Doctorow, E.L. Ragtime. Plume, 1996.
Reason read: Emma Goldman was born in June. Read in her memory.
Rich in historical fiction, Ragtime will parade past its readers men like Sigmund Freud, Winslow Homer, Henry Ford, Harry Houdini, J.P. Morgan, Theodore Dreiser, and Booker T. Washington.
All walks of life thrive within the pages of Ragtime. The sideshow freaks of the Barnum and Bailey circus, the curse of the Egyptian mummies, the advent of the Model Ford, the destruction of Tammany Hall, sexual fainting was a thing, segregation was strict in parts of the country, there was human trafficking by a different name, Robert Peary’s quest for the Arctic, L.L Bean boots, the Stanford White shooting, Charles Dana Gibson was asking the eternal question, the anarchist Emma Goldman, even Emiliano Zapata. At the center of this turn-of-the-century drama is ten years of one family. Their business is fireworks and flags and while they are profitable in business, they are poor in happiness. Everyone is undergoing personal strife. It isn’t until a seemingly abandoned black child wanders into their midst, followed by the depressed mother and musician father when things start to perk up.
Best lines: none because I am too lazy to seek permission. Blah, blah, blah.
Author fact: E.L. stands for Edward Lawrence.
Book trivia: Ragtime was made into a move starring James Olson in 1981. Of course I haven’t seen it.
Playlist: with a name like Ragtime you know music will be mentioned. Al Jolson, Scott Joplin’s “Wall Street Rag” and “The Maple Leaf”, Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody”, John McCormack’s “I Hear You Calling Me”, and “The Liberty Bell March”.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Ragtime except to describe a little of the plot.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “American History: Fiction” (p 22)
Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: the Big City: Invisible People. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1992.
Reason read: to finish the series started in January.
The stories in Will Eisner’s New York: the Big City keep getting sadder and sadder. The subtle humor once found in earlier stories has slipped away in Invisible People. Take Pincus Pleatnik from the short story “Sanctum.” Someone at the newspaper has made a mistake and prematurely put his name in the obituary section. Because Pincus is an unmemorable (invisible) man no one believes him when he tries to prove his living-and-breathing existence. Then there is the librarian, a spinster in her 40s in “Mortal Combat.” She spent her entire life looking after her father. Despite the many sacrifices she has made over the years to care for her dad, once he passes she believes it is not too late to have a life of her own. She tries…except she choses a man exactly like herself, locked into a lifetime of caring for a parent.
As an aside, I was reminded of the lyrics from “Motherland”, a Natalie Merchant song: “Nameless, faceless, innocent, blameless, free. Now tell me what that’s like to be.” The people in Invisible People are indeed nameless and faceless.
Only quote I liked, “the pity of it is that deep-city dwellers carefully sidestep the human debris that they see in the doorways and crannies around them” (p 41).
Author fact: Eisner said he wrote Invisible People in anger. He read an article about a woman who was failed by the system. You can read more about it here.
Book trivia: Invisible People is the last set of stories in Will Eisner’s New York.
Nancy said: Pearl said Invisible People as one of the books about New York City she really liked.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “New York: a Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).
Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: Life in the Big City: City People Notebook. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1989.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January.
I am starting to notice a pattern with Eisner’s work: there is a level of subtle tragedy in every story in Will Eisner’s New York. One example – in City People Notebook the throngs of people moving down the bustling sidewalk do not give notice to the man in terrible distress, apparently having a heart attack until he lies prostrate on the sidewalk, dead. It’s a terrible image.
Despite the sadness there is some humor (Hotel LaSleaze where a man assumes he has anonymity and takes out an escort). I especially liked the smell shock. The city smells so bad you don’t recognize when it is on fire.
The same street has many different personalities: empty, angry, sad. Eisner studies the relationship between people and these streets. He calls it an “archaeological study of city people.” The lonely people, the suspicious people, the harried people. They all flow through the streets on their way somewhere. All the while they are unaware of the environmental factors of time, smell, rhythm and space. There is a certain cadence to the city – the element of speed through a maze; a certain cacophony of emissions.
Author fact: Eisner died in January 2005.
Book trivia: Eisner offers up a new introduction for City People Notebook in his compendium.
Nancy said: Pearl lists City People Notebook as one of the books about New York City she really liked.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “New York City: a Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).
Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: Life in the Big City: The Building. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January.
So much tragedy and human heartache surrounding one building: the story of Monroe, a man trying to save all the children of New York after an accident involving a young boy changes his entire life; PJ Hammond and his singular obsession to buy the building he grew up in; the love affair between Gilda and poor poet, Benny in the shadow of the building (until Gilda goes and marries someone else for money); and Antonio Tonatti, the man who loved to play music in front of the majestic building until it was torn down. One building, so many stories. It’s as if the giant structure made of glass and steel stood guard over all these lives.There is one final story which ties all the other stories together. It’s bittersweet and beautiful. Quintessential New York.
Author fact: Eisner has a comic Hall of Fame award named after him.
Book trivia: Look carefully at the illustrations. Characters come back from other stories.
Nancy said: The Building is included in a list of books about New York that Pearl has enjoyed.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “New York City: A Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).
Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: the Big City: New York. New York: D.C. Comics, 1981.
Reason read: Will Eisner passed away in the month of January. Read in his memory.
Every time I think of New York I cannot help but also think of Natalie Merchant’s song, “Carnival.” How could I not? It’s an homage to a great city of contradiction. Her line, “A wild-eyed mystic prophet, on a traffic island, stopped and he raved of saving me” evokes so many conflicting emotions. Thanks to my nephew being born in New York City, I got to waken a dormant love for the Big Apple. Sights, smells, and sounds that are often times distasteful to some (like my husband), fill me with inexplicable energy and ambition. I want to run Central Park like I live on the upper west side. It’s as if New York’s grit and grime are tangible forms of strength and tenacity that speak loudly to me. In New York, Will Eisner captures perfectly the stark reality of the big city’s silent and subtle struggles. You can smell the stench of all corners of New York, hear the frenetic activity in every sentence. But, look and look again very carefully. There is power in what isn’t said. Look at the illustration of the people riding the subway. You can almost hear the rattle of the rails; and when the train grinds to a halt during a blackout there’s that one guy who doesn’t change expression. As the minutes tick by, the people around him slowly start to panic while he stoically stares ahead. There truly is always that one guy and if you were on that train, you would see him. This is a portrait of an important city doing unimportant things, all lovingly expressed in a series of vignettes; the constants of New York: Avenue C which connect the East side to West, the importance of stoops, the sentinels of the City (hydrants, mailboxes, traffic signals, lampposts, windows, and sewers), and the people. You can read the entire thing in minutes, but that only means you have time to read it again and again and again.
Best quotes, “The big city is after all a hive of concrete and steel in which living things swarm. Depositing, in the course of their lives, the residue of their existence, in the countless garbage cans that sit dumbly amid the swirl” (p 41).
Author fact: Will Eisner popularized the term “graphic novel.”
Book trivia: After New York the tribute to New York continues with The Building, City People Notebook, and, Invisible People.
Nancy said: Pearl said she really enjoyed New York.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “New York City: A Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).
Powell, Dawn. Novels 1944 – 1962: The Wicked Pavilion. New York: Library of the America, 2001.
Reason read: Powell was born in November. Read in her honor. Powell also died in the month of November. Also read in her memory.
The first word that comes to mind when I think of The Wicked Pavilion is snarky. To flesh that out, it is a snarky satire about New York in all its glory. This is the second postwar satire Powell published and with every intent, laid bare all of Greenwich Village’s shortcomings. Set mostly in Cafe Julien, Pavilion’s characters are all hot messes. Unsuccessful in romance and unsuccessful at success they spend a great deal of time whining and complaining to and about each other.
Quotes I really liked, “We get sick of our clinging vines…but the day comes when we suspect that the vines are all that hold our rotting branches together” (p 697) and “She was never to be spared, Ellenora thought, a little frightened at the role he had given her of forever forgiving him and then consoling him for having hurt her, inviting more hurt by understanding and forgiving it” (p 720). Such a hopeless situation.
Author fact: Powell also wrote My home is Far Away, The Locusts Have No King, and The Golden Spur. All of these titles are on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: According to the chronology in Novels 1944 – 1962, Powell begins work on Wicked Pavilion in 1950 but doesn’t publish it until four years later (p 950 – 952).
Nancy said: Pearl just said Gore Vidal wrote an essay about the works of Dawn Powell for David Madden’s Rediscoveries and Rediscoveries II (both on my Challenge list) which is how Pearl came to include them in More Book Lust.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Book Lust of Others” (p 33).
When I look back at August my first thought is what the hell happened? The month went by way too fast. Could the fact that I saw the Grateful Dead, Natalie Merchant (4xs), Trey Anastasio, Sirsy, and Aerosmith all in the same month have anything to do with that? Probably. It was a big month for traveling (Vermont, Connecticut, NYC) and for being alone while Kisa was in Charlotte, Roanoke, Erie, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Colorado. And. And, And! I got some running done! The treadmill was broken for twenty days but in the last eleven days I eked out 12.2 miles. Meh. It’s something. Speaking of something, here are the books:
- African Queen by C.S. Forester
- Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas
- Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object by Laurie Colwin
- Strong Motion by Jonathan Frazen
- Beauty by Robin McKinley
- Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes
- American Chica by Marie Arana
- Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge
- Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson
- Die Trying by Lee Child
- Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov
Early Review cleanup:
- Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm
- Open Water by Mikael Rosen
Taylor, Sydney. All-of-a-Kind Family. Read by Suzanne Toren. New York: Dell Publishing, 1951.
Reason read: April is the month for Sibling Recognition but I could have read it for Library Week since the first scene is Sarah losing a library book and having to work out a repayment system with the kindhearted librarian.
There are five children to keep track of in All-of-a-Kind Family: Gerdie, Sarah, Henny, Ella, and Charlotte. Each child has a wonderfully illustrated distinct personality. Together they make their way through turn-of-the-century New York City and all it has to offer whether it be a trip to the carnival atmosphere of Coney Island or around the corner to Papa’s shop.
Taylor does a wonderful job including a primer of Jewish customs around the holidays. It does not come across as didactic or religiously heavy. Instead, there is a heartfelt pride in the rituals. It’s not a spoiler to say the children have two surprises at the end of the book.
As an aside, I was transported back to my childhood when two of the sisters were standing before the great candy counter, peering through the glass, trying to decide what to buy with just a penny. I can remember similar days, my nose pressed against the glass, trying to decide how my precious money could be stretched to buy both Swedish fish and Red Hots. Zimmie, with his long folded downy white hair covered arms would stand patiently behind the counter waiting and waiting for me to decide. Probably cursing me all the while.
Author fact: Taylor has written a whole series on the All-of-a-Kind-Family. I wish I had more of them on my list.
Book trivia: my edition was illustrated by Helen John.
Nancy said: Pearl said All-of-a-Kind Family includes a “lovely chapter” on what happens when Sarah loses a library book.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Libraries and Librarians” (p 138). To be fair, the library is hardly in the book and the librarian rarely makes an appearance, but her character is essential to the story!
“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.
- 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)
- Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett.
Millhauser, Steven. Martin Dressler. New York: Random House, 1996.
Reason read: November is a fascinating time to be in New York City.
Martin Dressler, the ambitious son of a cigar maker, has big dreams even as a young child. He starts by delivering cigars for his father and finds an ingenious way to make profits soar. As a teenager, he starts his career employed as a young hotel bellhop. He catches the eye of the hotel owner and soon becomes his secretary and mentor. As a young man he falls under the spell of a mother and her two grown daughters while building hotels of his own. One daughter becomes his business partner when he delves into opening a chain of diners while the other daughter, Caroline, mystifies him with her silent, elusive personality. She reminds him of a girl he used to know…Strangely enough, he ends up marrying this shadowy, ghostly woman.
This is not a coming of age story. Readers watch as Martin goes through childhood and teenage years to adulthood without exposing friendships; it’s as if he doesn’t have any, puberty, or any other angst-y growing up tribulation. His personality is firmly grounded in business. There is a moment when Martin decides it is time for him to lose his virginity and almost without ceremony or fanfare, he visits a brothel. This becomes a matter of fact, once a week habit he continues into adulthood. Not much is made of sex either way. However, his wedding night is particularly uncomfortable.
What is especially fun to watch is late nineteenth century New York City growing up along side Martin. The street names change over the years. Buildings grow taller. Oil lamps are crowded out by electricity one by one. The Manhattan we know today competes with Martin’s metropolis of his dreams until they are both so large there isn’t room enough for the both of them. But, which New York lives on?
Quotes I found interesting, “She looked like a new painting, all wet and shiny, but already she was fading into the darkness between lamps” (p 138) and “Here in the other world, here in the world beyond the world, anything was possible” (p 292).
Author fact: at the time of publication, Millhauser taught at Skidmore College.
Book trivia: Martin Dressler won a Pulitzer Prize.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Martin Dressler in Book Lust, but in Book Lust To Go she hinted the book takes place in New York, but it’s not the Manhattan we know (Book Lust To Go p 236).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust from the chapter called “New York, New York” (p 170). Also from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travel To Imaginary Places” (p 236).
What do you do when the most inappropriate sentiment unexpectedly comes out of someone’s mouth? A confession that should never have left the lips of the confessor? Instead of thinking of the actions I should take I chose to take none. I do nothing. Distance makes it easy to ignore and deny. When I can’t avoid I read. Here are the books started for November:
- Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone – Malone was born in the month of November; reading in his honor.
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – in honor of November being Native American Heritage month.
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – November is National Writing month. Choosing fantasy for this round.
- Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller – Routsong’s birth month was in November. Reading in her honor.
- Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser – reading in honor of Millhauser’s birth place, New York City.
- Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck – in honor of my mother’s birth month.
- The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah – in honor of Morocco’s independence was gained in November.
- Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month in August.
Fun: nothing decided yet.
Early Review: I have been chosen to receive an early review but I will refrain from naming it in case it doesn’t arrive.
I don’t know where to begin with trying to explain October. From the beginning, I guess. It started with a trip home; a lovely week off with lots of reading accomplished. Then it was a New England Patriots football game followed by two Phish shows and a political rally for a state in which I do not live. If that wasn’t weird enough, I hung out with a person who could have raped or killed or loved me to death. Take your pick. Any one of those scenarios was more than possible. It was a truly bizarre month.
But, enough of that. Here are the books:
- Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. Quick but cute read.
- Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (AB/print). Sad.
- The Chronoliths by Robert C. Wilson. Interesting.
- Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (EB). Boring.
- Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris (EB/print). Only slightly less boring than Bridge.
- Always a Distant Anchorage by Hal Roth. Really interesting.
- African Laughter by Doris Lessing. Okay.
- The Race of Scorpions by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print). Detailed.
- Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB). Cute but glad the series is over.
- We Inspire Me by Andrea Pippins. Cute.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Gardening Under Lights by Leslie F. Halleck. When I set up the reads for October I didn’t include this because it hadn’t arrived yet.
I should add that October was a really frustrating month for books. I never really liked anything I was reading.
Rowland, Amy. The Transcriptionist. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2014.
Lena is a transcriptionist for New York’s newspaper, the Record. She sits in a lonely room transcribing stories for reporters who call in with all kinds of different stories. Lena’s personal story centers on the mystery of an unknown woman mauled to death in a lion’s den at the Bronx zoo. Three things capture Lena to the point of obsession: the woman is blind, this was an apparent suicide, and Lena thinks she met this woman before. While Lena is fascinated with the story, no one else is. She is shocked by her employer’s complacency. No one cares why this unknown woman did what she did, so Lena sets out to discover the truth. In the process Lena rattles life as she knows it. The proverbial bars of the cage have been flung open.
My one fault with the book – there were a few unbelievable scenes. I am assuming the lion didn’t maul the woman’s face and her autopsy photo is the one the newspaper used for the article. Here’s why: because if no one knew her identity they couldn’t have used a picture from an earlier time. Another bothersome moment – Once Lena learns the identity of the suicide victim, she knows where she lived and that she had a sister. Lena takes it upon herself to visit the woman’s apartment (walks right in!). There, in the decease’s apartment, is a recording of the truth. Wouldn’t the sister have found that first? Wouldn’t there have been a more thorough investigation? It’s not every day that a blind woman swims across a moat to reach a lion’s sanctuary and then lets one (a lion named Robert) devour her.
The best part of the book is the message it sends. Everyday news stories swirl around us and roll off our consciousness like beads of oil on water. Nothing sinks in or settles on our souls. That goes for the consumers of the news as well as the people who create it. We all need to rattle cages and break free from complacency.
Reason read: I am a member of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing
Author fact: This is Rowland’s debut novel.
Book trivia: Publish date: May 13th, 2014.
Buchanan, Cathy Marie. The Day the Falls Stood Still. Read by Karen White. Ontario: Tantor, 2009
Bess Heath is a seventeen year old junior at her private boarding school when her father is laid off from the Niagara Electric Company. After returning home for the summer she realizes nothing remains the same. Now that her father is unemployed, her mother must take on seamstress work to make ends meet and Bess and her sister, Isabel learn to chip in. Bess becomes an accomplished seamstress and slowly builds up her own list of customers. Once Bess meets Tom Cole her life takes another drastic turn. The rest of the story is a love story on multiple levels that spans Bess’s formative years. She falls in love, learns about death and the value of family. She also discovers what it means to be torn between two loyalties. Tom, because of his relationship with nature, is in direct conflict with the Niagara Hydra-electric. Bess has a long standing history with the power company and has a love-hate relationship with the whirlpool at the base of the falls. Both have a deep personal history with the temperamental river. Together, theirs is a story of triumph over tragedy.
Even though this was an audio book I could barely “put it down.” I loved Buchanan’s writing style. You can’t help but fall in love with Bess.
Reason read: March 29, 1848: it was cold enough to make Niagara Falls freeze, hence the day the falls stood still.
Author fact: Buchanan has her own website here.
Book trivia: The Day the Falls Stood Still is Cathy Marie Buchanan’s first novel.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply “Niagara Falls” (p 156). Can’t get any easier than that.
Glanz, James and Eric Lipton. City in the Sky: the Rise and Fall of the World Trade Center. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2003.
Because City in the Sky was written just two short years after the horrific events of September 11, 2001 and the spectacular collapse of the World Trade Center towers it is easy to accuse Glanz and Lipton of jumping on the 9/11 bandwagon and capitalizing on an unprecedented tragedy. But, the events of 9/11/2001, specifically the seemingly impossible collapse of the towers doesn’t appear in the narrative until the very end – practically the last chapter. Instead, Glanz and Lipton start from the very beginning. They present the key players and historical events in a tightly written account of how the World Trade Center went from an ambitious idea to an iconic city in the sky. To read City in the Sky is to witness the conception, birth, life and ultimate death of a New York City and world icon. Just like the Rockefeller ancestors before him, David Rockefeller harnessed his ambition and went head to head with shop keepers, politicians and naysayers to build an architectural masterpiece.
Reason read: September 11th, 2001. Need I say more?
As an aside – I had to ask my cousin for clarification on this since I saw the name “Boody” several times in the index. He confirmed that my father’s second cousin was Irving Rickerson Boody. Rick’s father was Irving. The connection to the World Trade Center? Irving (senior) founded the first company to occupy the World Trade Center. Hmmmm.
Quotes that stuck with me, “But common sense does not always prevail in New york” (p 47).
Book trivia: City in the Sky includes some great photos, including one of the directory for the WTC. Boody was on the 11th floor in suite # 1103.
Authors fact: Glanz and Lipton both worked for the New York Times at the time City in the Sky was published.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Building Blocks” (p 37).