently, I am eager for it to be over since I skipped a volume!)

Early Review:

  • Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea J. Ritchie