Some stories hit you like lightning, while others slowly seep into your mind and soul with a permanence that’s hard to shake. Cruel Harves...moreA MUST-READ!
Some stories hit you like lightning, while others slowly seep into your mind and soul with a permanence that’s hard to shake. Cruel Harvest was such a story for me.
Based on some reviews I thought this would be a very graphic story, and while some passages are explicit, Fran Grubb has opted not to sensationalize these very traumatic events in her life. She tells her story straight from the heart from page one and slowly grips you with an ensemble of endearing siblings you’ll never forget.
The difficult part is not reading this story, but not being there to stop this very troubled man she calls “Daddy,” from perpetrating senseless brutality on women and on his helpless young daughters. Cruel Harvest is a truly gut-wrenching story that will stay with you long after you’ve read the last pages but for good reasons, as its ending is positive and uplifting in the most memorable way.
I truly loved this book and highly recommend you read it not for its harrowing details, but for its beautiful and redemptive ending that makes up for its many scenes of misfortune with an amazing example of spirituality, all in the name of forgiveness. (less)
Very surprised and delighted by this bio. As an accomplished correspondent for Time Magazine, Mary Welsh could sling a few interesting words herself....moreVery surprised and delighted by this bio. As an accomplished correspondent for Time Magazine, Mary Welsh could sling a few interesting words herself. Loved how this book opens and enjoying every word. Fascinating look at the Hemingway lifestyle and 1940-50s WWII era.(less)
Okay, who's Robert Gatewood? Good question. Nobody knows. Except that he's a one-hit wonder (in my eyes) and probably gave up writing for the same rea...moreOkay, who's Robert Gatewood? Good question. Nobody knows. Except that he's a one-hit wonder (in my eyes) and probably gave up writing for the same reasons we all want to give up writing. But reading is another thing. That's easier to do and harder for us to give up. Good reading is like taking a trip into the unknown and living outside yourself, page after page, we administer a dose. As I like to say, "In the world of entertainment, just like crack, reading is the down and dirty drug of choice."
Okay, enough of that. Nobody really cares about my analogies, you get the idea. Let's get on with this review. First let me say that I found a discarded copy of this book at my local library and snatched it up for a whopping 50 cents. Good for me, not so good for Gatewood. I'm telling you Robert, get with it man, come on back to the dark side and write some more. Make these library mongers eat your words.(freaky, I know)
Okay, I was so happy with my 50 cent copy of this book and so I sat down and read it and since I love these kind of stories (western tales) I gobbled it all up in one sitting (sort of) and thought it was a really good story by a pretty decent writer. Sure, like all literature, it had a few flaws but overall, this is still one of my favorite books. What does that say about me? I'll leave that up to you.
What's more important is what that says about this unknown author, Robert Gatewood. He's been missing in action since the publication of his one and only novel. Can't find him so easily but would like to congratulate him and encourage him to keep on writing. (I know, I just scared him off into the wilderness, forever.)
BTW, my ex-wife trashed this book along with some other personal stuff so I had to buy another one on eBay. (boo-hoo moment) It's a much cleaner copy with the same yellow cover. I love it. It's part of my western collection and this time, I'm guarding it like a hawk protects its prey.
For the record, it's set in the 30s about a mother and son who journey to Colorado on horseback trying to escape from the grips of an abusive father. A touching and moving story.
I enjoyed this memoir but initially found this book unsettling to read because of the nature of this difficult story. I think it offers an insight int...moreI enjoyed this memoir but initially found this book unsettling to read because of the nature of this difficult story. I think it offers an insight into the mind of a troubled man and the mind of a young girl who faces very unusual choices in her life.
I was really drawn to this book because I lived in this neighborhood during the time the story takes place, during the late 80's and into the 90's and felt as if I'd seen them along the way at many of the locations described in the story. Something about this unusual relationship haunted me, but at the same time, inspired me to finish reading the book.
This story is important because we learn how this can happen and how to possibly avoid it from happening to a child you love. I certainly hope it has helped the author heal in some way. I'm sure it took plenty of courage to tell it, as is, without sensationalism and I commend her for that.
My goodness, what's not to like about Annie Proulx? I think she's a brilliant writer who always surprises you along the way. Each of her stories is a...moreMy goodness, what's not to like about Annie Proulx? I think she's a brilliant writer who always surprises you along the way. Each of her stories is a gem and her writing style is unusual and a lot of fun. Loved these Close Range stories in particular, but looking forward to reading more of her books.
Okay, Flannery Oconnor, she's one of the best American writer's of our time. Lovers of literary fiction and all aspiring writer's (Cormac McCarthy bac...moreOkay, Flannery Oconnor, she's one of the best American writer's of our time. Lovers of literary fiction and all aspiring writer's (Cormac McCarthy back in the day, included) should hail to O'Connor. Don't you hate it when readers praise and fawn over writers like this?
I do too, but anyone who knows anything about literature (or life) knows it's true. O'connor stands as a singular voice in Gothic fiction. This first novel proves that from page one and its ending in particular, is not just poetic, but liberating for the soul. A masterpiece. And if this doesn't do it for you, try one of her short stories. "A Good Man is Hard To Find" is one of the great ones among so many others.(less)
My goodness, Hemingway? Does anyone read Hemingway anymore? It so happens that I dug up 3 of his novels from my book collection and started reading "T...moreMy goodness, Hemingway? Does anyone read Hemingway anymore? It so happens that I dug up 3 of his novels from my book collection and started reading "The Sun Also Rises", again. What can I say. I think the best of Hemingway in Paris, and my favorite, was "A Moveable Feast", but I'd much rather get into the books he wrote out of Cuba. I can relate to the islands.
Hemingway's approach to writing was for the most part semi-autobiographical, in the sense that most of his stories were based on his life events to an extent. He lived everything he wrote about and it's very evident in this classic story.
With a background in journalism, his words were unadorned, factual, and to the point. Always honest, and always sparse, but engaging. If you've never read Hemingway, you may be surprised by the almost personal subject matter in his stories, but very taken by the lifestyle it evokes with such authenticity and purity. You really get a sense of time and place; Paris of the 1930's, in all its "pomp and circumstance" of the time.
Ever seen the movie "Last Tango in Paris"? Another classic work that books like this, brings to mind. They're like a fine, vintage wine; the older they get, the better they taste.
I have a bunch of other "modern literary books" on my radar: Kingsolver's, "The Lacuna", Brown's, "The Lost Symbol", and maybe, Clinch's "Kings of the Earth". Still trying to catch up with Ken Follett's work too. (I need three more lives!)(less)
Two decades after her first novel The Bluest Eye, had been published in 1970, Toni Morrison disclosed in an Afterword that sh...moreA MERCY: A FOUND TREASURE
Two decades after her first novel The Bluest Eye, had been published in 1970, Toni Morrison disclosed in an Afterword that she was dissatisfied with the book’s language and its structure, and that it “required a sophistication unavailable to me”, she had confessed. Be that as it may, whether that had really been the case or not, I believe her first novel stands on its own merits, although, the sophistication she referred to, if you will, can be found in her newest work, "A Mercy".
Without question, in my view, it is very much a contemporary classic work which resonates with not only sophistication, but wisdom as well, after all it has been 39 years since the writing of her first novel and Morrison’s insights into human nature, especially within the context of race relations, is quite profound.
Morrison has certainly put to good use her fertile mind, her imaginative ideas, and her passion to tell a story, a history of slavery that to her has always been too close for comfort but always within reach—emotionally within her grasp. Certainly her rich family ancestry has passed on to Morrison, many of the stories she so vividly talks about in all her books. The many heartfelt tales her wonderful characters portray and live out throughout her novels, in one form or another, are as breathtaking as they are heart-breaking, and more so, is the story told by Florens in, A Mercy.
An unknown character, who we soon learn is named Florens, opens this novel with a confession. A bloody deed. She tells of how she plans and plots her way to YOU, as she refers to the reader’s conscience, as I understand it. Almost as if she wants us to be co-conspirators, or witnesses to her crime. At first, this is a confusing, albeit a necessary ploy on Morrison’s part. Confusing because the narrative, its syntax is somewhat unusual, because of the narrator’s awkward phrasing, and necessary because Morrison knows how to involve her readers―her audience in a partnership. She’s a master at getting her readers to participate and become an active part or a willing character in her stories and I believe she succeeds brilliantly in this case.
But it is after that short, poetic, first chapter. The chapter you must read twice, in order to get it, that the story opens up as Jacob Vaark, the “white-man’s conscience” in the story who makes his entry and stirs things up a bit. But of course, the very astute Morrison gives Vaark a formidable handicap: He is just as human as any other white man and therefore just as greedy, despite his admonition: “His distaste for dealing in flesh”.
Morrison goes on and makes wise use of her invisible, sinister, narrator that opens the story, by using this narrator to open many other chapters, slowly and methodically cluing us in on her devious plot. The task, the errand at hand she has been sent to carry out in the name of justice. In the name of her mother, a minha mae. (Which means “my mother” in Portuguese.) It is all very intriguing and as always, Morrison’s plots are very active and take many turns and points of view, which adds a wonderful texture to her writing.
If I had one tiny criticism, which I’ve justified in my own mind, it is that the ending sounds a bit preachy. Somewhat self-serving and even hard-hitting to those who get the character’s (and consequently, the author’s) brave message. A message that Morrison has penned in different ways since her first novel. A message of pain and suffering among her people in a White majority world. A strong admonition that nonetheless needs to be heard—and heeded.
The characters in this novel are also delineated superficially, which is most likely intentional, as the plot and it’s main theme, namely, injustice, are at the center of this powerful and beautifully written story.
If you’re a newcomer to Morrison’s writing, any of her great novels is a good place to start enjoying everything she has to offer. Start with her first, as mentioned, The Bluest Eye, and work your way up, one by one, to A Mercy. So far her latest, but hopefully, not her last book.
Reading this novel was like discovering an old 17th century relic that contained an important message with valuable seeds inside of it. Seeds that when sown inside your heart, grow magically and eternally into something profound. Something beautiful.
Thank you for the courageous words, Toni Morrison, they are well-received.(less)
What I really like about this story is its soft, lingering pace. The lazy yawn of a tomcat named ”Dumptruck”, for instance, and...more A Ballad From the Heart
What I really like about this story is its soft, lingering pace. The lazy yawn of a tomcat named ”Dumptruck”, for instance, and the sensual dance of a mystic goddess that goes by the name of Susanna Benteen, better known as “the witch” among the locals in Salamander.
For those of you who saw one of my favorite movies, “Bridges of Madison County”, you’ll know what I mean about Waller’s languid, unhurried pace. In “Bridges”, Clint Eastwood evoked that mood with a musical composition of his own, titled “Doe Eyes”, towards the end of the film. And to complement those simple chords, the Bluesy ballads of Johnny Hartman, emanated from the muffled speakers of an old Victrola. That was then, in the movie, but this is Waller’s trademark, laid-back style, which he captures once again in this wistful novel. Another story underscored, if not with sorrow, then with melancholy―something I always fall for.
First, about the title and the Hardcover book jacket since that’s what attracted me to the story to begin with. I tend to judge a book by its cover and title so I had a feeling that whatever was beyond the dancing, ghostly figure on the cover, clad in a yellow dress, would be ever so nostalgic, and it was. That’s always one of those rare pleasures, when the title and cover artwork blends with the story in such an organic way. Although, I’ll have to admit that it seemed a bit too romanticized for me but I soon got over it.
The last chapter is as beautifully written as the first. Both serving as philosophical bookends to the writing in between, which seems to float somewhere amid the casual and unadorned, almost austere in its approach, which suits the storyline deftly. Clearly, we get from the outset that the main character, Carlisle McMillan, is a man of sparseness, a minimalist at heart. We know we’re in for a slow, wandering excursion into something familiar, yet something difficult to put into words, wondering if Waller can pull this off―the ending that is, because we get the feeling that there’s a little something wrong with the telling along the way.
It seemed as though there was no distinction between the narrator and the main character, and that’s too bad but I had already learned more than I should have about Waller’s own backstory, which inadvertently echo’s throughout this book so I always pictured him as the narrator. (That’s what I get for wanting to know more about the author.)
I’ll also admit that I skipped several chapters where a feud about the construction of a highway through sacred ground, took over and broke through the wonderful stillness that Waller, up until then, had so wonderfully managed to evoke. Yes, it’s conflict, but the kind of conflict that goes on for too long and with far too much detail. It seemed off key to my ear--cutting against the grain for this kind of story, to use a metaphor that Carlisle McMillan would appreciate.
The “mandatory” sensual scenes come across as awkward and almost gratuitous, compared to the overall tone and context of the story, but tastefully written nonetheless. Here again, my fault for delving too far into Waller’s background. (I know, I know. My psychiatrist has pointed out that I blame myself way too often.)
I just couldn’t get Waller’s image out of my head--his McMillan-esque ways and looks. It’s one of the reasons why high profile actors refuse to give interviews. It really spoils the mystery between the actor and the character they portray--the ability for the reader in this case to disassociate the main character from the narrator who also sounds like the author. For me, it’s almost as if Carlisle McMillan and Robert James Waller were the same person. In my own mind, based on what I already knew about Waller, that seemed to ring true, and a little too close for comfort for my taste.
An aside: It’s a lot like when J.D. Salinger came out of hiding after 40 years of self-imposed seclusion. It was as if the mystery behind “The Catcher in The Rye” dissolved right before my very eyes. Especially when the 90-year-old Salinger commented on a scene from a Terminator movie, saying: “Holy crap, was that fucking cool or what?” Something outrageously disconcerting to that effect. Can someone please shoot me now? I’ll never be the same. Thank you.
Okay, as an author myself, not that I’ll ever reach the notoriety of Salinger or Waller, but I’m going to stay in hiding and keep my big mouth shut, just in case I ever do write a classic story―like Harper Lee. I just don’t want to spoil anything for the readers. Lord forbid. All that nonsense aside, I don’t think this story can match the sadness of “Bridges” either, but we eventually realize that it is not meant to. Waller paints these words with honesty, longing, and a quietness that is both magical and gracefully inaudible at times.
Maybe even as lonely, as a High Plains Tango.
Okay, you get the picture. Scratch the needle across the record. Here’s my favorite line in the book:
BTW, this book has gotten many mixed reviews and for good reason. I believe that Waller is an excellent writer and that's clear based on the first and last chapter of this novel. But something happened in between, from chapter 2, in fact, that didn't ring true with most of this story.
An environmental message and what seemed like a first draft as far as concepts go, permeated the middle of this story.
That's a shame because it almost comes off as a bad story, sandwiched between a great lead-in an a sentimental ending, which is the last impression one gets and the reason I liked it so much.
Maybe this proves what they say: that the most important parts of a book are the first ten pages and the last ten pages. If that's the case, this book is the quintessential example of just that. (less)
The last of McCarthy's Border Trilogy, this story is both gripping and solemn in its approach. A proper ending to a western saga that is as unforgetta...moreThe last of McCarthy's Border Trilogy, this story is both gripping and solemn in its approach. A proper ending to a western saga that is as unforgettable as it is inspiring.(less)
This is a heartbreaking story filled with many of life's dark moments and how we choose to deal with them. A woeful tale filled with tender endearment...moreThis is a heartbreaking story filled with many of life's dark moments and how we choose to deal with them. A woeful tale filled with tender endearment.(less)
The legacy of Slaughterhouse-Five What made this novel so popular?
This groundbreaking novel was published in 1969, although Kurt Vonnegut had been work...moreThe legacy of Slaughterhouse-Five What made this novel so popular?
This groundbreaking novel was published in 1969, although Kurt Vonnegut had been working on it for over 20 years. My take on this novel is that, much like his main character, Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut himself was stuck in time for those 23 years and suddenly became “unstuck” and outlined this novel within a linear structure, allowing his stream of consciousness regarding the science fiction portions of the novel to take over.
Many things can, and have been written regarding this novel, and I will not repeat or review them here or even attempt to reveal the many devices used to structure this book, other than what I have already stated. Read the book and watch the movie by the same title, which are excellent studies in both literature and film--a cinematic excursion into the making of a great classic.
The essence of this story is a study in the absurdities of war. And how better to discuss the ironies and absurdities than to juxtapose the tragic alongside the comic. This is what Vonnegut has succeeded so brilliantly in doing. He pulls no punches and makes no excuses, as he presents this semi-autobiographical work depicting his experience as a POW and the bombing of Dresden, Germany during WWII, systematically cutting into this senseless act with the comedic meanderings of Billy Pilgrim—-his desire and search for another life—-a perfect life, one with an exotic centerfold starlette. Isn’t this the dream of most men, after all?
With the bit of information that I’ve just revealed about this story, it’s easy to see why it was revolutionary in its time, yet just as relevant today. Vonnegut deals with two fundamental truths in life--death and irony, and everyone can relate to that. (Life’s a bitch and then you die.) This universal message, plus many other factors, many details that permeate this story, expose it to debate, controversy, and more questions than answers, especially the story’s ending, which has been copied by many "film-makers" ever since. I won’t give it away, of course, in case you haven’t read the book or seen the movie—-two things which I highly recommend.
This book and the movie were ahead of their time, in that the content was considered risqué at the time of publication and its film debut in 1972, but also ahead of its time in the sense that science fiction merged with reality in such a forceful and meaningful way, as if Vonnegut had invented an entirely new genre, which I believe he did to an extent. In my view, we should give Vonnegut credit as one of the most influential novelists of our time for several reasons as opposed to seeing him and his work as some sort of second rate, fringe element hack job.
The fact remains, Vonnegut became much more than a sci-fi writer because of Slaughterhouse-Five. The musings in this story, its statement in opposition to war is profound and heartfelt, despite its fictive elements, which either way serve to enhance, or play up both the tragedies of war and life’s tragedies and ironies for the sake of humanity itself.
This is certainly an unusual novel, and unless you have already read it as a school assignment, you don't want to miss it. The film stays very true to the novel, although, there are details in the novel that you won't see in the movie. That's always to be expected since most movies run for about two hours or less in most cases, which translates into 120 (pages) or minutes and they can only use the best parts of the novel in the movie.
This novel comes in short at only 190 pages, but still too long to include all of it in a feature film, however, the film makers did an excellent job at getting the novel's feel and its powerful message across in grand style. Enjoy it.
There are life lessons to learn from this story and its setting won me over since I've lived that fisherman's style of life as a boy. Very endearing a...moreThere are life lessons to learn from this story and its setting won me over since I've lived that fisherman's style of life as a boy. Very endearing and inspiring tale.(less)