May Has Her Reasons

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:

Fiction:

  • 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.

Nonfiction:

  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer – in honor of the failed Mount Everest climb in May 1994.

Series continuations:

  • 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!


I Will Bear Witness Vol. 2

Klemperer, Victor. I Will Bear Witness: a Diary of the Nazi Years 1942 – 1945. Translated by Martin Chalmers. New York: Random House, 1995.

Reason read: Victor Klemperer was born on October 9th. This is the second volume of his journal.

In the first installment of I Will Bear Witness Klemperer spent a great deal of time worrying about his health and borrowing money from one of his siblings. He stressed constantly about being in debt and dying of a heart attack. He didn’t know which was worse. In the second installment, as the Gestapo power grows crueler and crueler, Klemperer’s worries shift from paying the bills to getting enough food to eat and being “arrested” or called to the concentration camps. He is helpless with despair as he hears of dogcatching soldiers who are actually hunting Jews. Terror reins when friends are arrested and then shot “trying to escape”, and worse. Those unwilling to meet an unpredictable fate take matters into their own hands by committing suicide. In the face of all this uncertainty, little by little Klemperer and his wife lose simple creature comforts. When they move into their third and smallest apartment Victor is shocked by the lack of privacy; the promiscuity of everyone living so close to one another. Then the bombs fall. This is probably the most revealing of Klemperer’s diaries. How he and his wife escape is nothing short of miraculous. I held my breath through every page.

As an aside, I wish Klemperer would have shared his thoughts on I,Claudius by Robert Graves. It’s on my Challenge list.

Author fact: Using the confusion following the Allied bombing of Dresden, Klemperer and his wife escaped.

Quotes to mention (and there were a few since Klemperer was so profound). First, early on: “The feeling that it is my duty to write, that it is my life’s task, my calling” (p 12). Then later,  “Religion or trust in God is a dirty business” (p 110), “But the inheritor of today is the evacuee or murder victim of tomorrow” (p 167), and “” ().

Book trivia: I Will Bear Witness is also known as To the Bitter End and is actually the second volume in a three-volume set. I am not reading the third installment, The Lesser Evil (1945 – 1959). In fact, it was never mentioned in Book Lust at all.

Nancy said: Nancy said Klemperer was “one of the best observers whose records we have of those terrible, and ordinary, years inside Germany” (p 131).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Journals and Letters: We Are All Voyeurs at Heart” (p 130). Note: There is a typo in the index for both volumes of I Will Bear Witness. Both are indexed as I Will Beat Witness.


I Will Bear Witness

Klemperer, Victor. I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933 – 1941. Translated by Martin Chalmers. New York: Random House, 1998.

Reason read: Klemperer was born on October 9th in 1881. He started keeping a diary at 17 years of age. I Will Bear Witness was read in his honor.

No matter how you dress it up, this is a hard book to read. Mainly because hindsight is 20/20 and we know what a travesty the Nazi years truly were to the German-Jewish people. Today, more than ever, reading Klemperer’s journals are valuable lessons in fortitude, courage, and grace. Despite everything he remained committed to documenting his world around him…even as it slowly fell apart. I see similarities to modern day America. At first the indignity was small, a blip: the loss of admittance to his library’s reading room. No Jews allowed. Then, the indignities became too big to ignore – the loss of his teaching position at the university, then use of the beloved automobile, then they had to move from their new dream house. Every creature comfort was slowly stripped away. His typewriter, tobacco, even new socks. Can you imagine smoking blackberry tea or filling an application for used socks? What is so admirable is, in the face of all this humility, Klemperer still recognized and drew attention to the civility his enemy occasionally displayed.

From the very beginning, although he was only 52 years of age at the start of I Will Bear Witness, Klemperer was convinced he had not long to live. He made comments like, “I no longer think about tomorrow” (p 15), and “My heart cannot bear all this misery much longer” (p 17). He was sure his heart would give out any day. It was if each passing birthday came as a shock to him because he could see the future of Germany’s political landscape. How would he survive it? Yet, every day he strove to improve his life and that of his wife of 45 years. Buying land, building a house, learning to drive a car, taking Eva to her beloved flower shows, keeping a diary and continuing to write throughout it all. These are the little triumphs of Klemperer’s life.

Confessional: Because his sentences were so choppy, it took me some time to get into the rhythm of his words.

Favorite line, “The man is a blinkered fanatic” (p 41). One guess who he was talking about! Another line I have to mention, “I do not know whether history is racing ahead or standing still” (p 79). This, after Hindenburg’s death. The magnitude of the implications! One last quote to quote, “It cannot be helped, one cannot live normally in an abnormal time” (p 227).

Author fact: In the end Klemperer’s heart did betray him. He died of a heart attack in 1960 when he was 79 years old.

Book trivia: This is truly trivia, but I love, love, love the photograph of Eva and Victor Klemperer on the spine of I Will Bear Witness. Both are standing behind their beloved automobile with smiles on their faces. Victor is hunched in such a way he actually appears to be laughing. He has an impish look on his face.

Nancy said: Klemperer was “one of the best observers whose records we have of those terrible, and ordinary, years inside Germany” (p 131).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Journals and Letters: We Are All Voyeurs at Heart” (p 130).


Any Human Heart

Boyd, William. Any Human Heart. Read by Simon Vance. Blackstone Audio, 2011.

Reason read: Most people start a journal in January. this is one giant journal.

The journals of Logan Mountstuart tell of his long and colorful life as an art dealer, writer, lover, spy, prisoner, and sometimes cad. Spanning December 10th, 1923 to October 5th, 1991 we watch as the 20th century unfolds. What makes Any Human Heart so enticing is the inclusion of real events (World War II, the death of JFK,  and the first moon walk, to name a few) and real people, especially from the worlds of art and literature; people like Picasso and Hemingway.

You know the saying, you can’t judge a book by its cover? Well, let it be said, you can’t judge a book by its length either. I was convinced I would have to slog through 500 plus pages half paying attention. Wrong. This was delightful. Devious, but delightful.
There was one review that stuck with me as I was reading Any Human Heart. The New York Times said you could almost forget Logan Mountstuart is not a real person. His journal entries are convincingly honest. I couldn’t agree more.

Lines I liked, “I have no home but all the ingredients of home” (p 181), “You think it begins to diminish with time, the pain, the it comes back and hits you with a rawness and freshness you had forgotten” (p 301), and “As I write this I feel that draining, hollowing helplessness that genuine love for another person produces in you” (p 422). In the end, I loved Logan specifically for this line.

Note: because this was such a long audio book I was afraid I wouldn’t finish listening to it in time. I had to simultaneously read the print version to get through it faster.

Book trivia: this was made into a PBS television series. It aired in 2011.

Author fact: Boyd also wrote Brazzaville Beach, also on my list. Can’t wait to read it.

Nancy said: “wonderful reading” but she said that about the entire chapter and not just Any Human Heart.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter “Just Too Good To Miss” (p 132).


Flower and the Nettle

Lindbergh, Anne Morrow. The Flower and the Nettle: Diaries and Letters 1936 – 1939. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976.

The Flower and the Nettle is Anne’s return to the living. It covers 1936 to 1939. After the death of her first born son she and Charles take their second son, Jon, to England for an “indefinite” stay. They are literally driven out of their own country by the media’s insatiable need to photograph and question the family. First, it was Charles Lindbergh’s fame, then it was the kidnapping and murder of their first child. It is at a rambling rented cottage in England called Long Barn that Anne and Charles can finally relax and be themselves again. Jon is allowed to play freely on the lawn without massive hyper-vigilant supervision. Anne is able to concentrate on her writing. It is here that humor returns to her diaries and letters. She says things like, “It is so delicious” (p 30), and “living passionately in the present” (p 31). Later, after her third son Land is born, Anne and her family move to Illiec off the coast of France. This is the “flower” part of her life. The “nettle” is the approach of World War II and the ensnaring politics. Following Charles to Russia for business Anne vocalizes her discontent with the country. She uses words like dirty, hideous, mediocrity, drab, shoddy, third-rate and glum to describe such things as the poor middle class. She is quick to comment negatively on their fashions and complexions. This took me by surprise. What I needed to keep in mind is the intense scrutiny Anne and her family felt. The longer they stay away from America, the more “pro-Nazi” they are “villainized” as being.

One drawback of skipping a book in a series is the potential to not understand references made to that book in the next one. Because I didn’t read Locked Doors I didn’t grasp Lindbergh’s reference to a previous trip to Russia in 1933.

Favorite lines, “One gets so cramped in ordinary living” (p 76). A good excuse to get out there and do something extraordinary!

As an aside, looking at pictures of Long Barn I can’t help but think what a wonderful place! Don’t tell my husband, but it looks like my dream home! It would have been nice if Lindbergh had included maps of not only her travel destinations, but of the places she and her family lived in Europe.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January, in honor of Journal Month.

Book trivia: Maybe because The Flower and the Nettle is a longer book, there are more photographs. For the first time, Anne includes detailed pictures of the interiors of their residence. Long Barn looks like a place where I would like to live!

Author fact: At this point in Lindbergh’s life she considers herself a serious writer despite already publishing earlier.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Journals and Letters: We Are All Voyeurs at Heart” (p 131).


Locked Rooms and Open Doors

Lindbergh, Anne Morrow. Locked Rooms and Open Doors: Diaries and Letters 1933 – 1935.New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974.

Reason read: While I didn’t read this word for word, I wanted to peruse it to “keep up” with Anne. This should have been the next book in the series, after Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead, but for some reason Pearl doesn’t list it. At this point in Lindbergh’s life (1933-1935) she and her husband Charles are recovering from the kidnapping and murder of their first born son, Charles, Jr. They have a second son, Jon, who is now a toddler. Their big expedition is by seaplane crossing the Atlantic and exploring such places as Greenland and Africa. They are gone for nearly six months, but when they return they are faced with more tragedy. Sister Elizabeth passes away from pneumonia complicated by a heart condition and the kidnapping trial forces the Lindberghs to relive every moment of the tragedy of losing their son. It is at the end of Locked Rooms and Open Doors that Charles and Anne, in an effort to escape the public eye, leave the United States for England, a move that will prove controversial and have grave consequences.

Book trivia: Locked Rooms and Open Doors is the third book in Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s series of diaries and letters.

Author fact: At this point in Anne’s life she has become navigator, copilot, photographer, and log keeper for her husband. Her confidence and courage allows her to describe these expeditions with more color and detail.

BookLust Twist: none. This one was left out for some reason.


Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead

Lindbergh, Anne Morrow. Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead: Diaries and Letters 1929 – 1932.New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973.

If, in the letters and journals of Bring Me a Unicorn Anne Morrow Lindbergh was a fresh-faced college girl, she is now a daring pilot and adventurer in Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead. The year 1929 begins with Anne and Charles’ engagement. At this stage in her life she is quickly learning about the down side of being a celebrity (thanks to Charles and his airplane adventures). The couple can’t go anywhere without a throng of reporters following their every move. Anne has to be careful of what she writes to friends and family for fear of it getting out to the press and misconstrued. Charles and Anne even wear disguises to the opera. But, Anne still carries her enthusiasm with her. She continues to miss her siblings and mother madly (she never addresses her letters to her father) while she travels about the world. All this enthusiasm comes crashing to the ground at the end of 1931 when she loses her father and then again, in early 1932, when her son, Charles Jr., is kidnapped and found months later murdered. It is heartbreaking the way she refers to her son as, “the stolen child” as if she cannot bear to call him by name or even claim to be his mother. Throughout the rest of the book, Anne’s grief is heartbreaking. She tried to end on a happy note with the birth of her second son, Jon and the wedding of her sister, Elisabeth.

Quotes to take away: “I leaned on another’s strength until I discovered my own” (p 2). Speaking of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, “It took me by the teeth and shook me as a dog a rabbit, and I could not get over it” (p 56).  A line I can relate to, “I am wild, wild, wild to get home” (p 100). A line I cannot relate to, “After ten weeks of negotiation and contact with the kidnapper and the handing over of the demanded ransom, the dead body of the child was found in the woods a few miles from our home” (p 209).

Reason read: I read Bring Me A Unicorn in honor of January being Journal month. Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead continues the series.

Author fact: There is one degree of separation between Anne Morrow Lindbergh and myself! I had a small thrill on my second day of reading Hour of Gold when surprise, surprise! Anne mentions Monhegan Island! She is recounting all of the stops on her honeymoon with Charles and says, “Monhegan Island in here somewhere” (p 45). Judging by the dates of letters, she was there sometime between June 1 and June 7th, 1929.

Book trivia: Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead picks up where Bring Me a Unicorn left off. The next book in the sequence is Locked Rooms and Open Doors which I will not be reading. This period, from 1933 – 1935 will be skipped. Sad.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Journals and Letters: We Are All Voyeurs At Heart” (p 131).

PS ~ Even though Locked Rooms and Open Doors is not on my list I have decided to borrow it, just so I can look at the pictures and feel “caught up” for when I read Flower and the Nettle.