By May

I thought May was going to be a disaster. The first two and a half weeks were nothing but rain and way cooler temps. I worried about my garden. I didn’t feel like running. It felt like a downward spiral. I ended up running only 28 miles and running away to Monhegan for a week so it ended better than it began. But…it’s still raining.

“…when May is rushing over you with desire to be part of the miracles you see in every hour” ~ Natalie Merchant, These are Days.

“I wanted to be there by May, at the latest. April is over. Can you tell me how long before I can be there?” ~ Natalie Merchant, Painted Desert.

Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • H by Elizabeth Shepard (read in one day)
  • Nerve by Dick Francis (read in two days)
  • A Gay and Melancholy Sound by Merle Miller

Nonfiction:

  • Good-Bye to All That by Robert Graves
  • Age of Gold by HW Brands
  • Lusitania: an epic tragedy by Diana Preston

Series continuation:

  • “Q” is for Quarry by Sue Grafton (finished the series)
  • As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee (okay, so I didn’t know this was part of a trilogy).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • At the Broken Places by Mary and Donald Collins

Good-Bye to All That

Graves, Robert. Good-Bye to All That: an autobiography. New York: Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith, Inc., 1929.

Reason read: Memorial Day is May 29th this year. Read in honor of remembering World War I veterans. Robert Graves is one to remember.

Robert Graves decided to tell his autobiography when he was a mere 34 years old. After experiencing the horrors of World War I he must have felt he had lived a lifetime by the time he was in his 30s. His descriptions of early trench-warfare and as one example, the crude, ineffective gas masks are haunting. Despite it all, Graves was able to keep some decency about him. This is evident when he was unable to shoot a German soldier who was bathing. There was something about the man’s nakedness that unnerved Graves. And yet, he had a job to do…
Authors usually don’t take the time to describe their picture in a book. Robert Graves explains why his nose is large and crooked (broken twice & operated on once) and why one shoulder dips lower (courtesy of a lung wound). He makes modest statements about how the world sees him (like how he broke two front teeth when he was thirteen) as if to offer apologies for his face. Despite these descriptions the most obvious is that World War I was not easy on Robert Graves. One look at his 1929 photograph on the frontispiece of Good-Bye to All That and one can tell he was a broken man by the time the picture was taken. His haunted staring eyes speak volumes.
But, probably the biggest surprise about Graves’s autobiography was the humor. I don’t know if he meant to be funny but if not, he succeeded without trying.

Two lines that left me dumbstruck, “My dedication is an epilogue” (dedication page) and “The objects of this autobiography, written at the age of thirty-three, are simple enough: an opportunity for a formal good-bye to you and to you and to you and to me and to all that…” (p 1).
The definition of courage: “I had a bad head for heights and trained myself deliberately and painfully to overcome it…I have worked hard on myself in defining and dispersing terrors” (p 48).

As an aside, I am currently reading another book that takes place during World War I simply called Lusitania. Graves mentions the tragic events surrounding the torpedoing of the ocean liner in Good-Bye to All That but admits, “As for the Lusitania, the Germans gave her full warning, and if it brings the States into the war, it’s all to the good” (p 247).

Author fact: I don’t know when I first read anything by Robert Graves, but I do know when I really heard him and absorbed his words for the very first time. I heard him with ears wide open when Natalie Merchant decided to put his poem “Vain and Careless” to music. Incidentally, this was the first time I heard of the game Bob Cherry, too.

Book trivia: Good-Bye to All That has trench maps which put Robert’s ordeal into perspective for me.

Nancy said: Nancy said Graves wrote about his “disillusioning experiences” (p 154).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living Through War” (p 154).


May I Read Another Book?

Confessional: I don’t have any runs planned for May. I don’t have any travel planned for May (except going home-home). All I want to do is read, plant my gardens & master the grill. While the garden and the grill ambitions cannot be quantified, here are the books!

Fiction:

  •  Nerve by Dick Francis ~ in honor of the Kentucky Derby being in May
  • A Gay and Melancholy Sound by Merle Miller ~ in honor of Miller’s birth month. BTW – This is a behemoth (nearly 600 pages) so I am not confident I’ll finish it in time.
  • H by Elizabeth Shepard ! in honor of mental health month. This is barely 160 pages & will probably finish on a lunch break or two.

Nonfiction:

  • Age of Gold by H.W. Brands ~ in honor of History month being in May (confessional – this looks boring)
  • Lusitania: an epic tragedy by Diana Preston ~ in honor of the month the Lusitania sank
  • Goodbye to all That by Robert Graves ~ in honor of Memorial Day

Series continuations:

  • “Q” is for Quarry by Sue Grafton ~ to continue, and for me, finish the series started in April in honor of Grafton’s birth month (AB). Should be able to finish this in a weekend (AB + print)
  • Henry James: the Conquest of London (1870 – 1881) by Leon Edel ~ to continue the series started in April in honor of James’s birth month.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • At the Broken Places: —- by Mary and Donald Collins