New and Collected Poems

Milosz, Czeslaw. New and Collected Poems (1931 – 2001). New York: Harper Collins, 2001.

Reason read: March is National Poetry Month in some parts of the world. Stay tuned because April is also a poetry month…in some parts of the world.

Milosz’s poetry touches on a myriad of topics. There are echoes of childhood, listening to a mother softly climb the shadowy stairs or watching a father quietly read in the library. There are a series of poems that lovingly describe a house and its inhabitants. Linked poetry that are meant to be read hand in hand with the next.
Confessional: I did not get through the entire collection. I could have kept the book through April since April is also a month for poetry, but I opted not to.

Favorite quote, “Love is sand swallowed by parched lips” (from Hymn, page 13).

Author fact: Milosz was a Polish cultural attache in France. As an aside, whenever I think of a cultural attache I think of Robin Williams in the movie, The Birdcage. I can’t help it.

Book trivia: New and Collected Poems celebrates the career of Milosz, including the very first poem he wrote at age twenty. I think it would have been cool to include angst-ridden/written poetry from when Milosz was a teenager, because you know he must have written some!

Nancy said: Nancy said Milosz’s New and Collected Poems was a “splendid introduction to those who don’t know his work” (p 187).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Polish Poetry and Prose” (p 187).


Witch World

Norton, Andre. Witch World. Boston: Gregg Press, 1963.

Reason read: Andre Norton died in March. Read in her honor.

I always root for the underdog and in Witch World the heroes are misfits. Simon Tregarth is ex-military, a colonel who has been framed. He is on the run and needs to disappear quickly. Enter Dr. Jorge Petronius who knows exactly where to hide out hero…in the witch world of Estcarp. Petronius has a special stone he calls the Siege Perilous that can judge a man’s worth and then send him to the world best suited for his soul. Simon was sent to a medieval land where its inhabitants are at battle; perfect for a military man. The action picks up from there.

Confessional: I was a little taken aback by Sandra Miesel’s description of the enemy in her introduction. She called them “alien Nazis” (p xiv).

Quote I liked the best, “She was a bleached thing, grown in the dark, but a vitality within her was as strong as the supple blade a wise swordsman chooses over the heavier hacking weapon of the inexperienced” (p 67).

Author fact: Norton wrote her first novel before the age of 21 years old.

Book trivia: Witch World is the first book in the Witch World Series. There are at least nine other books in the Escarp portion of the series, but I am only reading the one. Fro the High Hallack Cycle I am reading The Jargoon Pard and from the Turning I am reading The Warding of Witch World. Are you confused yet? I could be.

Nancy said: Witch World is included in the list of “critically acclaimed fantasy” (p 215).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the long chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


Slide Rule

Shute, Nevil. Slide Rule: the Autobiography of an Engineer. New York: William Morrow & Company, 1954.

Reason read: William Oughtred, the inventor of the slide rule, was born in March. Read in his honor.
Confessional: my father, being a man in love with boats and the ocean and nautical charts, taught me how to use a slide rule for navigation when I was really young. It was such a long time ago I doubt I could plot a course these days, though.

This is supposed to be Nevil Shute’s autobiography but I would say it is more a memoir about his career in aviation. He doesn’t delve into his personal life too deeply. There is nothing about his childhood, his marriage, becoming a father, or much of his writing career, for example. You don’t know much about his family life/childhood, how he met his wife, when he had children, or even how he became a writer in the first place. Slide Rule is more about Shute’s life in aviation; how he became a calculator for the firm of DeHavilland when they were designing rigid airships. What’s fascinating is his company was in competition with the government to build airbuses. After an airbus disaster Shute founded the company Airspeed, Ltd and had lukewarm success being profitable building private planes. At the start of World War II the nature of the business changed and Shute slowly started to withdraw emotionally from Airspeed. The memoir ends with him leaving Airspeed after being voted out by the board. Meanwhile, his career as an author was just starting to take flight.

Quotes I liked, “The happily married man with a large family is the test
pilot for me” (p 67), and “A man’s own experiences determine his opinions, of necessity” (p 140).
Author fact: Nevil’s full name is Nevil Shute Norway. He explains his reasons for using his Christian names alone in Slide Rule.

Book trivia: Slide Rule has a small sections of photographs, including a couple of the author.

Nancy said: Shute thought of himself as more of an engineer than a writer, according to Pearl.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Nevil Shute: Too Good To Miss” (p 198).


Coast of Incense

Stark, Freya. The Coast of Incense: Autobiography 1933 – 1939. London: John Murray, 1953.

Reason read: to finish the autobiography of Freya Stark, started in January in honor of her birth month.

Freya Stark was born to travel. Unafraid. Unconcerned with custom, tradition or the assumed proper behavior of the single woman, Stark was a woman who did as she pleased. Long fascinated with maps she set out to be a lady “traveller” in the middle east. She thought it fun to be “a speck on the map of Arabia” (p 58). The only reoccurring obstacle in her way was illness, whether it be dysentery or the measles, or her heart, she was frequently bed ridden. Never the less she traveled throughout the Hadhramout of South Arabia. As with her other autobiographies, Stark introduces each chapter with a present day impression followed by alternating letters from the time frame. She is careful to weave memory with retrospection to build a compelling portrait of her life.

Personally, I loved her descriptions of Himyar, her pet lizard the best.

Best quotes, “…for no iron curtain yet discovered will stand against the pressure and persistence of life, and I still hope to live long enough to write about an opening door” (preface, p xiii), “..and again astonished me with the strangeness of being rewarded for what one likes to do – although it is, perhaps the best thing to be rewarded for” (p 15), and “A young Yemeni teacher comes three hours a week and Arabic is pouring back into my brain” (p 40).

Author fact: Stark was one feisty woman. Take these quotes for example, “I spent a long time the night before wondering whether I should take our little revolver and shoot the Duce as he came by” (p 6). Then there is this: “Little details one would never think of, such as one’s hostess stopping in the middle of dinner to see if there is vaseline on your knife, as it has just come out of someone’s waistband” (p 72) and “…”but I walked on, stolid and angry, with an occasional remark, on the wickedness of robbing travellers, thrown behind me” (p 246).

Book trivia: The Coast of Incense has a great collection of photographs. There is one of Freya looking like a model in Athens that I just love.

Nancy said: nothing that hasn’t already been said somewhere else.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Lady Travellers” (p 142).


Two Plays and a Premise

Dennis, Nigel. Two Plays and a Premise: Cards of Identity and The Making of Moo. New York: The Vanguard Press, 1958.

Reason read: March is National Read month. I’m reading this just because.

The entire story centers around the Identity Club, a group of psychoanalysts who come together once a year to discuss phony identity cases which don’t involve real patients. At the same time, the local townspeople are being brainwashed into believing they are servants for the psychologists. They lose their identities in order to serve the whims of the shrinks. The end of the story, which I never got to, involves a Shakespearean play. For me, the plot disintegrated midway through the story and I gave up. It started off great. The slow brain washing was sinister in places. Miss Paradise’s brother goes missing and she doesn’t recognize him as the therapists’s servant. Or calling the doctor by different names in order to confuse him. Both scenarios were funny and evil and brilliant.

Confessional: I was supposed to read the full length novel of the same title but I ordered the play instead. By the time I noticed my mistake it was too late. I never would have been able to finish the 300+ page novel in time so I stuck with the play.

Line I liked, “Many a man’s life has been thrown away through the mumbling of his survivors” (p 61).

Author fact: Nigel wrote a smattering of other books but this is the only one I am supposed to read for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Card of Identity is both a novel and a play. For the latter it becomes a play within a play.

Nancy said: Nancy listed Cards of Identity as one of her faves (p 33).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the odd chapter called “The Book Lust of Others” (p 33). Cards of Identity was discovered in Writer’s Choice: A Library of Rediscoveries compiled by Linda Sternberg Katz and Bill Katz.


The Good Son

Gruber, Michael. The Good Son. Read by Neil Shah. Blackstone Audio, 2010.

Reason read: The history of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan begins in March.

From the very beginning you cannot help but root for Theo. He is an ex-Delta soldier trying to be the sensitive tough guy while is mother is being held captive. But, he is only part of the story. Let’s talk about the mother, Sonia Laghari, for a moment. She, along with eight other members of a symposium on peace, have been kidnapped by armed terrorists. Being a deeply religious Jungian psychologist, Sonia becomes the leader of the abducted group. Using her knowledge of the kidnapper’s language and religion she uses her Jungian psychology to interpret their dreams if only to get in their heads. She wants to instill the premise that you can simultaneously hate the war but love the soldier. Despite her own life being in danger, she attempts to generate harmony to “protect” her fellow captives. A sort of reverse Stockholm syndrome. Meanwhile, in Washington there is a Vietnamese National Security translator listening in…The Good Son combines psychology, sociology, religion, and relationships into a thriller well worth the read.

Quotes to quote, “It is easier to tell the truth to the world than to people you love” (p 125) and “Hope and some slight relief from the worst are the best weapons of any tormentor; the torturer smiles and offers a a cigarette” (p 158).

Author fact: Gruber used to be a marine biologist, a restaurant cook and a federal government official. A man of many varying hats. He could be called one of the most interesting men in the world…

Narrator fact: Shah has appeared on the television series, Law & Order.

Book trivia: Due to the nature of Sonia’s character, be prepared for a few didactic moments as Sonia interprets the dreams of her captors and recites poetry.

Nancy said: Nancy called The Good Son a “riveting thriller” (p 214).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Sojourns in South Asia: Pakistan” (p 212).


White Man’s Grave

Dooling, Richard. White Man’s Grave. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994.

Reason read: this explanation is a little convoluted: Dooling was born in Nebraska. Nebraska became a state in March. Nebraska has nothing to do with the plot of White Man’s Grave.

When Peace Corps Volunteer Michael Killigan goes missing the people in his life react very differently. His father, Randall, a high powered bankruptcy lawyer, throws money and power at the situation, hoping he doesn’t have to get his hands too dirty with his son’s failings.  Meanwhile, best friend, Boone Westfall, does the exact opposite. He throws himself headlong into the West African world of witch doctors and supernatural voodoo. Interestingly enough, the voodoo comes to Indiana. Randall receives a strange package; a bundle of black rags soaked in what looks like human blood. And that’s when the hallucinations start. Meanwhile, across the world the Liberian rebels are taking over Sierra Leone, corruption is leaking out from every corner. Secret societies of leopard men, bush devils, human baboons and witches prevail. In the midst of it all one question still remains, what happened to Peace Corps volunteer Michael Killigan?

Confessional: I got a little weary of the repetitive descriptions of gory witchcraft. Everything was matted in hair and blood and teeth.

Two quotes to quote: “His wife was terribly calm, almost formal, which told him something was terribly wrong, and she didn’t want to tell him on the phone, because she was afraid he would lean out of the clouds on Olympus and throw lightning bolts at her” (p 18), and “Randall held his breath and mastered a rogue emotion, which threatened to bolt from his stables and make an ass of him” (p 242).

Author fact: The photo Dooling used looks a little like Matt Damon. Another Dooling trivia: he lived in Sierra Leone in the early 1980s.

Book trivia: The cover of my edition of White Man’s Grave is creepy. A baboon with bleary eyes stares out from on top of a man’s muddied torso. The man is holding a bowl of bones and a picture of a man. Underneath the man’s torso are bare legs, one wearing a sneaker, the other barefoot. None of these images are proportional to the other so the overall effect is very disjointed and disturbing.

Nancy said: Nancy includes White Man’s Grave because it is one of two satirical novels about the culture clash in Africa.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “African Colonialism” (p 14). As an aside, this is the first book I am reading from this chapter. Isn’t it amazing? After almost 18 years of reading I finally chose a book from “African Colonialism.”