When I look back on January 2013 I have a sense of relief. All things considered this month was better than the last. In the grand scheme of things January treated me kind. No major meltdowns. No minor catastrophes to speak of. I started training for Just ‘Cause in the quiet way. Four to five miles a day and I didn’t stress about the numbers. If I didn’t make five or even four I didn’t have a hissy fit or beat myself or moi up. I cut me & myself some slack; gave us a break. I know that as the months wear on this won’t always be the case, but for now it was nice to go easy on me, myself & moi. The running was a different matter. Just as relaxed a schedule but not so easy going on. The run is a little over six weeks away and I’ve done next to nil in order to train. New Guinea has been awesome in that I’m working on speed intervals on level five. Let me repeat that. Level five. Nothing to write home about. I used to operate at level nine. Enough said. On with the books! I am pretty proud of the list.
- Lives of the Painters, Architects and Sculptors by Giorgio Vasari ~ in honor of National Art Month way back in October. This finally completes the series!
- Ancient Athens on 5 Drachmas a Day by Philip Matyszak ~ in honor of Female Domination Day in Greece.
- Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray ~ in honor of January being the first month I read something from the first chapter of a Lust book. I admit I didn’t finish this one.
- Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham ~ in honor of Maugham’s birth month. I also didn’t finish this one.
- Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron ~ Happy new year. Read something to make me happy.
- Idle Days in Patagonia by W. H. Hudson ~ in honor of January being the best time to visit Patagonia.
- The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll ~ in honor of Lewis birth and death month.
- Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson ~ in honor of the month all Creatures Great and Small aired.
- Tatiana by Dorothy Jones ~ in honor of January being the month Alaska became a state.
On audio I listened to:
- Final Solution by Michael Chabon ~ in honor of January being Adopt a Rescued Bird month.
- No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith ~ in honor of Female Mystery Month
- City of Thieves by David Benioff ~ last minute add-on. This was addicting!
For the Early Review program with LibraryThing:
- Gold Coast Madam by Rose Laws (started in Dec)
- Her by Christa Parravani
- Leave Your Sleep the poetry book for children by Natalie Merchant
Vasari, Giorgio. The Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Vol 4. Translated by A.B. Hinds. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd, 1927.
Reason read: Way back in October I started the series in honor of National Art Month. I am finally finished!
One of the coolest features of all four volumes is that if you want to see some of the art describes the location of where it can be seen is mentioned in the footnotes (or, at least where it was at the time of publication). For example David Ghirlanai’s art can be seen in the Musee de Cluny in Paris. One of the more frustrating features of all four volumes is that Vasari gets sidetracked very easily. He should be talking about one artist but ends up focusing on another. I can’t count how many times he said, “But back to —.” Deja vu. I said this in Vol. 3′s review as well. Vasari inserts himself more in volume 4 than in previous volumes like when talking about his friend Francesco (De’ Salviati or Francesco Rossi) but especially at the end, when he includes his own biography. The final chapter is devoted to himself so that Vasari can speak of his own life and artistic accomplishments. I will admit 100% I ran out of steam before I got to Vasari’s chapter about himself.
Favorite parts & quotes, since he said it so often, “But after this somewhat lengthy digression, which however I do not think out of place, I return to Rustico” (p 37). My favorite artist had to have been Rustico. He was generous and fond of animals, “He so tamed a porcupine that it remained under the table like a dog, and sometimes pricked people’s legs…” (p 32).
Author fact: What I constantly had to keep in mind was that Vasari was writing about his contemporaries. He worked with some of the artists he writes about although he refers to himself in the third person which is a little odd.
Book trivia: In every volume of Lives of the Painters there is an illustration of one of the artists. In volume four it is Michelagnolo’s.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46). Can I just say this was a huge pain in the butt. For one thing, Pearl mentions Vasari’s Lives of the Painters… but fails to mention it is four volumes (essentially four books).
Postscript ~ something funny is going on with LibraryThing. My review for Vol. 3 is on the Vol. 4 page and yet it’s like to the review belongs to someone else. At first glance I haven’t written a review and I haven’t until you see it’s the review for Vol. 3. Weird. I’m not sure how to fix that.
Holy crap I am late with the list. “I’m late, I’m late” said the White Rabbit! Okay, okay! I just finished The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland so sue me.
January 2013 is another year of hope and of promise. Kisa and I are going to see Trey Anastasio at the Palace in a few weeks. I officially started training for the 5th Just ‘Cause Walk and, and. And! I am training to run a 10k in March. Yay me. But, here are the books…before I get too carried away.
- Rabbit Hill (speaking of rabbits) by Robert Lawson in honor of when All Creatures Great & Small first aired. Get it? Creatures = rabbits. This is a kids book so I’m hoping to fly through it.
- The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith in honor of January being Female Mystery month. I’m listening to this on cd. It’s the first one in the series so expect to see Alexander McCall Smith on my book list for the next 4 or 5 months.
- Lives of the Painters, Sculptors Vol 4 by Giorgio Vasari ~ this (finally, finally) ends the series started in October in honor of Art Appreciation month
- Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery ~ in honor of the first month of the year I’m reading something from the first chapter of More Book Lust.
- Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron ~ in honor of the a Happy New Year. Another kids book to lighten the mood.
- Ancient Athens on 5 Drachmas a Day by Philip Matyszak ~ Okay, get this – Female Domination Day in Greece happens in January, hence reading something Greek.
- Tatiana by Dorothy M. Jones ~ in honor of Alaska becoming a state in January. Mo one locally has this book in their library so I had to ILL it. It might have to come from Alaska. How fitting.
- Final Solution by Michael Chabon ~ in honor of January being Adopt a Rescued Bird month. This is another book I will listen to in the car or while working out.
For the LibraryThing Early Review program I am just finishing up Gold Coast Madam by Rose Laws. I also received notification of a January Early Review book but as always I won’t mention it by title until it’s in my hot little hands (or in this case, cold little hands since it’s 6 degrees outside).
Vasari, Giorgio. Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects. Vol. 3 Translated by A.B. Hinds. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1927.
A glance through the table of contents led me to believe Vasari was on a mission to cram as many painters, sculptors and architects as he could into this third volume. Many of the chapters contain more than one artist and a few chapters contain the words “and others.” It’s almost as if volume three was supposed to be the last one and he didn’t want to miss anyone. Like previous volumes
Vasari continues the habit of getting sidetracked talking about other artists. He brings himself back to the main artist with “to return to (fill in artist here).” He definitely has a formula for writing about the artists and this formula can be dull at times but every once in awhile Vasari will include a tidbit of the artist’s personal life that gives depth to the biography. I especially liked reading about Da Vinci’s newphew Piero (or Pierino).
Quotes I liked, “But he [Francisco Mazzuoli] wasted time in seeking for what could never be found, and neglected his art to the detriment of his life and reputation” (p 6). As an aside, it was Mazzuoli who stood painting while Rome was being sacked. The Germans were so taken by his art that they let him continue to paint while they pillaged around him. Another quote I liked, “When no longer able to work, and worn out by old age, he rendered his soul to God in 1546″ (p 66). One more and this is just a phrase, Michelannolo’s chapel “a stew of nudes” (p 90). Don’t you just love it?
Reason read: Continuing the Lives of the Painters series started in October to honor National Art month.
Author fact: I’ve run out of things to say.
Book trivia: Volume III contains the portrait of Giorgio Vasari which was nice to see (although he reminds me of my father-in-law).
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).
December is a mixed bag. Kisa and I aren’t traveling anywhere (I think we did enough of that over the summer). We’ll get the tree today. I’ll spend the weekend humming Christmas tunes and decorating the crap out of the house. Not much else is planned except a lot of books, books, books. For starters I am reading a lot of continuations:
- Brush with Death by Elizabeth Duncan ~ a final book in the continuation of the series I started last month.
- The Good Thief’s Guide to Vegas by Chris Ewan ~ this finishing the Good Thief series I started in October.
- Lives of the Painters… by Giorgio Vasari ~ this is the third (and penultimate) book in the series started in October
- Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers ~ this continues the series started with The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club…
Confession: a bunch of these books aren’t “series” per se. But, because they continue a story (same characters, continuation of plot) I wanted to read them in order, especially Chris Ewan.
For the honor of all things December:
- The Wholeness of a Broken Heart by Katie Singer ~ in honor of Hanukkah
- Women of the Raj by Margaret Macmillan ~ in honor of December being a really good time to visit India
- The Tattered Cloak by Nina Berberova ~ in honor of the coldest day in Russia (12/31/76)
- Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegman ~ in honor of Iowa becoming a state in December
For the Early Review Program for LibraryThing I’m back to nonfiction: Drinking with Men by Rosie Schaap (I remembered her last name by thinking Schnapps). This looks really interesting because it isn’t someone’s sob story memoir about being an trapped and pathetic alcoholic.
And, lastly audio – I am planning to drive to work to the tune of Ross Macdonald’s The Galton Case.
So, there is it. Ten books. Ambitious of me, I know. The way I look at it I have ten days of vacation coming up with barely anything to do. I want to spend a great deal of time reading if nothing else.
I don’t know what makes me feel this way, but November arrived and left before I knew it. It felt like it was one of those elusive party-goers who pops in for a quick hello and is gone before anyone else knows. Something I would do. We had a fit of snow to add insult to New Jersey/New York injury. My neighborhood survived just fine but mother nature had it in for my old stomping grounds in the worst way.
My routine of reading during my lunch break hasn’t changed. I’ve come to look forward to camping out in the stacks, listening to students pass my study carrel. It gives me perspective. This month I seemed to read nothing but really short, easy to read books.
- Good Thief’s Guide to Paris by Chris Ewan ~ a continuation of the series I started last month. I think I read this over a weekend.
- Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Vol 2 by Giorgio Vasari ~ a continuation of the series I started last month.
- Breakfast with Scot by Michael Downing ~ in honor of national adoption month. This was cute. I was able to read it in one day.
- Camus, a Romance by Elizabeth Hawes ~ in honor of Camus being born in the month of November. I took my time with this but still managed to finish it in two weeks.
- Scar Tissue by Michael Ignatieff ~ in honor of national Alzheimer’s month. Read over a weekend, I was glued to the words because almost a year ago I lost my uncle to dementia. This really hit home.
- Before the Knife: Memories of an African Childhood by Carolyn Slaughter ~ in honor of November being a good time to visit Africa. Or so they say. Another quick, weekend read.
- Edward Lear in Albania: Journals of a landscape Painter in the Balkansby Edward Lear ~ in honor of November being the best time to get to Albania (which I never thought of doing). This took me three weeks to get through.
- The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth Duncan ~ in honor of Dylan Thomas living in Wales. Don’t ask. It’s a long story. Read in four days.
- The Viceroy of Ouidah by Bruce Chatwin ~ in honor of November being a good time to visit Africa (yeah, yeah I read two books for the same reason). This was really short. I was able to read it over four lunch breaks.
- Corregidora by Gayl Jones ~ in honor of Jones’s birth month. Another short (but difficult) read. Read this in one day.
- The Akhenaten Adventure by P.B. Kerr ~ in honor of November being Fantasy convention month. Read this over two lunch breaks. Really cute.
For audio books I listened to:
- Churchill, a Life by Martin Gilbert ~ in honor of Churchill being born in the month of November. A few trips to the eastern part of the state allowed me to finish this sooner than I thought.
- The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers ~ for the fun of it. This was hard to listen to simply because of the heavy dialogue.
- Complications: a Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande ~ in honor of National Health Month. This was only six cds long so it was a great way to finish out the month.
What else was November about? I got to see a pretty exciting Patriots game thanks to my husband. I also got to stay home alone and read for an entire Sunday thanks to another Patriots game. Staying local for Thanksgiving definitely allowed for more reading time, too.
Lear, Edward. Edward Lear in Albania: journals of a landscape painter in the Balkans. London: I.B. Tauris, 2008.
Edward Lear is such a great writer in addition to being an artist. I thoroughly enjoyed his journey through the Balkans. Each chapter begins with an outline, as if Lear didn’t want to forget a single thing. His entries are so descriptive and vibrant it’s hard to imagine that he would forgot a single detail.
At every stop along the journey Lear would take a hike to a picturesque location so that he might draw the landscape. He attracted plenty of attention and was sometimes accused of evoking the devil with his art. (It was a sign of evil to draw.) He was constantly getting himself into trouble. For example, one time he drew portraits of two brothers. Simply by mistake he had drawn one brother’s portrait larger than the other. He ended up offending them both. Like any good artist he was continually worried about losing the light and would often set out at daybreak to capture the landscape. While his art is amazing so is his journal. He manages to illustrate not only the landscape but the cultures of the community as well. Every chapter is filled with Lear’s good humor as well. For example, face washing in public was seen as “a species of water-worship” as Lear put it.
At the end of November Lear aborted his travels in the Balkans to accompany a friend around Cairo, Mount Sinai and Palestine. He returned to the Balkans to “complete his tour of Albania in April.
Best lines ever: “Yet it is a great charm of Turkish character that they never stare of wonder at anything…I am satisfied that if you chose to take your tea while suspended by your feet from the ceiling, not a word would be said, or a sign of amazement betrayed” (p 10), “The certainty of night rest is not among the good things of Akhidha; in the small cell I inhabit, a constant clawing and squalling of cats on one side of my pillow, and quacking of dicks on the other, is not favourable to sleep” (p 33),
Confession: right off the bat I was hit by confusion. In Book Lust To Go Nancy Pearl says she thought this Edward Lear was the nonsensical poet and “…It took me a minute to realize that there must have been two Edward Lears, and this was the one I was unfamiliar with” (p 13). What she meant to say was there were two sides to Edward Lear and she was unfamiliar with the painter side of Edward Lear because, according to the preface of Edward Lear in Albania, written by Vivian Noakes, the Edward Lear who wrote nonsensical poetry was also the Edward Lear who was an accomplished ornithological illustrator and Albanian landscape painter.
Reason read: November is a decent time to visit Albania, if you can.
Author fact: Edward Lear captured the imagination of Natalie Merchant and she set some of his lesser known works to music.
Book trivia: Not many libraries in my area have this book. My copy traveled from Bates College.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply “Albania” (p 13).
Vasari, Giorgio. The Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Vol 2. Translated by A.B. Hinds. London: J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd, 1927.
I have to be honest. I was not looking forward to volume two of Vasari’s work. For starters, there were a lot of mistakes in volume one and for another it was a little on the boring side. Okaaaay. It was a lot on the boring side! But I am determined to stick it out and get through all four volumes, even if it kills me. Disclaimer, like with volume one I am skipping any biography that contains an error in volume two.
There is not introduction to the second volume. We just jump right into the biographies, starting with Fra Filippo Lippi, Painter of Florence (?1406 – 1469). Vasari doesn’t waste any time getting to the juicy parts of a painter’s life, “He remained so for two days, but overcome by his amorous and bestial desires, he cut up his sheet with a pair of scissors, and, letting himself down out the window, devoted many days to his pleasures” (p 3). Ooh la la. But, don’t get too excited. There aren’t that many personal facts for the rest of the biographies. Vasari, for the most part, sticks to who painted or sculpted what. One good thing about volume two is that it includes Botticello and Da Vinci, two artists I was looking forward to reading about.
Favorite quote. This is a little lengthy but tell me, does it not inspire you to go look at some art? This is from Antonio Pollajuolo: “He always copied Nature as closely as possible, and has here represented an archer drawing the bowstring to his breast and bending down to charge it, putting all the force of his body into the action, for we may see the swelling of his veins and muscles and the manner in which he is holding his breath” (p 81).
Book Trivia: There were not as many errors in this volume!
Reason read: A continuation of the series started in honor of Art Month (September).
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).
November is Thanksgiving. My mom’s birthday. A wedding somewhere out there. The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. Soon it will be time to crank up the woodstove. November is also a football game (Go Pats!) and maybe some music. It promises to be a good month for books, too. I have a couple of really short ones to buzz through:
- Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, Vol 2. by Giorgio Vasari ~ continuing the series started in October in honor of art month. As with Vol.1 I won’t read any bio that has a mistake in it.
- The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris by Chris Ewan ~ a continuation of the series started in October to honor the Amsterdam marathon. This should be a really quick read.
- Camus: a Romance by Elizabeth Hawes ~ in honor of Albert Camus’s birth month
- Edward Lear in Albania: journals of a landscape painter by Edward Lear ~ in honor of November being a good time to visit Albania.
- Before the Knife: Memories of an African Childhood by Carolyn Slaughter ~in honor of November being a good time to take a safari in Africa. Truth be told, this won’t inspire me to travel anywhere near the dark continent.
I’m excited about this volume because Da Vinci is in it.
I guess so.
I can tell already.
For audio – I’m plan to listen to Martin Gilbert’s biography of Winston Churchill, Winston Churchill, a Life and Dorothy Sayer’s The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club.
For the Early Review program on LibraryThing I will finish Clay by Melissa Harrison. I have to admit I’m not wild about the story. I love the way Harrison describes the landscape around her but not a fan of her character development.
What else about November? Can I say I will be thrilled, thrilled to not have to listen to Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren bash each other over the head anymore? As a woman I have never felt more “targeted” than in this particular election. That would go for Obama and Romney as well. Grrrr.
Vasari, Giorgio. The Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, Vol. 1. Translated by A.B. Hinds. London: J.M. Dent, 1927.
The Lives of the Painters is about exactly what the title states – biographies of painters and sculptors and architects, beginning with Giovanni Cimabue, a religious painter from Florence, Italy. It’s pretty amazing to think his childhood was like any other normal boy, enthralled with art over school work. I could see him doodling with his bird feather and dye! (Cimabue, 1240 – 1302.) Other artist biographies included Arnolfo Di Lapo (1232 – 1302), a father and son team named Niccola and Giovanni Pisani (1205 – 1328), Andrea Tafi (1213? – 1294), Gaddo Gaddi (1259 – 1333), Gotto (1216 – 1293?) and on and on.
Disclaimer: Vasari admits that the statements made about some lives are not to be accepted as absolute truth. In fact, many of the footnotes correct Vasari and point out inaccuracies. Interesting. But, not interesting for me to keep reading. I made a decision that any biography that had an inaccuracy didn’t deserve to be read so I skipped a lot. A lot. Another frustrating element to the text is the number of times Vasari says there is more to the story, “but I will not relate it in an effort to avoid being tedious…” Nothing drives me crazier than someone saying “I have something to tell you…oh, never mind!”
Great line, “In short, the latter part of the work is much better or rather less bad than is the beginning, although the whole, when compared with the works of to-day, rather excites laughter than pleasure or admiration” (p 56).
Reason read: October is Art Appreciation month.
Author fact: According to the first volume of Lives of the Painters, Giorgio Vasari was born at Arezzo in 1511 and died in Florence in 1574. It blows my mind I am reading the words of someone who died over 400 years ago.
Book trivia: Lives of the Painters has four volumes. To be honest I cannot imagine reading all four volumes!
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).
October. What I can I say about October besides it is a yin yang of good and bad. Three different friends celebrate their anniversaries in this month so it is a month of love for some. My cousin passed away October 10th last year. A new dark cloud anniversary for some. Kisa and a friend and I head to Monhegan for a week. It will be good to be homehome. In fact I’ll need to post this early in order for it not to be almost two weeks late. What else is October? Halloween. Pumpkins. A return to cozy knee high leggings. Kisa and I are already talking about buying and burning wood. The stove didn’t see much action last year. Here are the books:
- Hackers edited by Jack Dann ~ in honor of October being computers month. Disclaimer ~ I had to place an interlibrary loan on this one so I’m not sure I’ll actually read it in time.
- Persian Boy by Mary Renault ~ a continuation of the Alexander the Great series. Note: I am not reading the third and final book of the trilogy.
- Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper ~ a continuation of the Leatherstocking series. Nope. I’m just saying I’ll read it when I know I won’t. If the preceding book was “attempted” the following book won’t even get a chance. New rule.
- The Outermost House: A year of life on the great beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston ~ in honor of October being animal month
- Dialect of Sex by Shulamith Firestone ~ in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness month and strong women (I started this last year and didn’t finish it in time).
- Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects by Giorgio Vasari ~ in honor of October being art appreciation month.
- And for audio: The Man From Beijing by Swedish author Henning Mankell ~ as a wild card book.
For the Early Review program on LibraryThing I am reading Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee by Thomas Craughwell. I’m pretty excited about this one. Historical cooking with a Founding Father. You can’t go wrong!
Vreeland, Susan. The Forest Lover.New York: Penguin Audio, 2004.
Disclaimer: This was another audio book I was fully prepared to listen to on the plane to (or from) Hawaii. I had no idea that The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia Kim would take up some considerable time. So, this is a June book…in July. I’m not going to cry about it.
Right off the bat I have to say this is one of my favorite books for July. Susan Vreeland takes the real life character of Canadian artist Emily Carr and, while fictionalizing dialogue and relationships, does an amazing job portraying the factual history and Native American culture surrounding Carr’s life. Art, culture and society are the three elements of importance in The Forest Lover.
Art was the vehicle Emily Carr chose in order to communicate with the world around her. She was fascinated with color and emotion and desperately wanted her art to say something through these characteristics. Whether they are Vreeland’s words or Carr’s the descriptions of the art of the time (1912 – Monet, Van Gogh, Carr herself) fairly dance off the page. Images come to life through the passion used to describe them. Early in The Forest Lover Carr was fixated on the totems of the Vancouver Island natives. She sought desperately to convey their spiritual power on the canvas so much so that she traveled to Paris with her sister to learn more about capturing color in just the right way. Being able to communicate and show passion through art excited her.
Along the way Carr was confronted with cultural differences between herself (being a white woman) and the tribes of natives she needed to befriend in order to paint their totems. Vreeland goes into deep character development for one Squamish friend, basket maker Sophie. This character development allows Vreeland to illustrate not only how crucial it was for Carr to develop a trust with the different tribes but to say something about Carr’s soothing personality and her ability to connect with people. She could put even the native most distrustful of the white man at ease.
The third and probably most important element to The Forest Lover is Emily Carr’s reaction to Victorian society through her fighting spirit. In addition to having a strong passion for art and the ability to befriend any culture Carr had a devil-may-care feminist approach to confines of her day. For example, during the early 1900s it was unbecoming for a woman to travel alone. While she took her sister as a traveling companion to France Carr was not necessarily worried about what the neighbors might think. She remained true to her spunky attitudes and rarely let anything or anyone intimidate her (although she did seem to have a weird hangup concerning intimacy). Vreeland’s writing style in The Forest Lover has made me a fan.
Author Fact: Susan Vreeland also wrote the more popular Girl in Hyacinth Blue.
Book Trivia: I think this should be a movie…if it isn’t already.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Inside the Inside Passage” (p 106).
Barnes, Scott P. It Must Be…(A Grand Canyon Trip): Drawings and Thoughts From a Winter Trip From Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek (December 19, 2010 – January 2, 2011). Charleston: 2011 [ISBN 9780615444055].
In the interest of full disclosure I must admit this upfront. Scott is a dear friend of mine. Gawd, that makes me (and him!) sound ninety years old. Let me rephrase. Scott has a piece of my heart, forever and always. As you might have guessed we were lovers, best friends, roommates, and even classmates at one point. We have 25 years of history. He is, and will remain, the only “ex” with whom I can have an intelligent conversation. To be more blunt, he is the only ex I talk to. Period.
All that being said, I found It Must Be to be a tease, disappointingly short. That was my very first thought upon seeing its size and opening its first pages. It was my last thought when I finished reading it the first time; well after I had seen and imagined its potential. My mind exploded with the possibilities for this slim missive. To say that I wanted more, more, more is a good thing. But, in the end I changed my mind about it all. First, let me back up and write a proper review:
At first glance It Must Be looks like a self-indulgent diary. One of those “vanity press” books when one wants to see themselves in print. In reality It Must Be is an unflinching look at our greatest natural resource, water. Specifically, the Colorado River. Hidden in the journal of a winter adventure down the Grand Canyon Barnes plays devil’s advocate and dares to ask about man’s wanton waste while recognizing we need water for work and for play beyond sustenance. It Must Be speaks to the naturalist, the avid boater, the ecologist, and the historian, but his most obvious audience is the artist. Brilliant color and detail explode from nearly every page. Canyon walls come alive in shades of red and blue, black and green, while the river’s ever-changing energy is captured in the same. While It Must Be is short and sweet (46 pages cover to cover) its final message is loud and clear, “how much do you need?”
Here are the places I thought could have had more “meat.” Barnes mentions Matkatamiba and Havasu Canyon as being highlights of the trip (p 22). I wanted to know why. What made these places worth mentioning? Also, I was intrigued by “mailboxes on page 37. Even though this is a “gimmick” that has been done in the past, I would have enjoyed a sample “note,” something to delicately lift from an envelope, unfold and read (think Nick Bantock). I had questions about these notes (beyond the obvious what did the notes say?), like ‘were the notes weathered and fragile?’ and ‘Were the notes dated and if so, how old was the oldest note?’ As I mentioned before, I thought It Must Be ended way too soon. I wanted more description. What was it like to have those majestic canyon walls crowned over your head? Maybe photographs instead of just a link. More visuals. More stories. Sights. Sounds. (Lights, camera, action!)
But, then again, no. Maybe not. Maybe the point was just what it was, a simple reflection on a meaningful trip. Maybe you as the reader are meant to hunger for more. Maybe the goal was not to satisfy a curiosity but to create one?
Favorite quotes, “Humans fool ourselves, so our desires must be” (p 2, if It Must Be had pages), “We cannot control what we don’t know” (p 10), and “The river must be allowed to flow” (p 30).
Favorite pages of art – 12, 20 & 33.
Author Fact: Barnes has a wicked sense of humor that is laced with sarcasm. It Must Be has hints of that bite.
Book Trivia: It Must Be is part journal, part retrospect, part sketchbook, part didactic, part lecture, and all heart.
February was a strange, strange month. On the one hand, my birthday (which was good), yet on the other hand, many different family dramas (not so good). Other oddities include getting robbed, the roof leaking, a mysterious flat tire, and lots of great PT (what’s different?). My list of books for the month included some behemoths – two over 700 pages long. It took me longer than expected to get through my list because I also got an Early Review book from LibraryThing and I decided to read a few “off-list” titles. February was also a month of personal challenges (yay for physical therapy and the return to running for real). I can’t forget to mention that!
- Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution by Diane McWhorter ~ in honor of National Civil Rights month. This was a nice blend of didactic and personal.
- Big Year: a Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik ~ in honor of February being a bird feeding month (as apposed to watching). Funny, funny, funny.
- Night Soldiers by Alan Furst ~ in honor of Furst’s birth month. This was really heavy, but I actually got into it.
- Belly of Paris by Emile Zola ~ in honor of Charles Dickens (writing style is similar). Word to the wise – don’t read this when you are hungry. The food descriptions are amazing!
For the Early Review Program with LibraryThing I finally received and read My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe. I’m still waiting for a second Early Review book from LibraryThing.
- Runner’s World The Complete Book of Running: Everything You Need To Run For Weight Loss, Fitness and Competition by Amby Burfoot. I picked this up because someone had given me a gift certificate for B&N and I wanted to get something I would keep for a very long time.
- It Must Be..(a Grand Canyon Trip : Drawings and Thoughts From a Winter’s Trip From Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek (December 19, 2010 – January 2, 2011).. by Scott P. Barnes ~ this was such a surreal read for me! I’ve always wanted to see this author’s name in print.
I spent the first eight days of October “stranded” on a remote, windblown island off the coast of Maine. Every morning was spent leisurely reading in bed, half listening to the sounds of surf and squabbling gulls. Cloudy afternoons were spent either hiking along rocky shores and overlooking cliff high vistas or combing seaweed strewn beaches for sea glass and shells. Quiet evenings were whiled away in front of a snapping orange glow fire with a good book in hand. It was a delicious way to end the day - just as I had started it, behind the pages of a book. Because of this simple routine it was easy to finish three books in eight days:
- Messiah by Gore Vidal ~ in honor of Vidal’s birth month. This stayed with me as prophetic as it was.
- The Poison Oracle by Peter Dickinson ~ in honor of October being special child month. Another futuristic story about a different kind of greed.
- The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve ~ in honor of Halloween. Probably my favorite book of the month.
After the vacation home I returned to the daily grind and was able to finish the following books:
- Ways of Seeing by John Berger ~ in honor of Art Appreciation month. This took me a lunch break to read so I read it several times.
- Bonobo: the Forgotten Ape by Frans de Waal ~ in honor of de Waal’s birth month and October being animal month. At first I was bothered by the graphic Bonobo photography but I got over it.
- Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier ~ in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. I have to admit – the cover of this book cracked me up (simple, yet says so much).
- Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering by Wendy Lesser ~ in honor of National Book Month. This was okay.
- Bird Brains: the Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies and Jays by Candace Savage ~ in honor of Bird Watching month. A big, bold, beautiful book (loved the photography).
For LibraryThing and the Early Review program, two books:
- Yes You Can! : Your Guide to Becoming an Activist by Jane Drake and Ann Love was waiting for me when I returned from vacation. Since it is only 133 pages long and written for young adults it took me just a few hours to read it cover to cover.
- Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin was really, really good.
Confession: Autumn has always been my private hell. People think I’m kidding when I say bad things always happen to me between September and December…until I start recounting the black clouds. This year while I had a few bad things roll in my direction it was nothing like what happened with friends and family. Losing fathers, losing jobs, losing lives. The walls came tumbling down. As one friend put it, “I’m having a hard enough time recovering as is and now this?” And now this. I bury my head in books to avert my heart.