November Accomplished

I wanted to rename November Nope the second I published it. I don’t know why I always have a pessimistic view of the month before it has even started. I think I need an attitude adjustment! For starters, I finished the books I set out to read for the month:

Fiction:

  • The Sporting Club by Thomas McGuane.
  • The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak.

Nonfiction:

  • Four Corners by Kira Salak.
  • Israel is Real by Rich Cohen.
  • Silverland by Dervla Murphy.

Series continuations:

  • Master of Hestviken: the Snake Pit by Sigrid Undset.
  • Echo Burning by Lee Child.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Teaching Empathy by Suzanna Henshon, PhD.

Silverland

Murphy, Dervla. Silverland: a Winter Journey Beyond the Urals. London: John Murray, 2006.

Reason read: Murphy was born in the month of November. Read in her honor.

Silverland is a well detailed account of Dervla Murphy’s slow train trip across the barren Russian landscape via BAM, the Baikal-Amur Mainline. When I say slow, I mean slow. Like 20 miles an hour slow. She prefered it this way. As she traveled she recounted the history and statistics of BAM, mourning the loss of Siberian and Ewenki cultures, stoically observed societal norms (the tragedy of “vodka orphans” strikes a chord), and waxed about political change; all the while struggling to communicate with the people she met. The language barrier sometimes prevented her from embarking on heavy and/or controversial debates or more importantly, finding out the location of her beloved bicycle, Pushkin. She is very knowledgeable about the country’s history and could hold her own throughout her extensive travels.

My favorite parts of Silverland occurred when Murphy painted a romantic image of the Siberian countryside. For example, as she rides the rails she observes steam from hot springs meeting a shaft of sunlight and pronounces the region, “a magical silverland” (p 63).
Murphy is also a humorist, affectionately referring to her overburdened suitcase as “Dog” and “Pushkin” is her bicycle. I do the same thing.

I am always pleased when a book urges me to learn more. I admit I did not know what the word ‘fubsy’ meant. Nor had I heard of the Baikal-Amur Mainline before reading Silverland. My favorite new knowledge was that of Tynde’s “pear custom.” They give a departing guest one half of a pear, urging the guest to come back to eat the other half. We on Monhegan give flowers to departing guests. If the flowers wash ashore, the guest will also return.

Quotations to quote, “I am not so far out of my tree to advocate for the elimination of motor vehicles” (p 52) and “…dawn is the best time to arrive in an unknown city” (p 87).

Author fact: Murphy was born in Ireland. A more interesting fact I learned after reading Silverland is Murphy had three granddaughters and eight pets at the time she embarked on the Siberian journey.

Book trivia: Silverland has a great set of black and white photographs.

Nancy said: Pearl nothing specific about Silverland. She did mention this was Murphy’s second trip to the region.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Siberian Chills” (p 205).


November Nope

I don’t have writer’s block. I have writer’s apathy. I have nothing to say. Here are the books already underway for November:

Fiction:

  • The Sporting Club by Thomas McGuane – in honor of the Mackinac bridge being built in November of 1957.
  • The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak – I needed an author with my same initials for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge.

Nonfiction:

  • Four Corners: a Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea by Kira Salak – in honor of November being a decent time to visit PNG…if you are into that sort of thing.
  • Israel is Real: an Obsessive Quest to Understand the Jewish Nation and Its History by Rich Cohen – in recognition of Resolution 181.
  • Silverland: a Winter Journey Beyond the Urals by Dervla Murphy – in honor of Murphy’s birth month.

Series continuation:

  • Master of Hestviken: the Snake Pit by Sigrid Undset – to continue the series started in October. I needed a translated book written by a woman. Voila!
  • Echo Burning by Lee Child – to continue the series started in July in honor of New York becoming a state.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Teaching Empathy: Strategies for Building Emotional Intelligence in Today’s Children by Suzanna Hershon, PhD.

May I Read

I never recapped April nor predicted May. For the first time ever, April books are still being read. To be fair, the Lyndon Johnson series started in February so technically these leftovers are not specific either April nor May.

April was an oddball month in that my reading was all on the fly. I trained for another half marathon and that took a lot of my time. Not nearly as much as the full mara, but still…

Here are the Challenge books finished in April:

  • King Lear – Shakespeare (not scheduled)
  • Guernica – Van Hensbergen (not scheduled)
  • Grand Tour – Tim Moore
  • Green Thoughts – Eleanor Perenyi
  • Alice in Sunderland – Bryan Talbot
  • Considerable Town – M F K Fisher
  • Don’t Eat This Book – Morgan Spurlock

Here are the just for fun books:

  • Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work – John Gottman
  • Spark Joy – Marie Kondo (not scheduled)

Here’s what on tap for May:

For the Early Review program through LibraryThing:

  • All the Rage by Martin Moran

To celebrate May:

  • Brilliant Orange: the Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer by David Winner ~ in honor of the tulip festival in Holland
  • Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America by Linda Lawrence Hunt ~ in honor of Just ‘Cause and their 60-mile walk (although this year it’s in June).
  • Jordan: Past & Present: Petra, Jerash & Amman by E. Borgia ~ in honor of Jordan gaining independence in the month of May
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandre Solzhenitsyn ~ in honor of Russia’s Victory Day (may 9th, 1945)
  • Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill ~ to celebrate Laos Rocket Day (already read – this took me less than a day)
  • Chosen, the by Chaim Potok ~ in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month (AB – already read)
  • Map of Another Town by MFK Fisher ~ to finished the Two Towns book started in April
  • Master of the Senate by Robert Caro ~ to finished the series started in February in honor of Presidents’ Day.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander. One Day if the Life of Ivan Denisovich. New York: Signet, 1963.

Reason read: May is supposedly one of the best times to visit Russia.

Ivan Denisovich Shukhov (#S 854) is a prisoner in a Stalinist work camp in Siberia with only two years left on his sentence. This is one day in his life, from reveille to lights-out. It has been called extraordinary and I couldn’t agree more. Ivan is the very picture of bravery, hope and above all, survival. Solzhenitsyn relentlessly reminds the reader of the Siberian bitter winters by using variations of words like frost, ice, snow, chill, freeze and cold over 120 times. Added to that is the constant lack of warmth (mentioned another 25 times). While Solzhenitsyn is reminding readers of the cold, Shukov is stressing the importance of flying under the radar; avoiding detection and unwanted attention. Whether he is squirreling away food or tools he is careful not to rock the boat. He knows his fate can be altered in the blink of an eye or the time it takes for a guard to focus on him.

Lines to like, “No clocks or watches ticked there – prisoners were not allowed to carry watches; the authorities knew the time for them” (p 32) “The thoughts of a prisoner – they’re not free either” (p 47) and “As elated as a rabbit when it finds it can still terrify a frog” (p 118).

Author fact: Solzhenitsyn served in the Russian army & was accused of making anti-Stalin remarks. He was sent to prison and after Stalin’s death, pardoned. Later still the Soviet Union revoked his citizenship so he moved to Vermont. Go figure.

Book trivia: One Day was published as s short story in 1962 in a Soviet literary magazine and was seen as a social protest. This is his first published novel.

BookLust Twist: from two places: Book Lust in the chapter called “Russian Heavies” (p 210) and from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Siberian Chills” (p 205).