A Literary Blog
about Books (and the occasional film) How
they affect us. How they shape our lives. Note:
Postings are once a week or so, as the muses strike. Watch for your
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"We read to know we are not
alone." C.S. Lewis
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Friday, May 8, 2015
May Daze Besides Earl and Opal in “Pickles” (I have neighbors
who look and often act just like them!), Maxine is my favorite cartoon character. Created by the geniuses at Hallmark, she
is the humorously satirical epitome of elderly crankiness. I even have a 2015 Maxine Weekly/Monthly Planner which, so far,
has kept me on track for various myriad appointments and activities.
So, today, as I started to enter
a few more items for this month, I noticed that the weekly pages for May are missing. Say what? No (Maxine) joke. Yep…’tis
true. Except for just one page with the first five days of this month, the calendar blithely jumps right into the first week
of June. There are no weekly pages for May. Nothing. Nada. Egads…
So, now, for the net twenty-five days,
I am literally and figuratively at a loss…Literally and virtually in a May Daze…
In case you were
unaware, yesterday, May 7th, was the 100th anniversary of the torpedo sinking by German of the
largest and fastest ocean liner of its day, the Lusitania. Part of the Greyhound class of Cunard ships, she was able
to cross the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Liverpool in less than five…almost three… days. Bigger and faster,
even, than the ill-fated Titanic, which sank 103 years ago on this last April 15th after striking an iceberg.
Both tragedies have a profound affect on me…I am totally fascinated by all things nautical, anyway. To
wit, I have a decent collection of Titanic memorabilia including a commemorative yellow crew cap,
a replica third-class coffee mug, and a myriad collection of films, books – both fiction and non-fiction. Not to mention
total recall of the urban legend about my father’s supposed namesake caught in the boiler bowels as a greaser and part-time
stoker when the then Star Line “star” quickly sank to its cold, watery grave…
But I had scant
knowledge about the Lusitania , except for a few minor historical footnotes – even though it was one of the
prime reasons America entered World War I – until this past weekend when I picked up a copy of the just recently published
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Eric Larson. A totally non-fiction account of the tragedy, it reads, like all of Larson’s previous books,
like an exquisitely finely tuned novel. I just can’t put it down…
Larson, one of the few authors
who thoroughly researches his topics and writes about them with exhaustingly rich and vibrant detail, has taken this, his
seventh excursion into the realm of the most bizarre episodes of history, into the extreme outer reaches of total realism.
His previously most famous and highly acclaimed Devil in the White City and In the Garden of the Beasts
are two of my most favorite Larson offerings to pure literary non-fiction…surpassing even the most erudite, readable,
and assiduously famed David McCullough who just recently released his own latest, The Wright Brothers (which I hope
to read soon and post about in the not so distant future).
Larson, is a master at capturing the salient minutia
of every day life…the captivating essences of each of the “characters” that precipitated the events he
explores And the sinking of the Lusitania is no exception. Little known background facts are brought to the forefront;
nebulous reasons are explained; and historical figures are brought back to life in a writing style so exquisite it literally,
if not physically, actually brings the reader onboard.
For this month, this is the perfect corresponding
read to help me through my ditsy daze of May.
Smiley Faces The stack of books from this past Christmas’s “Santa Surprise” box
lay fallow on a living room credenza for the past few months. Seems I’ve been a bit too busy with other literary pursuits…With
twinges of remorse and guilt, I have mostly ignored these twelve buddies of mine beckoning to me, sorely neglecting to even
opening their covers to peek at what literary wonders are inside.
Finally, this weekend, with a slight cold once
again lingering – I must have caught it out on the courts during last week’s sudden onset of colder, almost winter-like
weather – I decided to take a long, well-deserved break from my normal bookish and household chores and, as it were,
attack the stack. And the first to appeal to my sniffling, stodgy, I-want-to-escape-from-it-all mood…was…is
Some Luck by Jane Smiley. I’ve been totally immersed in it for the past three days and while I have yet to finish it, I
just had to take a moment to tell you about it.
The first of her American trilogy published last fall is probably
the most exquisite novel I have read in quite a long time. Exquisitely written, exquisitely crafted plot line(s), and exquisitely
drawn characters so true to life that most, if not all of us have met most, if not all of them in real life at one time or
another. Walter Langdon reminds me of my father; Rosanna, a straight-laced second cousin whom I love dearly; Eloise Vogel,
a dear friend of mine; John, a fellow I used to date in the mid-west…the list goes on. Set in Iowa between the end
of World War I and a short time after the end of World War II, Some Luck compassionately spins the stories of the
Langdon family…epically depicting their daily lives, their hopes, their dreams, their disappointments, their loves,
losses, and brave, courageous accomplishments…exquisitely touching upon all aspects of life and definitely exploring
all the nuances of familial and familiar relationships.
This is, despite her many numerous other prize- and
award-winning books – thirteen fiction, six non-fiction, and five novels for young adults – Smiley – exquisitely
– once again at her very best.
So what did I do when I was so immersed and captivated in the middle of
a chapter and about to fall asleep in the wee hours of the morning? I crawled out of bed and raided my upstairs library where
I found a whole shelf of Smiley books…their well-warn spines, um, smiling at me…all waiting to be read and/or
re-read. I culled out Horse Heaven, A Thousand Acres, The Age of Grief, Moo, and my all time great Smiley novel,
The All-true Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton, which I received as a late birthday gift a few years ago and
absorbed with such rapt attention in two days, that Lidie now lives deep within my very soul.
I toted this choice
pile down to the living room and lovingly arrayed them next to my Christmas reads, knowing and promising myself as I finally
fell asleep that once I finish Some Luck (probably right after I post this) and await the delivery of the second
in Smiley’s American trilogy, Early Warning (to be released tomorrow), I will be indulging in yet
another one of my favorite authors’ literary offerings.
Reading all the while, of course, with a smile
upon my face.
One Dark and Stormy Night… …about a month ago, I began reading a Gothic romance. This is not a literary genre that I am,
er, was particularly fond of. I’d read a few in my time, yes…but dark and eerie is not quite my speed. Except
for…maybe…Dark Shadows – the original television series watched many years ago with a few college
buddies in the dim recesses of a college lounge between classes – but I’ll reserve that for yet another future
Anyway…the Gothic romance that completely caught my fancy that rainy, windy February night
is Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan, a British author whose novel tackles not only the essence of the genre, but intertwines a number of women’s
issues of the time in which it was written and that of today.
One is the treatment of post-partum depression
at the turn of the last century, another the stigma of having a child out of wedlock in the 1930s.Today, depression is easily
treated – at least most of the time. Having a baby with benefit of spouse is so commonplace these days, it has almost
become an accepted norm. But back then? Back in the day…both were causes of alarm, consternation, misunderstandings,
and, often, misguided, cruel treatment. Riordan cleverly treats these themes in her third novel with great compassion –
whipping up an intriguing story that compelled me to forget the raging storm outside.
I have more thoughts about
this novel, which I wrote in my review for www.authorexposure.com. You just might want to take the time to access it. While there, please noodle around the revitalized site and check out
all the new and exciting features that may spark your literary interests.
Who knows? You just might find a new
genre to add to your reading repertoire.
Growing Up Dark All of us have a dark secret or two from our past…our childhood…our early adult years.
Some of us have yet to garner new ones. Even I have a few skeletons in my closet – figuratively speaking, of course
– a few painful memories while coming of age back in the day. Not any of them, of course, to be revealed here, but on
this particularly rainy day, perhaps briefly reflected upon within…some things I wish I did or did not do…things
I wish could be undone. But would that really change anything?
A stunning first novel,My Sunshine Away, by M. O. Walsh, deals with painful and no so painful memories of a teenage boy growing up in Baton Rouge Louisiana. The
main protagonist has a dark secret he is now compelled to reveal. Finding the need to write about a most profound coming-of-age
experience that has had profound effects upon his later life, the narrator delves into the dark side of (wo)mankind’s
nature and comes up strong on the lighter edge of his reader’s introspection.
It’s a different kind
of novel. I am not sure what genre to categorize it in except to say it totally took me out of my own guarded comfort zone…and
brought back a few childhood memories that I greatly overly fictionalized in my own debut novel, Forty-Thirty. But there the similarities stop.
Curious? Then please take the time to read my review on www.authorexposure.com. You might wish to ponder picking up a copy of Walsh’s novel. You might also find yourself reminiscing. You needn’t
worry, though. Like the novel’s hero, all can be forgiven.
First Spring Read Finally…Spring has sprung! It’s the first really nice, sunny warm day since…well,
since last Fall, actually. Warm enough to take a long walk, soak in some rays…almost warm enough to don the ol’
shorts and sneaks and hit the tennis courts. Almost, not quite. But the sun this afternoon has melted away the last vestiges
of snow and has started to coax budding crocus from the ground. It is now streaming in through the window where I now sit
at my laptop…the warmth feels good on my face as, finally, after nearly a month a half away…I try to compose
a blog entry.
With spring finally here, there will be no more curling up by the fire with a good book for me.
Not for a long time. Most of my reading will be on the deck or by the pool. Come on, warm weather! Bring it on…I am
However, speaking of a good book by the fire…I did read an interesting, quirky novel during a particularly
wintry day in February that sparked and sparkled. What Burns Away, a debut novel by emerging author Melissa Falcon Field, which I had the good fortunate to read and review for www.authorexposure.com. It was just posted today, as a matter of fact…and as I re-read what I wrote, I was struck by how much I really enjoyed
it, even if it brought me out of my comfort zone – much like Gone Girl did, written in the same vein, tone,
After a hiatus of a few weeks to be reconstructed, the AE site is now up and reasonably running. Please
take a moment to visit and read my comments. I think you’ll be intrigued enough to add Field’s literary endeavor
to your Spring/Summer reading list. Even if you do enjoy it not by the warmth of a blazing fire, but on the sun-filled decks
of a pool.
J. McInerney is an author, poet, and librettist.
currenty published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of
children's musicals. Her titles include:
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She
is currently working on her first novel.