August Gusted

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:

Fiction:

  • 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

Nonfiction:

  • American Chica by Marie Arana
  • Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge
  • Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson

Series continuation:

  • 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

American Chica

Arana, Marie. American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood. New York: Dial Press, 2001.

Reason read: August is called the selfish month by some. Nancy Pearl called her autobiography chapter in More Book Lust “Me, Me, Me” which made me think to read American Chica in August.

Marie Arana grew up in an intercultural family with a South American father born in Peru, and a North American mother. Her parents met in Boston, Massachusetts of all places. This all sounds exotic and fun, but it wasn’t always easy for Arana to know how to fit in on either side of the cultural divide.
The very first sentence of American Chica sets the entire tone of Arana’s memoir, “The corridors of my skull are haunted” (p 5). Indeed, Arana’s family history hides ghosts and her story prods proverbial skeletons out of closets. I won’t give away the details but there was one moment in Arana’s story that had me holding my breath. She has a brush with impropriety that is tinged with the guilty question of did I bring this on myself? Is it somehow my fault? I could relate.The most poignant pieces of Arana’s writing was when she was remembering her innocence; the times when prejudice didn’t darken her childhood.

Other lines I liked, “It is more than a simple resentment, less than an all-out war” (p 63).

Author fact: According to the back flap of American Chica, Arana served on the board of directors of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Book Critics Circle.

Book trivia: Arana’s memoir does not include any photographs except a family portrait in the beginning.

Nancy said: Pearl called American Chica “a beautifully written memoir” (More Book Lust p 167).

BookLust Twist: As mentioned earlier, from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Me, Me, Me: Autobiographies” (p 167).


Creature of Habit August

Last month (okay, yesterday!) I whined about how I have been feeling uninspired writing this blog. I think it’s because I haven’t really been in touch with what I’ve been reading. None of the books in July jump started my heart into beating just a little faster. “Dull torpor” as Natalie would say in the Maniacs song, Like the Weather. Maybe it comes down to wanting more oomph in my I’mNotSureWhat; meaning I don’t know if what I need or what would fire me up enough to burn down my yesterdays; at least so that they aren’t repeated tomorrow. I’m just not sure.
Hopefully, these books will do something for me:

Fiction:

  • African Queen by Cecil Forester – in honor of the movie. Can I be honest? I’ve never seen the movie!
  • Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas (EB/print) – in honor of August being Friendship month.
  • Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object (EB/print) by Laurie Colwin – in honor of August being National Grief Month.
  • Strong Motion by Jonathan Frazen (EB/print) – in honor of August being Frazen’s birth month.
  • Beauty: the Retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley (EB/print) – in honor of August being Fairy Tale month.

Nonfiction:

  • Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge (EB/print) – in memory of Florence Nightingale. August is her death month.
  • American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood by Maria Arana (EB/print) – a memoir in honor of August being “Selfish Month.”
  • If there is time: What Just Happened by James Gleick – in honor of Back to School month.

Series continuations:

  • Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov (EB/print) – the penultimate book in the Foundation series.
  • Die Trying by Lee child (AB/EB/print) – the second book in the Jack Reacher series.

Early Review:

  • Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm (started in July).
  • Open Water by Mikael Sturm.

July Mistakes

So. I never posted what I hoped to accomplish reading for July. Whoops and whoops. To tell you the truth, I got busy with other things. What other things I couldn’t tell you. It’s not the thing keeping me up at night. Besides, if I’m truly honest no one reads this blather anyway. In my mind the “you” that I address is really me, myself and moi; our own whacked out sense of conformity. Let’s face it, my reviews are as uninspiring as dry toast carelessly dropped in sand. It’s obvious something needs to change. I just haven’t figured out what that something is or what the much needed change looks like. Not yet at least. I need a who, where, what, why, and how analysis to shake off the same as it ever was. It’ll come to me eventually.
But, enough of that and that and that. Here’s what July looked like for books and why:

Fiction:

  • Killing Floor by Lee Child – in honor of New York becoming a state in July (Child lives in New York).
  • Alligator by Lisa Moore – in honor of Orangemen Day in Newfoundland.
  • Forrest Gump by winston Groom – on honor of the movie of the same name being released in the month of July.
  • Aunt Julia and the Script Writer by Mario Vargas Llosa – in honor of July being the busiest month to visit Peru.
  • Accidental Man by Iris Murdoch – in honor of Murdoch’s birth month.
  • Blood Safari by Leon Meyer – in honor of Meyer’s birth month.
  • By the River Piedra I Sat down and Wept by Paulo Coelho – in honor of July being Summer Fling Month.

Series continuation:

  • Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov. Yes, I am behind.
  • Blood Spilt by Asa Larsson.
  • Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope. Confessional. Even though there are two more books in the Barsetshire Chronicles I am putting Trollope back on the shelf for a little while. The stories are not interconnected and I am getting bored.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm. I only started this. It will be finished in August.

What startles me as I type this list is I didn’t finish any nonfiction in July. I started the Holocaust memoir but haven’t finished it yet. No nonfiction. Huh.


Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter

Llosa, Mario Vargas. Aunt Julia and the Script Writer. Translated by Helen R. Lane. New York: Avon, 1982.

Reason read: July is the busiest time to visit Peru.

As a struggling writer, eighteen year old Marito (Mario) makes ends meet by writing news stories for a local Peruvian radio station while in law school. He welcomes two new distractions into his life and uses them to spice up his storytelling: his beautiful aunt (by marriage only), Julia, and the brilliant but crazy radio scriptwriter, Pedro Comancho. Thirteen years his senior, Aunt Julia begins a clandestine romance with Mario and at the same time Comancho takes Marito under his wing as his ever-growing confused confidant.
It is the differing point of view narratives that keep the story interesting as the reader bounces between the first person account of Marito and Comancho’s soap opera dramas told in the third person.

As an aside, when Aunt Julia says she’s old enough to be Marito’s mother I just had to do the math. Julia is only thirteen or fourteen years older than Mario. Yes, fourteen year olds have babies. It is possible, but it made me shudder all the same.

Lines I liked, “He was a creature given to short-lived, contradictory, but invariably sincere enthusiasms” (p 10), and “In the span of just a few seconds I went from hating her with all my heart to missing her with all my soul (p 157).

Author fact: Aunt Julia and the Script Writer is autobiographical. Also, Llosa has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Book trivia: Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter was made into a 1990 movie called “Tune in Tomorrow.”

Nancy said: Pearl called Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter her favorite Llosa novel.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Latin American Fiction” (p 144).


December Did Not

December did not suck entirely. I was able to run 97 miles out of the 97 promised. The in-law holiday party was a lot of fun and I got to most of the books on my list:
Nonfiction:

  • Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming (DNF)
  • Rainbow’s End by Lauren St. John
  • Paul Revere and the World He Lived in by Esther Forbes
  • On the Ocean by Pytheas (translated by Christina Horst Roseman)
  • Geometry of Love by Margaret Visser
  • Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre .
  • River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard (AB)

Fiction:

  • Tu by Patricia Grace – I read this in four days because it was due back at a library that didn’t allow renewals.

Series:

  • Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright. I listened to this on audio on my lunch breaks. It was a good way to escape for a little while each day. Confessional: I didn’t finish the whole thing but since it is a continuation of the series it doesn’t matter.

Early Review:

  • Yoga for Athletes by Ryanne Cunningham – this was an October book that took me a little time to review because I was too busy using it to run!
  • Disaster Falls: a family story by Stephane Gerson

Conquest of the Incas

Hemming, John. The Conquest of the Incas. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Inc., 1970.

Reason read: December is supposedly the best time to visit Peru. Who knew?

Hemming explains his book as such, “Here I have tried to penetrate the clouds of conflicting hyperbole in contemporary reports and treatises” (p 17).

It is always difficult to read histories such as this because when it comes right down to it, this is a conquest of a people who were indigenous to the land; in other words, people who were “there” first. I found myself holding my breath when I read the sentence, “the moment had finally come when the first Spaniards were to confront the ruler of Peru” (page 33) because you just knew they were going to execute him at some point (and they did). All that aside, Hemming does a thorough job detailing the Spanish conquest of Peru. It is a worthy read, especially if you are planning to visit the region.

As an aside, Francisco Pizarro’s fanatical determination reminded me not a little of Percy Fawcett and his expedition into the Amazon. Which then reminded me of River of Doubt by Candice Millard, which I am reading now.

Author fact: Hemming is an expert on the Incas.

Book trivia: Conquest includes six pages of maps.

Nancy said: Conquest is one of three major histories of the Spanish Conquest of Peru.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Peru(sing) Peru” (p 177).


Jingle the Books

December is going to be a crazy month. I need to run 93  miles. I will be hosting my in-law’s Holiday party for the first time. I’m going to the Christmas Eve Patriots Game. What else? Oh. The books!

Nonfiction:

  • Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming ~ in honor of December being the best time to visit Peru
  • Rainbow’s End by Lauren St. John ~ in honor of Shangani Day in Rhodesia.
  • Paul Revere and the World He Lived in by Esther Forbes ~ in honor of Revere’s birth month (I’m guessing since he was baptized on January first.)
  • On the Ocean by Pytheas (translated by Christina Horst Roseman) ~ in honor of finally finding a copy of this book!
  • Geometry of Love by Margaret Visser ~ in honor of Rome’s Saturnalia Solstice.
  • Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre ~ in honor of December being the best time to visit India.

Fiction:

  • Tu by Patricia Grace ~ in honor of New Zealand being discovered in December.

Series:

  • Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright ~ in honor of finishing the series started in September in honor of Enright’s birth month.

Early Review:

  • Yoga for Athletes by Ryanne Cunningham ~ for LibraryThing

Cradle of Gold

Heaney, Christopher. Cradle of Gold: the Story of Hiram Bingham, a Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Machu Picchu. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2010.

In 2008 Peru sued Yale University for the return of artifacts and human remains taken by Hiram Bingham. They claimed he stole over 46,000 articles. Yale claimed they had only a little over 5,000. Was that an admission of guilt? Heaney was fascinated with the case and decided to dig up the truth for himself. Here’s the thing, he knows how to grab the reader’s attention with the opening description of Indiana Jones. I like the idea of Hiram Bingham being the devil-may-care Indiana Jones of his time. It lends an air of intrigue to the story. He had the looks and the devil-may-care attitude!

Here are some things about Hiram Bingham: Hiram is an old family name. Our Hiram was the third. He sired a fourth. Hiram was also very prejudice. He thought he had “competition” when exploring the ancient Inca ruins until he realized the ones who went before him weren’t European white so they didn’t count. He was also a master thief. He was able to smuggle out additional crates of human remains and artifacts with the help of Peruvians he was able to bribe. His smuggling cracked open an age-old question, just who do these treasures belong to? The ancestors of the land or are the finders the keepers, as they saying goes?

Heaney’s story is rich with history and lore. The ghosts of past conquests walk among Bingham’s Machu Picchu ruins and beg to be remembered.

Quotes I liked, “Christianity no longer had a monopoly on the truth” (p 14), “Yet a pith helmet, compass, and a slap-leather spirit did not an explorer make” (p 29),
Reason read: Hiram Bingham was born in the month of November – read in his honor.

Author fact: Heaney has his own website.

Book trivia: While Cradle of Gold has some photographs, they aren’t very exciting. There aren’t that many of Hiram, despite the fact he was a good looking man.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Peru(sing) Peru)” (p 177).


Bridge of San Luis Rey

Wilder, Thornton. The Bridge of San Luis Rey. New York: Washington Square Press, Inc., 1966.

Warning! This review is with spoiler!!

The premise for The Bridge of San Luis Rey is fascinating. In a nutshell an Italian monk by the name of Brother Juniper was not only witness to a terrible tragedy, he was mere moments away from sharing the same horrific fate. An ancient bridge in Lima, Peru collapses just as five travelers have set out across it. Instead of suffering a kind of survivors guilt, Brother Juniper is instead encouraged to pursue his study of theology, using the tragedy to demonstrate scientific reason as to why his life was spared. Being a man of the cloth he wants to prove it was divine intervention that caused him to avoid such an unfortunate demise. More importantly, he can finally prove the five victims (who weren’t so “lucky”) shared a common fault and their deaths were part of a larger plan. In other words, luck had nothing to do with it. The other option, less likely in the eyes of Brother Juniper, was it was a simple, random accident. Brother Juniper devotes his life to researching the private lives and documenting the secrets of the five victims, in a search for commonality. All in the hopes of proving the collapse was considered an act of god, a shared destiny. This would be something Brother Juniper could finally attach his scientific study of theology to. The five unfortunate travelers are:

  1. Dona Maria, the Marquesa de Montemayor and her companion,
  2. Pepita.
  3. Estaban – a twin grieving the loss of his brother and, before crossing the bridge, about to set sail with a sea captain.
  4. Uncle Pio, the actress Camila’s maid, singing master, coiffeur, masseur, errand-boy, reader, banker, coach, writer and tutor.
  5. Don Jaime, Camila’s son

In the end, Brother Juniper was burned at the stake along with his “research” on the five victims of the bridge collapse. He was charged with heresy.

Favorite quotes: “The Marquesa would even have been astonished to learn that her letters were very good, for such authors live always in the noble weather of their own minds and those productions which seem remarkable to us are little better than a days routine to them” (p 15).
“All families lived in a wasteful atmosphere of custom and kissed one another with secret indifference” (p 16). And another, “You see its the ocean you want” (p 67).

Can I just say I love the titles of the first and last chapters? “Part One – perhaps an accident” and “Part Five – perhaps an intention.”

Note: I should have started reading this book on July 20th, the day “the finest bridge in all of Peru” collapsed. Who knew?

Book Trivia: Bridge of San Luis Rey was made into a movie on three different occasions. It has also been interpreted as an opera and a play.

Reason read: August is the last month for students to travel before heading back to school. I chose Peru as the destination for the last adventure of August.

Author Fact: Thornton Wilder won a Pulitzer for The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Peru(sing) Peru” (p 177).