Angel at My Table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Into Thin Air

Krakauer, Jon. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster. New York: Anchor Books, 1997.

Reason read: the Mount Everest disaster occurred on May 10th 1996.

Jon Krakauer was given an assignment by Outside Magazine to join a climbing expedition ultimately going to the top of Mount Everest. Being an avid mountaineer he thrilled at the chance to join a professional team to reach the highest summit in the world. What he didn’t anticipate was being witness to one of the worst Everest disasters in the mountain’s history.
As Karakuer takes us to higher elevations he not only gives the reader a play by play of the events unfolding at each camp, he also details the physical and psychological effects wreaking havoc on the climbers, adventurer and Sherpa alike. It’s a grueling quest and Krakauer never lets you forget the danger.
It has been said that the mountaineering community is unique unto themselves. Never before was this more apparent than when Kraukauer described climbers so hellbent on reaching the top that they would push on past half dead individuals lying in the snow, slowly freezing to death. Or step casually over the legs of a half buried dead man…
Despite the dangers of climbing such high elevations, the challenge continues to draw thousands to Everest. It is an industry unto itself, making millions for guides, the sports corporations looking to sponsor them, and the Sherpas looking to lead the way.

I devoured this book. I found it was very easy to lose track of time and read 70-80 pages in one sitting.

Quotes I liked, “I thrilled in the fresh perspective that came from tipping the ordinary plane of existence on end” (p 23) and “Problem was, my inner voice resembled Chicken Little; it was screaming that I was about to die, but it did that almost every time I laced up my climbing boots” (p 101).

Author fact: I think Krakauer is best known for Into the Wild, but I am reading two others, Iceland and Where Men Win Glory.

Book trivia: There are the obligatory black and white photographs of the victims and a few of the mountain. Unlike a book a read recently where every photo was of the author, Jon Krakauer isn’t in a single one.

Nancy said: Krakauer’s book “sets the standard for personal adventure books” (p 8).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Adventure By the Book: Nonfiction” (p 8).


Evolution of Useful Things

Petroski, Henry. The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artifacts – From Forks and Pins To Paper Clips and Zippers – Came To Be As They Are. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.

Reason read: April is Math, Science and Technology Month.

Did you ever stop to think that the four-tined fork which brings food to your mouth and the two-tined fork you use to hold meat while carving it came from the same food necessity and that they are siblings separated at birth? Probably not, but Petroski did. He goes on to explore to evolution of all sorts of everyday items, like cans and can openers, zippers, and to name a few. His book is filled with interesting facts and even a little humor. The photographs are great, too!

Confessional: to those of you who follow along it should come as no surprise that I get a certain thrill from making a Natalie connection in seemingly unrelated books. Here’s the Natalie connection with The Evolution of Useful Things: Natalie released a 4-song CD called “Songs To Color By” in 2002. Song #3 was called “Paper of Pins” and even though I had know idea what the title meant I was content to be ignorant and just sing along. Sixteen years alter, enter Henry Petroski and his paper of pins. Thanks to a photograph I now know what a paper of pins looks like, too.

Author fact: It should come as no surprise, Henry Petroski was a Civil Engineering professor at Duke University. Obviously, the man knows what he’s talking about.

Book trivia: the illustrations and photographs in The Evolution of Useful Things is pretty cool.

Nancy said: Pearl said Henry Petroski was a professor of civil engineering and that The Evolution of Useful Things is “a good book” (p 232).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Techno-Thrillers” (p 231).


Thousand Hills

Kinzer, Stephen. A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It. Read by Paul Boehmer. Tantor Audio, 2008.
Kinzer, Stephen. A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2008.

Reason read: April 22, 2000 Paul Kagame became President of Rwanada. He is credited for bringing an end to the Rwanda genocide in 1994.

Kinzer had one simple motive for writing Thousand Hills. It is an amazing untold story that needed to be shared. One the one hand, it is the condense biography of a remarkable man who, born into poverty and nearly killed when he was only two years old, rose in military rank to single-handedly lead a rebel force that ended the largest genocide in Rwanda. On the other hand, it is the telling of a nation struggling with a metamorphosis of epic proportions. After the holocaust, Paul Kagame insisted on bringing Tutsi and Hutu together, demanding that murderer and victim work as one to repair relations.

Author fact: In 2008 Kinzer went on C-Span BookTV to talk about Thousand Hills. The video is over an hour long and still available for viewing on the C-Span site.

Nancy said: nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Africa: the Greenest Continent” (p 8).


May Has Her Reasons

This is the first month since September that I don’t have some kind of race looming. It feels weird to not worry about the run. I guess I can concentrate on the books:

Fiction:

  • Landfall: a Channel Story by Nevil Shute – in honor of the month the movie was released.
  • Main Street by Sinclair Lewis – in honor of Minnesota becoming a state in May (AB).
  • Bruised Hibiscus by Elizabeth Nunez – on honor of the Pan Ramjay festival held in May.
  • Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years by Sue Townsend – in honor of Mother’s Day.

Nonfiction:

  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer – in honor of the failed Mount Everest climb in May 1994.

Series continuations:

  • Jade Island by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April in honor of Lowell’s birth month.
  • Warding of Witch World by Andre Norton – to continue the series started in March to honor the month of Norton’s passing.

Something new! I just discovered archive dot org! They are brilliant! I have been able to find a bunch of the books I have on my Challenge list, including two for this month. That means I will be able to leave the print at home and still read on my lunch break!


April is Over

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:

Fiction:

  • Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell

Nonfiction:

  • 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

Series continuations:

  • Charmed by Nora Roberts
  • The Venus Throw by Steven Saylor

Poetry:

  • “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

Early Review:

  • Deeply Grateful and Entirely Unsatisfied by Amanda Happe

Corner

Simon, David and Edward Burns. The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood. New York: Broadway Books, 1997.

Reason read: Maryland become a state in April.

The Corner is very similar to Simon’s other best selling book, Homicide: a Year on the Killing Streets. As a freelance writer he has been allowed access to the darkest and grittiest corners of West Baltimore. With Edward Burns as coauthor, Simon takes the reader on a cruel and complicated journey. Together they illustrate what junkies will and won’t do to score the next hit or blast; what crimes or capers they will commit or won’t…because even full blown addicts have their limits. West Baltimore is a shooting gallery where the drug war rearranges police priorities. It’s a harsh reality. The operative word is “real” because even though the plot line reads like a movie and the people you meet could be actors, they are all real. As readers, you get to know people and care about them. Be forewarned. It’s no fairy tale. It grips you as only a never ending nightmare could.

Quotes I need to repeat, “The corner is rooted in human desire – crude and certain and immediate” (p 57), and a couple of pages later, “For those of us riding the wave, the world spins on an axis of technological prowess in an orbit of ever-expanding information” (p 59). Here are two more, “Even heroine no longer suffices to obscure the daily insult that her life has become” (p 179), and “He knows what he likes and to some extent, he knows how to get what he likes, if God is in the details, when DeAndre’s view of the sexual world is decidedly agnostic” (p 225).

Author(s) fact: David Simon writes for the show “The Wire” and Edward Burns was a cop turned teacher.

Book trivia: The Corner has a few photographs of some of the main characters.

Nancy said: Nancy said she couldn’t go to Baltimore without first watching The Wire which was based on The Corner (p 34).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go  in the chapter called simply “Baltimore” (p 34).