Thursday, July 29, 2010
I received this novel as a prize from BookGirl.
I knew of Travellers from one of my favorite TV shows. Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Season 2, Episode 21, "Graansha" was about a murder of a probation officer who belongs to a family of Irish Travellers.
Christy (a boy) lives in 1959 Ireland. He is a Pavee or a Traveller, the Irish version of gypsies but without the Roma bloodline. Despite not going to school most of the time, his little group decides to spend several months in a town, so Christy and his cousin, Martin, can get confirmed. They both attend a Catholic school, where they are placed in a lower grade to make up the lost schooling.
Christy is realizing that their way of life is slowly coming to an end. There is less work in tinkering (fixing pots), fortune telling, begging, or even stealing. The times are changing and some authorities run them off former camping sites.
However, in death, the travellers go back to certain spots. Christy's grandfather died, and the Travellers went to a town where his great and great-great grandparents were also buried. Christy muses, "I never fancied towns, the buttoned-up, closed-in feeling of them, they way houses crowded theirselves onto the narrow streets, pressed their shadows forcefully on passersby. I preferred the open tober, the road, out the country, where all the rain-fed colors would be washed fresh and green."
Some Travellers didn't bother at all to learn to read, because they didn't have a need for it. But, they had other ways to remember events. "..the beady pocket waslikea mpa ofher memory. Every Pavee woman had one: a long, black pocket that tied 'round her waist and hung to the side of her apron, where she kept her personal artifacts. But really it was the outside of the pocket wher the memories was stored, because them pockets was decorated all with bright-colored stitching, and then, pinned and sewed in among the stitching, there'd be all the collections of hold relics and medals, all the beads and buttons and brooches the women swapped along the tober."
This novel is not all all idealistic. There are instances of prejudice against the Pavee. Camping outside in the fall and winter was not the most pleasant experience; neither was living with no running water and bathing in a cold pond! But, Christy manages to find a kind bookseller, who helps him solve a mystery. I like how the mystery is solved, pre-Internet era.
Cummins provides a reading list, if you want to find out more about the Pavee.
The only quibble that I have (and it proves my observation that publishers are not editing as much as they should) is that a newspaper photo identifies an unmarried lady as Ms, which didn't come into common use until the 1970s. The caption should have read Miss.
The novel presents a world that is probably not as common as before. Christy's observations of tober life and town life are enlightening. I really enjoyed this present.
Labels: Jeanine Cummins
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I received an Advanced Readers' Copy of this novel from Doubleday Review. This novel will be released on August 10th.
Karen Essex is a favorite author of mine. I like the way she goes into an era and adopts the speech of the time.
This tells the Dracula story from the viewpoint of Mina Murphy. (OK, confession time: I haven't read the Bram Stoker novel, but I have seen several film versions. I don't remember her too much from the movies.)
Mina is an young lady, who teaches young ladies at a school in London. She is an orphan and looks forward to getting married.
However, since her childhood, she has visions of seeing a mysterious man, dreams about him, and even hears his voice in the winds. One time, he materializes and helps her from a thug.
She goes live in a sanitarium to help her husband recover from a psychological trauma. She is allowed to wander about the women's ward while her husband is in treatment. (That wouldn't happen today!) While in there, she encounters the state of the art treatment for hysterical women, who love to escape the sanitorium and run out into the street, just wearing a nightgown and no shoes! (Oh, the horror.)
Since I work in a medical library, I have access to some old journals. I copied excerpts of two of these articles. Essex did not make up this part of the novel. I've transcribed the pertinent portion.
If you like to read about Victorian times, this novel is perfect. Or, wait until Halloween for a great treat!
The Lancet, May 28, 1881
Notes on the Systematic Treatment of Nerve Prostation and Hysteria Connected with Uterine Disease by WS Playfair, MD, FRCP, Professor of Obstertic Medicine in King's College and Physician for the Diseases of Women and Children to King's College Hospital.
(He notes the latest literature and then discusses one of the treatments for hysteria)
3. Electricity - This forms a valuable subsidiary means of exercising the muscles. The interrupted current is employed twice daily from half to three-quarters of an hour. Here, again, some practical skill is necessary, but with a little careful teaching on the part of the practioner, the use of the battery can be safely and efficiently entrusted to the nurse. The poles, armed with wetted sponges, are placed on the muscles to be operated on in turn, about four inches apart and slowly moved until the muscle is fully and freely contracted. Commencing with the feet, the whole body, except the head, is thus systematically gone over. There is no doubt that this is painful and disagreeable, but it is on unquestinable utility, especially in cases such as the one presently narrated, in which there was a longstanding hysterical paralysis and conswquent atrophy from diuse of extensive groups of muscles.
The British Gynaecological Society - Wednesday, December 27, 1890 - CHF Routh - President of the Chair. Adjourned Discussion on Dr. Barnes' Paper on The Correlation of The Sexual Functions in Women with Mental Disturbances.
He mentioned one case in which he had removed the ovaries for mental disturbance. The lady was married to a gentleman much older than herself, and she happening to be a woman of ine physique and strong passions, her husband proved to be physically incapble of satisfying her frequent demands. Eventually she became subject to sexual paraoysms associated with manifestations of violence, during which she broke furniture, injured those about her, and so forth. She had been under the care of his predecessor, Dr. Palfrey, for some years, and in order to get hew away from all that might excite those outbreaks he got her to come into the London Hospital, where he removed the labia minora, which were enormously hypertrophied. She had one of the fits whilst in the hospital and ran down out of the ward into the street in her night-dress. She subsequently left the hospital and came under his (Dr. Fenten's) care. He decided to remove the ovaries, after explaining the operation was purely empirical. In spite of her having a fit of mania whith twenty-four hours of the operation, during which she tore off the dressings and sat up in bed and assulted her nurse, she did perfectly well. That was nearly six years ago, and he has seen very little of her since until the preceeding week, when he had ascertained that the paraoxysms had been few in number, the intervals between gradually become longer and longer, only one or two a year, and when did occurs, they were shorter and less severe. He thought that this case would serve as a precedent. Her age was thirty-two when the operation was performed.
Labels: Karen Essex
Saturday, July 24, 2010
A few bloggers have asked me about my readings.
During the summer, I can't go out too much. And to forget about the heat, I tend to read books that deal in cold places.
For the past few summers, I've reading books set in Antarctica and anything about Ernest Shackleton. But this year, I've been heading toward the Arctic region and it's all been by chance.
Simon blogged about getting a Hesperus Press book from his library, so I decided to find some. I want to borrow The Frozen Deep by Wilke Collins but I received Under the Management of Mr. Charles Dickens - His Production of The Frozen Deep, edited by Robert Louis Brannan. Both of these work deals with Captain Franklin and his doomed trip in his search for the Northwest Passage.
I am now on a search for 4 Arctic books about Captain Franklin. Kevin recommended Lady Franklin's Revenge by Ken McGoogan. Whispering Gums told me about Richard Flanagan's Wanting and Andrea Barrett's The Voyage of the Narwhal. I want to read The Man Who Ate His Boots by Anthony Brandt.
And, I've been going to other parts of the Arctic. Trevor wrote about Archipelago last year, and I wanted to get a few. When I received a bookstore gift card, I ordered A Dream of Polar Fog by Yuri Rytkheu. It's set in Siberian. A Canadian, John MacLennan, lives with the Chukcki.
I've been reading stories about other cold places. Recently I was in Leningrad during WWII, thanks to Helen Dunmore. I will be soon "travel" to Fort Amity: A Story of Canadian Life in the Time of Wolfe and Montcalm by A.T. Quiller-Couch, the last of my Wigtown, Scotland book buys.
Summers are always hot and humid in New Orleans. Real temperatures can reach up to 100F (38C) but with the humidity and lack of rain makes it feel like 110F (43C). I park my car in a covered garage at work, so it's in a shaded area. But walking to my car drains me. I turn on the air conditioning, but the interior is still hot. My lungs have been hurting lately due to particulate release during burning of oily glob in the Gulf of Mexico; I don't know when that will be over.
So reading keeps my mind off the weather and the glob and hurricanes.
Don't feel sorry for me. I enjoy my mild winters.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
This book of poetry counts for the Wish I'd Read That Challenge 2010.
John McDonald write haiku. I save his works when I need a jolt to my brain and a sense of inspiration. The heat here in the Deep South drains me so much, that I always want to read his work during this time of year.
Fume O Peat Reek is Fragrance of Peat Smoke in Scottish. I always read the Scottish version first and try to figure out what it means in English before looking at the translation.
Why do you give it try to some of my favorites?
frea a howe i the taur:
how bleck he is
(Hint: Did the road melt?)
on a bricht spat
(Hint: Summer is over.)
hairst mornin -
on a gean tree
(Hint: A transportation)
If you read them out loud, you might get them all. Here are the translations:
from a hollow in the tar:
how black he is
campers gone -
on a bright patch
autumn morning -
on a cherry tree
Click here to be inspired more by John's poems.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Haruki Murakami writes a lot about the youth of present-day Japan, and this novel is no exception. But, the story has a lot of weird connections, that somehow makes sense, and is creepy at the same time. During this time, this large Japanese city feels like a little town.
It takes place between the hours of 11:56 p.m. and ends at 6:52 a.m.
Mari is studying at a Denny's when Takahashi, an acquaintance of her sister's starts talking to her. He later goes off to play in his band at an abandoned building. But, about an hour later, Kaoru comes in looking for Mari; Kaoru knows Takahashi, who told Kaoru where Mari was studying and that Mari can speak Chinese.
Mari's linguistic's skills are needed because Kaoru works at a love hotel, and a young, Chinese prostitute, who doesn't speak Japanese, has been beaten up badly.
Not until I read this novel did I realize why love hotels are needed over there; there is not enough space for privacy for lovers, so they go to these places to have fun. However, it can also be dangerous; some people who go there work for the organized crime syndicates. Despite there being so many people in Japan, illegal aliens do manage to sneak in.
The American influence on the Japanese society is really apparent in several sections of the novel.
Kaoru and her co-workers at the love hotel are trying to determine who beat up the poor prostitute by looking at the film of the surveillance camera and blowing up the image.
Korogi exclaims, "Wow! Look at what you can do! Like Blade Runner!"
Takahashi goes to a Seven-11 to pick up food. And the Denny's where the novel begins, does serve breakfast 24 hours a day, but you are allowed to smoke there.
On this morning, Takahashi decides to give up his dream of playing in a band and start seriously studying to be a lawyer. At 3:07 a.m., he tells Mari of his experience of observing a court case:
"I'm sitting there listening to the trail, and all I can see in my head is the creature (an octopus). It takes on all kinds of different shapes - sometimes it's 'the nation' and sometimes it's 'the law' and sometimes it takes shapes that are more difficult and dangerous than that. You can try to cutting off it's legs, but they keep growing back. Nobody can kill it. It's too strong and it lives too far down in the ocean. Nobody knows where its heart is. What I felt then was a deep terror ! And a kind of hopelessness, a feeling that I could run away from this thing, no mater how far I went..."
And in spite of having this feeling of doom, Takahashi decides that it's time to grow up, realize that his musical talent won't take him too far, and to study the law. Is this how many of the young Japanese people feel or just the ones that become dedicated to their work? I don't think Murakami feels like this about being a novelist.
And this is not the creepy part of the novel. There is some sort of spirit, a malevolent one, watching the sleeping Eri, Mari's sister, all this time. And, when Mari went to a restroom at 1:56, "The Mari in the mirror is looking from her side into this side (the world that the characters live in). Her somer gaze seems to be expecting some kind of occurrence. But there is no one on this side. Only her image is left in the Skylark restroom mirror."
After reading this work, I was left a bit disturbed and thought about it for days. A group of young people being awake when everyone else is sleeping gave me a lot to think about.
Labels: Haruki Murakami
Thursday, July 15, 2010
The weather has been a bear lately. It's so hot, that it's not worth complaining about.
I didn't want to attend the Crescent City Farmer's Market until it got cooler. So, one day I bought some frozen food for lunch and found them disgusting. I hope that the asphalt doesn't melt so I can continue to buy fresh food and not ruin my shoes.
I've been reading them quickly but haven't gotten around to posting my reviews. Well, I have an excuse. Yesterday, I was feeling so sickly from the heat, that I took a nap from 6 pm to 7 pm.! I even missed my knitting group, which I had been looking forward to attending.
Hopefully, I'll have more energy this weekend.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that during the summer, I like to read stories of cold places to forget about the heat in New Orleans.
I found another excellent book that kept my mind off the weather and the glob in the Gulf of Mexico: The Seige.
Set during the first year of the blockade of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in Russia, it describes how Anna, a young lady of 22 years, fights to feed her family and an old family friend.
Although she is from England, Dunmore has captured the spirit of Russians during WWII.
Mikhail Ilyich Levin, a semi-banned writer, recites a lot of Pushkin poems and volunteers to dig trenches to "save the Motherland." (shades of War of Peace). Ann learns how to make soups and teas with strange ingredients that will provide nutrition for her little brother(wallpaper paste and leather.) She also lines up for bread and learns how to save the diminished rations. Earlier in the novel, she also digs trenches to slow down the German entrenchment.
This novel also discusses how everyone uses anything they can to burn to build fires and methods to keep out the cold. The water in the pipes freeze, so flushing toilets become a memory and so do hot baths. Some people survive by cannibalism but not Anna's family.( In two other non fictions that I read (Moscow and Stalingrad), the survival methods are more gruesome.)
I enjoyed reading Andrei Mikhailovich Alekseyev's (a fourth year medical student who "becomes" a doctor without graduating) descriptions of his Russia:
"But in Siberia, at twenty degrees below, the cold sings. Siberia's more than a place, it's a spirit which cant be translated anywhere else. People talk more openly there. They're not so scared.
In Siberia, there is too much of everything. Too much space, too much sky, too many thousands upon thousands of trees, marching away towards a horizon that never grows closer, too great a crowd of stars on winter nights. But when you know it, it's not frightening at all. Siberia becomes the only place where you can really breathe."
It reminded me of the short stories in Money for Maria, which are set in Siberia.
Not all of the novel is doom and gloom. There are moments of happiness and also moments of gratitude. Even for a little onion or a pinch of sugar.
Labels: Helen Dunmore
Monday, July 05, 2010
Orhan Pamuk has won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
I've tried reading his novel, Snow, and could not finish.
I have not had much luck with My Name is Red either. Even though it was a book club selection, I gave up after 33 pages.
The premise is interesting: a book with images is to be made for royalty. However, in Islam, illustrations of people are considered sinful.
There are many narrators in the novel, but my problem is that they all have the same voice. I kept getting confused of who was talking and gave up. It's too hot for me to concentrate.
I might try again in a few years, when I am older.I might need more patience.
If you finished this novel, let me know.
Labels: Orhan Pamuk