White Tears

Thoughts by Hari Kunzru, Knopf 2017, 288 pages

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.

roisterselvedgeabseilingdeliquescing, paletasexophthalmic, punctum



Copyright © 2007-2018. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.


Thoughts webymhtph Whatever by Michel Houellebecq / translated by Paul Hammond, Serpent’s Tail / Profile Books Ltd 2011 (orig 1994), 155 pages

Challenge: 1001+ Books to Read Before You Die
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Tradeback / Library 14-day Loan (oops – I started this on the 15th day… So I will owe a bit in late fees.)
 Why I read this now: It called to me when I glanced at the NEW BOOKS shelf at the library. Back in May 2008, I signed up for a challenge to read 1% of the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die and I listed this book solely based on the title. It called to me, but I never got to it. So, of course, when I see this at the library while casually glancing at a shelf – I wasn’t even looking for anything specific! – I had to bring it home with me. And it is short. I’m into the shorties lately…

From Tony Litt’s Introduction:

Houellebecq’s first book was on HP Lovecraft.

Houellebecq hates office workers as does ‘the novel’.

The tone of Whatever is ‘beastly tired’.

The original title of Whatever was An Extension of the Domain of the Struggle.

“If you’re in search of page-turning plot-twistiness, fuck off.”

WHAT’s it ABOUT (with spoilers since I doubt anyone I know will ever read this book and/or just might because I spoil the heck out of it): Told in the first person, our protagonist is a computer programmer. Single and lonely. And bitter. He is assigned to train clients on a computer application and has to or gets to travel to other towns in France to do so. A coworker assists in the delivery of the  training. He experiences a mild heart attack. He is only 30 years old. He writes animal stories to amuse himself. He tries to convince the coworker to kill a beautiful young lady who turns him down at a club. The coworker ends up dying in a car crash. Our protag has a nervous breakdown and/or is admitted to a mental hospital. He gets released. The end. Not really. Let’s say it ends ambiguously.

WHAT’s GOOD: At times it is actually funny. Bitter insight to the absurdity of corporate work and the people who ‘work in offices’.  Other times, the reader winces at the misogyny and violent tendencies.

The theme could be summed up as “Life sucks and then you die.”

FINAL THOUGHTS: I guess I have to laugh and agree with these two review quotes:

From the Independent:  “Funny, terrifying and nauseating.”

From the Guardian: “the book slips down easily like a bad oyster.”

RATING:  Three slices of pie; I found mention of apple tart.

“His wife absolutely insisted I taste the apple tart her husband didn’t have the strength to swallow. I accepted; it was delicious.”

For something a little lighter maybe, enjoy this French song (and click here for the words in English):

Houellebecq’s most recent novel submission “is both a devastating satire and a profound meditation on isolation, faith and love. It is a startling new work by one of the most provocative and prescient novelists of today.” So says the goodreads blurb. (Cover links to that site.)



Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.



 [ fábbyəlist ]
  1. fable writer: a writer or reciter of fables
  2. liar: a teller of fanciful stories

  You all know about BOOK PAGE, yes? (Click on that cover image and you will open a window to the website.) I got my print copy from my favorite local library. In the WELL READ column, is an article by Robert Weibezahl about Kurt Vonnegut. Mr. Weibezahl says something about Mr. Vonnegut being ‘equal parts fabulist and satirist’ and I heard in my head, that Mr. Vonnegut is FABULOUS. Then I realized that wasn’t the word I read, but I also thought:

because I really hadn’t even contemplated the word ‘fabulist’. oh! FABLE – ist, a person who writes fables. Had to run (actually click & type) to look up  ‘fabulist’ and was struck again by the fact that I did not really know it as a word. Which had me wondering, what IS the base for FABULOUS?  (Should have been one of those word studier people…)


Guess I learned something today. Are you someone that spends inordinate or unusual time wondering about the origin of words? Me, too. Have you read Vonnegut? I did, a lot; in High School. I have plans to read Slaughterhouse Five again someday. Perhaps in 2013. Let me know if you want to do a read along.

The book that BOOK PAGE was chatting about is  Letters, edited by Dan WAkefield and published by Delacorte. I think I want to read this one, too. Because I love to write letters and because… it sounds fabulous. (Click on the book cover to go to goodreads.com)



  1. Extraordinary, esp. extraordinarily large.
  2. Amazingly good; wonderful.
fabled – mythical – fantastic – fantastical – legendary

From bing.com

Definition of fabulous (adj)

bing.com · Bing Dictionary

 [ fábbyələss ]
  1. amazing: amazingly or almost unbelievably great or impressive
  2. typical of fables: described in or typical of myths and legends
  3. excellent: extremely good, pleasant, or enjoyable

Urban Dictionary: fabulous


The ultimate expression of enthusiasm and joy. Characterized by wonder, adoration, inspiration, exhaltation, and love.

fabulous – definition of fabulous by the Free Online Dictionary 

fab·u·lous (f b y -l s). adj. 1. Barely credible; astonishing: the fabulous endurance of a marathon runner. 2. Extremely pleasing or successful: a fabulous vacation.


Copyright © 2007-2012. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Some Words of Cloud Atlas

It’s CARE-VOCABULARY TIME.  (Go ahead and express your excitement. I know you wanna.)

 I am taking notes. (and this is just the first 39 pages!)

Part ONE:  Let’s play MATCH, shall we?  This shouldn’t be too hard for all you erudite friends who all read this blog; I seem to look up these words a lot, over and over and over. The definitions just don’t seem to stick in my brain!  When I look ’em up, I see the meaning and (*slapforehead*) say to myself, “I know that.”

A. DINT                                                     1. dark green, a form of jade

B. HARRIDAN                                        2. a prayer

C. PARVENU                                           3. devoid of hair

D. HUGGER-MUGGER                        4. suitable

E. NEPHRITE                            5. a person new to wealth and without class

F. CONDIGN                                                6.  dung, filth, manure

G. ESCRITOIRE                                          7. head or brain

H. NODDLE                                     8. a strict, bossy, or belligerent old woman

I. ORISON                                                 9. writing desk

J. GLABROUS                                         10.  force; power

K. ORDURE                                             11.  disorder or confusion

I mean, sure. NODDLE was EASY to figure out by its context but it still seemed new and fresh and odd and a varietal of NOODLE. Or a typo. Escritoire and orison are TOTALLY new to me. I am positive I have looked up PARVENU a million times… sigh. Give me a million dollars and I can be a parvenu.

Fun story:  Last week, I got to ‘play’ librarian at the High School. I do not mean to be disrespectful but I had fun, thus ‘play’. I had just started reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and had encountered hugger-mugger* at the time when a couple of sophomores signed in. I do have a tendency to chat with library patrons and asked one of the nice girls if she would be willing to look up a word for me since she was on the side of the counter that had the BIG DICTIONARY**. She obliged me. In only a few page turns (the girl knew her alphabet), she read aloud the definition and I thought up an example that she might relate to and she assured me she ‘GOT it’.  She promised me she would use it in a sentence that day. I felt convinced she actually meant it. I made a difference in a young student’s life. Or, David Mitchell did and I was the conduit!  Yep, I’m a geek. Wave your hand if you’re a geek, too.

I was very happy and relieved that I didn’t ask the next kid to look up ONANISM.  *EYEPOP*  (yea, pretty sure I’ve looked that one up a time or two. or not.)

PART TWO: the rest of the words…***

p.4 – peregrinations – travels, journey

p.5 – polymath – person of great learning in several fields of study. (noted because I had recently looked it up so I KNEW IT!)

p.6 – circumvallated – a variety I was unaware of for circumnavigated? – surrounded by

p.8 – sheog – CAN’t FIND THIS ONE.  assume ‘grog’, moonshine, … (from context.)  [Just asked Twitterville how to deal with this and got crickets. Twitter can be hit or miss…]

p.8 – obdurate – stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or course of action.

p.8 – demotic**** – of common folk, makes sense if you think of democracy which I didn’t until I read the definition.

p.8 – thitherwards – This one is just fun to say. 

p.9 – tatterdemalion – tattered: worn to shreds; or wearing torn or ragged clothing

p.10 – appellate – AS a VERB? – I get it but can’t quite grasp this one with how it was used: “the islanders thus appellate New Zealand”.

p.10 – dint

p.11 – hugger-mugger

p.11 – terraqueous – I just like the imagery of this word

p.11 – parlor – enclosure to raise domestic pigs? “…willfully marooned pigs here to propagate a parlor.”

p.12 – mmmmmmmmmm[this page had no words requiring me to write down. WHA?!]

p.13 – parvenu

p.13 – penurious – stingy, lacking resources. (sigh, I (should) KNOW THIS!)

p.14 – ordure

p.16 – extirpation – to rid completely (why not use exterminate?  I don’t know…)

p.17 – simulcrums – unreal likeness

p.30 – scrofula – lung disease

p.31 – condign

p.32 – mal de mer – French word for seasickness

THUS concludes vocab from the first SECTION:  The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing. 

(Noddle, Glabrous, Escritoire were from the second section but I’m tired of typing. Orison is from the fourth section, I believe and we saw Ordure again on page 202, FYI.)

Highlight the following for the answers to Part ONE:

A – 10, B – 8, C – 5, D – 11, E – 1, F – 4, G – 9, H – 7, I – 2, J – 3, K – 6

Was this fun?  Do you have a favorite word from this list?  Did you learn anything?

Half-Way Point to page 236 of Cloud Atlas Readalong scheduled for March 16, Friday – plenty of time to join in!   Visit Melissa’s signup post for more information.  OH! and don’t let this list intimidate you!  The first part is written hundreds of years ago when they talked funny!!  The second section was delightful (imo) and it’s just a wild ride so far…

* hugger-mugger – fun! I love this phrase. Makes me wonder how exactly it ever came to be. I would have loved to be an linguist. But at the age of 18 when you are looking at majors to major in in college, this did not look very financially appealing. Stupid me.

** The BIG DICTIONARY is the COOLEST thing.

*** All page numbers reference the Tradeback edition, ISBN 978-0-375-50725-0. YOU STILL HAVE TIME! We are reading ~15 pages a day this month of March and will have a HALFWAY-POINT post here at Care’s Online Book Club on Friday March 16. Do know that I will not be checking in that day until late afternoon because I am subbing for my favorite English teacher at the local High School and she is only my favorite because I know her the best. I do like all of the English teachers I have met and chatted with and have seen-in-action. Just sayin’.  

*** demotic – My FAVORITE new word of the book. Doesn’t it sound evil?! and it is not.



Copyright © 2007-2012. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Doctors’ Plague

Notes & Thoughts    The Doctors’ Plague:  Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis by Sherwin B Nuland, W. W. Norton & Company 2003, 191 pages

for Citizen Reader’s Book Menage, May 23

As is typical of books I check out from the library, I have returned it before writing the review.  I did take notes, so let’s see what I can piece together (new stuff is in green, definitions in blue).   This may turn into a big vocabulary lesson.

i    ISBN 0393052990 is written down but according to goodreads.com this gives page count at 160.  I know I had the 191 page version.

119 lucubration –  a piece of writing, typically a pedantic or overelaborate one.

127 Klein’s son-in-law ?!  –  (I don‘t remember what this is nor why it was note-worthy, perhaps my next jottings will lend a clue:)  why does NO one else DUPLICATE the theory in lab work?!

149  sinecure – a position requiring little or no work but giving the holder status or financial benefit.  (I just love this word; I want a sinecure, (perhaps I have one…))

152 beleagured – (I love this word, too.)  beset with troubles.   (maybe it’s the definition that I like)

156 logorrheic (couldn’t find, but did find) logorrhea – “pathologically incoherent, repetition incessant or compulsive talkativeness, wearisome volubility/voluble
If PATHOLOGIC means ‘diseased’, then is this a double entrendre?
Basically, it was 543 pages of unreadable crap (I think I am paraphrasing Nuland’s paragraph describing Semmelweis’s final written defense.)

158 bombastic (another groovy word I like because it sounds like its meaning) – high-sounding language with little meaning, used to impress people.

166 profligacy – shameless dissoluteness / reckless extravagance / great abundance 

157 – DOH WOW!! (again, I barely recall what I am reacting to, please someone tell me?) OMG – SO SAD!
um, if TV, it would have been murder   (WHAT?! am I wondering if ‘they’ air a made-for-TV drama?)

170 rara avis – a rare person or thing

172 – maladroit (for some reason, I had never quite given real thought to this being the opposite of adroit.)awkward, bungling, tactless

173 “as so often happens in psychopathology, self-concept exists side by side with its opposite …  Apparent disloyalty and deeply insecure men unable to take obvious next step.”   ?   huh.

175 Aeschylus, Sophocles:    deeply insecure, yet arrogant?

180 encomia – a speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly.

190 Reference to 1949 Morton Thompson’s The Cry and the Covenanthas anyone read this?





I found Dr. Semmelweis and his behavior very fascinating and thoroughly enjoyed Nuland’s theories of Early Onset Alzheimers.   I was saddened by what happened to the poor guy.    Though I sort of knew the story going in, I was not aware the time between his commitment to the Insane Asylum and his death was so very short.   Which made the next book (The Birth of Love) even MORE fascinating and I am so glad I chose to read this first.

What I didn’t get nor understand was WHY no other doctors anywhere in the world, took up Semmelweis’ ideas and tried to prove or unprove the germ theory!    Was it some professional code that the so-called experts needed the originator to present something/anything in order to run a counter proof?     It just seems odd that SO MANY years went by with his friends’ only trying to persuade Semmelweis to publish rather than someone just taking it and running their own experiments.


And, really.   Knowing what we now know of germ theory and our culture’s current paranoia of washing everything carefully or we might DIE , it’s a wonder that anyone in the Vienna hospitals back then survived at all.     It’s so hard not think of all Semmelweis’ opponents as damnable and arrogant assholes.

Very interesting book; I recommend.


Copyright © 2011. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Vocabulary in The Sea

Oh, let’s play a game! I’ll list the words first and then the definitions!      What, no?   No, that doesn’t sound like fun? Well, I just don’t know if I will have the patience to type up all these but I feel I must…

Learning new words is FUN, dammit.

Thank you, Kathy aka BermudaOnion for hosting today’s meme!  Click on the button above to find more wordy posts.

But before I go into all this, please note that I don’t think I’m as stupid ignorant as this very long list might suggest.    I like words.   I like wrapping my head about a word’s history, use and sound.    Sometimes, I encounter a word that I might know but it’s surrounding words make me question it.   Or I know it’s a word I should know and when I look it up, I have to do that forehead-slap move.  DOH!     And sometimes, I *think* I know the word but question my ability to define it if I was put on the spot.    And then sometimes?   TOTALLY befuddled by how a word is used and I wonder I have every heard it or read it before.    So there.   I’m a word-geek.  A very amateur word-geek.

page – word
30 – costiveness – slow or reluctant in speech or action; unforthcoming
32 – piebald – having irregular patches of two colors, typically black and white.   Usually refers to horses.
? – stentorious – darn, I didn’t write down the page and I can’t find the sentence. A stentor is a person with a powerful voice.
43 – flocculent – having or resembling tufts of wool
53 – chatelaine – a woman in charge of a large house.
54 – marmoreal – made of or likened to marble.
84 – cicatrice – the scar of a healed wound.
84 – ichor – the fluid that flows like blood in the veins of the gods
88- venial – denoting a sin that is not regarded as depriving the soul of divine grace
95 – rufous – reddish brown in color.
95 – rubescent – reddening; blushing
96 – craquelure – a network of fine cracks in the paint or varnish of a painting.
102 – groyne – a low wall or sturdy timber barrier built out into the sea from a beach to check erosion and drifting.
102 – cinereal – or cinerea:  the gray substance of the brain and spinal cord.
103 – Bonnard – that is, Pierre Bonnard. Some painter dude I don’t know about.  The protagonist of The Sea has dedicated his life to researching and writing about this artist so he comes up a lot.
103 – coevals (oh. yea, OK. should have figured this one out.  ! not coe-vals) – a contemporary
116 – anaglypta – athick, embossed wallpaper.
117 – gorse – a yellow-flowered shrub of the pea family
118 – glair – a preparation made from egg white, used esp. as an adhesive for bookbinding
128 – ovine – of, relating to, or resembling sheep.
129 – homunculus – a very small human or humanoid creature.
135 – mandala – a geometric figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism.
137 – catafalque – a decorated wooden framework supporting the coffin of a distinguished personduring a funeral or while lying in state.
137 – crepitant – make a crackling sound (this is likely one of those words I’ve looked up a million times!)
139 – boreens – a narrow country road.
155 -caducous – a botany word that means easily detached and shed at an early stage.

158 – perisher – TOTALLY NEW TO ME!    in fact, my dictionary doesn’t have it.   When I posed it to the interwebs, I got the response ‘BOUNDER’*, which is also unknown to me.   Both of these words mean someone who is morally reprehensible.

162 – casuistry – the use of clever but unsound reasoning, esp. in relation to moral questions
163 – convolvulus – a twining plant with trumpet-shaped flowers, some kinds of which are invasive weeds
165 – scumbling – modify (a painting or color) by applying a very thin coat of opaque paint to give a softer or duller effect.
168 – mephitic – foul-smelling; noxious.     EASY TO FIGURE OUT but that doesn’t mean I *know* it.
169 – novelettishly – a short novel, typically one that is light and romantic or sentimental in character (you might assume I should know this.   But I don’t think I’ve ever encountered it before in print or conversation.)
169 – sough – a moaning, whistling, or rushing sound.
179 – imprecation – a spoken curse
183 – purblind – slow or unable to understand; dim-witted.
183 – cerements – waxed cloth for wrapping a corpse.
183 – blench – make a sudden flinching movement out of fear or pain
184 – Gilles de Rais – O.M.G.     Here’s the sentence!

“… kiddies in general, I am afraid, bring out the not so latent Gilles de Rais in me.”

So, my fingers trip over to Wikipedia and find the information about this interesting person.   Follow the link if you dare.
185 – sozzled – I’m assuming this means DRUNK but I still want to look it up.  Yep, it means VERY DRUNK, beyond squiffy.
185 – plangent – loud, reverberating, and often melancholy.
188 – colloquy – a conversation
188 – littoral – of, relating to, or situated on the shore of the sea or a lake
188 – anabasis – a march from a coast into the interior
190 – inamorato** – OO LA LA! a person’s male lover
191 – crapulent -*SMILES*…  I remembered this from one of BermudaOnion‘s posts!  Such a perfect word:  of or relating to the drinking of alcohol or drunkenness.


*  I googled for an image of perisher and/or bounder but didn’t find anything good.   In fact, I got more than a few photos of women’s feet in high heels.   And one of a cartoon Bassett Hound.  ?!

**  I ran into the female version of this word today in my current read Cat in a Diamond Dazzle by Carole Nelson Douglas


Copyright © 2007-2011. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Jousting with Joyce

I cannot believe what I just did.

I downloaded Ulysses for FREE! to my iPad just so I can attempt to follow along with Softdrink’s ReadAlong “Jousting with Joyce”.

So I guess that means I’m committing.    I think there’s an escape clause…

WORDS already encountered when I decided to see what exactly the style would be of this infamous novel:

UNTONSURED “Stephen Dedalus, displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms on the top of the staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face that blessed him, equine in its length, and at the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like pale oak.”

*** just so you know, WordPress Editor ALSO doubts this word ‘untonsured’! ***

Definition of TONSURE according to the Dictionary installed on my Mac:  “tonsure |ˈnoun,  a part of a monk’s or priest’s head left bare on top by shaving off the hair.• [in sing. ] an act of shaving the top of a monk’s or priest’s head as a preparation for entering a religious order.  verb [ trans. ] [often as adj. ] ( tonsured) shave the hair on the crown of.

ORIGIN late Middle English : from Old French, or from Latin tonsura, from tondere ‘shear, clip.’”

OUNS “For this, O dearly beloved, is the genuine Christine:  body and soul and blood and ouns.”

Definition of OUNS according to Google Search led me to Wordnik which states that NO DEFINITIONs ARE AVAILABLE.    They do, however, give this same sentence as an example.     Google asked me if I perhaps meant to search for ONUS which means “burden: an onerous or difficult concern”.     Ominous, don’t you think?

(I’m guessing that OUNS means innards and entrails.    Votes?)

Well, isn’t this a fine howdy do and portends great frustration for this reading experience.    Predictions/bets on how far I get with this!?

Of course, that is exactly the wrong foot to get started on – this bad attitude.  Shame on me.

Review MAUVE

Review  mauve Mauve:   How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World by Simon Garfield, 2000, 200 pages.

William Perkin was a young English lad who wanted to be a chemist.   However, chemistry was a pure science and his father did not see a future in chemistry (it wasn’t ‘practical’)  – why couldn’t he study architecture and go into the family construction business like his big brother?

Fortunately, Will was lucky enough to be in a school that encouraged his pure science interests and he was able to learn with some of the best instructors around…     In 1856, he was barely 18 years old when he was ‘playing’ in his personal laboratory attempting to create an artificial version of quinine for the treatment of malaria.

What happened, however, was a result that was just too pretty to be dumped in the trash as a failure.    Repeating the process and sharing it with a buddy, he wondered if he could indeed have found a marketable product: a dye –  a vivid new color for clothes, drapes, wallpapers, what have you.

He called it mauve.

Once Queen Victoria (and the Empress Eugenie in France) discovered mauve, the concept of must-have NEW and EXCITING colors took off like wildfire.    William eventually became Sir William Perkin, a father of industrial chemistry and a very wealthy man.

How it happens and the history of all the other factors* of the times, including commercial competition, environmental and health issues, technological advancements, and the fickle fancy of consumers makes this a fascinating study of a subject we take for granted now.

What color would you like that sweater? Before the late 1800’s, it was an issue of whether or not such colors even existed!      At least, the process of recreating colors into dyes.      And the process that started it all was due to Mr. Perkin and his use of coal-tar, the sludge left over from burning coal.

And not only color for dyes, but his process helped understand the relationships of molecules and elements and formula which eventually advanced into syntheses for all sorts of products – each year brought new findings and the chemists like to appreciate Sir William Perkin as the guy who started it all.    Of course, some would say ‘he sold out’ but his impact on the field of chemistry was more than profound.

Garfield really did his research.   He started each chapter with fun and clever quotes of the word mauve throughout history.     He gave terrific examples of many aspects of the dye industry both then and now and as a way to explain the wealth of nations.     I had no idea the extent and importance of color dyes and the companies that control them.      My only complaint would be a few references that were not thoroughly explained – or perhaps I missed it somewhere prior?   Anyway, I will accept half the blame on these minor distractions.

This is the kind of book that when you read it, you want to share every interesting tidbit with those around you (and thus bore and distract them from whatever they are doing!)

“Hey Hub!    Perkin got his Honorary Oxford degree at the same ceremony that Mark Twain got his for literature!”

“Hey Hub!   Remember those annoying BASF commercials years ago when they never ever said what the heck they did?      WE DON’T MAKE THE PRODUCTS, WE JUST MAKE THEM BETTER.”    huh?     They were one of the very first commercial dye companies.”

“Hey Hub!   This dude’s son did some great chemistry stuff, too.   He invented a way to make cheap flannel cloth flame-retardant.”

“Hey Hub!  Cheap dye companies didn’t rinse out enough of the arsenic and since they were cheaper, poorer people bought the fabrics and since they didn’t bathe very often, they would DIE when they sweat and thus arsenic absorbed into their bodies!   DOUBLE WHAMMY – another example of how the poor are taken advantage of for the sake of profit.

Oh, just go read the book.

Please click on this website Ingenious.org featuring the color in question (I prefer to re-direct you in case of copyright issues…), the true Perkin Mauve,  the color discovered by Sir William Perkin.

Very pretty, isn’t it!


notice:   I can’t find the link to the Science Book Challenge – perhaps their server is down?   Will fix as soon as I am able.

naff – Considered to be poor taste; Bad; tasteless; Something that is poorly thought out, doesn’t really work, or is otherwise not very good.   “No more sauve mauve creations turning naff pink in daylight.”

parvenu – nouveau-riche: characteristic of someone who has risen economically or socially but lacks the social skills appropriate for this new position.  “By today’s standards, his family would be judged parvenu middle class.”

mordantblack: harshly ironic or sinister; “black humor”; “a grim joke”. A reagent, such as tannic acid, that fixes dyes to cells, tissues, or textiles or other materials.

pittical – a deep blue

too many other fun color names – it boggles the brain!

*  A friend who had just read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, told me that many wildly successful people were not only intelligent but also at pivotal points in time and space and opportunity.      Just from knowing that, I would make a bet that Sir Perkin would easily fit in Gladwell’s book as an Outlier.    The right time, the right place, the right ambition to exploit it all.

Vocabulary Lesson / Christine Falls 

Review  cfbkcvr Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (also known as John Banville)

Year published 2006, 340 pages.

Quick Synopsis:

A dead woman’s file in the morgue is tampered with – then the body disappears!   The pathologist can’t let go of the mystery until it has totally upended his life  as well as the lives of everyone he seems to know.    Set in Dublin and Boston in the 1950’s, this novel explores family relationships, identities, and saving souls.

Reasonably well-written, believable dialog, flawed characters you like anyway and some to really really dislike; overall impression – just OK.

Also try  DEWEY’s Review.   Her post has a link as to why Mr. Banville uses a pen name for his mystery thrillers.   (I won this book from Dewey; THANKS DEWEY!  She’s got a few more book giveaways going this holiday season, check it out.)

DId I learn any new words? YES!

p.52 – elevenses  –   “Mulligan the registry clerk was taking his elevenses.” a break?   Nope!  a snack!   A British term: “a snack that is similar to afternoon tea, but eaten in the morning.”

p.155 – palaver – “chatter: speak (about unimportant matters) rapidly and incessantly”

p.161 – gaff – “This your gaff?”  Mr. Punch asked him. his home?  Another Brit term:  one’s private residence.

p.168 – phthisic – “A wasting disease of the lungs, the term was also applied more generally to various lung or throat infections.”

p.177 – lascar – “An East Indian sailor, army servant, or artillery trooper, or seaman.”

Any of these words new to you, too?

Vocabulary Extravaganza!

One of the Booking Through Thursday blogging ideas was the question of what you do when you find a word you don’t know.

It all depends for me.   Sometimes, I skip over and assume from context that it all works out.   Sometimes, I actually get up to find a dictionary.   And sometimes, I keep a list, for later.   I keep a journal and have EVERYTHING written in it:  grocery lists, to dos, phone numbers, sketches, notes to remember and just venting, and sometimes silly doodles.    I have no concerns about whatever is in it.   I love to start blank books and make a mess of them.   They are me.

So, when the BTT I’m referring to was all the rage, I had just started  House of Meetings by Martin Amis.   I enjoyed this book very much.    It had humor and horror.    Brutality and tenderness.    AND quite a few words I didn’t know.    Fortunately, none of these slowed me down or annoyed me.  

 Before I get to the list and give you all a chance to feel really good about big words you know that I didn’t, allow me to say that some of these words I write down as if I don’t know them and yet I MUST.    I can prove I’ve looked up some of these a thousand times.   I think it’s habit.   Or my brain wanting to laugh at me!     I can just hear my 11th grade English teacher telling me in that tone, “you know this.”     I wonder if I just don’t trust myself to KNOW it.   Anyway, I will show those words in bold.   

I am also citing paragraphs that impressed me but I gave my book to my book-friend and now can’t provide those passages for you!   SORRY.       If I wrote in my notes how the word was used, I put it in parenthesis.

I read this book as part of Trish’s HEY LADY! blog Novella challenge.   It was the ONLY book that popped up for me in my town’s library computer system when I asked it for novellas.    It was just under 250 pages.    So, this is sort of one of those books that found me.   

It’s a last letter to an only daughter from an old man who survived WWII and then prison camp in Siberia.   He himself waited until the end of his life to read a letter from his brother, the brother who married the woman that the old man had been in love with.   That letter was to explain WHAT HAPPENED in the “House of Meetings” on a particular date.  So, the old man’s letter tries to explain why he could never ‘just get over it and move on’, as well as how being Russian, he is and can only be what he is.  The book has treachery and brutality of war and politics all the while interweaving the details of the love triangle.    Though written by a Brit, the book attempts a Russian voice and brings up Tolstoy and Dostoevsky so it assumes the reader knows the specifics of what makes Russian literature “Russian.”     It is a fascinating look into a national consciousness.    Many interesting insights to all sorts of human dilemmas.

Ready for some words!?

P.10 – scalenehaving all sides unequal, usually in reference to a triangle

p.10 – verst – (defined in next sentence!)  Distance, barely more than a kilometer

p.11 – pelf – boodle: informal terms for money

.11 – claocal – (as in cloacal frenzies) – A sewer or latrine. Zoology. The common cavity into which the intestinal, genital, and urinary tracts open in vertebrates.

p.14 – cruising north, but downriver, which feels anomalous (I so understand!)

p.19 – rictus (mirthless rictus) – a gaping grin or grimace

p.27 – urka – orig. in camps, ‘hardened criminal’, ‘criminal type, tough guy

p.35 – solipsisticSolipsism (Latin: solus, alone + ipse, self) is the philosophical idea that “My mind is the only thing that exists”.

p.40 – scrufulous  Literally, relating to scrofula (tuberculosis of the lymph nodes, particularly of the neck)

 p.63 – tannoy – a loudspeaker

p.65 – seigneurism – spelling!?   Seigneuralism?  The tendency to define fixed, mutually exclusive stages of socio-economic

p.65 – insouciancecarefreeness: the cheerful feeling you have when nothing is troubling you

p.70 – obloquystate of disgrace resulting from public abuse

p.72 – voulucontrived or forced: said as of certain effects in a literary or artistic work

p.74 – sisters:  coercion, fabulation, amnesia

p.80 – onanismmasturbation: manual stimulation of the genital organs (of yourself or another) for sexual pleasure

p.95 – succubus – In medieval legend, a ‘succubus‘ (plural succubi; from Latin succubare, “to lie under”) is a female demon which comes to men, especially monks,

p.126 – regnant systemreigning; dominant, as a queen regnant

p.131 – entire paragraph!    …had quaffed sublimity and love.  

p.142 – modernity – I just like how that sounds….

p.151 – croupier – An empoyee of a European casino. Operates the roulette table with other croupiers.

p.167 – entire paragraph – comparing literature per its origin country…

p.168 – bilious (I prefer more bilious colors – browns and greens) – relating to or containing bile  

p.174 – who is Wilfred Owen?

p.181 – deliquesce – melt away in the process of decay

p. 222 – bathetic – effusively or insincerely emotional; “a bathetic novel”; “maudlin expressions of sympathy”; “mushy effusiveness”; “a schmaltzy song”; “sentimental

p.233 – entire paragraph – lifeful… specific deformation

p.241 – senex (from satyr to senex in an afternoon) – Latin for old man. In Ancient Rome, the title of Senex was only awarded to elderly men with families who had good standing in their village


After I had read this, I found a short story [God Sees the Truth, But Waits] by Tolstoy about a guy in a prison camp for many years even though he was innocent.  On the day he was exonerated by the guilty party confessing, they find the man dead in his bunk.  The end.     I wish I could explain how well this stamped in the concept of Russianness to complement the House of Meetings!    Futility?  is that what I’m supposed to get?   I think so.     Life sucks so get used to it?    And yet, it’s not presented to be depressing, it just IS.


 Other Reviews:

NY Times from Jan 2007

Taking Advantage of the New WordPress Search (for House of Meetings/Amis)

 One of my favorite book blogs! Verbivore at Incurable Logophilia