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Welcome to bookchat where you can talk about anything...books, plays, essays, and books on tape.  You don’t have to be reading a book to come in, sit down, and chat with us.

Tonight, Bookflurries is taking part in the environmental/nature diaries of Eco Week.  Land of Enchantment suggested this week’s theme and I am happy to oblige.  The land is important in many fiction and non-fiction books and essays.  I will share a few of my favorite books and then you may share yours in comments.

I.  Mildred Taylor’s books for young adults are much loved by adults as well.  In her stories the land and the trees on it are vital to the story.

wiki says:

http://en.wikipedia.org/...

Mildred Delois Taylor (born September 13, 1943 in Jackson, Mississippi) is an African American author, known for her works exploring the struggle faced by African-American families in the Deep South. Mildred Taylor lived in Jackson, Mississippi, then moved to Toledo, Ohio, where she spent most of her childhood. She now lives in Colorado with her daughter.

These anecdotes became very clear in Mildred’s mind. In fact, once she recalled that as the adults talked about the past, "I began to visualize all the family who had once known the land, and I felt as if I knew them, too..." Taylor has talked about how much history was in the stories; some stories took place during times of slavery and some post-slavery.

I have read most of the books and enjoyed them very much.

  The Land  (The Land was written later, but it is a prequel to the series).

  Song of the Trees
  Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
  Let the Circle Be Unbroken
  The Road to Memphis
  The Friendship
  The Gold Cadillac
  Mississippi Bridge
  The Well

II.  Land of Enchantment, many others, and I are fans of Aldo Leopold and his well known book The Sand County Almanac.

wiki tells about Leopold here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/...

LoE gave the site in another diary for his famous essay Thinking Like a Mountain which is a must read.

http://www.eco-action.org/...

III.  A favorite film of mine is The Man Who Planted Trees created by Frédéric Back in 1987, based on a fiction story by the same name, also known as The Story of Elzéard Bouffier, The Most Extraordinary Character I Ever Met by Jean Giono.

http://video.barnesandnoble.com/...

Our own DailyKos member, side pocket, has planted trees:

http://www.dailykos.com/...

Loved the article on the evolution of trees. My contribution to the earth will be the 100+ redwood trees I planted about 10 years ago, already over 20 feet tall.

IV.  In the story I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven, the woods, water, and mountains of BC, Canada, are a character as much as Mark and the wonderful villagers.

The story of the swimmers, the salmon, as they go upstream and die after laying their eggs is one of the metaphors of the story as is the owl itself who calls Mark’s name.  

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/...

Synopsis

Amid the grandeur of the remote Pacific Northwest stands Kingcome, a village so ancient that, according to Kwakiutl myth, it was founded by the two brothers left on earth after the great flood. The Native Americans who still live there call it Quee, a place of such incredible natural richness that hunting and fishing remain primary food sources.

But the old culture of totems and potlatch is being replaces by a new culture of prefab housing and alcoholism. Kingcome's younger generation is disenchanted and alienated from its heritage. And now, coming upriver is a young vicar, Mark Brian, on a journey of discovery that can teach him—and us—about life, death, and the transforming power of love.

In my diary on mysteries a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned books where the settings are important and several posters mentioned good ones, too.

V.  My favorite stories where the land is definitely a character are Tony Hillerman’s stories about the Four Corner's area.  

The list of other mysteries with strong settings from that diary is here:

http://www.dailykos.com/...

wiki says:

http://en.wikipedia.org/...

Hillerman repeatedly acknowledged his debt to an earlier series of mystery novels written by the British-born Australian author Arthur W. Upfield and set among tribal aborigines in remote desert regions of tropical and subtropical Australia. The Upfield novels appeared first in 1928 and featured a half-European, half-aboriginal Australian hero, Detective-inspector Napoleon (Bony) Bonaparte who worked with deep understanding of tribal traditions. The character was based on the real-life achievements of an aborigine known as Tracker Leon whom Upfield had met during his years in the Australian bush.

Hillerman discussed his debt to Upfield in many interviews and in his introduction to the posthumous 1984 reprint of Upfield's A Royal Abduction. In the introduction he described the seductive appeal of the descriptions in Upfield's crime novels. It was descriptions both of the harsh outback areas and of "the people who somehow survived upon them" that lured him. "When my own Jim Chee of the Navaho Tribal Police unravels a mystery because he understands the ways of his people, when he reads the signs in the sandy bottom of a reservation arroyo, he is walking in the tracks Bony made 50 years ago."

A list of photography books that he was involved with and that sound very interesting:

Books of Photos

Hillerman Country (1991) ISBN 0-06-016400-X
Indian Country: America's Sacred Land Bela Kalman (text by Hillerman) (1987) ISBN 0873584325

Rio Grande Robert Reynolds (text by Hillerman) (1975) ISBN 0-912856-18-1

New Mexico Photography by David Muench (text by Hillerman) (1975) ISBN 0-912856-14-9

Tony Hillerman's New Mexico (1 of 3)

http://www.youtube.com/...

Tony Hillerman's New Mexico (2 of 3)
http://www.youtube.com/...

Tony Hillerman's New Mexico (3 of 3)
http://www.youtube.com/...

New Mexico!
http://www.youtube.com/...

Tony Hillerman: The Art of the Mystery (1 of 3)
http://www.youtube.com/...

Tony Hillerman: The Art of the Mystery (2 of 3)
http://www.youtube.com/...

Tony Hillerman: The Art of the Mystery (3 of 3)
http://www.youtube.com/...

SOLDIER BLUE BUFFY SAINTE MARIE TO ALL TRIBES LOST

http://www.youtube.com/...

VI.  Vital portraits of a land and it's people are found in James Herriot’s books.  

  All Creatures Great and Small
  All Things Bright and Beautiful
  All Things Wise and Wonderful
  The Lord God Made Them All

James Herriot's Yorkshire (Highlight)

http://www.youtube.com/...

These clips are about the TV show based on Herriot's stories that hubby and I watched and re-watched until we know them nearly by heart:

All Creatures Great And Small Documentary Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/...

All Creatures Great And Small Documentary Part 2
http://www.youtube.com/...

All Creatures Great And Small Documentary Part 3
http://www.youtube.com/...

wiki says about James Herriot:

http://en.wikipedia.org/...

James Herriot is the pen name of James Alfred Wight, OBE...

In 1939, at the age of 23, he qualified as a veterinary surgeon from Glasgow Veterinary College. In January, 1940, he took a brief job at a veterinary practice in Sunderland, but moved in July to work in a rural practice based in the town of Thirsk, Yorkshire, close to the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors, where he was to remain for the rest of his life. On 5 November 1941, he married Joan Catherine Anderson Danbury. The couple had two children, James Alexander (Jim), born 1943, who also became a vet and was a partner in the practice, and Rosemary (Rosie), born 1947, who became a medical doctor.

Wight served in the Royal Air Force in 1942. His wife moved to her parents' house during this time, and upon being discharged from the RAF as a Leading Aircraftman, Wight joined her. They lived here until 1946, at which point they moved back to 23 Kirkgate, staying until 1953. Later, he moved with his wife to a house on Topcliffe Road, Thirsk, opposite the secondary school. The original practice is now a museum, "The World of James Herriot", while the Topcliffe Road house is now in private ownership and not open to the public. He later moved with his family to the village of Thirlby, about four miles from Thirsk, where he lived until his death.

There are so many wonderful travel books that have the setting as a character.  The diary that has a long list of those books is here:

http://www.dailykos.com/...

VII.  In Alexander McCall Smith’s books, The #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the land of Botswana is definitely a character and that is one reason I enjoy them so much.

Here is a video about Smith which also talks about Scotland and the last part is about the orphanage in the Botswana books (you will also hear a cheetah purring):

Alexander McCall Smith - Botswana

http://www.youtube.com/...

The Kalahari Bushmen – Botswana  December 2002    (a sad story of tribal dispossession)

http://www.youtube.com/...

wiki says:

http://en.wikipedia.org/...

Alexander (R.A.A.) "Sandy" McCall Smith, CBE, FRSE, (born August 24, 1948) is a Zimbabwean-born British writer and Emeritus Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. In the late 20th century McCall Smith became a respected expert on medical law and bioethics and served on British and international committees concerned with these issues.

VIII.  For a long time people like plf have mentioned A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller, Jr..  I had never read it and I was ashamed.  An old paperback had been sitting on my TBR pile for probably years.  When I was asked to do this diary, I felt the day had come to read the book since it would be very appropriate with this theme.

A Canticle for Leibowitz

wiki says:

http://en.wikipedia.org/...

A Canticle for Leibowitz is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American Walter M. Miller, Jr...

Set in a Roman Catholic monastery in the desert of the Southwestern United States after a devastating nuclear war, the story spans thousands of years as civilization rebuilds itself. The monks of the Albertian Order of Leibowitz take up the mission of preserving the surviving remnants of man's scientific knowledge until the day the outside world is again ready for it.

Inspired by the author's participation in the Allied bombing of the monastery at Monte Cassino during World War II, the novel is considered a masterpiece by literary critics. It has been compared favorably with the works of Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, and Walker Percy, and its themes of religion, recurrence, and church versus state have generated a significant body of scholarly research.

The question that goes with the eco diaries this week is on page 119 of the paperback edition.
 

"How can a great and wise civilization have destroyed itself so completely?"

I have also read Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury, Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt, The Postman by David Brin, and Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin.

IX.  The Postman by David Brin

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/...

synopsis

... He was a survivor--a wanderer who traded tales for food and shelter in the dark and savage aftermath of a devastating war.  Fate touches him one chill winter's day when he borrows the jacket of a long-dead postal worker to protect himself from the cold.  The old, worn uniform still has power as a symbol of hope, and with it he begins to weave his greatest tale, of a nation on the road to recovery.

X.  wiki says of Always Coming Home:

http://en.wikipedia.org/...

Always Coming Home ...It is set in a time so post-apocalyptic that no cultural source can remember the apocalypse, though a few folk tales refer to our time. The only signs of our civilization that have lasted into their time are indestructible artifacts such as Styrofoam and a self-manufacturing, self-maintaining, solar-system-wide computer network...

John Denver Whose Garden Was This?

http://www.youtube.com/...

Tom Lehrer - Pollution

http://www.youtube.com/...

Diaries of the week:

Write On! Slogging through to the bitter end.
by SensibleShoes
http://www.dailykos.com/...

Midsummer Meadows
by johnnygunn
http://www.dailykos.com/...

"The Hurt Locker"   ( a movie review)
by jimstaro
http://www.dailykos.com/...

Monaco And Nice (Photo Blog)   (includes Chagall pics)
by Turkana
http://www.dailykos.com/...

How To Help Promote Kossack Authors
by Jill Richardson
http://www.dailykos.com/...

A Musical Journey Through India -- DKos Travel Board #21
by WarrenS
http://www.dailykos.com/...

The Mad Logophile; A College of Collective Nouns
by Purple Priestess
http://www.dailykos.com/...

DK GreenRoots; Ecotourism: Not an oxymoron
by LaughingPlanet
http://www.dailykos.com/...

Road Trip Photo Diary
by john de herrera
http://www.dailykos.com/...

Photo Diary: My Trip To The Smoky Mountains National Park
by webranding
http://www.dailykos.com/...

Summer Reading: Recent Children's Books on Human Rights
by Deejay Lyn

http://www.dailykos.com/...

Which book next?
by plf515
http://www.dailykos.com/...

NOTE: plf515 has changed his book talk to Wednesday mornings early.

sarahnity’s list of DKos authors has grown so much that she has her own diary.

http://www.dailykos.com/...

sarahnity says:

It turns out that we have quite a few authors hanging out here who have published books in the real world.  A while ago, I started keeping a list of books by Kossacks, former Kossacks and Kossacks-once-removed.  I was posting it each week to the diary series What Are You Reading and Bookflurries, but the list has grown long enough, that I've decided to turn it into a diary and post it as a weekly series on Tuesday evenings.

Not all Kossack authors may wish to lose their anonymity, so I am only including the author's UID if he has outed herself here (gender confusion intended).  If you'd like to be included on the list, or if you know of an author who is left off, please leave a comment or email me.

(sarahnity@gmail.com)

If you are interested in environmental issues, please join DK GreenRoots, a new environmental advocacy group created by Meteor Blades and Patriot Daily.

DK GreenRoots comprises bloggers at Daily Kos and eco-advocates from other sites. We focus on a broad range of issues and are always open to new ones.

Over the coming weeks and months, DK Greenroots will initiate a variety of environmental projects, some political and some having nothing directly to do with politics at all.

Some projects may involve the creation of eco working groups that can be used for a variety of actions, including implementing political action or drafting proposed legislation.

We are in exciting times now because for the first time in decades, significant environmental legislation will be passed by Congress. It is far easier to achieve real change if our proposal is on the table rather than fighting rearguard actions.

We alert each other to important eco-stories in the mainstream media and on the Internet, promote bloggers at one site to readers at other sites, connect bloggers of similar interests to each other and discuss crucial eco-issues.

Come help us put these projects together. Bring ideas of your own. There is no limit on what we can accomplish together.

Originally posted to cfk on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:03 PM PDT.

Also republished by Readers and Book Lovers.

Poll

Which state is your favorite place to visit for a vacation?

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| 51 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  welcome (29+ / 0-)

    I would like to take a moment during this time of Eco Week to remember Johnny Rook who would have happily participated.

    I miss him very much.

    A tribute to Johnny Rook here:

    http://getenergysmartnow.com/...

    Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:04:43 PM PDT

  •  A book on this topic (10+ / 0-)

    that leaps to mind would be Goodbye to a River by John Graves, boat trip down a portion of the Brazos in 1961 that was to be submerged by a dam (which I believe never came about).

  •  and (16+ / 0-)

    I am tickled because I had been wanting to take a picture of the Michigan poet Theodore Roethke’s family home for several years and today I managed to get hubby to park and I walked a few blocks and got it done. :)

    1805 Gratiot Avenue, Saginaw, Michigan

    http://i268.photobucket.com/...  Roethke family home

    Roethke's family home, Saginaw, Michigan

    A poem by Theodore Roethke:

    In a Dark Time

    In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
    I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
    I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
    A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
    I live between the heron and the wren,
    Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
    What's madness but nobility of soul
    At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!

    I know the purity of pure despair,
    My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
    That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
    Or winding path? The edge is what I have.
    A steady storm of correspondences!
    A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
    And in broad day the midnight come again!
    A man goes far to find out what he is--
    Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
    All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

    Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
    My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
    Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
    A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
    The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
    And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

    http://www.poemhunter.com/...

    Another favorite, The Storm, is here:

    http://www.poemhunter.com/...

    Roethke’s brother’s house:

    http://i268.photobucket.com/...  

    Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:07:49 PM PDT

  •  this will sound odd (11+ / 0-)

    but dickens' the old curiosity shop includes a haunting nocturnal trek through england's blighted industrial midlands. the description is almost boschian.

  •  "Ecotopia" by Ernest Callenbach (10+ / 0-)

    Written in 1974, set in 1999, this is an account of a journey to the independent (after a struggle) nation of Ecotopia, which is the Pacific Northwest. Ecotopia is a sunny Utopia, with plenty of sexual freedom, joyful work, and environmental balance.

    "Some people meditate. I go watch baseball."--Keith Olbermann

    by Dump Terry McAuliffe on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:13:11 PM PDT

  •  "Girl of the Limberlost" (9+ / 0-)

    by Gene Stratton-Porter uses setting-as-character for the swamp in northeast Indiana that has now all-but-disappeared.

  •  I'm most of the way through Desert Solitaire (12+ / 0-)

    by Edward Abbey.  Extraordinary writer in an extraordinary place (specifically Arches National Monument, before it became a national park, generally the Utah-AZ deserts) -- highly recommended.

    Healthy Minds & Bodies, discussing outdoor adventures Tuesdays 5 PM PDT

    by RLMiller on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:17:44 PM PDT

  •  Canticle for Leibowitz. Wow, (10+ / 0-)

    haven't read that in decades.  May be time for a re-read.

  •  I can't remember all the books I've read (11+ / 0-)

    that had environmental or animal themes in them, but I know many of them had some influence in shaping my love of nature.  Of course there's The Lorax in that group.

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:18:31 PM PDT

  •  My last novel had an environmental theme (9+ / 0-)

    but it didn't sell well and is now in danger of going out of print. Titled Dirt Cheap, it's about a college professor with leukemia who pursues the chemical company that he believes gave him his illness and contaminated his upscale suburb. He's joined in his crusade by the young teacher of his seventh-grade son.

    It got good reviews in a number of newspapers but the publisher didn't really know where to market it. And it didn't get major trade reviews because the advance copies were sent out after the reviewers' deadlines.

  •  Monthly Book Post 1 (7+ / 0-)

    Equal Rites, by Terry Pratchett :
    Anyone watching closely would have noticed strange things happening as she passed by.
    There was, for example, the man with three upturned cups who was inviting a small crowd to explore with him the exciting world of chance and probability as it related to the position of a small dried pea. He was vaguely aware of a small figure watching him solemnly for a few moments, and then a sackful of peas cascaded out of every cup he picked up. Within seconds, he was knee deep in legumes. He was a lot deeper in trouble—he owed everyone a lot of money.
    There was a small and wretched monkey that for years had shuffled vaguely at the end of a chain while its owner played something dreadful on a pipe organ. It suddenly turned, narrowed its little red eyes, bit its keeper sharply in the leg, snapped its chain and had it away over the rooftops with the night’s takings in a tin cup. History is silent about what they were spent on.
    A boxful of marzipan ducks on a nearby stall came to life and whirred past the stallholder to land, quacking happily, in the river (where, by dawn, they had all melted: that’s natural selection for you). The stall itself sidled off down an alley and was never seen again.
    Esk, in fact, moved through the fair more like an arsonist moves through a hayfield or a neutron bounces through a reactor, poets notwithstanding, and the hypothetical watcher could have detected her random passage by tracing the outbreaks of hysteria and violence. But, like all good catalysts, she wasn’t actually involved in the processes she initiated, and by the time all the non-hypothetical potential watchers took their eyes off them she had been buffeted somewhere else.

    I discovered Pratchett’s Discworld books this year, and chomped through the first two like a kid in a candy store. Even after that, the third volume made me stop and wonder dubiously. "Discworld enters the battle of the sexes", announced the back cover, briefly introducing the new heroine, Esk, and her quest to become Discworld’s first ever female wizard. Oh, great. In fiction, "battle of the sexes" is code for a Girlpower book, in which all of the male characters are belching doofuses, shocked old fuddy-duddies and overconfident swaggerers just waiting to be humiliated by the spunky heroine. And in the rare tales where the guys win, it’s because they’re EVIL, as in The Stepford Wives. Jeez, I read books to escape from the real world, not to have my nose rubbed in it...

    I needn’t have worried. Although there are a couple of old fuddy-duddies who are horrified at the idea of learning or doing anything that hasn’t always been studied or done since the beginning of time (the central location is a prestigious University, after all), the rest of the cliches are either thrown out the window or placed on the corner with their pants around their ankles, singing "The Old Grey Mare". Most of the male and female characters are well meaning at worst, and the resolution of the main conflict is not humiliation but union. More than that, the story is too side-splittingly funny to philosophize about. Much.

    The bad news is that Rincewind, the Sentient Luggage, and everyone else who romped their way through the first two books are nowhere to be found. The good news is that there are others to take their place who are at least as wild and memorable. Exhibit One is the amazing Granny Weatherwax, the curmudgeonly resident witch of the hamlet of Bad Ass, who has no formal learning but a doctorate in Headology....
       
    Loud and Raucous on the Eastern Front: The Good Soldier Schweik, by Jaroslav Hasek  :
    Someone pummeled him in the ribs and stood him in front of a table behind which sat a man with a cold official face and features of such brutish savagery that he looked as if he had just tumbled out of Lombroso’s book on criminal types.
    He hurled a bloodthirsty glance at Schweik and said, "Take that idiotic expression off your face!"
    "I can’t help it", replied Schweik solemnly. "I was discharged from the army on account of being weak minded and a special board reported me officially as weak minded. I’m officially weak minded—a chronic case."
    The gentleman with the criminal countenance grated his teeth as he said, "The offense you’re accused of and that you’ve committed shows you’ve got all your wits about you."
    And now he proceeded to enumerate to Schweik a long list of crimes, beginning with high treason and ending with insulting language toward His Royal Highness and Members of the Royal Family. The central gem of this collection constituted approval of the murder of the Archduke Ferdinand, and from this again branched off a string of fresh offenses, among which sparkled incitement to rebellion, as the whole business had happened in a public place.
    "What have you got to say for yourself?" triumphantly asked the gentleman with the features of brutish savagery.
    "There’s a lot of it," replied Schweik innocently. "You can have too much of a good thing."
    "So you admit it’s true?"
    "I admit everything. You’ve got to be strict. If you ain’t strict, why, where would you be? It’s like when I was in the army..."
    "Hold your tongue!" shouted the police commissioner. "And don’t say a word unless you’re asked a question. Do you understand?"
    "Begging your pardon sir, I do, and I’ve properly got the hang of every word you utter."

    This Austrian WWI variation on the old theme of the sane madman in a world of mad sane men has been described as the original antiwar novel, influencing every subsequent antiwar writer from Remarque to Brecht to Heller.  The author’s chief brilliance is in making every episode ambiguous as to whether the cheerful protagonist with the perpetual comfortably dumb smile and the endless supply of inane subject-changing anecdotes is an imbecile or whether he’s crazy like a fox, but somehow his little misunderstandings and mistakes always seem to take him far from where the fighting is, and the superior officer always ends up bearing the consequences of the official folly that is supposed to make the grunts suffer.

    My biggest problems is, Hasek may have paved the way for Joseph Heller, but I read Catch 22 first, and after Heller’s superlative snarkiness---heck, even after M*A*SH* 4077---Schweik is tame by comparison. Catch 3, if you will. His satire intends to bite; it nibbles.  Part of the problem may be things that are lost in the translation and the culture barrier.  The book goes on for a few episodes too many, begins to go in circles, and then abruptly ends with no climax or resolution.   As I learned from Claudio Magris’ tour of The Danube, and from Gogol, Kafka, and Brecht, East European literature has a tendency to muddle, to be more philosophically fog enshrouded than most readers, to step away from the plot and indicate that it is making a point, and to bog down in absurdism.  Schweik is packed with officials and more officials, all of whom strut about like nutcracker soldiers, giving nonsensical orders, barking out droning speeches, and throwing paperwork by the shovelful in order to demonstrate to the reader that (hold on to your seat) bureaucratic hierarchies, especially military ones, are often nonsensical and stultifying! I suppose I should be thankful that Hasek lived before the development of departments of Motor vehicles.  Schweik is funny, but not laugh out loud funny. It’s more "We just shot our own troops as a cost saving measure" funny.

    "Joe The Cop Killer" for Republican Presidential Nominee. A REAL Conservative, fighting for the American Dream!

    by AdmiralNaismith on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:25:13 PM PDT

  •  Current reading (8+ / 0-)

    About 3/4 through Paul Theroux's latest opus: Ghost train to the Eastern Star - following in his own footsteps of The Great Railway Bazaar, 33 years earlier. I didn't care for his previous book Dark Star Safari; he's much more likeable this time around.

    On vacation last week, I read a book that I thought kosfolk might enjoy: The Road through Miyama by Leila Philip - an American woman's year as an apprentice potter in a Japanese village (c. 1981).

  •  Monthly Book Post 2 (8+ / 0-)

    Am I buggin’ ya? I don’t mean to bug ya. OK, Edge... Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton:
    To the judge is entrusted a great duty, to judge and to pronounce sentence, even sentence of death. Because of their high office, Judges are called Honourable, and precede most other men on great occasions. And they are held in great honour by men both black and white. Because the land is a land of fear, a Judge must be without fear, so that justice may be done according to the Law; therefore, a Judge must be incorruptible.
    The Judge does not make the Law. It is the People that make the Law. Therefore, if a Law is unjust, and if the Judge judges according to the Law, that is justice, even if it is not just.
    It is the duty of a Judge to do justice, but it is only the People that can be just. Therefore, if justice be not just, that is not to be laid at the door of the Judge, but at the door of the People, which means at the door of the White People, for it is the White People that make the Law.
    In South Africa, men are proud of their Judges, because they believe they are incorruptible. Even the black men have faith in them, though they do not always have faith in the Law. In a land of fear this incorruptibility is like a lamp set upon a stand, giving light to all that are in the house.

    I first read this one when I was a student, young and hotheaded and already knowing everything, at a time when maybe the biggest political issue on campus was Apartheid, and the regular protests to try to pressure the university to disinvest its funds from companies connected to South Africa. I’m glad I came back to it for a second reading, because I missed more than half of the good stuff the first time around. The first time, I filtered the whole thing through "This is about white man’s injustice, and the poor oppressed native population. Pity these people here. Boo and hiss these other people." In fact, one of the most powerful messages to be found here comes from accepting that almost everyone in the book is a good person trying to do the right thing in the face of overwhelming poverty, temptation, prejudice and learned helplessness. Yes, including the white people, and including the land itself.  For the land is a major character. The slums, the mines, the fields and hills; the shantytowns for the natives and the comfortable houses for the whites. The central tragic act that drives the plot is presented as inevitable, but the good that results as two elders, one white and one native, come to terms with it, is perhaps a miracle.  

    In light of the fate of South Africa and its meandering progress over the past century, one line that particularly stands out is spoken by a native leader toward the end of the book: I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they turn to loving they will find we are turned to hating.  High recommendations.

    Truth in Advertising: Nausea, by Jean Paul Sartre :
    I stopped in front of Julien’s pork butcher shop. Through the glass, from time to time, I could see a hand designing the truffled pigs feet and the sausages. Then a fat blonde girl bent over, her bosom showing, and picked up a piece of dead flesh between her fingers. In his room five minutes from there, M. Fasquelle was dead.
    I looked around me for support, a refuge from my thoughts. There was none: little by little the fog lifted, but some disquieting thing stayed behind him in the streets. Perhaps not a real menace: it was pale, transparent. But it was that which finally frightened me. I leaned my forehead against the window. I noticed a dark red drop on the mayonnaise of a stuffed egg. It was blood. This red on the yellow made me sick to my stomach.
    Suddenly, I had a vision: someone had fallen face down and was bleeding in the dishes. The egg had rolled in blood; the slice of tomato which crowned it had come off and fallen flat, red on red. The mayonnaise had run a little: a pool of yellow cream which divided the trickle of blood into two arms."

    If this is what "existentialism" is about, I don’t understand it, and I don’t think I want to. Had I not known the author was Sartre, I would have assumed that Nausea was written by a conservative theologian who was trying to argue that man without God is without purpose, inexorably alienated from the world, deeply unhappy, criminally amoral. Sartre’s protagonist, Roquentin, is all of these things, and has periodic psychotic hallucinations besides, and yet Sartre writes as if he thinks these are good things, or at least the natural state of human psychology, to be accepted and welcomed. There is barely any plot. Roquentin spends his time writing the biography of a historical figure he doesn’t much care for, going on walks and despising everyone he sees, and eating in cafes, where he imagines the food morphing into disgusting things, served by waiters who have tentacles and lobster claws instead of hands. Mostly he just sits around being alienated, hating life and exasperating the reader.  This is supposed to be one of Sartre’s best and best known works; I invite Sartre to explain why, since the book doesn’t seem to have any pleasure or learning to give the reader.  The introduction by Hayden Carruth attempts to explain that the greatness of Nausea is that Roquentin is some sort of everyman with whom we will all identify: we are ALL Roquentin. Um, no I’m not. And I hope for your sake you aren’t either. If he has any value at all, it is as a warning not to be like that.

    "Joe The Cop Killer" for Republican Presidential Nominee. A REAL Conservative, fighting for the American Dream!

    by AdmiralNaismith on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:25:53 PM PDT

  •  Monthly Book Post 3 (10+ / 0-)

    Grouchos of the Pampas: In Patagonia, by Bruce Chatwin:
    Milton Evans was the principal resident of Trevelin and son of its founder. He was a round moustachioed gentleman of sixty one, who prided himself on his English. His favorite expression was "Gimme another horse piss!" And his daughter, who didn’t speak English, would bring a beer and he’d say, "Aah! Horse piss!" and drain the bottle.
    "Funny, you remind me of Bobby Dawes. Young Englishman, same as yourself, wandering about Patagonia. One day he walks up to an estancia and says to the owner, "If you give me work, you’re a saint, your wife’s a saint, and your children are angels, and that dog’s the best dog in the world." But the owner says, "There’s no work." "In which case", Bobby says, "you’re the son of a whore, your wife IS a whore, your children are monkeys, and if I catch that dog, I’ll kick its arse till its nose bleeds."
    Milton laughed a lot as he told this story. Then he told another he heard from the Cooper sheep dip man. The second story was about a cure for scab. The punch line was, "Put a lump of sugar in the sheep’s mouth and suck its arse till it tastes sweet." He repeated the story twice to make sure I’d get the point. I lied. I couldn’t face it a third time.

    The best travel and anthropology books, it seems to me, have a double perspective.  You get a look at an interesting culture or subculture, and it’s filtered through the eyes of an imaginative writer who brings a special focus to what you’re looking at. In Patagonia delivers on both counts.
    Bruce Chatwin is maybe the Sarah Vowell of his generation, becoming passionate about trivia, drawing on popular culture for insight, and making even the dullest subject matter glitter as he rejoices over the history to be found there and rattles off quirky facts by the dozen.  Here he’s wandering around the pointy end of South America, which is a lot more heterogenous than I’d thought, being populated not only by the bull-macho supporting cast of a spaghetti western, but by Welsh and Boer settlements, tattered remnants of indigenous peoples, and a chocolate box assortment of hermits, crackpots, goofballs and other misfits trying to hide from the civilized world and find a little remote corner where they can be themselves.  Along the way, there are interpretive accounts of Charles Darwin, Butch and Sundance, Antonio Soto, Simon Radowitzky (a Russian communist who spent two decades in a prison right on the tip of the continent), and Charley Milward (a sailor whose biography of true sea stories makes up a good part of the last 50 pages). Very rough around the edges, but a colorful lot of fun.

    Paddies on the Railway: On the Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Lesley Downer  :
    "What you don’t seem to understand", said Horiguchi-san, "is that there is a Basho boom." He sat hunched on his stool, shoulders rounded, an equally tired looking pink prawn hanging limply from his chopsticks. "Ever since they opened the Tohoku Bullet Train, a few years back, there’ve been scores of them", he explained, examining the prawn without enthusiasm. "You get groups, you get couples, you get taxis, you get coaches—they go round each place where he wrote a haiku. There are books, there are television programmes...so you’re bound to get statues of him and souvenir shops and things."
    "Heard of Basho, has she, that foreigner?" butted in a red-faced old fellow squashed in next to him."Well, that’s something, isn’t it. ‘Course, they can’t understand Basho, can they, these foreigners."
    "Where’s she from?" asked the fat chef. "America?"
    "No", I said patiently. "England".
    "England, is it?" he said, ignoring me and addressing his remarks to Horiguchi-san. "Good looking, aren’t they, these foreigners—trouble is, you can’t tell them apart." He chortled loudly.
    "I realise", I persisted, ignoring him in my turn, "that around here it’s bound to be built up. But what I want to know is, once I turn inland, into the mountains, will I find wild, remote country, like Basho walked through?"
    "Wild country? In Japan?"
    Horiguchi-san raised an eyebrow in disbelief at such naivety. I felt rather foolish. How could I have imagined that in this most advanced, industrialised of countries there could be anywhere unaffected by progress? No one, after all, would want to live as they had done in Basho’s time. It was all rather dispiriting. The answer to my question was probably no.
    "What about yamabushi?" I ventured. I still cherished the hope of finding hermit-priests striding, Benkei-like, across the northern mountains, or pursuing esoteric practices, hidden away in caves.
    "We Japanese", said Horiguchi-san wearily, "never think of yamabushi. There haven’t been yamabushi for five hundred years."

    I was glad to have read this one concurrently with In Patagonia. Downer’s Japan is yin to Chatwin’s Argentine yang. Where Chatwin rolls in the dirt of a primitive land full of primitive people with primitive manners, Downer enters one of the most modern industrialized nations to retrace the steps of the 16th century haiku poet Matsuo Basho, who took a celebrated journey around the main Japanese island of Honshu 500 years earlier, visiting places that are apparently remembered boastfully to this day for the haikus he left in his wake (I’m trying to think of an American equivalent, and the best I can do is the "George Washington slept here" hotels of the east coast, or perhaps the little pixelated signs along the Oregon trail commemorating the people who died of dysentary.

    Because I learned about Japan mostly from TV and manga, I believe that Japan was always a lightly misted vista of rolling pagoda-studded hills until about 1930, when the entire island of Honshu developed overnight into a cartoon metropolis populated mainly by chefs in garish outfits and schoolgirls with huge eyes. On the Narrow Road to the Deep North offers an education from no fewer than three perspectives: Downer’s experiences and insights , Basho’s traditional Japan and Modern Japan. Very well done.

    "Joe The Cop Killer" for Republican Presidential Nominee. A REAL Conservative, fighting for the American Dream!

    by AdmiralNaismith on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:26:36 PM PDT

  •  Monthly Book Post 4 (8+ / 0-)

    The Day It Fell Apart: There Will Be Dragons, by John Ringo  :
    The town hall was another new building with another set of useless guards. They were both leaning on their spears when he walked up and asked to speak to Mr. Talbot.
    "He’s busy", the guard on the left growled. "Too busy for any old reenactor to just barge in on him."
    "I am not surprised that he is busy," Gunny said coldly. "What are your standing orders in the event that someone states that they are a close personal friend and have business with him?"
    "What?" the guard on the right said.
    "Okay," Gunny growled, as patiently as he possibly could. "What are ANY of your standing orders?"
    "We just got told to keep people out that don’t have business in here," the intellectual on the left said uneasily. "I don’t know about any standing orders."
    "Right, get me the Sergeant of the Guard", Gunny snapped, losing patience.
    "Who’s that?"
    "WHO’S THAT?" he shouted. "YOU WILL STAND AT ATTENTION WHEN YOU ADDRESS ME, YOU PIMPLE ON A REAL GUARD’S ASS! OTHERWISE I’LL TAKE THAT PIGSTICKER AWAY FROM YOU AND SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS SIDEWAYS! LOOK AT THIS THING!" he continued, snatching the spear out of the surprised guard’s hands and submitting it to a minute inspection. "IS THIS DRY ROT I SEE ON THIS SHAFT? THIS THING IS A PIECE OF CRAP EVEN WORSE THAN YOU!" He broke the spear, which was in fact in lousy shape, across his knee and threw half of it on the ground, using the other half as a pointer to emphasize his words. "YOU TWO ARE WITHOUT A DOUBT THE LOUSIEST EXAMPLE OF GUARDS IT HAS EVER BEEN MY DISPLEASURE TO SEE IN ALL MY BORN DAYS, AND I HAVE SEEN PLENTY OF SHIT ASS GUARDS IN MY DAY!"
    Edmund looked up from his paperwork and gave Myron a relieved glance.
    "Ah, unless I’m much mistaken Gunny has arrived."

    My first post on a John Ringo book, A Hymn Before Battle, drew negative comments on several different forums, from people who don’t like the author.  I’m told Ringo is one of those formerly sensible people who, Like Orson Scott Card, flatlined after the WTC attacks. I’m told that he’s a fringe right winger, a misogynist and a Bush apologist. A couple of them cited There Will be Dragons as one of his worst books. So I set my phasers to "snark" and headed off to the library, in the mood to write a scathing pan, full of withering sarcasm and scanning to "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" (I read just a chapter or two before bed/And as I turned the page with an ache in my head/and saw what John had done, I wished I was undead...never knew there were worse things than Twilight).

    Sorry, can’t do it. There Will be Dragons kicks ass. What the heck were you all warning me about?

    I go to geeky science fiction conventions, and I go to Society for Creative Anachronism events. In fact, I spent three years living with a lady who actively fantasized about technological civilization breaking down so that the SCA would take over. This book was going to be like candy to me from the very start. It starts out as a convention geek’s wet dream, a utopian world of the far future where all the drudge work, security, environmental protection and technical details are handled by computers, leaving everyone free to pursue fulfillment as creative and performing artists, athletes and adventurers. Elves are real.  People can transform their bodies and become part bear, part mermaid, even make themselves consist entirely of electronic particles. And then it becomes a SCAdian’s wet dream when the people in charge of the computer go to war with each other and turn off all the networks, leaving the equivalent of the SCA to set up camp in the appalachian mountains and rescue a planet full of people with no survival skills. Then there are the cameos from Stonewall Jackson’s grave and a red haired "minstrel" who plays March of Cambreadth. OF COURSE I’m going to like this!

    I don’t know whether Ringo is a fringe rightwinger, and I don’t really care. Knut Hamsun was a gorram NAZI sympathizer even while the Germans occupied his native Norway, and he earned a Noble Prize anyway. Books can be bigger than their author.  The emergency SCAdian society built in There Will be Dragons doesn’t seem to have anything conservative about it, unless maybe you buy the fiction that only conservatives have any work ethic, or that conservatism means preferring "traditional ways" like weaving and sword fighting to modern technology.  A right wing SCA society would have happily extorted all of the belongings of the refugees as tolls or rent for joining their camp, and would have equally happily granted them the freedom to contract themselves into indentured servitude in exchange for food. Then they would have introduced mandatory group prayer, long criminal sentences and cheap prison labor,   and created a pariah caste or two. That’s not what the good guys do in this book. There are some members of the "bad guy" faction in the war for the computer, who claim an agenda that might be Communist; however, they lie so often that you can’t really tell if they mean it. Their actual agendas—and their real evil—stems from their amoral Machiavellian power grabbing and their engineering of Frankenstein abominations for their army.    Recommended, whatever the advice of others may be.

    The Sacrifices of Isak: Growth of the Soil, by Knut Hamsun:
    Poor Eleseus, he is so frittered away, so topsy turvy. He probably should have been a settler from day one, now he is someone who has learned to write the letters of the alphabet; he is without initiative, without depth. But he is no pitch black devil of a man, he is not in love and not ambitious, he is next to nothing, not even a great nuisance.
    The young man seems doomed, haunted by misfortune; it is as though he has suffered some internal injury. Perhaps the good district engineer from the city shouldn’t have discovered him as a child and taken him into his house to make something of him; the boy probably got his roots torn and fared badly. Whatever he now undertakes can be traced back to something defective in him, something dark on a light ground...

    I was glad to have read this one in conjunction with There Will Be Dragons. Both books evoke images of an earlier time, when people were skilled at many basic tasks just to get through life, and technological advances were viewed with suspicion as softening moral character. Growth of the Soil, however, is Nobel-winning literature. The author was a Nazi sympathizer and came to be hated by his country, but his book is bigger than he was. I’m not sure what there would be about self-reliance and hand tools that would be conducive to belief in a fascist state where all people are part of a single minded killer bee hive, but there you are.

    The story begins with Isak, the volunteer Robinson Crusoe of the fjords, traveling to the far north of Norway and building a farming homestead with his hands: initial turf hut, livestock shed, house, barn, dairy, haymow, forge. He interacts with Lapp traders and ponderous villagers, all of whom seem to think in geologic time, except for Geisler the happy go lucky wanderer, and Eleseus, the elder son who longs for city life.  During most chapters, I seemed to hear the voice of Garrison Keillor reading it aloud, with emphasis on the wholesomeness of the rural life, the unspoiled wilderness, and the cold, sweet air. The lifestyle described is not one I would have chosen for myself, but it’s easy to see what there is to admire in it.

    "Joe The Cop Killer" for Republican Presidential Nominee. A REAL Conservative, fighting for the American Dream!

    by AdmiralNaismith on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:27:13 PM PDT

  •  Monthly Book Post 5 (7+ / 0-)

    Whack-a-Mole: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John LeCarre :
    I told the cab driver to go like hell. I didn’t even argue the price. It got like a panic. I barged the information queue and asked for all the departures to Russia or the connections in. I went nearly mad going through all the flight lists, yelling at the Chinese clerks, but there wasn’t a plane since yesterday and none till six tonight. But now I had this hunch. I had to know. What about charters, what about the unscheduled flights, freight, casual transit? Had nothing, but really nothing, been routed for Moscow since yeasterday morning? Then this little girl comes through with the answer, one of the Chinese hostesses. She fancies me, see. She’s doing me a favour. An unscheduled Soviet plane had taken off two hours ago. Only four passengers aboard. The centre of attraction was a woman invalid. A lady in a coma. They had to cart her to the plane on a stretcher and her face was wrapped in bandages.  Two male nurses went with her and one doctor, that was the party. I called the Alexandra as a last hope. Neither Irina nor her fake husband had checked out of their room but there was no reply. The lousy hotel didn’t even know they’d left.

    I remember seeing the TV dramatization starring Alec Guiness as protagonist and master spy George Smiley long, long ago, when I was about 8 years old and not really able to comprehend all of it.  From my very fuzzy recollection, it was a completely different story. At least, the details I remember—the early establishment of five suspects, initially including Smiley himself, at the highest levels of British intelligence, one of whom is betraying secrets to the Russians; the constant observation, "There are three of them, and Alleline"; the identification of the suspects in code as "Tinker", "Tailor", etc; and a trailing sequence in episode one of the series that doesn’t occur in the book until very late—they’re all different and downplayed. More than half of the book is concerned with flashbacks, and the nature of the flashbacks make the identity of the traitor downright obvious. Or maybe it’s just 20/20 hindsight. Further, the private life of Smiley is emphasized to a degree that I don’t remember seeing in the series.  Nonetheless, it’s a classic highbrow espionage novel and a treat for anyone who likes their British spy thrillers long on intelligence gathering and intense procedural suspense and short on the James Bond gadgets, supervillains and wenches.

    Portrait of a Lady:  Rosa at Ten O’Clock, by Marco Deveni  :
    Do you know why Robespierre was so merciless? Because he was sexless. By sending those who had sex to the guillotine he had his revenge for not having it. If you could have changed Robespierre’s endocrine system, you could have changed the course of history. There would have been no terror, no Thermidor, no consulate, no Napoleon, no Holy Alliance, no nothing. Well, as I was saying, Camillo Canegato belongs to this category of potentially dangerous little men. I have known him for some time, ever since I’ve been living at La Madrilena, a matter of some two years. In spite of his little smiles, his sick little monkey glances, his bows—look, he always had the appearance of a checkroom attendant, of the man in charge of a file room who is about to go into retirement, or of the fellow who takes care of the plants in the botanical garden, or who has charge of the theosophical library of a Salvation Army home. I was alerted from the first moment I laid eyes on him. What I mean to say is I realized that in spite of his appearance he was a man who someday could cause us a lot of trouble.

    WOW.  In a just world, this expertly crafted "What the heck really happened" mystery would replace Rashomon as the definitive tale told by different observers, one by one, each with their own insights, blind spots and prejudices, in which the truth comes out gradually.

    The first half of the book is told from the perspective of the landlady of an Argentine boarding house, as she describes a particular lodger who comes to stay, and the scented love letters that arrive for him, and the events that follow. Then come increasingly briefer narratives from others, culminating in a very satisfying ending.  It’s a fairly short book, but it took me longer than usual to read because, after every new narrative, I found myself having to go back and review parts of the previous narratives, looking for clues and checking for consistency. I won’t say more than that for fear of spoilers, but this book is highly recommended.

    Three-Pil’d Hyperbolae: Inverted World, by Christopher Priest  :
    One graph in particular had been discussed in great and onerous detail.
    It showed the curve of an equation where one value was represented as a reciprocal, or an inverse, of the other. The graph for this was a hyperbola. One part of the graph was drawn in the positive quadrant, one in the negative. Each end of the curve had an infinite value, both positive and negative.
    The teacher had discussed what would happen if that graph were to be rotated about one of its axes. I had neither understood why graphs should be drawn, nor that one might rotate them, and I'd suffered another attack of daydreaming. But I did notice that the teacher had drawn on a piece of large card what the solid body would look like should this rotation be performed.
    The product was an impossible object: a solid with a disk of infinite radius, and two hyperbolic spires above and below the disk, each of which narrowed towards an indefinitely distant point.
    It was a mathematical abstraction, and held for me then as much interest as such an item should.
    But that mathematical impossibility was not taught to us for no reason, and the teacher had not without reason attempted to draw it for us. In the indirect manner of all our education, that day I had seen the shape of the world on which we lived.

    Inverted World is a strange, brief book. It’s one of those "hard science fiction" books in which the author seems to have thought up a mathematically strange model for a world, and all the rest of it—plot, characters, dramatic themes—are added as afterthoughts. It took me a while to get over the initial hump of colorless exposition; after that, it picked up a bit and I began to care what the Everyman hero thought. And then, the ending wrapped things up tidily, but it was wearying getting there.  Then again, a friend with a mathematical background read it and found it amusing. Nice if you like hard-SF; otherwise, it’s more like having to solve a jigsaw puzzle than like reading a story.

    "Joe The Cop Killer" for Republican Presidential Nominee. A REAL Conservative, fighting for the American Dream!

    by AdmiralNaismith on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:27:45 PM PDT

  •  Question cfk (13+ / 0-)

    the abundant reader:  How do you schedule your time to read?  You have real wide swaths of genre you deeply read and can comment upon.  It inspires awe in me!  What's the secret?

    Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up...East Wing Rules

    by Pithy Cherub on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:27:47 PM PDT

  •  one of my favorites - Kathleen Goonan (9+ / 0-)

    she wrote The Bones of Time, with descriptions of Hawaii so beautiful & thorough & wonderful that I actually wrote her a fan letter. (she wrote back!) Anyway, it takes my recommendation for setting as character.

    It also uses actual science (Bell's Theorem), which I really liked. She also has another book involving time travel, In War Times, which has jazz and science. Highly recommended.

    And you listed 2 of my favorites: A Canticle for Leibowitz and The Postman. Both of them are just mind-blowingly great.

    "No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." --MLK

    by anotherdemocrat on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:30:11 PM PDT

  •  Neil Gaiman's... (11+ / 0-)

    ...Neverwhere.

    The stories of Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee have been a favorite of mine. :-)

  •  Just finished The Echo Makers (9+ / 0-)

    I read prize winners as a hobby.  Powers talks about the cranes.  Their memory.

    Republicans are walking the socio Path.

    by 88kathy on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:33:41 PM PDT

  •  One of my favorite settings (8+ / 0-)

    is in the Martha Wells book, City of Bones. It's set on a post-apocalyptic planet, much of which has become a desert. The people are haunted by ghosts and live in city-towers where the higher you go the wealthier the residents. Much of the economy revolved around finding and selling items from old ruins. The money represents water rather than gold. Unfortunately, I hated everything else about the book such as the plot and characterization.

  •  Since you mention Herriot - (8+ / 0-)

    Here I am, in 2005 (some 200 lbs ago) walking into Skeldale House.  THE Skeldale House.

    England - Stueys camera 115

    "The joy of activity is the activity itself, not some arbitrary goal which, if not achieved, steals the joy." ~John "the Penguin" Bingham

    by sheddhead on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:39:30 PM PDT

  •  currently reading (8+ / 0-)

    Carville's 40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation. Even if you disagree with him, the book is really ineresting. And what great rants!

    Also re-reading the Harry Potter books - I'm on #3, and a book of essays about Firefly/Serenity.

    "No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." --MLK

    by anotherdemocrat on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:40:47 PM PDT

  •  Perhaps not for everyone, but "Mayordomo" (7+ / 0-)

    by Stanley Crawford, is a lovely book.

    It is his very senstive account of being the Mayordomo, or the 'ditch boss' of a Northern New Mexico acequia, or water irrigation ditch.
    The acequia system in New Mexico is very old, and vital to rural agriculture...thus,very important.
    His account of the community, the farming and the personalities is well done.

  •  When I think of "land" as setting, (8+ / 0-)

    I think immediately of Steinbeck.  That magnificent opening of The Grapes of Wrath, with its Biblical syntax:

    To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.

    But I get a much better sense of land in East of Eden, as we watch the slow development of life in the arid scrub of the Salinas Valley.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:47:07 PM PDT

  •  This week, I've finished (9+ / 0-)

    A Man of Salt and Trees:  The Life of Joy Morton by James Ballowe.  Morton started Morton Salt (when it rains, it pours, and founded the local Morton Arboretum.  His father, J. Sterling Morton, started Arbor Day.  The book was very good, thorough and seemed very accurate.  James Ballowe is a volunteer at the Arboretum.

    Next I finished The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler.  It was enjoyable, easy to read, and touching.  I got it for $1 from Borders Bargain Books, and am really glad I did.

    Finally, yesterday I read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  I got it only because some parents tried to ban it in a local suburb (and failed.)  I can see their point about language - and if they don't want their kids to read the book, fine - they can read an alternate from the summer book list.  Nonetheless, the book is FANTASTIC, and touches on so many important themes - family, friendship, accepting people - it is a terrific book.  I'm giving it to my sister, and she will pass it on to her oldest boy when she feels he's ready for it.

    "The joy of activity is the activity itself, not some arbitrary goal which, if not achieved, steals the joy." ~John "the Penguin" Bingham

    by sheddhead on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 06:00:27 PM PDT

  •  Just finished (5+ / 0-)

    1776 and started John Adams both by David McCullough. I just ordered The Invention of Air. Anybody know if that book is any good?

    If I had a shotgun you know what I'd do? I'd point it straight up at the sky and shoot heaven on down for you.

    by DeLLBerto on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 06:50:52 PM PDT

  •  Good evening all (10+ / 0-)

    just back from celebrating my b'day ... one day early, but tomorrow I will be 50.  Now it's time for bed.

  •  C.S. Lewis (6+ / 0-)

    In what feels like another lifetime, I wrote my senior thesis on Setting as Character in his space trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength). It's a point of view that adds a whole new dimension to the books.

    Great thread as always, cfk!

    •  Hi (4+ / 0-)

      His setting was very interesting.  It has been a long time though since I read them.

      I loved the first two and I was very disappointed by the third at the time.

      Maybe, today, it wouldn't bother me so much, but I thought he really changed.

      There is a trilogy for YA by James A. Owen that you might be interested in or you might wall bang them.

      I read all three and I liked the second one better and I stopped rolling my eyes by the third one.

      I thought maybe he had a bet with someone about how many stories and authors he could get into the books.

      But there is a connection to your post that I can't explain or it would ruin the first book.

      Don't buy them if you decide to read them.  I would gladly send them to you to keep or trade.

        Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica
           Here, Be Dragons
           Search for the Red Dragon
           Indigo King

      Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 07:28:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Changed... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, sarahnity, cfk

        I haven't been back to them myself since that paper. At the time there wasn't a whole lot of scholarship on Lewis that didn't focus on Christian apologetics. Today, there's a surfeit.

        Thanks for your offer on Owen. I'll check the library for them with ET Daughter later this week. No problem here reading YA books - kind of an artificial category if you ask me.

        I had occasion to post on Facebook that I re-read Susan Cooper's "The Dark is Rising" every December around the Solstice. Lo and behold, an old college friend I only recently caught up with there after nearly 3 decades re-reads a different volume in that series ("The Grey King") every year! Yet when we were classmates we had no idea that our tastes were so similar...and such things are usually pretty obvious among English majors. Quite a coincidence.

        Hope you're enjoying your summer!

        •  Grandbabies and more grandbabies (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, sarahnity, bookgirl

          is the story of my summer.  I feel very lucky about that. :)

          Two were here for Father's Day weekend from Thurs. through Sunday evening.

          We went up this past Sunday to see two (my youngest son just bought a house and moved in and we saw the newly painted inside and enjoyed lunch out on the back lawn while the kids played in a wading pool).

          The other grandbaby is visiting in FL and called us twice to tell us all about it.

          On the 11th we go down to see the first two for a party for one having his green card (with citizenship card on the way) and for the other to be legally adopted very soon.  All that is left is the court date.

          But, I am babbling. :)

          Thanks for asking and I hope you and your family are having a good summer, too.

          Did your daughter enjoy the hike or is that later on?  

          Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

          by cfk on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 09:30:06 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The hike was reportedly great (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RunawayRose, sarahnity, cfk, bookgirl

            Some 20 km over three days on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail overlooking the Pacific. They found a sea cave and saw a (distant) black bear cub, and she came home with not too many blisters, but very tired.

            Other than that we are having a quiet summer. We've planned an overnight to Vancouver in two weeks to renew Daughter's passport (have to do that in person at the U.S. Consulate since she is under 18, so we thought we'd make a mini-vacation of it rather than a ferry-to-ferry scramble), and then in early August my oldest childhood friend - we went right the way through K-12 pretty much inseparable - is visiting with her husband for a week, so we'll do all the "tourist" things: Butchart Gardens, Royal BC Museum, afternoon tea, etc.

            Good news on adoptions, green card and grandbabies. It sounds lovely.

            Always a pleasure to check in with you!

      •  'That Hideous Strength' was a tribute ... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, sarahnity, cfk

        ... to Lewis' friend Charles Williams.

        It was written differently on purpose -- Williams wrote some interestingly eccentric novels about near-disastrous human contact with super-natural forces.

         title=

        Tolkien, among others, thought Lewis' tribute was a mistake. (He thought the Narnia books were flawed too, and I wholeheartedly agree.)

        ... public service is a privilege. It's not about advantaging yourself, it's not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients.

        by MT Spaces on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 09:37:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary: (5+ / 0-)

    However: I think: You have: Too many: Semicolons: In your: Titles.

    Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

    by crose on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 07:28:17 PM PDT

  •  I'm reading a book that any normal person... (8+ / 0-)

    ... would probably find boring.  "Big Dams of the New Deal Era" - and find it fascinating.  The rivers are the main characters:  Colorado, Columbia, Missouri and San Joaquin/Sacramento.

    Next book in the queue is called Long Term Public Investment with chapter titles like "Civilian Conservation Corps" and "Works Progress Administration".  I started thinking I should work my New Deal diaries into a book form.  And next thing you know, I was off to Interlibrary Loan.

    Great stuff!  I love it.  

    The river always wins. -- Mark Twain

    by Land of Enchantment on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 07:50:13 PM PDT

  •  Some places just evoke thoughts and visions ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, cfk, princesspat

    ... just because of their age, or resident magic:

     title=

    A digital sketch of a composition I once printed on an intaglio press circa 1972 -- Mysterious Stonehenge and the puzzles of Geometry stirred together in the mind of a young American art student after reading Gerald Hawkins' Stonehenge Revealed, which described how a mainframe computer analyzed the astronomical nature of this famous pre-historic monument, three or four years before I saw the place with my own eyes on Salisbury Plain while I was living in England.

    As I burned and etched the plate, and pulled prints from the press, Led Zeppelin's Battle of Evermore, a new song at the time, played on a nearby stereo:
    The queen of light she took her bough
    And then she turned to go,
    The prince of peace embraced the gloom
    And walked the night alone.
    Oh, dance in the dark night,
    Sing to the morning light.

    The dark lord rides in force tonight
    And time will tell us all.
    Oh, throw down your plow and hoe,
    Rest not to lock your homes.

    Side by side we wait the night
    Of the darkest of them all.
    I hear the horses thunder
    Down in the valley blow,
    I'm waiting for the angels of Avalon,
    Waiting for the eastern glow.
    The apples of the valley hold,
    The seeds of happiness,
    The ground is rich from tender care,
    Repay, do not forget -- no, no!
    Oh, dance in the dark night,
    Sing to the morning light.

    The apples turn to brown and black, the tyrants face is red.
    Oh, war is the common cry, lift up your swords and fly.
    The sky is filled with good and bad
    That mortals never know.
    Oh, well, the night is long, the beads of time pass slow,
    Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the eastern glow.
    The pain of war cannot exceed
    The woe of aftermath,
    The drums will shake the castle wall,
    The ringwraiths ride in black -- ride on!
    Sing as you raise your bow,
    Shoot straighter than before!

    No comfort has the fire at night
    That lights the face so cold.
    Oh dance in the dark night,
    Sing to the morning light.

    The magic runes are writ in gold
    To bring the balance back -- bring it back, bring it back!
    At last the sun is shining, the clouds of blue roll by,
    With flames from the dragon of darkness
    The sunlight blinds his eyes.

    (RIP Sandy Denny -- I remember you and your beautiful voice!)

    ... public service is a privilege. It's not about advantaging yourself, it's not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients.

    by MT Spaces on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 09:51:10 PM PDT

  •  I have always enjoyed reading books of the (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, cfk, bluesophie, bookgirl

    American West. William Kittredge is a favorite author...."Taking Care, Thoughts on Storytelling and Belief","Owning It All", and "Who Owns the West" are three books which explore the interaction of the land and the people living with it.

    Gretel Ehrlich's "The Solace of Open Spaces" is a classic look  at life on Wyoming's high plains.

    "This House of Sky", by Ivan Doig, is another book evoking landscape, and how it shapes people and values. The subtitle,"Landscapes of a Western Mind",captures the meaning of the book.This is the authors first book, and I think his best.

    Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

    by princesspat on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 10:20:38 PM PDT

    •  Thank you for these titles (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, Oke, bookgirl, princesspat

      I will put the whole post in my book folder.

      They all sound very good.

      I grew up in a valley and it is interesting how the wide open spaces both appeal to me and scare me.

      We were looking at houses back in the 70's and one house was on a hill looking out over a beautiful landscape, but I started shivering because it was too far from any small town and too immense for me...and that was Michigan. :)

      But to visit these places, I am OK.

      When we traveled through South Dakota in 1990 and it was so green, I felt as if we were flying on the top of the world.

      Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 10:31:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Western Landscape is so powerful.... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, cfk, bookgirl

        Growing up in the West, I always felt a mix of fear and awe.....I am still fascinated with the relationship between the enviroment we live in and the people we are.

        I am always so late to your discussion....thanks for responding to such a latecomer!

        Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

        by princesspat on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 10:51:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I am glad you could come by : ) (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, bookgirl, princesspat

          I am a night owl, but sometimes if my kids are visiting, I have to go to bed early.

          I am glad I was still here to chat.  I do enjoy that very much.

          We traveled out West three times and really enjoyed it.

          It is awesome, as you said.

          Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

          by cfk on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 10:55:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  The Woman Who Outshone The Sun (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, cfk

    Juvenile book in English and Spanish, I saw it when it was read on PBS's Storytime about 15 years ago.  I loved the illustrations, I loved the story, about a Zapotec woman Lucia Zenteno who was so strange because of her communion with nature that the villagers sent her away, and when she did the river and the fish went with her by staying in her long hair.

    Apparently it's not available now at Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/...

    Here's the story, sans illustrations, which kinda ruins it for me:  http://www.uua.org/...

    If you scroll all the way down to the bottom you can see one of the illustrations:  http://www.pacaritambo.com/...

  •  midwest and south - Kimmel, Kingsolver, Faulkner (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, cfk, Deejay Lyn, bookgirl

    Haven Kimmel manages to make Indiana beautiful in her books - I've read The Solace of Leaving Early and Something Rising(Swift and Light).  She captures the flatness of the landscape and makes it interesting. The books themselves are very well written, in a category that I used to call Oprah books.  

    Barbara Kingsolver - Prodigal Summer.  Deals with farmers in Appalachia, and views of land. I still haven't read Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, but it looks good.

    William Faulkner: Old Man.  His novella about the flooding of the Mississippi in 1927.  I reread this after Katrina.

    Wendell Berry - A Continuous Harmony.  This was published in 1972 and has great essays about land and his farm in Kentucky.  He has novels about Kentucky but I haven't read those.

    In the morning mystery diary, other people mentioned Carl Hiasen - I'd say Florida is a major character in these novels.  

    ..and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. John Donne Meditations 1624.

    by bluesophie on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 12:04:16 AM PDT

  •  Hi, cfk! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, cfk, newdem1960
    Well, I'm reading the Kushiel books by Jacqueline Carey.  Setting is definitely important in these; the Third Sister island where the Master of the Straits is confined, the desert crossing to and from Meroe, the city La Serenessima, with its prison island La Dolorosa...  Very alternate medieval setting.  I'm almost done with the first trilogy, and have just received the second.  The books are long, so I will be reading them for a while. (800 to 1000 pages each, in the second trilogy.)

    I just finished "The Home Energy Diet" by Paul Scheckel; the setting I was picturing was my own house.  Now my waiting-for-dialup-to-do-something book is "The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008" by Paul Krugman, a bit more abstract, I would say setting is not a character in this one.

    ...it is unfortunate that the opposition to the Democrats in this country now consists entirely of crazy people. - NNadir

    by RunawayRose on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:42:40 AM PDT

    •  I think that for years (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, Ahianne

      I saw the handwriting on the wall, but to read Krugman about it would be interesting.  Kudos to you for reading it.

      I am always glad when you drop by.  I hope the drive to work is not too bad these days and that the bridge will be fixed soon.  

      I do remember dial-up.  I tried to keep the number of YouTube things down this week.  

      But if you can access the ones about Tony's life in NM...they are great.

      ~waving~

      Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 10:16:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Looks like they will be working on the bridge (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne, cfk

        for months to come.  However, they may open up the middle two lanes so there is both east and west traffic.  (Although if they do that there is no guarantee that I will be able to access the bridge from Illois 84, the little highway that runs by my workplace.)

        I'll give the Hillerman YouTubes a try.

        ...it is unfortunate that the opposition to the Democrats in this country now consists entirely of crazy people. - NNadir

        by RunawayRose on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:03:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  hotlisted for further ref. looks great! nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk
    •  thanks for stopping by (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bluesophie

      I am not usually this green. :)

      I do have a theme each week to get the discussion started, but you can talk about any kind of book.

      Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 01:23:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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