Sunday, January 25, 2015
Last summer, I read Jessica Hagedorn's look-back at 1950's Philippines, "Dogeaters". It is layered with a great variety of characters: a clever, wealthy little school girl who starts the book, her family, a mom who is like an American film star, a silly, shallow cousin; other parts of the novel show the lives of gay male prostitutes in the bars of Manila, and many more. Over them all is a crazy all-powerful dictatorship that rules the land; people can be caught up in mortal danger for any reason or no reason at all; they can disappear or be killed almost anytime. The other day I noticed the book was recommended for the Wall Street Journal Book Club by author Marlon James, who says the book could have been written about Jamaica or Columbia (or any tropical paradise ruled by dictators and thugs, it seems). I thought I better write my little review! It was interesting, funny, complicated, sad, poetic, easy to read yet difficult to comprehend; I am an "apple-cheeked" suburbanite to the core; but once in a while I like to try to "walk (gingerly)on the wild side".
Friday, January 23, 2015
Saturday, January 17, 2015
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Nevil Shute Norway was an Englishman born about the time "The Virginian" can out; by the time he died in 1960, he had many successful novels to his credit including "On the Beach" and "A Town like Alice". His pen name was Nevil Shute. He wrote in addition to his actual profession as an aeronautical engineer and pilot. He wrote about the world and the British Empire during the period after WW1, through WW2 and the Cold War. "Beyond the Black Stump" is a story that contrasts American and Australian cultures through the back grounds and experiences of the main characters, Stanton, (an American mining engineer sent to the outback of Australia)handsome, above board, brilliant with a seemingly perfect Eagle Scout image and a dark, guilty secret; Molly is the 19 year old daughter of an Irish rebel from the 1916 uprising who fled to Australia and made good on a huge ranch. Molly has irregularities in her back ground too, but not hidden. The two are attracted and Stanton is a bit scandalized by Molly's strange family ways; Molly is so good, beautiful and intelligent that Stanton comes to terms with the family situation; he completely overlooks the idea of telling Molly about the skeleton in his own closet! As in "A Town Like Alice", the book is enjoyably readable, it's well crafted and allows us a look into the life styles of another time and place. As with "The Virginian", it shows interesting contrasts in the different cultures of the main characters. Nevil Shute takes us on a first-class flight trip from Sydney to San Francisco in the days prior to jet engines on airplanes; worth reading just for that if one is too young to remember.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
"The Virginian - A Horseman of the Plains" (1902)by the handsome writer and lawyer, Owen Wister of Philadelphia, is an American classic. This is an example of the type of fiction that ought to be taught to school kids. The story is told by a narrator; perhaps someone like Wister, a lawyer visiting a client who owns a big ranch in the West. On this visit, the narrator meets and learns the story of the horseman we know only as The Virginian. This solitary, rather mysterious figure embodies "good" in the Wild American West, though he has experienced a hard life as a young runaway from Virginia in the days just after the Civil War. He loves the district's new young school teacher, a runaway from the possibility of a hum-drum marriage in the settled East, and he oh-so-patiently woos her. All we have ever experienced at the movies, fiction or tv about the cowboy or the West was told in this slim little novel. The writing is pristine; the imagery lucid; for those who are far too young to envision a world without electronics or instant communication, this novel takes you there, but nicely, to show a picture of life where the train and the telegraph were the most amazing new marvels! Owen Wister wrote many books, fiction and non-fiction; he was also a great friend of Theodore Roosevelt, another famous writer of the day. Page for page, this was probably the best book I read in 2014.