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Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Man Who Had All the Luck

The Man Who Had All the Luck by Arthur Miller tells the story of David who is cursed with tremendously good luck. It freaks him out. He’s surrounded by friends and relatives who experience set backs. David never does. The universe seems to clear a path for him at every turn. He can’t make sense of this. He feels that fate will eventually catch up with him.

Miller examines how people view fate, whether Americans can avoid the beliefs found in Asia and Europe that there’s a Wheel of Fortune of some kind. This early play foreshadows how the playwright will develop, how he will continue to grapple with luck and a hero’s view of his own success.

from the archives

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2011 in American Lit, drama

 

The Historian

The Historian is an excellent read, equal parts horror story, historical thriller and travelogue.

Built around the Dracula legend, the book follows a young girl as she struggles to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance and her mother’s absence. While the story can be hard to follow as it jumps back and forth between narrators, after a slow start, the suspense intensifies as the unanswered questions grow. Kostova doles out her mysteries as a bread crumb trail drawing her readers deeper into her story.

While multiple aspects of the story held my interest, I found myself most attracted to the story as a travelogue. The author describes the characters’ travels through Cold War Eastern Europe in a way that can only be described as enticing.

We read this book for book club and at least one member read Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a result of having read this book. I love it when that happens.

Written by Bridget

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Planetwalker by John Francis

John Francis stopped using motorized transportation after witnessing a 1971 oil spill in the San Francisco Bay. He stopped talking several months later. As the subtitle says, 22 years of walking, 17 years of silence.

The book I read was the Advance Reader’s Edition, published in 2008 by the National Geographic Society.

There’s another book by the same name and the same author but a different publisher (Elephant Mountain Press). It was published in 2005 and based on what I found on Amazon, the beginning of the first chapter is the same in both. So, I don’t know if I read the same book, a slightly different book or what.

This book is a conundrum.

I found it provocative. As I was reading it, it provided fodder for several interesting conversations, for example, as we took a roadtrip to Moab or as I considered Rachel’s Vow of Silence day.

Francis is very matter of fact throughout the book. He readily acknowledges his detractors and his own doubts but then just moves on to the next topic. The book appears to be largely drawn from his journals so at times there are disconcerting gaps in time and places where the narrative simply fades away.

I found myself struggling with the question of how much is enough as Francis allows people to transport his pack for him on his treks and sends gear ahead via mail. Francis touches on these questions later in the book, in the form of recognizing but not resolving the issue.

Francis never pretends to have the answers but reading about an individual who managed to earn a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a Ph.D. at three different universities, all while walking across the country and not talking, provides for some very thought provoking opportunities to question one’s own journey.

By Bridget

from the archives

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2011 in non-fiction

 

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Yet another piece of historical fiction that has served to educate while entertaining.

Brennert provides a little bit of the history of Hawaii, a little bit of the history of leprosy or Hansen’s disease and a little bit of the history of the settlement of Kalaupapa in the context of the story of Rachel Kalama, a fictional seven year old child who is banished to and grows up on Moloka’i.

Brennert does a better job conveying the pathos of the grown-up Rachel than of the adolescent Rachel. Once again, I found myself reading a book to which I had little emotional attachment until Rachel reached adulthood at which point Brennert’s ability to touch the reader with Rachel’s struggles dramatically improved.

This is a sad story told in a way that celebrates the ability to persevere, fashion a life and ultimately triumph.

If I visit Lahaina as expected this fall, I’ll have to include a side trip to Moloka’i in my itinerary.

Written by Bridget

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2011 in historical fiction

 

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From A Room of Her Own

I’ve been accepted to the writers’ retreat called A Room of Her Own. It’s a retreat for women inspired by the continued dominance of men in writing and art.

WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO
A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW SURVEY OF LITERARY LEADERS VOTED TONI MORRISON’S BELOVED THE SINGLE BEST WORK OF AMERICAN FICTION PUBLISHED IN THE LAST 25 YEARS.

HOW CAN IT BE THAT…?

  • All four winners of the 2009 National Book Award (for Poetry, CNF, Fiction, and Youth Literature) were men
  • 14 out of 57 winners of the National Book Award for Fiction are women (2007)
  • 14 out of 55 winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction are women (2008)
  • 21 out of 85 winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry are women (2008)
  • Women writer’s won 63% of the awards but less than 30% of the money in awards and grants reported by Poet’s & Writers (Jan/Feb 2003)
  • Only 21 women have won writing awards in the 80 years of the Oscars (2007)
  • Of the major artists represented by major New York galleries only 16% are women
  • A recent study by the Coalition of Women’s Arts Organizations showed that in all one-person shows for living artists in American museums, only 2% of the featured artists were women
  • A 1992 study that only 17% of artists in galleries nationally were women, whereas the Bureau of Labor indicated that 48% of professional American artists were women
  • 51% of all visual artists are female and women hold 53% of art degrees, but 80% of art faculty members are male
  • 68% of total art income in the U.S goes to men and 73% of all grants and fellowships in the arts go to men
  • As I prepare this post I can imagine the whining about lowering the bar, etc. That’s a defense mechanism if ever there was one.

     
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Posted by on September 8, 2011 in American Lit, writers

 

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From the Writer’s Almanac

Boris Pasternak during the First Congress of S...

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It was on this day in 1958 that the novel Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak (books by this author), was published in the United States. Doctor Zhivago isset during the Russian Revolution and World War I, and it tells the story of Yuri Zhivago, a doctor and poet, and his love for a woman named Lara. Pasternak worked on his novel for decades, and finished it in 1956. He submitted the book for publication, but although Pasternak was a famous writer by then, his manuscript was rejected —the publishers explained that Doctor Zhivago was not in line with the spirit of the revolution, too concerned with individualism. An Italian journalist visited Pasternak at his country house and convinced the novelist to let him smuggle a copy of Doctor Zhivago out of the country to the leftist Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli.

Pasternak is said to have declared as he handed over the manuscript: “You are hereby invited to watch me face the firing squad!” He was not executed, but when the upcoming publication was announced in Italy, Soviet authorities were furious, and forced Pasternak to send Feltrinelli telegrams insisting that he halt publication of the novel. One of them said: “I have come to the profound conviction that what I wrote cannot be regarded as a finished work,” and in another Pasternak called his novel “in need of serious improvement.” But Feltrinelli was not fooled, and continued with publication.

Soon enough, Feltrinelli received a private, scribbled note from Pasternak begging him to continue. Pasternak wrote: “I wrote the novel to be published and read. That remains my only wish.” Feltrinelli published Doctor Zhivago, and helped get it published all over the world. The Soviet Union’s attempts to stop its publication only made it more interesting to readers. When it was first published in Italy in November of 1957, the first printing of 6,000 copies sold out within the first day.

Doctor Zhivago was published in the United States on this day in 1958, and even though it wasn’t published until September, it was the best-selling book of 1958. It quickly became a bestseller in 24 languages. Pasternak was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1958, and when he first head of the award, he sent a telegram to the Swedish Academy that said: “Immensely thankful, touched, proud, astonished, abashed.” Two days later, Soviet authorities forced him to write again, this time to say he would refuse the prize.

Pasternak died two years later, in 1960, and Doctor Zhivago was not published in the Soviet Union until 1988. Doctor Zhivago begins: “On they went, singing ‘Rest Eternal,’ and whenever they stopped, their feet, the horses, and the gusts of wind seemed to carry on their singing. Passers-by made way for the procession, counted the wreaths, and crossed themselves. Some joined in out of curiosity and asked: ‘Who is being buried?’—’Zhivago,’ they were told.—’Oh, I see. That’s what it is.’—’It isn’t him. It’s his wife.’—’Well, it comes to the same thing. May her soul rest in peace. It’s a fine funeral.'”

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2011 in Russian Literature

 

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