Crockett, W, Edward. Ghosts of Walter Crockett: a Memoir. Islandport Press, 2021.
Reason read: as a member of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing, I review books from time to time. I chose this one because it takes place in Portland, Maine. A city know and love very well.
Let me be upfront and honest. Crockett’s words will make you wince. If you have an alcoholic in your life, his words will ring truer than you can to admit. If you have poverty in your life, his words will ring truer than you can to admit. If you have ever had to struggle on the dark side of town, his words will ring truest of all. Crockett might not be the most elegant of writers, but he is one of the most honest and engaging authors I have read in a long time. He does not shy away from his own faults and failures. The moral of the story is that everyone has a story. I hope he keeps writing. I think he has more to say.
As an aside, there was a lot I could relate to in Ghosts of Walter Crockett. I have stood on dirty, moldy carpets in dark, dank homes where the smells of blood, shit, vomit and mold fought for dominance in my nose. I have eyed hardened piles of crap and wondered which of the eighteen animals was responsible at the same time trying hard not to let the possibility of human involvement creep into my mind.
Even more specific, I have spent a great deal of time in Portland, Maine. I knew it before it became boutiques and big time. I know some of the establishments Crockett referenced. I dated someone who graduated from Chevrus (this guy also pledged Sigma Nu). I know Togus as my grandfather died there. Even more personal: my father quit school after the eighth grade, but instead of hitching from Maine to New York City, he did the south to north route. My mother never got her license to drive either.
Playlist: Frank Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady Tonight”, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind”, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”, “Jail House Blues” by Elvis, “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin, “Rags to Riches” by Tony Bennett, and the Beatles’ classic, “Let It Be”. Jonathan Edwards, Irish Rovers, Carole King, Elton John, Rolling Stones, the Cars, Aerosmith, and James Taylor.
Nooteboom, Cees. Roads to Santiago: a Modern-Day Pilgrimage Through Spain. Translated by Ina Rilke. Harcourt Press, 1992.
Reason read: there is a festival in Madrid in May.
Prepared to be swept away by Nooteboom’s luxurious descriptions of Spain. Everything seen through his lens is treated with lavish prose. I could see the styles of Roman and Gothic architecture as if I were standing in front of each structure. Renaissance and Baroque art come to life with vivid reality. I now want to visit the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela with its pillars marked with fingerprints. While Nooteboom subtitles his book “a modern-day pilgrimage” we look in on the 8th century in a time of Beatus, King Silo, and the Carolingian Empire. Nooteboom draws parallels between Antigone of Sophocles and the Spanish state after Euzkadi ta Askatsuna targeted violence. We dance between historical and modern Spain with personal anecdotes thrown in for good measure. Aside from the beautiful writing, Nooteboom included stunning black and white photographs. Too bad they are not in color.
Sadly, I cannot quote anything from Roads to Santiago without contacting the authorities first. I don’t have time for that.
After reading Picasso’s War it seems impossible that some people would long for the days of Francisco Franco.
As an aside, I always like drawing comparisons to Natalie Merchant. Any mention of Andalusia or Majorca make me think of her music as she has songs about both.
Author fact: Nooteboom has written a great deal over the years. I am only reading Roads to Santiago for the Challenge.
Book trivia: Is there a different subtitle? I must be reading a different edition. From Book Lust To Go it should be “Detours and Riddles in the Lands of History of Spain” and not “A Modern-Day Pilgrimage Through Spain.”
Playlist: Handel’s “The Messiah”.
Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Roads to Santiago.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the incredibly simple chapter called “Spain” (p 220).
Trojanow, Ilija. From Mumbai to Mecca. Translated by Rebecca Morrison. Armchair Traveller, 2007.
Reason read: May was the month I used to walk sixty miles for a grassroots nonprofit to raise money for cancer research and holistic patient care. Read Mumbai to Mecca to remember the journey.
Those of us curious about what happens during a Hajj, the pilgrimage to the holy sites of Islam, can be thankful Trojanow made the journey. He writes with such beauty and grace, it is easy to get caught up in his descriptive words. Take the ritual of wazu, for example. There is a precise way to wash before any kind of prayer. At the end of the complicated process, one is supposed to feel calm, as if in a meditative state before prayer. I felt almost zen-like just reading about the process. I enjoyed learning about the Mumbai tea ceremonies and had a good laugh when Trojanow lost his sandals after a prayer session. Like any good travelogue, there is a decent mix of historical and personal.
As an aside, okay, I admit it. as I read about Trojanow losing his sandals, I was thinking of the episode when Carrie lost her $400 shoes when she attended a no-footwear party for a friend.
Favorite lines: It is too bad I need to seek permission to quote anything from Mumbai to Mecca because Trojanow is witty and lyrical, all at the same time. There were dozens of lines I liked and half a dozen more I would have shared here.
Author fact: Trojanow is a German citizen and I am reading two other books by him.
Book trivia: in Book Lust To Go Ilija Trojanow’s book is cataloged as having a subtitle: A Pilgrimage to the Holy Sites of Islam. My copy doesn’t have the subtitle and depending where you look, inside cover or spine, the title is either From Mumbai to Mecca or just Mumbai to Mecca.
Nancy said: Pearl said From Mumbai to Mecca is bound to be a classic.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “A is for Adventure” (p 3).
Finlay, Victoria. Color: a Natural History of the Palette. Ballantine Books, 2002.
Reason read: April is fashion month and whenever I think of fashion, I think of color.
To research the history of color is brilliant like a box of sixty-four. Who, for example, has thought about from where ochre originated? According to Finlay, ochre is the first color(s) of paint. I did not know that and to be totally honest, nor have I ever thought about ochre in this way. [My only thoughts in ochre were to be confused about what shade of yellow, red, or brown it is supposed to be.] Did you ever wonder what the HB on a pencil meant? Hardness and blackness. How about the origin of the phrase, “cut through all this red tape”? Who knew? Apparently, Finlay. That’s who. She took the time to travel the globe looking for answers about color: Australia for ochre, England for black and brown, China for white, Chile for red, Italy for orange, India for yellow,…I wanted to make a map of all her travels. On the heels of reading Travels in a Thin Country I couldn’t stop comparing Sara Wheeler’s adventure to that of Victoria Finlay.
There is a fair amount of humor in Color. To see what I mean, find the section where Finlay describes the interesting practice of boiling cow urine after the bovine have been fed a steady diet of mango leaves for two weeks straight.
As another aside, I got a little excited when I saw Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s name in the index. My Natalie connection is that she put Lawrence’s daughter’s poem, “If No One Every Marries Me” to music. I need to thank Finlay for bringing the artist Joseph Mallord William Turner to my attention. ‘Waves Breaking Against Wind’ is a painting I identify with in a strong way.
Author fact: At the time of publication, Finlay was living in Hong Kong (according to the dust jacket).
Book trivia: Color includes a section of photographs…in color! I guess black and white wouldn’t necessarily work for a book about color…
Nancy said: Pearl said she would buy Color for a textile designer.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “A Holiday Shopping List” (p 116). In the index Color is incorrectly listed on page 1216.
Maass, Peter. Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War. Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.
Reason read: History books state the Bosnian War started in on April 6th 1992 despite earlier acts of violence.
April 1st, 1992. My father was five months and twenty days away from dying. On that day, Serbians commenced their brutal attack on Bosnia. I think I might have done damage to my psyche to read about Bosnia and Guernica in the same month…To wipe out an entire community or ethnicity for absolutely no reason other than pure dominance is unfathomable.
Line that gave me pause, “There was even a slip of paper from the library saying they didn’t posses any overdue books” (p 86). Imagine giving up everything you own, including items you don’t, like books borrowed from the library. The business of the bureau for ethnic cleansing demanded Bosnians claim they handed over all worldly possessions to a Serbian. This act does not encompass the horrific violence, but rather the senseless humility.
About the violence. Most of the time I found myself twisting and twitching in my chair, wanting to turn away from the sentences of torture Maas wrote. I am one of those fat and happy and white privileged people who blissfully and ignorantly cite misunderstanding when it comes to the war in Bosnia. I was oblivious to the death and destruction with the exception of what the U.S. media decided or cared to reveal to me. What baffles me the most is that, like the Hutu and Tutsi, Serbs and Bosnians at one time got along like neighbors and family. Another war similarity from forty years earlier, like Franco denying the bombing of Guernica, Serbia denied the bombing of Bosnia was their responsibility. Death and destruction is not a macabre mirage and yet they do refuse see or own it. The practice of modern warfare with age-old atrocities was hard to read. Reporters and journalists had the luxury of escaping Sarajevo – taking a break was not an option for its entrapped residents. Maas takes his time to carefully humanize the narrative by inserting personal anecdotes from his own life.
Quotes to quote, “They didn’t wear normal uniforms, they didn’t have many teeth, and they didn’t want us there” (p16), “At the time, I didn’t think there was anything strange about flying through the air with 35,000 pounds of feta cheese” (p 23), “If surrealism had not existed, Bosnia would have invented it” (p 28).
Playlist: Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way,” Ringo Starr, Guns N’ Roses, Edith Pilaf’s “Je ne regrette rien,”Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” Ella Fitzgerald, Mick Jagger, Louis Armstrong, Ike and Tina Turner.
Author fact: Maas has written a bunch of other books, but I am only reading Love Thy Neighbor for the Challenge.
Book trivia: As an aside, it is a shame the public library from which I borrowed Love Thy Neighbor had to plastic cover the book. The original material would have felt good to hold.
Nancy said: Peter said Love Thy Neighbor “expose(s) the horror of life during wartime in the former Yugolavia” and Maas is more “visceral” about his writing (Book Lust p 31).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Balkan Specters” (p 31).
Martin Russell. Picasso’s War: the Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece that Changed the World. Dutton, 2002.
Reason read: the bombing of Guernica happened on April 26th, 1937. Read in honor and memory of the lives lost that day.
On May 11th, 1937, only two weeks after the insurgent Nazi Condor Legion bombed Guernica, Spain, Pablo Picasso commenced painting his famous masterpiece. While Picasso’s War celebrates Picasso’s work of art, “Guernica,” it also paints a biography of Picasso, the passionately flawed man. Picasso who couldn’t stay faithful to one woman; Picasso who saved everything ever given to him. As an aside, these two details make me believe I would have never gotten along with him. As a painter, his art was as polarizing as cilantro. In 1981 the famous painting still had to be protected from terrorists with armed guards.
Coincidentally, Martin was standing in from of “Guernica” on September 11th, 2001.
As an aside, I love books that make me want to explore more. I looked up Picasso’s cartoons “Dream and Lie of Franco” because of Russell’s book.
The biggest surprise for me was learning of Herbert Southworth, an unsung hero of the Guernica saga. He had a clerical job at the Library of Congress and he was convinced he could get to the bottom of who actually bombed Guernica. Despite denials, he needed to convince the American public of Franco’s threat to Democracy.
Author fact: Martin also wrote Beethoven’s Hair which was a bestseller. I am only reading Picasso’s War for the reading Challenge.
Book trivia: I wanted photography in Martin’s book. If nothing else, just a picture of Picasso’s famous Guernica for reference.
Playlist: Beatles and Joan Baez.
Nancy said: Pearl said Picasso’s War was “wonderfully readable” (Book Lust To Go p 90).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter called “Guernica” (p 89).
Wheeler, Sara. Travels in a Thin Country: Journey Through Chile. Modern Library, 1994.
Reason read: Chile’s independence was gained in April 1818. Although the official date of celebration is September 18th every year. Note: I could have started this earlier because Wheeler’s birthday is in March.
I think our desire for travel can be summed up by one of Wheeler’s first sentences in Travels in a Thin Country, “Our collective ignorance appealed to my curiosity” (p 3). It’s the reason most of us want to travel, to abolish an innate ignorance of the world around us. I admired Wheeler’s bravery for jumping into a journey down Chile’s entire length, all the way to the Antarctica end, without a solid plan in place. Her travel is motivated mostly by the seat of her pants and held up by the kindness of strangers. Interwoven in the adventure is a strong sense of political and cultural history of the region. I wanted photography to back up Wheeler’s gorgeous descriptions of the people and landscapes she traveled through. On a personal note, I found it vaguely romantic that Wheeler tried to travel in a jeep for nearly her entire journey. Her trusted loyalty to Jeep could have been a commercial.
As an aside, I had to look up where in New York Southampton is located even though I had a grandmother who lived on Long Island. Because Wheeler said upstate New York she had me doubting my geography. How sad is that?
Favorite lines, “we rubbed our favorite arguments threadbare” (p 189) and “there were two men in the bar, drunk beyond all sense of time and place” (p 261).
Author fact: I’m sorry that I looked up Wheeler on the web. I found several sites that made mention of the abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of her husband all because she admitted she had an affair. For me, that painted an unfair picture of Ms. Wheeler. Unfair, because the entire time I was reading Travels in a Thin Country, as she was describing the travels to different places with different men, sharing jeep rides and tents, I had to wonder if she was sleeping with them along the way. As the pages went on, I couldn’t help but notice that most of her traveling companions were men even if women were in the picture.
Book trivia: Travels in the Thin Country is Wheeler’s second nonfiction. I am also reading Terra Incognito, Too Close to the Sun, and An Island Apart for the Challenge.
Playlist: Ry Cooder, Edith Piaf, Fine Young Cannibals, Pink Floyd, Violetta Parra, Beethoven, Claudio Arrau, Talking Head’s “We’re on the Road to Nowhere,” “Jingle Bells,” “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music,” “Bach’s St. Matthew Passion,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Take Heart, Joe, My Love,”
Nancy said: Pearl called Travels in a Thin Country a treat and the best travel account she could find of Chile.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “It’s Chile Today” (p 144).
Barlow, John. Everything but the Squeal: Eating the Whole Hog in Northern Spain. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
Reason read: March is food month.
The challenge for John Barlow in Everything But the Squeal is to consume every single part of the pig from tail to snout and everything in between; a veritable “porco-graphic tour” as John states. He faces every consumption with humor and more than a little snarky defensiveness, “when they’re starving , pigs will occasionally eat eat other, but so do we when our airplanes crash in inhospitable places” (p 21). This is also a travelogue as John has promised to eat the pig geographically as well, “in situ” as he put it.
More than a travelogue about eating pork, Everything But the Squeal is a memoir about marriage and family. What more tolerant vegetarian wife would tote their newborn son around northern Spain while her husband goes on a quest to devour an entire pig? But wait, there is more. Everything but the Squeal is historical, describing the past cultures of the Galacian people. It’s an abbreviate biography of Manuel Fraga (Minister of Tourism in 1962 and founder of the Popular Party in the 1980s). It’s even a love letter to his son. The direct comments he makes to Nico are endearing.
Here is how a documentary can ruin your eating habits. After watching “My Octopus Teacher” I no longer can stomach seeing any cephalopod on a menu. Here’s how words can ruin your eating habits. I won’t eat Slim Jims because I do not understand what “mechanically separate chicken parts” means. Thanks to Everything But the Squeal I now have to be on the lookout for MRM – mechanically recovered meat… um…whatever that means…and I won’t even describe the pig slaughter scene.
A byproduct of reading Everything But the Squeal was a slow picking up of tidbits of the language. I learned that morrina means a profound longing for the native land; something that is more powerful than a teenager at boarding school suffering from homesickness.
As another aside, I think I want to try my hand at making Galacian Red Sauce. I am sure there is more to it than evoo, paprika, garlic, onion, bay leaves and lemon, but you had me a paprika and sold me on lemon. As another aside, I don’t think I have ever been confronted with the description of offal as often as I have this month.
Quotes to quote, “The delights of home are never stronger than when you’re not there” (p 93). Obvo.
Author fact: Barlow has written other books. Everything but the Squeal is the only one on my Challenge lust.
Book trivia: Barlow talks about taking pictures but doesn’t include them in the book.
Playlist: “Y.M.C.A.,” “Brazil,” Grateful Dead, Barbra Streisand, Julio Iglesias, and Jerry Garcia.
Nancy said: Pearl called Everything but the Squeal “mouthwatering” (Book Lust To Go p 219).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Spain” (p 218). Can’t get any simpler than that.
Fisher, M.F.K. With Bold Knife and Fork. G.P. Putnam and sons, 1968.
Reason read: March is Food Month.
Fisher is one of the best known and well loved food writers of the last century. When I told someone I was reading With Bold Knife and Fork her immediate reaction was a one word exclamation, “love!” And speaking of love, I loved, loved, loved some of the snarky phrases Fisher used. Here are a few, “…floating dunghill of lassitude, corruption, dirt, and whatever evil I have ever recognized as such” (p 171), “Stuffed with prejudices” (p 287) and “culinary monkey” (p 291). But, back to the “plot” of With Bold Knife and Fork. Fisher will walk you down a myriad of memory lanes with food and how it related to her childhood or the social norms of the day. It was amusing to think of a very young M.F.K. Fisher as a child hearing the siren’s song and feeling the pull towards decadent food. There is a definite humor to her storytelling. I had to laugh when she talked about a pressure cooker and how “it should never be used by a person taking tranquilizers or alcohol for his own reasons, or one with a fever or the deep blues” (p 164). There is also a didactic nature to Fisher. I appreciated learning the difference between preserves, conserves, jellies, jams, honeys, and marmalades.
As an aside, what is so special about offal? Everything But The Squeal and With Bold Knife and Fork both offer pretty descriptive passages on the “delicacy.” Can is ask? The phrase, “tuck into.” Is that the act of starting to eat or the actual consumption of food?
Last off-topic observation: the quote reminded me of an episode of This Is Us, “We are so conditioned to this threat of the Secret Ingredient, and this acceptance of trickery, that even honesty has become suspect when we are brash enough to ask for recipes” (p 292).
Author fact: Fisher is a self-professed soy addict.
Book trivia: More memoir than cookbook, With Bold Knife and Fork offers 140 interesting recipes.
Favorite quotes, “Rice can be cooked in two basic ways, right and wrong” (p 79). Not helpful. Not helpful at all. Another quote, “There is a mistaken idea, ancient but still with us, that an overdose of anything from fornication to hot chocolate will teach restraint by the very results of its abuse” (p 99). One last one, “I like tomatoes but can skip them when I know I should for other people’s dietary or emotional reasons” (p 157), and last one “It is hot as the hinges of hell’s front door…” (p 302). the devil in me wanted to ask what about hell’s back door?
Playlist: “Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear” and “W.S. gilbert’s “Patience.”
Nancy said: Pearl said writing about food is how Fisher expressed her love.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Food for Thought” (p 91).
Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. Viking, 2006.
Reason read: March is Women’s History Month. Celebrating Gilbert this time.
Does everyone picture Julia Roberts when they hear the words eat, love and pray in that order? I know I do. I haven’t even seen the movie and yet that is exactly what goes through my head. Admittedly, before I even started reading the book I had a preconceived notion of what the storyline would be: a woman of means takes a year off from her crash-and-burn American life to find herself in the beyond beautiful countries of Italy, India and Indonesia. She spends four months in Italy eating her way through the wine-soaked landscape. She spends another four months in India meditating and losing the weight she gained in pasta. After paying a bribe, she spends the last four months of her year away on the Indonesian island of Bali being courted by the culture and in the end, a man. A year of seemingly easy leisure produced Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. But. But! But, my cynicism ends there. Gilbert is a skilled storyteller. Even if my synopsis is pretty accurate, Eat, Pray, Love is a highly entertaining read. I enjoyed every second of it.
Author fact: I have two other Gilbert books on my challenge list: Stern Men and The Last American Man.
Book trivia: Confessional – I have been calling this book Eat, Love, Pray for months now. I can’t even get the title right.
Best line ever, “…showing you the way, scaring off thieves and demons, brining you confidence and protection” (p 148).
Playlist: Count Basie, Eagles, Neil Young, Ray Charles, Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder, and Kenny Roger’s “Coward of the Country,”
Nancy said: Pearl said Gilbert became famous for writing Eat Pray Love.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter “The Maine Chance” (p 136). As an aside, Eat, Pray Love shouldn’t in this chapter. It has nothing to do with the state of Maine.
Brown-Warsham, Sasha. Namaste the Hard Way: a Daughter’s Journey to Find Her Mother on the Yoga Mat. Health Communications, 2018.
Reason read: I was supposed to receive Namaste the Hard Way back in 2018 as part of the Early Review program for LibraryThing. The book never arrived, but the entry stayed on my spreadsheet. I had this urge to clean up unfinished entries.
In a nutshell, Namaste the Hard Way is a very candid look at what it means to lose your parent at a young age and never fully recover from the trauma. Brown-Warsham admits that she finds herself closest to her mother’s spirit when she is practicing yoga. But. But, it is more than that. When Brown-Warsham becomes a mother she finds a different connection to her mother. Her marriage is a means to connect with her mother. Any familiar path Brown-Warsham takes is one that leads her to memories of her mother. Her vulnerability and honesty was touching. Confessional: the entire time I was reading Namaste the Hard Way I was filled with a sense of envy. Brown-Warsham lost her mother to cancer at a young age and yet she has something tangible to bring her mother’s memory into sharp focus: yoga. I lost my father halfway through my twenty-third year. The smell of motor oil and scorched metal from arc welding can bring back memories my father, but unless I hang out all day in a repair shop, I can’t evoke the nostalgia as easily as Brown-Warsham can. All she has to do is practice yoga.
It was surreal to read about Kripalu, it being just down the road from me and, and! And. I know people who used to work there.
Lines I liked, “Running is not for sissies” (p 149). When Sasha started talking about running I practically stood up and cheered. I am not a practicing yogi (aside from what is recommended after a super hard run), but when she talked abut shedding blood at the chaffing points of her sports bra I said a silent “yes!” in agreement. I concur! Best line about running, “I’ve given up the running I so loved because I’d never forgive myself if the baby were jostled and had shaken baby syndrome or if he or she fell out of the warm, safe sac into my underpants because I attempted to run seven miles” (p 198).
Playlist: “Eye of the Tiger,” “Kiss,” “Thriller,” “You Light Up My Life” by Debbie Boone, “Like a Virgin” by Madonna, James Taylor, and the “Wiffenpoof” Yale Song.
Davies, Tod. Jam Today: a Diary of Cooking with What You’ve Got. Exterminating Angel Press, 2009.
Reason read: A bunch of years ago (in 2009) I was supposed to receive this book in exchange for an honest review. It never arrived. I decided to take matters into my own hands to clean up “unfinished” business.
Part cookbook, part memoir Jam Today is, dare I say, whimsical. Davies will tell you her favorite meals and she’ll walk you through how to make them. She is not precise in measurements, nor in direction. She doesn’t have to have precision in either because this isn’t your standard Julia Childs how-to in haute cuisine. While the subtitle of Jam Today is misleading it should be taken as a lighthearted romp through the joys of planning, cooking, and eating a flavorful meal. Instead of A Diary of Cooking with What You’ve Got her subtitle should have read “a diary of cooking with what I’ve got.” How many of us have salt cod, champagne, or cremini mushrooms lounging around in the refrigerator? Smoked salmon hiding in the pantry? I’m enough of a culinary snob to expect people who cook to have some kind of mortar and pestle on their counters, but a suribachi mortar and pestle? On the whole, Jam Today is fun. Seriously, how can you go wrong when the final instruction of a recipe is to not forget to light the candles?
Lines I liked, “It’ll stay tame if you show it who’s boss ion a cheerful way” (p 154).
Author fact: Davies most always includes a salad and wine with her recipes.
Book trivia: The title of Davies’s book comes from The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland when the Mock Turtle sings for Alice about “jam today.”
Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying. Scribner Classics, 1969.
Reason read: February is Psychology month. Also, I needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge in the category of a book published in the year I was born. There you go.
How do you look someone in the eye and tell them they are dying? Sure, every single one of us is dying by increments every single day. Some of us will die tomorrow, without warning. No fanfare. But, how do you tell someone they will die in a month? In a week? Days? On Death and Dying is exactly that, a chance to talk to terminally ill patients; to have a candid talk about what it means to moving towards death sooner rather than later. Kubler-Ross and her students interviewed over 200 patients towards this end. I think it is safe to safe we know what emerged from this seminal work:
Stage One: Denial and Isolation
Stage Two: Anger – the “Why Me?” stage.
Stage Three: Bargaining – not a lot to say about this stage except to say it is very childlike in believing you can strike a deal with a higher power to avoid death.
Stage Four: Depression (the stage I think I would live within the longest).
Stage Five: Acceptance. This is the most difficult of all the stages to reach. Even after achieving acceptance, it is easy for the patient to revert back to an earlier stage such as anger or denial. Stage five is also difficult for the patient’s loved ones. How many families see a patient’s acceptance as resignation or a loss of will to live? One must remember there are defense mechanisms as well as coping mechanisms at play.
My biggest takeaway from reading On Death and Dying is how the more training and experience a physician had, the less ready he or she was to become involved in Kubler-Ross’s interviews. It is as if they lost the ability to see the patient as a human with a right to know their terminal future. We need to bring compassion back at every level of care.
As an aside, my husband could rattle off the five stages of grief as if he had sat in a Psychology class yesterday. He explained the anacronym I had never heard before, DABDA.
Quote to quote, “If a patient is allowed to terminate his life in the familiar and beloved environment, it requires less adjustment for him” (p 48).
Favorite quote, “Those who have the strength and the love to sit with the dying patient in the silence that goes beyond words will know that this moment is neither frightening nor painful, but a peaceful cessation of the functioning of the body” (p 276).
Author fact: Kubler-Ross died in 2004. As an aside, I cannot help but wonder what Dr. Kubler-Ross would have thought about Covid.
Book trivia: On Death and Dying has been translated into twenty-seven languages.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about On Death and Dying except to explain how the book was constructed.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 100s” (p 63).
Cokinos, Christopher. Hope is the Thing with Feathers: a Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds. Jeremy A. Tarcher/Putnam, 2000.
Reason read: February is Feed the Birds Month. I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s the coldest part of winter?
Cokinos spent ten years researching the life and subsequent extinction of six birds: Passenger Pigeon, Carolina Parakeet, Labrador Duck, Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, Heath Hen, and the Great Auk.
I find it terribly sad that no one knows the exact date of the demise of the Carolina Parakeet, but then again that’s probably true of many extinct species. Right? How do we really know when we have seen the very last whatever? Here are details from Hope is the Thing with Feathers that will stick with me for a very long time: the Heath Hen has been compared to the Greater Prairie Chicken for their myriad of similarities. Their mating sounds are practical identical. Is that why no one took the extinction of the Heath Hen seriously? Were they so abundant they fell victim to overhunting; were they that easy to massacre? Is that what happened to the Passenger Pigeon? The cruelty inflicted on these birds was difficult to read. Cokinos gets into the question of cloning. Can you clone a species which has gone completely extinct? Can we have a Jurassic Park moment on a less dangerous scale?
Besides hunting, another factor wreaking havoc on bird populations was deforestation. Singer Sewing Machine purchased the nesting grounds of Lord God birds. Then they sold the rights to logging companies who cleared the land, destroying everything in its path. This happened over and over again.
Quotes to quote: “He also played sad songs on his flute” (p 62), “…thus the titanic vanishing of the Passenger Pigeon concluded, finally, on the bottom of a cage in the middle of a city busy with commerce and worry about war” (p 267), and “We ought not underestimate the elegance of individual decisions coupled with communal actions – a bird seen, a refuge protected, a vote changed – especially as they accumulate one by one, the way barbs and barbules of a feather hold together” (p 334).
Author fact: Cokinos is an excellent researcher. The amount of time and effort that went into verifying the shooting of the past Passenger Pigeon was astounding.
Book trivia: the title of the book comes from the title of my favorite Emily Dickinson poem.
Playlist: Steve Lawrence, “Maple Leaf Rag,” and the sound of birds singing.
Nancy said: Pearl explains the plot of Hope is the Thing with Feathers.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Bird Brains” (p 40).
Garofolo, John. Dickey Chappelle Under Fire: Photographs by the First American Female War Correspondent Killed in Action. Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2015.
Reason read: I was supposed to review this book as part of the Early Review Program with LibraryThing way back in 2015. The book never arrived, but the entry lingered still on my spreadsheet in an irritating way. In an effort to clean up loose ends, I decided to read and review it. I’m glad I did.
This book will haunt you. Made up primarily of Georgette Louise Meyer, aka Dickey Lou Chappelle’s amazing wartime photography, her eye on humanity will move you to tears. As she journeyed around the world, from the Pacific theater of World War II to the rice paddy fields of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, her images captured a raw humanity more seasoned photographers failed to notice. By her own standards, her photography skills weren’t perfect, but nor did she care. Her fighting spirit shimmered in the images. I had never heard of Dickey Chappelle before reading this book. In truth, it was someone else’s final photograph of Dickey that will make Ms. Chappelle, the woman and not the photographer, unforgettable to me.
Author fact: John Garofolo used to be in the entertainment industry.
Book trivia: Dickey Chappelle was slated for a stage production. Not sure what happened to the idea.