Main Street

Lewis, Sinclair. Main Street. Floating Press, 2010.

Lewis, Sinclair. Maine Street. Read by Barbara Caruso. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 1996.

Reason read: Minnesota became a state in the month of May.

This is the satirical story of Carol Milford and her desire to transform her new husband’s little town of Gopher Prairie. While Dr. Will Kennicott is the celebrated hometown physician Carol is the new girl; the sophisticated, educated, and stylish “city girl” (having been a librarian in the metropolis of St. Paul, Minnesota). Her hopes and dreams for the little community are often met with bemusement, confusion, and more than a little resentment. From every angle Carol’s energy and enthusiasm to change things make the townspeople nervous resulting in stubborn denial. It isn’t long before, with all of her reform attempts failed, Carol yearns for adventure and big city culture. Even becoming a mother is not enough to contain her. She wants to shake things up and does so by falling in love with a young tailor. While the community tongues wag, Carol grows more emboldened and daring, finally leaving Gopher Prairie.

I have to get this off my chest, first and foremost. I didn’t really care for Carol Kennicott, nee Milford in the beginning. Early on she was a snob through and through. While traveling to Kennicott’s provincial little town she watches people on the train and is disappointed to see they are peasants. Previously, she didn’t believe in American peasants. Now she is witness to poverty and in her dismay she calls the less fortunate, “stuck in the mud” (p 42). She hasn’t even seen her husband’s town but already she is utterly panicked by the thought of living “inescapably” in Gopher Prairie (p 50). It isn’t until she removes herself from the wretched town that she learns what it means to belong somewhere.

Quotes which captivated me: “The rest of the party waited for the miracle of being amused” (p 51), “She felt that she was no long one-half of a marriage but the whole of a human being” (p 447), and “But sometimes he vanished; he was only an opinion (p 511).

Author fact: Lewis was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930.

Book trivia: Because this satire offended small town Alexandria, Minnesota they banned Main Street from their library.

Nancy said: Nancy described the plot and said Main Street “is probably the earliest Minnesota novel” (p 27).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust twice. First, in the chapter called “Big Country: the Literary Midwest (Minnesota)” (p 27) and again, in the chapter called “Libraries and Librarians” (p 139).


Medea

Euripides, Michael Collier, and Goergia Macherner, 2006. Medea. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. eBook Collection: EbscoHost (accessed 5/16/18/2018).

Reason read: June is the first time the weather is really nice enough to get on the water. Medea uses the ocean in a rather cruel fashion…

The things women will do for love. The things men will do for greed. Medea’s father, King Aeetes had possession of the Golden Fleece. Jason of the Argonauts wanted it. Medea, seduced by Jason, went to great lengths to prove her love. How else to explain murdering her own brother and scattering his body parts over the ocean; making her father slow his fleet to collect them for burial? How else to explain getting Jason’s cousins to poison their father in an effort to bring back his youth? In the end, Jason marries a different princess because Medea is too dangerous. Go figure. Medea starts with Medea seeking revenge. Next on her killing list is Jason’s new wife, Glauce. She gets even more evil from there. She would make a good candidate for that Deadly Women show…

Author fact: If you have ever seen the statue of Euripides in the Louvre, you know he had some killer abs.

Nancy said: Nancy said Medea was one of the four Greek plays you definitely didn’t want to miss (p 11).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Alpha, Beta, Gammas of Greece” (p 9).


Last Seen in Massilia

Saylor, Steven. Last Seen in Massilia. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.

Reason read: the last book I need to read for the Sub Rosa series. I started the series in March in honor of Saylor’s birth month.

When we catch up to Gordianus the Finder in 49 B.C. he is on a quest to find his missing adopted son, rumored to have been murdered. It’s a tricky situation. Meto was caught betraying Caesar, or so the story goes.
Gordianus has taken Darus, his son-in-law, for companionship to the besieged port city of Massilia. (Massilia is modern day Marseille, by the way.) Once there, he encounters more mystery than he knows what to do with. In the middle of a bloody civil war between Caesar and Pompey a smaller, quieter war is underway. A beautiful woman is missing. Gordianus may or may not have witnessed her death. Was it a suicide? Did she jump or was she pushed. Different eyes see different things. An innocent man is doomed to death; a scapegoat by the priests of Artemis, for the sins of his family. Nothing is as it seems. All the while Gordianus is a guest or prisoner of Massilia, seeking the truth of his son.

Author fact: Saylor has appeared on the History Channel.

Book trivia: this is the eighth book in the Sub Rosa series.

Nancy said: nothing worth mentioning.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Classical World” (p 59).


Angel at My Table

Frame, Janet. Angel at My Table: An Autobiography: Volume Two. New York: George Braziller, 1984

Reason read: to continue the autobiography started in April in honor of New Zealand’s Anzac Day.

Angel at My Table being the second volume in Janet Frame’s autobiography, covers her unwillingness to become a teacher, a myriad of mental health struggles, and Frame’s continued desire to impress people as a “true” poet. Despite being at the University for a teaching career Frame was dead set against becoming an educator. When it came time for her to be observed in the classroom she simply excused herself and walked out, never to return again. All she wanted to do was write and it was her ability to do so that ultimately saved her. Scheduled to have an lobotomy, her book, The Lagoon, a volume of short stories, was published just in time for her to receive a stay of operation. From there Frame floundered trying to make a living until she met Frank Sargeson. As a fellow writer he was able to develop a partnership and mentorship that ultimately shaped Frame’s future. At the end of Angel at My Table we leave Frame as she is ready to embark on a new journey; leaving New Zealand for the first time.

Lines to like, “Nola suffered from asthma and the complication of being in a family of brilliant beautiful people” (p 110) and “There is a freedom born for the acknowledgement of greatness in literature, as if one gave away what one desired to keep, and in giving, there is new space cleared for growth, an onrush of a new season beneath a secret sun” (p 153).

Author fact: When Frame died obituaries called her New Zealand’s “best known but least public” writer.

Book trivia: Angel at My Table was made into a movie in 1990, starring Kerry Fox.

Nancy said: Not much. She just mentioned that Frame’s second book was made into a movie.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Kiwis Forever!: New Zealand in Print” (p 123).


Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years

Townsend, Sue. Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years. New York: Soho, 1999.

Reason read: Mother’s Day is May 13th and Pearl included this in her chapter about “Mothers and Sons.”

Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years could be seen as a cautionary tale for men in their 30s: do not get too dependent on mama. Adrian, at this stage in his life, is divorced, lusting after a former flame while being the father (a decent one, I might add) to two boys, and yes, still living with mother. As he tells his journal, he is frequently constipated and suffers from bad breath and ill penis health.
This was a silly read. I almost gave up on it a few times, especially when it became over the top ridiculous. Case in point, Townsend seemed to be poking fun at the Food Network with the creation of “Ping with Singh,” a cooking show aimed at microwave users. The show becomes popular enough to create a stage adaptation to satisfy the masses. Adrian’s own show “Offally Good” produces a book deal (which his mother ultimately ends up ghost writing, go figure).
The best parts were the current events of the times: Tony Blair’s election, Lady Di’s love affair with Dodi and Bill Clinton’s Monica scandal. The latter got a chuckle out of me.

The one line I laughed at, “‘Your money, Mr Mole, is an abstraction wafting in the air between financial institutions, at the mercy of inflation and interest rates, dependent on the health of the global economy'” (p 151). That, sadly, is banking in a nutshell.

Author fact: Townsend wrote a whole series of Adrian Mole books. I felt a little lost jumping in when Adrian is thirty years old. I imagine it’s like coming in late to a really wild party. Everyone is too drunk to talk to you and you can’t get drunk fast enough to catch up.

Book trivia: The entire story is Adrian’s journal.

Nancy said: Nothing. It is listed as a “Mothers and Sons” book.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Mothers and Sons” (p 160).


Bruised Hibiscus

Nunez, Elizabeth. Bruised Hibiscus. Seattle: Seal Press, 2000.

Reason read: There is a steel drum festival called the Pan Ramajay festival that sometimes takes place in May.

Lean into the narrative of Bruised Hibiscus lest you might miss something important or more likely, something sensuous. The lyrical language is like two songs being sung at the same time. Two love songs in different languages. First, there is the language of the Trinidad village of Otahiti, abuzz with the news of a mysterious white woman pulled from the sea, her eyes and lips eaten away by sea life. An evil has come into their community. Then there is the culture of sexuality, both good and bad, which circles two marriages. Two women share a dark secret from childhood; forever linked after witnessing the brutal violation of a young girl. Zuela is the mother of ten children and runs a grocery shop with her husband in Port-of-Spain. Rosa lives on the other side of town in a two-story house in Taccarigua. As adults Zuela and Rosa are mired in loveless and cruel marriages. When the body of the white woman was first discovered, each woman reacted differently but both shared the sensation of memories of the young girl’s violation flooding back.

Examples of the lyrical language, “She, too, had removed the boulder damming her memory” (p 43), and “Then the Chinaman insisted, and forced her lips to shape his words” (p 63).

As an aside, my mother used to play an album by a Calypso band called The Merrymen. They had a song about the Yankee dollar. This book reminded me of them.

Author fact: Nunez was born in Trinidad but lives in New York.

Book trivia: I found Bruised Hibiscus to be somewhat repetitive. Be prepared to feel like you are reading whole passages four or five times.

Nancy said: Nancy said she enjoyed the novels of Nunez (p 58).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean: Trinidad and Tobago” (p 58).


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 ).