This is a book of fifteen essays. The essays are autobiographical in content - about her childhood memories, about her parents, about her marriages, aThis is a book of fifteen essays. The essays are autobiographical in content - about her childhood memories, about her parents, about her marriages, about losing her child Joshua, about her writing, about depression and psychological illness. Always they reflect her personal attitude to each topic. It is a book that reflects her philosophical views on life. Certainly not just Southern life. Lees Smith has for 45 years been writing Southern fiction. She was born in 1944 in Grundy, Virginia, a small coal-mining town in the Appalachian Mountains. It was her father who had the Dimestore, referred to in the title.
The book is about the inevitability of change.
The book gains strength the further you go. I particularly liked her essay entitled "Blue Heaven". She captures how she met her second husband, how they came to be married and what life with him has held. For example softball games every Thanksgiving holiday. It is remarkable how well she has captured years and years in one short essay. There is humor and nostalgia rolled together. A beautiful essay - good writing and well-constructed. Had the whole book been of this quality I would have given it five stars.
I also like the following essay entitled "A Life in Books". Here she discusses why she writes and what it gives her, also pointing out some of the techniques she uses. Definitely something for new authors. I liked this essay for its lines. Here are some I loved:
I write because I want more than one life. I write to find out what I think. I refuse to live an unexamined life. (I write) even if I don't know who I am now...when I read it I will know who I was then.
What she is saying is that the process of writing is what helps her when she needs solace, not the stories she piles up, not the money earned, not the fame achieved. It is the writing itself that is the reward, that is what makes her content.
The audiobook narration by Linda Stephens is OK. This too gets better the further you go. Not sure if I just got used to it. I do NOT like it when she sings the songs in the text. It sounds like she thinks she's a singer..... Terrible if you ask me! She does not have a southern accent, which I found disappointing.
Yet this book really has very little to do with life in the South. It is about life in a small town. About knowing your neighbors. It is about Lee Smith and how writing is such an integral part of her life.
Please remember that two stars from me means I thought the book was OK. I have a hard time with essays and short stories. ...more
This book is very, very good. Keep in mind I am no huge fan of all those huge flower paintings. The person is what drew me, and I am not disappointed. Did SHE intend the eroticism so often associated with her paintings? Damn art critics! I have always been terribly dissatisfied with the need of critics to explain art. Isn't it enough to look and ask yourself what you feel?
I adored this book. My pleasure has been drawn from getting to understand Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986). What a person! It is her, not her art that speaks to me. I had no idea who she was before picking up this book, other than her art of course. Now I simply feel happy knowing that such a person existed.
So maybe you think, since I am so happy to "know" her now, that she has been idolized here in these pages. Forget that. This is no hagiography. The good and the bad, all of it is here. I love it because you get the truth; because you feel when you close the book you intimately know another soul. I am thinking, this person was out there, and I knew nothing about her. I was merely acquainted with her artwork. Do you understand? It is knowing the person that is such an immense revelation to me.
There are revealing quotes, of things she has said and of what others said. She was blunt. She knew what she thought, and she said it. She knew what she wanted to do, and she did it. She was self-reliant. She worked hard. Her advice to other artists? “You must really work and not just talk about working.” Alfred Stieglitz, her husband the famed photographer, said that when she wanted something she made other people give it to her. So true. There is a story about a little stone..... It’s a perfect example! She got that stone, but the point is here that how she got it is so well told. Both what is unknown and what is known is clarified. The author throws in marvelous details that are revealing, amusing, poignant.
O'Keeffe tried to show people how to see. Listening to her words she made me better appreciate what I see. How to emotionally relate to what is before our eyes. She saw the world around her and she showed me what she saw and how she felt. The emotional impact is part of seeing. It is the author that has achieved this, not Georgia O'Keeffe, because it was her that has chosen the quotes and put them there in the right sequence so the reader understands their import.
O'Keeffe knew so many famous artists. Easily the book could have succumbed to name-dropping. That doesn't happen; each person referred to is tied in with relevant, fascinating information. An example - at 84 O'Keeffe lost her central vision; from then she saw only peripherally. In reference to this the American artist Mary Cassatt's loss of vision is mentioned. How O'Keeffe coped is well drawn, both emotionally and concretely. There is a particular broach given to her by Alexander Calder, this being another example.
A word about the writing. The author is married to an artist. You can tell. In the audiobook we see no pictures. I do not know what pictures are included in the hardcover. On one level this isn’t a problem because with internet images are accessible. Yet color, both hue and intensity, is integral to the art of O’Keeffe, and color on a computer screen is not true to life, but neither is it in a printed book! Thus the author’s words in conveying the correct feeling and nuance are essential. The author beautifully describes landscapes, events and artwork with artistic lines. She speaks of “the curl of a lip and the raising of an eyebrow” so you see them. Her written words let you see what a picture can show. Here are some examples:
-the celestial blues, milky whites, pale pinks of the painting radiated a glacial light -a sunset's hot golden glow on the valley -the chunk of heaven the artist had captured
You need such writing in a book about art.
The book is about O’Keeffe, but it is also about Alfred Stieglitz! Both are fascinating individuals. Their relationship is portrayed honestly and with insight, and how it changed. He died in 1946; she in 1986. That is forty years in-between. Her life was far from over. She needed a new agent. She travelled. She met Juan Hamilton. Her life in Abiquiù, New Mexico. It is all here, up to her death. She chose cremation, no funeral or memorial service.
The audiobook I listened to is narrated by Grace Conlin. It started off too fast, but the speed slows down except in a few sections. I grew to like the narration very much. When you listen to O’Keeffe quotes you can wonder if she is being sarcastic, deliberately funny or just direct. This is part of her character and it comes across perfectly.
I believe this books means so much to me because I easily relate to O’Keeffe’s personality. I am too blunt. I am too much of a perfectionist. I share her view on art critics and feminists. She is a feminist by her deeds, not through talk. We both hate cooking but enjoy taste. We both value simplicity and prefer black clothing. We are both tied to nature and see its beauty. Have I given you enough of an idea to determine if O’Keefe as a person might be someone you can relate to? Of course, you can also read the book to simply learn of what she accomplished.
I was uncertain when I began whether to read this book by Laurie Lisle or Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe. The second is historical fiction. Why read that and wonder on completion which of the details were true? I am totally satisfied with my decision.
If I love a book, the first thing I do is go and check if I can read another by the author. There is this: Louise Nevelson: A Passionate Life. Wow, doesn’t that look interesting? It isn’t available to me, but I would grab it immediately if I could. If you read it, please tell me if it is as good.
I have just begun. I have only completed chapter 10:
EVERYBODY must try a Trollope. He does not deliver the normal VictorianI have just begun. I have only completed chapter 10:
EVERYBODY must try a Trollope. He does not deliver the normal Victorian brew. I am NOT a reader of the Victorian genre. Trollope's are something different; Trollope's are special.
I am sitting here thinking of all those like me who before trying Trollope have no idea that such exists.
IF you have not read Trollope - please do me a favor and try one.
Delightful humor. You read them for their humor. Sweet humor. Subtle, tongue-in-cheek humor.
I am listening to an audiobook narrated by Timothy West. IF you do audiobooks, please let me request one more favor. LISTEN to this narrated by West. I am not 100% sure if it is his narration or the lines that bring out the humor so wonderfully.
I definitely recommend this classic. It doesn't read like a classic at all. Trollope’s books are the only "Victorian novels" that really appeal to me. It is not stuffy. It is filled with fantastic lines - humorous and full of insight into human behavior.
Trollope understands women. His female characters are true to life. There are a number here, and they are not all the same; each one is a very different individual. Each one is true to their own character. They do not become caricatures. You listen to their words. You watch what they do and you nod and empathize with their struggles. Each must decide in their own way how they wish to lead their life. Trollope's women are intelligent, thinking creatures. Many politically active, at least to the extent they can be politically active. Money and love and marriage and the choices open to women of this era - Britain 1860s - this is the feminine side of the book's central theme.
And the men, they are each different too. You may think that in portraying different kinds of people they turn into stereotypes, but they don't because you watch them being torn between choices. The central character is Phineas Finn. He has no money but he wants above all to be in Parliament. Only parliamentarians in the cabinet were paid. He was lucky. He worked hard and read to see what happens. Here the central question is to what extent you follow the dictates of your party. What if your own principles conflict with that prescribed by your party?
The politics is not heavy, although I was a bit confused at the start. The issues debated are all concerned with voting rights. At this time only those with property could vote. The ballot, enfranchisement, configuration of voting districts and Irish tenant rights are debated. Phineas Finn is Irish. The political battle is drawn from history. See the Second Reform Act of 1867: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reform_...
Why doesn’t this become dry and boring? Two reasons. First of all the humor. Secondly because Trollope through his characters and through the plot interweaves philosophical questions. Party versus personal convictions, love versus money, play versus work, privacy versus prominence. Questions all of us confront. Questions for which there is no right or wrong, but which each individual must come to terms with - as individuals and as couples. How do you choose? The book looks at different characters and different choices, with humor and without rancor.
ETA: Cecily read my review and didn't understand why I only gave it three stars. I think her question is absolutely legitimate; I don't explain that vETA: Cecily read my review and didn't understand why I only gave it three stars. I think her question is absolutely legitimate; I don't explain that very well. I had trouble understanding one of the prime protagonists - Alice. Please see messages 5, 6, 7 and 8 below. I explain in more detail there. Also I think the author could have done more in describing Baden, Germany, and both Basel and Lucerne, Switzerland.
I definitely enjoyed this book and I am utterly amazed. My track record with Victorian novels is poor; they always fail me. This is the first one that I really did enjoy. Why?
The characters are not caricatures; they are multi-dimensional. These are real people that you will recognize still today. This is a book of character studies. BUT, you don't read it for plot; if you read it for plot the story is way too simple. Who will marry whom?
What I really, really enjoyed were the lines. Funny, funny humorous lines. Satirical, humor that is not nasty. Humor that keeps you on your toes because if you don't pay attention you will miss the joke. Subtle humor. The whole point of this novel has to be its humor, at least that is how it was for me. It has a message. It is all about women and their place in society. It is also about conjugal relationships. I was amazed at how modern that message could be. It was written in serial format in 1864 and 1865. Don't think it is difficult to read because it was written so long ago; it is not in the least. It is not just a satire on English aristocracy and social norms; it is also about different kinds of people. There is the flamboyant, the cautious, the rascal, the steadfast and yet at the same time they are nuanced so you understand why they behave as they do. What I think is special is that characters, even those very different from myself, I came to understand. It felt like, for them to be true to themselves, they had to behave as they did.
So what did the book teach me? Well, I think I understand better, more intimately what it may have been like to live back then in a society so socially restrictive. You look at different people, with different personalities and of different social classes and you watch what they do and say. And you smile at every other sentence. So very much is said through humor. I liked that.
The audiobook narration by Timothy West was totally fantastic. He just expressed himself so perfectly, capturing the identity of each character. He knows when to pause to give the lines the proper effect. This is one of those times when the narrator is the icing on a delicious cake.
This is the first Victorian novel that I really did enjoy.
After about 1/3:
What a huge surprise. I am totally loving this.
This book will bore you if you read it to find out what happens, if you read it for plot! If you read it to find out who will marry whom.
I am reading it for the hours spent with it. I am reading it for the lines. I am reading it for the care that is taken in drawing the characters. I am reading it for the dialog and for watching each step the characters make in their indecision. Time has to be taken to accurately describe each step along the way. It is the path that is important, more than where you end up.
The characters are complicated. They do one thing one day and the opposite the next; they are just like real people. Their ambivalence and indecision is what makes them genuine. This is a book for readers who enjoy character studies. Real, complicated people, not caricatures.
It is a book for those who enjoy subtle humor. Satire definitely, but still sweet.
I thought I knew how this would end; I no longer do. ...more
I adore Steinbeck's writing. Simple lines which all readers can relate to. Philosophical content, but never laid on thick. It is difficult to convey tI adore Steinbeck's writing. Simple lines which all readers can relate to. Philosophical content, but never laid on thick. It is difficult to convey the feeling Steinbeck creates with his words, so I give you a few lines instead:
It sounds uncomfortable and silly sitting cross-legged in a niche like a blinking Buddha, but someway the stone fits me or I fit. Maybe I have been going there so long my behind as conformed to the stones. As for its being silly, I don't mind that. Sometimes it is great fun to be silly, like children playing statues and dying of laughter. And sometimes being silly breaks the even pace and lets you get a new start. When I am troubled I play a game of silly so that my dear will not catch trouble from me. She hasn't found me out yet, or if she has I will never know it. So many things I don't know about my Mary and among them how much she knows about me. I don't think she knows about the place. How could she? I have never told anyone. It has no name in my mind except 'the place'. No ritual or formula or anything. It is a spot in which to wonder about things. No man really knows about other human beings. The best he can do is to suppose they are like himself. Now, sitting in the place out of the wind, seeing under the guardian lights the tide creep in black from the dark sky, I wonder if all men have a place or need a place or want one and have none. (chapter 3)
Immediately you conjure your own special 'place'. Past memories flood your brain. Just as the author does, you ask yourself why you need that place, if everyone needs such a place and what makes those places so special. The language is down to earth, words that all of us relate to. This is Ethan Allan Hawley's place - in a cave by the sea. His place where he sits and thinks.
So who is this guy Ethan? A grocery store clerk living in a small fictional whaling town in Wessex County, New York State. The year is 1960. He is married and has two pubescent kids, a girl and a boy. An ordinary family. His family had held prominence in past generations, but not anymore. So how does one cope with such a past? What are money and importance and power worth? What are you willing to do to get it? Honesty - public and private. Friendship, what is that worth? How many are willing to lay out large sums to help another, a friend? Even back in the 1960s there was a dislike of foreigners. That is here too. These are the issues of the book.
Yet, I was not drawn in for two reasons. I know where I stand related to the moral, philosophical issues raised; I am not a kid anymore. I wanted more to think about, something more difficult to resolve. I prefer longer, more complicated novels. Secondly, the book, although it starts our contemplative morphs into a crime story, a mystery. In this process it becomes too simplified. A cozy mystery is not my favorite genre.
Beautifully written, but very much a cozy mystery, a comfort read. I would highly recommend it to those who love such. I enjoyed it being set in a New England whaling town. It isn’t Nantucket, but is drawn as such. This is the author’s last novel. The author understands people, young and old, and this shows in his ability to draw true to life characters.
The audiobook narration by David Aaron Baker was perfectly fine. No complaints there. ...more
This book is about Huguette Clark(1906-2011). Why in 1991 did she leave her three mansions, move into a hospital and never return home again? More thaThis book is about Huguette Clark(1906-2011). Why in 1991 did she leave her three mansions, move into a hospital and never return home again? More than twenty years living in a hospital….by her own freewill! Yes, hospital care was needed initially, but not later. Why had she become a recluse?
Huguette was the last living child of the patriarch William Andrews Clark (1839-1925) - robber baron, senator and the second wealthiest American at the beginning of the 20th Century, surpassed in wealth only by John D. Rockefeller! She loved her father (and absolutely adored her mother), but there were few others that did. Here is how Mark Twain depicts her father:
He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a ball and chain on his legs. To my mind he is the most disgusting creature that the republic has produced since Tweed's time.[*
Besides trying to understand Huguette’s behavior, the book’s central theme is the contestation of her wills. I chose this book over Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman; both deal with exactly the same topic. I chose Gordon’s book after speaking with readers who have read both. All agreed that Meryl Gordon’s gives a deeper portrait of Huguette Clark. I was more interested in understanding what was going on in her head than getting details of all that she owned and who got what after her death. I would have been bored by even more extensive information of her possessions. There were plenty here!
The world of the most wealthy is not something that particularly attracts me. This influences my rating, even if it is not a criticism of the book itself.
The book details her parents’ lives and then Huguette’s entire life, not merely her many years of residence at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan, as well as the complicated legal dispute concerning her wills and the subsequent division of her estate.
I was puzzled to hear of a woman who chose of her own accord to make her permanent residence a room in a hospital. This is what drew me to the book. Who would choose such a life? Actually, given the facts her choice wasn’t all that illogical to me. (view spoiler)[In the beginning the hospital offered her security. Her money allowed her to keep herself amused - painting, music, photography, and collecting both dolls and miniature Japanese castles. It allowed her to seclude herself from the outside world which she could never trust. She paid for exactly what she wanted. She paid for “friendship” with her nurse. That the hospital benefited financially clearly shaped events. That the hospital never gave her proper psychological care or advice is in my view abominable. Legal settlement, rather than a jury trial, was chosen to both save additional legal costs, which were already monstrous, and seemed the best way of satisfying the disparate claims. Who knew what a jury might conclude? It was impossible to know. (hide spoiler)]. Are you curious too? Well, read the book. My short explanation is not adequate.
I do have some problems with the book. It begins near the end of Huguette Clark’s life. She has a very large family, the reader is thrown into the midst of a multitude of relatives – half-sisters and cousins and siblings and aunts and uncles and spouses. It is extremely difficult to grasp exactly who is who. After the first confusion, the book goes back and starts at the beginning, moving forward chronologically. I would have preferred the book simply started at the beginning. Let me repeat, you need to keep track of who is who. I believe the written book has a name chart. You can also get this at Wiki.
I have another complaint. I am left not thoroughly understanding why Huguette began refusing to see her earlier friends, relatives and acquaintances. Originally, being the daughter of the patriarch’s, second wife, both she and her mother were disliked by the family and children of the first wife. This is easy to understand. However with time they all came to accept each other…more or less. Some became real friends. Suddenly this all changes. It is this change that remains a mystery to me. Huguette’s mother died, and she (view spoiler)[did feel more insecure. Her short lived marriage dissolved. Other love affairs fizzled (hide spoiler)], but it seems to me some incident must have brought about the radical change in her behavior. I wish the author had provided a more in-depth analysis of possible psychological causes. Bring in the psychological experts, please. (view spoiler)[In that Huguette never received proper psychological help in the hospital, psychological tests were never done. (hide spoiler)] Yet this does not prevent the author from seeking additional expertise from psychologists. I wished to hear their views.
The audiobook’s narration by Bernadette Dunne is clear, but too fast. There are so many people. You must be prepared to rewind. Get a list of who is who in the family. I recommend choosing the paper format.
If this book is the one to best explain Huguette’s personality, then I certainly would be less satisfied with the other. I wanted even more from this.
This book is about a man going insane. Today we would probably label him a schizophrenic. Dostoyevsky, what he does so magnificently is get you into another person's head. He does that here. That is why I think the book is worth reading. The central character, Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, believes there is another person that looks just like him. He has a doppelgänger! The doppelgänger is Golyadkin Jr. Only this guy, Golyadkin, Jr., is socially adept, a person that has traits he, Goyadkin Senior, knows he lacks. So there is jealousy and this leads to hatred. Senior feels that Junior is wicked and nasty and scheming; damn, he can get away with anything! But......sometimes he is not sure. Is there another guy? Is he kind? Is he wicked? Oh life is SO confusing for poor Yasha!
In the beginning you don't understand what is going on, but neither does Golyadkin! He is living in St. Petersburg. It is the middle of the 1800s. He is a “titular councilor”. What is that? A clerk of mediocre rank in the civil service. A middle-rank bureaucrat. He is single. He is advised to see a doctor, Doctor Christian Ivanovitch Rutenspitz, who prescribes "cheerful company" .... only that is exactly what Golyadkin so “cannot do”! He is not witty! He hides behind doors. When he speaks everything comes out a jumble.
What is the story about? Getting into another person's shoes. Or maybe it is also about an individual's search for identity. Maybe even about how propriety and social standards suffocate. You choose!
The audiobook narration by Nick Sullivan took me a while to get used to, but by the end I was totally satisfied. Not hard to follow.
I picked up this book because I enjoyed James Taylor's music back in the 60s and 70s. Carly Simon was married to James Taylor from 1972 to 1983. I alsI picked up this book because I enjoyed James Taylor's music back in the 60s and 70s. Carly Simon was married to James Taylor from 1972 to 1983. I also enjoyed Carly's singing. The one I remember best is of course You're So Vain. I thought this would be a trip down memory lane. It was that a bit, but it is much more of a look at Carly's own personal experiences - her stuttering, her parents' difficult marriage, the early death of her father who was the co-founder of the publishing house Simon and Schuster and how she established herself in the music industry. It is also about her marriage to James Taylor. The last half of the book centers on their marriage. You only get her thoughts. It is a very personal book. It is certainly not in any way a biography of James Taylor. The book ends with the end of their marriage, that is to say it covers half of her life. She married a second time. Nothing of that is here. I found her childhood years the most interesting, the first half of the book being better than the second. I didn't understand that the main focus would be her personal philosophical musings on love and happiness or her battle to overcome stuttering, depression and her feelings of inadequacy.
There is information about how her songs came to be; how what happened in her life became this song or that. There are tidbits about many of the singers of those times; she was in the thick of it all. Names are dropped right and left. Why? Because she associated with them. Drugs and infidelity and love. For me, much read as gossip tidbits. Always you have to keep in mind that this is what she thought. Parts were tedious; I would have preferred better editing.
There is background music played throughout the entire audiobook. This was used to create an atmosphere rather than provide information. By the end I was terribly sick of it. The same snippets were used over and over, often as schmaltzy background music to a love scene. IF music is to be used throughout I certainly don't want it played while I am listening to the text. Instead I would have preferred that after a song is discussed that song could then have been played in its entirety or at least a large portion of it.
The book was OK, but nothing special.
I did enjoy the narration by the author. I love her husky voice. This is quite an accomplishment for a woman who still today battles her stuttering.
Do you want some of my thoughts on this while I read? I have listened to about half:
I don't consider any of the information below to be a spoiler.
Music is such a strong force in the lives of Carly Simon and her family. Music is played throughout the entire audiobook. This is not really surprising if you take into account who she is. Through singing she found a means to fight her stuttering. Who would have guessed! What you hear are not her "songs". Instead music is used as a means to create an atmosphere for the spoken words. It is a bit too loud sometimes, but it is an interesting approach and gives a special effect. It can get sentimental. Schmaltzy. Romantic. Music can do that to you! At the beginning the music is too loud. This is a shame b/c it is at the beginning you have to hear exactly who is who in the large family. This becomes less of a problem later. I am a bit neurotic about such.
Then there is the content. It is sort of a road down memory lane, but is also about her personal family and psychological problems. I personally would never consider it worthwhile to write a book about ME. I think there is a bit of a trend nowadays for anybody/everybody to write their own memoirs.... as if everybody has something important to say! Outstanding people's memoirs I do like, and this is kind of fun, but is there really a need for this book?! I think it is more for her than for us.
So far there is very little about James Taylor, which is one of the reasons I picked up the book. You must know he was her first husband. There is a lot about the string of all her boyfriends.
Carly is now in her mid-20s and is just beginning to make a name for herself without her older sister Lucy. There is a lot of name dropping. She knows just about everybody, so now the book is not just about her personal battles, but more and more about the music scene of the era.
The earlier sections may appeal to teenagers, lots about falling in love and what it feels like to fall in love. Remember I said it got schmaltzy?! It is all very personal. She holds back nothing....well not about herself. You may think she is very different from an ordinary teenager, but she worries about the same things we all did - getting fat, losing a boyfriend and what to do with her life. Parts are quite funny.
It is amazing that given her stutter she is able to narrate the audiobook. For this she has every right to be proud! Her narration is lovely. I enjoy her husky voice. ...more
Oh my, I did like this. It is light, but cute and fun and will make you smile. I certainly do recommend it.
So what is this about? On the surface it iOh my, I did like this. It is light, but cute and fun and will make you smile. I certainly do recommend it.
So what is this about? On the surface it is about a Mr. Ordinary, an unpretentious little guy, but he is honest and hardworking. He is kind. He is happy with little. He doesn't need a big fancy house or a flashy job or fancy clothes. It is an adventure story too. Travel on airplanes and boats - a trip that you would not imagine!
There is a peculiar characteristic to this book. The details. Nevil Shute was an aeronautics engineer. You can tell. The book is filled with detailed descriptions of machines and mechanical gadgets - for airplanes, for boats, for lumber mills. Parts of machines - coil winders and plate fittings and gear boxes and hydraulic jacks and roller chains and sprockets and lathes and heat transfer gizmos and…. I don't know what all these things are but they sure make the story told feel thoroughly authentic. Yet you are not confused. You do understand what is going one through all the jumble of details.
So do all the details bore you? No, because the message conveyed is about people. The message conveyed is so simple and so obvious, but one we often forget. The scenarios drawn are not believable, but they will make you smile.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Frank Muller. He reads pretty darn quickly. He lavishly impersonates; let's say exaggerates the different characters. The Scott sounds very Scottish, the American very American, the women sweet, the dumb guys sounds a bit like a moron. Still this is all kind of appropriate because it makes you smile even more. It is funny because Jack, the one who is supposed to be so stupid....well, is he really? The book andthe narration will make you smile. The two fit each other.
This book is fun. The story is cute. I guarantee it will put a smile on your face. Do you need to smile? Go read it! ...more
ETA: So I woke up at 4 AM irritated b/c I had left stuff out of my review. I should have given examples of the humor. One chapter is entitled somethinETA: So I woke up at 4 AM irritated b/c I had left stuff out of my review. I should have given examples of the humor. One chapter is entitled something like, 'Don't Try To Commit Suicide in a Tight Skirt". What else? Svetlana wanted to be cremated after her death. She told her daughter, Olga, to spread her ashes over a river in Wisconsin. Then she got thinking ....her daughter would be accused of polluting the river because they were the ashes of Stalin's daughter! Her daughter spread then over the Pacific.
This book is fantastic!
It is well written, based on solid research, engaging and will leave you rooting for Svetlana. Svetlana who? Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva (1926-2011). Stalin's only daughter, or Lana Peters, the name by which she preferred to be called. The book covers her entire life.
What do I mean by well written? We are presented with both detailed and sometimes contradictory information. When divergent explanations are possible the reader is given adequate information to draw their own conclusion. Many, many quotes are provided, both about Svetlana and from the mouth of Svetlana. Great lines, wise lines, funny lines. There certainly is humor in this book that could have been so dark. Historical events related to her life are those that are presented; there is a perfect balance of personal and historical facts.
The information presented is thorough and detailed, but never dry. Svetlana's life story is utterly fascinating. What she lived through is exciting and will have you on the edge of your seat - not once, not twice, but many times. The book plunges you immediately into her defection in 1967 from the U.S.S.R. Then it backtracks. You must have heard about Frank Lloyd Wright's wives and about Taliesin. Well, Svetlana's fourth husband was Wes Peters, the son of Frank Lloyd Wright's last wife (Olgivanna) and Frank Lloyd Wright's stepson! Anybody who has read The Women by T.C. Boyle will certainly want to read this too. If you have read that you will know of the shenanigans of these architects, of these communal artisans. Their behavior, well, let’s leave it at this, Svetlana fit right in. Sort of, in some ways, until…...
You know what kind of a father she had. Did you know that her mother died when she was six and a half? That her father killed, imprisoned and utterly destroyed many of their own family? That when she defected to the U.S. she left behind two children? There is more you don’t know.
Are you interested in love stories? Svetlana spent her life searching for love.
The reason why I loved this book, beyond the fact that it is well executed, is that Svetlana was such an amazing person.....but human. The author shows you who she was in her soul, intimately and honestly, by her deeds, by her humor, by her anger, by her willingness to say she was sorry, by her humility. She was head-strong. She was volatile and emotional. She had a temper! She was very intelligent. I really admire her. What spunk. What courage. You have to read this book to meet this woman.
Here is one of those few exceptional non-fiction books that is simple to read because it is so engaging, because you have to know what happens. Why? Because you come to care.
This book shows you who Svetlana was in her heart, in her head. I admire her because she never gave up, even though she had such a hard life. You root for her, regardless of her foolish mistakes. Everybody thinks she was wealthy – just forget that! So many lies have been woven around her. You have to read this book to get to the truth.
One word about the audiobook narration by Karen Cass. I wanted to know and remember every detail. I wanted to forget nothing, and for that I need a very slow narration. While Cass does a very good job, I personally wish it had been a bit slower. I don't think others are quite as neurotic about speed as I am.
Now I want to read all the books written by Svetlana Alliluyeva. Unfortunately only some of the titles are listed here at GR. ...more
This book is interesting, straightforward and to the point. Very good, even if it is not a complete biography of Henry Thoreau (1817-1862). It coversThis book is interesting, straightforward and to the point. Very good, even if it is not a complete biography of Henry Thoreau (1817-1862). It covers his youth, his night in prison, his stay at Walden Pond for two years, two month and two days. It stops before the period in his life when he began publishing books, although they are listed. It stops after his trip to Maine following his stay at Walden Pond. The latter part of his life, the fifteen years after life at the pond, is summarized briefly. The author's intention, with which I think he succeeds very well, is to show you the personality of the man, not analyze his writing.
Henry Thoreau is not idolized in this book. His weaknesses and strengths are shown. On one side, I am impressed by the man, but his weaknesses are so vivid it is impossible to view him as anything but a normal man. He strongly reminds me of my own son! A person you can love with all your heart but still get exasperated with.
What I had been taught in school about Thoreau too idolized the man, and several facts were in fact all wrong. Did you know that Walden Pond is right outside Concord, Massachusetts, where his family lived? Did you know that he could easily walk home? And he did that! Did you know that that the pond was on a piece of property owned by his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson?
The book is chock full of interesting details but they are all relevant to the central theme. A few examples: when he is a teacher we are told about the history of blackboards. As he is influenced by Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne, their lives and circumstances are depicted. The poll tax is detailed so you understand why he chose to spend a night in prison. Interesting and relevant details throughout the whole book.
The narration by David Rapkin was well done. Good speed and clear. Exactly what I want from a narrator. I am not looking for theatrics or dramatizations. It is the book and its contents that interest me; the narrator should remain unobtrusive.
I definitely recommend this short book. Who was Thoreau? You will know by the book's end. ...more
OK, this is an anthology. Some of the essays are clearly better than others. I certainly didn't love them all! I have put my star rating for each essaOK, this is an anthology. Some of the essays are clearly better than others. I certainly didn't love them all! I have put my star rating for each essay on the content list provided below. When I look back on this book my overall feeling is that if these stories had never been written so very much would be lost. In this respect, for the sake of the best stories/essays, the book is in my mind worth five stars even if some are not that good. As a whole I am giving it four stars. I really did like the whole reading experience. I am really glad I read this book.
How can I describe it? Who will enjoy this? It is not going to fit everybody. I am going to speak about the best stories / essays. As stated below, some are fact some are fiction ,but all are based on the author's interviews with real people - fishermen, gypsies, colored folk, denizens of the Bowery. The characters are those who are ‘down and out’. Are you able to look with compassion on such people? Are you curious about New York and its environs at the turn of the 20th Century and through the Depression? Do you want to get under the surface, to really comprehend people who are not like YOU?
New York City is so diverse; you cannot capture the whole city in one book. If I have to pick one group on which the book focuses it would be the fishing folk. I knew very little about fishing .......baits and nets and barges, culinary tricks, the fishermen's life on New York's waterfront. Not today, but back then. How was life there in the harbor back then. (I am dying to know how much of this world remains.) You leave the book with an understanding not only of the factual details, which I will surely forget, but also about a whole other way of living. This I will not forget. When you read the book use Wiki. Look at maps of the harbor and images of the fish and the boats and the people there. It is pretty amazing how people’s life trajectories can be so varied. What the author does is start with the facts and then he goes deeper and deeper by looking at people who everyday live with those details, those things just described. Mitchell goes from things and numbers to soul. From the outer to the inner. The facts become utterly fascinating because they are tied to flesh and blood people.
It is important to read this book with Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker. Mitchell used shorthand to record what people said. He had a knack for listening. You may wonder otherwise how Mitchell was he able to capture such long soliloquies and dialogs?!
What makes a book really good? Along with facts you must be lead to care for the people, so much so that you need to understand their circumstances. Then the details and facts have meaning. Yet you can bend the truth with facts. A talented author can make a message more meaningful and sometimes more truthful through additional fictional elements and composite characters. My favorite section was Old Mr. Flood, a mixture of fact and fiction. Here the author starts with the facts and real people. He has listened to them, and that is an art in itself. Our words, ordinary people's words are history, just as much as dry facts, and they are so much more interesting. Mitchell captures the spirit of a group of people. The following are some of the lines that I loved, all taken from the stories in the The Old Mr. Flood section: -(He) “didn’t see any reason mixing whiskey with water since it is already wet.” -“It’s not what I did I regret; it’s what I didn’t do.” -“It’s easier to have to do with a cranky man, than one that always has a smile on his face.” -“It takes almost a lifetime to learn how to do something simply.“
I very highly recommend listening to the audiobook. I absolutely adored the narration by Grover Gardiner. He reads slowly. He captures with his intonations the character of the people talking. Absolutely wonderful. Could not be improved upon. You do not need the paper book, but sit by your computer and look at maps of the city. Look at the fish and the fishermen and the barges. It is all there on internet and easy to see. Rarely can a book's maps be as informative as what you can find on the net. I don't even know if the paper book has maps or pictures.
At the end of my review is a list of the stories/essays and how they are arranged in the book. I have indicated how I reacted emotionally to each one. 1 star means bad, boring 2 stars means it was OK 3 stars means it was good, interesting, but not emotionally captivating 4 stars means I liked it A LOT 5 stars – these are utterly amazing!
I have for clarity indicated which are fictional and which are factual, also which stories were added by the author and thus not to be found in previous collections.
Joe Gould's Secret can be classified as a novella, but it concludes the set of stories found in The Bottom of the Harbor. It is a perfect ending to the anthology. It was the last of Mitchell’s writing, published in 1964. Joe Gould and Joseph Mitchell, they share an understanding about writing, about what should be written and why sometimes you just cannot write any more. The two men are not the same. There is a lot to think about here.
Still in the book's first section:
Some sketches are marvelous because they capture an individual or the feel of a place. Some you read for the interest of the topic covered - Calypso music, gypsies, the Bowery, the New York waterfront or the Fulton Fish Market. The setting is New York City, the early 1900s and the Depression years.
Up in the Old Hotel is split into three sections: "McSorley's Wonderful Saloon", "Old Mr. Flood" and "The Bottom of the Harbor". Each section is composed of different character sketches/essays. Some sketches are factual, some fictional. All in "The Bottom of the Harbor" are factual. The stories/sketches in "Old Mr. Flood" are fictional. The stories/sketches in "McSorley's Wonderful Saloon" are factual OR fictional.
Does it really matter if a fictional composite figure is created by Mitchell? He based even his fictional characters on real people he has rubbed shoulders with. Sometimes you can say more, get closer to the essence of a being through fictional characters. Facts can misrepresent the truth. (Harold Ross, the editor of The New Yorker, where all the sketches were originally published, was fully cognizant of the situation.)
When I have finished the book I will add a complete list of the names of the separate stories. The book starts with an introduction by David Remnick and then an author's note which explains how Mitchell organized this, his last anthology. Seven additional sketches were added: The Gypsy Women, The Spism and the Spasm, The Deaf-Mutes Club, Santa Claus Smith, The Mohawks in High Steel, The Kind Old Blonde and I Couldn't Dope It Out. The Mohawks in High Steel was used as an introduction to Edmund Wilson's Apologies to the Iroquois with A Study of the Mohawks in High Steel. None of the other additions had been reprinted. All sketches from his previously published collections McSorley's Wonderful Saloon (1943), Old Mr. Flood (1948), The Bottom of the Harbor (1960*) and Joe Gould’s Secret (1965) are in this anthology, but reorganized.
*According to the author's words in Up in the Old Hotel. Other sources set the publication date for 1959!
Audiobook Contents: Introduction, by David Remnick Author's Note
McSorley's Wonderful Saloon
Section 1 (factual) --The Old House at Home (4 stars) --Mazie (3 stars) --Hit on the Head with a Cow (2 stars) --Professor Sea Gull (2 stars) --A Spism and a Spasm (added) (3 stars) --Lady Olga (3 stars) --Evening with a Gifted Child (2 stars) --A Sporting Man (3 stars) --The Cave Dwellers (4 stars) --King of the Gypsies (3 stars) --The Gypsy Women (added) (2 stars) --The Deaf-Mutes Club (added) (2stars) --Santa Claus Smith (added) (2stars) --The Don't-Swear Man (2stars) --Obituary of a Gin Mill (5 stars) --Houdini's Picnic (2stars) --The Mohawks in High Steel (added) (3 stars) --All You Can Hold for Five Bucks (3 stars) --A Mess of Clams (3 stars) --The Same as Monkey Glands (3 stars)
Section 2 (fictional) --Goodbye, Shirley Temple (2 stars) --On the Wagon (3 stars) --The Kind Old Blonde (added) (1 star) --I Couldn't Dope It Out (added) (2 stars)
Section 3 (fictional) --The Downfall of Fascism in Black Ankle County (2 stars) --I Blame It All on Mamma (2 stars) --Uncle Dockery and the Independent Bull (2 stars)
Old Mr. Flood - (fictional)
--Old Mr. Flood (5 stars) --The Black Clams (5 stars) --Mr. Flood's Party (4 stars)
The Bottom of the Harbor – (factual)
--Up in the Old Hotel (4 stars) --The Bottom of the Harbor (3 stars) --The Rats on the Waterfront (3 stars) --Mr. Hunter's Grave (5 stars) --Dragger Captain (3 stars) --The Riverman (4 stars)
How do you rate a book that both disappoints and at the very same time gives pleasure?
This book consists of one novella, having the same name as theHow do you rate a book that both disappoints and at the very same time gives pleasure?
This book consists of one novella, having the same name as the title of the book, and three short stories: 1. What Time Is It Now? Where Are You? 2. Sh'khol (A Hebrew word for 'loss of a child') 3. Treaty
I have read just about all of McCann's books. I love his lines. How he expresses himself. Pure poetry in my ears. He looks at people and things and events and captures their essence through just a few words. Compassion, guilt, fear and understanding in the turn of a phrase. He keeps you thinking. He keeps you glued to the pages. So what am I saying? I love his writing. However there is more to a novel, novella or short story than the phrasing, the strings of words. There is plot. There is character development. There is the message conveyed. There is the beginning and the end and do all the parts hold together properly? All of this has to be accomplished well. No easy task. For me, only the last story worked on all accounts.
Before I had read Treaty I was terribly upset. Why? Because if you think an author is fantastic, you expect them to deliver. I wanted more than just wonderful lines; I expected well-structured stories with intriguing messages. I do expect more from a good writer.
In the novella every chapter starts with a stanza from Wallace Stevens’ poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. I found the tie to the poem and the message of the novella to be weak. It is a mini-mystery. A murder? Manslaughter? Who did it and why? The characterizations are only skin deep. The ending leaves you totally up in the air, as does Sh'khol.
Sk'khol grabbed me at first. I felt the anxiety, the guilt and the main character's utter misery. Her deaf, mentally disabled adopted child had gone missing. She blamed herself. I would have too. Have you never bought clothes for your children to grow into... to save just a few dollars? Only here it was a neoprene swimsuit that shields the body from cold. But the ending was a huge let down. Not enough information is imparted. The ending is ridiculously abrupt. Again I was disappointed.
What Time Is It Now is about how an author writes a story, or at least how this author goes about it. This is interesting but you get only the rudiments of the process, an outline of a story, no character depth at all.
Then came the last story. It was perfect. In all ways. Wording, beginning and end. What a message! The last story is about a nun that was raped 37 years earlier and then one day she sees the rapist on TV. What does she do? What happens shows you who she is now and who the perpetrator had become - both the interior and exterior. What they showed the world and what they hid. So I was ready to forgive McCann. He delivered again, at least with one story.
There is an author's note at the end that speaks of how McCann was assaulted in 2014. What an author writes is always affected by their own life experiences. He acknowledges this. The topics covered in this book reflect his own inner turmoil, where he grew up (Ireland) and where he lives (NYC). The topics covered in the book are dark. There isn't much humor, but the author's note helps you understand the whole tone of the book.
The author narrates his own book. Parts were too quickly narrated. Parts were perfect. He didn't exaggerate; he let the lines come to the fore, which is just what I like. I like his soft tone. Pronunciation of foreign words was well done.
So three stars. I am glad I read the book, for the last story Treaty, and as usual I always love how this author puts together his words. There are little, little things like character names - Eileen because 'I lean' on Eileen. Or that sweat, no, not on the waitress but on the glass that she brought. Little things like this make me smile, make me think about how life really is. ...more
Before reading: Do I dare try this? It looks hard to understand. Disturbing subject too.
******************** On finishing: The book is amazing. There isBefore reading: Do I dare try this? It looks hard to understand. Disturbing subject too.
******************** On finishing: The book is amazing. There is absolutely no question about that! Did I love all of it? No. Sometimes I was completely lost, and that just isn’t fun. I didn't understand some lines, but that is due to my own lack of knowledge, not any fault of the book. Take note - the first four chapters are pretty much incomprehensible. Don't quit too soon. No other parts are this difficult.
Do I recommend it to all? Definitely not. Am I glad I read it? Absolutely! So who might like this book? People like me.....but I don't even know myself well. So who is that? I am going to try and explain the different aspects and themes of the book.
This is in fact a book of science fiction, and surprise, surprise, I think it is great. I don’t read science fiction! This proves there is an exception to every rule I make for myself. Let me explain. It is set in an imaginary world. Our "real" world exists too, as a twin world, or at least so some think. The history of our world is cleverly, perfectly intertwined with Nabokov’s invented world, but just little bits. The story is set in Nabokov's invented world Antiterra where both Americas are united under one ruler. The languages spoken are English, French and Russian. The British Empire exists too, ruled by a King Victor, but he controls all of Europe and Africa. Electricity? No, it isn't used; instead water is the energy source! This invented world is detailed so you understand how it functions. The inventions are consistently play-on-words. No telegrams, but “hydrograms” instead. Have you noted the name of the King? Victor, what else?! Nabokov plays with his readers through the objects, words and names he invents.In this book you are constantly playing with languages. Why is that word chosen? That is the question you repeatedly ask.
I’d like to call this a book of science fiction for intellectuals. There are two central characters - Van will become a psychologist and Ada a dramatist. Both are well educated. It starts when they are 14 and 12 respectively, in 1884. That is when the story really gets going. It is a “love-at-first-sight” love affair. Immediate attraction. They are cousins, but discover quickly they are in fact brother and sister. Lucette, their half-sister, is emotionally involved too. What we are reading is Van’s memoirs written when he is a nonagenarian, so in the 1960s. Ada’s notes and an unidentified editor are involved too. No wonder you are sometimes confused! The story isn’t just about love; it is filled with scientific minutia. Literary works pepper the writing. Plants and butterflies and bugs, diseases and anatomical body parts, books and authors and philosophical ideas of our world are all here in Nabokov’s invented world too. They are beautifully displayed …..and then playfully tweaked. When you follow the lines and get lost it is quite simply because you don't know enough! The whole book is a puzzle, a mystery, but one that has no final solution. It is a game to play for a while.
Sex is the central theme of the book, be it the copulation of animals, butterflies or people, but the tone of the writing changes, shifts, bounces to fit the message. Disturbing, gorgeous, erotic, sensual, amusing. There is incest and there is love. Aging and relationships too. Time - there is a whole section on time. Surprisingly, this section is not hard to understand. This is a perfect example of how the tone flips. I cannot think of another writer this talented.
Many lines are untranslated. To see the humor and Nabokov’s cleverness you must know languages. Or let’s put it this way, the more you know the more you will enjoy. My Latin is weak. I don’t know Russian; I bet I would have understood more if I did. An understanding of French is important for this book.
The audiobok is narrated by Arthur Morey. He uses one tone for all the females, but anyway you must always listen carefully to ever single word so it doesn't matter. He reads slowly, which is essential. His French totally sucks. I cannot judge his Russian. You don't have to avoid the audiobook because of his narration.
So I have given you the themes. I have explained how Nabokov plays with words - English and French and Russian and Italian and German and Latin. The more you know the more you will understand. It is also helpful to have already read Speak, Memory. I must give this book five stars because I find it utterly amazing. It is not a book where you judge the thoughts presented, but rather a book to have fun with by exploring ideas. It is a mind-puzzle book, a book of word acrobatics. ...more
Marvelous book. Look, if you are a dog owner, or have been or love dogs you have to read this book. I don't think dog books usually work, but this oneMarvelous book. Look, if you are a dog owner, or have been or love dogs you have to read this book. I don't think dog books usually work, but this one does.
You are in the head of a dog, Mr. Bones. You say, “It just cannot be good!” but I swear it is. Mr. Bones is a scruffy dog. He has a hard life, all sorts of different owners. His first owner was Willy, a bit of a tramp but he had hard times, and then he died. Seven "good" years with Willy, but life goes on.....unless, unless he can get back to Willy!
What makes this book special is that Paul Auster knows how dogs think. Yeah sure, a dog can get confused, but who doesn't?! Secondly, it is so damn funny. And sad....because sadness is tied to good memories. Love and happiness, hard times and good times and sadness, well, they all go together. Don’t they?
One thought of Mr. Bones: "Just turn around the letters of dog and what do you have?"
The narration by Joe Barrett was superb. Couldn't be improved. He just reads the lines, adds only a bit of inflection just when needed. He knows when to pause.
Tell me, does a book have to be serious to be considered worthy of four stars? I don't think so. Read this. It is LOTS of fun.......and sad.
I have bought another book by this talented author. I cannot stop here! ...more
Before reading: I am reading this not because I want to but because I feel I ought to. Is it going to make me feel all horrible? I can accept this ifBefore reading: I am reading this not because I want to but because I feel I ought to. Is it going to make me feel all horrible? I can accept this if it constructively explains what you can do to "improve" the end of life.
In conclusion: I am glad I read the book, but it wasn’t particularly fun. There are many examples given of particular people, their illnesses and the difficulties they had, one being the author’s father. I didn’t understand all the medical terms used. Examples are given to illustrate the author’s conclusions on how medical care of the aging should be altered. The author, who is himself a surgeon, shows new, better alternatives and how they came to be. He does this by naming pioneers of better nursing homes, assisted care units and hospice development. For a person in the medical field I think this book is essential because it shows how medical changes need to be and can be implemented…., but I am not employed in the medical field and the historical developments, although interesting, were a bit extraneous for me. From my point of view, these sections could have been shortened, even if they do show the direction the author is supporting. One can ask, “Who is this book for?”
In my family we have had several deaths in the past years. So the weaknesses coupled to end of life medical care, nursing homes and hospices were not new to me. I didn’t have to be told; I was not surprised in the least.
What I wanted from this book were guidelines showing me how I could improve my husband’s and my own end of life. Did the book do this? Well, it made me face my own situation and what lay ahead. As a result of reading this book I will be looking into what alternatives are available here in Sweden when we are no longer able to manage alone. My husband and I have discussed exactly how we see the future. It has made clear to us that we value independence and that we want to stay where we are as long as possible – even if such living may be less safe than living near a hospital. We plan on looking in to Assisted Care Facilities that offer a gradual increase of care as needs increase. Do they have queues? Are they expensive? Where are they located? The essential point is that you have to know what you are looking for and that will be different for each family. So, yes, I am glad I read the book. It made me evaluate what is important to me – nature and independence and a dog and pretty landscape. The book pushed me to do this.
Another issue the book pushes you to evaluate is how long you want to extend the years of your life even if that time is filled with pain and discomfort. This too is a personal decision.
The book guides you in what sort of questions you should ask your doctor, but of course some questions are specific to the illness one is coping with.
Some conclusions are drawn that may be true for many, but not for my husband and I. Generally, most seem to want more contact with family as they age. This has its difficult sides too, and the book mentions this only briefly. I think more attention could have been devoted to this topic.
While funeral wishes are important to discuss at life’s end, I found it unnecessary that the author discussed the details of his father’s funeral in this book.
Practically nothing is said about how the elderly no longer want to travel. I may add that if you want to travel do it when you are young and fit. I am thankful to have traveled earlier in my life.
The book is primarily concerned with American facilities, and practically nothing is said about costs.
The audiobook is narrated by Robert Petkoff. It is read at a good speed. When good nursing facilities were being discussed he tended to sound SO enthused, SO exuberant. Really, I found this a bit childish. It doesn’t distort the text, but exaggerates how wonderful it all is. I could have done without this.
The book has made me more appreciative of what I have. It has pushed my husband and me to evaluate which qualities of life we deem most important. With a clearer understanding of our preferences we can more easily deal with what lies ahead. ...more