Main Street

Lewis, Sinclair. Main Street. Floating Press, 2010.

Lewis, Sinclair. Maine Street. Read by Barbara Caruso. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 1996.

Reason read: Minnesota became a state in the month of May.

This is the satirical story of Carol Milford and her desire to transform her new husband’s little town of Gopher Prairie. While Dr. Will Kennicott is the celebrated hometown physician Carol is the new girl; the sophisticated, educated, and stylish “city girl” (having been a librarian in the metropolis of St. Paul, Minnesota). Her hopes and dreams for the little community are often met with bemusement, confusion, and more than a little resentment. From every angle Carol’s energy and enthusiasm to change things make the townspeople nervous resulting in stubborn denial. It isn’t long before, with all of her reform attempts failed, Carol yearns for adventure and big city culture. Even becoming a mother is not enough to contain her. She wants to shake things up and does so by falling in love with a young tailor. While the community tongues wag, Carol grows more emboldened and daring, finally leaving Gopher Prairie.

I have to get this off my chest, first and foremost. I didn’t really care for Carol Kennicott, nee Milford in the beginning. Early on she was a snob through and through. While traveling to Kennicott’s provincial little town she watches people on the train and is disappointed to see they are peasants. Previously, she didn’t believe in American peasants. Now she is witness to poverty and in her dismay she calls the less fortunate, “stuck in the mud” (p 42). She hasn’t even seen her husband’s town but already she is utterly panicked by the thought of living “inescapably” in Gopher Prairie (p 50). It isn’t until she removes herself from the wretched town that she learns what it means to belong somewhere.

Quotes which captivated me: “The rest of the party waited for the miracle of being amused” (p 51), “She felt that she was no long one-half of a marriage but the whole of a human being” (p 447), and “But sometimes he vanished; he was only an opinion (p 511).

Author fact: Lewis was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930.

Book trivia: Because this satire offended small town Alexandria, Minnesota they banned Main Street from their library.

Nancy said: Nancy described the plot and said Main Street “is probably the earliest Minnesota novel” (p 27).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust twice. First, in the chapter called “Big Country: the Literary Midwest (Minnesota)” (p 27) and again, in the chapter called “Libraries and Librarians” (p 139).


May is a Month

What about May? May was a month of personal disappointments and private pain. I weathered all without much fanfare. Running was nonexistent but I can’t say the same for books:

Fiction:

  • Landfall: a Channel Story by Nevil Shute (EB)
  • Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (AB, EB & print)
  • Martin Sloane by Michael Redhill (EB & print)
  • Bruised Hibiscus by Elizabeth Nunez (EB & print)
  • Adrian mole: the Cappuccino Years by Sue Townsend (EB & print)

Nonfiction:

  • Into Thin Air: a Personal Account … by Jon Krakauer

Series continuations:

  • Jade Island by Elizabeth Lowell (EB & print)
  • Last Seen in Massilia by Steven Saylor (EB & print)
  • Angel at My Table by Janet Frame (EB & print)

Early Review from LibraryThing:

  • 1968: — edited by — Aronson

Added – Plays:

  • Medea by Euripides ~ in honor of the best time to go to Greece.

 


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!


Marching Out

March was one of those weird months. A few Nor’Easters. A few miles run. A few books read. We had two school closings in back to back weeks so that helped with the reading, but not the run. I finished the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race just two minutes off my time last year. Considering I didn’t train (again) I’m alright with that. There’s always next year! Here are the books:

Fiction –

  • The Good Son by Michael Gruber
  • Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
  • White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling
  • Witch World by Andre Norton
  • Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis

Nonfiction –

  • All the Way Home by David Giffels
  • Slide Rule by Nevil Shute

Series Continuations –

  • Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to finished the series started in honor of her birth month in January.
  • Entranced by Nora Roberts

Early Review for Librarything –

  • Oneiron by Laura Lindstedt (started)
  • Infinite Hope – Anthony Graves

Poetry –

  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz (not finished)

Fun – I’m not finished with either fun book so I won’t list them here.


Two Plays and a Premise

Dennis, Nigel. Two Plays and a Premise: Cards of Identity and The Making of Moo. New York: The Vanguard Press, 1958.

Reason read: March is National Read month. I’m reading this just because.

The entire story centers around the Identity Club, a group of psychoanalysts who come together once a year to discuss phony identity cases which don’t involve real patients. At the same time, the local townspeople are being brainwashed into believing they are servants for the psychologists. They lose their identities in order to serve the whims of the shrinks. The end of the story, which I never got to, involves a Shakespearean play. For me, the plot disintegrated midway through the story and I gave up. It started off great. The slow brain washing was sinister in places. Miss Paradise’s brother goes missing and she doesn’t recognize him as the therapists’s servant. Or calling the doctor by different names in order to confuse him. Both scenarios were funny and evil and brilliant.

Confessional: I was supposed to read the full length novel of the same title but I ordered the play instead. By the time I noticed my mistake it was too late. I never would have been able to finish the 300+ page novel in time so I stuck with the play.

Line I liked, “Many a man’s life has been thrown away through the mumbling of his survivors” (p 61).

Author fact: Nigel wrote a smattering of other books but this is the only one I am supposed to read for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Card of Identity is both a novel and a play. For the latter it becomes a play within a play.

Nancy said: Nancy listed Cards of Identity as one of her faves (p 33).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the odd chapter called “The Book Lust of Others” (p 33). Cards of Identity was discovered in Writer’s Choice: A Library of Rediscoveries compiled by Linda Sternberg Katz and Bill Katz.


History Man

Bradbury, Malcolm. The History Man. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976.

The Kirks are are an interesting couple. Howard Kirk is a professor of sociology with a “convenient” marriage. Both Howard and his wife, Barbara, take advantage of sexual relationships that further their causes and commitments. Right from the beginning you know they are bound for trouble. “So, sensing the climate, some people called the Kirks, a well-known couple, decide to have a party” (p 1). And this is how it begins. The History Man starts with a party and ends with a party, but a whole lot happens in between. Howard has liaisons with a colleague and a student while trying to seduce a third woman. Barbara spends her weekends running off to London for a “shopping” trip.

Howard Kirk starts a vicious buzz about campus about inviting Professor Mangel to give a lecture at the University of Watermouth. This creates an uproar as Mangel is seen as a racist, a sexist, a geneticist, and a fascist so no one can agree about his invitation.

There is a good dose of philosophy and psychology; a whole lot of explaining how people are and what makes them tick. I couldn’t decide if I really liked the Kirks. They reminded me of the Underwoods in House of Cards. They both seemed a little conniving. In the end I felt the most sorry for Barbara Kirk. She and her husband have an open relationship but, being a mother, she doesn’t have quite the same opportunities as Howard.

Reading History Man was a little tedious. For one, Bradbury likes to describe people’s actions step by step. Howard getting settled into his office. Barbara driving a car. Every movement is sometimes detailed creating pages and pages of one giant paragraph. Yet, at other times large moments in time are skipped all together. Howard could be talking to his wife at home one moment and the in the next moment he’s lying in bed with another woman.

As an aside, the author’s note is hysterical. It sets the tone for the entire story.

Line I liked: “Everywhere else the code is one of possibility, not denial” (p 71).

Reason read: Well, there are really two reasons: Malcolm Bradbury was born in September. History Man is about an academic and most schools start classes in September. My institution is the oddball who start classes the week before. No. I take that back. We have three days of classes, then have a long weekend, then the semester gets rolling.

Author fact: Malcolm Bradbury’s website is really cool. Everyone should check it out, if not for the information, for the photographs. But. The whole thing is great. Another article you should look up is one written by Tom Rosenthal back in 2006.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Academia: the joke” (p 4).