Ferre, Rosario. The House on the Lagoon. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 1995.
The House on the Lagoon is a clever story within a story. At the center it tells the tale of Quintin and Isabel Mendizabal. Isabel is trying to become a writer. The House on the Lagoon is her latest project. Multigenerational and historical it sounds a little too much like Quintin and Isabel’s own ancestors and personal history. Quintin, being a historian, finds Isabel’s manuscript and he simply cannot leave it as fiction. He has to edit the historical details and set the record straight. The more he edits the more he realizes the truth about his own marriage. Her unhappiness and his sense of betrayal create a powerful cauldron of simmering disaster.
Ferre’s writing is grand. She writes about a time when grand patriarchs presented their heirs with gifts such as steamships weighing eight thousand tons each. A time when segregation had an unsettling effect on Puerto Ricans. Not used to inequality they worried about the color of their skin not being as pure lily white as their northern neighbors.
Quotes I loved, “If you wanted to know who someone’s relatives were, you only had to visit your grandmother slumbering in her rocking chair, wake her up, and ask her to whisper you her secrets” (p 22), and “A sovereign with shoulders spread like infantry battalions, strong cavalry thighs, and eyes so blue they made you want to sail out to sea” (p 27). Wow. Can you hear me licking my lips right now? Last one – “It wasn’t an easy victory; she had to fight for her bed as if it were a castle under siege” (p 83). Poor woman!
Reason read: In honor of Cinco de Mayo, a little Latin American fiction.
Author trivia: According to Amazon, Ferre was First Lady of Puerto Rico (1970 – 1972) while her father was governor after her mother passed away in 1970.
Book fact: This has nothing to do with House on the Lagoon per se, but my copy was underlined, notated and dog-eared. Someone definitely loved this book more than they should!
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Latin American Fiction” (p 144).
Pope, Hugh. Dining With Al-Queda: Three Decades Exploring The Many Worlds of the Middle East. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2010.
Thirty years is a long time and while I don’t think Hugh Pope spent all of tho0se thirty years researching his book, Dining with Al Qaeda, I think the thirty years gave him plenty of time for him to collect the juicer antidotes. Pope covers everything from culture to society to politics and of course, war. Even though Pope’s experience begins in 1980 there isn’t a logical layout to the format of the book and chronological order is almost nonexistent, making the text feel disjointed and, in some places, messy. However, despite being a seasoned journalist with the Wall street Journal, Pope takes on a tone of conversation and casual – something he admittedly was striving for. To further lighten the mood Pope included revealing photographs (all taken by him).
Reason read: Osama Bin Laden was assassinated on May 2, 2011.
Book trivia: The title, Dining with Al-Qaeda is a hook to draw the reader in. There is much more to the text than chowing with a terrorist.
Author fact: Pope wrote a book called Turkey Revealed that made the New York Times “notable” list.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “A Mention of the Middle East” (p 143).
Boyd, Martin. Outbreak of Love. New York: Penguin Books, 1984.
Throughout earlier Boyd books (Cardboard Crown, etc) we have been following the Langton family. In Outbreak of Love we focus on Diana. She has been married for twenty-three long years to egotistical and stuffy musician named “Wolfie.” Wolfie is an adulterer and it’s this unfaithful behavior that brings the drama to the book. Diana, of course, finds out and decides she needs an interesting relationship of her own. Of course there is the requisite high society blah, blah, blah such as who is going to invited to so and so’s ball and have to sit next to the bore.
Quotes that caught me, “Will we have a little love first, or will we go straight out to tea?” Wolfie’s mistress asks. Here’s another, “It shook my egoism, but I was not prepared to abandon reason” (p 53).
Oddly enough, I read this one better than the last two Boyd books. I don’t really know what I meant by that except to say my attention didn’t wander as much.
Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of the best time to go to Australia (March/April).
Author fact: Boyd was born in Switzerland.
Book trivia: This is the third book in the four-book series called The Langton Quartet.
BookLust Twist: Book Lust in the chapter called “Australian Fiction” (p 29). Here’s a laugh – Pearl lists all four books in the quartet but she mixes up the order in which they should be read. She lists When Blackbirds Sing before Outbreak of Love. According to the back cover of Outbreak of Love, When Blackbirds Sing is the last book of the quartet.
Sacco, Joe. Footnotes in Gaza. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2009.
The first time you crack open Footnotes in Gaza you are taken aback by the powerful imagery. True, it is a graphic novel so it is supposed to be full of black and white squares full of images but keep this in mind, it’s nonfiction. It messes with your mind. You associate comics with the Sunday funnies…you know, comedy, light-hearted. So, to see images of war in a comic-strip format is confusing. But, your mind adjusts. From the very first pages you get a sense of what you are in for, “It is the story of footnotes to a sideshow of a forgotten war. The war pitted Egypt against the strange alliance of Britain, France and Israel in 1956″ (p 8). Footnotes in Gaza has a strange effect on the reader. More graphic than a dry newspaper account, Sacco’s illustrations shove the violence and hatred into the forefront. And, yet despite being less graphic than actual photographs, the images linger in your mind…
This is another book that sprung from a journalist assignment (see The Long Walk). This time, Joe Sacco was asked to visit the Gaza Strip for Harper’s Magazine.
Head snap quotes, “And this begins the aggravating mismatch pitting hapless cartoonist against wily ex-guerrilla” (p 41), “I cannot untangle the twining guilt and grief that envelope a person who survives what so many other did not; nor can I explain what might induce a traumatized individual’s to recall a brother’s death if he was not there – assuming he was not” (p 116) and, “We come up with some sufficiently earnest bullsh!t” (p 125).
Reason read: May is National Graphic Novel month…
Book trivia: Footnotes in Gaza is just one of Sacco’s graphic novels about the middle east.
Author fact: Joe Sacco is the creator of war-comics and should not to be confused with the hockey player who used to play in Denver, Colorado. Never mind.
Other stuff: hookah = hubbly-bubbly.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “A Mention of the Middle East” (p 144).
Jong, Erica. Fear of Flying. New York: Signet, 1973.
I think I started this book about eight different times, starting when I was 16 or 17. As a kid I always misunderstood the cover art – a naked woman under an unzipped… something. I thought she was in a body bag which, now that I think about it, doesn’t really make sense because if that were the case, she would have been sideways in the bag. Therefore she shouldn’t fit. Having no idea what the book was actually about back then I didn’t know it was a man’s unzipped fly. Now I say, “but of course!” The takeaway from Jong’s Fear of Flying is the underlying message of freedom (especially freedom from fear). To fly is to be free and this is one woman’s story about wanting that ability to become unfettered and free. Her sexuality and psychology are just metaphors for the deeper meaning of feminism and a woman taking control of her life…like a man. Yes, there is sex and lots of it but that’s not what Fear of Flying is all about.
Favorite lines, “A little girl who was neither bitchy nor mealy-mouthed because she didn’t hate her mother or herself” (p 46),
Reason read: May is considered the “Birds and Bees” month so let’s talk about sex.
Author fact: Erica Jong has a sexy website here. I love the colors and the use of multimedia – very eye catching.
Book trivia: According to Jong’s website, Fear of Flying was her first published book.
Reason read: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I am Woman – Hear Me Roar” (p 120).
O’Brien, Tim. In the Lake of the Woods. Read by L.J. Ganser. Grand Haven, Michigan: Brilliance Audio, 2011.
This is many different stories rolled into one. It is the story of an abused childhood. It is a vicious Vietnam War documentary. It is a quiet mystery. It is a love-with-abandon story and a tangled tragedy. John Wade is an Vietnam vet who lost the election for a seat in the U.S. Senate. The campaign was a complete disaster prompting John to take his wife, Kathy, to a secluded cabin in Lake of the Woods, Minnesota, so that he might lick his wounds in private. After a week away from the world Kathy inexplicably disappears. Using flashbacks to John’s childhood, college days, tour in Vietnam & relationship with Kathy, John’s psychological history is revealed. As a young child his father taunted him about his weight, teased him relentlessly about his obsession with magic. John learned at an early age to hide his feelings by imagining mirrors in his head, mirrors that reflected the world he wanted to live in and how he wanted people to treat him. In college his obsession with his future wife Kathy was like a sickness. He would spy on her incessantly, claiming he loved her too much to leave her alone. He would not spend hours doing this, but entire days. Then there was Vietnam. His enduring love of magic prompted the soldiers in his company to nickname him “Sorcerer.” This, along with the mirrors still in his head, allowed John to become someone else during the atrocities of war. He believed his violent actions were not his own because they belonged to Sorcerer. Throughout dating in college and during the political campaign as man and wife Kathy and John’s relationship was never on the same page. He spied. She needed space. She wanted children but when she became pregnant he convinced her to abort. He loved the campaign trail. She wanted off it. But did that mean John had something to do with her disappearance? O’Brien introduces a kernel of doubt when he describes Kathy lost in the maze of rivers beyond Lake of the Woods. The boat is missing after all…
My one complaint? The “evidence” involving quotes from wars other than Vietnam. I know why O’Brien did it. He wanted to show that the atrocities of war were not limited to the actions of soldiers involved in the My Lai massacre. It was overkill (pardon the pun).
Reason read: Minnesota become a state in May.
Book trivia: I am shocked this has never been made into a movie. Really. Another piece of trivia – this is the equivalent of an ear worm. I haven’t stopped pondering the possibilities since.
Author fact: There are a few autobiographical elements to In the Lake of the Woods.
BookLust Twist: You can always tell when Pearl loves a book. She either mentions it a few times in one Lust book or she mentions it in all of them. In this case In the Lake of the Woods was found in Book Lust in the chapter called “Vietnam” (p 238), twice in More book Lust in the chapters “Big Ten Country: the Literary Midwest (Minnesota)” (p 28) and “It was a Dark and Stormy Novel (p 128), and once in Book Lust To Go in the chapter “Vietnam” (p 246). Four mentions!
Rawicz, Slavomir. The Long Walk: the True Story of a Trek to Freedom. guilford, CT: Lyons Press: 1997.
The Long Walk came about because of a journalist for the London Daily Mail was writing a story on the Abominable Snowman. Ronald Downing was told Slavomir Rawicz had seen the creature. So what started as a story about a yeti gave birth to Rawicz telling his own seemingly incredible tale. Ronald Downing became the ghost writer for the project. The short story: Slawomir Rawicz was imprisoned by the Soviets after the invasion of Poland in World War II. After being sentenced to 25 years of hard labor Rawicz managed to escape and, along with seven other companions, supposedly made a 4,000 mile trek to India. I have some skepticism in my words because some say the story is not true.
True or not, time and time again I was amazed by Rawicz’s resolve even if it was only in his head and he had no witnesses. First, during his endless “trial” when he was questioned repeatedly about being a spy. I believe every word. A lesser man would have cracked under the pressure and finally given a false confession. Then, after being sentence to 25 years hard labor in a remote part of northern Siberia Rawicz never gave up believing he could survive his sentence. The idea for escape was planted after being summoned to fix a commandant’s radio. Unbelievably, the commandant’s wife subtly suggested it to Rawicz. The idea percolated gently while Rawicz worked out the details in his bunk at night. There were so many elements that needed to be in place. He needed men and he needed supplies. Then he needed the perfect storm, a blizzard, to cover his tracks. It reminded me of Shawshank Redemption when Andy Dufresne planned his escape from prison.
Whether Rawicz’s story is 100% true or not remains a mystery. There is no one to confirm his story. What remains is an incredible tale about an impossible journey made possible only by hope.
Lines that got me, “The Soviet Supreme Court was showing me a very cold and businesslike face” (p 18), “I was never allowed to meet any of the unfortunates” (p 26). How unfortunate.
Reason read: At the end of May I will be undertaking a long walk of my own. Definitely not as long or as arduous as Mr. Rawicz’s trek, but an honorable walk nonetheless.
Author fact: Rawicz died in 2004 and some say his long walk never happened. Boo hiss. I’d like to think his tale of courage is true.
Book trivia: A movie version of The Long Walk was made in 2010 starring Colin Farrell.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Armchair Travel” (p 25).