Archive for November, 2011


Ralph, my lap top, displayed a blue screen of death yesterday. Himself tried resuscitation without success so Ralph will have to wait to see if my other brother can help when he gets to Salem. If Ralph is permanently injured it means I am on a hiatus until after the Thanksgiving holiday. There is a slight chance that my mother’s computer and I will see eye to eye but it hasn’t happened yet so I am not holding my breath.

On a side note. when my children were young I would make them Halloween costumes out of sweats. Eventually they reached an age where they had to come up with their own costumes and I would help as I could. So one year youngest decided to go as the scariest thing he could think of which was the Blue Screen of Death. It was an ingenious outfit that very few adults understood. So the next year he asked me what was the scariest thing I could think of (other than a vampire or zombie) and I said, “a letter from the IRS”, so he went as an IRS auditor.

Happy holidays, may you all be surrounded by warmth and cheer which helps keep the scary things at bay.


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Sunday Caught My Interest

It was a hectic week with getting ready for the XC awards night as well as the local Junior Olympics race yesterday. Himself was the coach for several young people and spent the day making sure athletes had what they needed when they needed it. As for me, I am hopping on the road this morning and made it down to my mom’s. My brother came in for a short visit so I extended my Thanksgiving in Oregon so I could see him.

Here is what caught my interest this week:

Through Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World I found that Publisher’s Weekly has put together their list of the best books of 2011 and some of these were already on my list (State of Wonder and There but for the)) and others caught my interest this week:

I don’t think I have heard of Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff (a short story collection) and the listed novel The Devil all the Time. The author has lived all his live in southern Ohio working as a laborer in a paper mill until he was fifty. At that time he enrolled in a creative writing program at The Ohio State University. The Amazon pages for both books are full of critical acclaim. The Devil all the Time is a southern Gothic tale “with a terrifying cast of rural characters: the haunted WWII veteran, the husband and wife serial killers who target young men along the Interstate, the predatory revival preacher and his wheelchair-bound guitar-playing cousin, all tied together with violence, sin, and gorgeous prose into a mesmerizing slice of Americana.”

I am a big fan of Robert Massie ever since reading Nicholas and Alexandria when I was in high school. I still have my copy of Peter the Great which I have re-read more than once and I remember devouring Journey by Robert and his wife Suzanne which is an account of their son’s hemophilia and an exploration of the medical and political aspects of the disease at that time.   Massie has written a new biography – this time of Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman. Massie has the ability to make biography very approachable and readable and I can’t wait to read this one. And I find that it is one of Swapna Krishna‘s favorite reads of this year.

Someday I will Write about this Place is a memoir by African writer Binyavanga Wainaina who has written Vanity Fair and the New York Times and winner of the Cannes Prize. The blurb at Publisher’s Weekly is short but attention-grabbing, “A Kenyan Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, this sublime word-drunk memoir from the Caine Prize–winning author describes a coming-of-age rent by political troubles and suffused by a love affair with language.”

Happy Reading


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Sunday Caught My Interest

Yesterday was the perfect fall day – sunny and crisp air. Himself and I went to the State XC championship in Pasco Washington. Youngest met us there thrilled to see his high school team make the state finals for the first time since he was a freshman. The boys ran their heart out and placed 5th in the state.  I spent the first part of the week on jury duty. Fortunately my fellow jurors were delightful and I used my down time to wrap up some books that I had half finished.

Here is what caught my interest this week, all of which are older books which were unknown to me:

Book Snob has introduced me to a writer from the 1930’s, Helen Rose Hull.  Information about this author is hard to find other than she taught writing at Columbia and she wrote numerous short stories as well as seventeen novels. Book Snob describers Hull’s writing saying, “her prose is a blend of Willa Cather’s sparse, piercing clarity and Dorothy Whipple’s intuitive, sensitive portrayals of the soul and human relationships. ” Morning Shows the Day begins in the 1910’s in the Midwest and follows a group of young high school students, from both sides of the social and financial spectrum, for the next thirty years.  I wish I could quote the whole review but will settle for this, “This is not a novel that deserves to be forgotten; it is touching and profound and striking in its honesty. I can’t praise it, and Hull’s writing, enough.” Two of Hull’s novels are available from The Feminist Press. The others, including this one, may be harder to find. Fortunately I can read this through the Inter-library loan program.

What is interesting about book blogs is you will read about a book and pass on it for various reasons and then you read a review that changes your mind.  For example, The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton. Born in Missouri in 1913, Moonflower is the author’s only published novel. I have seen in on other blogs and even looked on Amazon and it didn’t spark my interest. Then I read a review done by The Boston Bibliophile and I am now thinking about putting it on my list. Set in the Ozarks, the novel is about the Soames family: Patriarch Matthew, a stern and distant father; his wife Callie; and four individualist daughters. This is the line in the review that sold me, “What I loved about this book is how Carleton crafts such rich interior lives for all of her characters, with so much compassion for them, but never loses sight of how much these people love each other.”

Jackie of Farmlane Books reviews a novel that is described by some as a “lost modern classic”, The Death of the Adversary by Hans Keilson. Keilson was a novelist, poet, psychoanalyst, and child psychologist as well as a member of the Dutch Resistance in WWII. As a Jew, Keilson was prevented from working by the Germans and eventually went into hiding. The resistance asked him to work with Jewish children in hiding and these experiences found their way into his writing. The Death of the Adversary was written while Keilson was in hiding and is the account of a young Jewish boy who watches a dictator obtain power.  Francine Prose wrote in the New York Times Book Review:

“For busy, harried or distractible readers who have the time and energy only to skim the opening paragraph of a review, I’ll say this as quickly and clearly as possible: The Death of the Adversary and Comedy in a Minor Key are masterpieces, and Hans Keilson is a genius . . . Although the novels are quite different, both are set in Nazi-occupied Europe and display their author’s eye for perfectly illustrative yet wholly unexpected incident and detail, as well as his talent for storytelling and his extraordinarily subtle and penetrating understanding of human nature. But perhaps the most distinctive aspect they share is the formal daring of the relationship between subject matter and tone. Rarely has a finer, more closely focused lens been used to study such a broad and brutal panorama, mimetically conveying a failure to come to grips with reality by refusing to call that reality by its proper name . . . Rarely have such harrowing narratives been related with such wry, off-kilter humor, and in so quiet a whisper. Read these books and join me in adding him to the list, which each of us must compose on our own, of the world’s very greatest writers.”

The final classic that caught my interest is South Riding by Winifred Holtby reviewed by Rachel of Book Snob. Holtby, a friend of Vera Brittain, came of age in England after WWI. Her work focuses on the economic, social, and political challenges England faced along with the sheer enormity of the loss of life due to the war. Holtby was diagnosed with Bright’s Disease and used her remaining energy to finish South Riding. Set in the fictional town of South Riding, the novel has a large cast of characters “all of whom have their own absorbing lives that feed into this incredible, moving portait of humanity that Holtby paints so vividly.” Rachel’s review is well worth reading and she makes the book sound like something to both enjoy and savor.

Happy Reading.

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