Plath, Sylvia. Ariel: the Restored Edition.New York: Harper Perennial, 2004.
Sylvia Plath wrote with such raw energy and emotion. Her essence is on every page, in every word. Nowhere is that more plain to see than in the collected poems in Ariel. As the last collection of poetry written before her death it is riddled with references to death. That is to be expected from one suffering from depression, on the wrong kind of medicine, and already an attempted suicide survivor. It’s as if death is stalking her, wooing her (case in point: the last line of “Death & Co” is “somebody is done for” (p 36) and “Dying is an art…I do it exceptionally well” (p 15). I chose to read Ariel: the Restored Edition and now that I’ve thought about it I don’t think it’s the version Pearl was referring to (see BookLust Twist). Oh well.
Favorite lines – the first being from Path’s daughter, Frieda, in the foreword, “The manuscript was digging up everything that must be shed in order to move on” (p xiv – xv).
Reason read: Although we are getting to the end of the month April is still National Poetry Month.
Author fact: Everyone knows a little something about Sylvia Plath (Smith College, Ted Hughes, suicide, etc), but what I recently learned was that she was born in Boston.
Book trivia: If you haven’t read Ariel I would suggest skipping the version Ted Hughes introduced to the world and pick up the one his daughter, Frieda Hughes, wrote the foreword for, Ariel: the Restored Edition. It is far more informative.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover” (p 237). Oddly enough, Ariel is not a recommendation by Pearl. She merely uses it as an example of a recognizable cover when discussing Alan Powers’s book Front Cover: Great Book Jacket and Cover Design.
Boyd, Martin. A Difficult Young Man. New York: Penguin, 1984.
I have to admit this story lagged for me. It wasn’t as non-directional as The Cardboard Crown but it still couldn’t hold my attention for long periods of time. Shoot, I couldn’t get through ten pages without straying from the page. A fly crawling along a windowsill could capture my attention faster and hold it longer.
So, right from the start I need to tell you the “difficult young man” of the story is Dominic Langton, grandson of Alice (writer of the journal in The Cardboard Crown). Dominic’s story is being told by his younger brother, Guy. Dominic is indeed difficult and troubled and sort of a loose cannon. He kills a horse, after all. But, it’s also the story of a family who is discontent wherever they are. Bounding between England and Australia, the grass is always greener on the other side.
Interesting lines, “It was difficult to run a house that was being looted” (p 105). good point.
Reason read: to continue the Langton Quartet (in honor of April being a good time to visit Australia).
Author fact: According to Penguin books Boyd had a preoccupation with his family and out of that preoccupation rose the mostly autobiographical Langton Quartet.
Book trivia: This is the second book in the Langton Quartet. It should be read before Outbreak of Love.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “Australian Fiction” (p 29).
Homer. The Iliad. Translated by Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Everyman’s Library, 1992.
If there is one thing I cannot stand it’s writing a review for a classic, especially one that has been analyzed eight ways to Sunday. I mean, I honestly do not think I can add anything new or enlightening to what has already been said. Everyone knows the story of Achilles, right? Having said all that I wish I could pull out a quote from something I wrote in high school or even college. I’m sure I was much more profound in my narrow minded, get good grades, academic-driven youth. Probably the most meaningful element of The Iliad continues to be its grandeur. It is an epic poem of enormous scope with the dominant theme of mortality. According to most other reviewers, translation matters. Everyone has a favorite version. I honestly couldn’t say I felt one way or another about the Fitzgerald translation I read.
Reason read: April is National Poetry month.
Author fact: Homer was a speech writer. He excelled at persuasiveness.
Book trivia: The Iliad andThe Odyssey go hand in hand.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry: A Novel Idea” (p 186).
Warner, William W. Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay. New York: Penguin Books, 1988.
This book is everything you have ever wanted to know about crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay. Seriously. It’s an extensive look at the watermen who make their living hauling up blue crabs. More than a science tutorial on the quick and aggressive critters, it is also a lesson in personality – the type of individual who makes a living hauling in crabs. The illustrations by Consuelo Hanks are phenomenal.
Here’s the thing. This book completely reminded me of the men and women who fish off of the coast of Monhegan Island. They love their life on the water just as much and love their way of life even more.
Funny line, “Getting up at two o’clock is unnatural for city folk” (p 151).
Reason read: William W. Warner passed away on April 18th 2008 from complications related to Alzheimer’s. I know it sounds gruesome but as soon as I learned this I thought of my uncle and wondered if Warner choked to death.
Author fact: William W. Warner won a Pulitzer for Beautiful Swimmers.
Book trivia: Beautiful Swimmers has gorgeous illustrations by Consuelo Hanks. Definitely worth checking out…as I mentioned before.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply called “Chesapeake Bay” (p 59).
Frost, Robert. “the Road Not Taken.” The Road Not Taken and Other Poems.New York: Dover Publications, 1993.
This is such a simple poem with such a complex meaning! But, having said that, how many people have used this poem to explain the things that they have done; the decisions they have made? My uncle read this poem at his brother’s funeral. His message was clear – my father, seven years his junior, chose a much different path than him or even the rest of the family. My father chose love over money. Happiness over family. My uncle offered this poem as an explanation for why they weren’t close as brothers but I also think he was (finally) voicing how proud he was of that courageous decision “to take the road less traveled.” It’s the last line that drives the point home. It has made all the difference. I know it did in my father’s short life.
Reason read: National Poetry Month. Need I say more?
Author fact: Robert Frost is one of the best known, best loved poets. We also associate Frost with New England but he was born in California.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237).
Lodge, David. Author, Author. Narrated by Christopher Kay. New York: Recorded Books, LLC, 2005
This was a long listen! 14 cds equaling almost 17 hours. If you want to do the math that meant 51 trips to and from work in order to finish it. While the print version is under 400 pages the audio seemed much longer. Because Lodge’s writing is rambling I found myself getting distracted and confused about what was happening when. Author, Author is a biography that focuses mainly on Henry James’s relationships with Constance Fenimore Woolsen, the granddaughter of James Fenimore Cooper and with fellow author/friend George Du Maurier and the “horrible opening night” of his play “Guy Domville.” The best part of the story was Henry’s relationship with Constance Fenimore Woolsen (fondly known as Fenimore throughout the book). James struggles to have a relationship with her that is private yet meaningful.
Confessional – I swapped this out for another audio book as soon as the new one became available.
Reason read: Henry James was born in April and so to celebrate his birth I am listening to Author, Author.
Author fact: Lodge’s body of work is quite impressive. I have a few more of his titles on my challenge list.
Book trivia: The audio version of Author, Author is read by Christopher Kay.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Literary Lives: the Americans” (p 144).
Thomas, Dylan. “In My Craft or Sullen Art.” The Poems of Dylan Thomas. New York: New Directions, 1971. p 196.
The fact that Dylan Thomas needed to justify why he put pen to paper absolutely astounds me. This poem is all about the explanation behind the craft of writing. Why he writes should not need justification. I’d rather hear about what makes him write; what drives him to create.
Can I just say I love the word ‘rage’ in any context? It implies such a raw passion.
Reason read: April = National Poetry Month.
Author fact: Thomas also wrote a book called Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, a collection of sequential autobiographical stories. Not on my list.
Poetry trivia: Dylan’s “In My Craft or Sullen Art” was turned into a knitting. Word for word. Crazy.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry Pleasers” (p 187).
Just a note, because I am proud of this – I am almost finished with this chapter of More Book Lust. Just one more poem and I will be finished with “Poetry Pleasers.” Amazing.
Hyde, Elisabeth. In the Heart of the Canyon. Westminster, MD: Books on Tape, 2009.
In the Heart of the Canyon is an accurate portrayal of a thirteen day river trip down the Grand Canyon; so much so that I felt I could have been there. Hyde effectively describes the guides, the tourists, the scenery, and of course, the Colorado River picture perfect. The character development of everyone involved in the trip builds just as if you were in the boats with them, getting to know them as the days and miles pass by. The weather (and how to deal with the heat) and surrounding nature comes alive with Hyde’s words. And when it comes to rafting down the river you can tell Hyde has seen rapids and even had a “maytag” experience or two. She puts you right in the action. A story about a rafting trip down the Colorado would be enough material for a book but Hyde takes it a step further by introducing a stray dog early in the story and creating characters that are not only interesting but complex. One character in particular, seventeen year old Amy keeps a journal. Her journal gives the events described by Hyde a new perspective. She introduces a different point of view and her comments serve as a reminder that everyone has an alternate truth based on their own unique personality. It’s what happens when you put twelve strangers and three guides together.
As an aside about the guides, I am around these kinds of people all the time. I can picture them perfectly. Tanned, well-built, confident and sure-footed moving in and around the boats. Congenial and comfortable. They give off an air of relaxed attitude but in the back of their minds they know everything about the trip is in their hands. Safety and fun.
Reason read: John Muir was born in April. Being a naturalist I thought it would be appropriate to read something that takes place 100% outdoors.
Author fact: According to Hyde, In the Heart of the Canyon came about when she was on a rafting trip and got “maytagged.”
Book trivia: In the Heart of the Canyon has a YouTube trailer. It makes the book out to be more of a dramatic thriller than it is.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “AZ You Like It” (p 31).
Teasdale, Sara. “The Long Hill.” The Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale. Cutchogue, New York: Buccaneer Books, 1996. p 152.
“The Long Hill” made me laugh and scratch my head all at once. As an avid walker I know what it’s like to anticipate the crest of a hill, to look forward to arriving at the top, only to miss it. Not sensing the highest point defies logic. Surely one would know when he or she has reached it! You expect grandeur to be at the pinnacle. Sara just shrugs and says she might as well continue down.
But there is also contradiction to her poem. She describes the beaten track and yet the hem of her gown was getting caught on brambles. No wonder she missed the top. She was too busy trying to free her gown! And why wasn’t she walking the beaten track? Wouldn’t she has noticed the top of the long hill if she had been paying attention?
Reason read: another poem for National Poetry Month…
Author fact: Sara Teasdale writes a great deal about New York. I’ll be reading more of her material at a later date.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237). This poem marks the end of the chapter.
Hiestand, Emily and Ande Zellman, editors. The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston. Boston: Beacon Press, 2004.
I read this book with bias because I love Boston. It is my favorite city when compared to New York, Denver or San Diego. Hands down, bar none. I love everything about Boston and I love it for everything it isn’t. In The Good City Emily Hiestand and Ande Zellman compile essays from fifteen different writers who have or had a connection with Beantown. Some writers returned to the city with a change of heart, like Susan Orlean. Other have never left and staunchly stand by the historic city. It shouldn’t be read like travel guide although, I admit, I jotted down notes for the next time I’m there: Isabella Stewart Gardiner’s Museum, the Christian Science Center, to name two.
Boston is the destination after a long journey of self discovery. It looks back on history and looks forward with robotics.
Reason read: Reading in honor of the Boston Marathon, which took place place yesterday, on April 15th.
Author fact: Technically, I should be writing a fact about all 15 essay contributors but I’ll suffice it to say Susan Orlean and John Hanson Mitchell are two authors I am reading again for the challenge.
Book trivia: Don’t think of this as a travel guide because it’s not. Think of it as a compilation of writers expressing their feelings about a city that moved them in one way or another.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the catchy chapter called “Boston: Beans, Bird and the Red Sox” (p).
Postscript. How awful. On the day I am supposed to post this Boston is recovering from a bombing attack. There are no words to describe what I feel right now. I do know this – Boston is a tough and gritty town. We WILL get through this.
Miles, Jack. God: a Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.
Jack Miles has an interesting concept. In order to write a biography on God he had to first consider him as a character in the Old Testament. He had to analyze the “character development” and bear witness to the relationships between God and the other primary “characters” of the Bible. One has to think of God and Lord as different. God takes on a variety of roles (including animal husbandry counselor). Miles’s philosophy is strong and pragmatically sound, even for an agnostic like me. It works. Somehow, it really works. Others must agree because God: a Biography won Miles a Pulitzer.
Favorite lines, “Our only identity is a lack of identity” (p 22), and “He is not just unpredictable but dangerously unpredictable” (p 46).
Confessional – I didn’t finish this. I got the gist of it after 100 pages. I think that was good enough.
Reason read: Easter has got to be one of the most religious holidays people celebrate. So, in honor of Easter and religion in general I am reading God: a Biography.
Author fact: As a former Jesuit priest Miles is no stranger to religious studies.
Book trivia: As I mentioned before Jack Miles won a Pulitzer for God: a Biography. What I didn’t mention was the date: 1996.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 200s” (p 65).
Kipling, Rudyard. Mandalay. Rudyard Kipling’s Verse: Definitive Edition. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1940. p 416.
“Mandalay” is like a song with a chorus. It could easily be set to music. Even the subject matter, a soldier imagining his Burma girl pining away him, is appropriate for a ballad. He is still in lonely London. In my mind’s eye this poem is visually stunning.
Reason read: Poetry month. Need I say more?
Author fact: Kipling has long been a childhood favorite of mine. I can remember wanting to meet Mowgli just so I could hang out with the animals.
BookLust Twist: Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237).
Masefield, John. “Sea-Fever.” Salt Water Poems and Ballads. Illustrated by Chas. Pears. New York: The MacMillan Campany, 1916. p 55.
As a girl who grew up
by the sea no, surrounded by the sea as only small island living can be, I loved everything about John Masefield’s Salt Water Poems and Ballads. The version I picked up was published in 1916 and had the inscription, “Evelyn, from Cerisi (?) Estelle – Christmas 1916.” Awesome. The illustrations are beautiful (my favorite is on page 73). The particular poem I was to read, “Sea Fever” evoked so many different memories for me. What comes across the strongest is there is a real need to be on the water; a need that cannot be denied. Just give me a ship the narrator cries. It’s all he needs. From that he hears the gull’s cry and tastes the salt wind.
Favorite line, “I must go down to the seas again.” Let me repeat it. I MUST go down to the seas again. Amen.
Reason read: Last time I checked April was National Poetry Month…still.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse’ (p 237).
Chesterton, Gilbert Keith. “Lepanto.” Louis Untermeyer, ed. Modern British Poetry. New York: Harcourt Brace & Howe, 1920.
The real Battle of Lepanto took place in 1571. Chesterton’s poem reads like an army marching to war even though the real battle was fought on the high seas. The cadence is like a chant and the words pulsate with feeling. It’s a regular as the tide moving in and out. Don John of Austria.
Favorite words, “dim drums throbbing.” Don’t you just love it? In urban times it would be someone honking their girl down from the apartment, a cranked up bass stuck in traffic a few miles away.
Reason read: April is National Poetry Month.
Author fact: G.K Chesterton was a journalist, a novelist, an essayist, a publicist, a lyricist, and a poet all in one.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237). Here, Pearl seemingly makes a mistake. She calls the poem “Lepants” when everything I’ve read called it “Lepanto.”
Shannon, Mike. Diamond Classics: Essays on 100 of the Best Baseball Books Ever Published. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarlane & Company, Inc., 2003.
According to Shannon, one of the major purposes of Diamond Classics is to “function as a sort of “Reader’s Digest” of baseball books” (introduction, p xiii) and he is right. It is jam packed with information about all kinds of books about baseball. I think he covers every type of book from every perspective. The information is extensive. For starters there is the mandatory title, author, publisher, page numbers information (in other words the perfect citation). But it goes further than that. This is a great book for research purposes. Let’s say I wanted to write an essay on the great Jackie Robinson (since there is a new movie coming out about the legend). I could use Shannon’s Diamond Classics to compile all the relevant and useful baseball books that feature Jackie. But, wait! there’s more. Shannon reviews each book for writing style as well as content. He includes the critical reception to the book (if there was one). Shannon is careful to add other baseball books written by the same author. Even his reviews of photography books are descriptive and analytical. He includes books by seasoned sports writers, former athletes and even fans. And, and! And, everything is in alphabetical order…but of course.
Reason read: April 1st marked the first day of the official baseball season. Opening day saw the Red Sox beat the Yankees. Yay.
Author fact: Mike Shannon is a huge baseball fan. You can just tell by the many other books he has written on the subject.
Book trivia: It was cool to see some of the books I’ll be reading for the Challenge reviewed inDiamond Classics.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” (p 230).