Sunday, January 31, 2010
One of the members didn't really like it, because she said that nothing really happens in the novel, but she ended up liking it.
The other two members liked it, because it was a quiet but eerie novel. Not much does happen, but what happens is spooky. The narrator camps in the Lake District of England during the late summer and never manages to leave. The townspeople want him to stay, because they kind of like him. However, everyone keeps taking advantage of him.
We discussed all the little events and laughed. All of us enjoyed Mills' dry humor. But none of us want to live in that little town in the Lake District.
Books - Book Reviews - Cemeteries of NO-A Journey through the Cities of the Dead-J. Arriago & L. McElroy and Images of America-NO Cemeteries-E. Brock
As a new Board of Director of Save Our Cemetaries, I need to catch up with these historic but quiet places. So, I decided to read and look at the beautiful pictures of Cemeteries of New Orleans - A Journey through the Cities of the Dead - Jan Arriago and Laura McElroy and Images of America - New Orleans Cemeteries - Eric Brock. (Arriago's books counts as my first challenge read of 2010 for Wish I'd Read That Challenge 2010.)
I knew people are buried above ground due to the water table is too low and no one wanted their dead to float awy. But, I also found that Spain and France have similar burial methods, and the water tables are not as low those in New Orleans. However, the Jewish cemeteries follow ancient customs of in-ground burial.
I learned that a lot of famous people are buried here:
- Ernest Bellocq - Photographer of Storyville (St. Louis Cemetery #3)
- Buddy Bolden - Jazz great (Holt Cemetery)
- Jefferson Davis - President of the Confederate States of America (Metairie Cemetery)
- Ruth Fertel - founder of Ruth's Steakhouse (Metarie Cemetery)
- Marie Laveau - Vooddo Queen (St. Louis Cemetery #1)
- Homer Plesssey - plantiff in the Plessey vs Ferguson Supreme Court case (St. Louis Cemetary #1)
- John K. Toole - author of A Confederacy of Dunces (Greenwood Cemetery)
Brock's photographs are in black and white, but it includes pictures from the late 1800s and 1900s. It also has pictures of the Girod Cemetery, which no longer exists. (It was rumored that the New Orleans Saints couldn't win, because the Superdome was built over Girod). Arrigo's and Atwood's book has color pictures of not only New Orleans cemeteries but of ones in towns near the city and depictions of local customs.
I enjoyed looking at the pictures. I often drive by many of the cemeteries shown in these books on my way to work and take it for granted. There are many beautiful sculptures there.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
All monetary proceeds support Save Our Cemeteries programming. $15 each (includes cost of shipping)
Call (504) 525-3377 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to order yours today!
Sunday, January 24, 2010
I was switching among three shows: the game, Law and Order: CI, and Emma by Jane Austen.
So, to fake it at work, I will ask: Where will Archie Manning sit at the Super Bowl? Archie used to be a Saints quaterback. One of his sons, Peyton, plays for the Indianapolis Colts, the other team to play at the Super Bowl.
Please keep my secret. I am happy but not terribly excited. My neighbors are happy though; I hear firecrackers going off.
Friday, January 15, 2010
From reading other blogs, I have concluded that there are two camps of Atwood's fiction readers: those who love the dystopian/sci fi/speculative fiction novels and those who really like her other works, such as The Robber Bride and The Blind Assassin.
I am of the dystopian/sci fi camp. I looved The Handmaid's Tale and prefer the darker works. So, this review will incorporate this viewpoint.
First of all, this is a companion of her previous novel, Oryx and Crake (2003). If you haven't read it, you can read The Year of the Flood first, and it won't affect your understanding. (In fact, some characters that are briefly mentioned in Oryx and Crake have a prominent role in Flood and visa-versa.)
The Year of the Flood is set in the North American continent, probably the U.S. There are three divisions of people, the have-nots, the genetics people, and the semi-have nots. Oryx and Crake deals with the people related to the scientists, administrators, and families related to those who develop the new genetically enhanced foods, animals, and people. The Flood examines people that were middle-class and have moved to the semi-have nots (those who cater to the genetics people) or have lost it all and don't live very well (the sex workers, the fast food servers, the garbage collectors, and the roving gangs).
A fourth group, which is the main group discussed in this novel, are God's Gardners, who live outside the other people. They try to grow all their food, despite the droughts and lack of farming knowledge (which they are getting back by experimentation and maybe reading old books), reject all the new genetically enhanced products, and recycle whatever they can. They recruit new members by walking around the city and singing. They also rescue people from horrific situations.
Some new members bring their children, and some Gardeners rescue children from the streets. However, some of the children want to know what happens in the world besides the very strict domain of the Gardners and leave the group when they become adults.
The Flood is not a watery event, but a genetic infection; the origins and consequences are dealt with in Oryx and Crake. In Flood, the effects of this plague comes up the people without warning, although the Gardners have been predicting such an event for years and had been preparing provisions.
In the world of the Gardners, there is an order to living. Everyone has chores to do, which will help in the survival of the group. Everyday is a day of a Saint, but not necessary Catholic ones. Some are 20th Century scientists, like Saint Dian Fossey-Martyr (Biologist and defender of Gorrillas) and Saint Crick (DNA co-discoverer.
There is a service, similar to a Mass, in which Adam One gives a sermon on the Saint Day and everyone sings a song from the Oral Hymnbook. Some bloggers found this section annoying, but I enjoyed imagining what the song would sound like. Then, I listened to this sample and found out how close my imigination was to these musicians: click here and scroll down.
The novel goes back and forth in time. You need to read the time period at the beginning of each chapter, so you know where you are. Also Ren and Toby alternate in telling of the story, with a sermon and song from Adam One in each section.
Toby, an Eve, who used to work in a fast food joint and was raped by her boss almost daily until she joined the Gardners, was trying to hide from some liobams on St. Crick's Day. "The lion-sheep splice was commissed by the Lion Isaiahists in order to force the advent of the Peaceable Kingdom. They'd reasoned that the only way to fulfill the lion/lamb friendship withou the first eating the second would be to meld the two of them together. But the result hadn't been strictly vegetarian. Still, the liobams seem gentle enough, with their curly golden hair and twirling tails..(the sound they make)...It's an odd combination of baa and roar: a bloar, thinks Toby.."
This short passage shows Atwood's imagination in describing a new world and her knowledge of Christianity with High Anglican/Catholic teachings, applied in an unexpected manner.
The world of the Flood is not a pleasant one for those who are not in power. It's very dark; I would suggest that if you read this, that you do so when you are in a cheerful mood.
The structure of the novel and the world that Atwood invents is different, and I enjoyed it.
I predict that the next novels about this time period will tell us why some people survived or how did the have-nots society survive before and after the Flood, and how the corporations rose to power and made distinctions on who lived well and who was not important.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
An Artic Blast reached the Deep South these past few days. It dropped to the 20sF at night (-6C or so.)
The heater decided to emit carbon dioxide, so I started using an electric heater. I was still cold.
We decide to go to a hotel. I call my friend, who is able to accomodate us.(Thank you, PD!)
This is the first time that I have played tourist in my hometown. Although, I didn't walk too much in the French Quarter; the entire weekend was too cold.
I slept in a corner attic room. Very nice and quiet.
We stayed there from Friday 8th to this morning.
One good thing out of all of this is that my electric bill will be lower than everyone else in the city. And, I was able to catch up on some reviews and start some new novels.
Maybe I can return to the Hotel St. Marie in the Fall to be able to enjoy the experience of being a tourist.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
This novel is set in Lima, Peru in the 1990s. The event that inspired this novel was a terrorist takeover of the Japanese Embassy in Peru in 1997.
(A little personal aside: my mom met one of the real hostages, when he was a Naval cadet. He is now the Vice-President of Peru'.)
In the novel, the setting is the Vice-President's home. The terrorists were trying to capture the Japanese-Peruvian president at a party held in honor of Japanese businessman, Hosokawa. The president stayed home to watch a soap opera. (In Latin America, soap operas last 2 or 3 months and are very addicting. My father lovves a couple of them.)
The terrorist are disappointed to capture only the vice-president and an opera singer, Roxanne Coss, and other foreigners.
During the seige, the men are really challenged. Many are used to busy lives and have a hard time keeping themselves entertained. Hosokawa just can't believe that his days are so slooow. The vice-president, feeling that he has to be a perfect host, starts to notice how much housework there is to be done, especially when everyone starts to throw trash on the floor and be generally messy. Coss acts like a diva, but she can get away with it, because she sings and bewitches everyone with her voice. When everyone starts getting hungry, they expect Coss to cook, and she haughtily declines. One of the Frenchmen volunteers to be the cook and teaches some other hostages and terrorists to help him out.
Everyone is surprised how young some of the terrorists were. Many were teens who could barely read in Spanish and some spoke more Quehua than Spanish.
Hosokawa's translator, Gen, was the only person who didn't rest. A gifted linguist, he spent his days translating conversations into Spanish, Japanese, Russian, French, English, German, and another one, I think.
Gen's skills interested Carmen, one of the young terrorists. She "wished that she could see inside his mind. She wondered if it would look crowded with words, compartments of language carefully fitted on top of each other. Her own brain, by comparison, would be an empty closet."
Carmen didn't have low self esteem, but she realizes that her life experiences were limited. She barely read Spanish, had not traveled much, except for this takeover. When she heard the Peruvians or Gen talk about art, music, culture, or books, she knew nothing about them. However, Gen realized her quick mind and started to teach her to read Spanish. She was learning a lot and desired to start on English.
This novel won the 2002 Orange Prize for Fiction. and 2002 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
I liked this novel. I enjoyed reading about the men having nothing to do and learned about music.
After hearing an author interview on PBS, I decided to give myself this book for Christmas!
This work is a collection of short stories. However, the common thread in the story is K.K. Harouni, a businessman and landowner in Pakistan. The stories are about his family and his servants. His person gives his view of Mr. Harouni plus we get a peak at life of many people in Pakistan, ranging from the very rich to the very poor.
Mueenuddin beautifully captured the lives of his characters. And, I was able to see how difficult life is in Pakistan, even for the richer women. I will re-read this collection in the summer and give another review at that time.
In the meantime, if you need to read a work for an international reading challenge, make sure to add this collection to your TBR.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
I read this book over the Christmas holidays; it was on my relative's nightstand.
This dystopic novel is set in the new United States. Denver is now the capitol. Cities in the eastern seaboard don't exist. There are 12 districts that rebelled against the rulers, and they have to pay a tribute each year as punishment. (The 13th district was wiped out completely shortly before the story began.)
Most people in the districts don't live well. To supplement their food supply, Katniss Everdeen poaches with a friend and trades some catches at a nasty market. If the hunting is bad, she and her family eat rats. Katniss also gathers herbs and berries, during her hunts. She is a teen and is not at school full-time.
The tribute is to send a teen boy and girl from each district to Denver to fight to the death. Imagine a combination of gladitor style games with "Survivor" reality show: the participants are dropped into different environments in each contest, hunt for their food and water, and plan to kill each other, until one person is left alive. All citizens have to watch. But, people in the Capitol want action;One year was considered boring; everyone died of thirst in the desert.
The winner gets more food and honor for the district.
This novel is a well-written YA novel, but I think it's rather brutal. However, if young people have watched Lord of the Rings or other recent movies that are a bit violent, then they shouldn't get nightmares.
Collins' world is totally believable. I was engrossed in the novel. If you want young people to read books, they should enjoy this work.
Saturday, January 09, 2010
The Book of Fathers was originally written in Hungarian. It follows the first born sons of the Csillag / Stern family, starting in the 1700s to the present day. There is a family tree in this edition of the novel so you can keep track of the family, and the name changes that happened over the years.
The first Csillag that we met is a printer who is leaving Germany and returning to his home country of Hungary, because he has heard that the infighting is now over.
He keeps a journal in which he writes what has happened to him. He is also teaching his grandson how to read and write. He and his little family encounter some fighting, but his grandson manages to keep the journal and stayed in Hungary.
The grandson soon realizes that as he reads the journal, he can visualize the events described as they occur. As I read the novel, I found out that all the first-born males in the family have this gift, and later, some can even see the future, although it's not clear.
Another gift that the first-born sons have is an extraordinary gift for music, languages, or business. And if an ancestor had the gift, the later first-born son develops his own gift and can also remember all that the ancestor did, so that descendant is stronger in that area than his ancestor was. For example, one Csillag / Stern was strong in signing. Another one also excelled in music and could play the same pieces that the musically-inclined Csillag/Stern played many years ago.
Richard Stern is one of these linguists. He knows several languages before going to Paris to learn more. He also writes a lot in the journal. "The lesson is that one must speak up if one is convinced somehting is right, whatever the cost, because not standing by one's beliefs is also a defeat and the thought of it will grow as much thereafter."
He also writes about an egg-shaped clock that has been handed down the generations and has been repaired recently. "But it remains a temperamental little creature, as it were not a timepiece but a traveler adrift in time. It loses a month or two now and then; on occasion it can be a decade in error."
Each generation has to overcome some sort of problem (mostly political). One way to adapt was to move to another country or change the last name to reflect the current ruler of Hungary. This family moved back and forth from Hungary a lot. The amount of travel really amazed me. I had the idea that Europeans stayed close to home as much as possible.
The only historical event that was not covered and would have been interesting was the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against the Communist powers. But by this time in the novel, the Csillags were living in another continent, so events in Hungary were not as significant in the latter parts of the novel.
I never realized how fluid the borders of this country was until I read this novel; I thought that Poland changed hands the most throughout history.
Hungary also had a similar fate as Poland.
It was also interesting to learn about the formation of Budapest and the rich, cultural events that took place there.
This novel is long, so you should read it when you are in the right mood. If not, you will lose your place, even though the family tree should help keep track of the characters. Sometimes, one character goes back into the past more than the others, which could lead to some confusion.
However, I did enjoy this family saga a great deal and would recommend this novel, especially if you like the concept of the first-born's visions and memories and learning about Hungary.
The novel starts after World War I in former Czechoslovakia and ends in the present day. The Real Glass Room is located in Brno, Czech Republic. My version of the novel shows line drawings of different parts of the exterior of the house at the start of different sections of the story.
Viktor and Liesel Landauer marry and honeymoon in Venice. They meet the great architect, Rainer von Abt, who is later designs their modern home. von Abt wishes "to take Man out of the cave and float him in the air. I wish to give him, a glass space to inhabit."
The Landauers see the home to completion and enjoy it until Hitler comes into power. Viktor is a non-religious Jew, but he foresees a bad future ahead.
They leave their home, and the story continues. The home becomes like another character in the novel.
The room entralls everyone who sees it. After WWII is over, the home is taken over by the Communist Party and becomes a physicial therapy clinic for children who have deformed limbs.
Tomas, a doctor, pauses after a busy day. This passage also explains the difficulty of translation. He "referred to the gymnasium as the Glass Room. There is a language problem here. The word used for room, pokoj,
can also mean peace, tranquility, quiet...The place appeared quite withoutto period or style - just a space of light and stillness, where, when his work was over, he could be with Zdenka."
One of Leisel's friends, Hana, is later an important official who is interested in saving the home. We also find out what happened to the Landauers and to their driver, who was the caretaker of the house during WWII.
I liked several aspects of this novel: the discussion of modern architecture and language, learning of other early, luxury automobiles besides Cadillac and Rolls Royce, and Mongolian soldiers.
This novel was shortlisted for last year's Man Booker Awards and was worthy of the honor. It was a multi-layered read that I enjoyed a lot.
Monday, January 04, 2010
Many bloggers have shown pictures of their libraries. And here is mine.
This is the bookcase on the left side. These books are my needlework books (crochet, knitting, and tatting) and some of my needles.
I've had fun organizing my "library". I found some items that I've been missing. And also got rid of some papers.