What are you reading the week of February 1, 2020?
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Long Bright River: A Novel by Liz Moore
(Philadelphia/police procedural/two sisters/drug abuse)
I'm reading tamer fare now: Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead. Interesting stuff.
Next was a round of my "between books" . . .
* “Review of Peter Guralnick’s Lost Highway: Journeys & Arrivals of American Musicians” from Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs
* Excerpt from Blackberry Winter by Margaret Mead from The Norton Book of Women's Lives edited by Phyllis Rose
* “Caroline’s Christmas: or, The Inexplicable Infant” from Laugh with Leacock by Stephen Leacock
* "Mary Shindler" from American Heroines: The Spirited Women who Shaped Our Country by Kay Bailey Hutchison
* “Point of View” from A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
* “How the Chilote Otey Died” from Tierra del Fuego by Francisco Coloane
* “Havana, Old and New” by Sherril Schell from The Mentor, November, 1924 edited by W. D. Moffat
After that I read the brief history Reminiscences of a Town With Two Names: Greenwood, Known Also as Elk by Walter Matson. This is a book about one of the towns near where I live in Mendocino County, California, my reading of it part of my ongoing project of learning as much of the history of this region as I can.
Next I think I'm going to give these "between books" another round of attention before deciding what to read next.
I actually read it the first time shortly after it came out in 1965, and it was the first "real" science fiction book I'd ever read. Talk about jumping into the deep end of the pool! I read it a second time after that dreadful movie adaptation in 1984, just to get the bad taste out of my memory!
And I see there's a remake coming out this December. Hmm. Jason Mamoa is in this one (Duncan Idaho). Idunno ... not even Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck could save the old one. We shall see.
The Lady Travelers Guide to Larceny with a Dashing Stranger: A Novel (Lady Travelers Society Book 2)
(one painting/two people seeking ownership/romantic Victorian romp in Europe)
Moby-Dick, Or, the Whale – Herman Melville
Digital audiobook performed by Anthony Heald
This is a re-read … sort of. The first time I attempted this book I was only 11 years old, in 7th grade, and participating in a “great books” discussion group. I gave up and relied on the Cliff’s notes and watching the movie with Gregory Peck as Ahab.
Some years ago, I read Nathaniel Philbrick’s excellent In the Heart Of the Sea, a nonfiction account of the whaleship Essex, which was the inspiration for Melville’s tale. I found it fascinating and commented “Almost makes me want to read Moby Dick.”
Well I didn’t forget that urge and decided to give the audiobook a try. I’m glad I did.
Yes, Melville writes in great detail – ad nauseum – about the intricacies of whaling, the various species of aquatic mammals, the arduous and dirty (even disgusting) job of butchering the carcass. But he also explores the relationships developed among the crew, the sights of new ports, the weeks of tedious boredom broken by a day or two of exhilarating chase.
And then there is the psychology of Ahab. A man tortured by his own obsession and need for revenge. That was the most interesting part of the book for me and I wanted much more of it.
I struggled with my rating and ultimately decided on 4 stars for the enduring quality of the work; despite its flaws and the things I disliked about it it’s a work that will stay with me.
Anthony Heald was the narrator of the audio book I got from my library. He did a fine job of the narration. He read at a good pace and brought some life to a work that frequently bogs down in minutia.
Old FILTH trilogy for Monthly Author Reads: Jane Gardam. Thinking tho I might read them chronologically rather than as published, to see how it reads all together.
By the way, the reference to the town's two names comes from the fact that the town in its early days was always known as Greenwood. However, there was another town some distance to the north with the same name. When the U.S. Post Office modernized, they would not offer local post offices to two towns with the same name in the same state. So the Mendocino County town of Greenwood changed its name to Elk. However, the road that goes from the town of Philo (pronounced Fie-Low, not Fee-Low) in Anderson Valley that runs over the mountain and down to the coast is still called the Philo-Greenwood Road.
I loved the trilogy, I also followed up with a collection of short stories relating to the characters (The People of Privilege Hill) enjoy the trilogy.
* “from NotesReview of Peter Guralnick’s Lost Highway: Journeys & Arrivals of American Musicians” from Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs
* Excerpt from The Loony-Bin Trip by Kate Millett from The Norton Book of Women's Lives edited by Phyllis Rose
* “Father Knickerbacker – A Fantasy” from Laugh with Leacock by Stephen Leacock
* "Marj Carpenter" from American Heroines: The Spirited Women who Shaped Our Country by Kay Bailey Hutchison
* “Her First Detox” from A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
* “Five Sailors and a Green Coffin” from Tierra del Fuego by Francisco Coloane
* “Marco Polo, Pathfinder of Asia” by M.B. Levick from The Mentor, November, 1924 edited by W. D. Moffat
* “Walking Distance” from Living in the Weather of the World by Richard Bausch – Newly Added
I'm going to do one more "between book" reading and then start getting ready for Opening Day (baseball) by reading the classic baseball tell-all, The Bronx Zoo, by Sparky Lyle and Peter Golenbock.
The Lost Girls of Paris – Pam Jenoff
Another WWII story featuring women working as spies through the underground resistance and facing untold dangers. This one starts after the war, when Grace Healey, taking a shortcut through Grand Central Station on her way to work, finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Curious, she opens the case and finds a packet of photos, each of the dozen pictures of a different woman. On impulse, she takes the photos. Later she learns the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, who died in a tragic auto accident. But Grace is determined to find out the women’s stories.
There’s much to like about this tale, though I am frankly tired of the back-and-forth timelines used by so many writers these days. The author also uses different points of view from chapter to chapter: Grace, Eleanor, and Marie Roux (a young mother who was one of the couriers working with the resistance in occupied France).
I could have done without the love interest and I thought some of Marie’s actions were inconsistent and downright stupid, given the circumstances. I thought Grace’s role was just padding. The story could easily have been told in a linear fashion with just Eleanor and Marie and would have been about 100 pages shorter.
The character I liked the most was relegated to a rather small role: Josie. She’s a spitfire of a girl and very resourceful. I loved every scene she was a part of.
The one that made the least sense to me was Julian – leader of a band of couriers, he’s in France but doesn’t speak French!
Still, the story, which is partly based on true events, moved quickly and was engaging and interesting. A decent vacation read.
* “Larry Newman See ‘Blood and Guts’ at the Battle of the Bulge” from A Treasury of Great Reporting: "Literature Under Pressure" from the Sixteenth Century to Our Own Time edited by Louis L. Snyder
* “The Trouble with the Irish” by Father J. J. Murphy from Magazine Digest - August 1949 edited by Murray Simmons
* “On Thinking for One’s Self” from Leaves in the Wind by Alpha of the Plow (a.k.a. A. G. Gardiner)
* “Untitled” from Creek Walk and Other Stories by Molly Giles - Finished
* “Battle of Port Royal” excerpted from Abstract of the Cruise of the U.S. Steam Frigate Wabash, 1861-’62 & ‘63 by “Marlinspike” from The Union Reader edited by Richard B. Harwell
“The Story of the Poem ‘Kubla Khan’” by J. Pennington from The Mentor, November, 1924 edited by W. D. Moffat
As noted here, with this round I finished Creek Walk and Other Stories by Molly Giles. This is a very memorable collections of acutely observed and sharply written stories about women struggling to make sense of their places in the world and gain a sense of significance in a world that is just as happy to shove them into the margins.
In advance of baseball season, I've now started The Bronx Zoo by Sparky Lyle.
A Dangerous Man by Robert Crais
(Cole and Pike series/private investigators/foiled kidnapping intrigue)
Stamper has done for the arcane profession of lexicography what Mary Roach did in Stiff and Gulp and Bonk -- she's produced a delightful and readable work on an unlikely subject -- this time the creation, editing, and usage of dictionaries.
No -- seriously. And does it with a delightful style that does things like comparing stubborn but "incorrect" words like "irregardless" and "ain't" to barnacles that cling stubbornly to the hull of the English language and refuse to be scraped off. (That's not a direct quote, because I didn't make note of it at the time, but you get the idea.)
Playful, informative, and thought-provoking. If you're a logophile, you really need to read this book.
Anne Helen Petersen
Petersen writes an engrossing book on the way the world views certain women that buck the traditional roles of mother, wife and female role model. Told through the stories of various women, including Serena Williams, Hillary Clinton, Lena Dunham, Melissa McCarthy and others in the public eye, this book will astound you about the treatment of women and the double standards that they have had to deal with.
Go visit the essay if you're curious.
The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters – Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger
Digital Audio narrated by Bernadette Dunne.
The subtitle is all the synopsis anyone needs: The Tragic and Glamorous lives of Jackie and Lee
The book jacket notes that when Jackie Kennedy Onassis died she left numerous bequests to friends and family, but nothing to her sister. Jackie’s will stated: I have made no provision in this my Will for my sister, lee B Radziwill, for whom I have great affection, because I have already done so during my lifetime.” Ouch.
Based on interviews with Lee Radziwill and various friends of both Lee and Jackie, the authors have crafted a mini biography and exploration of their complicated and tight relationship, from children of divorced parents, to women married to powerful and/or wealthy men. Like any siblings there were disagreements, rivalries, jealousy, fierce loyalty, affection, and competition. Living so much of their adult lives in the spotlight certainly contributed to some of these feelings.
All told I found it fascinating and full of the kind of gossip that enthralls me. It’s an interesting look at the dynamic between these two sisters and their claims to fame.
Bernadette Dunne did a marvelous job of reading the audio version. She set a good pace, and her narration held my attention.
In the afternoon I picked up A House of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan. Supernatural suspense set in an old house on an island off the Devon coast in the waning days of WWI. Of course, there is a snowstorm preventing the members of the house party from leaving, and there seems to be espionage, a pretty and plucky girl and a somewhat mysterious, tall, dark man. It's better written than some of the stuff I've been dipping into lately, and is holding my interest. Esther Wayne is a good narrator, which also helps a lot. A good narrator can do a lot for a mediocre book, while a narrator who is off or irritating in some way can ruin a book completely.