This interesting biography of Jack Kerouac also gives a lot of information about other important literary figures of the Beat Generation--Neal Cassady...moreThis interesting biography of Jack Kerouac also gives a lot of information about other important literary figures of the Beat Generation--Neal Cassady, John Clellon Holmes, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Gary Snyder. Kerouad's most famous work is On the Road, based partly on his travels with Neal Cassady. Kerouac's rebellious lifestyle was an alternative to the values of the older generation. The influence of the Beats continued into the 1960s when they were an inspiration to the hippie movement. This YA book gives a good quick overview of Kerouac's life and the Beats.(less)
This is a charming biography of L.M. Montagomery, the author of the Anne of Green Gables books, many other children's books, several adult novels, and...moreThis is a charming biography of L.M. Montagomery, the author of the Anne of Green Gables books, many other children's books, several adult novels, and many poems and short stories. Born in 1874, Maud Montgomery was raised by her grandparents on Prince Edward Island after her mother died and her father traveled to western Canada. In addition to her writing, she had a strong interest in photography and the occult. She married in her late thirties to a minister, moved to Ontario, and raised two sons. It was a difficult marriage since her husband suffered from depression, and she inwardly rebelled at always having to present herself as the perfect minister's wife. She died in 1942.
Montgomery's books are still popular today, and have been translated into other languages. Anne of Green Gables is included as a literature text in Japanese schools, and Prince Edward Island has an especially large number of Japanese visitors visiting L.M. Montgomery's childhood home.
This was an enjoyable biography suitable for older children or young adults. It included photographs of important family members and homes.(less)
Vietnamese-American Andrew Pham writes about his search for cultural identity in a book that is both a memoir and a biking travelogue. He remembers th...moreVietnamese-American Andrew Pham writes about his search for cultural identity in a book that is both a memoir and a biking travelogue. He remembers the fall of Saigon, his father's imprisonment in a communist reeducation camp, and the family's escape from Vietnam in a leaky fishing boat when he was a ten-year-old. After a stay in an Indonesian refugee camp, the family came to the United States and eventually settled in California. Although he recognizes the sacrifices made by his parents, he also recounts how the Pham children were subjected to his father's temper and beatings. The suicide of his transgendered sibling was the impetus for Andrew Pham's journey of self-discovery.
The author quit his job as an aerospace engineer, and traveled by bike up the Pacific Coast, through Japan, and up the length of Vietnam. He visited important places in his family's history and found them completely changed. While he had some enjoyable times, he also saw terrible poverty and extreme corruption. Dysentery was an unwelcome companion over part of the trip. He weaves together two story lines--about his family and about his bike trip.
He was called "Viet-kieu" (foreign Vietnamese) in Vietnam, a slur by people who envy his success. In America, he also feels like an outsider. He experiences survivor guilt, explores his roots, and feels the pull of two cultures. He still seems to be searching at the book's end--and maybe it will be a lifelong search--for who he is. Laced with adventure and humor, this was an engaging story that held my interest.(less)
Regeneration is the first book of a trilogy about World War I and the psychological effects of the horrors of war. It is set in Scotland at the Craigl...moreRegeneration is the first book of a trilogy about World War I and the psychological effects of the horrors of war. It is set in Scotland at the Craiglockhart War Hospital in 1917 where "shell-shocked" officers were sent for treatment. Today, we would call it post-traumatic stress. The story focuses on Dr W.H.R.Rivers, an actual psychologist, and a mix of real and fictional patients.
Siegfried Sassoon, a poet and courageous decorated officer, has written a declaration against the continuation of the war and sent it to Parliament. To avoid the possibility of court-martial, his friend Robert Graves arranges to have Sassoon go to Craiglockhart for treatment for "shell-shock." Dr Rivers becomes a father figure for Sassoon and his other patients who are encouraged to talk about their terrible experiences in the trenches. His job is to cure the officers, but that means that they will be returned to fight in France where the mortality rate is high. Sassoon feels a duty to his men back in France and writes:
"Why are you here with all your watches ended? From Ypes to Frese we sought you in the line. In bitter safety I awake, unfriended; And while the dawn begins with slashing rain I think of the Battalion in the mud. When are you going back to them again? Are they not still your brothers through our blood?"
The book explores themes of class differences in the military, treatment methods for PTSD, the new roles of women, sexuality, and fathers as well as the war issues. Regeneration is a powerful book with compelling characters, and many ethical questions. War poems by Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owens--both actual patients and World War I poets--give voice to their concern for the soldiers still in the trenches.(less)
This bilingual book of poems was published in 2004, the centennial celebration of Pablo Neruda's birth. The collection gives an overview of his writin...moreThis bilingual book of poems was published in 2004, the centennial celebration of Pablo Neruda's birth. The collection gives an overview of his writing over the lifetime of this great Latin American poet. The editor chose eight poets to do the translations. The poems presented include some sensual love poems, and some political poems about both Chile and the Spanish Civil War. He wrote earthy poems about vineyards, gardens, the sea, and the ruins of Macchu Picchu. Death was prominent in some of his works, especially one written as his daughter was terminally ill. He also wrote a series of odes to various objects. I wish I knew more than a few words of Spanish since the original Spanish poems seemed to flow more musically. This is the beginning of Neruda's poem about his vocation in "Poetry":
"And it was at that age...poetry arrived in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where it came from, from winter or a river I don't know how or when, no, they weren't voices, they were not words, nor silence, but from a street it called me, from the branches of the night, abruptly from the others, among raging fires or returning alone, there it was, without a face, and it touched me." (less)
Cornelius, an old mathematics professor, invites an art professor to drop by to see a wonderful unsigned painting that had been looted by his deceased...moreCornelius, an old mathematics professor, invites an art professor to drop by to see a wonderful unsigned painting that had been looted by his deceased father during the German occupation of the Netherlands. He claims that the gorgeous painting is a Vermeer, and the art professor wonders why it is unknown and has no papers proving its authenticity. Cornelius is consumed with guilt concerning the actions of his Nazi father every time he looks at the painting, but he is also overwhelmed with its beauty.
In eight interlocking stories we are introduced to the fictional people who have posessed the exquisite painting of a young girl wearing a hyacinth blue smock and a wistful expression,lit by the light of an open window. The painting has a special meaning for each owner. Unfortunate events force the owners to either sell or lose the painting. The chapters trace the painting back to the artist and the young Dutch girl who sat for the portrait. In the last chapter, the girl, who is now middle-aged, is featured. She had never been given the opportunity to realize her dream of being creative and artistic like her artist father.
I liked the creative stories about each of the owners of the painting. Vermeer is one of my favorite artists so I could picture why the owners loved the marvelous painting, and how heartbroken they must have been to part with it. This is a book that any art lover would enjoy.(less)
When a group of Marines storm an abandoned house looking for insurgents, they hear strange noises. That's when they discovered a little puppy that had...moreWhen a group of Marines storm an abandoned house looking for insurgents, they hear strange noises. That's when they discovered a little puppy that had survived the bombing in Fallujah. Although there is a regulation forbidding the Marines from keeping pets, the little dog won the hearts of the tough Marines, especially Jay Kopelman.
This is the story of Jay's attempt to bring the puppy, Lava, back to the United States with him. The book also tells the story of the military in Iraq in 2004-2005 around the time of the Iraqi elections. Lava was a bright spot in the midst of all the killing. He seemed to help the Marines reduce their stress when they could forget the war for a few minutes and play with the puppy. Although the book had a happy ending for Lava, there were many Iraqis and American military personel that were not as lucky.(less)
Published in 1962, "A Clockwork Orange" is set in the near future England at a time when teenage gangs roamed the streets committing senseless acts of...morePublished in 1962, "A Clockwork Orange" is set in the near future England at a time when teenage gangs roamed the streets committing senseless acts of violence. The teenagers speak in an argot called Nadsat, which is mainly English with some Russian words, Cockney rhyming slang, and Romany, as well as some invented words. If your edition of the book does not contain an appendix with a Nadsat dictionary, print up a copy at wiktionary. The author, Anthony Burgess, was a linguist, and he increases the use of Nadsat as the violence increases.
The book starts with Alex and his droogs (friends) spending a drug-fueled night beating and robbing people. They end up at a home where they beat the husband and gang-rape his wife. Alex reads a paragraph about free choice from the book entitled "A Clockwork Orange" that the husband is writing before destroying the book.
Later in the book, Alex is imprisoned and is chosen for the experimental Ludovico's Technique, a form of psychological conditioning (somewhat based on B F Skinner's work). It modifies his behavior so that even thinking about violence makes him nauseous and sick. This also results in Alex having no way to defend himself.
The book asks the question of whether man is naturally violent and evil (original sin). Is it better to choose evil with free will, rather than be good with no freedom of choice? Alex is no longer acting freely as a human being, but is acting as a mechanical thing. How far should the state go in suppressing an individual for the benefit of the state or community?
I won't go into the plot details and spoil the book. "A Clockwork Orange" is a book filled with horrific violence, but it has a clever dystopian plot and the fascinating Nadsat language. Anthony Burgess wrote twenty-one chapters in the original book published in England, with some sense of redemption but no true remorse, in the last chapter when Alex matures and becomes an adult. The last chapter was left out of the American books until recently, and was also omitted in Stanley Kubrick's dark film in 1971. So it's interesting to read an edition with all twenty-one chapters to see which ending seems more realistic.(less)
Alaskan state trooper Nathan Active was posted to Chulchi, his birth village. His mother, an unmarried Inupiat teen, had given him up for adoption and...moreAlaskan state trooper Nathan Active was posted to Chulchi, his birth village. His mother, an unmarried Inupiat teen, had given him up for adoption and he had been raised by a white adoptive couple in Anchorage. He's learning about the Inupiat culture as he is dealing with his police work.
Nathan is investigating a string of questionable suicides. The investigation leads him to information that might implicate managers at the GeoNord copper mine.
The author has been an editor at several Alaskan newspapers as well as a bush pilot. His portrayal of the northern Alaskan people add immensely to this mystery. The mystery was not fast paced, but I give this book 4 stars because of its fascinating look at Alaskan, including Inupiat, culture.(less)