The Painted Desert

“…April is over. Will you tell me how long before I can be there?”
-The Painted Desert, 10,000 Maniacs

I will have that song playing in my head from now until June. Not only am I planning to be there, the trip cannot happen soon enough. But for the purposes of this post: April is over and here are the books accomplished:

Fiction:

  • The Warden by Anthony Trollope.
  • The City and the House by Natalia Ginzburg (EB & print).
  • Summer at Fairacre by Miss Read (EB).
  • Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding.
  • All Souls by Javier Marias (EB & print).
  • All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sydney Taylor (AB and print).

Nonfiction:

  • Sixpence House by Paul Collins (EB & print).
  • Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs.

Series continuation:

  • Hunting Season by Nevada Barr (EB and print).
  • The Game by Laurie R. King (AB/AB/print).
  • Topper Takes a Trip by Thorne Smith (EB & print)
  • Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov (EB)

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Red Earth: a Rwandan Story of Healing and Forgiveness by Denise Uwimana

For fun:

  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – Yes! I finally finished it!

Sixpence House

Collins, Paul. Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books. New York:
Bloomsbury, 2003.

Reason read: April is the month for National Library Week.

Wales’s little town of Hay-on-Wye, or just “Hay,” is known as the “Town of Books.” With 1,500 residences and forty bookstores, what better place for a writer to move from Manhattan? Collins writes about his time in the village as a writer, as a house hunter, and as a new father in a whimsical manner; lacing the prose with mini lectures on long-dead writers, dust jackets not doing their one job, and what it means when an author’s color photograph occupies the entire cover of a book. Collins has a sense of humor that is self-deprecating (just try not to giggle when he shares the story of inadvertently peeing on his manuscript of Banvard’s Folly). You find yourself wanting to have a cup of coffee with him just to hear more. My only complaint? No photographs.
Confessional: I love a book that makes mention of Wallace and Gromit!

Right away I knew I was going to have a hard time decided on what to quote. There were so many good ones from which to chose! Here are just a couple, “If you grew up in a rural area, you have seen how farmhouses come and go, but the dent left by the cellar is permanent” (p 2) and this is the quote that gave me the most stop and pause: “It is hard to know just how many times we have been exposed to a word, a face, an idea, before we have it” (p 8).

Author fact: Collins first wrote Banvard’s Folly (also on my Challenge list).

Book trivia: The Sixpence House is the title of the book but the Collins family doesn’t discover it until nearly 150 pages in. Paul and his wife don’t decide to make an offer for another ten ages. In the end they decide it needs too much work and abandon the purchase. I was expecting the book to be more about the trials and tribulations of two Americans trying to restore a long neglected and dilapidated house in Wales. Just another example of Don’t-Judge-A-Book-By-Its-Title!

Nancy said: Pearl called Sixpence a “loving memoir” and a “captivating account of books.” Note: what Pearl says about Sixpence House in More Book Lust is word for word what she says in Book Lust To Go.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Cozies” (p 57).
Edited to add: Sixpence House is also included in Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Wales Welcomes You” (p 248).


Best and the Brightest

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

Reason read: the United States pulled out of Vietnam in the month of March.

Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest is a deep dive into the origins of the Vietnam War. It is a scrutiny of the policies and procedures crafted during the Kennedy administration that led to the consequences in Vietnam. The meat of the book takes place between the years of 1960 and 1965 but flows back and forth to earlier and later times to give substance to the timeline. What really helps the narrative is that Halberstam was a reporter during this time. He was at the heart of the perfect storm: the fall of China, the rise of McCarthy and the outbreak of the Korean War. This trifecta of events had a profound and lasting effect on the White House and domestic politics of the time.

A single line I really liked, “In government it is always easier to go forward with a program that doesn’t work than to stop it all together and admit failure” (p 212). Isn’t that human nature in a nutshell?

Author fact: I cannot help but wonder what books Halberstam would have written had he not been killed in a car accident at the age of 73.

Book trivia: I always love the photographs Halberstam chooses for his books. The photos in The Best and the Brightest are no different.

Nancy said: Pearl called The Best and the Brightest “hefty, riveting and definitive” (p 238). Agreed, agreed, and agreed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust and More Book Lust. In Book Lust in the chapter called “Vietnam” (p 238) and in More Book Lust in the super obvious chapter called “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 112).


Cherry

Wheeler, Sara. Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard. New York: Random House, 2002.

Reason read: Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard was part of Robert Falcon Scott’s final trip to the Antarctic. Scott was born in March. Read in his honor.

This was the age when everyone wanted to get to a Pole. North Pole or South Pole, it didn’t matter. For Apsley Cherry-Garrard, his expedition was to the South Pole with Robert Falcon Scott (Scott’s second journey).
Antarctica fueled the competitive spirits of Robert Falcon Scott and his expedition as they constantly compared their experiences in the Antarctic to Shackleton’s and kept a close eye on reports of Amundsen’s progress a short distance away. I am not going to review the events of what happened during this particular expedition as everyone is well familiar with Scott’s demise. Let’s focus on Cherry.
After the expedition Cherry’s life was consumed by his experiences. His opinion of Scott changed several different times as the reality of what he lived through sharpened. The expedition gave him purpose in life (writing a book and lecturing about it) while haunting his sleep and stunting his ability to move on from it. He predicted that large government-funded science stations would pop up in the Antarctic. He specifically mentioned Ross Island as a location for such a station. Wheeler does a fantastic job painting a sympathetic portrait of a complicated man.
As an aside, I am trying to imagine the amount of gear one would take to the South Pole. It boggled my mind that Scott would ask Cherry to learn how to type and to bring two typewriters even though no one else knew how to use them.

As another aside, wouldn’t it be terrible to name your pony and then have to eat him later?

Quotes to quote, “If you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore” (Cherry’s own words, p 218) and “They decided to marry before gas masks were permanently strapped to their faces” (p 259).

Author fact: Wheeler is an Arctic explorer in her own right. I have of her books on my Challenge list: Evia, Terra Incognita, Too Close to the Sun, and Travels in a Thin Country.

Book trivia: Wheeler includes a modest set of photographs not only of the expedition but of Cherry’s childhood and later years. My favorite was of Cherry at one of his typewriters.

Nancy said: Pearl called Cherry a “great” biography.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “To the Ends of the Earth: North and South (Antarctica)” (p 235).


Appealing to April

I have a ridiculous number of books planned for this month. I have no idea what I was thinking.

Fiction:

  • The Warden by Anthony Trollope – in honor of Trollope’s birth month being in April.
  • City and the House by Natalie Ginsberg – in honor of April being Letter Writing month.
  • All Souls by Javier Marias – in honor of Oxford Jazz Festival traditionally being in April.
  • All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sydney Taylor – in honor of April being Sibling month and in honor of Library Week.

Nonfiction:

  • The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs – in honor of John Muir’s birth month (and the fact we are visiting Arizona soon).
  • Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins – in honor of Library Week.

Series continuations:

  • Hunting Season by Nevada Barr to finish the series read out of order.
  • The Game by Laurie R. King – to finish the series started in honor of Female Mystery month.
  • Topper Takes a Trip by Thorne Smith – to finish the series started in honor of Smith’s birth month.
  • The Council of the Cursed by Peter Tremayne – to continue the series started in honor of Tremayne’s birth month.
  • Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in honor of Asimov’s birth month.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • From Red Earth: a Rwandan Story of Healing and Forgiveness by Denise Uwiemana.

No Match for March

What can I say about the previous month? Career-wise it was a busy month. I’m short staffed, budgets were due, accreditation teams loomed large, and my hockey team was breaking new records left and right. On the personal front friends were going through personal crisis after personal crisis (Just so you know, bad things are more than capable of arriving in multiples of five and six, not just three), I’m hip deep in planning a southwest trip with my sister and her sons, my mom’s dog is on Viagra, and! And. And, there was a little road race I always obsess about way too much. Somewhere in there I had a little time to read:

Fiction:

  • Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais
  • Topper by Thorne Smith
  • Giant by Edna Ferber
  • ADDED: Flashback by Nevada Barr – in honor of Barr’s birth month. (AB)
  • ADDED: White Sky, Black Ice by Stan Jones – on honor of Alaska.

Nonfiction:

  • Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam
  • Cherry by Sara Wheeler

Series continuations:

  • Gemini by Dorothy Dunnett – I admit, I did not finish this one.
  • Blackout by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
  • Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • The Moor by Laurie R. King

Fun:

  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – still reading
  • Sharp by Michelle Dean – finally finished
  • Calypso by David Sedaris (AB)
  • Living with the Little Devil Man by Lina Lisetta
  • Hidden Southwest by Ray Riegert
  • 1,000 Places to See Before You Die edited by Patricia Schultz
  • Exploring the Southwest by Tammy Gagne
  • Arizona, New Mexico and Grand Canyon Trips by Becca Blond

Early Review for Librarything:

  • Nothing. The book did not arrive in time to be reviewed in March.

Arizona, New Mexico & the Grand Canyon Trips

Blond, Becca and Aaron Anderson. Arizona, New Mexico & the Grand Canyon Trips: 58 Themed Itineraries, 1005 Local Places to See. Oakland, California: Lonely Planet, 2009.

Reason read: Planning a trip to the Southwest this spring.

This has got to be one of the coolest travel books I have seen in a long time. There are fifty-eight themed itineraries (as the title suggests), but it’s the unique theme of each itinerary that is the real showcase. This guidebook takes into consideration practically every lifestyle imaginable. Do you want to hike the Grand Canyon exclusively? There’s a rim to rim itinerary for such an excursion. Do you want to go on an epic art tour in New Mexico? Maybe you are into beer and wine tastings? There are trips for that and that and that. Maybe you want to specifically look at Arizona architecture or follow its music scene. Like I said, there is a tour for those interests as well.
That being said, as with any tour book you definitely want to double check that the hotels and restaurants mentioned in the book are still operational. Additionally, prices for anything are bound to be different ten years after publication, but the canyons, buttes, deserts, and mesas aren’t going anywhere.
Another nice feature of this tour book is the time it will take to do each tour (providing you stick to the mileage they have laid out and avoid lengthy detours). They also suggest the best time to go, where you start and end up, and if you want to link on trip to another, which ones work the best. It made me want to take a year off and try every itinerary back to back. Of course there are detailed maps to help you plan such a thing.

Final thought: the photography included is spectacular. Then again, I think all desert photography is gorgeous.