Anonymous. Beowulf. Translated by Seamus Heaney. New York: W. W. Norton, 2001.
Reason read: Another Halloween story.
Everyone raves about Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf and I have to wonder, is it just the translation or could the accompanying gorgeous illustrations and photography have something to do with it? Everyone knows the story of Beowulf the mighty warrior from an English lit class. As a poem, it is the courageous story of a man who learns of a King’s annual nightmare. A monster named Grendel destroys fifteen knights a year without fail and has been doing so for the past twelve years. Beowulf, upon hearing this sad tale, takes it upon himself to vanquish Grendel only to face Grendel’s vengeful mother. Yeah, he kills her, too. Then there’s the fire-breathing dragon (think Bilbo Baggins) who tragically wins over Beowulf. In truth, I had forgotten the graphic violence of men being mauled by the monster Grendel. The clash is pretty dramatic. It would make a great movie. Wait. Knowing my knowledge of movies…it probably is.
As an aside, I have to wonder if this was ever made into a movie? Think about it. The battles full of violence…the claw of Grendel’s as a trophy. What a great prop for the big screen!
Lines I liked, “But it was mostly beer doing the talking” (p 37),”He is hasped and hooped and hirpling with pain, limping and looped in it” (p 65). Even though hasped and hirpling are not used in everyday vocabulary, you can envision the monster in sever pain.
Author fact: No one has ever been given credit for writing Beowulf although hundred of people have translated it.
Book trivia: Heaney’s translation won the Whitbread Award.
Nancy said: Pearl said Heaney’s translation of Beowulf beautiful.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry: a Novel Idea” (p 186).
Sones, Sonya. One of those hideous books where the mother dies. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004.
Reason read: I needed a book in verse for the Portland Public Library Challenge.
Ruby Milliken’s whole world has been turned upside down. First her mother dies of an illness. Then her aunt ships her off to a celebrity father in Hollywood. Ruby is forced to leave behind a boyfriend, a best friend, Boston’s varying weather, everything she has ever known in exchange for a strange school, palm trees, sunny skies, and a man she barely knows who calls himself Ruby’s dad. Whip Logan divorced Ruby’s mom before Ruby was born and not once did he try to meet his daughter. Now Ruby has to live in his world? Not fair. Ruby’s story is told in blank verse with emails to her boyfriend, best friend, and deceased mother thrown in. A cute story that is highly believable. My favorite parts were when Ruby was flying to Los Angeles and noting the differences between coach and first class as they started the descent and when she was at the beach and swimming with the dolphins. She allowed herself to have a good time.
Author fact: Sones has written a bunch of young adult books but this is the only one I am reading for the Challenge. She said it is similar to her life.
Book trivia: People have said there is a sequel to one of those hideous books where the mother dies but it’s not on my list.
Playlist: Eminem, Jimi Hendrix, and Streisand.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about one of those hideous books except to say it is a good book for teens.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Teens” (p 25).
Seth, Vikram. The Golden Gate: a Novel in Verse. New York: Random House, 1986.
Reason read: April is National Poetry Month. I also needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge under the category of a novel in poem form.
This is an early eighties story of a group of people living in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridget in San Francisco. John is a successful but lonely executive looking for some kind of love. His ex-girlfriend-turned-loyal-good-friend, Janet Hayakawa, takes pity on him and places an ad in the personals (a la Rupert Holmes: if you like Pina Coladas). As John goes on bland blind date after bland blind date he finds ways to avoid second encounters with each woman until he meets Liz. It’s practically love at both sight for both of them…until he moves in with her and meets her cat. Competition with a pet is not easy.
Philip Weiss is also looking for love after his wife, Claire Cabot, left him and their young son, Paul. When Philip tries a different sort of love he is confronted with conflicting feelings. Morality, religion, and society’s attitudes guide his choices. These are just a few of the characters in Golden Gate. As the reader, you get to delve into their work, their relationships, their responsibilities. It’s all about human connections. Attitudes towards homosexuality. The loss of love. The ridiculous fights you can have in the throes of love. The fact it is one giant poem is just icing on the cake. I was captivated until the (surprising) end.
It took Vikram thirteen months to finish The Golden Gate.
As an aside, I like the names of the cats: Cuff, Link, and Charlemagne.
Line I liked, “Their brains appear to be dissolving to sugary sludge as they caress” (p 52). Isn’t that what true love is all about?
Playlist: “Apple of My Heart,” Brahms, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Mozart, Schonberg, Grateful Dead. “Beat It” by Michael Jackson.
Author fact: Seth also wrote A Suitable Boy which is on my Challenge List.
Book trivia: Even the Dedication and Acknowledgements are in verse.
Nancy said: Pearl called Golden Gate funny and warm.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. First in the chapter called “California, Here We Come” (p 49), and again in “Poetry: a Novel Idea” (p 186).
Creech, Sharon. Love That Dog. New York: Joanna Cotler Books, 2001.
Reason read: April is Dog month.
Watch a boy learn to love writing poetry. At first he comes across as aloof, retorting that only girls are into poetry. Don’t tell anyone I can write, he begs the teacher, Miss Stretchberry. Little by little, poem by poem, Jack’s confidence as a poet grows. It is extremely clever how Creech uses well known (and loved) poets to reach into young Jack’s mind and pull out confidence. Even though this book is only 80 pages long, every single word is golden.
As an aside, the adult in me immediately clued into Jack’s tense changing when writing about his dog, Sky. I had that sense of foreboding that only comes from a loss of innocence. Adulthood taught me to expect the worst.
Best line of all: “I think Robert Frost has a little too much time on his hands” (p 20).
Author fact: Creech is a Newbery Medal winner for a different book. Her list of published titles is impressive, but I am only reading Love That Dog.
Book trivia: This seems like a book for children, but adults could learn a thing or two from Jack.
Nancy said: the only thing Pearl said specifically about Love That Dog is that it is suited for boys and girls equally.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 21).
What to tell you? I spent February in a tailspin of old memories. To blame it on one singular event would be too simplistic. As they say, it’s complicated. Very. In other news I have been running! Successfully, I might add. February saw 40 miles conquered. Here are the books planned and completed:
- Anna In-Between by Elizabeth Nunez (EB & print).
- Little Havana Blues edited by Julia Poey and Virgil Suarez (EB & print).
- The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber (EB, AB & print).
- The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley (EB & print).
- All Deliberate Speed: reflections on the first half century of Brown v. Board of Education by Charles J. Ogletree, Jr (EB & print).
- Barrow’s Boys by Fergus Fleming (EB & print).
- Rome and a Villa by Eleanor Clark (EB & print).
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- The 21: a journey into the land of the Coptic martyrs by Martin Mosebach (just started reading).
Leisure (print only):
- Migrations: Open Hearts, Open Borders: The Power of Human Migration and the Way That Walls and Bans Are No Match for Bravery and Hope by ICPBS.
- Pharos Gate by Nick Bantock.
- Morning Star by Nick Bantock.
- The Museum at Purgatory by Nick Bantock.
- Alexandria by Nick Bantock.
- The Gryphon by Nick Bantock.
I am consistently running (yay). My head is finally screwed on straight – somewhat (yay). Things are not perfect but I can say February is mostly fixed.
- The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber – in honor of Charles Dickens and his birthday being in February. Weird, I know.
- Anna In-Between by Elizabeth Nunez – in honor of my childhood.
- Little Havana Blues: A Cuban-American Literature Anthology edited by Virgil Suarez and Delia Poey – in honor of Cuba’s reformed constitution.
- The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley – in honor of February being friendship month.
- Rome and a Villa by Eleanor Clark – in honor of Clark’s birthday.
- All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half Century of Brown v. Board of Education by Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. – in honor of February being Civil Rights month.
- Barrow’s Boys: A stirring Story of Daring, Fortitude, and Outright Lunacy by Fergus Fleming – in honor of Exploration month.
- Making Tracks by Matt Weber – a Christmas gift from my sister.
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
Grimes, Nikki. Bronx Masquerade. New York: Dial Books, 2002.
Reason read: August is the time of year when parents start thinking about sending their kids back to school. Bronx Masquerade takes place in high school.
Eighteen teenagers from all walks of life use poetry to tell it like it is. In the form of a poetry slam each student in Mr. Ward’s class gets an opportunity to share a piece of him or herself. Not all are eager for the spotlight, but the more students stand up and share, the more the others get to thinking this poetry thing isn’t such a bad idea.
- Lupa Algann – her big sister had a baby so she wants one.
- Janelle Battle – has a crush on Devon; has a weight problem she is self- conscious about.
- Judianne Alexander – she sells herself short; has a crush on Tyrone.
- Leslie Lucas – lost her mom at a young age.
- Gloria Martinez – she had a baby while still a sophomore in high school; baby daddy wants nothing to do with the child.
- Diondra Jordan – a shy artist.
- Sheila Gamberoni – wants to be more “ethnic”so she asks to change her name in class. Even though she is Italian heritage she has white skin.
- Raul Ramirez – An artist with ambition.
- Amy Moscowitz – an atheist who comes from a Jewish family
- Tyrone Bittings – closest character to a protagonist the story has. He responds to every poem and his perceptions of his classmates. He is convinced he is going to die young if the color of his skin has anything to say about it.
- Devon Hope – a basketball player.
- Wesley “Bad Boy” Boone – tough guy who loves music.
- Raynard Patterson – cousin to Sterling.
- Darien Lopez – Puerto Rican boy trying to break out of the stereotypical mold.
- Chankara Troupe – comes from an abusive home.
- Others: Tanisha, Steve, Sterling, and Porscha
All of these students pull courage from their classmates and try it on for themselves. One by one they are pulled to the front of the classroom to stand up strong. By doing so they reveal glimpses of lives their classmates knew nothing about.
Mr. Ward’s Open Mike class gains momentum when a reporter gets wind of the class and makes a visit.
Best surprise: Grimes features real life poet Pedro Pietri.
Quotes I had to quote, “Knees knocking like a skeleton on Halloween, embarrassment bleaching my black cheeks red, eyes stupid to the page in front of me” (p 4). If that doesn’t describe nerves, I don’t know what!
Here’s another – “I try on my life like a dress and it doesn’t fit” (p 110). Last one, “The truth of his words pinned me to the wall” (p 135).
Author fact: Grimes also wrote Jazmin’s Notebook which won a Coretta Scott King Honor award.
Book trivia: the copy I read was the ten year re-release with a new introduction by the author.
Nancy said: Pearl indicated Bronx Masquerade was good for boys and girls.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Teens” (p 24).
What to say about this month? It was epic in a myriad of ways. First and foremost, I turned half a century old. I don’t mind the number; I am not bothered by the age. Never the less, friends and family gathered for a party to remember. And. And! And, I re-upped my commitment to running. It’s been slow but I have to admit something here – my breathing has been effed up. I have a scheduled appointment for early March so…I continue to read.
Here are the books:
- Take This Man by Frederick Busch. (EB & print)
- Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning by Alice Walker. (EB)
- Crossers by Philip Caputo. (EB and print)
- Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza. (EB and print)
- Tragic Honesty by Blake Bailey. (print only)
- Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner. (AB, EB and print)
- A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King. (EB and print)
- Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett. (print)
- Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov. (EB)
- A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow. (EB and print)
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg.
- Corregidora by Gayl Jones (reread).
- Exploring the Southwest by Tammy Gagne.
- Calypso by David Sedaris (started).
- Sharp by Michelle Dean (continuing)
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (continuing)
Walker, Alice. Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning. SanDiego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979.
Reason read: Walker’s birth month is in February.
Here’s how I read Good Night Willie Lee. I inhaled a poem, held my breath to ponder the collection of words within it, and exhaled my understanding of the connection to life. One poem at a time. Like rhythmic yoga breaths; like steady waves upon the shore, I took my time with each one of them. Each poem deserved to be fully digested as such. For when you read Walker’s poetry you get the sense she died a little with each offering. A small offering of her soul mixed with the words.
Favorite line – from the poem called Confession: “through cracks in the conversation.” What a beautiful image.
Author fact: Walker also wrote Meridian and Possessing the Secret of Joy, two novels also on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: the last poem in the book explains the title. I picture her father’s funeral.
Nancy said: Pearl said that Walker is best known for her award winning novel, The Color Purple, but “readers shouldn’t miss her poetry” (Book Lust p 2).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “A…My Name is Alice” (p 1).
We are nearly one full week into February and I have yet to report what is on the reading list. I have to admit, my other (non-book) life got in the way. I was selected for jury duty for a trial that lasted three days, a friend was admitted to the hospital with atrial fibrillation for three days, an uncle was taken off hospice, and oh yeah, I turned fifty with my family and friends in attendance. The last week of January going into the first week of February was all a bit nutty. And. And! And, I am running again. So, there’s that. But enough of that. Here are the books:
- Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning by Alice Walker (EB)- in honor of Walker’s birth month.
- Take This Man by Frederick Busch (EB & print) – in memory of Busch’s death month.
- Crossers by Philip Caputo (EB & print) – in honor of Arizona becoming a state in February.
- Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza (EB & print) – in honor of Brazil’s festival.
- Tragic Honesty by Blake Bailey (print) in honor of Yates’s birthday.
- Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner (AB) in honor of February being Feed the Birds Month.
- A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King (EB & print) – to continue the series started in honor of January being Mystery Month.
- Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett (print) – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month being in August.
- Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov (EB) – in honor of Asimov’s birth month being in January.
- A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow (EB & print) – to continue the series started in January in honor of Alaska becoming a state.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- How to Be a Patient by Dr. Sana Goldberg (confessional: I started this in January and haven’t finished it yet).
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.
Silko. Ceremony. New York: Penguin Books, 1986,
Reason read: November is American Indian Heritage month.
I like to compare reading Silko to drinking a icy cold glass of limoncello. It is not the kind of thing you gulp down in chug-a-lug like fashion. It is better to take in small sips of the scenes in order to let them slide over your subconscious and filter slowly into your brain. Think of it this way. It is as if you have to give the words time to mellow and ultimately saturate your mind.
First things first. When you get into the plot of Ceremony what you first discover is that Tayo is a complicated character. After being a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, alcoholism, battle fatigue (now called post traumatic stress disorder), mental illness, and guilt all plague Tayo. It’s as if threads of guilt tangle in his mind, strangling his ability to comprehend reality, especially when other veterans on the Laguna Pueblo reservation turn to sex, alcohol and violence to cope. Friends are no longer friendly.
Next, what is important to pay attention to are the various timelines. There is the time before the war and the time after at the mental health facility with the timeline with Thought (Spider) Woman, Corn Woman, and Reed Woman. Each timeline dips back and forth throughout the story. Tayo struggles to reconcile what it means to be Native American, with all its traditions and beliefs, with the horrors of war and captivity. How does one as gentle as Tayo forgive himself for being a soldier? “He stepped carefully, pushing the toe of his boot into the weeds first to make sure the grasshoppers were gone before he set his foot down into the crackling leathery stalks of dead sunflowers” (p 155). He can’t even inadvertently harm a bug.
Interspersed between the plot are pages of lyrical poetry.
Throughout it all, I found myself weeping for Tayo’s lost soul.
Quotes I liked, “Somewhere, from another room, he heard a clock ticking slowly and distinctly, as if the years, the centuries, were lost in that sound. (p 98) and “But as long as you remember, it is part of the story we have together” (p 231).
Author fact: Silko was born in Albuquerque in 1948, the same year as my mother.
Book trivia: As I mentioned earlier, Silko’s poetry is part of the story.
Nancy said: Nancy said Leslie Marmon Silko is one of her favorite American Indian writers.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “American Indian Literature” (p 23).
Mattison, Alice. Animals. Cambridge, MA: Alice James Books, 1979.
Reason read: July is Mattison’s birth month.
A collection of thirty poems rich and pulsating with human life make up Animals by Alice Mattison. Women come alive to argue, have sex, give birth, seek memories, laugh out loud, fiercely love family, change identities, experience sickness, learn to rescue, and accept failure. There is courage and wit in Mattison’s vision. Each poem is heartbeats and breath, like a roar of vibrant life.
Lines I liked, “throwing echoes between eardrums” (from Husband, p 11) and “The wildlife grows shameless in spring: it’s like putting out your hand in the dark and feeling a penis” (from Creatures, p 26).
Author fact: Mattison began her writing career as a poet.
Book trivia: Animals is Alice Mattison’s first book.
Nancy said: Nancy didn’t say anything specific about Animals but she did say Alice Mattison is “a multitalented writer” (p 1).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the very first chapter called “A…My Name is Alice” (p 1).
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:
- Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell
- 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
- Charmed by Nora Roberts
- The Venus Throw by Steven Saylor
- “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
- Deeply Grateful and Entirely Unsatisfied by Amanda Happe
Milosz, Czeslaw. New and Collected Poems (1931 – 2001). New York: Harper Collins, 2001.
Reason read: March is National Poetry Month in some parts of the world. Stay tuned because April is also a poetry month…in some parts of the world.
Milosz’s poetry touches on a myriad of topics. There are echoes of childhood, listening to a mother softly climb the shadowy stairs or watching a father quietly read in the library. There are a series of poems that lovingly describe a house and its inhabitants. Linked poetry that are meant to be read hand in hand with the next.
Confessional: I did not get through the entire collection. I could have kept the book through April since April is also a month for poetry, but I opted not to.
Favorite quote, “Love is sand swallowed by parched lips” (from Hymn, page 13).
Author fact: Milosz was a Polish cultural attache in France. As an aside, whenever I think of a cultural attache I think of Robin Williams in the movie, The Birdcage. I can’t help it.
Book trivia: New and Collected Poems celebrates the career of Milosz, including the very first poem he wrote at age twenty. I think it would have been cool to include angst-ridden/written poetry from when Milosz was a teenager, because you know he must have written some!
Nancy said: Nancy said Milosz’s New and Collected Poems was a “splendid introduction to those who don’t know his work” (p 187).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Polish Poetry and Prose” (p 187).