Carson, Rachel L. The Sea Around Us. New York: Oxford University Press, 1951.
Carson is so lyrical in her writing. Beauty on the page. When reading The Sea Around Us I could practically smell the salt air, feel the sea rise and fall under my feet. Her words lulled me like the ocean always does. In addition, Carson writes in such a straight forward manner you are never caught up in textbook language. You are never bored. Entertained as you learn. She is not above calling something she doesn’t understand just plain “weird.” The one drawback? Some of the material is out of date. When Carson describes the diving helmets of the 1950s I wondered what she would think of today’s technology. Another mystery of her time was how whales and fur seals could endure the pressure changes in the depths of the ocean. Science has since uncovered that mystery and then some.
Reason read: August is one of the best months to be on the ocean.
Author Fact: Carson was an environmentalist who won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She is another author who suffered breast cancer. Linda Lear runs a classy website dedicated to Carson (and others).
Book Trivia: The Sea Around Us won a National Book Award and was a best seller. It was also made into a documentary and won an Oscar in 1953.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: the 500s” (p 71).
Tougias, Michael J., Ten Hours Until Dawn: the True Story of Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do. Read by Joe Barrett. Blackstone Audio, 2006.
I grew up on the water. As a child I went to sleep with the sound of the surf crashing in my ears. I could see the ocean out my schoolhouse windows. To go anywhere special I had to ride across the waves for over an hour. At an early age I was taught to respect the sea, to love the sea and yes, even to fear it. The very idea of drowning in the ocean fills me with such a horror I cannot fully articulate. I knew picking up Ten Hours Until Dawn would be a lesson in breathing through fear. I knew I did not want to face the doomed men of the Can Do. For that reason alone I chose to listen to Tougias’s story instead of read it.
Tougias was obviously influenced by Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger when he wrote Ten Hours Until Dawn. There have been many comparisons made of the two ocean-tragic books. In listening to the audio version of Ten Hours Until Dawn I appreciated the detail with which Tougias recounted the Can Do’s final hours thanks to actual radio transmission transcripts. In addition Tougias included many stories of other rescues and tragedies to illustrate his point of just how dangerous the ocean could be. The arch enemy of a boat is wind and the blizzard of 1978 produced winds topping 100 miles an hour. Seas were well over 40 feet. Tougias paints a touching biography of Frank Quirk, the civilian pilot-boat captain who gathered four other men to brave the blizzard elements to assist in the rescue of two other Coast Guard boats in peril that day. My only “complaint” would be of myself. Because Tougias includes many different rescues to illustrate different points (the bravery of a certain man, an example of fierce weather, the sea worthiness of a boat) if I wasn’t paying attention, I would get confused as to which tragedy Tougias was recounting. He frequently bounced between the “current” action of the Can Do and other incidents that happen before and after 1978.
As an aside, I loved Joe Barrett reading Ten Hours Until Dawn because he did such a good job with the voices. The nasal Boston accents cracked me up!
Reason Read: I threw this on my August list because June, July and August are the three months I love to be on the water.
Author Fact: In addition to sea stories I’m guessing Tougias likes to hike. He has coauthored several books about hiking across Massachusetts. I’m thinking about picking up one or two of them.
Book Trivia: As mentioned earlier, too many people like to compare Ten Hours Until Dawn to Sebastian Junger’s Perfect Storm. Like Perfect Storm I think they should make a movie out of Ten Hours Until Dawn!
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “See the Sea” (p 201).
Lemann, Nancy. Lives of the Saints. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.
Probably the only good thing to come out of missing a cat is the long sleepless nights I spend reading. I was able to read Lives of the Saints in almost two nights.
Louise is a young woman with a great sense of sarcastic and romance. She has returned to New Orleans after college to work in a law firm. She reconnects with her long time love Claude Collier (as well as his family). Through a series of events Louise and the Colliers are changed forever. While the entire story is short (less than 150 pages) Lemann packs in a lifetime of emotion. What makes the story unique is Lemann’s writing style. She has fun playing with capitalization and repetition. Many reviews I read seem to fixate on the capitalization. I was more distracted by the insane amount of repetition. I wish I could count how many times the color green is mentioned or how many white seersucker suits are being worn. Every big event hosts and green and white striped awning. It’s very distracting. Here’s a small sample, “Saint started talking about bridges. He was Very Interested in bridges lately. Bridges were what made his Life Worth Living. He was studying bridges. Sometimes Claude had to take Saint out for a whole day to look at different bridges in the city. The theme was definitely bridges” (p 43). The entire book is filled with this ‘Rain Man’ like writing.
Favorite lines, “Then to put it differently, he was a man who had, at some juncture, come to know himself, and therefore had come to despise himself, and therefore was deemed worthy of the name: wise” (p 26), “We only saw three races and it was so boring and decadent that I fell asleep form psychological pressure” (p 30), and “His kisses were like conducting conversations with heaven” (p 76).
Reason read: Lives of the Saints takes place in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina ripped through Cajun country in the month of August. In remembrance of that disaster I am reading Lemann’s book.
Author fact: Lives of the Saints is Lemann’s first book.
Book trivia: Walker Percy called it “nutty” and I couldn’t agree more. This is definitely an odd little book.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter simply called “New Orleans” (p 168).
Undset, Sigrid. Kristin Lavransdatter: the Cross. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1939.
Sadly, the third and final volume of Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter called “The Cross” was just as melancholy as the last volume, if not more so. Spoiler alert! Everyone dies. The end.
We when catch up with Kristin in “The Cross” she now has seven children. Kristin’s brother-in-law, Simon, still pines for Kristin and it becomes painfully obvious when his only child becomes deathly ill and Kristin is there to care for his dying son. He dreams of Kristin caring for him rather than his family. It is obvious to everyone but they pretend to know nothing. Meanwhile Kristin and Erlend’s relationship continues to sour despite having a large family. Simon’s never ending love for Kristin and Erlend’s lost inheritance drive a wedge between the couple. They quarrel so badly Erlend moves out (just like a modern day spat). Oddly enough it is Simon (on his death bed) who convinces them to reconcile long enough to have an eighth child.
At this point in the story I am depressed by how many people have died off and how miserable Kristin is that I gave up reading. To make matters worse, my calico went missing last night. She trusts me so I thought the sound of my voice would draw her out of the woods. I read Kristin to her. Since it didn’t work I couldn’t bear to read it anymore.
BookLust Twist: for the third and final time – from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up the Past Through Fiction” (p 79) and from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Norway: Land of the Midnight Sun” (p 162).
Wilder, Thornton. The Bridge of San Luis Rey. New York: Washington Square Press, Inc., 1966.
Warning! This review is with spoiler!!
The premise for The Bridge of San Luis Rey is fascinating. In a nutshell an Italian monk by the name of Brother Juniper was not only witness to a terrible tragedy, he was mere moments away from sharing the same horrific fate. An ancient bridge in Lima, Peru collapses just as five travelers have set out across it. Instead of suffering a kind of survivors guilt, Brother Juniper is instead encouraged to pursue his study of theology, using the tragedy to demonstrate scientific reason as to why his life was spared. Being a man of the cloth he wants to prove it was divine intervention that caused him to avoid such an unfortunate demise. More importantly, he can finally prove the five victims (who weren’t so “lucky”) shared a common fault and their deaths were part of a larger plan. In other words, luck had nothing to do with it. The other option, less likely in the eyes of Brother Juniper, was it was a simple, random accident. Brother Juniper devotes his life to researching the private lives and documenting the secrets of the five victims, in a search for commonality. All in the hopes of proving the collapse was considered an act of god, a shared destiny. This would be something Brother Juniper could finally attach his scientific study of theology to. The five unfortunate travelers are:
- Dona Maria, the Marquesa de Montemayor and her companion,
- Estaban – a twin grieving the loss of his brother and, before crossing the bridge, about to set sail with a sea captain.
- Uncle Pio, the actress Camila’s maid, singing master, coiffeur, masseur, errand-boy, reader, banker, coach, writer and tutor.
- Don Jaime, Camila’s son
In the end, Brother Juniper was burned at the stake along with his “research” on the five victims of the bridge collapse. He was charged with heresy.
Favorite quotes: “The Marquesa would even have been astonished to learn that her letters were very good, for such authors live always in the noble weather of their own minds and those productions which seem remarkable to us are little better than a days routine to them” (p 15).
“All families lived in a wasteful atmosphere of custom and kissed one another with secret indifference” (p 16). And another, “You see its the ocean you want” (p 67).
Can I just say I love the titles of the first and last chapters? “Part One – perhaps an accident” and “Part Five – perhaps an intention.”
Note: I should have started reading this book on July 20th, the day “the finest bridge in all of Peru” collapsed. Who knew?
Book Trivia: Bridge of San Luis Rey was made into a movie on three different occasions. It has also been interpreted as an opera and a play.
Reason read: August is the last month for students to travel before heading back to school. I chose Peru as the destination for the last adventure of August.
Author Fact: Thornton Wilder won a Pulitzer for The Bridge of San Luis Rey.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Peru(sing) Peru” (p 177).
Rich, Louise Dickinson. We Took to the Woods. Kingsport: Kingsport Press, 1942.
I love it when a book is so fun to read you don’t notice the time. You simply start reading and suddenly it’s three hours later and you are practically finished with the entire thing. Such is the case with We Took to the Woods. Rich is a fantastic storyteller. What makes her story even more appealing is the fact it’s a true story (complete with photographs) and Rich has a great sense of humor. Maine humor, if you will. It’s a great combination.
Probably the most fascinating element to We Took to the Woods is how current it is 70 years after being published. You can read about living in a cabin deep in the woods of Maine today and find it eerily similar to how Rich described it back then. A simple way of life is a simple way of life. I guess you could say simplicity barely changes. Rich divides her chapters into the most frequently asked questions she has had to answer over the years: “But how do you make a living?” “Aren’t you ever frightened?” and “Do you get out very often?” to name a few. It’s as if she wrote the book to shut people up about her unique lifestyle, living in the far Northern section of Maine in the middle of nowhere.
Favorite lines (and there were a few of them): “I see no point in being modest about the things you know you do well” (p 47), “You can neither remodel nor ignore a thing as big as winter” (p 62), and “It’s unreasonable, I know; but some fears lie beyond reason” (p 76). Here are two that illustrate her sense of humor: ” I can also run my household as badly as I please, and our house guests can sun-bathe in the altogether without hindrance” (p 307) and “I find her very tiresome at close range, but at a distance I rather admire her spirit” (p 307-308).
AS an aside – Rich writes about the hurricane of 1938 and how it felled enough trees to make a giant log jam. I find it interesting I am also reading about another natural disaster, the blizzard of 1978 – forty years later.
Reason read: We Took to the Woods takes place in Maine. Maine has an annual lobster festival in Rockland every August. A coastal celebration is enough reason to read about the Rangeley woods.
Author Fact: Louise Dickinson Rich didn’t start off as a writer. She was a teacher first, but always wanted to write a book. I’m glad she did.
Book Trivia: We Took to the Woods was Rich’s first book. She went on to write another one that has been on my bookshelf for years.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).
postscript~ I doubt I will forget We Took to the Woods anytime soon. Coincidentally, it is the book I chose to read aloud to Cassidy when she went missing her first night in the woods.
Maguire, Gregory. Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. New York: Harper Collins, 1995.
It is always interesting when someone is so captured by a story that he or she starts to imagine the “other” side of it. Or when he or she shows the perspective from another, lesser known character’s point of view. The foundation of the plot has been laid but no two people have the exact same experience. It makes sense that the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz would have her own story to tell. We only know Dorothy’s side of things. Gregory Maguire is the perfect person to capture the WWotW’s story. Again, it makes perfect sense.
While Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz specifically for children with a simple plot and even simpler language Maguire wrote Wicked decidedly for adults. Sex drugs, violence. You name it. Of course the main character is Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch of the West. She is born a bright green skinned child with the sharp teeth of a shark and a gnashing stoicism and wit to match. As she grows up she forms an unlikely friendship with her college roommate, Galinda. After their Goat professor is murder they they uncover a politically corrupt system where the civil rights of Animals (those that can talk) are being abused. The Goat was just starting to uncover the Wizard of Oz’s corruption. It’s after this event that Galinda and Elphaba take different life paths. An interesting thing starts to happen – around page 300 you start to root for Elphaba, wanting her to survive. Of course Maguire’s plot runs close to Baum’s but with much more detail and twists and turns.
Back in 2006-2007 I didn’t have my list of challenge books memorized. When I went to the Massachusetts Library Association annual conference Maguire was on the bill as a guest speaker. He had copies of most of his books for sale and he even read a piece from Wicked. At the time I didn’t realize Wicked was even on my list. As a result I missed an opportunity to picked up a signed copy for the challenge. Duh!
Frivolous detail: One of the most delicious details of reading Wicked is that with my copy the page edges are painted a bright granny-smith green.
Favorite quotes: “If you can’t remember whether your marriage vows have been broken or not, there’s not much good in acting like an offended saint” (p 38) and “You can’t divorce your particulars from your politics” (p 173).
Author Fact: Gregory Maguire has a wicked sense of humor (pun totally intended). For examples, go to his website and specifically look at the Q&A page or just play around.
Book Trivia: Wicked was made into a Broadway production in 2003 and sadly, I think more people have seen the musical than have read the book. But, after reading Fahrenheit 451 I am not surprised.
Reason Read: August is Fairytale month.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fractured Fairy Tales” (p 94). Read with The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.
Baum, L. Frank. The Wizard of Oz. New York: Award Book, Inc., 1976.
This is one of those reviews I feel ridiculous writing because who doesn’t know the story of The Wizard of Oz? Actually, I take that back. Most people know Judy Garland as Dorothy. This Dorothy is a child living in a one-room house in Kansas with her aunt, uncle and dog, Toto. A tornado rips through the plains but before Dorothy and her little dog can make it to the hole in the floor the tiny house is swooped up in the tornado’s vortex and they are whisked off to a fantasy land. Upon landing they inadvertently kill a wicked witch (of the East). The
townspeople munchkins are overjoyed but all Dorothy wants to do is go home. So, the munchkins give her the witch’s special shoes and send her along a yellow brick road. At the end of the road is a wizard who supposedly can help her get back to Kansas…however he has a favor to ask first. Along her journey she meets some oddball characters (the ones we all know and love, a tin woodsman, a cowardly lion, and a brainless scarecrow). Unbeknownst to them, they are being watched on their journey. The deceased witch’s sister (Wicked Witch of the West) wants the shoes given to Dorothy. To read The Wizard of Oz as an adult is 100% entertainment. I had fun taking note of how many times the brains-needing Scarecrow did something exceedingly smart or the Cowardly Lion acted inherently brave or the no-heart Tin Woodsman felt true compassion. Other amusements: the group discussing heart disease.
Author Fact: L. Frank Baum’s biography was recently aired on the Smithsonian channel (narrated by Miss Natalie Merchant).
Book Trivia: According to Baum’s introduction before The Wizard of Oz Baum wrote this story because he felt the fairy tales of his day were too laden with morals and not “fun” enough for children. TWoO was written to be pure entertainment for children. However, I can remember being completely mortified by the Tin Man’s story of chopping off his own extremities!
Other book trivia: The Wizard of Oz was made into a movie in 1939 (as we all know) and like Wicked I am willing to bet more people have seen the movie than read the book. I know my grandmother plopped me and my sister in front of it every Thanksgiving.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fractured Fairy Tales” (p 94).
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Read by Christopher Hurt. Blackstone Audio, Inc. 2005
Would someone shoot me if I said I had never read Fahrenheit 451 before? Is that something you shouldn’t admit to anyone, ever? It’s a classic. It’s probably Bradbury’s best known work. I have read I Sing the Body Electric and remember it vividly. But who doesn’t know Fahrenheit 451? I mean, come on! Who doesn’t know it? This girl. I didn’t know Fahrenheit. There. I said it. Let’s move on.
I think it goes without saying Fahrenheit 451 was, and still is, controversial. Banned even. The large misconception about Fahrenheit was that it was a commentary on censorship. Oddly enough, Bradbury’s true message is one shared by 10,000 Maniacs in their song “Candy, Everybody Wants.” Television is dulling the mind. Common courtesy and intelligent conversation is going out the window and vanishing like vapor. In Fahrenheit 451 Bradbury puts the root of all evil in the form of books; books that must be burned upon discovery. This futuristic society employs eight legged mechanical hounds who can sniff out readers and firemen who used to be firefighters but are now fire starters. They are charged with burning the houses suspected of containing books. Guy Montag is one such fire starter. He relishes everything about starting a fire. Like an arsonist he is practically gleeful using the accelerant (kerosene), joyful to be spreading the flames. He loves his job until one day two people change his life. He first meets 17 year old Clarise. Her odd views on the world teach Montag to experience his own life differently. I’m reminded of Julia Robert’s character in Pretty Woman when she teaches Richard Gere to feel the grass under his feet. But, back to Fahrenheit 451 and Montag. Then he burns the house of an elderly woman. This rebellious elderly recluse refuses to leave her home and her books. As a result Montag burns her alive. They call it “suicide” but her death has a profound “rub” on Montag. The more Montag changes the less he understands the people around him. He begins to remember other book rebels he has met in his career. Mr. Faber is one such person. Faber agrees to help Montag leave the world of firemen and enter the dangerous unknown.
The opening scene to Fahrenheit 451 sets the stage for how bizarre Montag’s world really is. The detailed description of the fire’s destruction at the hands of a fireman is surreal and disorientating. But it is a necessary introduction to the dystopia in which Montag lives. Another tactic of Bradbury is to insert a great deal of repetition. Key words are repeated almost as in a chant. To hear in as an audio book is haunting.
Favorite line, “How strange, strange to want to die so much that you let a man walk around armed and then instead of shutting up and staying alive, you go on yelling at people and making fun of them until you get them mad and then…” (p 116).
Reason read: Bradbury was born in August.
Author Fact: Ray Bradbury died in June at the age of 91. His website is fascinating however I am most excited to learn that Bradbury loved cats! Miow.
Book Trivia: Fahrenheit 451 has influenced millions becoming a radio program, several plays and an adventure game. It should be a movie.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “100 good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1950s” (p 177).
Baldwin, James. Go Tell It On the Mountain. New York: Library of America, 1998.
What a simple concept. The beginning of the story takes place in a church. Fourteen year old John Grimes is praying beside his family – his Aunt Florence and parents, Gabriel and Elizabeth Grimes. It is in these prayers that an epic story emerges. Go Tell It On the Mountain is a tale told in three parts: The Seventh Day (a day in the life of the Grimes family on a Sunday), The Prayers of the Saints (starting with John’s Aunt Florence), and The Threshing-Floor (John’s “salvation”). The thread between all these parts is John Grimes in theory but the ending is all about his coming full circle. He is at a crossroads in his young life. He knows he is destined to be like the father he can barely stand, but the questions remains, how much like him? Will he become a preacher man, a servant of god? Will he carry anger and violence like his father?
Of note: in this good vs evil tale it is interesting to note the juxtaposition of good vs evil in the father, both in his actions and even his name. Gabriel Grimes is a a man of god who started his early adult years having sex with married women and drinking until he was blurry-eyed and as a married man comes home at night full of rage beat his family. Gabriel is the name of a well-known angel and yet the name Grimes suggests something dirty, something sinful.
Quotables: “And he knew again that she was not saying everything she meant; in a kind of secret language she was telling him today something that he must remember and understand tomorrow” (p 30).
“He would enter on another day, when he had read all the books uptown, an achievement that would, he felt, lend him the poise to enter any building of the world” (p 35). Yeah, books have that power, don’t they?
“The question always filled her with an ecstasy of hatred” (p 81). Pretty powerful stuff. To be sure, there are others.
Reason read: James Arthur Baldwin was born on August 2, 1924.
Author Fact: Go Tell It On the Mountain was Baldwin’s first book and is considered semi-autobiographical.
Book Trivia: Inspired by “Roots” Go Tell It On the Mountain was portrayed as a made-for-television movie in 1984.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: He Say” (p 10).
Adams, Alice. After You’ve Gone. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989.
I feel positively silly titling a blog “After You’ve Gone” because the phrase has been so overused in music, television, theater and yes, even books. This review is for the compilation of short stories by Alice Adams and not to be confused with the Nova Scotia novel of the same name by Jefferey Lent or the Scottish one by Joan Lingard. I’m sure there are others…
After You’ve Gone could be described as a compilation of stories with two central themes: relationships and change. There are fourteen short stories in all and every one of them addresses the subject of a change (mostly involving women or from the woman’s point of view). The changes range from divorce, loss, aging…It’s as if Adams rode the train to work everyday and stared at the same fourteen people. Ordinary people. Many of them with underwhelming, ordinary stories to tell. Each story is a moment in time for each passenger. My favorite one was the title story. A newly divorced woman is addressing her ex-husband. It’s the only one of its kind. Her tone takes on different emotions throughout the monologue. Regret is obvious as she recounts the things she misses about him, irritation becomes apparent when revealing his new lover has been writing to her, and a show of defiance when she talks about her new/old relationship and the trip she plans to take with him. It’s brilliant. The rest of the stories are a little redundant. The characters are either academic, artistic or medical. Most live in some part of California. I found reading more than two stories in one sitting was a little tiresome.
Reason read: Adams was born in August.
Author Fact: Adams is known for her short stories.
Book Trivia: The best way to read After You’ve Gone is a story a day. Digesting the seemingly similar stories is easier that way. There is less redundancy.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “A…My Name is Alice” (p 1). Simple as that.
Westphal, Robert. Tattoo Adventures of Robbie Big Balls (Hand Jobs, Blow Jobs, and Cigarettes). 48HrBooks, 2012.
DISCLAIMER: This book review is not for the Book Lust Challenge nor is it an Early Review for LibraryThing. I picked up Tattoo Adventures of Robbie Big Balls by Robert Westphal from a tattoo shop on Maui. Even though Kisa did get a tattoo from Westphal himself I did not receive compensation or a discount on my ink as a result of this review. A DVD comes with the book so I will include that in the review. Example of Westphal’s talent:
Second disclaimer: I should have titled this blog “Shame on Me.” Shame on me for still not knowing you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. You just can’t. Here’s the deal: I am always leery of self indulgent crap and to look at the cover of Tattoo Adventures you would think that’s what we’re dealing with. The outside of the book yields no proper publisher information whatsoever. Westphal’s name is nowhere to be found. It looks sort of snarky. More often than not all-about-me crap leads to larger piles of shit because the self professed writer/author thinks he’s gotten somewhere literary because the first dump he took was successful. In reality said crapper is an intelligent fuck who can articulate his thoughts on paper and group words together to form coherent sentences. I’ll be honest. My disdain for such excrement exists because I read such a waste of brain space last January and I haven’t recovered. Obviously. I fully expected Westphal’s book to be nothing more than a series of exaggerated sexual conquests only made possible by the sheer luck he is a tattoo artist. I predicted one completely unbelievable fuck story after another without an intelligent sentence in between. I was wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. Never, ever judge a book by its cover and shame on me for trying.
Now that I have that out of my system. I liked, no, loved Tattoo Adventures of Robbie Big Balls. It was the break from boring I was looking for. Westphal begins Tattoo Adventures by describing the five different types of customers he potentially could see while tattooing. If you are a customer of Maui Atomic Tattooing and if you are anything like me you will spend an inordinate amount of time trying to decide which type of customer Westphal has you pegged for. The rest of Tattoo Adventures is a series of seriously funny short stories delivering exactly what Westphal promised on his cover – his adventures in the world of tattooing and beyond. Think of Robert Westphal as that bartender-ish, incredibly patient therapist doling out life philosophies while dispensing pain punctuated with doses of hilarity. For example, the chapter called “The Tattoo and Its Meaning.” What would you do if you thought your new tattoo meant something completely different than the reality? Or, “Fucking Cops and Donuts.” If you were arrested for child molestation who would believe you if you professed your innocence? Trust me. It’s funny.
My advice? Forgive the quirky margins, ignore the less than professional cover, and disregard the lack on continuity. Take a huge bite of Tattoo Adventures of Robbie Big Balls and swallow it down. Gorge on Westphal’s stories with a strong appetite, a sense of humor, and an appetite for all things crazy. Life is too short not to. Chew with your mouth wide open and don’t be offended by the cohesiveness that isn’t there or the small typos that are. Have a bellyache laugh at the outrageous situations he has gotten himself into without even trying. It’s all in the interest of having a good time. As he says (p 7), “Let the weight of expectation go and enjoying the time you’re given.” So, the wording is a little clumsy but don’t tell me you don’t know what he means.
Author Fact: When I asked Westphal for an author fact he said, “I believe this life is all about having fun. Nothing in life is more important. Happy heart happy life.” Case in point, meet the author:
Book Trivia: With the purchase of Tattoo Adventures of Robbie Big Balls comes a DVD, a companion to the book, if you will.
DVD review: I can only describe this DVD as schizophrenic and fucked up funny. Most of the time you will be laughing your ass off at the seriously silly shit people do (off roading in a golf cart was my favorite. As someone who grew up with more golf carts than not for transportation I can relate!), but other times you will cringe with fascination (I never knew you could tattoo that part of the body – ouch!), or be awestruck by the displays of beautiful tattoo artwork (Yvette’s was my favorite). There are some seriously talented mofos in this video. The music is all over the place but it matches the style of the visuals. Warning: adult…very adult. Not for the sissy prissy tightwads of the world.
Estes, Eleanor. The Moffats. New york: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1941.
This was a cute little story read in just a few hours during the downgraded to the tropical storm “hurricane” Irene. It focuses on the four children of a single mother living in a small Connecticut suburb. Written in 1941 before the U.S. involvement in World War II, but taking place just after World War I, it is tinged with easy innocence. The children, Jane, Sylvie, Joey and Rufus, are just old enough to begin helping mom with household chores and running small errands in town, but they are still young enough to get themselves into mischief. Running away from school and riding a freight train as a first grader wasn’t as dangerous then as it would be today.
Author Fact: Eleanor Estes was a librarian.
Book Trivia: The Moffats is only the beginning of the story. Estes goes on to write more about the family in The Middle Moffat among others.
BookLust Twist: Nancy Pearl liked The Moffats a great deal. It is mentioned once in Book Lust in the introduction and twice in More Book Lust in the chapters called “Best For Boys and Girls” (p 21) and “Libraries and Librarians” (p 138).
Kinsella, Sophie. Confessions of a Shopaholic.New York: Random House, 2001.
Confessions of a Shopaholic was a pain in the ass to read. I never learned to like the lead character, Rebecca Bloomwood. When we first meet Becky she is living far beyond her means, recklessly spending money she does not have. She constantly lies to family, friends, coworkers, strangers, anyone who gets in her way of a good shopping spree. She is the epitome of irresponsible. As the debt continues to pile up and the phone calls and letters from credit card agencies and banks become more frequent Becky starts to make feeble, half-witted attempts to remedy the situation. She has her pride so she cannot admit to anyone she is in financial trouble, at least not right away. She also has the ability to rationalize every extravagant purchase.
As her situation worsens she remembers something her father once said about saving money. She first tries the tactic of Cutting Back. Packing lunches instead of always eating out, going to museums instead of trendy clubs, and so on. But after one failed attempt at making dinner at home – a complicated curry - she moves onto Plan B (another of her father’s euphemisms) – Make More Money. Her scheme is to either land an eligible millionaire bachelor and learn to like him later, or get another job - something that would allow her to get an employee discount and do minimal actual work. Needless to say neither of those schemes plan out either. She fails miserably at every halfhearted effort to straighten her life out. The smallest setback allows her to abandon the effort with great relief and, like a true addict, she is able to rationalize her continued spending. She isn’t bothered by the fact she’s a fake to her friends, a fraud at work and a farce to her family. When the truth is finally revealed to her roommate she allows her roommate (and only obvious friend) to work at a side job in Becky’s name just so that Becky can have the extra income. When really pushed at her job Becky doesn’t know what she’s talking about (ironically working as a financial journalist). She let’s her parents think she is being stalked when really it’s the bank manager’s relentless debt collection pursuit.
The problem with Rebecca Bloomwood’s plight is that it quickly loses appeal early in the story. In the beginning her situation is comical. Her justifications for spending are humorous. Yet, the longer she tells lies, the longer she disregards the seriousness of her situation the less likable she becomes. Her character development is shallow and superficial and it stays that way throughout the entire story. The final disappointment is that Becky doesn’t really change. There are no great epiphanies, no lessons learned.
Book Trivia: Confessions of a Shopaholic was published as Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic everywhere except the U.S. and India.
Author Fact: Sophie Kinsella is a pen name for Madeleine Wickham.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Chick Lit” (p 53). No brainer there.
Stevenson, Robert Louis Stevenson. A Child’s Garden of Verses. Boulder: Shambhala, 1979.
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson is one of those books that remained as a constant in my house growing up. Somehow, side by side with unlikely titles such as Fear of Flying by Erica Jong and The World According to Garp by John Irving there A Child’s Garden of Verses sat. It had a permanent place on the shelf and never moved. As a child (I was ten when my 1979 edition was published) it was the illustrations by Charles Robinson that really captured my imagination. Simple illustrations like the title one for “Pirate Story” or more complicated ones like the one for “Garden Days.” I don’t know how I resisted the urge to fill the black and white line drawings with color.
When Natalie Merchant chose “The Land of Nod” as a poem to set to music for her newest album, Leave Your Sleep, it was if the simple verse took flight. Suddenly the poem spread glorious wings and soared with great majesty. It became lush and alive. It made me wish she had taken the entire collection of poems from A Child’s Garden of Verses and set them to music.
Like Natalie’sLeave Your Sleep, A Child’s Garden of Verses is the epitome of poetry for and about children. The imagination of a child grows wild and free among the pages. Hopes and fears are expressed as only children can. The sense of wonder and innocence resonates as reminders to all adults about how the world once was.
Point of amusement: just as I was drawn to the illustrations of Charles Robinson so were the publishers of A Child’s Garden of Verses. The back cover, usually reserved for praise for the author or an abstract about the text, sings the praises of illustrator Charles Robinson and ignore Robert Louis Stevenson completely.
Fact opinion: Stevenson and wife Fanny had one of the most romantic courtships I have ever read.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the introduction (pix). Nancy Pearl is confessing herself to be a “readaholic” and remembering the stories read to her as a young child.