Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I am still trying to acclimate to the heat. Yes, I do have air conditioning, but not everywhere, so I am not able to concentrate as much as I usually do on my reading.
I finished two scarves for the OFA Red Scarf Initiative 2008.
I STOLE an idea from AS in my knitting group, adding pockets to the scraves to store money, keys, and cell phone. But, if the student doesn't need the pockets, he/she can remove them.
The left one is wool(donated yarn f and the right one is cotton(from Bette Bornside, Inc). I remembered that I was allergic to woolen socks, so there may be some students in the same predicament. I plan to make two more cotton ones and finish up another woolen one by September 2007.
This is a little purse that I made for volunteering events. I like to have my hands free and not worry about my purse being misplaced in strange drawers.
I made this with the banana fiber yarn from I Knit London shop and cotton yarns from Quarter Stitch.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
When a young relative visited me from another state, one of the first things that she said to me was, "I want to see the Prytania Theater."
When I told her that she was there last year to see a movie, she seemed surprised. "It doesn't seem to be the same as when Ignatius was there." I was a little shocked that she knew about Ignatius; that's when she told me that her mom is reading A Confederacy of Dunces to her.
What a fabulous idea! The mom can skip over some parts, but most of it is funny, funny.
Since most of the story takes place in New Orleans' high and dry land, the 'Kane didn't destroy a lot of the places that he describes. However, the Holmes Department store doesn't exist anymore; a hotel is now at the site, but the hotel managed to save the clock and even erected a statue of Ignatius.
As we drove from having a yummy breakfast at Cafe du Monde, I pointed out the Lucky Dog cart. "Ignatius is going to work for them in the next few chapters. Get ready to laugh, " I said.
I have finished my first selection for the Summer Reading Challenge 2007. MJT from my book group told me that this may not be one of Eudora Welty's best works, and I tend to agree.
The novel tells the story of a young lady, Laurel, her relationship with her father and stepmother and hometown, and her memories of her mother. The plot is interesting; I liked reading about a South that might still exist somewhere in Mississippi, but the chances are greater that such towns don't exist anymore.
My main problem was with the characters; I didn't really care for the main ones.
Laurel is a good daughter, but she seemed paralyzed: by her memories and her inability to start living again.
Fay, the stepmother, is the absolute worse character here. She is not gentile at all; she is two steps away from being considered a bore. She whines too much, and only the men seem to have sympathy for her.
The father was a nice man, but how Laurel remembers him and how the rest of the town remembers him is different from what he has become since marrying Fay.
Laurel's father had the BAD habit of marrying women who were not from Mississippi. But, depending on how one behaved, the town could accept you or reject you. They do give you the benefit of the doubt, but watch out if you give a bad impression.
Laurel's mother, was much loved. Even if she did come from West Virginia, that was ok. She liked living in this town and made friends easily. However, Fay felt that she was better than everyone else; the other women just didn't like her and didn't treat her with respect. They talked about Laurel's mother as though she was still alive and in front of Fay, no less.
I still think if Fay would have been nicer, she would have been accepted more. Being a Texan had nothing to do with her being disliked. At Laurel's father's funeral, Fay's relatives came into town, and most of the ladies were impressed with the Texans.
The before and after funeral rituals seem rather Southern. Everyone comes with a plate and gathers around to talk about Laurel's father and other memories. The world comes to a stop; the conversation is more important.
Before Laurel leaves for Chicago, she gardens, while the old ladies talk about the past. This is something that I believe that this scene can't take place in the Midwest. The languid aspect just can't be replicated elsewhere.
The only thing that has changed is the importance of New Orleans. When Laurel's father was sick, Fay, Laurel and the Judge went there for treatment. Fay just didn't understand why the city would keep celebrating Mardi Gras when her husband was sick; it showed not only how self-centered she is, but how some people just don't understand this celebration.
Another thing is that no one would now be able to receive the medical care that the Judge now receives. Since the 'Kane, all the hospitals and staff are stressed in resources and patience. It's a different world now.
This book did capture the spirit of the South, especially the women of Mississippi. I will try to read other books by Eudora Welty in the near future. But, unfortunately, I didn't enjoy this one as much as I had hoped.
This book was the June 2007 selection of the International Book Group of New Orleans. A combination of historical fiction, ornithology, art and studies in nature, mystery, exploration, English class expectations, and love, this novel is a well-written page turner that is deeper than it first seems. And, some passages are just truly beautiful, in the way they are written and what Davies is describing.
The story alternates between Joseph Banks, a scientists who sails with Captain Cook and falls in love with Mary, and John Fitzgerald, a taxidermist who is just existing, until he is asked to hunt for Ulieta, a bird that once was part of Banks' collection. Besides having a different typeset, there is a different voice when the story is in the earlier century as opposed to the present. However, it isn't as pronounced as in Cloud Atlas.
Everyone in the group was entranced the most by Mary. She seems to be more a creature of the 21st century. She knows that she will never be a wife, but always someone's mistress and accepts this fact with such certainty. She is always careful to save up money and to make new contacts, so that when her present lover no longer needs her, she can leave with some money and a new "position". Despite being doomed to this life, she tries to find what happiness she can and go forward. She really doesn't feel sorry for herself. She is rather independent.
A new member observed that since she was raised outside the norms of her time, then as an adult, she would not behave as a typical English lady of the time. That's why she seemed so modern to all of us. Her drawing talent is wonderfully described. Everyone was sad that she wouldn't have received the same recognition as James Audubon or other naturalists artists. Someone mentioned that very few people can now make these drawings; most of the work is now done with photography.
Banks loved her, but in his own way. He is too selfish of a person to be able to commit to anyone.
When Banks goes to sea, Mary stays behind in the village.
each line she felt she made the woods more real. Then by night, curled
under her sheets, she did the same forher memories of him, reaching for
them one by one by one, retouching the colour and lines of each
until they became sunlit portraits hanging in the dark.
These are his thoughts about our holding on to the past:
Even while we're content to countenance the tearing down of rainforests
and the destruction of countless organisms each day, we hold on grimly
to our documents and papers. Few of us are immune to this. I keep notes
about dead birds for a book I won't write. Other people keep bills or bank
statements or the unsolicited menus of long-closed takeaways (take 0ut
restaurants). Our national archives bulge with ephemera that may one
day transform themselves into history.
We ended the discussion by mentioning the cover. Members showed up with three different covers. (See this posting for other versions.)
Friday, June 15, 2007
Well, I don't feel that way. I am not a literary expert, but I can offer my honest opinion of a book. You don't have to agree with it, and you can also choose not to read what I write.
But, this issue is not new. A few months ago, in the UK, the same issue came up.
Here are the links:
I love to ride subways, anywhere that I go. Since I live in swampland, anything that is beneath the ground (besides my hometown) is fun to me.
I rode the Underground or Tube during the Easter Break. It was kind of empty; I guess everyone went out of town. Then, another day, I was a native; I rode during rush hour. What a madhouse, what an experience (one that I never want to repeat).
But, I did do a nice thing; I gave my seat up to a tired lady; everyone stared at me, including the neo-punker and a guy in a suit!
The London Tube system is complicated, because there are a lot of lines. If you feel intimidated, go to Washington, D. C., NYC, or Dallas first; their systems are easier to understand. Then, you will be ready for this system.
To save on space, the angle of this escalator is 150 to 170 degrees; I've never been on a such on steep incline.
Some cheeky teens knew that I was a tourist; they said "Cheese." I said "Cheese" back to them.
KM told me that "WAY OUT" is not hippie-talk, but it means "EXIT." The tile work is great on this stop.
The next stops, connections, and current route are announced by a computer voice; the immigrant children repeat the announcement. It's a great way to learn British English. It was so much fun to hear them!
I took the cheap version of Harry Potter Tour on the tube and canal tour. I saw the outside of the London Zoo. I went to King Cross' station. According to the Rick Steves' guide, parts of Movie 1 was shot on Platform 4.
Near one of the exits, there is a fake Platform 9 3/4; a cart was cut in half and glued and screwed to the wall.
My last photo is of the Victoria and Albert Museum, in the inner courtyard. This has nothing to do with my topic, but hey, I am the boss of the blog, and I can do what I want.
The building is beautiful; the modern sculpture is there. The juxtaposition is interesting.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
So, I have some book reviews to make, but my brain is still kind of fried.
So, here's a nice website to look at: Kat Ran Press.
You can learn about typography, printing, the actual books that they make, and look at beautiful art work.
They even have a payment plan, if you can't pay all at once.
Monday, June 11, 2007
But, through the internet, I was able to narrow down what I wanted to see. I didn't even see the entire museum but only selected sections.
These are some of my favorites:
We got into these bags, laid down, and went down! The first slide went down 3 floors; the second went down 5 floors.
Here's the Artist Statement about his interactive sculpture.
Here is the list of the books with this software. However, read the requirements to view them on your computer.
KM got some tickets for this exhibit. I wasn't too eager to see it (since I already am in the New World), but once I went inside, I changed my mind.
This tells the story of all the countries that went to the New World (not just England) and was frank about how the natives were treated and how they fared.
The best part were the drawings made by all the artists on the trip.
This magnet is a compilation of sketches done about New World peoples and animals. My favorite is the much taunted pink flamingo.
Some hoity-toity suburbs in the U.S. don't allow plastic pink flamingos on the lawns. Well, I think all the suburbanites should rebel and let their homeowner's association know that the English have elevated the pink flamingo to a high status!
It was also insprirational: the combination of drawing and text. If Moleskins had existed then, oh what could have been made!!
I arrived at a local train stop, instead of the main hub. When my friend, A, came for me, we walked to his condo, which is in a converted factory. The outside walls are very thick, with very large windows.
We went to lunch at a nearby Chinese restauarant. I had different foods from the ones I normally have at home, but it was all wonderful. All the windows were open, because it was a warm day, and there are no ACs there.
Then, we took a walk around City Centre (downtown). It was compact, and everything that you would need is in walking distance.
The most exciting thing that I saw was a blocked-off street; an unexploded WWII German bomb was discovered the previous week. I was surprised to learn that the bombings took place so far north; I thought that only London and the nearby towns were hit.
Later in the evening, we met K at a student pub. The atmosphere was fun; everyone was having conversations or playing pool. I could barely hear the music. The fashions varied from formal to neo-punk.
The next day, A's parents came. We had brunch at the student pub; what a difference 6 hours make. The place was quiet; I had enough room to move around and have a nice conversation with them.
Afterwards, we had coffee, tea, and homemade cake. A's mom had made it; it was so good, it was heavenly. I just can't do justice to it with these paltry words.
She is now drinking coffee, because tea is boring her. Wow. I never thought that I would ever hear that.
We then took the trolley to visit the Lowry Musuem, which is dedicated to the local artist,
L S Lowry.
I am so happy that this museum exists. Many cities don't recognize their geniuses/native sons. He drew the places and people of northern England.
As we looked at the art work, A's mother was telling me interesting stories about life in this part of England and how things have changed so much. I always love hearing about the past. We then looked at photographs that were inspired by Lowry; many of the places don't exist anymore.
On our way to the museum, we were riding the trolley with Chelsea and Blackburn football (soccer) teams. The fans were singing boisterously; if there were insulting each other, I had no idea what they were saying. A's mom and I were giggling at the singing.
I was impressed with the measures that the Manchester Police took to prevent any problems before or after the game. According to these statistics, 50,559 fans attended the game and there were no problems at all.
They made sure that everyone paid the trolley fare. They patrolled all areas. Some pubs closed before the game, or if they were open, they don't allow anyone who had a team jersey get in.
All the fans got off one stop before we did: Manchester United Stadium (David Beckham's old stomping grounds.)
When we got off for the Lowry, I saw a Goodyear Blimp circling the Stadium. I was about to say "Look at the blimp" when I remembered, blimp is such an American word! So, I racked my brain until I remembered a word they would know: DIRIGIBLE. (Hey, watching History Channel comes in handy once in awhile!)
We took a nice walk around the quay after the exhibit and took the trolley back to A's place.
When the sun was setting, they left.
But, my day was not over yet. A and I met K at another pub at 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday night. A band was playing Irish music. (K works in Dublin; he said that in all the time he has been over there, he hasn't heard an Irish band play in the pubs he visits!) The place was full by 11:30!
I now realize that a pub is what coffeehouses are to Americans, a place to meet and talk. Since a lot of homes are small, it might be more comfortable to sit in a pub than in a living room.
Luckily, my train to London didn't leave until 11 a.m. and A didn't have to commute to his job until 3 p.m. We both had enough time to sleep before going our separate ways on Monday morning.
Manchester is another place that I need to return to. I didn't see everything, but at least I saw how normal people live there.
(K is in red, A is in the short sleeved shirt, the other guy next to me - he just got into the picture; I have no idea who he is. He and his mates were sitting at the next table. Cheeky.)
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Thursday, June 07, 2007
I didn’t have time to read anything yesterday, except my daily blogs and the newspaper.
After work, I went to Fair Grinds Coffee Shop to drop off some books. This coffee shop got a few feet of water during the ‘Kane Levee Breaks and was being renovated. The owners left the wireless connections open, so people could access the internet. I would drop off books, since everyone in that neighborhood is on tight budgets.
Well, Lo and Behold! It’s now open. It looks so nice. I placed the books on a nice bookcase!
Little Joy #2 , #3, #4, and #5
My next stop was early knitting at Bette Bornside Company
I met some interesting new people and was able to browse in the shop.
Bette is offering classes soon and had a huge sale to clear out some yarn. I bought a few more skeins and then received a lot more FOR FREE. The freebies were the ½ skeins, that can’t be sold.
I also got the bottom part of an old Singer sewing machine, that Bette wasn’t really using. It needs to be cleaned and painted. I am now on the hunt for a marble scrap piece. I will be looking at the Green Project or Habitat Restore. I will use it as a night stand/telephone stand.
I got so many ½ skeins that I just couldn’t keep it all. I gave some to the girls in the regular knitting group. (Plus some other books!)
Little Joy #6 (I think??)
It took JUST TWO weeks to repair a broken traffic light on Melpomene and
Little Grr #1
Between knitting groups, three of us went to a Japanese restaurant to eat dinner. However, the eel and rice thing for my friend took a LOOONG time to come out. I guess the chef flew to
Little Grr #2 & #3
Our knitting group is on the move again. The 2nd floor of our coffee shop will be used by a candidate for state representative from any day now to November.
Our group is now on the hunt for coffee shops that stay open until 10 or 11 p.m. With the labor shortage in NOLA, it’s a big order.
Plus, some coffee shops are on streets that flood a lot with a few inches of rain. I suggested that we have a dry-night shop and a rainy-night backup.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
I had a hard time following Kabblah: A Love Story and Cloud Atlas. So much so, that I got writer's block and couldn't blog for a few days.
I understand material more if I read it; I am not a visual learner. However, in this case, I had to draw the story out.
I am providing this as a guide. I don't think that I gave away much of the plot, but if you read them and need some help following the books, please feel free to download them.
Monday, June 04, 2007
Any trip to Scotland would be incomplete without tasting whiskey.
Luckily, there is Bladnoch Distillery just a hour's walk from Wigtown, in the next town called Bladnoch.
I took the tour with two other ladies, one who lives in the area, and her sister, who now lives in Canada. It was an interesting process. At the time, the distillery was quiet; the various stills were being prepared for the next process.
At the end of the tour, we were given one type of whiskey to try. Guess who got it down in one gulp? HINT-HINT - Living in North America takes the edge from being able to drink whiskey quickly.
I returned the next day to buy gifts. This is the place to buy reasonably priced kilts and skirts and shawls. I didn't purchase any of those items, because the winters in New Orleans are just too mild.
I did purchase small bottles of all types of whiskey and woolen gloves(made in Scotland)! There are also many postcards, key chains, magnets, and CDs the store.
I was about to leave when Raymond, the owner stopped to talk to me.
He has one of the most interesting commutes; he takes a ferry from one of the westerly towns to Northern Ireland. His family lives over there during the week.
He also told me that a writer from Travel and Leisure Magazine took the Whiskey School course and wrote about it. I am still keeping an eye out for that issue.
I also learned more about the Distillery and about other events that will take place there.
(Raymond then asked me a question that other people in Scotland asked me, "Why was I traveling by myself?"
I guess that the people in the UK are used to being together more. The American idea of wanting time by one's self is not so common over there.)
After a month, I still have my larger bottle of whiskey. It's been getting too hot to drink it.
The Distillery also has a lovely garden for everyone to enjoy. You can also sit by the riverbank and watch the clouds float by. Families were there to fish in the Blandnoch River.
If you are in Wigtown, make sure to take a side trip here!
I spend 4 days there; it was a great rest for me. I read and spent a lot of time in bookstores. Heaven for me!
There was also a lot of sunshine and blue skies. I was also able to walk a lot and just slow down.
Everyone was so nice. Life is not fast paced here.
Wigtown is not in the highlands, but there are many hills. As a native of a swampy, below-sea-level city, any bump on the ground is a big deal for me.
Most of the bookstores here sell used hardbacks, so finding used paperbacks are a little harder than in London. Also, there was no special section for winners of Booker Prize winners and other such writing awards. If you are looking for certain books or authors, make sure to make a printout before leaving home.
However, most of the stores have sections devoted to Scottish writers.
Click here and here for general information.
I didn't visit all the bookstores, so this is not a complete review of all the bookstores in the area.
AA1 - a nice shop with lots of hard and paper back selections. It's very well organized!
Book Corner - a nice, airy store. Lots of places to sit down and browse the books. I also found the postcards for the national Scottish poetry day here.
Across the street is a small cafe' that has a great lunch menu and the tastiest SCONES that I have ever tasted. I didn't need to put any butter on them. I bought 5 one day!
ARTYFACTS (CRAFT AND BOOKS) - a great little store. I found some brushes that are hard to find in New Orleans to use for my altered books projects.
Brye Books - besides having the most comfortable willow chairs and a peaceful garden, it also carries books written by local writers and artwork by local artists.
GC Books, Bladnoch, Scotland - follow the road form the scone cafe, pass the golf course, drive past a few hills and sheep, make a u-turn at Blanoch bridge and drive/walk past some fish and carpentry warehouse.
This former dairy warehouse is cool, so if you go in the fall or winter, make sure to bundle up. Most selections are in order of the Internet numbers for Abe books. Some are in categories. It's great fun to get there and be there.
M. E. McCarty - This small shop has a great selection. You can have an idea of what a home here looks like by following the shape of the store. The owner is a knowledgeable and nice lady!
Reading Lasses - A great selection of books, cards, postcards. It also has a wonderful cafe'; I had a lemon curd soup with some wholesome multi-grain bread. Yum Yum.
Reading Lasses is for sale. I wish that I had the money to buy the business.
The Bookend Studio - It has a great selection of craft books. It also sells handmade knits and quilts, baskets, books, pottery, yarn, furniture, and jewelry. Looking for books can be lots of fun. One of the employees is also an painter, so you can see how the creative mind works.
The Bookshop - This store has a great selection of Penguin books and the most paperbacks that I saw in Wigtown. It also sells some local made walking sticks.
The Old Bank Bookshop - is now owned by a hometown lassie. You can see the old vaults here. It's nice and airy, with lots of lights entering the huge windows.
I spend many nice days at Mora House. We had nice conversations about the history of Wigtown. They gave me suggestions of places to visit! You will love it here.
For Internet access, go the the library. The great staff will give you a library card (good for three months) after you fill out a basic form. This gives you a chance to hear teens talking!
The library also sells some books that show how Wigtown and other surrounding towns looked like a century ago.
I also enjoyed going to the local drug store. It's multipurpose; you can buy stamps (when the post office is open), newspapers, magazines, toys, cards, candy, ice cream, pencils, postcards, cigarettes, lottery tickets, and other stuff there.
Ever been to a coop grocery store? There is one here. Seeing how the local people do their grocery shopping is great fun.
So, if you want to spend some quiet time here, come here for the scenery and buy lots of books!
Saturday, June 02, 2007
While I was in Wigtown, Scotland, I attended a local book talk at Reading Lasses.
On April 11, 2007, D. S., a local children's book collector, spoke about her treasures. She collects books for the love of books; she doesn't care what condition they are in. She goes to a lot of book sales, including car boot sales (a type of multiple sellers' market, where the trunks of the cars display the items), checks the internet, and has an agent.
- Jane at War - Evadne Price
- Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
- Abbey Girl Series and A Princess in Tatters - Elsie Oxenham
- Sir Aylmer's Heir - E. Evertte-Green
The illustrations are lovely; the books are very special indeed.
D. S. said that the only book she hasn't seen but would like to own one day is a children's edition of Alice in Wonderland. Through the power of the internet, I found this version:
On-line Nursery Alice
Abe Book's listings for Nursery Alice - First Edition
D.S. said that there might also be a possible case of plagerism because the plots are too similar. Sir Aylmer's Heir (E. Everett-Green - published first) and Little Lord Fauntleroy (Frances Burnett) are just too, well, the same.
After a great question and answer session, D. S. allowed audience members to ask more questions and look at her books.
If you are in Wigtown, consider volunteering to give a lecture about any topic related to books and reading. The lectures are held at various venues from October to April of each year. They would like about a month's notice to prepare press releases. Click here and then the Eccentric link for more information or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, June 01, 2007
This book was another cause for my writer’s block; it’s shorter than Cloud Atlas, told in mainly one voice, even though there are many stories, but the interconnections are more complicated than in Cloud Atlas. The language is not only religious, but very beautiful and profound.
The common thread in this novel is the Zohar, a book written in the 13th century by a Spanish Kabbalist. This work jumps around a lot; from century to century, between the same person at different stages of life, between memories of the same person, between interactions of one person to another and the Zohar.
One story involves Kalman, a professor of Kabbalah, the mystical aspect of Judaism. Kalman lives in New York. He not only loves delving into the Kabbalah, but he enjoys astronomy. He attends a lecture and starts to have conversations with Isabel, a professor who is an agnostic.
Isabel comments, “Kal, besides her (her mom), I’ve never known someone who trusts the universe the way that you do. When I am with you, I feel like the universe has whispered, “Everything is going to be okay’. It makes me feel less fearful, less timid.”
The novel also revolves around Moshe ben Shem Tov, the author of Kalman’s Zohar.
He lives in Spain, before Queen Isabella (the one who financed Columbus’ trip) decides to expel the Jewish people. He had a brilliant student, Sophia, who helped him cement his thoughts. He tells his friend, Yosef, “She is an old soul. She knows the answers to questions before I can finish asking them..”How can you know that? It’s as if you’re reading words written in the shape of clouds? What you said last week, sen~ora, it sounds exactly as if it is from Midrash Genesis Rabba, but it is not written in exactly those words. You have added something else.” She shrugged, “The words come to my head and I say them.” “
This novel has iterations, retelling of the same events: how Kalman found Moshe’s Zohar in Israel and how Moshe found a fragment of an ancient writing that later inspires him. The event comes out a little different each time; it’s as though it changes as time passes, as the memory becomes more distant.
The other thread is how the Zohar has affected many people throughout the centuries. The most touching one is how on the train to a Polish concentration camp during WWII, Dovid meets one of the greatest Kabbalists of the early 20th century, Aaron Zeitman. Dovid asks about an article that Zeitman wrote, “and conclude that Moshe de Leon was only the final redactor of the Zohar but not it’s author.” Dovid continues, “I mean, all of a sudden, in this book, God is also a woman. That’s surprising to me.” “Perhaps,” he(Zeitman) replies, “the author of the Zohar was drawing on other sources. You know, sources that were more feminine. Women know things we do not. They can give birth…”
I read this book twice and feel that I have only scratched the surface. I need to learn more about Kabbalah and whether people like Moshe and Zeitman existed. Since I am a Catholic, all this part of the Jewish religion is unknown to me; I am familiar with the basic tenants of the Jewish faith, since it forms the cornerstone of my faith, but Kabbalah is new territory for me.Rabbi Kushner was in a nearby suburb, giving a lecture. I am sorry that I had to miss it; it was starting to rain. The drainage in the city and suburbs are still sub-par; I didn’t want my car to float away in the streets.
I think this will be one of the books that I will recommend for next year’s readings.P.S. Check out this site for more information: http://www.purespiritcreations.com/index.htm
This book was the May 2007 selection for the International Fiction Book Club of New Orleans, and I recommended it.
The reason that I have been having writer’s block is that I have been thinking too hard about this book. I have read it only once, and I know that I have to re-read it at least two more times to make some sense out of it.
Basically, there are SIX separate stories in this novel, told in SIX completely voices. The writing in each section is so different, that anyone would think it’s a short story collection by seven different authors. However, only author is responsible for this oeuvre.
And, it’s amazing.
The common thread that holds the novel together are references to a journal written by the first character that we meet and a birthmark, a sign of reincarnation in some of the characters.
Adam Ewing, is an American notary who is alive in the time before the Civil War and is traveling on a British ship from the Pacific Rim back to the western coast of the U.S. He gets upset on how the British treat the aborigines in Australia and other peoples on the way back to the U.S. The British point out to him that there is still slavery in the U.S., so why is does he believe that he is better than the British?
Adam’s story is told in the form of a diary. The language is a little plodding, similar to 19th century writings.
The second story is about Robert Frobisher, a brillant English composer in the 1930s who needs to make some money. He travels to Holland to work with a famous composer. He tells his story via letters to Sixsmith, his only friend in England. The letters are filled with humor, both real and self-deprecating. Robert comes across Adam’s journal and does something with it. His lover is fascinated with his birthmark on his shoulder.
In the 1980s, we meet Luisa Rey, a California tabloid journalist who might want to write serious articles, like her father. She learns of secret involving the local energy plant, that could make her career. Rufus Sixsmith gives her some vital information.
Luisa has a strange birthmark on her shoulder. She is fascinated by a rare recording by Robert Frobisher and pays a fortune for the record, The Cloud Atlas Sextet.
Luisa’s story is written in short chapters and reads like a pulpy mystery novel.
We meet Timothy Cavendish, an English publisher who is running away from loan sharks. His train trip from London to Hull is pure slapstick; anything that could go wrong did go wrong.
He had published a notary’s journal about a 19th century trip in the Pacific Ocean and enjoyed reading the Luisa Rey mystery novels.
The next section is an interview between a rebellious clone called Sonmi-451 and an Archivist. It takes place in the far future in Korea; Europe no longer exists. Sonmi’s role in life was to serve food to “purebloods”, or regular humans. She somehow exceeds her genetic programming and realizes that her life was not her own.
Sonmi has a birthmark on her shoulder. She learns to read and analyze works. She writes a decree about human freedoms.
Sonmi lives in a world where product names have become verbs or nouns, more pronounced than it is now. Tennis shoes are NIKES. A dvd player is SONY. To call another person on the phone is the same as being SONYED. The English language is shortened. You xit a building; you xplain a concept.
This is sci-fi at its best. The world that is described here seems real.
The last story is told by Zachary in Hawaii. I must confess that I skimmed over this section. I didn’t like the monologue writing. It was also written in a form of English that is more of a dialect. It takes place further on in the future than Sonmi’s story. However, I did see that the people here worship a being called Sonmi.
The novel then goes in reverse to finish all the stories. Sonmi, Timothy, Luisa, Robert, and Adam.
The book group was wowed by this novel. We all felt that we need to re-read it to catch other deals. One of the members did an internet search for “Discussions of Cloud Atlas” to try to understand some of the points.
The title of the book can even take up time in a discussion. What exactly is a Cloud Atlas? How can one map a cloud system, if it’s ethereal and moving? Is it futile?
Many of us enjoyed reading Sonmi’s story, because not only were there classic sci-fi references but also to movies. The classics are 451 (Bradbury’s story), Brave New World (big Brother government), Solyent Green, the classic movie, and many others. I also felt it connected to Margaret Atwood’s Onyx, which was also written about the same time as Cloud Atlas.
Others in the group loved the section about Zachary because of the rich language and its message.
I pointed out that the group has unwittingly selected books about reincarnation and the future, like the Years of Rice and Salt. And there seemed to be a convergence of cloning in various medias for me the previous week.
We wondered whether reading the book by reading each character’s story and not in the order it was written would take anything away from the work? One member said NO. She read the book by character, because she was running out of time but enjoyed it nevertheless. She loved how Mitchell played with the language. She was able to follow the discussion and suggested that if we re-read it, that we should follow her way.
Despite not liking some of the characters, we felt that the language and the narrative was strong enough to overcome the dislike of the character.
There is still more to delve into for this work. I don’t feel that this review has done it enough justice. I will blog about it again, after another reading.
I found out about this book through Reading Matter’s on-line book discussion. Australian author, Peter Carey, write a story about two brothers from Bacchus Marsh, near Melbourne. The older brother is Michael Boone, and he takes care of his younger brother Hugh.
In Bacchus Marsh, there was a custom to give a person a nickname that is the opposite of what the person did. Hugh walked very fast, so he was called Slow Boone. Michael became an artist and didn’t want to follow in the profession of his father and other siblings, so he was called Butcher.
But, were the nicknames chosen well? Michael made a mess of his life, his art, his relationships with everyone, so he really chopped up everything. Hugh seems to be autistic, so the outside world, he seems slow.
The novel starts when Michael is no longer famous. His patron sends him to a country home in Australia. Hugh likes walking in the countryside, watching nature, interacting in the pub. Michael drinks and starts to destroy the cottage with alterations needed for his art.Marlene, an art appraiser, arrives to see a painting owned by a neighbor of the Boones. And that is when the trouble starts.
The boys need to leave Bellingen. They go back to Sydney, travel to Japan, then New York City, and back to Sydney again.
Hugh and Michael alternate in the telling of the (mis)adventures. Michael comes off as unpleasant, and Hugh seems to have more sense than his brother, but he just can’t express it.
Michael is supposed to take care of Hugh, but many times, Hugh is given scut work.
Michael gives Hugh the job of removing stray items from his art. Hugh describes it as:
“Did I ever hear him tell the Rich Man that his brother can track a single thread down across the canvas, follow it like a single thread down across the canvas, follow it like a single black ant through the summer grass, lying on my stomach THE HUMAN MICROSCOPE? No, never. Bless me, did I complain? …I have been informed that there is no-one else on Earth who can part those threads for nine feet without an error. But then again I do not care, all is vanity …(We are) Impediments to art. Who will remove us with tweezers?”
Michael forgets about little details of adult life, and the electricity is cut off. They also receive an eviction notice. Hugh reveals what he knows about local politics with these dry comments: “..because Jean Paul’s house was built too close to the river. Of course the council had approved the building years before so it must have walked closer to the bank than previously. In any case, it was all a PACK OF LIES and after we were finally driven out, the house must have walked back to its approved position on the site.”
This well-written novel relates how a selfish person copes with being a caretaker and how decisions that Michael makes will also affect Hugh, even though Michael doesn’t want to believe.
Does Michael ever learn from his mistakes? Will Hugh’s common sense become part of Michael? You must read this book to find out.