Toole, John. Kennedy. A Confederacy of Dunces. New York: Grove Press, 1980.
Reason read: Why was this book on my list? I completely forgot. Probably something having to do with Hurricane Katrina.
Confederacy of Dunces is like cilantro: either you love it and you want it on anything and everything, or you hate it and you think it tastes like soap; you can’t come within ten feet of it. Meet Ignatius J Reilly, the trumpet and lute playing, obese and unemployed, lazy and insolent video gamer still living with his mother at thirty years old. He truly is the master of the deadly sin of sloth.
Reading Confederacy of Dunces was like playing the Untangle Me Game. You know, the one you play with string. Take twenty extremely long pieces of string, tangle them all around a room and then have twenty people chose an end to each piece of string. They must try to crawl over and under one another in an effort to untangle the mess. There are usually prizes at the other end of each string. Trying to follow the plot of Confederacy of Dunces was like trying to crawl under someone with extremely bad body odor in the hopes your entanglement will wind its way far, far away from the offending smell. Except. There was no prize at the end. I didn’t get it. In addition, I have a low tolerance for repetition and Confederacy is redundant on multiple levels. I will say, the best part of Confederacy was the culture of New Orleans. It lived and breathed like an unintended character. The parts about New Orleans I laughed about.
Line I liked, “When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip” (p 6). Okay. Funny.
Author fact: John Kennedy Toole at thirty-one committed suicide in a remote field. Maybe he was too much like Ignatius and couldn’t find his way to success.
Book trivia: Many different people have tried to make A Confederacy of Dunces into a movie. I don’t think it has happened yet.
Nancy said: Pearl said that A Confederacy of Dunces is an example of “What Mothers Ought Not to Do” (p 160). She also called it a “raucous tragicomedy” (p 168).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Mothers and Sons” (p 160) and again in the chapter called “New Orleans” (p 168).
What can I say about September? It sucked. There. I did have something to say after all. It sucked because I didn’t diverge or divulge. I like epiphanies that flash like light bulbs and bring about great catapults of change. None of that happened. I barely did anything worth mentioning except a great trip to Colorado. Then Jones died. That really sucked. What else? I didn’t run at all. That also sucked. My uncle started hospice care and do I dare mention September is the anniversary month for my grandmother, father, and high school friend’s passings. An ugly and sucky month all the way around. Silver linings: my 14th wedding anniversary and two opportunities to hear Natalie Merchant sing. Then! And then there were the books. I can’t forget the books! Here they are:
- Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden (EB & print)
- Most Offending Soul Alive by Judith Heimann (EB & print)
- Life and Times of Miami Beach by Amy Armbruster (print)
- The Workshop: Seven Decades of ther Iowa Writers’ Workshop edited by Tom Grimes (print)
- Fuzz by Ed McBain (print and EB)
- Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall (AB & print)
- The Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett (print)
- Holding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB)
- Tandia by Bryce Courtenay (print & EB)
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford (EB) – finally, finally finished it!
Boyden, Amanda. Babylon Rolling. New York: Pantheon Books, 2008.
Reason read: Hurricane Ivan roared through the eastern seaboard in September 2004. I should know because it disrupted my wedding.
Five very different New Orleans families on Orchid Street are under a microscope in Boyden’s second book, Babylon Rolling. A careless accident will initially bring these neighbors into focus, but it’s the threat of intolerance that tightens their connections to one another.
Ed and Ariel with their two children (impossibly named Miles and Ella), are newly transplanted from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He’s a stay at home dad while she is a GM for a hotel. There is trouble in the marriage. Sharon Harris has all she can handle with her two trouble-making boys, Daniel aka “Fearious” and Michael aka “Muzzy.” Both are druglord wannabes. Cerise and Roy Brown are trying to live in peace with their grown daughter Maria. Racist Philomenia Beargard de Bruges keeps an eye on the street while her husband, Joe battles colon cancer. Then there are the Guptas who have moved into the largest house on the block. Their presence is barely felt in the plot.
One of the least liked elements of Boyden’s writing is her character stereotypes. The voice of each community member vibrates with an exaggerated edge, especially the “thugs” and African Americans. Dialogues sound forced and even comical at times. Confessional: the only character I liked was Cerise. She was the only normal one of the bunch.
Quotes I liked enough to mention, “Ed needed to work on his acceptance of overweight humans” (p 14) and “Her duties at this point in the marriage are very clearly defined, such that she has to do next to nothing for him should she not want to” (p 187).
Author fact: Boyden’s first novel was Pretty Little Dirty which is not on my Challenge list but sounds like it was a success.
Nancy said: Babylon Rolling features “a large cast of exquisitely drawn characters” (Book Lust To Go p 155).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “News From N’Orleans” (p 155).
I don’t post a lot of personal stuff on this side of the writing. Not usually. Typically, I leave all that other blathering on JustCauseICan. I may write about the run or the island, a brief sentence here or there, but of little else…except for today. When you lose someone you adore it is hard to focus. That is precisely my problem today. I am shattered by grief and only put back together again by words. So, I must read. Here are the books planned for September. I hope they heal:
- Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden – to remember Hurricane Ivan as it wreaked havoc on my 2004 September wedding.
- The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrisson and His Remarkable Life by Judith M. Heinmann – in honor of Harrisson’s birth month being in September.
- Life and Times of Miami Beach by Ann Armbruster – in honor of Hurricane Irma.
- Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: 43 Stories, Recollections, and Essays on Iowa’s Place in Twentieth Century American Literature edited by Tom Grimes – in honor of Grimes’ birth month being in September.
- Fuzz by Ed McBain – to end the series started in July in memory of McBain’s passing.
- Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall – to end the series started in August in honor of Rajiv Ratna Ganghi, India’s youngest Prime Minister’s birth month.
- Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month (August).
- Holding the Dream by Nora Roberts – to continue the series started in honor of August being Dream Month.
- Tandia by Bryce Courtenay – to end the series started in August in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
Confessional: I am still reading Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford.
One of my all time favorite 10,000 Maniacs songs is “The Painted Desert” off the album, Our Time in Eden. If you have never heard it, the premise is simple. A couple is trying to have a long distance relationship. Or…one of them is anyway…While one is off in the Southwest, the other waits patiently for the time when he? she? can join the other. But, soon the patience tarnishes and the one left behind find themselves pleading, “I wanted to be there by May at the latest time. Isn’t that the plan we had or have you changed your mind? I haven’t heard a word from you since Phoenix or Tuscon. April is over. Can you tell how long before I can be there?” The underlying poison is that the partner has moved on and the answer to the question is “never.” How ironic.
Having said all that, April IS over. As far as the run is concerned, I begrudgingly ran a half mara and a 10k and despite not training for either, I am pleased with both races.
And I read a fair amount of books:
- Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell
- Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
- The Corner: a Year in the life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns
- The Evolution of Everyday Objects by Henry Petroski
- Bogey Man by George Plimpton
- To the Is-Land: an Autobiography by Janet Frame
- Charmed by Nora Roberts
- The Venus Throw by Steven Saylor
- “Unexplorer” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- “Travel” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz
- Deeply Grateful and Entirely Unsatisfied by Amanda Happe
Eggers, Dave. Zeitoun. New York: Vintage Books, 2009.
Reason read: Louisiana was founded in the month of April.
For the rest of the world, Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of her horrible devastation are receding images in the rear view mirror; images replaced by other natural and man-made disasters of bigger and nastier proportions. To the rest of the world what happened in New Orleans is fast becoming a series of footnotes in history’s troubled narrative. But, for the people of New Orleans, the nightmare is far from over. Zeitoun is just one man’s story. A man who stayed to wait out the storm. A man who tried to help those in need wherever and however he could. A man caught up in racial profiling, prejudices, and fast-ignited bad judgements. There were hundred of stories just like his. Dave Eggers makes the story more interesting than run of the mill.
When it was all said and done, I had to wonder about Zeitoun’s character. Here was a man who stubbornly made his wife and child walk four hours one way on a beach to reach a rock formation he could see in the distance.
As an aside, I tried to not let the rest of Zeitoun’s public story change how I read Eggers’s book. Like everyone else, I Googled Zeitoun and found out about his violent behavior towards his wife and their legal battles. So sad.
Quotes to quote, “The winds were still many days from being relevant to his life” (p 24).
Author fact: Dave Eggers was born in Boston and is my age.
Book trivia: Oddly enough, even though there are photographs in Zeitoun they are of his family and not what everyone would expect, of the devastation in New Orleans.
Nancy said: Nancy outlines the basic plot of Zeitoun.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “News From N’Orleans” (p 155).
Yes, it is now April 4th and I am just getting to this. April is slowly becoming one of those coulda, woulda months. I was supposed to run nine miles on Sunday. Instead, I had Easter dinner with the family and chilled out. I could have run on Monday but it snowed and I had Cairo. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, didn’t. April is supposed to he a half marathon (and you can see how well the training is going) and a 10k one week later. Here are the books:
- Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell – in honor of Lowell’s birth month being in April.
- Zeitoun by Dave Eggers – in honor of April being the month Louisiana was founded.
- Bogey Man by George Plimpton – in honor of the PGA tour.
- Corner by David Simon – in honor of Maryland becoming a state in April.
- Evolution of Useful Things by Henry Petroski – in honor of April being Math, Science, and Technology month.
- Venus Throw by Steven Saylor – to continue the series started in March for Saylor’s birth month.
- Charmed by Nora Roberts – to continue the series started in February for Valentine’s Day.
- New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz – to continue honoring Poetry Month
- A Few Figs From Thistles by Edna St. Vincent Millay – see above.
- “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay – see above.
If there is time:
- To the Is-Land by Janet Frame – in honor of Anzac Day in New Zealand.
- Jargoon Pard by Andre Norton (I had to request this one through interlibrary loan so I’m not sure it will be read in time to be in the April category.
Neufeld, Josh. A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010.
Reason read: Mardi Gras is held in New Orleans every February. Rather than read this in August (typical because of the date of Hurricane Katrina) I decided to twist it up a little. Just as Pearl did (see BookLust Twist at the end of this review).
Right from the very beginning you know you are in for something deeply moving and very special when reading the graphic novel A.D. (although technically it is not a novel. Novel implies fiction, right?). Neufeld starts the reader off looking at Earth from outer space. As we look down on North America we almost get a sense of the calm before the storm. On the next page the graphic orientates us to the tragedy to come as we get a bird’s eye view of the city of New Orleans. We are coming in closer. We see the city as one entity and the storm as another, as if they are two strangers being introduced at a party. As the days go by we follow the lives of seven New Orleans residents. This becomes a biography of each individual.
To me, what is incredibly sad is the emphasis on their naivete, their attitude of “this is no big deal” all because hurricanes in their corner of the world come and go. They have lived through them before. They are experts in the realm of weather. That may be true, but no one expected the levies to go…
Yes. You can read this in one day as posting this on the first implies. My recommendation? Read it several times. Read and share it. There is a message hidden in the comic.
My favorite StopYouInYourTracks quote: “At least then we wouldn’t have had to walk on top of the things I cared about the most” (Leo, on page 171).
As an aside: Neufeld wasn’t the only artist to be shocked by Hurricane Katrina. Many talented individuals expressed their grief through art. But, listen to Natalie Merchant. She wrote a song called “Go Down Moses” (on her self titled album) that addresses not only the city of New Orleans after the hurricane, but the Danziger Bridge tragedy as well. Danziger is what she was referring to when she says, “let your people cross over.” Sad.
Author fact: the author of A.D. is JOSH Neufeld. Josh, not Joshua as Nancy Pearl refers to him. He is Josh in twelve different places in the book: on the front cover, on the title page, four times on the copyright page, in the afterward, on the “about the author” page, on the back flap and three in separate instances on the back cover. Not once does the name “Joshua” appear anywhere. Call me crazy, but I think he wants to be called Josh. For more information on Josh and this project, check out this link.
Book trivia: this was a New York Times best seller. Of course it was.
BookLust Twist: in Book Lust To Go but not for the reasons you would think. You’re thinking this would be in the chapter “New Orleans” but it’s not. It’s in “Comics with a Sense of Place” (p 68).
August was a little of this and a little of that. Some people will notice I have made some changes to the book challenge – some changes more noticeable than others. For starters, how I review. I now add a section of why I’m reading the book. For some reason I think it’s important to include that in the review. Next, how I read. I am now adding audio books into the mix. I am allowing myself to add an audio book in “trapped” situations when holding a book and keeping my eyes on the page might be an inconvenience (like flying) or endanger someone (like driving). I’m also making a effort to avoid wasting time on books I don’t care for (like Honore de Balzac). One last change: I am not as stringent about reading something within the month. If I want to start something a little early because it’s right in front of my face then so be it.
What else was August about? August was also the month I lost my dear Cassidy for a week. I spent many a night either in an insomniac state or sitting on the back porch, reading out loud in hopes the sound of my voice would draw my calico to me. The only thing it yielded was more books finished in the month of August. She finally came home one week later.
Anyway, enough of all that. I’ll cry if I continue. Onto the books:
I started the month by reading and rereading Tattoo Adventures of Robbie Big Balls by Robert Westphal. This was the first time I read and reviewed a book after meeting the author. I wanted to get it right. I also wanted to make sure I was an honest as possible about the situation. Everything about this review was unusual. For the challenge:
- After You’ve Gone by Alice Adams ~ I read this in three days and learned a valuable lesson about Adams’s work: read it slowly and parse it out. Otherwise it becomes redundant.
- Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin ~ I read this in ten days, tucking myself in a study carrell and reading for an hour everyday.
- Fahrenheit 541 by Ray Bradbury ~ an audio book that only took me nine days to listen to.
- Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum ~ read with Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I took both of these to Maine and had oodles of car-time to finish both.
- We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich ~ this was probably my favorite nonfiction of the challenge. Rich’s Maine humor practically jumped off the page. I read this to Cassidy.
- The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder ~ I read this in three days, again hiding myself away in a study carrell.
- Ten Hours Until Dawn by Tougis ~ another audio book. I’m glad I listened to this one as opposed to reading it. Many reviewers called it “tedious” and I think by listening to it I avoided that perspective.
- The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson ~ I read this in two days (something I think I thought I was going to get to in June).
- All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque ~ I read this in honor of World War I ending. I also read it in one night while waiting for Cassidy to come home.
- The Lives of the Saints by Nancy Lemann ~ also read in one night. In honor of New Orleans and the month Hurricane Katrina rolled into town.
- Kristin Lavransdatter: the Cross by Sigrid Undset ~ finally put down the Norwegian trilogy!
For the Early Review Program with LibraryThing:
- The Most Memorable Games in New England Patriots History by Bernard Corbett and Jim Baker. This was supposed to be on my list a year ago. Better late than never.
- Sex So Great She Can’t Get Enough by Barbara Keesling. This took me an inordinate amount of time to read. Guess I didn’t want to be seen in public with it.
Lemann, Nancy. Lives of the Saints. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.
Probably the only good thing to come out of missing a cat is the long sleepless nights I spend reading. I was able to read Lives of the Saints in almost two nights.
Louise is a young woman with a great sense of sarcastic and romance. She has returned to New Orleans after college to work in a law firm. She reconnects with her long time love Claude Collier (as well as his family). Through a series of events Louise and the Colliers are changed forever. While the entire story is short (less than 150 pages) Lemann packs in a lifetime of emotion. What makes the story unique is Lemann’s writing style. She has fun playing with capitalization and repetition. Many reviews I read seem to fixate on the capitalization. I was more distracted by the insane amount of repetition. I wish I could count how many times the color green is mentioned or how many white seersucker suits are being worn. Every big event hosts and green and white striped awning. It’s very distracting. Here’s a small sample, “Saint started talking about bridges. He was Very Interested in bridges lately. Bridges were what made his Life Worth Living. He was studying bridges. Sometimes Claude had to take Saint out for a whole day to look at different bridges in the city. The theme was definitely bridges” (p 43). The entire book is filled with this ‘Rain Man’ like writing.
Favorite lines, “Then to put it differently, he was a man who had, at some juncture, come to know himself, and therefore had come to despise himself, and therefore was deemed worthy of the name: wise” (p 26), “We only saw three races and it was so boring and decadent that I fell asleep form psychological pressure” (p 30), and “His kisses were like conducting conversations with heaven” (p 76).
Reason read: Lives of the Saints takes place in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina ripped through Cajun country in the month of August. In remembrance of that disaster I am reading Lemann’s book.
Author fact: Lives of the Saints is Lemann’s first book.
Book trivia: Walker Percy called it “nutty” and I couldn’t agree more. This is definitely an odd little book.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter simply called “New Orleans” (p 168).
Percy, Walker. The Moviegoer. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.
I felt like I was doing this book a disservice by reading it. I was bored half the time and I really couldn’t tell you why. I guess I didn’t fall in love with the main character as quickly or as easily as I wanted to. What is there to say? Binx “Jack” Bolling is a 29 year old stock broker who dates his secretaries. He’s good at what he does so he earns everyone (including himself) a lot of money. He appears to be a shallow man who spends most of his free time going to the movies. The majority of the story takes place in New Orleans which was fun. I have always been fascinating by that area of the south.
For the most part The Moviegoer was a social commentary on a man who prefers to watch life from the sidelines. He doesn’t spend a great deal of effort actually getting out there and making things happen. He has no clue who he is. Probably the most telling moment of the story is when Binx is being questioned: “‘What do you love? What do you live by?’ [he is asked.] I am silent'” is his reply (p 226). He can’t even answer the question of what he holds sacred, of what makes him live.
Best funny lines, “Oh the crap that lies lurking in the English soul” (p 26). Anytime someone uses the word “lurking” in a sentence I’m a fan. “Whenever I feel bad, I go to the library and read controversial periodicals” (p 100). The librarian in me loves the fact he goes to the library and he used the word periodical!
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust and mentioned three times: first, in the chapter called “Companion Reads” (p 65). I was supposed to read The Moviegoer with The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner (which I already read), The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, and A Gesture Life by Chang-rae Lee. All four books represent being more of a spectator to life than a participant. The second time The Moviegoer is mentioned in Book Lust is in the chapter “New Orleans” (p 168), the reason why I read the book in August. The last place The Moviegoer is mentioned is in the chapter “Southern Fiction” (p 223).
August is a long awaited trip homehome. August is the trials and tribulations of hiring. August is a little Avett Brothers, drums and Sean for music. August is getting back to cooking. August is so many different things, including a goal of 84 miles. Don’t ask. Here’s what August is for books:
- The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester (the easiest way to celebrate National Language Month.)
- The Moviegoer by Walker Percy (Marking the anniversary of hurricane Katrina later this month – The Moviegoer takes place in New Orleans.)
- Mutual Friend by Frederick Busch (Celebrating Busch’s birth month.)
- Turbulent Souls by Stephen J. Dubner (Blame it on someone else month. I think I’ll have to wait for the review to explain this one.)
- These Tremendous Mountains by David Freeman Hawke (Celebrating the expedition of Lewis and Clark)
- Wind, Sand & Stars by Antoine Du Saint (August is National Aviation Month)
And for LibraryThing it is: Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey and I really, really should reread the one Early Review book I didn’t get around to reviewing, Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moaveni.
For fun it’s a bunch of running band vegetable books. Go figure.