Ponsot, Marie. “Winter.” Springing.New york: Alfred A Knopf, 2002. p 225.
Such a short poem and oh so seemingly uncomplicated! Don’t be fooled by its length or lack of veiled meaning. It is a snapshot of two neighbors, living side by side. Two mothers, their sons had grown up as friends. Only now the reader finds out one mother has lost her son to suicide. The other doesn’t know what to say. Isn’t that always the way? There is pain in this surviving-son’s mother’s voice as she struggles with words and sentiments. It’s elegant and emotional.
And to think I read it thinking it was going to be about winter (because I can’t wait for it to be over). That will teach me to judge a poem by its title!
Favorite line, “Both boys hated school, dropped out feral, dropped in to separate troubles” (p 225).
Reason read: April is National Poetry Month. So. There. This is the first poem of the month!
Author fact: Ponsot’s book The Bird Catcher won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry in 1998.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry Pleasers” (p 189).
Neal, Mary C. To Heaven and Back: a Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again.Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2011.
I was supposed to deliver this book to my mother. My aunt bought a copy for all of her sisters and it was my charge to make sure my mother got hers. Of course I had to read it before passing it along. I read it twice.
I am not a religious person. I lost my faith when my father passed away. Unfortunately there is very little anyone can do to make me believe in Heaven, Hell, or even God at this moment. I do believe in spirits and angels and a reason for everything. I think my father is still with me in weird ways, but I do not believe in the Bible.
Having said all that, I had a deep appreciation for Dr. Neal’s story. While it is centered around a religious faith there were moments that resonated with me; passages that moved me to tears. Dr. Neal was kayaking in Chile when she had a terrible accident and technically drowned. she was pinned under water way longer than a person should/could survive. While she was dead she experienced heaven and Jesus holding her. She believed she was spared because her purpose in life on Earth wasn’t finished. Throughout the rest of To Heaven and Back Dr. Neal recounts different moments where her presence saved the life of someone else or God’s presence had a hand in guiding her to make the right decision. Even after her son is tragically killed she found a spiritual way to push through the pain. It is an uplifting story of inspiration.
September 2012 started in Colorado. It was nice to disappear for a week! Here are the books:
- Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook ~ in honor of Roosevelt’s birth month
- American Ground: the Unbuilding of the World Trade Center by William Langewicshe ~ in remembrance of September 11, 2001. I will be listening to this on audio.
- Tear Down the Mountain by Roger Alan Skipper ~ in honor of an Appalachian fiddle festival that takes place in September.
- The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper ~ in honor of boys going back to school.
- Ariel: the Life of Shelley by Andre Maurois ~ in honor of National Book Month.
- Enchantress From the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl ~ in honor of a kid named Matt who was deemed a hero in September.
So. That’s the Challenge plan. For other books I have been told I won two Early Review books from LibraryThing but since I haven’t seen them I won’t mention them here. My aunt wants me to deliver a book to mom so I, of course, read it on the way home from Colorado so it’s already finished: To Heaven and Back: a Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again by Mary C. Neal, MD. It was an amazing book.
This should be a ps at the end of the Tougias review but somehow it doesn’t seen appropriate to put it there. What I am about to say has nothing to do with the review but is essential to the enjoyment of the book. LISTEN TO THE AUDIO BOOK! Seriously. I wrote my review before listening to the acknowledgments and thank yous and the I-couldn’t-have-written-this-book-without-you spiel. I should have waited until all that was over. Here’s what I would have included:
Listen to the very end of Ten Hours Until Dawn. What you will hear will chill your heart and break your soul. Listening to the actual radio calls between Coast Guard stations Glouster, Salem and Peabody and Frank Quirk, Captain of the “Can Do” is breathtaking. You spend so much time hearing an actor portray these people and you spend so much time with Tougias’s words that when the real exchange is finally heard it’s like a punch to the gut. On a personal note, I felt actual anger listening to the captain of the Global Hope fumble for the correct terminology to describe his situation. I felt sheer helplessness listening to Charlie Bucko make the mayday call from the “Can Do”. Listening to these people blew my mind. Maybe I am so moved because my father was a tried and true Coastie. To be sure I have been thinking of him as I heard Frank Quirk’s brave voice on the radio. Next month marks the 20th anniversary of my father’s passing; a man who died while trying to save the life of another.
But, back to Ten Hours Until Dawn. I have to admit this is one of those rare times when I want to read the book even after hearing the audio version. This is a story that truly resonated with me.
I had high hopes for June. Unreasonably so, I think. I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided the difference of a day would make everything better. What’s May 31 into June 1st other than Thursday into Friday? One day into the next? Silly me. June was a few things – a return to the run, a funeral heard around the world, a trip to an exotic island…
Here is the book list:
- A River Runs Though It and Other Stories by Norman MacLean ~ in honor of river cleanup month. I can see why they made the first short story into a movie, but why not the other two? They were equally as good as the first. I read this in five days.
- Death of Ivan Ilich by Leo Tolstoy ~ in honor of June being the best month to travel to Russia…that is, if you even want to travel to Russia. I guess you would need the desire before you decided the best time to go…I read this over three lunch breaks.
- Kristin Lavransdatter: the Bridal Wreath by Sigrid Undset ~ again, chosen for the best time to travel somewhere. In this case, Norway. Note: this is only part one of a three part story. I will be reading the rest in July and August.
- The Stranger by Albert Camus ~ in honor of I honestly don’t remember what. Something celebrating Algeria, I’m sure. This was deceptively simple to read. Read over five lunch breaks.
- The Duke of Deception by Geoffrey Wolff ~ read in honor of June being family month. Some family!
- Damage by Josephine Hart ~ in honor of Father’s Day…well, sort of.
Two Early Review books came in, courtesy of LibraryThing:
- Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports by Tim Noakes, MD. I didn’t finish this in time to consider it an official June read, but at least I started it in June.
- Who Should I Be? a Novel From Life by Sheila Heti ~ this was slightly delusional but I loved it.
One audio book on cassette while I worked out:
- D-Day by Stephen Ambrose ~ in honor of well, D-Day – June 6th 1944. Duh.
I should also note that I had an audio book for the flight to HI. I listened to July’s selection for the entire trip to and from the islands.
Tolstoy, Count Lev N. Dramatic Works: the Death of Ivan Ilich.Translated by Leo Wiener. New York: AMS Press, 1968.
Death of Ivan Ilich opens with Ilich’s death already a reality in the year of 1882.
As a person struggling with the death of a loved one there were certain parts of Death of Ivan Ilich that struck a nerve with me. Early in the story Ilich’s colleagues are standing around discussing his death, having just learned of it. One man exclaimed, “And here I have not called on him since the holidays. I was meaning to all the time” (p 4). That bears repeating. I was meaning to all the time. Exactly.
I found Death of Ivan Ilich to be extremely psychological and painful. Here is a relatively young man of 45 who dies from an unexplained illness after falling off a chair. He bruises his side and mysteriously falls ill a short time later. Even more troublesome – he never recovers from this fall. Was it cancer? Many scholars seem to think so. What I found particularly disturbing is the lack of care and sympathy his family feels for him. His wife and daughter all but cast him aside once they realize he is dying. Only his long-faithful butler remains true to him.
The actual death of Ivan goes largely unexamined. Instead we crawl into Ivan’s mind as the dying process takes its toll. In the beginning he is indignant, believing as a good man who has led a moral life he does not deserve such a fate. He questions his life’s purpose and begins to compare it to that of his butler. While he never accepts his death at the end he seems to understand it.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Russian Heavies” (p 210).
Where the fukc do I start (besides the fact that I’m posting this very late)? July 2011 was hell with a twisted sense of humor. Chronological speaking the first week of July was first a new car, then a wedding, then a quick trip to Monhegan and Kennebunkport (not impressed). A first week of fireworks and fun. The second week of July was an eight hour drive to Chautauqua, New York to see (from dead center second row, thank you very much) Miss Natalie Merchant at her best. A stunning performance I won’t soon forget. The third week was another trip to Maine, burying my grandfather, having my house robbed, and struggling to make sense of administrative setbacks. Week four was Kisa having to replace a tire on the truck, replace a cracked skimmer on the pool, our hot water heater flooding the basement in the middle of the night and lots and lots of home security upgrades. The ongoing issue is Jones freaking out. I don’t know what happened during the robbery but I do know he’s not the same. Insane to get out, he claws and cries and scrambles frantically at every door and window. He acts like a tortured prisoner. In the midst of all this chaos I have tried my best to keep reading. It was only semi-successful. Many fitful starts, few finishes:
- Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts ~ in honor of it being a book within reach while I was on Monhegan. I think this should be a movie.
- House of Mirth by Edith Wharton ~ in honor of New York becoming a state in July. Greedy book. I didn’t completely finish it. I got the point three quarters of the way through it and got the point.
- Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe ~ in honor of Burton Bennett’s birthday. This was made into a movie & no, I didn’t finish the book or see the movie. Another greedy book.
- Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin ~ in honor of it being a book in the library. I was ten pages shy of finishing this one.
- It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong ~ in honor of the Tour de France. I will never look at this book the same way again for it was what I was reading on the ride home from the burial…and yes, I finished it …when we pulled into the driveway.
- Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field ~ in honor of going to Rachel’s “home” state, Maine.
- The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen ~ I barely finished this (supposed to be read in August in honor of Franzen’s birth month). I’m waiting for the movie version.
And for LibraryThing and the Early Review Program:
- Deadly Indifference: The Perfect (Political) Storm: Hurricane Katrina, the Bush White House and Beyond by Michael D. Brown and Ted Schwarz ~ I didn’t finish this. After awhile it got really repetitive with all the blame and finger pointing.
- Pretty by Jillian Lauren ~ I loved this book. I loved how raw and messed up it was.
We ended July the exact same way we started it – with a road trip and awesome music. A blog about Rebecca Correia’s fantastic farm show will be posted on the other side.
Hood, Ann. Ruby. New York: Picador, 1998.
Olivia has lost her husband, David, to a reckless driver, killed while jogging along a country road. Olivia, only 37, is faced with immeasurable grief and the nagging guilt that she had something to do with his death. In an effort to move on with her life she resolves to sell their summer cottage and put the past behind her. Only she can’t. A pregnant, defiant, wayward teen has made herself at home in Olivia and David’s seemingly abandoned house. Within a few minutes of confronting her, Olivia begins to bond with Ruby, seeing more of herself in the teenager than she would like to admit. What Ruby and Olivia can admit to is the fact they need each other. From this point forward Ann Hood’s storytelling is a psychological dance between the needy yet tough Olivia and the tough yet needy Ruby. Both of them want something from the other. Both are willing to manipulate the other to get it. The story becomes a page turner because you want to know who wins.
I like books that make me wander off topic. I enjoy small tangents every now and again. Olivia mentions her plan of stenciling the words to “a William Carlos Williams poem about plums” on her cottage wall. After surfacing from the instant sadness of lost dreams the image made me want to reread the poem in question, ‘This is Just to Say.’ Of course after rereading ‘This is Just to Say’ I had to find and reread Flossie Williams’s reply to “Bill.” Together they are a poetic commentary on marriage; communication between husband and wife.
Favorite line-, “Better to share the blame than to carry it all alone” (p 19). I found this interesting because most people want to put the blame 100% on someone else, never mind sharing it.
Some nitpicking. The reader is first introduced to Olivia’s world after Olivia’s husband has been killed by a reckless driver. Because the tragedy has already occurred the reader is anticipating the demise. You never get a chance to fall in love with Olivia and David as a couple. As a result the impact of Olivia’s grief is diminished. You don’t end up feeling as sorry for her situation as you could if you had been confronted with the shock of loss at the same time.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the very first chapter called Adapting to Adoption (p 2). Nancy Pearl calls Olivia ‘Livia.’ Interesting. It must be a (another) typo because nowhere in the book does anyone call Olivia ‘Livia.’
PS~ A Review in Library Journal called Ann Hood “Barbara Kingsolver without the whimsy.” I think it’s the other way around. Barbara Kingsolver is Ann Hood without the whimsy. I don’t see Kingsolver as whimsy at all. The Lacuna and The Poisonwood Bible are far from whimsy!
Szymborska, Wislawa. “Funeral II.” New and Collected Poems. New York: Mariner Books, 2000. p 206.
This poem disturbed me to the core. To read it quite literally it is people standing around before (or after, or anytime in between) a funeral and gossiping. This sort of thing happens all the time. Events like funerals and weddings bring people together. Conversations are bound to happen, especially when people haven’t seen each other since the last milestone – wedding, or funeral…
I think what disturbed me the most is that I could identify with it so readily. I, too, have stood around making small talk; commenting on the people strangers around me. Call it catty. Call it human nature. It happens.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Poetry Pleasers” (p 189).
Ginsberg, Allen.”Kaddish.” Kaddish and Other Poems; 1958-1960 San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2001. 7.
This took me forever to read. I think part of the reason was I wanted to find the absolute right moment to read it. I know that sounds odd, but consider this: “Kaddish” is said to be autobiographical. That, in and of itself, is extremely interesting to me because of how interesting and controversial Ginsberg was and still is to this day. Secondly, “Kaddish” is about mourning the passing of Ginsberg’s mother, Naomi Ginsberg. She was schizophrenic and Natalie Merchant’s line “praise a crazy mother’s son” (King of May, Ophelia – 2006) only eludes to Naomi’s troubled mind. Thirdly, there is the religious aspect of Kaddish to consider, and finally, the poem “Kaddish” is said to be Ginsberg’s finest work. Having said all that it should be obvious why I wanted to devote my complete and undivided attention to reading it.
At first read “Kaddish” seems to be all over the place with only two central themes running through it: the death of Naomi Ginsberg and the strain her mental illness put on Ginsberg as a child. After the second reading I began to see how much of an influence art and history also had on the author. He is haunted by his mother’s fears of Hitler and the inability to escape the past. Her history is his history. By the third reading I was so moved by the descriptions Naomi’s “treatments” that I couldn’t read any more.
One of these days I will research “Kaddish” to the fullest. I will find out why Naomi was afraid of Louis. I will discover the answer to the riddle of the Key in the window. Someday I will know what phrases like “Grand Canyons of asshole” and ” Lung Stew, & Stenka Razin” mean. Someday soon.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “The Beats and Their Generation” (p 17). PS ~ I should note this was not indexed in More Book Lust but since it was mentioned in the chapter I wanted to include it.
Le Fanu, Sheridan. In a Glass Darkly. Trowbridge: Redwood Press, Ltd. 1971
Every other “scary” book I have read for October pales in comparison to In a Glass Darkly despite being composed of short stories. Let’s face it, the stories no matter how short are weird. In a Glass Darkly is made up of five short stories (although ”Dragon Volage” is long enough to be classified as a novella) that are a mix of ghost stories, horror, mystery and fantastic. Each story is a little stranger than the last which makes for the perfect Halloween-time read especially with the lights dimmed low. The book ends with the short story “Camilla” about a lesbian vampire who needs more than victims to survive. “Camilla” appears to have the most success out of all the short stories, prompting other authors to write similar vampire stories with greater success.
“Green Tea” is about a doctor, Dr. Hesselius, who deals in the occult who is convinced his patient is being possessed by demons. The patient is Robert Lynder Jennings. He is a reverend haunted by a demon in the form of a little black monkey with glowing red eyes. When Dr. Hesselius meets the reverend he is convinced his afflictions are caused by excessive consumptions of green tea. His intuitions allow Rev. Jennings to take the doctor into his confidences and soon relates how the monkey demon came to haunt him. Things become more dire when Rev. Jennings admits the monkey has been making him do vile, unthinkable things. From here there is no turning back and the story can only end in tragedy.
“The Familiar” was originally written as “the Watcher” which I think is a better title. ”The Familiar” is about a sea-captain, James Barton, who is being stalked by someone calling him/herself “the Watcher” (hence the better name for the title). The stalker turns out to be an ominous, little dwarf. After the dwarf’s appearances Captain Barton starts hallucinating voices and thinking an owl is out to get him. There is nothing he can do to stop the mental breakdown that is inevitable.
“Mr. Justice Harbottle” is a freaky little tale about Elijah Harbottle, a cruel and corrupt judge. His conscience starts to get the better of him after an unusual visit from a stranger. He begins to feel haunted by past prisoners he has unfairly put to death by his rulings. The hauntings become so severe that Judge Harbottle can’t escape the noose around his own neck.
“The Room at the Dragon Volage” moves away from being frightening (until the end) and takes on the genre of a mystery as the villans are human. I found the bulk of this story to be long-winded and boring. Maybe that is because it is the longest of the short stories in In a Glass Darkly (26 chapters equaling 176 pages) and really should be called a novella. It takes a long time for the story to come to a head. —- is too naive, too trusting, too innocent for my taste. He’s also too obsessed with a woman he’s only seen once. As the reader you have to suspect nothing good can come from this strange passion, especially since she is a married woman. This was my least favorite story of them all.
“Carmilla” is a good old-fashioned vampire tale. The kind that inspires others to write the same. The twist to this is that the vampire is female and lesbian. When a strange girl known as Carmilla is thrown from her carriage she is brought to the home of a lonely young girl. Hungry for companionship the young girl welcomes Carmilla into her home. Hungry for a new victim, Carmilla readily accept. The reader can see the plot coming from a long ways off, but the young narrator is slow to grasp the danger she is in.
Favorite line: “The Clerygman felt a chill of horror steal over him, while, during the wail of a sudden gust of wind, he heard, or fancied he heard, the half articulate sounds of rage and derision mingling in the sough” (p 65).
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Science fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).
Beagle, Peter. A Fine and Private Place. New York: Viking, 1960.
For starters I have to say I love first novels. It’s that “dammit, im gonna do it” book. That leaping off point of either ‘no return and so I write’, or ‘that failed so I go back to whatever it was I had been doing before I put pen to paper’ (or whatever method they use these days). In Peter Beagle’s case I think A Fine and Private Place was a huge success.
A Fine and Private Place is haunted yet humorous. It takes place in a cemetery with a talking black bird (a sarcastic one at that) and a homeless man as its residents. The dead have issues with remembering yet have no problem complaining to the living man lurking in their midst. That man would be Mr. Rebeck, the one time druggist who now spends his days (and nights) in the New York cemetery. In fact, he hasn’t left the grounds in nearly twenty years. A Fine and Private Place delves into what it means to have a soul, even if it gets lost from time to time. It’s the story of different relationships struggling to make it despite the differences. Throughout the story there are minor mysteries. Why, for example, is Mr. Rebeck living in the cemetery? Did Michael Malone’s wife really murder him? And, what’s with the talking bird? Don’t expect a lot of action from A Fine and Private Place. The majority of the story is filled with introspective musings and the plot is centered on character development and how those characters interact with one another.
Two of my favorite lines, “He had begun to tell her about the raven when he realized that Mrs. Kapper’s credulity had been stretched as far as it would go and would snap back at the slightest mention of a profane black bird bringing him food” (p 145), and “He hastily subpoenaed a sleepy smile” (p 158).
BookLust Twist: Perfect for Halloween, although it wasn’t scary - from More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Gallivanting in the Graveyard” (p 96).
September 2009 was…Back to school. I spent the first part of the month concentrating on hiring for the library and avoiding tragedy. Kisa and I took a much needed vacation – first to Fenway park (go Red Sox!) and then to Baltimore for a little getaway. September is the month I will always mourn my father, but now I add Mary Barney to the list of tears. As I have always said, everything bad happens in September. This year was no different. As you can tell, I buried myself in books.
The Escape was:
- The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka ~ I had completely forgotten how disturbing this book was!
- The Reivers by William Faulkner ~ a southern classic that almost had me beat.
- A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby ~ funny tale about a first-time expedition
- Out of the Blue: the Story of September 11, 2001 From Jihad to Ground Zero by Richard Bernstein and the staff of The New York Times ~ an unsettling journalistic account of what really happened on 9/11/01.
- The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough ~ a nonfiction about what happens when mother nature meets bad human design.
- Off Balance: the Real World of Ballet by Suzanne Gordon ~ a nonfiction about the ugly side of dance.
- Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler ~ magical book about three very broken people (in honor of real character month).
- A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay ~ Hay’s first novel – one I couldn’t put down it was that good! This was on the September list as “the best time to visit Canada.”
- Native Son by Richard Wright ~incredibly depressing. I’m almost sorry I read it this month.
- The View From Pompey’s Head by Hamilton Basso ~ a last minute pick-me-up, read in honor of Basso’s birth month (but also doubled as a “southern” read).
For LibraryThing and the Early Review program: Day of the Assassins by Johnny O’Brien. Geared towards teenage boys, this was a fun, fast read.
For fun, I read a quick book called Women Who Run by Shanti Sosienski . Since our flight to Baltimore was only 40-some-odd minutes I didn’t want to bring a lengthy read. This was perfect.
Williams, William Carlos. “Tract.” The Collected Earlier Poems of William Carlos Williams. New York: New Directions, 1951.
This is an ashes to ashes, dust to dust kind of poem. Williams is pleading with his community to spare the glitz and glamour when it comes to burying the dead. He believes in sending a body back to the earth in the simplest way possible. A gentle return, if you will. He asks that his townspeople remember the person for who they were and not who they wanted to be. Do not remember them by the status they kept in society, but rather by the things the departed held dear. Share emotions like grief for they are the true gifts of mourning.
BookLust Twist: In More Book Lust in the chapter, “Poetry Pleasers” (p 189).
Mosley, Walter. A Red Death. New York: Norton, 1991.
This was a quick read for me. I was first introduced to Walter Mosley’s work this past summer while renting a cottage on the island. It was a paperback in the cottage’s collection and I “borrowed” it for awhile. I like the orginality of Mosely’s voice. It is complicated and cunning, sarcastic and sexy, tough and tender all at once.
Red Death is Walter Mosley’s continuation of his debut novel, Devil in a Blue Dress. In Devil in a Blue Dress we meet Ezekiel “Easy” Porterhouse Rawlins, a hard drinkin’, hard lovin’ unofficial Los Angeles detective who has an eye for the ladies and is a magnet for trouble. In Red Death Easy gets himself tangled in yet another scandal, this one political. Taking place in the 1950s, Easy faces the paranoia brought on by Communism and the ever present racial tensions as he deals with not only the IRS, but the FBI. Both want him, but for very different reasons. As always, Easy doesn’t shy away from trouble. Once again, Easy is sexy and dangerous all at once.
Favorite lines: “I like to use my legs , especially when I had thinking to do” (p 24).
“He loved us in the strange way that he felt everything” (p 74).
“Dreams are wonderful things, because they’re a different way of thinking” (p 235).
“I made like I was friends with people and then I planned to do them dirt” (p 276).
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter, “Walter Mosley: Too Good To Miss”