Halberstam, David. Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made. New York: Random House, 1999.
There is no doubt in my mind that David Halberstam loved basketball. He may have even loved Michael Jordan even more. The care and consideration he gave both to the sport and to the athlete is exemplary. To be sure, you will also get biographies of the key people surrounding Michael Jordan’s personal life and career path as well. From mama to coaches, from friends to agents, Halberstam details each and everyone one of them. You will learn about Michael Jordan, the driven kid; Michael Jordan, the aggressive ballplayer; Michael Jordan, the savvy salesman and everything else he was in between.
My only complaint – the chronology is a bit disorganized. Because the timeline is interrupted by different basketball games throughout out Jordan’s career Halberstam’s timeline isn’t constructed in such a way that a reader could witness Michael Jordan’s rise to success smoothly. The games lend a certain drama to the biography but the timeline suffers for it.
Reason read: March is the month for Madness; college basketball madness, that is. Only I started reading this early because a friend loaned it to me.
Time for some honesty. I have a pet peeve when it comes to professional athletes and their retirements. The media goes into a frenzy. The bigger the star, the bigger the segment on ESPN. Reporters clamor for a “last” interview. Researchers comb the archives looking for footage of so-and-so’s rookie year. Childhood friends are contacted and the athlete’s mama is always asked to reminisce about the first she noticed star quality and athletic potential. The story will break for days and days and be seen on every channel several times over. It’s as if the retiring athlete hasn’t given up the sport. Instead it’s as if he or she has given up the ghost and died. That is, Until they start playing again. It’s the in and out of retirement I can’t stand. Michael Jordan was one such athlete. He retired more than once and each time the media gave him a send off fit for kings. And not the Sacramento kind.
Book trivia: Playing for Keeps boasts a lot of really cool photos.
Author fact: Halberstam has written on a myriad of subjects. Basketball only scratched the surface of the topics he covered.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 113).
Berton, Pierre. The Arctic Gail: The Quest for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole, 1818 – 1909. New York: Viking, 1988.
This is a “take two” book. I started it in 2011 and didn’t finish it. Didn’t even come close. I think I borrowed it too late in the month of February and realized I couldn’t read all 600+ pages before the start of March. This time I was smart and ordered it before February 1st so that I could start reading it on the very first day of the month (which was a neat 25 pages per day).
The Arctic Grail: the Quest for the North West Passage and the North Pole, 1818 – 1909 is exactly that – an extensive and wide angled look at the explorers who took on the quest to find the North West Passage between 1818 and 1909. A variety of influential characters are detailed, starting with Sir John Ross and William Edward Parry and ending with Frederick Cook and Robert Edwin Peary. Parry, probably the most unique of the group, was young (only 29), big into keeping his crew entertained with music, theater and even a newspaper. He was also deeply religious. “His greatest accomplishment was his understanding of his crew and his determination to keep them healthy in mind as well as body” (p 34). Other explorers were drawn to the Arctic despite wanting family lives. Several married just before embarking on trips that would take them away from their new brides for several years. The obsession to find the North West Passage was strong and unyielding. This obsession almost takes on a quality of mental illness for some of the explorers, risking the health and even lives of their ships and crew. When John Franklin goes missing his wife, Lady Franklin, becomes just as obsessed with finding him.
Favorite and/or intriguing lines, “The British Navy was never comfortable with dogs” (p 43) and “She devoured books (295 in one three-year period) – books on every subject: travel, education, religion, social problems…” (p 122) and the sentence that sums up the obsession, “He was..obsessed with the Arctic, a quality that more and more seemed to be the prime requisite for would-be northern adventurers” (p 345).
Reason read: in honor of the birth (and death) month of Elisha Kent Kane, one of the medical officers in the British Royal Navy who attempted to find lost Navy officer Sir John Franklin. He intrigues me because he was a crowned a hero despite the fact several of his crew revolted.
Author Fact: Towards the end of Berton’s life he admitted he had been a recreational pot smoker for over 40 years. He even went on a Canadian television station to “educate” people on how to roll a joint correctly. I Kid You Not. It’s on YouTube. Funny stuff.
Book trivia: With Arctic Grail cataloged at 672 pages long this book was very heavy to carry around. I left it in the office and made sure I read 30-40 pages every lunch break.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Here Be Dragons: The Great Explorers and Expeditions” (p 110).
Hainey, Michael. After Visiting Friends: a Son’s Story. New York: Scribner, 2013.
Like any good reporter, Michael Hainey (who actually works for GQ) wants the truth, especially when the truth as he knows it is full of strange inconsistencies; even more so when the truth involves the details surrounding the tragic death of his own father,
Michael was only six years old when his father, respected newspaper man Bob Hainey, died of an apparent heart attack “after visiting friends.” What friends, Michael has always wondered. Even more curious – friends and family are tight lipped about that night and the details in different newspapers don’t add up. Pretty ironic for a newspaper man’s obituary. Was it really a heart attack when another reputable paper called it a cerebral hemorrhage?
Growing up, no wanted to talk to Michael about that night, no matter how many times he asked. As an adult Michael decided to write a book about his father and in doing so provided people with the opening to start talking. Little by little Michael finally uncovers the truth. What he discovers is not earth shattering for the rest of the world. These things happen all the time. But, back then there was a different kind of fierce loyalty between friends, family, and even newspaper men.
Throughout Michael’s investigation he is forced to consider and examine his relationships with family. His grandmother, with whom he has always felt a special bond; his brother, now a family man himself; his mother who has always kept a stiff upper lip and refused to show weakness; and lastly, his father, the hero he wanted to be like who turned out to be human after all.
It is fair to say that I couldn’t put this down. How terrible is it to have a haunting that lasts your entire childhood? What is worse is the truth; forcing yourself to not only be responsible for uncovering it but accepting it as well.
Death does funny things to us. While reading After Visiting Friends I found myself thinking Hainey was unraveling and revealing my innermost thoughts. I, too, lost my father to a cerebral hemorrhage. I, too, have looked for my father in the faces of strangers, in the eyes of other men on the street. I, too, expect to see him anywhere and everywhere. “You never accept the truth that they are dead. You can’t. You won’t” (p 129). Exactly. I hated Hainey for pointing out the obvious, that if ever I met my father on the street I would not fall to my knees grateful for his return, his life restored. Instead, hurtful and pitiful, I would casting a blaming eye and ask why he left.
Wood, Frances. Brushed By Feathers: a Year of birdwatching in the West. Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Publishing, 2004.
On the very first page of Brushed By Feathers you are warned by Bob Righter, “Be careful when you read this book – your life could be forever changed.” You could just become a bird watcher is what he meant. Somehow I doubt that. After growing up in the migration path of thousands of the flying species and having to endure the rapture of the many Audubon societies that have flocked to my hometown I don’t think I could become one of them. I don’t know what it is about some birders but they lose all sense of reality when witnessing a rare or even an infrequently seen bird. On one occasion my husband and I were marveling at the storm pounded surf, worrying about a boat that bobbed too close to the shore. A group of birders thought we gaped at a pair of herring gulls screeching over a dead crab.
Having said all that, I loved Wood’s book! There are certain books that appeal on a level beyond words, sentences and chapters; books that feel good in the hands or evoke some kind of deep down feeling. While Brushed By Feathers didn’t turn me into a birding fanatic I was moved by it by appearance alone. With its journal-like pages and illustrations it is a book that goes beyond simple content. Its presentation is near perfection. Had it been bound with a soft cloth cover, one that would feel good in the hands, I would have said this is one book to hold onto – literally.
I also loved the presentation of the content. Each chapter is a different month of bird watching in the Pacific northwest region of the Unites States (Wood lives near Puget Sound). Wood begins each chapter with an overview of the sights and sounds one might expect to find during that particular month and then chooses a bird to detail (eagle, hummingbird, etc). She adds personal stories to connect with her audience and not be completely didactic. Also included in the beginning of each chapter is a checklist of the new birds introduced each month with room for notes about each species.
I guess my only complaint would be that it’s very specific to the area in and around Puget Sound and Whidbey Island. If I ever get to that part of the country I’ll know what birds to look for!
Most interesting line, “During the non-breeding season, the section of a songbird’s brain that controls singing actually shrinks, making ti unable to sing, even if the urge arose” (p 167). Okay, I did not know that.
Reason read: Oddly enough, I heard that February is bird feeding month. Not watching, but feeding. Go figure.
Author fact: Frances has her own website here. It’s pretty cool.
Book trivia: Brushed By Feathers has beautiful illustrations. Wood is responsible for those as well.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “A Holiday Shopping List” (p 116). Pearl would have given this book to an avid bird watcher. I hope he or she lives in the northwest!
Orczy, Baroness. The Scarlet Pimpernel. New York: Signet Classic, 1974.
When I first saw this on my list as a book to read in honor of love and Valentine’s Day I almost thought there was a mistake. The beginning of the book is mayhem. Taking place during the French Revolution and the Year of Terror people are being sent to the “Madame Guillotine” left and right. To make matters worse, the heroine of the story, Lady Marguerite Blakeney is disgusted by her dull, slow-witted and lazy husband. Death and indifference. What kind of love story is that?
My advice? Keep reading. This is a classic love story wrapped up in an adventure mystery full of intrigue. Lady Marguerite harbors a horrible skeleton in her closet. Out of revenge for her brother (because blood is thicker than water) she sent an entire family to the guillotine. The punishment didn’t fit the crime and Marguerite is ashamed of her prior actions. However, this event taints her marriage to Sir Percy Blakeney and as time goes on their relationship grows colder and colder, falling further and further out of love. Complicating matters is a crafty hero calling himself the Scarlet Pimpernel. He and his “League” are going around and rescuing citizens from the guillotine. His arch enemy, Chauvelin, is determined to uncover his real identity and he enlists Marguerite’s help (using her brother as bait). She has already proven that she’ll turn against anyone for the sake of her brother. What Marguerite doesn’t know is that her dull, slow-witted, lazy husband is none other than the Scarlet Pimpernel himself.
I love the opening sentence: “A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and hate” (p 1). Powerful stuff. Another favorite line, “Fate is usually swift when she deals a blow (p 95). And one more, “The weariest nights, the longest days, sooner or later must preforce come to an end” (p 165).
Reason read: In honor of love trumping all. Even though Marguerite and Percy’s marriage is initially on the rocks they come to each other’s rescue in the end.
Author fact: When researching Baroness Orczy I discovered that her full name is a mouthful: Baroness Emmuska Magdolna Rozalia Maria Jozefa Borbala Orczy de Orczi. Really? Craziness.
Book trivia: The Scarlet Pimpernel is laced with real-life individuals. Imaginative nonfiction or historical fiction. You be the judge.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 205).
Bleeck, Oliver. The Brass Go-Between. New york: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1969.
An African artifact has been stolen by thieves specializing in art heists. They have offered the museum $250,000 to buy it back and want Philip St. Ives to facilitate the exchange, shield for money. Philip is a character so real-to-life with hangups just like the rest of us. What is not so alike is his occupation. He is a self professed go-between; the broker between kidnapper and ransom, blackmailer and reward, and in this case, art and buy back “fee.” Philip always takes a piece of the reward as a charge for his services but he considers himself a professional mediator and refuses to take sides. He will not help the police catch the criminals and he will not commit a crime to carry out the deal (or try not to at any rate). Having said all that, it wouldn’t be a thriller if something didn’t go wrong with the exchange of money for the African shield. Despite its short length Bleeck packs a ton of adventure into The Brass Go-Between. It should be a movie.
Quote I liked, “…I’m highly susceptible to fiction portrayals of food, whether written or filmed” (p 97). I have to admit it cracked me up that Philip had to go make himself a cucumber sandwich just because he was watching a British film where someone was eating cucumber sandwiches!
Reason read: Ross Thomas/Oliver Bleeck was born in February.
Author fact: Ross Thomas also wrote as Oliver Bleeck.
Book trivia: The Brass Go-Between was not available in my area. I think it might be out of print as well.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Ross Thomas: Too Good to Miss” (p 234).
Smith, Alexander McCall. Tears of the Giraffe. Read by Lisette Lecat. Prince Frederick, Maryland: Recorded Books, 2003.
If you read No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency you will appreciate the fact that Tears of the Giraffe picks up right where No. 1 Ladies left off. Someone on another review site called this next book in the series “utterly seamless” and I couldn’t agree more. At the end of No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni has just proposed to Mma Ramotswe and surprisingly she accepted despite having refused once before. Tears of the Giraffe starts off with the happy couple planning their life together, downsizing their maid staff (which doesn’t prove to be a simple matter), deciding who moves into whose house, obtaining an obligatory engagement ring…But it isn’t long before the story resumes Mma Ramotswe’s detective work. The very first case is an odd one. An American mother has come back to Botswana looking for her adult son who had disappeared from a farming commune ten years earlier. While she had thoroughly looked for her son ten years ago (when he first went missing) the recent death of her husband from prostate cancer has renewed the mother’s need for closure in all aspects of her life. It’s this case that threads through the entire book. The rest of the cases are small and are solved quickly. Tears of the Giraffe really focuses more on character development. Mma Ramotswe’s secretary has a bigger part as does Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. In an interesting twist Mma Ramotswe makes her secretary a partner in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni makes Mma Ramotswe a mother. I won’t say anything more than that.
Reason read: This continues the story of Botswana’s number one ladies detective, Mma Precious Ramotswe (started in No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency) in honor of female mystery month being in January.
Author Fact: According to the back of the cd case Alexander McCall Smith has written over 50 books. I’m really disappointed I won’t be reading Forensic Aspects of Sleep. As an insomnia that one sounds fascinating to me.
Book trivia: This is the second book in the Mma Ramotswe series and deals with Mma Ramotswe on a more personal level.
BookLust Twist: From both Book Lust to Go and More Book Lust. Book Lust To Go includes it in the chapter called “Botswana” (p 42) and More Book Lust mentions it in the chapter “Ms. Mystery” (p 170).
Thompson, Craig. Good-Bye, Chunky Rice. Georgia: Top Shelf Productions, Inc., 2003.
First and foremost this is a graphic novel of indeterminate length (no, I didn’t count the unnumbered pages). Chunky Rice is a shy little turtle who likes Motown. Deciding he has had enough of his rooming house existence he sets out for an ocean adventure, leaving behind his good friend Dandel the deer mouse. Initially, while this comes across as a simple graphic novel about a few animals, conjoined twins and a sea captain with a horrible childhood, soon it becomes apparent that everyone in the plot has a profound story to tell; one of loss and love and desires. It’s sweet in a disturbed way.
There you have it. A short review for a short book.
Best “comic book square”: “On second thought, rather than gaining significance, my environment is suddenly drained of it.” I also liked how Chunky came alive when he heard Motown on the ship’s radio. His dancing was pretty cute.
Reason read: This book is all about love in the unconventional sense. I read it in honor of Valentine’s Day.
Author fact: Thompson worked on comic books before writing his own graphic novel. I think that seems obvious.
Book trivia: Good-Bye, Chunky Rice won the Harvey award.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Graphica” (p 104).
Lethem, Jonathan. Girl in Landscape. New York: Double Day, 1998
Girl in Landscape has been compared to Nabokov’s Lolita which I have never read. As a result of my ignorance I was able to read Girl in Landscape without preconceived notions of what it was about. I’m glad I did. This was great in an extremely strange way. When you first meet old-for-her-age thirteen year old Pella Marsh and her family they are getting ready to go to the beach in what you or I would consider ordinary Brooklyn Heights, New York. Only planet Earth has become a post-apoplectic wasteland where exposure to the sun has become too dangerous without complicated protective gear. It has been decided the Marsh family will leave Earth for the Planet of the Arch-builders. Before they can leave Pella’s mother is stricken with a brain tumor and quickly dies. Pella, her father and two brothers must travel to the Planet of the Arch-builders without her. This is where things go from odd to downright bizarre. The Planet of the Arch-builders is sparsely populated with a few earthlings, a smattering of Arch-builder aliens and an overabundance of a creature called household deer. Pella’s father, a failed politician, has hopes of creating a lawful society on the Planet of the Arch-builders but soon discovers there is an ominous rift between the humans and the aliens. The plot gets darker and darker the deeper into the story you go.
The very first line to strike a nerve with me was in the first few pages, “Pella decided not to laugh today” (p 3). Another fatalistic thought, “She imagined slashing the tires” (p 87).
Postscript~ This is one of those books that annoyed me and it wasn’t the author’s fault. I have a real pet peeve when it comes to glowing reviews on the back of a different book. It’s obnoxious. It’s as if to say, “fukc the book you are reading now. This one is much better.” Yes, I will be reading As She Crawled Across the Table. Glowing review or not it is on my list. I’ll get to it just not right now. I’m reading Girl in Landscape now. I’m holding it in my hands. What do you have to say about it?
Reason read: Lethem was born in February.
Author fact: Jonathan Lethem has a website here.
Book trivia: Many people have said Girl in Landscape is dark and dreary but more people have said “go read it.” I agree with the latter.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Jonathan Lethem: Too Good To Miss” (p 145).
Schine, Cathleen. The Evolution of Jane. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.
It all starts when Jane’s mother thinks twenty five year old Jane needs a vacation to mend a broken heart. Jane has been left by her husband of only six months and while it has taken Jane only half that long to get over the abandonment she does not dispute her mother’s “quaint notion.” It is on this trip she has always wanted to take, to the Galapagos Islands, that Jane discovers her long-lost, once best friend, and cousin Martha is a guide. As Martha and Jane had fallen out of friendship Jane is baffled by this coincidence and is unsure how to proceed with her feelings and actions. She spends the entire vacation obsessing about the failed relationship.
The story itself jumps from the past to the present in an effort to explain Jane and Martha’s childhood friendship. Despite a mysterious family feud that split the rest of the family the two cousins were inseparable for a period of time. Until one day they weren’t. Jane’s obsession over what went wrong dominates the trip to the Galapagos. Even when her roommate tells her “let sleeping dogs lie” she can’t let it go.
Quotes I liked: “But I saw immediately that Martha was too familiar to meet for the first time” (p 13) and “I had traveled across two continents, from one ocean to another in order to be washed up on a beach with my next-door neighbor” (p 36).
Reason read: In honor of Charles Darwin’s birth month being in February. Simple enough.
Author Fact: Catherine Schine has an author page on LibraryThing with absolutely nothing on it.
Book Trivia: It was neat to find a New York Times review written by my favorite author, Barbara Kingsolver. She endorsed the book heavily because of its evolutionary and anthropological accuracies.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Galloping Through the Galapagos” (p 88).
Bowermaster, Jon. Descending the Dragon: My Journey Down the Coast of Vietnam. Washington D.C.: National Geographic, 2008.
I knew that I would learn fascinating things when I read Descending the Dragon. I didn’t expect to learn details like the city of Hanoi had a french designer or that none of the buildings could be higher than Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. And speaking of Ho Chi Minh, visitors can traipse past his embalmed body today despite the fact he died 44 years ago. His body is re-embalmed every 2-3 years. Freaky.
This is the journey of traveler Jon Bowermaster. He is used to traversing the globe solo, on assignment for National Geographic and The New York Times (to name a few). The adventure in Descending the Dragon is unlike any other. Bowermaster and a small team of four take to kayaking down Vietnam’s northern coastline. Seeing Vietnam from the water was a completely different experience for Bowermaster. He gained a much different perspective of the fishing communities and beach dwellers than if he had approached them from land. As much as he would have liked to have traveled the entire coast by water government restrictions forced him and his crew to travel by land on occasion. Probably the most poignant moment in the book was when Bowermaster was visiting a pagoda and met a monk who desperately wanted to tell him something but couldn’t out of fear of betraying the government. Later Bowermaster is told, “Be careful what you use of our words, our faces – because, if the government gets wind of even a small complaint made by us, you will be gone from here and you will have no idea what happens to us” (p 129). It is a land of beautiful contradictions.
The photography of Rob Howard is spectacular. While the Vietnamese loved to have their photo taken and were ready for him with a pose Jon was able to catch them in candid portraits. None of the images look contrived or staged. Howard has a fascinating website detailing his work.
Reason read: In celebration of my birthday because Vietnam has always fascinated me. Yay.
Author fact: Jon Bowermaster has his own website (of course). He sells his kayak adventures on dvd and posts blogs about really cool things (like fracking).
Book trivia: As I mentioned earlier, the photography for Descending the Dragon was by Rob Howard. Spend some time on his freaking amazing website. I could have spent all day clicking around it.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Water, Water Everywhere” (p 274).
Rombauer, Irma and Marion Rombauer Becker. Joy of Cooking. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1964.
This red and white thick-bound book was a staple of my mother’s kitchen when I was growing up. It sat on a kitchen shelf in my childhood home. It sits there still. It is even more grease stained, dog-eared and much worse for wear (I think I started the degradation when I took a crayon to it when I was two); yet my mother would never dream of getting rid of it or updating it for a newer, shinier or cleaner edition. Her reason? This is the ultimate cookbook for every occasion, every season and every reason. The dirtier the page, the more well-loved the recipe. With Rombauer and Becker you simply can’t go wrong. On ever page there is a wealth of information from entertaining to grilling. From setting the table to eating lobster. Soup to nuts as they would say. Even though the methods are a little dated and the illustrations are a little cheesy it’s a classic. I love the extensive knowledge about the foods we eat, the foods we heat, the foods we keep…My favorite has always been the place setting illustrations.
Reason read: My birthday (last Saturday) always brings about a sort of reminiscing about childhood and this was definitely something that tugged at the heartstrings of my childhood.
Author fact: Marion Rombauer Becker no longer had her mother by her side when she revised and reorganized the 1964 edition of Joy of Cooking.
Book trivia: Originally copyrighted in 1931 Joy of Cooking saw at least 35 reprintings. Couldn’t they have figured out after the, say, twentieth reprint that the thing was a hit and that they should reprint a whole mess of them all at once? Surely there could have been an exception to the rule!
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 600s” (p). Interestingly enough Nancy Pearl made a point to say she wasn’t talking about the most recent edition of Joy of Cooking but doesn’t explain why. She does make special note of the recipes for oatmeal cookies with orange peel and baked macaroni and cheese.
Pearl, Nancy. Book Lust To Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers. Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2010.
This was a gift from my sister; a very evil gift. Wait. I have to clarify – it was an unintended evil gift. She didn’t know it would wreak havoc with my life with books. I enjoy this kind of havoc. Really, I do. I am a glutton for punishment, to be sure.
But, back to reviewing Book Lust to Go. At first blush, Book Lust to Go appears to be better organized and with less mistakes in the index than the other Lust books. Just to give you a frame of reference I counted 60 books that were mentioned in the text of Book Lust but not included in the index. Eleven authors were missed in the same fashion. 27 Poems were missed in the index. Lastly, there were over 40 other miscellaneous mistakes (misspelled author names, incorrect page numbers and so on and so forth) and this is just Book Lust. I haven’t counted the mistakes in More Book Lust. Book Lust To Go doesn’t have those problems…yet. To be fair I haven’t read the index yet. I’ll get to that eventually.
Another difference is there is less meandering. What do I mean by that? Basically, most of the books mentioned in a particular chapter are actually relevant to the chapter. In other Book Lust books there are quite a few “off topic” selections; books that have nothing to do with the chapter but mentioned anyway. I saw those mentions as filler. As with the other Lust books there is a fair amount of redundancy as well. Of the 540 books I have read so far 71 of them were mentioned in more than one Lust book and 69 titles received a double mention in the same book.
Two huge differences between BLTG and the other Lust books is the help Pearl receives with suggestions. Pearl admits she doesn’t travel and has asked other people for recommendations. How do I feel about this? Well, I always assumed Pearl read everything she recommends and knowing that isn’t the case is a little disappointing. The fact that it is blatantly obvious in BLTG is a letdown. The last difference I will mention is the interviews. None of the other Lust books have web interviews. I have yet to actually listen to one (too busy reading the book), but I will. This is something I am really excited about!
Chaucer, Geoffrey. Canterbury Tales. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.
The premise behind Chaucer’s tale is really quite simple: out of a group of pilgrims traveling to Canterbury Cathedral, who can tell the best tale? Whoever wins gets a free meal back at the Tabard Inn at the end of the journey. Most of the stories center around three themes, religion, fidelity and social class. The entire story is an example of framing a story within a story, or in the case of Canterbury Tales stories within one story.
This quote had me scratching my head, “The precise, unerring delicately emphatic characterization for which the Canterbury Tales is so famous are no more extraordinary than Chaucer’s utter mastery of English rhythms and his effortless versification” (back cover). Whatever. This doesn’t tell me anything, anything at all, about the plot between the pages.
Best quote is right from the beginning, “He may nat wepe, althogh hym soor smerte” (p 7). Awesome.
Book Trivia: there are some scholars out there who think Chaucer wasn’t finished with The Canterbury Tales and that some of the tales are incomplete.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging up the Past Through Fiction” (p 79). Interestingly enough, this didn’t need to be on the list. Pearl was mentioning it as the inspiration for another book. I am starting to call these mentions “off topic” or “not the point.”
Bradley, James. Flags of Our Fathers. New York: Bantam, 2000.
The reading of Flags of Our Fathers was very timely. February 19th marked the anniversary of the famous flag raising on Iwo Jima, Japan. The first word that comes to mind when I think about Flags of our Fathers is respect. This was a book written with the utmost respect, not only for the author’s own father, but for the other five men responsible for raising the flag on Japan’s Iwo Jima. Everyone knows the photograph born of that historical event but not many can name the six men involved. In fact, even fewer would guess there were six men there. Unless you scrutinize the photograph, at first glance, there are only four. James Bradley, with the help of Ron Powers, brings to life all six men. He brings them out of historical obscurity and into present-day focus.
Favorite lines (if there can be such things in a book about war): “The fatigued boys knew what lay in store when the winter sun rose again” (p 177). I liked this line for it’s sense of foreboding.
“And then the heroes of the day began literally stand up and be counted” (p 183). This sentence sounds so benign, so harmless on its own.
“On this night, the madman in the haunted house unleashed all his ghouls” (p 191). Again, such a simple sentence but the horror behind it is unimaginable.
Book Trivia: Clint Eastwood directed the movie version of Flags of Our Fathers in 2006.
Author Fact: James Bradley traveled to Iwo Jima with his mother and siblings to the very spot where his father helped raise the American flag.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter simply called “World War II Nonfiction” (p 254).