On the Night Plain

Lennon, J. Robert. On the Night Plain. New York: Henry Holt, 2001.

Reason read: April is Sibling month.

Grant Person is a curious character. When we first meet this protagonist, he is leaving his Montana sheep ranching family for somewhere (anywhere?) else. His whole attitude is one of ambivalence. If the train stops he’ll get on board. If not, oh well. He’ll go back to his parents and brother as if nothing happened. He has no clear direction other than he would head due east towards New York. He ends up in Atlantic City, New Jersey for some time then wanders home again when he learns his mother has died.
When Grant returns, he is the exact opposite. He comes home to a sheep ranch barely surviving. After his mother’s death, his father runs away. His brother with dreams of being an artist has one foot out the door himself. By himself, Grant becomes singular in his focus to save the farm. It’s a stark story with barely any color or light.

There were a lot of lines I really, really like. “A smile seemed to think about appearing on Cotter’s face but it never arrived” (p 55),

Author fact: J. Robert Lennon also wrote The Funnies which I have already read for the Challenge. He also wrote a series which I am not reading.

Book trivia: I could see this being a movie.

Nancy said: In Book Lust Pearl jokes Lennon is successful at setting a tragedy of Greek proportions on a failing sheep farm on the Great Plains. In More book Lust Pearl included On the Night Plain as an example of brothers who have loved and hated one another.

BookLust Twist: Pearl liked this one. From Book Lust in the chapter called “Western Fiction” (p 240); also from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Oh, Brother” (p 180).


Nod to November

What happened in November? I finished physical therapy. But really, PT is not finished with me. I signed up for a 5k in order to keep the running alive. As soon as I did that I needed x-rays for the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my hip and groin. Like stabbing, electrocuting pains. Diagnosis? More sclerosis and fusing. Yay, me! In defiance of that diagnosis I then signed up for a 21k. I am officially crazy.
Here are the books finished for the month of November:

Fiction:

  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (AB/print)
  • The Edge of the Crazies by Jamie Harrison
  • Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Beaufort by Ron Leshem

Nonfiction:

  • Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher

Series continuations:

  • No Villain Need Be by Vardis Fisher (finally finished!)
  • Mrs. Pollifax on Safari by Dorothy Gilman
  • Henry James: the Master by Leon Edel
  • I Will Bear Witness: the Nazi Years, 1942 – 1945 by Victor Klemperer

Early Review for LibraryThing: nothing. I jinxed myself by mentioning the book I was supposed to receive. Needless to say, it never arrived. So I never finished it. Ugh.


Edge of the Crazies

Harrison, Jamie. The Edge of the Crazies. New York: Hyperion, 1995.

Reason read: November is the month Montana became a state.

As an aside, I love it when a book introduces me to new music. “If Love was a Train” by Michelle Shocked is an example.

Be prepared to meet a lot of people. Jamie Harrison likes to introduce her readers to a bunch of people (kind of reminded me of Batya Gur). Jules Clement (sheriff) of Blue Deer is the main character but you’ll meet his family (sister and father). You’ll even meet an old girlfriend and her family. Don’t forget current girlfriends and arch enemies. Then there’s attempted murder victim George Blackwater and his entire entourage of family and friends (brother, wife, son, housekeeper, assistant – past and present. Don’t forget his love life, too). The introductions continue with a bunch of reporters, police officers, lawyers, doctors, coroners, personal assistants, paramedics, even the principal, a librarian, a caterer, and a banker.
But, back to the plot. Someone has tried to kill George. He has plenty of enemies but it’s up to Jules Clement to figure out who hates him the most. Is it his wife? His girlfriend? His brother? His agent? But, there is a bigger mystery at play. Who hates Jules Clement even more?

Confessional: I had a hard time pinning down in what decade Edge of the Crazies was supposed to happen. Even though it was published in 1995 the story seems to take place much earlier. An hourly wage was $4.50, you could buy a truck for $700 and a house for $30,000 and yet a couch was $1,000 “back in the eighties.” Harrison quotes a Lucinda Williams tune from 1992….
Another observation: I was surprised Jules wasn’t used to seeing his father’s name in print, especially since he is sheriff of the same town as his father. As sheriff of Blue Deer in 1972, wouldn’t Jules’s father’s signature be on a lot of things at the station?

Lines worth mentioning, “they both mulled over the educational properties of cheap fiction in silence” (p 104),

Author fact: Harrison definitely puts a little of herself in a few of her characters. In her former life she was a caterer and script reader. In Edge of the Crazies there is a caterer and script writer.

Book trivia: There was a section of timeline that didn’t sit well with me at all. Around pages 279-281 Jules goes to the Baird Hotel for lunch. The meal lasts two hours. When he returns to the station Grace fills him in on what happened while he was at lunch. After the conversation he “grabbed his coat and eyed the clock. It was 11, and he had plenty of time” (p 281). 11 in the morning? That would make lunch sometime between 8:30 and 8:45am depending on how long it took him to have his conversation with Grace. Further muddying the waters is that when Jules goes back to the hotel he sees the waitress who served him “an hour earlier.” Obviously, Harrison meant to say Jules had breakfast that lasted two hours. Although I still found it odd that the meal took two hours but he was only served his meal an hour earlier. Does that mean he sat around for an hour before the waitress served him?

Nancy said: Nancy called Edge of the Crazies a “good police procedural” (p 121).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. First, in the easy chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 117) and again the chapter called “Montana: In Big Sky Country” (p 156).


November Pain

The running – oops – I mean the training is officially over. I don’t know where the run will go from here. I am toying with a 5k for Safe Passage next month. To hell with toys. I WILL run for Safe Passage next month! But really, I don’t even want to think about that right now since PT has ended. For now, I still have the books. The list is long because we aren’t going anywhere for Thanksgiving. Here’s to four days off with nothing to do but read, read, read. Here is what’s on tap for November:

Fiction:

  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (AB) ~ in honor of November being the best time (supposedly) to visit India (AB / print). Confessional: I think I would like to remove the category of “Best time to visit fill-in-the-blank.” How am I to know when is the best time to visit a country when I have never been there myself? I’m getting a little tired of saying “supposedly” the best time to visit.
  • Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay ~ in honor of Kay’s birth month
  • Beaufort by Ron Leshem ~ in honor of Lebanon gaining independence in November

Nonfiction:

  • Gastronomical Me by M.F.K.  Fisher ~ to recognize National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness month

Series Continuation:

  • No Villain Need Be by Vardis Fisher ~ to continue (and finally finish) the series started in August in honor of Idaho
  • Mrs. Pollifax on Safari by Dorothy Gilman ~ to continue the series started in September in honor of Grandparents month
  • I Will Bear Witness/To the Bitter End by Victor Klemperer ~ to continue the series started in October in honor of Klemperer’s birth month
  • Henry James: the Master by Leon Edel ~ yes, I am still reading this. Just tying up loose ends.

Early Review for LibraryThing IF it arrives (so far it hasn’t):

  • Jam Today: a Diary of Cooking with What You’ve Got by Tod Davies

If there is time:

  • Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love (fiction) by Michael Malone ~ in honor of Malone’s birth month
  • The Edge of the Crazies (fiction) by Jamie Harrison ~ in honor of Montana becoming a state in November.
  • The Caliph’s House (fiction) by Tahir Shah ~ in honor of November being the month Morocco gained independence.

 


River Runs Through It

MacLean, Norman. A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. New York: Pocket Books, 1992.

If you don’t at least know the title of this book you have been living under a rock somewhere. This has been a hit movie as well as a best selling book. It has had definite staying power since published in 1976. Comprised of three semi-autobiographical novellas the title story is the most popular and best known of the three. In fact, a lot of reviews don’t really mention the other two stories which are equally as good. Even the back of the 1992  copy I read recapped only the title story – about a family of fishermen. Father is a minister who instilled a love of fly fishing in his two sons. One son is an alcoholic while the other tries to balance a marriage with his love of the Montana wilderness. What is missing is mention of the two other stories: “Logging and Pimping and ‘Your Pal, Jim'” and “USFS 1919: The Ranger, the cook, and a Hole in the Sky.” The first is exactly what it sounds like, logging, pimping and a relationship with a logger named Jim.  The USFS story is about MacLean as a teenager working as a forest ranger. While it is a subtle detail it is interesting to note MacLean’s stories have a reverse chronology. MacLean is in his 30s in “A River Runs Through It,” in his 20s in “Logging,” and in his teens in “USFS 1919.”

What surprised me the most about MacLean’s writing was the humor that surfaced with sudden hilarity. Here are three such moments: “The light picked up his brow which was serene…as mine would have been if my mother had spent her life in making me sandwiches and protecting me from reality” (p 54) and “You have never really seen an ass until you have seen two sunburned asses on a sandbar in the middle of a river” (p 73).

Another favorite quote I just had to mention because I know people like this (don’t you?): “He was one of those who need to be caught in a lie while he is telling it” (p 36).

Author Fact: A River Runs Through It and Other Stories was MacLean’s first fiction.

Book Trivia: The movie of the same name was made in 1992 and starred Brad Pitt, among others. The third story, “USFS 1919” was made into a made-for-television movie in 1995 and starred Sam Elliot.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Montana: In Big Sky Country” as an aside when mentioning another book (p 156) and also from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Gone Fishin'” (p 100).


Nov ’10 was…

More head in the sand, tail between my legs reading for the month. While it wasn’t an easy month I am happy to say it was better than October by a long shot!

  • The Harmless People by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas ~ in honor of November being the best time to visit Africa. This was an eye opener. I will never look at people the same way again.
  • The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed by Karen Elizabeth Gordon ~ in honor of Writing month. Information I will keep in mind but, because I’m a rebel, probably ignore. Case in point – this sentence!
  • Balsamroot: A Memoir by Mary Clearman Blew ~ in honor of Montana becoming a state in November. This was more about a favorite aunt’s slow decline than about Blew’s own personal life.
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac ~ in honor of November being National Travel month. This was, I think, my favorite book of the month.
  • The Healing by Gayl Jones ~ in honor of November being Jones’s birth month. This was the hardest one of the bunch to read. I’ve decided I don’t care for stream of consciousness!
  • Ruby by Ann Hood ~ in honor of November being National Adoption month. This was a psychological book that had me pondering life’s bigger questions. It took me a weekend to read.
  • Brothers and Sisters by Bebe Moore Campbell ~ in honor of November being the month of Campbell’s passing. Once I got passed the stereotypical characters this was a great book!

For LibraryThing and the Early Review program: Final Flight: The Mystery of a WWII Plane Crash and the Frozen Airmen in the High Sierra by Peter Stekel. This book had everything I could want in a nonfiction: truth and mystery embedded in a well told tale. It was great!


Balsamroot

Blew, Mary Clearman. Balsamroot: a Memoir. New York, Viking: 1994.

Mary Blew wants people to know about her life. She wants people to know the wilds of Montana as her ancestors found it, cultivated it, endured it, survived it. However, Balsamroot is more than about Blew’s life and the personal landscape of her people. Balsamroot is about family ties. The ties that keep generations together and what tears them apart. When Blew first introduces her daughter, Elizabeth, I am sad for them. Mary makes it clear she has lost touch with her eldest daughter – hasn’t seen her in years. She doesn’t hide the fact Elizabeth is a complete stranger to her; asking “Am I really her mother?” (p 19). It dawned on me I could be Elizabeth. I could slip away from my mother and sister just as easily. I could let years and distance come between us as. It’s as easy as all that. The stories within Balsamroot bounce around a lot. Early homesteading stories and mingled with a present day pregnancy and musings about Blew’s own attempts at motherhood. It is a running commentary on growing old from the perspective of the baffled, frustrated caregiver. Dementia robs an entire family of more than just the mind and its memories. The past and present are entwined into one beautiful story.

Favorite lines, “Or I imagined my aunt falling through the hole in her mind” (p 15), “She and I talk, in the private coded language of two women who have known each other, and most of each other’s secrets for twenty years…” (p 144), and “I’m not invisible, it’s just that nobody sees me” (p 156).

Maybe this seems too intrusive, but I would have liked Blew to include photographs, especially of her Auntie.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Montana: In Big Sky Country (p 156).