Wednesday, December 6, 2017
"The Tailor of Panama" by John Le Carre
Since he also wrote a wonderful spy thriller called "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", where those occupational references were "code names" for suspected turn coats, I wondered if the "tailor" referred to a character from a previous novel?
But no. In this post-Soviet era novel, published 1996, Harry Pendel is an expert and savvy British tailor to the cream of society in Panama: local dignitaries including the President, as well of foreigners of all nationalities--but all wealthy and powerful. In the perfect position to facilitate espionage; Harry is trapped into assisting his government in the effort to keep a finger on the pulse of the disposition of the Panama Canal once the Americans turn it over to the local government at the end of the century.
There is a perfect anti-hero and some great characters who populate the British Embassy. I'm not going to say one more word about the plot, since the twists are part of the enjoyment.
My favorite part of the book is the method the author uses to tell the story: it's as if we are sitting in the pub or bar having drinks with the worldly, all-knowing narrator. He tell the story in casual diction, it feels like the story wanders pleasantly as the narrator has a few more drinks--no, he is providing back ground. After I finished the book, I had to go Google all I could find on Panama and the Canal. I watched several You Tubes and satisfied my curiosity.
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
"Silent Voices" is a routine British crime novel, set among the rural villages in the northeast part of the country.
Vera Stanhope is the Detective Inspector; she's not routine at all; of course she's brilliant, but rather like a female version of Columbo. Middle aged, overweight, under-styled with a failure to delegate chores of detective work to the appropriate subordinates.
There is a series of novels about her and her team. These have been adapted for TV; I have not been able to find the DVD's in my local library or else I would watch a season or tow.
Monday, November 20, 2017
Since the visit to the Denver Art Museum in September, I'm obsessed with Masks. The oldest one in this group:
this one, so simple, so expressive. I find that if I try to draw a face, I do a better representation if I draw it as a mask.
A stone in the path somewhere in the Tetons, also from our visit in September 2017. Natural or placed by man? An old peoples' Valentine?
Could inspire a painting of lights and darks? At the Mormon village near the Tetons.
Thursday, November 9, 2017
I admit I read too much random, eclectic fiction that I pick up as it crosses my path--little focus to my reading? So I'm trying to select more history, memoir etc.
First, to celebrate my own approaching "retirement", "Twilight at Monticello" by Alan Pell Crawford; should I find inspiration in the retirement years of a US Founder, I wondered?
It was a fascinating narrative of the final 17 years of the life of a principal crafter of the Declaration of Independence (though I learned from other reading that Benjamin Franklin guided his pen). Jefferson saw the wisdom and acted to acquire the territories west of the Mississippi River and commissioned the exploration.
In retirement, his major accomplishment was the nurture of the University of Virginia. On a personal level, he kept busy and physically active, up to the limits of his surprisingly frail health. He wrote extensively about the Bible. Sadly, he left his descendants in deep debt, due to very generous habits of spending, borrowing and lending to others. There is a 19th century photo of Monticello in ruins--sad. His grandson spent years working to pay his debts. A good book.
Second, James Alexander Thom's "Long Knife-The Story of a great American Hero, George Rogers Clark".
The book is actually a historic novel, but so loaded with factual, researched information that is has a solid bibliography included. George Rogers Clark was a friend of Thomas Jefferson; he was the older brother of William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Basically, GRC and a very small troop of mainly Kentucky settlers ran the British out of the West and back to Detroit during the American Revolution. He lost none of his men in combat. His actions freed the Mississippi River of British involvement; it curtailed the British practice of paying bounties for the scalps of Kentucky settlers: men, women, children and even unborn babies.
His contributions were made at his own expense; he was never repaid. And he develped a drinking habit the shocked people, even then. A sad life. An interesting book.
This author writes in similar style about other regional American subjects. I read "Follow the River" in recent years, the story of the escape from Tribal captivity by an American woman about 1755.
Why has there not been a movie about the life of Isabella L. Bird? A hundred years ago, she was famous and known everywhere as an explorer, humanitarian and writer. The book I read was published in 1960, reprinted in 1985. Has any one heard of her now?
"A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains":
In 1873 she was a fearless 40 year old single British lady who decided, on her way back to England from exploring Hawaii, that she would go ride a horse (usually alone) around the recently explored Rockies, principally Estes Park. She rides alone for long days, finds lodging a bug invested camps, maybe she has a romance(?) with a local badass who is killed soon after she leaves on her journey back to England; he helps her climb Longs Peak to the summit---all in autumn approaching winter. She wrote the book in the form of letters which she mailed back to her sister in England. Her works were published during her life to help finance further travel.
I wish she had realized she was writing for the ages; explained more about the people, way they lived, especially the women she encounters. She was infected by the prejudices of her time: she detests the Mormons, she dismisses the Tribes (she encounters only the remnants, homeless and destitute) and she is not too supportive of women who are mere wives and mothers (most women of her time).
It's amazing she survived the Rockies. She lived until just after the turn of the 20th century, even as she was planning another faraway adventure. She had traveled through Asia, India, Japan and other places in the her life.
Monday, October 23, 2017
Mom would have been 98 years old today. Sadly, she developed terminal dementia and passed away in 1999; way too soon. The photos are some lesser, more candid, random shots taken over the years.
She looks a little tired and fussy in the last photo.
One of our home grown potatoes seemed to smile at me as it was readied for cook pot.
Halloween photo is not mine; borrowed from Facebook post of neighbor's daughter! Starting to read more non-fiction, I happened on a...
I wonder if this barn is still standing. Northern Minnesota in the Autumn. Rare photos of my late sister-in-law, Jane with her lo...
An Activity: "Making Mainbocher" Exhibit at the Chicago History Museum. (at last, something besides reading!)Main Bocher was a Chicago boy, interested in the arts. After high school and a stint working at Sears Roebuck in the early...