The Numbers

DATE: 9/23/14
Titles Finished

  • Books: 803
  • Poetry: 74
  • Short stories: 32

Titles left to go (all combined): 4809
Next count: 10/23/2014


Partisan

Cheever, Benjamin. The Partisan. New York: Atheneum, 1993.

Right away Cheever wants you to laugh out loud. How could you not with an opening like this? “That was the summer I worked for the Westchester Commons. I was in love with Amy Snodgrass Rose. Amy was in love with David Hitchens. David was in love with Gloria Thomas. I was in Westchester. Amy was in Washington State. David was in Montreal. Gloria had gone to Paris. The sex was very safe” (p 1). I know I was thinking, “oh the poor schmuck” until I got to last sentence. At least the guy has a sense of humor. It’s even funnier when you find out the person speaking, the main protagonist Nelson, is a virgin.
So the gist of the story is this: Nelson narrates the story about his life with “Uncle”, “Aunt” and sister Narcissus in Westchester, New York. Nelson is 20 years old, and as I mentioned, in love obsessed with Amy. “Uncle” really isn’t Nelson and Nar’s uncle. Jonas Collingwood and his wife Elspeth, took over raising Nelson and Nar after their adoptive father died. Jonas is a revered author on the verge stardom when a newspaper article hints his last book was a thinly veiled autobiography of his time in wartime Italy. He receives a huge advance to write a real memoir but what ensues is a comedy of errors and tragedies. Cheever has a dark side to him and while most of the story is relatively funny (Nelson is someone I would love to hang out with), there are moments is subtle uncomfortableness. My favorite scenes involve the car.

I should add that it took me only three days to read this book. It would have taken only two had I been a little more serious about reading. Cheever packs a strong story in a tight little package.

Likes I liked (other than the beginning), “I want the kind of love you don’t have to hear” (p 3), (Don’t we all?) and “Really, there ought to be a law about facial expressions” (p 223).

Reason read: Ben Cheever’s birth month is in October.

Author fact: Benjamin Cheever is the same age as my mom, older by mere days.

Book trivia: I feel bad for The Partisan. Every decent review of it mentions Cheever’s first novel The Plagiarist. It’s another one of those situations where you think, “crap! I’m reading the wrong book!”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “All in the Family: Writer Dynasties” (p 5).


Culture of Disbelief

Carter, Stephen L. The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialized Religious Devotion. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

The simplest way to sum of The Culture of Disbelief is this, it is the argument that society forces religious devotion to be kept private and should not to be displayed openly. Society discourages us from voicing a religious choice. Right from the beginning you are hit with a sentence that brings it all to light: “More and more, our culture seems to take the position that believing deeply in the tenets of one’s faith represents a kind of mystical irrationality, something that thoughtful, public spirited American citizens would do better to avoid” (p 7).

Reason read: Carter was born in the month of October.

Author fact: Stephen Carter and Natalie Merchant share the same birthday.

Book trivia: Blood transfusions is a major topic in Culture of Disbelief.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: He Say” (p 8). Here is yet another example of a title that shouldn’t have been included in this particular chapter. Yes, Stephen Carter is African American, but this particular work is not fiction.


Eye of the World

Jordan, Robert. Eye of the World: Book One of the Wheel of Time. New York: Tom Doherty Associations, 1990.

I will be the first to admit I am not a big fan of fantasy. I can’t suspend my belief for long enough, my kisa says. He also says I have a sense of humor, so really what does he know? Half the time I think fantasy is someone’s excuse to not make any sense. Everything from people’s names (Nynaeve al’Meara) to the places they live (Cairhien) are gobbledegook to me. Everything is so over the top grandiose. Elan Morin Tedronai is the Betrayer of Hope. See what I mean? Cue evil music. Then, there are the trillion difficult weird names to remember. In the first chapter alone there are 14 different such oddball names. The only normal one is Bela, and she’s a horse.
So, anyway – onto my review, such as it is. Eye of the World opens with a whole slew of firsts. Strangers come to the village of Two Rivers for the first time in five years. The entire town is on edge because the youth of the community are the only ones who get the feeling they are being watched. They are also the only ones to catch glimpses of an ominous figure on a black horse. Soon after, a pedlar and a gleeman both come to town with news of a war raging across a nearby land. Suddenly, their peaceful little village is ravaged by these half human, half animal creature looking for three young farmers. They are the chosen ones so of course, in order to protect their community they must leave. What follows is a journey through many different kinds of hell. Spoiler alert: they all survive every single ordeal. In the end, some fare better than others but Jordan definitely leaves the door open for his 13 subsequent sequels.
In the end, I enjoyed Eye of the World. You know how I can tell? I was thinking about the characters the next day and when I saw a fairy house in Cathedral Woods with at least six different rat skulls, I shivered.

Jordan draws from Tolkien in that his Two Rivers is a lot like the Shire in Middle Earth. I also see hints of Star Wars with Evil being after one particular boy, like Anikin Skywalker in Star Wars.
I think the first sentence sums up Eye of the World nicely, “The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend” (p 1). Other quotes I took a fancy to: “There must be a difference in what you saw…depending on whether you sought adventure or had it forced on you” (p 159), and “Keep your trust small” (p 196).

Reason read: October is National Fantasy Month.

Author fact: Robert Jordan is actually James Oliver Rigney and he passed away in 2007.

Book trivia: This is the first book in the Wheel of Time series – the massive Wheel of Time series. I have 11 on my list. Gawd help me. Another book trivia: Eye of the World was made into a comic book series.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror” (p 213).


Owl Service

Garner, Alan. The Owl Service. Read by Wayne Forester.  Franklin, TN: Naxos Audio Books, 2008.

This is a really cool audio. For starters, each chapter is punctuated with classical music – music from the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra with Libor Persek, conducting. Wayne Forester does a great job reading the story as well. My one gripe? The plot itself was a little difficult to follow since a lot of detail is implied rather than spelled out. I might have had an easier time of it if I had read it rather than listen to it on audio. This is part children’s story, part Welsh legend. The Owl Service takes children and adults alike through mythology and modern day tensions. Alison and Roger are step-children brought together by the marriage of Alison’s mother to Roger’s father. In an attempt to bond the family they go on holiday to the countryside of Wales. The vacation home has been in Alison’s family for years and with it comes a cook/housekeeper and her son, Gwyn, who happens to be the same age as Alison and Roger. Together, the three children struggle to find their place in the newly formed union. But, the story really begins when Alison hears a noise in the attic. Nothing is there except a pile of dishware with an owl/flower design. These plates become the center of an ancient welsh myth and become Alison’s obsession. Strange things start to happen. As she traces the design onto paper it disappears from the plates, leaving them a plain white porcelain. Then the plates are discovered smashed, one by one. What follows is a tale of secrets unraveling – great for young and old…as Pearl says.

Reason read: Garner’s birth month is in October.

Book trivia: The Owl Service won the Carnegie Medal.

Author fact: Don’t Google Alan Garner. You’ll get the guy from the Hangover. This Alan Garner, the one who wrote The Owl Service has a really cool unofficial website here.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fantasy For Young and Old” (p 84).


October List

The obvious choice would have been to name this list after something having to do with Halloween (like I always do), but I’m thinking that was getting old. So. It’s just the October List. Tahdah! There it is. I’m going on my last vacation for the year and I’m going home (where else?). As an aside, I’d like to think there is someone out there who reads me often enough to know where that is! And of course I’ll be bringing some books:

  1. Captain Sir Richard Burton by Edward Rice
  2. Culture of Disbelief by Stephen Carter
  3. Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
  4. In a Strange City by Laura Lippman (to continue the series started in September)
  5. Owl Service by Alan Garner*
  6. ADDED: The Hope We Seek by Rich Shapero – In light of the additional 80+ books I had to add to my list, I decided I am not going to read this!

Here is how the last month of year eight should go:

  1. Andorra by Peter Cameron
  2. Any Four Women Can Rob the Bank of Italy by Ann Cornelisen
  3. Beaufort by Ron Leshem*
  4. Cradle of Gold by Christopher Heaney
  5. Grass Dancer by Susan Power
  6. You Get What You Pay For by Larry Beinhart

*Planned as audio books

FINISHED (Dec 2013 – Sept 2014):

  1. Absolute Zero by Helen Cresswell*
  2. After the Dance by Edwidge Danticat
  3. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow*
  4. Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin*
  5. Angels Weep by Wilbur Smith
  6. Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler.
  7. Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
  8. Art Student’s War by Brad Leithauser
  9. Baltimore Blues* by Laura Lippman
  10. Beirut Blues by Hanan al-Shaykh
  11. Benjamin Franklin: an American Life by Walter Isaacson
  12. Bring Me a Unicorn by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  13. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks*
  14. Black Lamb and Gray Falcon by Rebecca West (DNF)
  15. Bluebird Canyon by Dan McCall
  16. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
  17. Cabin Fever by Elizabeth Jolley
  18. Careless Love by Peter Gurlnink
  19. Caroline’s Daughters by Alice Adams
  20. Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks
  21. ADDED: Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs of Survivors compiled by Dith Pran
  22. Civil Action by Jonathan Harr
  23. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire*
  24. Dancer and the Thief by Antonio Skarmeta
  25. Dancer with Bruised Knees by Lynne McFall
  26. Dark Sun by Richard Rhodes (DNF)
  27. Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan*
  28. ADDED: Dervish is Digital by Pat Cadigan
  29. Earthly Possessions by Anne Tyler
  30. Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder
  31. Faith Fox by Jane Gardam
  32. Falcon Flies by Wilbur Smith*
  33. Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
  34. First Man by Albert Camus
  35. Flower and the Nettle by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  36. Fordlandia by Greg Gandin
  37. French Revolutions* by Tim Moore.
  38. Georges’ Wife by Elizabeth Jolley
  39. Gesture Life by Chang-rae Lee
  40. Herzog by Saul Bellow
  41. History Man by Malcolm Bradbury
  42. Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  43. House of Morgan by Ron Chernow – attempted
  44. Illumination Night by Alice Hoffman
  45. In the Graveyard of Empires by Scott Jones*
  46. Inside Passage by Michael Modzelewski
  47. Inspector Ghote Breaks an Egg by H.R.F. Keating
  48. It Looked Like Forever by Mark Harris
  49. Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralink
  50. ADDED: Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  51. Leopard Hunts in the Darkness by Wilbur Smith
  52. Life in the Air Ocean by Sylvia Foley
  53. Long Way From Home by Frederick Busch
  54. Lotus Eaters by Tatjani Soli
  55. Lulu in Hollywood by Louise Brooks
  56. Men of Men by Wilbur Smith
  57. Neighborhood Heroes by Morgan Rielly
  58. Now Read This II by Nancy Pearl
  59. Ocean of Words by Ha Jin
  60. Oedipus by Sophocles
  61. Palladian Days by Sally Gable*
  62. Price of Silence by Liza Long
  63. Professor and the Housekeeper by Yoko Ogawa
  64. Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald
  65. Raw Silk by Janet Burroway
  66. Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro*
  67. Rose Cafe by John Hanson Mitchell
  68. Rose of Martinique by Andrea Stuart
  69. Run or Die by Kilian Jornet
  70. Running for Mortals by John Bingham
  71. Seeing in the Dark by Timothy Ferris
  72. Soul of All Living Creatures by Vint Virga
  73. Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff
  74. A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband by Weaver/LeCron (E-book)
  75. Thrush Green by Miss Read*
  76. Toronto by Charles Way
  77. Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland
  78. War Within and Without by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  79. Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook.
  80. Winners and Losers by Martin Quigley
  81. Zero Days by Barbara Egbert

Poetry:

  • “Aftermath” ~ a poem by Siegfried Sassoon
  • “Romance” ~ a poem by W.J. Turner
  • “Kubla Khan” ~ a poem by Samuel T. Coleridge

Short Stories:

  • “The Huckabuck Family” by Carl Sandburg
  • “How to Revitalize the Snake in Your Life” by Hannah Tinti
  • “Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury
  • “Thirty Year Old Women Do Not Always Come Home” by Mark Winegardner
  • “Birdland” by Michael Knight
  • “Killer Inside Me” by Jim Thompson
  • “Down There” by David Goodis
  • “Crossing the Craton” by John McPhee.
  • “Lukudi” by Adrianne Harun
  • “The Eighth Sleeper of Ephesus” also by Adrianne Harun
  • “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” by Jorge Luis Borges

For next year:

  • Hall of a Thousand Columns by Tim Mackintosh-Smith.

Last Tycoon

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Last Tycoon. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1941.

It’s too bad this was never finished. I think this would have been my favorite Fitzgerald book. Even incomplete, I like it better than anything else I have read. This is a simple yet complicated story about love. She loves him. He loves someone else. That someone else is set to marry anyone else but him. Classic love square. You have to feel sorry for Monroe Stahr. He is lovestruck by a woman who strongly resembles his deceased wife. As a man in the movie business he has the money and the power to woo Kathleen into a brief relationship, even despite the fact she is engaged to be married to someone else. Meanwhile, there is young Cecilia, a junior at Bennington College, just willing Stahr to look at her, to notice her. It is her voice that tells the entire story. Fitzgerald explains the first and third person narrative. What Cecilia is not witness to, she imagines. “Thus, I hope to get the verisimilitude of a first person narrative, combined with a Godlike knowledge of all events that happen to my characters” (p 164).

One of my favorite scenes is Stahr’s treatment of a letter Kathleen addressed to him. He manages to not read it for three hours and is proud of his restraint. Why? What difference does it make when he opened it, immediately or three hours later? The fact of the matter is he opened it anyway.

As an aside, this is going to sound awful, but in a way I am glad Fitzgerald died. The story is beautiful as it is – unfinished yet simple. His plans for the rest of the book are over the top: murder plots and a Stahr dying in a plane crash. Children stealing from the dead and their subsequent trial. Cecilia in a sanitarium (like his wife, Zelda?). Like I said, it all seems over the top.

Lines I liked, “His dark eyes took me in, and I wondered what they would look like if he fell in love” (p 22), “It was more intimate than anything they had done, and they both felt a dangerous sort of loneliness, and felt it in each other” (p 102), “What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story” (p 117), and “It would come in some such guise as the auto horns from the technicolor boulevard below, or be barely audible, a tattoo on the muffled dream of the moon” (p 144).

Reason read: F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in September.

Author fact: Fitzgerald died of a heart attack while writing The Last Tycoon. According to the forward, he had just written the first episode of Chapter six. Sad.

Book trivia: The Last Tycoon is narrated by a junior co-ed at Bennington College, but the story is more about Monroe Stahr.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Literary Lives: the Americans” (p 145). This book actually doesn’t belong in the chapter. “Literary Lives: the Americans” begins with this sentence, “If you want to know more about a writer, before or after reading his or her book, here are some top-notch literary biographies” (p 144). The Last Tycoon is not a biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

 

 

 


Dervish is Digital

Cadigan, Pat. Dervish is Digital. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2000.

Right away I knew Dervish is Digital was going to be weird. The story opens with Dore Konstantin, a detective lieutenant in charge of TechnoCrime, Artificial Reality Division, meeting with an arms dealer. Later, she is spending time discussing demons and blowfish with a cyborg. It’s almost as if you aren’t meant to follow Cadigan’s off the wall imagination. It gets even stranger so my only advice is to hang on. Maybe you aren’t supposed to understand it all. Snarly Konstantin is supposed to be solving a case involving someone stalking his own ex-wife but it gets more complicated when the East/West Japanese and Hong Kong deviants are introduced. While Konstantin’s character is shallow and underdeveloped, Cadigan does an amazing job of describing Konstantin’s world. Cyberspace is richly detailed and completely believable. I never did latch onto the idea of there was a real crime to solve, but the story was an interesting ride.

My only gripe? Cadigan loved to describe anatomy as “wasp-waist.” I get the look Cadigan was going for, but after awhile I started to believe she couldn’t think of any other way to describe someone as having a narrow waist.

Reason read: September is Cadigan’s birth month..and if I’m still reading this in October, October is computer learning month. Whatever that means.

Author fact: according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, Cadigan is local. Schenectady and Fitchburg.

Book trivia: the main character, Dore Konstantin is introduced in an earlier novel by Cadigan called Tea From an Empty Cup. Yup, I am reading them backwards. Here’s what I’m hoping, Konstantin is an underdeveloped character in Dervish because she has been completely spelled out in Tea.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called Cyberspace.Com (p 69). For the record I want to say that Pearl doesn’t mention that the same character is in both Dervish is Digital and Tea From an Empty Cup. There was no way for me to know the two books are linked.


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