October 12, 2015


Bootlegger's Daughter
by Margaret Maron - continuing on my light summer reading path ... a friend recommended Margaret Maron's mysteries.  She has two main series: a NY city based series featuring NYPD cop Sigrid Harald, and this "America South" (North Carolina) based series featuring attorney-soon-to-be-judge Deborah Knott.  Short review:  I like mysteries. I like Southern novels.  I like Bootlegger's Daughter.  I'll read more in the series.  (note: there are a couple situations described in a little more detail than I prefer to find in my novels; I'm sure I'll get a better idea of whether this is this author's "norm" or not by the end of the next book).

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson - I vaguely remember seeing this movie a couple years ago and liking it, so I grabbed the book when I saw it on the shelves at the library.  A fun little piece of "Cinderella" fluff; read it in a day.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh - I think if my exposure to this story were only via the tv series, I might not see it as anything more than a mere soap opera; albeit a lofty British soap opera.  But I never saw the tv show, and the writing ... THE WRITING is sooooo good.  Waugh can weave a sentence beautifully and craft a story gloriously.  Reading Brideshead felt positively serendipitous in the way it bumped against and overlapped two other authors I'd read recently.  I originally libraried for Waugh books after I found him on Harper Lee's list of favorite authors when she described him thusly:  "And Peter Devries, as far as I'm concerned, is the Evelyn Waugh of our time.  I can't pay anybody a greater compliment because Waugh is the living master, the baron of style."  So, it ought not surprise me that Waugh & Lee both reference "Arcadia" (a vision of pastoralism, a paradise, if you will): Waugh titled his first book in Brideshead "Et in Arcadia Ego", literally "I am even in Arcadia", and Lee has Atticus decidedly & divisively saying the following in Go Set a Watchman, "Have you ever considered that you can't have a set of backward people living among people advanced in one kind of civilization and have a social Arcadia?"  Another serendipitous literary overlap ... Heading into book two, Waugh references a scene from a Father Brown story:  "D'you know what Papa said when he became a Catholic? […] He said […]: 'You have brought back my family to the faith of their ancestors.' […] The family haven't been very constant [in regards to religion], have they? There's him gone and Sebastian gone and Julia gone. But God won't let them go for long, you know. I wonder if you remember the story Mummy read us the evening Sebastian first got drunk – I mean the bad evening. Father Brown said something like 'I caught him' (the thief) 'with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.'"  And then book two is titled "A Twitch Upon the Thread".  Anywhooo, I thought this book was quite good.

The Odyssey by Homer (maybe? apparently a history mystery as to authorship?) - book club selection for the next couple months.  I know I read this back in my school days.  And I've forgotten (beyond bare bones plot summary) and avoided it ever since, because ... epic poetry.  Just not my thing.  But, it's an important narrative work, and so I'm going to dig in in earnest (Aug).  Additionally, Little Dude and I will be concentrating our literary efforts this year in Greek & Roman mythology/fiction, so I'll be killing two proverbial birds ... Finished just this morning (Oct12).  There's a whole lot of story and a whole lot of build-up to the *nostos* (greek word for returning/homecoming), and the reunited family - resourceful Odysseus, faithful Penelope & thoughtful Telemachus - was a beautiful thing to behold.  And then, oh-so-abruptly, the story concludes.  Did I enjoy it?  Some few parts.  Am I glad I finally read/studied it?  Yes.  So very many stories refer back to this One, and I will appreciate being able to connect those dots a little better now.

Homeric Moments: Clues to Delight in Reading the Odyssey and the Iliad by Eva Brann - a little something to help me get into the Odyssey and understand/appreciate it more deeply.  Good reference work that truly helped me understand the story better and pick out important/fascinating details I would otherwise have overlooked.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison - This is the first book I've read by Toni Morrison.  She can indeed write.  With depth of insight.  With a keen eye to irony.  With layer upon layer of injusticeness and ugliness and man's inhumanity against man.  This is a painful book to read because of the sheer amount of ... [for lack of better word] pain in it (domestic violence, bullying, alcoholism, racism, ignorance, incest, poverty, self-hatred, resulting insanity).  The book ends - not surprisingly - very sadly, without a note of hope anywhere on the horizon.  "...finally, we just felt sorry for her.  Our sorrow drove out all thoughts of the new bicycle. And I believe our sorrow was the more intense because nobody else seemed to share it.  They were disgusted, amused, shocked, outraged, or even excited by the story. But we listened for the one who would say, 'Poor little girl,' or, 'Poor baby,' but there was only head-wagging where those words should have been.  We looked for eyes creased with concern, but saw only veils."  

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt - a short little sweet/bittersweet story I picked off the shelf to break up the agony/nightmare of The Bluest Eye.  Beautifully written, presenting for thought the possibility of choosing immortality or mortality.  "...dying's part of the wheel, right there next to being born.  You can't pick out the pieces you like and leave the rest.  Being part of the whole thing, that's the blessing.  But it's passing us by, us Tucks.  Living's heavy work ..."

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon - latest Mitford (specifically, Meadowgate. perhaps the passing of the torch?) chronicle.  This book was a sweet, brief, welcome respite in the midst of reading the Odyssey.  I enjoyed it because I have a soft spot in my heart for Father Tim and all his peeps.  I didn't necessarily enjoy it because it was a rich tapestry of a story (because it wasn't really. pretty light, fluffy, surface-y).  Wedding details don't much interest me and this novel was rife with them.  It was also rife with changing perspectives - each new chapter and chapter section beginning with a new indefinite pronoun that one needed to unpack the "clues" in order to discover whose perspective it was.  Nonetheless, enjoyable, escapist reading.  Here's hoping Jan Karon creates an entire Meadowgate series...

The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts that Shaped Our World by R.C. Sproul - haven't gotten beyond the first couple chapters.  tbc.  Ditto to Nesbit's book.  tbc.

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