What do you do when the most inappropriate sentiment unexpectedly comes out of someone’s mouth? A confession that should never have left the lips of the confessor? Instead of thinking of the actions I should take I chose to take none. I do nothing. Distance makes it easy to ignore and deny. When I can’t avoid I read. Here are the books started for November:
- Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone – Malone was born in the month of November; reading in his honor.
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – in honor of November being Native American Heritage month.
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – November is National Writing month. Choosing fantasy for this round.
- Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller – Routsong’s birth month was in November. Reading in her honor.
- Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser – reading in honor of Millhauser’s birth place, New York City.
- Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck – in honor of my mother’s birth month.
- The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah – in honor of Morocco’s independence was gained in November.
- Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month in August.
Fun: nothing decided yet.
Early Review: I have been chosen to receive an early review but I will refrain from naming it in case it doesn’t arrive.
September was a cool month. On the 10th I ran a half marathon (2:10:16), was able to get to Monhegan (and introduce the island to some new people), and get to a lot of reading:
- Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill
- Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng
- Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
- Consul’s Wife by W.T. Tyler
- Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry (AB)
- Life and Death of Edwin Mullhouse by Steven Millhauser
- Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright
- Best Game Ever by Mark Bowden
- The Trial by Franz Kafka
- Which Side Are You On? by Elaine Harger (ER)
- Which Side Are You On? by George Ella Lyon (for fun)
AB = Audio book
ER = Early review
Millhauser, Steven. Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943 – 1954 By Jeffrey Cartwright. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972.
Reason read: September is National Child Month…or something like that.
Confessional: this totally reminded me of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany because Edwin reminded me of Owen.
Jeffrey Cartwright is six months older than Edwin Mullhouse so by default they have known each other pretty much all their lives. Jeffrey, with his perfect memory, has taken it upon himself to become Edwin’s biographer. His story is in three sections: the Early Years, the Middle Years, and the Late Years (when Edwin dies at age eleven). Jeffrey carefully documents everything from baby talk (“salivary sonatas” p 58) to grade school crushes. One of the disappointments of the story is the tedious repetition. It’s as if Millhauser wants to express the idea that to speak like a child is to be incredibly repetitious. Here is an example, “Before Karen was born, the grandmothers slept in the empty bed in the extra room, but after Karen was born the empty bed was moved into Edwin’s room and the grandmothers slept there. The empty bed was never moved back, and before Karen had a bed of her own, the grandmothers slept in Karen’s bed and Karen slept in the empty bed in Edwin’s room” (p 45). These two sentences exhaust me. In addition, Steven Millhauser writes with a great deal of detail. It is not enough to say a leg was dangling. It is important for you to know it was the right leg that was dangling and how it was dangling.
And it wasn’t just the repetition that got to me. The only hook to the plot seemed to be the knowledge that Edwin dies at the end of it. Eleven years old is too young to die so you keep reading to find out how he dies at such a young age.
Quotes to quote, “The fatal flaw of all biography, according to its enemies, is its helpless conformity to the laws of fiction” (p 100) and “A book is an intolerable pressure on the inside of the skull, demanding release” (p 257).
Book trivia: I wouldn’t necessarily call this book illustrated, but there is a cute drawing on page 21.
Author fact: Edwin Mullhouse (the character) and Steven Millhauser (the author) were both born in August 1973.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads Decade by Decade: 1970s” (p 177).
I’m not exactly sure what September will bring. The renovations for the library are finally finished (with a crazy punch list, I might add). The backyard is complete minus the hot tub, fire pit and patio furniture (that’s stage II). I have a half mara in ten days so I’m anticipating a good run month. Here are the planned books:
- Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day
- Edwin Mullhouse: the life and death of an American Writer – to honor kids in September
- Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng – Mao died of cancer in September.
- Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry – Cold War ended in September
- The Trial by Franz Kafka – September is the best month to visit the Czech Republic.
- Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner – September is Southern Gospel month
- Which Side are You On? by Elaine Harger – an Early Review from LibraryThing.