The Numbers

DATE: 8/2/16

Titles Finished Totals:

  • Books: 1,003 (yay! broke 1,000!)
  • Poetry: 75
  • Short stories: 50 (although, does Sign of the Four count as a short?)

Total for 2016 so far: 85 titles (including Early Review and fun books).

All titles left to go: 4,605

Next count: 9/3/2016


Dorothea Gutzeit: Be True & Serve

Gutzeit, Dorothea. Dorothea Gutzeit: Be True & Serve. Petra Books, 2016.

Reason read: An Early Review selection for LibraryThing.

The language of Gutzeit’s book is simple and straightforward. At the very least, Gutzeit’s story is about herself starting with her earliest memories and moving through adulthood, marriage and raising and family; but more than that it is a commentary on history; a front row seat to the rise of Hitler’s power (Gutzeit’s family fully supported Hitler when he became chancellor.) and the early beginnings of World War II. It is fascinating to watch history unfold in this manner. Gutzeit was just a girl of twelve years old but could still remember the passion with which her mother and sister defended Adolf Hitler as a saving grace.
If the published version contains the same photographs it will be a very generous collection.

My only negative? There are a lot of blank pages with the PDF version. I realize that had I read the book in standard print, I would have skipped over those blank pages without a problem. Scrolling through them made them more obvious to me. Not counting the blank pages, this is a very short book.

Off topic – reading about how people fully supported Hitler (because he brought them out of great poverty and despair after World War I) made me cringe. People were desperate for a change and Hitler looked like the answer to all their prayers. Sound familiar? What kind of president would T make?

Book trivia: Irene Riznek is Dorothea’s daughter and transcribed her words.

 


Lost City of Z

Grann, David. The Lost City of Z: a tale of deadly obsession in the Amazon. New York: Vintage Departures, 2010.

Reason read: August is the driest month in the Amazon…or so they say.

I could have read this in January as part of national mystery month because there is one burning question to Lost City: what happened to the Percy Fawcett expedition? Fawcett, his son and his son’s friend all vanished without a trace. Were they murdered by jungle natives? Did they die of starvation or disease? All scenarios are possible and even likely. In 1925 all three went into the Amazon jungle in search of a legendary (imaginary?) lost civilization and were never see or heard from again. Lost City traces not only Fawcett’s repeat attempts to conquer the Amazon, but the author’s endeavors to follow his footsteps.

As an aside, I don’t know if I could visit the Amazon, tamed or not. The descriptions of ailments, insects and ever-devouring jungle was enough to keep my travel bug at bay. Grann’s description of the jungle swallowing up an entire village was awe inspiring. It’s easy to see how and why Fawcett was seemingly unsuccessful in conquering the jungle.

Author fact: at the time of Lost City’s publication David Grann write for “The New Yorker.”

Book trivia: The Lost City of Z includes some great photographs. I only wish there were more.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply called “Amazonia” (p 9).


Children in the Woods

Busch, Frederick. Children in the Woods. New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1994.

Reason read: Busch’s birth month is in August.

Children in the Woods is made up of 23 short stories. Most of the stories are really bleak. It is advisable to parse them out over time. I read one a day and even that was a little much.

  • “Bread” – a young man and his sister have the difficult task of cleaning out their parents’s house after they are killed in a plane crash. As an aside, this was the first time I’d ever heard someone other than Phish reference cluster flies. Quote I liked, “I named the chicken Bunny because I’d never been permitted to own the rabbit my mother had promised me as consolation after she’d shattered my sixth year of life by disclosing that the Easter Bunny did not in fact bring jelly beans and marshmallow chicks the color of radioactive rocks” (p 4).
  • “Bring Your Friends to the Zoo” – an adulterous couple meets at the zoo so that one of them can end it. No lines to quote but there was the sardonic phrase, “We want it to be a happy day for you and all the animals” stated over and over.
  • “Is Anyone Left This Time of Year?” – a man comes to visit Ireland in November. Since it’s post-seasonal no one is around, literally and emotionally. Quote
  • “A three-Legged Race” – a mother tries to give her 12 year old son a birthday party. Line worth mentioning, “I married Mac because he was more of a virgin that I was” (p 41).
  • “The Trouble With Being Food” – an overweight man confronts his girlfriend’s ex-husband. Much like a repeating line in “Bring Your Friends to the Zoo” there was a repeating line in “Trouble.”
  • “How the Indians Came Home” – a woman’s troubled marriage is revealed. Line I liked a lot, “But you can’t have what you want, and sometimes you live with wrong mornings” (p 72).
  • “Widow Water” – plumber “saves” people.
  • “The Lesson of the Hotel Lotti” – a daughter struggles to understand her mother’s affair with a married man.
  • “My Father, Cont.” -a child is paranoid his father is planning to abandon him in the woods ala Hansel and Gretel.
  • “What You Might as Well Call Love” – Ben and Marge tackle a sump pump and their marriage.
  • “The Settlement on Mars” – Parents take separate vacations.
  • “Critics” – parents struggle with who wears the pants in the family.
  • “Stand, and Be Recognized” – a draft dodger visits an old friend. Line I liked, “Though certainly I knew as I went what I’d learned in coming home, that you cannot be haunted by ghosts of your choosing” (p 186).
  • “Ralph the Duck” – a security officer taking college classes rescues a co-ed from an attempted suicide.
  • “Dog Song” – a judge lies in a hospital room trying to remember the accident that put him there.
  • “One More Wave of Fear” – a family is plagued by squirrels in the attic.
  • “The World Began with Charlie Chan” – a late night talk radio host bullies people until a blast from his past rattles his chain.
  • “Extra Extra Large” – Brothers try to grow up. “We sat, not eating, to watch our father try to chew what amounted to everything we could offer him” (p 244).
  • “The Wicked Stepmother” – a librarian writes to her brother about their father’s new wife.
  • “Folk Tales” – A man remembers a brief correspondence he had a child with Albert Einstein.
  • “Dream Abuse” – a man’s nightmares haunt his wife.
  • “The Page” – a tale so sad I can’t even write about it.
  • “Berceuse” – Does a woman regret not having kids after meeting her ex-husband’s son?

Author fact: Busch won the 1991 PEN/Malamud award for distinguished short fiction.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Frederick Busch: Too Good To Miss” (p 48).


Flora’s Suitcase

Rabinovich, Dalia. Flora’s Suitcase. New York: HarperFlamingo, 1998.

Reason read: Columbia gained its independence in August.

Confessional: this is one of the few times I actually like magical realism. It works for Flora’s Suitcase. Flora is a woman trying to make a new life for herself and her family in Columbia. Originally from Cincinnati, Flora, her husband, David and newborn son, Sol emigrate to David’s homeland. Flora is caught between the traditions of her Jewish American upbringing and the spicy, colorful ones of her new family – David’s three all-knowing, overbearing sisters and their families. Add the escalating attentions of the male members of the family, an ever-growing brood of her own, and a bevy of inept maids and Flora’s life is pure chaos. She keeps a suitcase packed, ready to escape back to Cincinnati but somehow never seems to make it out the door.

Quotes that made me think. “Had Flora known that a mango sealed her fate, she would have lunged toward her husband and pushed him overboard” (p 4).

Author fact: Rabinovich was born in Columbia but lives in New York.

Book trivia: the cover for Flora’s Suitcase is at once arresting and at length interesting. Flora? sits off kilter on a windowsill with a closed suitcase at her feet. A parrot sits on the suitcase while another swoops in from above. Are they the reason she looks about ready to topple out the open window? She leans at an awkward angle with a hand in the air as if to say, Catch me!

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter obviously called “Hail, Columbia” (p 91).


If Beale Street Could Talk

Baldwin, James. If Beale Street Could Talk. New York: Laurel Book, 1974.

Reason read: Baldwin’s birth month is in August.

Part One: Troubled About My Soul
Nineteen year old Clementine breaks the news to her incarcerated twenty-two year old boyfriend she is pregnant. Then she has to tell Lonny’s family and her own. What follows is a typical commentary on out-of-wedlock teenage pregnancy when one parent is in jail. Of course the families do not agree on anything.
This is a stark portrayal of what it means to be black and poor in New York City. What we discover about Lonny is that he has been accused of rape by a woman who picks him out of a lineup. It’s an open and shut case thanks to a cop who has it in for the oft-in-trouble teen. Clementine’s mother is the most heroic, amazing character in the whole book.
Part Two: Zion
Questions. Will Fonny and Clementine’s families raise enough money for bail? Will Fonny survive prison? What are his chances of receiving a fair trial in such an unfair society? What is to come of his unborn child?

Quotes that caught me, “Trouble means you’re alone” (p 9) and “I am imprisoned somewhere in the silence of that wood, and so is he” (p 191).

Book trivia: You could read this in a day, but it’s too painful to do so.

Author fact: I am reading seven different books by Baldwin. I have finished three so far.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: He Say” (p 10).


Anarchy and Old Dogs

Cotterill, Colin. Anarchy and Old Dogs. New York: Soho, 2007.

Reason read: to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day. This is book four.

The opening scene sets the stage for the mystery: Dr. Buagaew, a retired blind dentist, has been run down by a logging truck after picking up a mysterious letter from the post office. Dr. Siri Paibaum, now 73 years old and still described as Laos’s reluctant coroner, must figure out who was Buagaew and why had he a letter written in invisible ink in his pocket when he died? Another death is far more disturbing. A ten year old boy is found dead in a river. He has two different rates of decomposition and his death doesn’t look accidental. Who would have wanted this boy dead and why?
For the most part, all of Siri’s friends are in Anarchy and Old Dogs except this timeĀ  Mr. Geung is recovering from his ordeal in Disco and is only brought up in mention at the beginning and end. Dtui’s mother has died and best friend Civilai has a new secret.

An element of Cotterill’s writing that makes the Dr. Siri series so interesting is his “cross -contamination” of characters. Siri was inspired by Inspector Maigret who is a character of mysteries written by Georges Simeon.

Cotterill also includes a running commentary on the political climate. Laos has reached a point where the Communism government has become increasingly oppressive. Oppressive to the point that “even the death of livestock, even from natural causes, had to be accounted for in writing” (p 3).

Other quotes I thought worth mentioning, “But he felt bad about pulling out the wrong teeth and that” (p 31), ” When you are drinking with a corpse there is no such thing as irreverence” (p 38) and “As many counterrevolutionaries would have you know, when in the midst of diverting a national crisis, there is always the case for taking a little time off for tourism” (p 139).

Author fact: Cotterill has taught in Australia.

Book trivia: Anarchy is the fourth book in the Dr. Siri series. I said that already, but that’s all I got on this one.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter called “Laos” (p 128).


High and the Mighty

Gann, Ernest. The High and the Mighty. New York: William Sloan Associates, 1953.

Reason read: August is Aviation month.

Ignore the dated details like being introduced to your flight crew before boarding, stewardesses taking your coats as you settle into your seat, it being permissible to smoke once en route and so on…and you will have the classic tale of impending tragedy. The story unfolds in the typical fashion. Readers are introduced to the crew, warts and all. Then, the passengers and all their bad habits. Typical of a suspense thriller is the sense of foreboding. Something is wrong but no one can quite put a finger on the exact problem. Everyone, passengers and crew alike, noticed something “off” but either can’t articulate the worry or just pass it off as part of an overcautious imagination. As a result everyone on board flight four-two-zero keeps mum until it’s too late. It’s extremely interesting to watch the fear build in lead controversial character, Dan Roman.

As an aside, I have a 1953 copy of The High and the Mighty and it is covered in stains and full of small rips. This was a oft-read book!

Author fact: Gann wrote many, many other novels. I am reading Fate is the Hunter and Hostage to Fortune as well.

Book trivia: Best seller. Also made into a movie in 1954 starring who else? John Freaking Wayne. Need. To. See. This.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called what else? “Flying High Above the Clouds” (p 89).


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