Distance can create longing. It can open up the gap into which all must fall.
Challenge: Tournament of Books
Genre: Contemporary Lit, ghost story or time travel or both
Type/Source: eBook/Library to Kindle
Why I read this now: Available as download
MOTIVATION for READING: Tournament of Books, and Ruthiella being enthusiastic for this title…
Electricity is not digital. It does not come in discrete packets, but floods the air and flows through conductors and shoots from the hands of mad scientists in silent movies. If it is futuristic at all, it is a past version of the future, temperamental, unstable, half-alive.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: This will be hard! I am not good at describing (I usually just do not want to tell) plots of stories. So, copy&paste pieces from the goodreads blurb, I will:
Two ambitious young musicians are drawn into the dark underworld of blues record collecting, haunted by the ghosts of a repressive past. It’s a ghost story, a terrifying murder mystery, a timely meditation on race, and a love letter to all the forgotten geniuses of American music.
I would add that it could also be a tale of obsession and revenge or maybe redemption.
WHAT’s GOOD: It’s tense. It’s unsettling. On that regard, the author got it right.
Marconi was right and certain phenomena persist through time, then secrets are being told continuously at the edge of perception. All secrets, always being told.
What’s NOT so good: It’s confusing at times, but that is the point. When you blend timeframes of the past with the now; blend emotions and physicalities of past bodies with those here and now, you are going to get some confusion.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I thought it a fun wild thoughtful horrifying ride.
He becomes theatrically still, even his stillness a form of motion.
RATING: Four slices of pie. Porkpie Hats!
He had been staying with friends in California and was sporting—I think that’s the word—a porkpie hat and an army jacket and vintage Nike sneakers and two fistfuls of silver rings.
Thoughts by Elif Batuman, Penguin Press March 14, 2017, 423 pages
Challenge: Tournament of Books 2018
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Hardcover / Library
Why I read this now: It was available at the library (now why I checked this title as opposed to any of the other titles I still have yet to read? no idea…)
MOTIVATION for READING: My reading pal Ruthiella loved it. I saw many other didn’t. I wondered where I would fall on that love/hate divide.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: It’s about Selin who is a freshman at Harvard in the mid 90s, trying to fit in. Or is it? About ‘fitting in’, I mean. She both wonders about it but never obsesses about it (like I did in college.) She’s trying to figure out what to major in, how to achieve what she thinks she wants to ‘do’ in life. She wonders about a lot of stuff. Love, travel, language, words. She has odd thoughts and thinks in a clever witty style.
The author says “part of it (this book) is about discovering email and being really awkward with it.”
Batuman’s bio on goodreads says that her writing has been described as “almost helplessly epigrammatical.” I have to admit, I had to look up epigrammatical to make sure I knew the word correctly and I must say I agree. (I also had to look up parvenu and sinecure; these are words that I have to look up every time I encounter because I have worn pathways in my brain requiring me to mistrust my own definition.)
WHAT’s GOOD: Oh the deadpan humor is fabulous. I would temper that though and say it is MY kind of humor and I know very well that it wouldn’t be many of my friends’ kind of humor. I laughed out loud a lot.
There is a satisfying pie scene. Winner so far of my 2018 Pie in Literature Award. It’s still early, though. Plenty of books to get through yet.
What’s NOT so good: The color of that cover. Yuck.
If you want to read the range of reactions, clicking on that ugly book cover above will take you to goodreads.
Type/Source: eBook and Audio / Amazon
Why I read this now: It’s a hot book right now!
MOTIVATION for READING: This story is getting lots of praise and I wanted to get in on that.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Starr is a sixteen year old black girl who lives in a depressed area of a big city and attends a prep school in a predominantly white area. One night after a party, Starr is given a ride home by young black male friend and he is pulled over by the cops. He is shot and killed; Starr has to navigate this event up close and personal. Her cultures clash, her identity is fractured; she is scared and angry.
WHAT’s GOOD: Thomas decided to give the world this gift of fiction, a story, in response to and an exploration of the Black Lives Matter movement. It isn’t a story specifically addressing the movement, rather a situation that stresses the realities and the complications that many blacks face in our country. Where to live, where to go to school, how to navigate threats to body and soul?
“We have a sustained problem in America,” Thomas said. “When officers take off that uniform they’re no longer a ‘blue life’ – I can’t take my black skin off. I wanted this book to explain why we say those three words.”
FINAL THOUGHTS: I thought it extremely well done on so many levels – a gripping read, a sympathetic character, believable and complicated supporting cast members, a forceful not-unreasonable emotional tone, great pacing. It offers humor, some punches to the gut, a candid look at humanity.
“Pac said Thug Life stood for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody. T-H-U-G-L-I-F-E. Meaning what society gives us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out. Get it?” – Angie Thomas
Thoughts by Marilynne Robinson, Farrar,Straus and Giroux 2008, 325 pages
Challenge: What’s in a Name: Building category
Genre: Literary Fiction
Type/Source: Hardcover / Used Bookstore Raynham MA
Why I read this now: Because I wanted to.
Kindness takes more strength than I have now. I didn’t realize how much effort I used to put into it.
MOTIVATION for READING: Because I loved Gilead. I love the quiet powerful books.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Gilead is a fictional small town in Iowa and the book of the same name is about a Congregationalist minister contemplating some key elements of his life as he looks back on relationships and pivotal events. This book is a companion piece to Gilead, with other characters’ viewpoints and stories featured more prominently. Where Gilead was about Ames, this book is about Jack and his sister Glory, children of Ames’ best friend Robert. I suppose that is more than you need to know and yet doesn’t tell anything at all.
There was a barely restrained glee about him, as though he felt he had done something, or had done nothing, to excellent effect.
WHAT’s GOOD: Oh.
Sentences. Provocations? Emotions.
What’s NOT so good: What is not so good for me is having to read all the reviews that say this book is boring. They said that about Gilead, too. I was never bored so that claim rings false. I should respect those who make it but I don’t have to like it.
As a matter of courtesy they treated one another’s deceptions like truth which was a different thing from deceiving or being deceived.
Sure, Jack smiles too much and glances at Glory a lot. But it felt so true. Such a different time. What would a bum son look like in now times? Would such a degenerate be so good to his father? Was he good? What IS good? Takes my breath away. And poor Glory. Ugh. Trapped in our roles, are we? I can’t write a review, I can only ask more questions.
She used to ask yourself, What more could I wish? But she always distrusted that question, because she knew there were limits to her experience that precluded her knowing what there was to be wished.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Beautiful. Sad. Contemplative. Aching.
“She said you hated cream pie, but I was certain I remembered you had a special fondness for it, and she made it on my say-so, despite her reservations.”
“It’s pretty leathery by now,” she said.
“You see, she’s trying to prejudice you against it! You’d think we’d made a wager of some kind!”
Jack said, “I like cream pie.” He glanced at her.
RATING: Five slices of pie. Apple pie.
He asked for a look at the pie before the top crust went on – “more fragrant than flowers!” – And for look at it afterward, on the edge had been fluted and the vents were cut.
The kitchen began to smell of pie baking.
That odd capacity for destitution, as if by nature we ought to have so much more than nature gives us. As if we are shockingly unclothed when we lack the complacencies of ordinary life. In destitution, even of feeling or purpose, a human being is more hauntingly human and vulnerable to kindnesses because there is the sense that things should be otherwise, and then the thought of what is wanting and what alleviation would be, and how the soul could be put at ease, restored. At home. but the soul finds its own home if it ever has a home at all.
Thoughts by Frank Delaney, Paladin Grafton Books 1987, 191 pages
Challenge: I traveled to Dublin for Spring Break! I brought this along…
Genre: Nonfiction/Literary Analysis/Travel
Type/Source: Tradeback/Sent from a friend
MOTIVATION for READING: Let’s back up to when I first had this book in my hands. It was January 2011 when I signed up for the “Jousting with Joyce” readalong. I never finished Ulysses and I have no record of what page/episode I stopped on.
So anyway, dear friend Jeanne sent me THIS book out of the blue back in 2011 and I have been treasuring it ever since, thinking “Some day, I will conquer Ulysses“. Rather, I was able to make a trip to Dublin happen instead.
Now I am even more eager to read it (Ulysses), to be honest.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Delaney chats with obvious affection for Joyce and his tale of Ulysses. He organizes his ‘Odyssey’ by the same structure as Joyce does in Ulysses and walks the reader through the story and what it might mean, then and now. This not a step by step walking tour of Dublin. It’s subtle – and it is also 30 years old so many things have changed from 1904 (year the book is set) and 1922 (year Ulysses was published) and 1987.
FYI, Ulysses follows two characters, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus – not always together, on walkabout through Dublin, basically. Joyce has stated that his book is a blueprint with which to rebuild Dublin if need be. Ready?
A sample of Delany’s words with Joyce’s:
Sandymount Strand, ineluctable as sin, sweeps wide and grey and beige, stippled with gulls and aeroplanes and lighthouses and ships and lone Dedalus-walkers. “Signature of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack the nearing tide, that rusty book.” Most of the thoughts in Stephen’s mind as he walked along Sandymount Strand were triggered by that ineluctable modality of the visible.
So for the ‘now’ of 2017, many signs and plaques identify Joyce’s locations and landmarks — these are not mentioned in Delaney’s book. Perhaps a map of these IS published by the James Joyce museum which I did not visit. I really let my wanderings and Joyce connections happen rather than seek them out. It was a vacation with the Husband who though sympathetic and/or amused, he did not share my enthusiasm. “He indulged me occasionally” would be the best way to put it. So, it was happenstance and sudden delights, when I found a Joyce marker.
WHAT’s GOOD: Photos from turn of the century (late 1800s – early 1900s and some 1987.) Opportunity to consider how Dublin has changed in 30 years and 100+. But the best of the book is the author’s delight in talking about and sharing anecdotes and explanations of what Joyce was attempting with Ulysses.
Another paragraph of Delaney praise for what Joyce attempted in Ulysses:
“The Oxen of the Sun episode is the most difficult to read in Ulysses. All Joyce’s linguistic interests are on exhibition and he gives a foretaste of what was to come in Finnegans Wake. That it exhausted him is certain: in several communications with friends, he referred to “the Oxen of the bloody, bleeding Sun” and he admitted freely that the control of all the ideas, the mathematical nine-part divisions, the embryonic development and the endless parodies were almost as much as he could master. He managed brilliantly.
What’s NOT so good: Of course, I wanted better maps… LOL.
I failed this book as I do most travel books. Tedious to look at when I can’t relate, and too late for visits once I can. I admit, one of our favorite pub visits was to Bruxelles because it was around during Joyce times and is in a photo of Delaney’s book. I didn’t get any pics of our Guinness nor Irish Whiskey while there, unfortunately.
As typical, I now flip through Delaney’s guide and only want to go back to Dublin and see it all again, find the past anew.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I am more willing to attack Ulysses some day. I do feel that it will require patience and a light touch – not taking it too seriously.
“Joyce said once, not without sadness, to Nora: “The pity is the public will demand and find a moral in my book, or worse, they may take it in some serious way, and on the honor of a gentleman, there is not one serious single line in it.”
I am keeping this book as a guide when I do tackle Ulysses because of the same structure and the explanations, motivations, and landmarks in words.
Thoughts by Trevor Noah, Audible 2016, 8 hours 50 minutes
Challenge: No challenge involved.
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible (a freebie announcement I happened to catch.)
Why I read this now: I needed an easy listen that was short.
MOTIVATION for READING: I love comedian memoirs on audio.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: A coming of age tale a few years before Apartheid in South Africa and years following.
WHAT’s GOOD: Fascinating look at a life and cultures of which I know little.
What’s NOT so good: I wanted to know more about how he came to America and got his start in television. Guess that part will be in his next book. Trust me, the ‘early years’ of Trevor Noah have plenty of drama!
FINAL THOUGHTS: Highly recommended. Narration is terrific.
I’m going for 100 poems. Not sure what I constitute what a ‘poem’ is compared to what others might say a poem is but maybe that’s the others problem and not mine.
AND… in that spirit, I googled “What is a poem” fully expecting to find a poem or an answer of some sort in poem form. I found this. It links the site (The Atlantic) I borrowed it from:
I am of the opinion that this answer would look like a fine poem if in a layout/setup that would give the impression of a poem…
The reason I am choosing to make poetry a priority in 2017 can be placed at the feet of Cheryl Strayed. Her advice column book, Tiny Beautiful Things, strongly suggested that poetry is a good solution for what ails ya. This has stuck with me. It feels like a worthy goal and one I’ve never attempted in all my focus on New Year Affirmations and whatnot. Or at least, not stated in public.
I share POEM #1 in my count to 100. I found it today in my current read, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. It is written by Ian E. Manuel of Union Correctional Institute in Florida. He is a harshly penalized prison inmate for a deed committed when he was young, uncared for, lost. I have compassion for his situation. His poem is beautiful.
Imagine teardrops left uncried From pain trapped inside Waiting to escape Through the windows of your eyes
“Why won’t you let us out?” The tears question the conscience “Relinquish your fears and doubts And heal yourself in the process.”
The conscience told the tears “I know you really want me to cry But if I release you from bondage, In gaining your freedom you die.”
The tears gave it some thought Before giving the conscience an answer “If crying brings you to triumph Then dying’s not such a disaster.”
Please share poets and poetry compilations that will not intimidate but instruct, inspire not confound. Thank you.
I have read much, listened to much while not blogging of late. I have much to recap. I have read and enjoyed much. Much is the word.
I purchased this Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky for the children of a friend who required birthday presents. (the presents were for the kids’ – 4 of them – birthdays not the friend’s) Don’t worry! I also sent candy and confetti and garland and more books. But this was the one I purchased in hopes to influence young minds. Personally, I thought the tone a bit ‘piled-on’. OK, already; women are great. “Thou dost protest too much.” Sigh… Yea, I own my bad feminism. I also took off a point for the dark font on dark background. Guess I’m old. Which is why I’m hoping these youngin’s will read, appreciate and larn sumthin’. That women can and have done way far more than they get credit for and will continue to do so and people should pay attention and give credit and respect. Three slices of pie.
Citizen by Cynthia Rankin. I want to read more poetry. I know I need to read more poetry. I feel like I should read more poetry. I realize this book is not quite poetry as I expect – is that the best kind? This book is powerful and heavy. Felt it in my bones and heart but still realize that there is much I cannot ‘get’ and that’s ok. I’m willing to keep attempting to reach and learn and respect and lean in and lean out and lean humble, probably lean strong. I purchased this book at my local Indie bookstore.
Then I jumped into an audiobook with comedienne extraordinaire, Phoebe Robinson’s You Can’t Touch My Hair. I am not sure I have laughed this hard in a long time (I read it before the election and already feels like eons ago). Ms Robinson explained a few things (ok, lots of things) to me. I probably could/should re-listen. Very enjoyable and extremely informative to my demographic, (ahem.) She mentions the movie Michael with Travolta which has one of the best pie songs ever recorded in film. (I wrote Ms Robinson a fan letter. I wrote Lindy West of Shrill, too. I like to write letters…)
I listened to an audiobook by John Scalzi that was being offered free by Audible.com. It was wonderful! It was 2+ hours. Enjoyed it very much. I follow Mr. Scalzi on Twitter and should read something longer by him. Someday. (I already had him on the authors-I-must-get-to list, I think, but a sample is nice.)
I quickly moved on to another audiobook that was utterly delightful. Realizing it is Nonfiction November and I had failed to plan for this AND having just read TriniCapini’s lovely Litsy post of how good it is, I used an Audible credit to get As You Wish, written and narrated by Cary Elwes. SO GOOD. I also watched the movie again. SO GOOD!
Overlapping with As You Wish, I read Barbara Claypole White’s debut novel The Unfinished Garden. I really REALLY enjoyed it. I think it is one of my favorites of hers. Maybe Perfect Son is my favorite, and this was lovely, too. I am now in a state of fandom where I have to wait for an author to publish again – I’ve read everything else by her. This is a rare thing. I usually don’t ‘follow’ an author. One more fun fact: I read all of her books in this calendar year. Another no-small-feat accomplishment for me. It would be remiss of me to fail to mention some of the BEST pie references are in this book!!!! I hope to capture in another post.
I just yesterday finished Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. I will write another post just for this book soon…
Also, FYI – I just today started The World According to Garp. O.M.G. Oh, Mr Irving, you are a rascal. Yowza. I’m already to Garp’s birth scene. The whole Garp conception scene was … memorable. Let’s go with ‘memorable’, shall we?
Keep reading, friends. Keep on, keepin’ on. Be vigilant.
The Girl on the Train – No, have yet to read! I know, right? What’s up with that? I’ve just not gotten around to it. Actually had a friend loan me her Kindle but had to return it before reading the book. oops.
The Birth of a Nation – as far as I could tell, Nate Parker wrote this about Nat Turner as an original screenplay. You may be interested in The Confessions of Nat Turner, supposedly or ‘sold as’ a primary account but even this is controversial.
Moonlight – coming of age story, original screenplay.
Hacksaw Ridge – WW2. Mel Gibson.
Loving – such a sad story about brave people.
Arrival – “A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.” Go ahead, tell me what this sort of reminds you of. THE SPARROW! Yea, a little different but still. Linguistics and space aliens! Renner plays a mathematician.
Elle– French revenge. Based on a novel by Philippe Djian.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk– based on the book by Ben Fountain I have yet to read.
Manchester by the Sea – Casey Affleck. Looks heart-wrenching. Original screenplay.
Nocturnal Animals– Tom Ford wrote and directed Nocturnal Animals, which is based on Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan. Tom Ford makes visually beautiful films. Or the one I’ve seen was gorgeous anyway.
Allied – WW2. Original screenplay.
Lion– Based on A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley. I’m hoping it is happy.
Jackie – Natalie Portman as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
Miss Sloane – Gun control politics. Jessica Chastain.
La La Land – it’s a MUSICAL PEOPLE! Can’t wait.
Patriot’s Day – I’ll watch it for sure. Boston Strong.
Passengers – love story in space. Actually, when I first saw the photo that accompanied this story, I couldn’t help thinking about that Julia Roberts rom com movie where she plays an actress that goes to space…
Silence– Based on Shusaku Endo’s novel of the same name. Might as well add it to my Classics list (1966).
Thoughts by Harper Lee, Time Warner Books 1989 (orig 1960) 281 pages
Genre: Southern Lit, Classics
Type/Source: Hardback / My school’s English teacher’s shelf
Why I read this now: for club…
MOTIVATION for READING: I actually wasn’t that enthusiastic about reading this. Shame on me. I have always TRIED to have high standards about never whining about a book assigned for bookclub because that is the POINT of bookclubs — to read a book you may not be excited about or never heard of. Bookclub ‘entertainment’ is the discussion. And we all know that when everyone loves a book, discussion is boooooorrrrring. And if half love and half hate dislike, WOO-BOYHOWDY = fun discussion.
Ok, the point of this post is my mea culpa: I really loved reading TKAM.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Do I really need to tell you? Young daughter of the upstanding town attorney starts school and learns about injustice and navigating ‘growing up’ in a small town in the 30s with a father who defends a black man accused of a crime where he is accused by a white woman; the white citizens just can’t deal with the situation.
WHAT’s GOOD: Scout is just great. She’s a tough kid, annoyed by the gender expectations being thrust upon her and she’s trying to figure out the big bad world. I loved the neighbor across the street.
What’s NOT so good: We’ve come not far in too much time.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I’m looking forward to discussion.
Great QUOTES: “Thus we came to know Dill as a pocket Merlin, whose head teemed with eccentric plans, strange longings, and quaint fancies.”
“I inched sluggishly along the treadmill of the Maycomb County school system, I could not help receiving the impression that I was being cheated out of something. Out of what I new not, yet I did not believe that twelve years of unrelieved boredom was exactly what the state had in mind for me.”
“Dill was a villain’s villain: he could get into any character part assigned him, and appear tall if height was part of the devilry required.”
“For reasons unfathomable to the most experienced prophets in Maycombe Çounty, autumn turned to winter that year.”
“It’s not time to worry yet,”
“There was no doubt about it, I must soon enter this world, where on its surface fragrant ladies rock slowly, fanned gently, and drank cool water.”