November Numbness

“Live a life steeped in experiences.” That’s what my tea bag therapist said this morning. I’m not sure what to make of that advice, considering I have been passing each day as if waiting for something, but not exactly sure what.

I keep going back to the hospital for x-rays and answering mind-throttling questions like, “when did you break your back? How long have you been having extremity nerve pain?” Nearly passing out from lack of comprehension, I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t, but at that moment I sat there in silence with a stuck-in-dumb expression on my face. Yes, my back hurts from time to time, but broken? Yes, I have been complaining about my hands and feet falling asleep, but pain? I was there to get my protruding rib cage scrutinized. Now they tell me it’s a nodule on my lung and abnormally high white blood cell counts. “Probably a viral infection,” the nurse said of my white blood cell count. This was before the nodule on my left lung (25% malignant cancer) was a reality via CT scan. Are the two related? Am I falling to pieces? Sure feels that way. In the meantime, I have buried myself in books:

Fiction (Lots of books for kids and young adults):

  • David and the Phoenix by Edward Ormondroyd (AB): a book for children, added in honor of Fantasy Month.
  • The Pinballs By Betsy Byars: another kids book added in honor of Adoption month.
  • Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko.
  • Martin Dressler: the Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser.
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (EB).
  • Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone.
  • Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller.

Nonfiction:

  • She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan.
  • The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah.
  • Expecting Adam: the Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Magic by Martha Beck (AB)

Series continuation:

  • Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett.

Patience and Sarah

Miller, Isabel. Patience and Sarah. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 1969.

Reason read: Alma Routsong was born in November; read in her honor.

This is such a fascinating story. Isabel Miller learns of two real life pioneering women, Mary Ann Willson and her partner, known only as “Miss Brundage,” and has to write about them. Willson and Brundage set off to find a place where they could live as an openly homosexual couple. Their courage sparked a story in Miller and Patience and Sarah was born.
To meet the women: Sarah Dowling was raised as a boy; taught to shoot a gun and chop firewood like a man. In Patience’s mind, Sarah needed rescuing from that existence. Patience White was a demure and quiet painter, but it was she who started planting the seeds of running away early in her relationship with Sarah. “But could you take it pioneering with you?” Patience asked of the ax Sarah was wielding.
Patience and Sarah was originally published under the title, A Place For Us. The book ends with Patience and Sarah leaving their old lives behind to find a new place where they could be themselves as a couple. Their love endures ridicule and prejudice and even among themselves they harbor doubts. Sheer courage carries them forward.
Patience and Sarah could be considered the very first lesbian historical novel.

Lines I loved (and there were many), “Women might peck at her with their sharp mean noses” (p 18), “There would be no way out except through” (p 49), and, “…but as soon as he kissed me I knew I could not live a life where that happened all the time” (p 102).
Lines about love, “I keep thinking every shadow is you” (p 47), and “I felt my heart melt and drip off my fingertips” (p 105).

Author fact: Isabel Miller is a pseudonym for Alma Routsong. Alma took her mother’s maiden name (Miller) and an anagram of the word lesbia (Isabel) to form her pen name. Another interesting fact is that Isabel left her husband and four children. Luckily, they all forgave her.

Book trivia: The American Library Association honored Patience and Sarah with its first ever Gay Book of the Year Award in 1971. Another last piece of trivia: the book was made into an opera in 1998. That seems a little odd to me.

Nancy said: Pearl said it would be “interesting to compare” The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall to Miller’s Patience and Sarah. (Book Lust p 94).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Gay and Lesbian Fiction: Out of the Closet” (p 93).


May is a Month

What about May? May was a month of personal disappointments and private pain. I weathered all without much fanfare. Running was nonexistent but I can’t say the same for books:

Fiction:

  • Landfall: a Channel Story by Nevil Shute (EB)
  • Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (AB, EB & print)
  • Martin Sloane by Michael Redhill (EB & print)
  • Bruised Hibiscus by Elizabeth Nunez (EB & print)
  • Adrian mole: the Cappuccino Years by Sue Townsend (EB & print)

Nonfiction:

  • Into Thin Air: a Personal Account … by Jon Krakauer

Series continuations:

  • Jade Island by Elizabeth Lowell (EB & print)
  • Last Seen in Massilia by Steven Saylor (EB & print)
  • Angel at My Table by Janet Frame (EB & print)

Early Review from LibraryThing:

  • 1968: — edited by — Aronson

Added – Plays:

  • Medea by Euripides ~ in honor of the best time to go to Greece.

 


Martin Sloane

Redhill, Michael. Martin Sloane. Back Bay Books, 2002. http://archive.org/martinsloanenove00redh

Redhill, Michael. Martin Sloane. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2001.

Reason read: May is known as missing child month in some parts of the world. Choosing this book for recognition of missing child month was a little tongue in cheek because it’s actually an adult who goes missing, but his childhood plays a big part of the story. In a way, he has been missing since childhood.

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself. I love that song.) I had to feel sorry for Jolene. At the tender age of 19 she becomes a pen pal to a man 35 years her senior. At 21 she becomes his lover and loses her virginity to him. Think about that for a second. He’s old enough to be her father. She dedicates her young life to a man 35 years older than her, teaching him how to drive and caring for him like a husband, all because she fell in love with his artistry at first sight. Little object-filled boxes of life. His life. They intrigued her, then captivated her.
Irish born artist, Martin Samuel Joseph Sloane is a conundrum. When he suddenly leaves his and Jolene’s home in the middle of the night, Jolene is left with his little boxes and a million questions. What follows is a quest for love. The themes of loss and forgiveness are unmistakable but what bubbles to the surface in the end is maturation and grace.

Quotes to catch my attention (and there were a lot of them to chose from), “I’d had my share of exquisite humiliations before, but never with someone I actually liked (p 27), “And we continued to learn the other like explorers expanding their maps of the known world” (p 34), “I learned to live with this spectacle of concealment” (p 52), and my favorite, “Love provokes all kinds of behaviour and in retrospect it all seems warranted: you have to allow for passions” (p 93).

As an aside: I think I have said it before, but I like it when a book introduces me to new music. This time it’s new old music, “When Day is Done.” I found a really sultry version sung by Clint Walker on YouTube.
Another aside: I had never been to Watkin’s Glen, New York before meeting my husband. Redhill inserts a minor character from Watkin’s Glen living in Ireland.

Author fact: Redhill wrote many other novels, some under the pseudonym Inger Ash Wolfe, but I only read Martin Sloane for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Martin Sloane is Redhill’s first novel and it nominated for the Giller Prize.

Nancy said: Pearl called Redhill’s book Michael Sloane instead of Martin Sloane. It’s indexed that way as well.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Maiden Voyages” (p ).


Pharos Gate

Bantock, Nick. The Pharos Gate: Griffin & Sabine’s Lost Correspondence. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2016.

Reason read: because Nick Bantock is one of my favorites.

I can’t remember what I said in my Griffin & Sabine review way back when except to say I know I mentioned my ongoing love affair with this series. How could I not? It’s evocative of a very sensual time in my life. I was introduced to Griffin and Sabine by a passionate summer romance. This man made mixed tapes, baked cinnamon scones, read Shakespeare and even wrote poetry, one word at a time, on rose petals. He took me shelling, canoeing and on searches for sunsets. He made my friends want to puke from jealousy. We read to each other as Griffin and Sabine. But, I digress..

Griffin and Sabine. I sigh to hear their names. Their backstory is such: Griffin is an artist in damp and dreary London. One day he receives an unusual postcard from a woman claiming to have the ability to see his art as he is creating it…except Sabine is somewhere in the South Pacific. Trying to make sense of her unusual voyeurism into his creativity before it is fully formed forces Griffin to continue a correspondence with her. Soon they fall in love without ever meeting. [Been there.] Subsequent volumes have Griffin and Sabine trying to cross the enormous divide to see each other face to face, but like any decent romance, their efforts are thwarted at every turn. In Pharos Gate the star-crossed couple discover a safe place to meet: at Pharos Gate in Alexandria. With the help of a friend Griffin sets off across the globe to reach his love. And reach her, he does. But! I haven’t really ruined it for you. Supposedly this is the final book in the series and yet Bantock leaves his audience hanging once again…Yes, they meet but then what? We don’t know. I adore it.


Tear Down the Mountain

Skipper, Roger Alan. Tear Down the Mountain: an Appalachian Love Story.  Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press, 2006.

This is a tragic story about love in hard times. Sid and Janet’s love story. To describe Janet is to think of a quiet running stream. She is shallow and it is easy to see to the bottom of her personality. Sid is more like a deep rushing rapid. He is turbulent and complicated. The violence that springs up between them is defiant and born out of a survival mode of sorts. They meet as children, innocent enough, outside of a church. Both come from volatile homes so it’s only natural they continue that chaos as a couple. Everything about their relationship is tragic. As children the tragedies start small but as adulthood and poverty put them into a stranglehold they have no choice but to lash out in violent ways. What surprised me the most was how Janet’s violence altered Sid’s emotions more than Sid’s violence got to Janet. She could hurt Sid without even trying.  One of the heartbreaking things about Sid is his heart was in the right place but he couldn’t catch a break. Ever. He kind of reminded me of my cousin in that respect. Most of the story is told from Sid’s perspective and only at the beginning and end do we know what Janet was thinking or feeling.

Line I liked the best, “Like kicking tires, your feet delivering what your tongue couldn’t tote” (p 36).

Reason Read: there is an old time fiddle fest in the Appalachian mountains that takes place in September. I am reading Tear the Mountain (set in Appalachia) in honor of the festival that I would probably never attend.

Author Fact: Tear Down the Mountain is Skipper’s first book.

Book Trivia: While finding reviews of Tear Down the Mountain I came across these words from Barbara Hurd, “…write simultaneously about building up and tearing down…” and that fascinated me to no end.

As an aside – when I did a Google search for Tear Down the Mountain the lyrics for “And I’m Telling You” came up. Love that song!

BookLust To Go: From Book Lust to Go in the chapter called “Approaching Appalachia” (p 22).


Kristin Lavransdatter

Undset, Sigrid. Kristin Lavransdatter: the Bridal Wreath. Translated by Charles Archer. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1922.

The first thing I have to point out is there were two things going against this book (for me, anyway). One is sheer size. The entire novel is a trilogy, well over 1,000 pages. Add another sixty pages if you want to include the author’s notes. And the print is small. Real small. The second “negative” is that it is a translation, originally written in Norwegian. It seems I never do well with translated works. It’s almost as if the translator, no matter how hard he or she tried, lost something essential to the flavor of the book. I can’t explain it other than something always gets lost in translation. I know that’s cliche of me to say, but in this case I mean it literally, 100%. Note: I just found out that there is another, more recent translation that seems to be superior to the one I read. Darn.
Having said all that I should also point out (again) Kristin Lavransdatter has three volumes: The Bridal Wreath, the Wife and the Cross. I decided to read The Wreath in June, The Wife in July and The Cross in August. My chances of actually finishing the thing are much better when broken out this way. Another confession: while this might be a lengthy tale it’s also very good and easy to read.

I read this book because a) June is the best time to visit Norway and if you haven’t guessed by my tirade, the author is Norwegian; and b) June is the best month to get married (or divorced) in and Kristin is about the marriage of Kristin…eventually. The book starts with “The Bridal Wreath.” Kristin is a very young child traveling with her father across Norway. In true 14th century fashion Kristin is betrothed to a wealthy, reputable man in a neighboring town. As Kristin grows up she becomes increasingly rebellious, so much so that when she is nearly raped her community has doubts about who is telling the truth. As a result her family decides to send Kristin away to a convent to hide out until the rumors die down. While at this convent she falls in love with the dashing Erlend, a man who has reputation problems of his own. Excommunicated by the Catholic church because of an affair with a married woman, Erlend manages to seduce Kristin as well. Before they can be married Kristin becomes pregnant. The title of this section of Kristin Lavransdatter is in regards to the wreath wears on her wedding day. It is supposed to signify virginity but Kristin wears it with shame, too embarrassed to tell anyone it is a lie.

Author fact: Undset was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928.

Book Trivia: Kristin Lavransdatter was made into a movie in 1995.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up the Past Through Fiction” (p 79)’, and Book Lust to Go in the chapter called “Norway: The Land of the Midnight Sun” (p 162).