“Harrowing Journey”

Kramer, Joel P. “A Harrowing Journey” The Greatest Adventure Stories Ever Told. Edited by Lamar Underwood. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2002.

Reason read: June is short story month.

By the time you finish reading “A Harrowing Journey” you are breathless and stunned, wondering how anyone could survive the adventure Kramer and his companion, Aaron Lippard, experienced for 120 days in the wilds of New Guinea. Human-eating crocodiles. Near drowning. Cannibal tribes in the deep interior of New Guinea. The loss of supplies. The goals was to be the first to cross New Guinea without engine power but they were lucky just to survive.

Author fact: Kramer is an adventure photographer.

Book trivia: Kramer has written a full book on the adventure called Beyond Fear.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned “A Harrowing Journey” from The Greatest Adventure Stories Ever Told because it was a story she found so “desperately foolhardy” she found herself “wincing in sympathetic pain” while she read it (Book Lust To Go p 3).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the very first chapter called “A Is For Adventure” (p 1).


From a Persian Tea House

Carroll, Michael. From a Persian Tea House. London: Tauris Parke, 2007.

Reason read: Khomeini died in the month of June.

One of the best reasons to read From a Persian Tea House is for the cultural aspects to a society some of us will never see. Carroll humanizes the middle east in such a way we can picture dancing with the happy couple at a wedding, striving to understand how common corporal punishment and corruption can be, and of course taking tea with the locals. Having said that, it is important to keep in mind when reading From a Persian Tea House that is was written from a mid 1950s perspective, when old Iran was romanticized and equally mysterious and evocative. Carroll and his traveling companion represent a British born curiosity. They traveled in relative safety, making friends with bemused locals while making keen observations about the culture and society. My favorite parts are the descriptions of a wedding, bartering for rugs, and retrieving their own stolen items.

Author fact: Carroll (not be confused with the lottery winner who blew his millions on naked women) was born in England but spent a lot of time in India.

Book trivia: From a Persian Tea House has fantastic photographs.

Nancy said: Absolutely nada.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter called “Iran” (p 108).


“Life and Times of Estelle…”

Alexie, Sherman. “The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above.” Ten Little Indians. New York: Open Road, 2003.

Reason read: June is Short Story Month

A man looks back at his childhood to paint a picture of his mother, Estelle. As a member of the Spokane Indian tribe and a force to be reckoned with, Estelle was by turns someone to admire and someone to avoid. Sounds like practically every mother I know. She spent most of her lift as a spiritual guru to white women as she adores their culture over her own.

Quote to quote, “I wasn’t a vegetarian by choice, I was a vegetarian by economic circumstance” (p 42).

Author fact: Alexie has won a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Book trivia: Ten Little Indians actually only has nine stories.

Nancy said: Pearl included Alexie in her list of short stories she most enjoyed.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Things Come in Small Packages” (p 102).


“Ado”

Willis, Connie. “Ado.” The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2007.

Reason read: June is short story month.

Imagine a world where everything you could possibly say or do offends someone on some level. We are approaching that world fast and furious but Willis suspected its arrival thirty-one years ago. “Ado” is a tongue in cheek look at political correctness gone way too far. She uses the example of teaching Shakespeare to a group of students as an example. To teach the Bard the main protagonist must run it by the principal, take the particular play out of a vault, allow for students to refuse to attend the class, and then wait for the special interest groups to protest loudly. There is a computer that reads the Shakespearean text line by line to look for offensive material so that for example, a play like ‘As You Like It’ can be subject to a restraining order by the group Mothers Against Transvestites. The only safe subject is the weather. It’s such a ridiculous society you cannot help but laugh out loud while secretly shuddering over Willis’s apropos vision.

Author fact: I have more than a dozen Willis books on my Challenge list but she has written so much more.

Book trivia: The Winds of Marble Arch was nominated for a World Fantasy Award.

Nancy said: Pearl called “Ado” a “sly appraisal of where political correctness is taking us” (Book Lust p 247).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: Too Good To Miss” (p 246).


“At the Rialto”

Willis, Connie. “At the Rialto.” Impossible Things. New York: Bantam Books, 1993.

Reason read: June is Short Story month.

Dr. Ruth Baringer, a quantum physicist, runs into obstacles everywhere she turns trying to attend a conference in America’s playground, Hollywood, California. She can’t even check into her room without it becoming a major event. Trying to attend different events at the conference become confused and convoluted. Even trying to connect with her roommate is impossible. Everything is insane. Meanwhile, a colleague wants her to go to the movies instead…after all, they are in Hollywood.

Story trivia: “At the Rialto” won a Nebula Award for best novelette.

Author fact: Willis was given the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 2012.

Nancy said: Pearl said Willis also wrote “wonderful” short stories and mention “At the Rialto” as one not to be missed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: To Good To Miss” (p 246).


Doctor Thorne

Trollope, Anthony. Doctor Thorne. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Reason read: to continue the series started in April in honor of Trollope’s birth month.

To set the stage: Mary Thorne, at the age of twelve, comes to live with her uncle, Doctor Thorne. She is sent to him when Dr Thorne’s sister (Mary’s mother) runs away to Australia and Mary’s father (Dr. Thorne’s brother) is murdered by Roger Scatcherd, Mary’s mother’s brother. Did you get all that? To complicate things, Dr. Thorne is also the financial advisor to Mary’s mother’s brother, Roger. Essentially Mary has two uncles. But this is a big secret for most of the book.
On with the plot – As Mary grows up she attracts the attention of Frank Gresham but unfortunately for Frank, Mary is not marriage material. She doesn’t come from money so his family opposes a proposal. His mother prefers Martha Dunstable as a suitable wife. The only problem is Miss Dunstable and Frank become great friends and mutually agree romance is not in the cards. As an aside, their friendship is wonderful. As Roger Scatcherd’s financial advisor, Dr. Thorne knows how much money Roger leaves to his son after drinking himself to death. When Roger’s son is nearing the same fate, Dr. Thorne has to spill the genealogy beans in order to make sure Mary is in the will and gets her fair share of Roger’s original inheritance.

Line that caught my attention, “I know he’s rich, and a rich man I suppose can buy anything except a woman that is worth having” (p 99).

Book trivia: Doctor Thorne is the third book in the Barsetshire series but to be fair, each book could be read independently of one another. However, going by book sales Trollope felt Doctor Thorne was his most popular story. Doctor Thorne connects back to Barchester Towers by family.

Author fact: Trollope published Doctor Thorne just one year after Barchester Towers.

Nancy said: nothing specific except that the whole series is her favorite Trollope to read.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Barsetshire and Beyond” (p 15).


Soldiers of God

Kaplan, Robert D. Soldiers of God: with Islamic Warriors on Afghanistan and Pakistan. New York: Random House, 2001.

Reason read: Khomeini died in the month of June.

Soldiers of God provides the historical context for the emergence of the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist network. Given the devastation of September 11th, 2001 the republishing of this book was timely and smart on Kaplan’s part. Robert Kaplan first traveled to Afghanistan and lived among the mujahidin (soldiers of God) back in the mid 1980s. It was on this journey that Kaplan came to witness the rise of the Taliban. More than that, he acquired the colors to paint a vivid picture of a society few Americans see: refugee camps, harsh drought, pervasive illiteracy, militant indoctrination, fierce piety, and ethnic battle lines. In the unity of prayer was practically the only form of democracy; all whispering the name of God one hundred times.
Kaplan digs deep to uncover the hidden side effects of the Soviet invasion – malaria outbreaks, for example. Thanks to stagnant pools of mosquito infested water caused by pervasive destruction of irrigation systems.

Quotes to quote, “The idea of fighting for political freedom is an easy one to grasp until you see in the flesh what the cost is” (p 143) and “After twenty four hours in Querta, my instinct told me that if a man possessed no furniture, he also possessed no useful information” (p 200).

Author fact: According to the back cover of his book, Kaplan is a “world affairs expert.”

Book trivia: Soldiers of God was first published in 1990. Pearl mentioned a newer edition with a updated introduction and final chapter.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Soldiers of God as a good book about militant Islam.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Islamic World” (p 126).