Giant

Ferber, Edna. Giant. Garden City, New York: International Collectors Library, 1952.

Reason read: Texas became a state in the month of March. Read in honor of that little event.

On the surface, Giant is twenty-five years in the life of a Texas family from 1925 to 1950. In reality, Giant is a social commentary on the wealthy. Ferber writes, “We know about champagne and caviar but we talk hog and hominy” (p 17). Ferber’s book was controversial because it revealed a stark truth about society in early twentieth century Texas. Take for example, Vashti Hake. As a daughter to a wealthy rancher, Vashti was shunned because she married a lowly cowhand, Pinky Snyth. There was class and there was Class.
The story opens with a group of wealthy and influential people coming together for the celebration of Jett Rink’s new airport. This is a bitter pill to swallow for cattle owner Jordan “Bick” Benedict. Bick sold Jett a seemingly worthless sliver of land on his sprawling Reata Ranch. The meager land just happened to sit on an untapped oil field. Suddenly, there is competition. Who is the richest? But, the competition runs much deeper. In order to understand these important characters and their significance the story needs to first take a detour. We go twenty five years in the past to explain how Leslie the society girl from Virginia ended up marrying ruggedly handsome Bick, moving to big ole Texas, and creating drama with Mr. Rink. Using the differences between Leslie and Bick Ferber does a good job laying out the different conflicts within Giant:
Geographically – the west versus the northeast. Texas being sprawling, dry and much hotter than lush and green Virginia.
Racially – the treatment of people of color. Virginia’s inclusion of African Americans while Mexicans in Texas are treated as invisible slaves.
Gender – a woman’s role in the household. For example, Leslie doesn’t understand why Bick wants his sister, Luz, to run the household while Leslie thinks, as woman of the house, she should assume the responsibility.
Economically – with the border of Mexico so close the socio-economic borders were bound to clash and blur.

As an aside, I really liked Leslie. She’s smart, funny, and adventurous. In all aspects she truly is a fish out of water but she perseveres.

Lines I needed to quote, “In the Texas the women talked a lot, they chattered on and on about little inconsequential things calculated to please but not strain the masculine mind” (p 73), and “You can’t judge a man by his hat” (p 85).

Author fact: Ferber wrote many, many other books including So Big (which won a Pulitzer in 1924), Show Boat (the 1926 musical), Cimarron (the 1929 movie), and Ice Palace in 1958. None of these titles are on my list. The only other Ferber I am reading is Saratoga Trunk.

Book trivia: Giant was made into a 1956 movie starring some pretty big names you might recognize: Rock Hudson, James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor.

Nancy said: Pearl said Edna Ferber’s Texas is “an oldie-but-goodie” (p 233).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “Texas: a Lone Star State of Mind” (p 233).


No Match for March

What can I say about the previous month? Career-wise it was a busy month. I’m short staffed, budgets were due, accreditation teams loomed large, and my hockey team was breaking new records left and right. On the personal front friends were going through personal crisis after personal crisis (Just so you know, bad things are more than capable of arriving in multiples of five and six, not just three), I’m hip deep in planning a southwest trip with my sister and her sons, my mom’s dog is on Viagra, and! And. And, there was a little road race I always obsess about way too much. Somewhere in there I had a little time to read:

Fiction:

  • Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais
  • Topper by Thorne Smith
  • Giant by Edna Ferber
  • ADDED: Flashback by Nevada Barr – in honor of Barr’s birth month. (AB)
  • ADDED: White Sky, Black Ice by Stan Jones – on honor of Alaska.

Nonfiction:

  • Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam
  • Cherry by Sara Wheeler

Series continuations:

  • Gemini by Dorothy Dunnett – I admit, I did not finish this one.
  • Blackout by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
  • Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • The Moor by Laurie R. King

Fun:

  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – still reading
  • Sharp by Michelle Dean – finally finished
  • Calypso by David Sedaris (AB)
  • Living with the Little Devil Man by Lina Lisetta
  • Hidden Southwest by Ray Riegert
  • 1,000 Places to See Before You Die edited by Patricia Schultz
  • Exploring the Southwest by Tammy Gagne
  • Arizona, New Mexico and Grand Canyon Trips by Becca Blond

Early Review for Librarything:

  • Nothing. The book did not arrive in time to be reviewed in March.

March to a Different Drummer

I will make a return to racing in two weeks. My last public run was in July. I’m not ready. Simply not. March is also two Natalie Merchant concerts. A return to my favorite voice. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais – in honor of March being a rainy month. Dumb, I know.
  • Topper by Thorne Smith – in honor of Smith’s birth month being in March.
  • Giant by Edna Ferber – in honor of Texas becoming a state in March.

Nonfiction

  • Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam – in honor of March being the month the U.S. finally pulled out of Vietnam.
  • Cherry: a Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard by Sara Wheeler in honor of March being the month Apsley ended his depot journey.

Series Continuation:

  • Gemini by Dorothy Dunnett – to finally finish the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
  • Blackout by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza – to finish the series started in February in honor of the Carnival festival in Brazil.
  • Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
  • The Moor by Laurie R. King – to continue the series started in January in honor of Mystery Month.

For fun:

  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – still reading
  • Sharp by Michelle Dean – still reading
  • Calypso by David Sedaris – needed for the Portland Public Library reading challenge.
  • Living with the Little Devil Man by Lina Lisetta – written by a faculty member.
  • Hidden Southwest edited by Ray Riegert – for my May trip.
  • 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz – for my May trip…and the 2020 Italy trip.

Infinite Hope

Graves, Anthony. Infinite Hope: How Wrongful Conviction, Solitary Confinement and 12 Years on Death Row Failed to Kill My Soul. Boston: Beacon Press, 2018.

Reason read: this came as an Early Review for LibraryThing.

I think the title sums up Anthony’s story. I am not spoiling the plot by saying he was wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit after his “accomplice” blatantly lied on the witness stand. The title sums up the story, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. What the title cannot convey is Graves’s spirit; his faith; his resilience to survive mentally and spiritually. Solitary confinement could have broken him. The mere fact he was on death row could have filled him with enough despair to shatter his hope in humanity. There were times Graves was angry. There were times he was afraid. But, he never lost the will to prove his innocence. Even after his freedom was restored, Graves did not stop fighting. See Author Fact below.

I need to talk about perception for a minute. There is a reality show called Cold Justice that “stars” Kelly Siegler. Have you seen it? When I first started watching the show I was disappointed more cold cases were not solved. Then I began to wonder if Ms. Siegler felt the pressure to close cases, not only for the sake of the victim and family, but because America was watching and judging… just as I was when I experienced disappointment. Did she get to the point she wanted to solve cold cases “by any means necessary” which in my mind meant find a suspect first and then build a wall of evidence around his or her guilt? This first question prompted another; when you find a viable suspect, do you spend all your energy and efforts trying to make the charges stick and never mind looking for other possible suspects?

As an aside – do yourself a favor and listen to “I’m Not the Man” by 10,000 Maniacs. I know lead singer Natalie Merchant is sometimes hard to hear, but pay attention to what she says at 0:38 seconds in, “He knows the night like his hand. He knows every move he made.” Just like Graves. Actually the whole song could be Grave’s story – an innocent man on death row. It’s haunting.

Author fact:  Graves is the cofounder of Join Hands for Justice.

Book trivia: This was too short! Less than 200 pages I know Graves had more to say and I would have listened.


Edge of Time

Erdman, Loula Grace. The Edge of Time. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1950.

Reason read: Erdman’s birth month is in June.

When Bethany Fulton married Wade Cameron she had no idea what she was getting herself into. As a child she had loved Wade from afar for as long as she could remember. Coming of age, she continued to love him despite the fact he preferred her pretty cousin, Rosemary. After Rosemary rejects Wade for a wealthier suitor Wade takes Bethany instead; takes her to be his wife and to accompany him to the wild unknowns of Texas. Bethany’s first hurdle is understanding where she is going for she can’t picture a house without running water or real glass windows; she can’t picture a landscape without trees. Bethany’s second and bigger hurdle is internal – getting over the fact she is Wade’s second choice for marriage. The memory of Rosemary hangs over everything, especially in the beginning when Wade had no way of telling his far-off Texan neighbors he had married a different girl. More than that the land teaches Bethany to lose her naive ways.

Edge of Time is the kind of simple story. The title comes from Wade’s realization they arrived too late in Texas to be ranchers and too early to be farmers. They arrived “on the edge of time” (p 232).

Lines I liked, “Loneliness bit into people here” (p 81), and “A blob of inconsequential nothingness on the great face of nothingness itself” (p 254).

Book trivia: Erdman dedicated Edge of Time to the homesteader. She felt that plenty had been written about ranchers and nesters, but homesteaders were an unknown.

Author fact: Erdman died in the 70s. I think it’s great that her books still live on.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called (of course) “Texas: Lone Star State of Mind” (p 233).


Lone Star

Fehrenbach, T.R., Lone Star: a History of Texas and the Texans. New York: American Legacy Press, 1983.

I had to keep reminding myself Fehrenbach was not actually in Texas 40,000 years ago because his book, Lone Staris so detailed, so expansive that it felt like he should have been. In 719 pages Fehrenbach details every aspect of Texas one could imagine. From practically primordial beginnings to present day the birth, growth and development of Texas is detailed. Everything from agriculture, architecture and attitude to wars (civil and great) is meticulously described. Other reviews have used the words expansive, panoramic, extensive, vast, comprehensive, detailed…and I would have to agree. Not a stone in Texas is left unturned when it comes to recounting the political, the people, the powers, the progression of the state. What sets this book apart from other histories of Texas is the fact that Fehrenbach is from Texas. One can hear the passion for his home state woven into every knowledgeable sentence.

Favorite quotes: “Yet, such is human ingenuity that no other species ever used the resources of a country more fully: the Coahuiltecans consumed spiders, ant eggs, lizards, rattlesnakes, worms, insects, rotting wood, and deer dung” (p 14), and “…a citizen army had won battles, but it could not be used by its government as an instrument of policy during the peace” (p 243).

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter, “Texas: A Lone Star State of Mind” (p 233).


Three Roads to the Alamo

Davis, C. William, Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis. New York: HarperPerennial, 1999.

When I first picked up Three Roads I thought to myself there is no way I want to carry this thing around with me. It’s nearly 800 pages long, and despite the pages being super thin, it’s a heavy book. However, when I quickly calculated that in order to finish Three Roads by the end of March (the month Texas became a state), I would need to read over 40 pages a day I decided carry it around, I would! 
When I read the reviews for Davis’s book one word always seemed to pop up: exhaustive. Exhaustive research, exhaustive detail, exhaustive portraits, exhaustive this, exhaustive that. It’s true. There is so much detail given to not only the personalities and lives of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis, but to the culture and landscape of both politics and era as well. It’s as if the reader is witness to the pioneering growth of Louisiana, Texas and Virginia by default. History, politics and geography all rolled into one book.
Because not much is known about Crockett, Bowie and Travis each has become a legend beyond compare. Using as much information as he was able to research (exhaustively) Davis does a great job trying to dispel rumor and myth surrounding each man, admitting that these are men of folklorish proportions, but not much of it can be substantiated.
Confession: knowing there was no way I was going to finish this in time I skipped to the last chapter of the book. It is, of course, the end of Crockett, Bowie and Travis. Davis paints a tragic picture of what their last days must have been like in Alamo, Texas. The one image that kept playing in my mind was the uncertainty of their fates. When their families did not hear from them they could only speculate and worry. Word travelled slowly in those days. A telegram dispatched two weeks earlier can give loved ones the impression you are still alive despite the fact you died the next day.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter “Texas: Lone Star State of Mind” (p 233).

HUGE woops. This was supposed to be published last month!