Monday, February 27, 2012

"In The Skin of a Lion" by Michael Ondaatje ****

> Originally published 1987
> Sri Lankan author

> Characters: Patrick Lewis (protagonist), Kenan Lewis (Patrick's father, "abashed man", dynamiter)

> Vocabulary:
  • pelmanism:   a system of training to improve the memory
> Quotes:
  • "So at this stage of his life his mind raced ahead of his body.".....age 12
  • "Before the real city could be seen it had to be imagined, the way rumours and tall tales were a kind of charting."...p.29
  • "This was his first child and it had already become a murderer.".....the bridge is the child of Commissioner Harris, and someone fell off of it
  • "The event that will light the way for immigration in North America is the talking picture."...interesting
  • "He was bare-knuckle capitalism.  He was a hawk who hovered over the whole province, swooping down for the kill, buying up every field of wealth, and eating the profit in mid-air.  He was a jackal.".....referring to Ambrose Small, a missing industrialist
  • "Patrick never believed that characters lived only on the page.  They altered when the author's eye was somewhere else.  Outside the plot there was a great darkness, but there would of course be daylight elsewhere on earth.  Each character had his own time zone, his own lamp, otherwise they were just men from nowhere."
  • "His own life was no longer a single story but part of a mural, which was a falling together of accomplices.  Patrick saw a wondrous night web--all of these fragments of a human order, something ungoverned by the family he was boirn into or the headlines of the day.  A num on a bridge, a daredevil who was unable to sleep without drink, a boy watching a fire from his bed at night, an actress who ran away with a millionaire - the detritus and chaos of the age was realigned."
  • "Only the best art can order the chaotic tumble of events.  Only the best can ralign chaos to suggest both the chaos and order it will become."
  • "He lay down to sleep, until he was woken from out of a dream.  He saw the lions around him glorying in life; then he took his axe in his hand, he drew his sword from his belt, and he fell upon them like an arrow from the string."
> Notes:
  • powerful imagery...Finnish loggers in early morning light, Patrick and his father saving the cow in the icy river, loggers skating with cattail torches in the middle of the night
  • Interesting notion that immigrants would latch onto a particular actor and attend all his/her performances learning pronunciation..,.,there is even a story of a logger jumping in to take over a role when an actor was injured because he knew the lines
> LibraryThing Review:   Michael Ondaatje creates the most powerful images with words!  He is so gifted!  This story follows, in a somewhat convoluted manner, the path of Patrick Lewis, from the deep woods in Ontario, Canada to Toronto.  Patrick loves two women, holds two jobs, and makes some rather dramatic choices, involving explosives!  Along the way the reader learns some of the history of Toronto's infrastructure and the people who built it.  The plot flows like a lazy, beautiful river, taking unexpected turns all along the way.  It is a dreamy ride, sometimes confusing, but well worth it in the end.  Lovely writing!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"Phineas Finn" by Anthony Trollope ****

> Originally published 1869
> British author
> Audiobook

> LibraryThing Review:   Audiobook..........In the big picture of literature I have read, "Phineas Finn" is probably more of a three star read, but I really like Trollope's ability to create characters who struggle with moral dilemmas and then lets the reader watch them mature over time.  In this case, our "dear Finn", starts out as a young man who chooses the path of least resistance to reach an idealized be a Member of Parliament.  He falters in Parliament and in love, yet discovers, almost to his own surprise, that he is actually an honorable, good fellow.  I don't think I give anything away by saying things work out in the end.  Along the way, the reader is treated to Trollope's view of the politics of the time, the "Irish" issues, and as is always true, the author's perceptions of women.  I love this stuff, but if you want excitement in your novels.....probably not a good selection.  Think Dickens......

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Vertical Motion" by Can Xue *****

> Originally published in 2011, Open Letter translation, short stories
> Chinese author

> Bio:  Can Xue
(née Deng Xiaohua)
b. 1953, Changsha, Hunan
Can Xue is one of the first avant-garde writers to have emerged in the 1980s, and is the only female author attributed to this group. She began writing in 1981 and is best known for her two novellas, Old Floating Cloud (Canglao di fuyun) and Yellow Mud Street (Huangni jie), as well as many short stories. Her writing emphasizes the hallucinations of largely female protagonists who have turned the violence of a socially ordered world into mental and fictitious images. Her work constructs and deconstructs language, evoking a surreal and strangely disordered world that has no grounding in real-life experience or history. Her characters thus speak in abstract dialogue, provide non-sensical or irrelevant answers, and ultimately fail to communicate. Her work has been compared to that of Franz Kafka because many of her protagonists suffer from paranoia. She has written commentaries on the work of Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges. She is also an outspoken critic of the male-dominated literary world that has narrowly defined what the literary content of a woman’s text can be. Can Xue is an honorary member of the International Writing Programme at the University of Iowa.

> Vocabulary:
  • acetabulum:   Anatomy, the socket in the hipbone that receives the head of the thighbone.  Zoology, any of the suction appendages of a leech, octopus, etc.
  • bosk:  a small wood or thicket, especially of bushes.
 > "Vertical Motion":
  •  "I was a little critter submerged in the desert.  This was the outcome I had pursued.   In this mid-region, I was envisioning the phoenix leaves on Mother Earth.  Yet I didn't forget my kindred in the dark.".......allusion to speaking out in China?
 > "Red Leaves":
  • Gu......dying...maybe already dead in the hospital....
  • visited by "catmen"
  • "Autumn is so long - like eternal live."
> "Night Visitor":
  • Elderly father being visited by his soul deep in the night
  • "As I see it, when one is old, one should know one's place and retreat from life.  Paternalistic behavior won't do him any good in the end."........another subversive political statement?
  • "His actions made me feel extremely tense, like an arrow held in a bowstring....great metaphor
> "A Village in the Big City":
  • Dreamlike visit to see Uncle Lou
  • "I felt like my innermost soul had been enriched."
 > "Elena":
  • Very dark dream of visit to friend's world
  • "We could perform a moon-walking dance together, or we could embrace and kiss one another in the sweet scented air current."......lovely
> "Moonlight Dance":
  • Night creature and the lion
  • "I belong to the moonlight; the lion belongs to the darkness.  The strange thing is that the lion is always walking back and forth, bathing in the moonlight in the wasteland, and I am generally tilling the humus soil with the earthworms.".....returning to creature from first story?
> "The Roses at the Hospital":
  • dream/nightmare of roses growing over buried bodies......reference to cover-ups?
> "Cotton Candy":
  • "No matter how much energy you put into your work, the hungry ghosts will eat everything you make."
  • "Something I hadn't seen was real."...understanding
  • "I felt utterly content.  Little Zheng, the children, and I were immersed in daydreams about the multi-colored cotton candy.  One after another, the honey jars in the depths of our memories were opened up:  the strong fragrance overflowed into the air."...the power of dreaming
> "The Brilliant Purple China Rose":
  • seeds to be buried underground, growing downwards
  • seemed like an ode to efforts to control and placate
  • "You're really stubborn and deluded.  Some people are still really pleased to live this way."
  • "In the past, when the setting sun could be seen, the future was still hidden entirely in confusion."....deliberately perpetrated confusion
> "Rainscape":
  • "A little faint light shines through from only two or three windows, giving people an unfathomable feeling."........glimmer of hope
> "Never at Peace":
  • "When a person disappears like a ray of lght into the wall, what does time mean to him?"
> "Papercuts":

> LibraryThing Review:   Open Letter translation......Think subconscious, subterranean (literally and figuratively), and subversive!  Think lyrical dreamscapes! Think brilliant!  This is an absolutely outstanding collection of short stories.  Can Xue's writing is breathtaking! Her writing makes me think of Kafka.....of Rushdie.....and David Foster Wallace.  This is a collection of stories into which the reader must give themselves over and ride the tide of language, imagery, and power.  Not for folks who need clear-cut plot......otherwise, a must read, perhaps multiple times, like a good poem.  I would love to hear these stories read aloud!

Friday, February 17, 2012

"The Art of Fielding" by Chad Harbach ****

> Originally published in 2011
> US Author
> RL book club read for February

> Luis Aparcio, real player, shortstop for White Sox, Hall of Fame, All Century Team, link:
> Characters:  Henry Skrimshander (protagonist, best short stop ever), Schwartz (Henry's friend, recruiter, mentor, trainer, Pella's lover), Owen (Henry's gay roommate, teammate and dear friend), Guert Affenlight (Westish College President, Pella's father, Owen's lover), Pella (Affenlight's daughter, Schwartz's lover, returns after leaving her husband of four years, David)

> Epigraph:  "So be cheery, my lad, Let your hearts never fall, While the bold Harpooner, Is striking the ball." - Westish College Fight Song

> Vocabulary:
  • litotes: noun, always plural, understatement, especially that in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary, as in “not bad at all.”
  • Prufrockian paralysis: The inability to utter what you want to say, after T.S. Eliot's character in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" 
  • deadlift:  origin....lifting the dead or weightlifting?  "a direct lifting without any mechanical assistance, a situation that requires all one's strength or ingenuity.
> Literary Allusions:
  • Melville's journey on the Erie Canal, tour of Great Lakes
  • Owen and Guert's tattoos, a sperm whale rising from the water
  • Pella's first paycheck:  "Like Ismael said: Being paid--what will compare with it?"
  • Henry wonders why Anne Frank didn't just pretend to not be Jewish.....concludes he is who he escaping.....
  • Emerson's return to dig up his beloved wife's they do for Affenlight...... see eulogy notes below
  • Laying down a bunt, or sacrifice fly......Biblical reference:  "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

> Quotes I liked:
  • p. 31..."Me, I hearken back to a simpler time....A time when a hairy back meant something."
  • p. 54..."It was easy enough to write a sentence, but if you were going to create a work of art, the way Melville had, each sentence needed to fit perfectly with the one that preceded it, and the unwritten one that would follow.  And each of those sentences needed to square with the ones on either side....."
  • p. 86..."She'd gotten so far ahead of the curve that the curve became a circle, and now she was way behind"
  • p. 248..."It was amazing the way people hemmed each other in, forced each other to act in such narrowly determined ways, as if the world would end if Henry didn't straighten himself out right now, as if a little struggle with self-doubt might not make him a better person in the long run....."
  • p.256..."the paradox at the heart of baseball,.....You loved it because you considered it an art, an apparently pointless affair, undertaken by people with a special aptitude, which sidestepped attempts to paraphrase its value yet somehow seemed to communicate something true or even crucial about The Human Condition. The Human Condition being, basically, that we're alive and have access to beauty, can even erratically create it, but will someday be dead and will not."
  • p.259..."What other sport not only kept a stat as cruel as the error but posted it on the scoreboard for everyone else to see?"
  • p.306..."It always saddens me to leave the field.  Even fielding the final out to win the World Series, deep in the truest part of me, felt like death."
  • p.308..."He felt a touch of sadness now that it had happened, now that he knew what it was like.  Not because it wasn't enjoyable, or wouldn't be repeated, but because one more of life's mysteries had been revealed."
  • p.346..."Henry knew better that to want freedom.  The only life worth living was the unfree life, the life Schwartz had taught him, the life in which you were chained to your one true wish, the wish to be simple and perfect."
  • p.363..."That was the idiot hopefulness of humans, always to love what was unformed."
  • p.503..."You told me once that a soul isn't something a person is born with, but something that must be built, by effort and error, study and love."
> I liked thinking about the use of the word flush, to flush out prey or for one's skin to flush....interesting

> Loved the idea of juke boxes with poetry to choose from

> Henry's swim after leaving the game....coming ashore was some sort of rebirth imagery

> I liked the comparison Pella makes between "face-to-face" love and "side-by-side" love

>  Owen's eulogy for Guert: 
In Herman Melville's Moby Dick, the lee shore is figured into one of American literature's transcendent passages:
"Let me only say that it fared with him as with the storm-tossed ship, that miserably drives along the leeward land. The port would fain give succor; the port is pitiful; in the port is safety, comfort, hearthstone, supper, warm blankets, friends, all that's kind to our mortalities. But in that gale, the port, the land, is that ship's direst jeopardy; she must fly all hospitality; one touch of land, though it but graze the keel, would make her shudder through and through. With all her might she crowds all sail off shore; in so doing, fights 'gainst the very winds that fain would blow her homeward; seeks all the lashed sea's landslessness again; for refuge's sake forlornly rushing into peril; her only friend her bitterest foe!
"Know ye, now, Bulkington? Glimpses do you seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?
"But as in landlessness alone resides the highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God -- so, better is it to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety! For worm-like, then, oh! who would craven crawl to land! Terrors of the terrible! is all this agony so vain? Take heart, take heart, O Bulkington! Bear thee grimly, demigod! Up from the spray of thy ocean-perishing -- straight up, leaps thy apotheosis!" (Chapter 23, "The Lee Shore")

> LibraryThing Review:    Just read it!  "The Art of Fielding" is a good, not a great story, but it is written really, really well. I cried at the end.  It deals with common enough themes:  coming of age, friendship, love, loyalty, losing and then finding oneself.    Plenty of literary allusion, Melville, Emerson, and the Bible...yep...they are all there. It is the use of language in this novel which made it special and memorable. It is the phrases such as, "You told me once that a soul isn't something a person is born with but something that must be built by effort and error, study and love", that I liked.  The author's voice seemed unique and fresh and it made this novel memorable for more than the beloved Guert, Pella, Owen, Schwartz, and Henry! And by the way, I read all 512 pages in two sittings.  What does that tell you?

"Red Mist" by Patricia Cornwell ****

> Originally Published 2011

> that's the way I expect a Kay Scarpetta story to unfold.  I like it when the focus is the team, Kay, Marino, Lucy & Benton!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Deep River" by Shusaku Endo *****

> Part of year long read of Endo's works on LibraryThing
> Originally Published in 1994
> Japanese author

> Interesting that a Japanese author would select an Negro Spiritual as his epigraph, and likely the title, "Deep River"......

> Epigraph:  "Deep river, Lord:  I want to cross over into campground".  I know the melody and it is beautiful....I have a Barbra Streisand version on CD "Higher Ground"

> Characters:  Isobe (loses his wife, Keiko, to cancer, not before she tells him she will be reincarnated and he must search for her), Mitsuko (hospice volunteer for Keiko, has a history of competition with man, Otsu, for his allegiance to God), Numada (long history of revealing his inner self only to animals and birds), Kiguchi (survived starvation death march in Burma during WWII, friend, Tsukada, saved them, but suffered a lifetime over guilt for having eaten meat of fellow soldiers to survive), Gaston ( mysterious missionary in the tubercular ward with Tsukada, takes much abuse, then vanishes after helping him)

> I still have cultural bias which makes me think the Japanese reticence to demonstrate affection, even as simple as holding his own wife's hand, is incomprehensible

> Hindu belief regarding death:  "...the soul is in limbo for seven days, then slips into the conjoined bodies of a man and a woman and are reborn as a new existence."  This repeats every seven days until they are reincarnated, no later than the 49th day. 

> p. 28..."The sacred river Ganges purifies the he art....".

> p.42....Interesting that the author references the age of persecution of Christians, which was the topic of his previous novel, "Silence".

> I suppose that Mitsuko's effort to seduce Otsu away from "that man", Jesus, is a metaphor for what many Japanese experienced regarding their Christian beliefs.....although it is Mitsuko who goes on to desert her husband on their honeymoon to "search out the darkness in her own heart" and seek Otsu at the seminary

> p.66...As he did in "Silence", Endo refers to the search for a "form of Christianity that suits the Japanese mind."

> p.77..."There was no question that this bird with the odd face was as big an annoyance and nuisance to Numada's wife, who had to tend to the house, as Jesus had been to the rabbis of his day"...Endo refers to paintings by Roualt of Pierrots....I still think this was a bizarre sentence to introduce out of the blue.

>  I went and looked at prints of Roualt's paintings......many have Christ and/or the Crucifixion as the subject

> Numada's forced separation from his beloved Pierrot seems to be another Endo example of the
 pain of being separated from that which is precious

> p. 109...The image as the tourists approach  Varanasi....."Just as those who have had brushes with near-death experiences have claimed to see a dot of light at the end of a black tunnel at the far end of the darkness a brilliance like the light of a firefly gradually grew larger."

> Repeated references to the French novel "Therese Desqueyroux"....a nod to Endo's love for France or more

> p.119..."The thing we are most lacking in our modern word is love; love is the thing no one believes in any more; love is what everyone mockingly laughs at - and that is why someone like me wants to follow my Onion with dumb sincerity." - Otsu

> Otsu to Mitsuko:  the Onion is within you, "I don't think God exists exclusively in the churches and chapels of Europe. I think he is also among the Jews and the Buddhists and the Hindus."

> p.128 ....Isobe's speech to young married couple, "A wife should be just like air to her husband.  If you have no air, you're in trouble.  But air is invisible to the eye.  It never intrudes in your life.  If the woman can become like air, they'll never have problems as husband and wife.".........LOL

> Hindu belief that the place where two rivers flow together is sacred.....I like that

> Repeated references to the notion of goddesses embodying love and brutality

> Interesting choice to have the story impacted by the death of Indira Ghandi, one of the many Chrst like characters in this story, vilified for trying to unify people

> Chamunda, Asian Mother Goddess contrasted to the Holy Mother of Europe

> Otsu:  an outcast from his own religious group, indirectly killed by fellow countryman....Christlike reference, he also carried bodies of the dead and dying on his back as Christ carried the cross

> p.191 - "There are many different religions, but they are merely various paths leading to the same place.  What difference does it make which of those separate paths we walk, so long as they all arrive at the identical destination?"....sums up the book

> p.211 - "What I can believe in now is the sight of all these people, each carrying his or her own individual burdens, praying at this deep river....I believe that the river embraces these people and carries them away.  A river of humanity.  The sorrows of this deep river of humanity.  And I am a part of it."

>LibraryThing Review:  This is the second Shusaku Endo novel I have read as part of a year long read of Endo's works on  Once again, Endo addresses the theme of religious belief.  In this novel, a group of Japanese tourists travel to India, several of whom seek answers to their individual inner darkness.  A grieving widow seeks his wife's reincarnated soul, a WWII veteran seeks peace for the soul of a friend, a fable writing animal lover seeks to right an old wrong, and a woman seeks answers from "The Onion"/Jesus/her nemesis, Otsu.  Intrigued yet?  Endo addresses the nature of humankind and its need for a religious belief system that encompasses all of humanity in its many forms.  Chunanda, the ancient mother goddess who offers breast milk to all despite her ancient age and many years of suffering, seems to exemplify the nature of the River Ganges, the sacred site for the dead, the dying, and those seeking purification, regardless of who they have been during their lives.  Endo weaves a fascinating story and tries to answer profound questions which at one time or another occur to most people.  Does he offer an acceptable answer?  I think you must decide for yourself!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Port Mortuary" by Patricia Cornwell ***

> Originally Published 2010

> LibraryThing Review:  Can't say this was one of my favorite Scarpetta novels, but I am intrigued and think I will read the next one to see if the mystery of Fielding is resolved.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" by Aimee Bender. ****

> libraryThing Review: This is a creative, poignant, allegorical tale about the power of perception and the deep impact of being truly known and accepted. Rose, the youthful protagonist, discovers that she can taste people's emotions, and much more, by tasting food they have prepared. Over time she comes to terms with this ability as she matures and also learns more about her family history. I was thoroughly engaged throughout the story. I listened to the audio version, narrated by the author, whose voice was just better than monotone. I recommend reading, rather than listening.

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Night Train to Lisbon" by Pascal Mercier *****

> Orig. Published 2004, originally written in German
> Swiss author

> Epigraph #1:  "Our lives are rivers, gliding free to that unfathomed, boundless sea, the silent grave!" - Jorge Manrique

> Epigraph #2:  "We are all patchwork, and so shapeless and diverse in composition that each bit, each moment, plays its own game.  And there is as much difference between us and ourselves as between us and others." - Michel de Montaigne

> Epigraph #3:   "Each of us is several, is many, is a profusion of selves.  So that the self who disdains his surroundings is not the same as the self who suffers or takes joy in them.  In the vast colony of our being there are many species of people who think and feel in different ways." - Livro Do Desassossego

> Setting:  Starts in Bern, Switzerland...travels to Lisbon

> Characters:  Raimund "Mundus" Gregorious (beloved teacher of dead languages, struck by a lovely woman saying the word "Portuguese" in that native tongue and it sends him on a new journey), Amadeu Inacio de Almeida Prado (author of "A Goldsmith of Words", the book which accompanies Mundus on his journey, Adriana (Amadeu's sister), Melodie (Amadeu's other sister), Fatima (Amadeu's wife), Estefania (brilliant resistance fighter, woman Amadeu fell for, but was lover of his bet friend, Jorge, had to escape before being imprisoned), Jorge (Amadeu's best friend), Mariana Eca (eye doctor to Gregorius), Joao Eca,( Mariana's brother, tortured for working with the resistance, confides in Gregorius)

> p.15..."He loved the Latin sentences because they bore the calm of everything past.  Because they didn't make you say something.  Because they were speech beyond talk.  And because they were beautiful in their immutability."

> p.17..."Given that we can live only a small part of what there is in us--what happens with the rest?" - from Amadeu's book

> p.24..." I know no greater certainty than this; that all human action is only an extremely imperfect, ridiculous, helpless expression of a hidden internal life of unimagined depths that presses to the surface without ever being able to reach it even remotely." - Amadeu

> Title:  p.28.....Mundus takes the night train to Lisbon to begin his adventure

> p.29..."Those who do not observe the impulses of their own mind must of necessity be unhappy."

> p.31..."To be able to part from something, he thought as the train started moving, you had to confront it in a way that created internal distance."

> p.  38..."It is a mistake to believe that the crucial moments of a life when its habitual direction changes forever must be loud and shrill dramatics, washed away by fierce internal surges."..."Silent Nobility"

>  Mundus has a fear of gong blind....very of his first experiences in Lisbon is breaking his glasses......metaphor for fear of missing out on life......he sees a Portuguese doctor ...metaphor continues as he sees the world anew

> he get to know a city via the books in its secondhand stores

> p.77..."It had hurt Gregorius that she saw it like that and that she didn't understand when he spoke of the magic and luminosity of good sentences." ....referring to his mother

> p.79..."That the familiarity of inside and the familiarity of outside can be so far apart that they can hardly be considered with the same thing?"...reminds me of the theoretical basis of my dissertation, the three forms of self....presenting, ideal, extant

> p.81..."They all had the same image before them and yet as Prado said, they each had seen something different because every piece of a human's outside world seen was also a piece of an inside world."...can't quite tease this line apart

> p.82....wakefulness....price is loneliness.....Hmmmm

> p.87...Gregorius gets new lighter glasses and is amazed that he can see so much more clearly....the metaphor continues

> p.88..."The real director of our life is accident--a director full of cruelty, compassion and bewitching charm."...words from Amadeu

> p.97..."Was it possible that the best way to make sure of yourself was to know and understand someone else?"....similar to my experiences as a therapist

> Vocabulary:  1) casuistic:  oversubtle; intellectually dishonest; sophistical:

> Gregorius "recoils" when Prado describes a particular lecturer as "parchment"....his nickname at school was "Mundus, the Papyrus"

> p.144..."Then there was a silence  he had never before experienced:  in it, you could hear the years." that line

> p.151..."When Amadeu finishes reading a has no more letters.   He devours not only the meaning, but also the printer's ink."....would like to think I am that way too!  :-)

> p.157...."It's an unrecognized form of stupidity, he would say, you have to forget the cosmic meaninglessness of all our acts to be able to be vain and that's a glaring form of stupidity."...existentialism's anger

> p.168...Amadeu's valedictory speech from hs, preserved by his sister ...entitled. "Reverence and Loathing for the Word of  God""I revere the word of God for I love its poetic force.  I loathe the word of God for I hate its cruelty.".....this speech given just as Salazar has come to power and is squashing the Church

> p.194...Amadeu saving Mendes was pivotal in his life....fulfilling the Hippocratic oath, yet experiencing deep guilt over the atrocities Mendes would go on to commit

> p.196..."It was this doubt that Adriana cursed.  She had wanted the brother all to herself and had felt that you can never have for yourself someone who isn't on good terms with himself." 

> p.218..."...loyalty was important.  It was not a feeling, he thought, but a will, a decision, a partisanship of the soul."

> p.231..."In youth we live as if we were immortal.  Knowledge of mortality caper around us like a brittle paper ribbon that barely touches our skin." 

> p.236..."... we humans consider the world a stage concerned with us and our wishes  He considered this illusion the origin of all religion."....Interesting idea!

> p.242...the notion of the internal and external reality...the self other see v. the self internally experienced

> Trains....central notion to the novel....they represent travel, and return from travel ....."a magical moment, a moment of silent drama when the train comes to a complete halt with  final jolt?"...Gregorius experiences what Amadeu dreamt of...."What could be more exciting than resuming an interrupted life with all its promises?"

> p.243 "What matters is to move surely and calmly, with the appropriate humor and the appropriate melancholy in the temporally and spatially expanded internal landscape that we are. Why do we feel sorry for people who can't travel? Because, unable to expand externally, they are not able to expand internally either, they can't multiply and so they are deprived of the possibility of undertaking expansive excursions in themselves and discovering who and what else they could have become.".....Amadeu wrote this, Gregorious experienced the internal expansion....I wonder if in this age of the internet, virtual travel will suffice to achieve these goals?

> p.264...Homesickness..."'s like an unbearable thirst, maybe I have to know all the train routes so I can come home any time..."

> p.276..."When a lifetime is short, no rules apply anymore.  And then it looks as if you cracked up and are ripe for the loony bin.  But basically it's the other way around:  the ones who belong there are those who don't want to admit that time is short."...  I believe this.

> p.291..."It was crazy thought Gregorius:  both men, father and son, had lived on opposite hills of the city like opposing actors in an ancient, linked in an archaic fear of each other and in an affection they didn't find the word for and had written letter to each other that they didn't trust themselves to send  Clasped in a muteness neither understood and linked to the fact that one muteness produced the other."...Not an unusual father son relationship
> p.294..."But when we set out to understand somebody's inside?Is that a trip that ever ends?  Is the soul a place of facts? Or are the alleged facts only the deceptive shadows of our stories?"....key to the meaning of this journey of Gregorius's

> p.299..."To live for the moment;  it sounds so right and s beautiful, Prado had remarked in one of his brief notes, but the more I want to, the less  understand what it means.".....I think I strive to live "in" the moment, rather than "for it".

> p.308...the mysterious publishing company, Red Cedars, that published Amadeu's book......Adriana's last sight before passing out when she choked and Amadeu saved her life were the cedars outside the window, looking red in the sunset light

> p.310...Final farewells...."...takes fearlessness: you have to be able to endure the pain of dissonance.  It is also about acknowledging what was impossible.  Parting is also something you do with yourself:  to stand by yourself under the look of the other.  The cowardice of a farewell resides in the transfiguration:   in the attempt to bathe what "was" in a golden light and deny the dark.  What you forfeit in that is nothing less than the acknowledgement  of your self in those feature produced by darkness."

> How many of are, indeed, shaped by "...a s 

> Amadeu considered Melancholia "a timeless phenomenon and thought it was one of the most precious ones that humans knew."

> I almost cried at the power of the final farewell between Amadeu and Jorge....all that Amadeu felt was needed in a farewell and incredibly powerful....later Gregorius tries to achieve this in his farewells

> Amadeu buried the chess set he and Jorge had played on, to keep Jorge with poignant

> p.334..."...we invented the soul to have a subject of conversation, something we can talk about when we meet one another.  Just imagine if we couldn't talk about the soul:!  What should we talk about with one another?  It would be hell!

> p.341..."Memento Mori" not understand this section

> p.351..."Imagination and intimacy, aside from language, those were the only two sanctuaries he allowed."

> The final sentence of the valedictory speech, which Amadeu  edited out for fear of being considered blasphemous by the priest:  "I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and reaching for the wind."

> p.369..."I live in myself as in a moving train."

> Amadeu's anger that teachers and parents did not provide guidance to help the young to "avod wasting our soul on useless, self-destructive anger?"

> Amadeu comes to peace with the cause of his "derailment" in life..."he had disappointed all expectations and broken all taboos, and that was his bliss."

> A perfect ending......Gregorius, at peace with himself and his life, having defied expectations and taboos, goes bravely to meet his end.

> p.424..."I don't want anybody to understand me completely.   I want to go through life unknown  The blindness of others is my safety and my freedom."  Estafania, after the powerful experience of Amadeu understanding her fully.
> LibraryThing Review:   This novel will, without question, be one of my all-time favorites.  No kidding! Reading "Night Train to Lisbon" was an intellectual, philosophical, literary feast.  Gregorius, a teacher of dead languages, commits the first impulsive act of his adult life and begins the most crucial journey of his entire lifetime.  His journey ends up consisting of the quest to understand the life of another man, Amadeu Prado.  In the course of the journey, Gregorius and the reader meet Adriana, wearing a ribbon at her neck to cover a mysterious scar.  We meet Jorge O'Kelly, Amadeu's best friend and worst enemy.  We meet the women from Amadeu's life, including his wife, his lifelong intimate confidante, and the woman who ignited his passion.  We meet resistance fighters from the time of Salazar's regime.  We meet physicians, bookstore owners, and students.  The cast of characters is rich and varied.  Most importantly we are allowed the time to ponder the meaning of life, of love, the critical nature of farewells, of the magnificent power of words, especially poetry, and the amazing power of feeling known to another person.  This is a powerful and moving literary masterpiece, in my opinion!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

"The Red Badge of Courage" by Stephen Crane ****

> Originally published 1895
> American author, never fought in a battle

> Young Henry goes to war full of vigor and ready to help end the Civil War

> Most of his time filled with monotony...waiting....drilling

> Heard tales of glory and of despair......fear of being fearful

> Henry starts to long for the previously reviled gentle familiar routines of home...grass is always greener

> LibraryThing Review:   Rite of passage?  Ideal v. reality?  Historical  fiction?  This novella has all of those.  Stephen Crane  wrote this story in 1895 without ever having fought in battle.  Somehow he still creates this vivid account of young Henry as he arrives to fight for the first time in the American Civil War.  Powerful story.

Monday, February 6, 2012

"11/22/63" by Stephen King *****

> Audiobook
> Orig. Published 2011

> Setting:  Lisbon, Maine...for starters

> Characters:  Al (.portal owner, dying of lung cancer), Jake Epping (English teacher, recruited by Al to change history through the portal.....)

>  engaging right from the start

>  "watershed moment" - comes from cartography...watershed is water flowing into rivers.....Al sees history as a river.....wants to change a watershed moment in history...Kennedy's assassination

> portal takes person back to 1958, each trip is the first...always to the same moment in time (ike "Groundhog Day")

> reminiscent of Philip Roth's "Plot Against America"

> paints a vile picture of Lee Harvey Oswald

> Occam's Razor:  all other things being equal, the simplest answer is usually the right one

> Jake plans a test trip to change horrible beating the janitor received as a child

> I like the way King talks about the past as "obdurate", resisting change

> tension definitely mounting as I near the end

> Lovely ending!

> LibraryThing Review:   Audiobook.........This novel is a great example of Stephen King at his best.  The story's central notion is how each breath we take is part of the eternal wave of time.  How many of us have played the ever dangerous game of "what if?".  What if I hadn't gone to Coe College, hadn't met my husband there, then wouldn't have these four amazing children?  Or even, what if I go to the dry cleaner's today versus tomorrow? In this case, what if JFK was not assassinated on 11/22/63?  How many unanticipated changes would be wrought in the history of life on earth by changing one moment in time?  Are you intrigued yet?  The story had me completely engaged from the beginning.  So many questions are raised and left unanswered, thoughts are provoked, and characters are memorable.  A really great read!