What do you get when you add a vacation to two road trips and a freak snow storm in which I lose electricity for two days? Answer – a boat load of books read in one month; so many books that I haven’t been able to review them all.
In the first week of October I went home. As past posts can tell you I like nothing more than reading on an island, especially one on the tail end of a hurricane. There is something so book-worthy about a rain soaked afternoon or two by the raging ocean…
On Monhegan I was able to read:
- Anil’s Ghost by Michael Onjaatje (e-book),
- Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (stolen from my childhood bookcase),
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (stolen from my sister’s childhood bookcase)
- Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris (another e-book) and part of
- The Stand by Stephen King
On a road trip to New York (to see Natalie Merchant ~ more on that on the Other Side) I was able to finish
- The Stand by Stephen King and
- Spy Trap by Edward Packard and
- Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
I started reading Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann when I forgot Immortality by Milan Kundera at work. I finished both those books and Last to Die by James Grippando during the freak snow storm/power outage (and to think people wanted me to come out with them because they had cable!!). As long as I candles and blankets I was in heaven.
But, probably the hardest book to get through was Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan (another e-book). I started Altered Carbon the first week of October and slogged through it until October 27th. Talk about a complicated story! I am struggling with the review because the plot was so intense.
So, there it is. Nearly a dozen books for the month of October. True, four of those books were for kids (Phantom Tollbooth, Johnny Tremain, Spy Trap and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) but Altered Carbon, Last To Die and Buddenbrooks were “adult” enough to offset the kiddie stuff.
What’s in store for November? Well, considering I have no trips to Monhegan (or anywhere for that matter), Thanksgiving is this month, and we have a power back, I have no idea.
Frost, Robert. “Two Tramps in Mud Time.” Collected Poems, Prose, and Plays. New York: Library of America, 1984. pp 251-252.
Too many people have tried to analyze Frost’s poem, “Two Tramps in Mud Time,” giving me license to not even try. Long, rambling, didactic essays have been written explaining Frost’s position on charity, society, and the psychological differences between need versus want. I will refrain. Instead I will look at the poem for what it meant to me. At first blush I took the poem personally. The words “mud time” in the title made me think of Monhegan. We have a whole season dedicated to muck and mire and mud – early spring when everything is thawing more quickly than the sun can dry up. This runoff of excessive, exuberant water creates deep, thick, oozing traps of mud. The kind of mud you sink 4-5″ inches in; strong enough to suck a man’s Bean boot right off his foot.
Then, there is Frost’s description of a fickle spring. I can relate. Here it is, a week into spring and we have a snow storm on our doorstep. April Fools we are for living in New England. If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute – as they say.
Another aspect of “Two Tramps in Mud Time” that I took to heart is the concept of loving your work so much that work is not the operative word to describe your actions. The narrator is chopping wood. Not because it is a necessity – winter is over. It is April and presumably he wouldn’t need to light another fire again until fall. No. He enjoys the physical labor of chopping wood. Love what you do. Do what you love. It’s something my father has (countless times) drummed into my head. But, along come two unemployed tramps, looking to take the narrator’s work away from him. They need the work whereas the narrator wants the work. Herein lies the psychological babble about questioning obligation, confronting humanity with charity.
BookLust Twist: Book Lust in the introduction (p xi).
Vacation! Vacation! Vacation! We have some crazy things planned. I simply cannot wait! Camping, hiking, music, craft fair, parade, family, friends, fireworks, boats, the ocean, mountains, swimming, lobster festival, Natalie, Monhegan, food, books and more books.
- Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brien ~ taken off the list since I didn’t finish Master and Commander. Boo.
- Eyes of the Amaryllis by Natalie Babbitt ~ in honor of July being the most popular month to visit the ocean
- Firewall by Henning Mankell ~ in honor of July being the best time to visit Sweden
- Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes ~ in honor of the first test of the atomic bomb
I sincerely doubt I will get to the last book. For one, it’s over 800 pages long and for another, it’s at the end of the list. But, more importantly, it’s about the making of the atomic bomb. On vacation? I don’t think so!
I act like I’m going away for a month. Maybe that’s not a bad thing….
For the Early Review Program (LibraryThing) I have an interesting situation. A book I was supposed to receive over a year ago arrived June 23rd. So, for July I will be reviewing What’s a Mother (in-law) to Do? by Jane Angelich.
Where in the world do I begin with December 2009? What a freakin’ crazy month! I only ran 4.49 miles for the entire month (ha!), but have a sneaking suspicion my knees are thanking me for the time off. Weather wise we had a few snow storms, but nothing too dramatic. I wrote more reports and conducted more reviews and put in more work hours than I care to admit. But, best of all, most memorable of all was the trip home to Monhegan. I haven’t even begun to write about that (which is strange because it changed my life). With everything going on, books were low on the list:
- Tiepolo’s Hound by Derek Wolcott ~ interesting but not my favorite.
- Tortilla Curtain by T. C. Boyle ~ memorable and moving, definitely one of my favorites.
- Wonderboys by Michael Chabon ~ can’t wait to see the movie! I only have one question, “is the snake in the trunk?”
- Soloist by Mark Salzman ~ amazing, amazing book. I’m a fan of Mark Salzman now.
- The Walls Came Tumbling Down by Babs Deal ~ gossipy and girly, this was a fun one.
- The Lost Steps by Alejo Carpentier ~ last book of the month…
From my list I didn’t get to Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling. It should have been on my November list, not December. Woops!
Something of interest – I didn’t read any nonfiction this month. Hmmmm…
December 2009 is promising to be an interesting month. I’m taking Kisa to the island for Christmas (his first winter visit ever – we’ve already consulted L.L. Bean twice). Doctors are weighing in on serious subjects (yours and mine) and I await every word with caught breath. It’s not always about me, but the waiting is just the same.
For books it is a simple month:
- Tiepolo’s Hound by Derek Walcott in honor of December being the best time to visit the Caribbean.
- Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle in honor of Iowa becoming a state (Boyle was part of the Iowa Writers Workshop. He was also born on December 2nd).
- Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling in honor of Native American literature month.
- Wonderboys by Michael Chabon in honor of Pennsylvania becoming a state.
- Walls Came Tumbling Down by Babs Deal in honor of Alabama becoming a state.
I don’t think I have any nonfiction for the month. Strictly imaginary but oddly enough, nothing about Christmas this year. For LibraryThing’s Early Review program I found out I am supposed to receive Then Came the Evening a first book by Brian Hart. I snuck a peek at some Library Journal / Amazon reviews and this promises to be a heartbreaking story.
October has always been my “hang on”" month. It’s the month I hold my breath for while waiting for September to release me. This October was no different. It started with a trip to Maine to see West Coast family (and a great foggy run), a trip homehome andandand Kisa got to go (yay), Hilltop got a much needed haircut, there were a ton of new Natalie sightings, and, dare I say, the promise of a Hilltop Thanksgiving? The end of the month was a little stressful – a lump in the breast and a missing ovary. No wonder I read so many books and here they are:
- Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis ~ sci-fi story about a man who is kidnapped and taken to Mars.
- The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis ~ coming of age story about a young girl who is a chess playing phenom.
- A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle ~ a ghost story about a man who lives in a graveyard for twenty years.
- Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters ~ a mystery about two unmarried women traveling through Egypt and being pursued by a mummy.
- The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan ~ nonfiction about the role of women through the ages (up to the 1960s when the book was written). Oh, how far we’ve come!
- House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier ~ a spooky tale about time travel.
- When Found, Make a Verse of by Helen Smith Bevington ~ a commonplace book full of poetry, proverbs and excerpts.
- Empire Falls by Richard Russo ~ a novel about small town life (read because October is the best time to visit New England).
- The Natural by Barnard Malamud ~ a novel about a baseball player (read because October is World Series month).
- In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu ~ a compilation of short stories all on the dark side (read in time for Halloween – you know…horror, fantasy, mystery, etc).
- The Life You Save May Be Your Own: an American Pilgrimage by Paul Elie ~ biographies of Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy in one book (read for Group Reading Month).
For fun, I am rereading Mary Barney’s Ring That Bell (2003) because I want to challenge my cooking and make every recipe in the book. So far I’ve cooked/baked my way through nine recipes.
For the Early Review program from LibraryThing I was supposed to read Ostrich Feathers by Miriam Romm. It hasn’t arrived as of yet, so it may very well turn into a November book.
January started off and ended with a head cold (damn you, kisa), a really nice dinner party, a re-commitment to the
houses HOUSE (glutton for punishment that I am), a re-commitment to charities with a big one – training for a 20 mile walk for Project Bread, a huge re-commitment to friendships and huge changes at the library. For books it was:
- Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather in honor of New Mexico becoming a state in January.
- Red Death by Walter Mosely in honor of Walter’s birthday being in January
- Biggest Elvis by P.F. Kluge in honor of both Elvis and P.F. celebrating their birthdays in January.
- Devices and Desires by P.D. James ~ in honor of mystery month.
- The Eleven Million Mile High Dancer by Carol Hill
- Edith Wharton: a Biography by R.W.B. Lewis ~ in honor of Edith’s birthday on January 24th.
- The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman ~ in honor of Barbara’s birthday.
- The Letters by Luanne Rice and Joseph Monninger ~ a story that partially takes place on Monhegan. How could I resist? This is the blog that was plagarized by some dumb-azz.
- 30 pages of Nutritional Wisdom ~ a Christmas gift from my sister.
So I didn’t get a LibraryThing Early Review book in January. That’s not a big deal. I have certainly gotten my fair share over the course of the program so I’m not complaining. I do have to admit, I feel a little guilty. For the first time ever, I am really late publishing the review for the last ER book. Maybe that had something to do with it…who knows?
ps~ I did get one for February, or so I am told!
Rice, Luanne and Joseph Monninger. The Letters. New York: Bantam, 2008.
Not on any Challenge list. Not a must read from a friend. Not a gift. Not an Early Review book from LibraryThing. Not even something I would ordinarily pick up on my own. Nope. I read The Letters simply because part of it takes place on Monhegan Island. There I said it. I’m a sucker for my island. Put it in print and you have a loyal reader. Such is the case of The Letters.
It’s a creative concept for a storyline: two parents torn apart by the accidental death of their son. The father (Sam) is obsessed with seeing the place where his son (Paul) perished. Driven by that obsession he makes a pilgrimage into the Alaskan wild where his son’s plane crashed. The mother (Hadley) artistic and alcoholic, find herself in equal solitude on Monhegan Island, a tiny (586 acre) island off the coast of Maine that really does exist. These parents are as far away from each other physically as their marriage is spiritually. Their story consists of letters written on the brink of divorce – volleying blame back and forth. Through these letters, not only does the anguish of losing Paul wring itself out, but histories are revealed. Grief is only a fraction of the bigger picture.
Being a one-time Monheganer I enjoyed Hadley’s letters from the island. I often seek solace on its rocky coastline ten miles out to sea. Her description of Cathedral Woods was dead on. I was disappointed she couldn’t stay 100% true to factual details, though. To my knowledge the island has never been home to squirrels or raccoons and the deer population was annihilated (for lack of a better word) in 1999. I suppose Rice and Monninger to beef up the animal population of the island for added charm. Or something. But, my biggest disappointment came when Hadley fell on the rocks. I don’t think I will be ruining the plot by revealing this, but Monhegan doesn’t have a clinic that someone can just pop into to get ace bandages, ice packs or even aspirin. The island operates on a beautifully orchestrated volunteer system. It’s not as formalized as it used to be thanks to a lack of funding, but when someone is hurt or falls ill on Monhegan there is an urgency felt by everyone. The entire community will band together to bring a fallen tourist, a mid-seizure epileptic, the about-to-give-birth pregnant woman, to safety. I feel Rice and Monninger missed an opportunity to emphasize how similar Sam and Hadley’s rural landscapes really are, despite being at opposite ends of the country. They both fall ill and while their ailments are different the lack of convenient treatment is the same.
Lines that said something: “I hated the drinking because it erased the woman that I loved” (p 35).
“It’s when you start preferring email with a man five miles away to talking to your husband that you know you have a problem” (p 54).
“It shrieks when its not howling” (p56). Talking about Monhegan wind. Amen to that.
It has taken me some time to come to terms with her passing. Doesn’t seem right. More than doesn’t feel fair. I’ll say it yet again – cancer just isn’t fair.
They came to the island as love birds; a dating, doting couple. Binoculars and a sense of biology, they came to the island year after year to love the birds. The years gave way to marriage, kids, property, and a dog. A sense of belonging to the community became so strong the island couldn’t remember a time without them. It was as if they had always been there.
I don’t remember the first time I met her. It was that long ago. I can only remember her as I last saw her four months ago. Feisty and forcing fresh baked cookies on us, she commanded from the couch. Slipping water through a straw she surveyed the world outside her kingdom. A huge picture window afforded her a priceless view. She smiled as she watched a pheasant family creep jauntily through the high grass. Father pheasant’s neck arched and stretched searching for bugs, pecking as he went. His eyes were bright, watchful and wary. He paused as if to say I know you are there and she paused, the glass lifted halfway to her lips, as if her stillness could keep him there.
Binoculars, books and Bean gear. She was always ready for the birds. She kept a journal of the season’s best spyings. A log of feathered friends encountered throughout the seasons. As she grew sicker, too ill to hike her ornithology conquests had to be counted from the couch. Her bird’s eye view of the birds was limited to the ones who came to her big picture window. Mostly it was the pheasants. Soon she could tell us how many families were in the area. How many babies were born that year. Always the pheasants. They became her friends. That is why when I see a family of pheasants I will always think of her.
I hate this murky underwater apathy. This floating through things on tired waves of discontent. Lately, all I want to do is give it up. Why am I exhausted and who should I blame? Maybe it’s the dreams. At night I have nightscares that frighten me so badly I wake disorientated and confused. I struggle to ask myself why do I repeatedly have visions of bombers flying over Monhegan, dropping weapons of mass destruction? Masked fighter pilots spewing hundreds of rounds of bullets into people and places. We run, we scatter, yet there is blood. There is death I can’t explain. The sad thing is this. In my dreams I see them coming from miles and miles away. The sky is crystal clear, glaring and brilliant blue. At first they are dots on the horizon, yet I know who they are and what will happen when they arrive. I am powerless to stop it. As they get closer details emerge until I can see their faces. My dreams make them human and cruel.
Another repeat offended is the dream of drowning. Monhegan is hit with a wave as big as Texas. Again, there is that sense of foreboding. I can see it coming from miles away but I’m powerless to stop it.
Some say I want to destroy home. Some say I am started to dread the return, but what part I always ask. It’s true that Colorado started out as a joke, but has become more of a deep wishful thinking as time goes on. I fantasize about being snagged by the Rockies. I dream about being trapped miles from New England with no direction (or desire) to go home. Is that what I really want?
I take pieces of you home with me. Little by little, piece by piece. Do you feel yourself diminishing? Do you sense yourself growing smaller? Stealing from home to make a home away from home home. Scouring shorelines for colors of sea tossed glass, speckled, inexplicably beautiful rocks, broken buoys of red and gold. Like a song about romance I steal them all home with me. Vain attempt to bring me back to where I am not.
I cannot bottle the heavy salt air. I cannot take the earthy decay of fallen leaves. I have to leave the sunsets of gold behind. So, instead I take the glass, the rocks, the shells. Bottled and bowled I keep them, cherish them in my home away from home.
We will rise before the sun and face the day with the thought that today will be different from the day before. Much different. We will look towards coffee as the great motivator but really, in our heart of hearts, it will be the open road. We will stop for alcohol and then when we can drive no more, stop for the sea. When we reach the ocean we will know we can go no further. We will ride the waves and smell the salt. I can’t speak for her but I will breathe. Breathe in and out. Breathe like I haven’t in days. We will spot my mother and gossip all the way up the hill. We will finally drop our bags in sighing relief and a great sense of freedom. We will call our husbands while drinking wine and staring out over the ocean. Distracted. What we won’t do is talk about work because we promised. We will (try to) keep that promise. For love and sanity, we will.
I came across this…as I was packing. How perfect is that? Nothing has changed. I could have written this yesterday. Or next year. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
October is Halloween! For anyone who knows me, Halloween starts on October 1st and runs for 31 days. This is the way it should be. I have a whole big box of Halloween stuff and every October 1st out it comes. Okay, so this year it was a little early. I bought a tiny skull completely off timeline, too! The skeltons, black cats, bats, witches, goblins, and of course, my fave – jack-o-laterns!
October is also another chance to slip away to Monhegan for a handful of days. Home Sweet Autumn Home. For music it’s Sean, of course. There are other trips, I’m sure. Just ask Joe.
For reading, here’s how it stacks up. For the Book Lust Challenge:
- Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler ~ in honor of Anne’s birth month
- Artimis Fowl by Eoin Colfer ~ in honor of National Fantasy Month
- Big If by Mark Costello ~ October is the best time to visit New England
- Carry On Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse ~ in honor of Wodehouse’s birth month
- Crime Novels: American Noir of the 30′s and 40′s by Horace ~ in honor of Crime Novel month
That’s about it. Pumpkin Fest later. Big charity walk for breast cancer on the 26th. Natalie’s birthday…
- Sean Rowe October 3rd, 2008. New York. Stay tuned for further information!
MORE info: the gig is in Philmont, NY – a little over 90 minutes away. Anyone wanting to carpool with me can meet at my place at 6:45p or “the lot” at 7:15pm. Email me if the lot has you scratching your head or if you need further details.
Hopefully, we will also make these (unmusical) trips:
- Monhegan ~ Columbus Day weekend
- Keene Pumpkin Fest on October 25th, 2008.
- High Hopes sugar shack (weekends all during the month of October)
This is the time of morning I wait for. The air is still. The harbor rolls gently, causing the moored boats to nod to one another solemnly. One or two people wander by quietly. Somewhere, a truck starts up and birds mutter to themselves. There is quiet activity, a gentle buzz. The island is alive but at the same time it feels as though everything is barely stirring. Muted almost as though under water.
When I was a kid, no more than five or six, I used to sit on the top step leading up to our apartment. I would listen for the early morning coo of the mourning doves, watch the early bird birders with binoculars slung around their necks. The light was magical at that time of day. I remember waiting for something. Even now I couldn’t tell you what.
My husband can sit in front “Sunrise Earth” all day. Have you seen it? I don’t know who thought up this programming, but more importantly I’d like to meet the person he or she sold the idea to. It has got to be one patient person. I can just imagine the sales pitch: “I’ve got this great idea for a television show! Cameras record the sunrise…in real time. No soundtrack, no narration. Just the sun rising from different angles. We’ll capture bugs stirring, birds chirping…maybe the sound of water if it’s in the shot.”
Really, that’s all the show is about. Watching the sun rise. A bug may land on a twig for a few minutes. A bird might buzz a camera. A nearby brook may be gurgling away. That’s about it. For some (many?) it’s the equivalent of watching paint dry.
Me, I would like to see an episode filmed from my tippy top stair. Bring me back to the beginning – before the beginning of another busy day.