Monday, June 9, 2014


Reviews, that is.

I'm a voracious reader.  I read when I'm eating, I read when I get up, I read at night, I read on the ... well, never mind.  And I read fast.  So my little blurbs on the side bar are often behind, sometimes by several books.

I stare at a computer screen all day, every day for work.  I'm computer screened out by the end of the day, which is one reason I don't watch TV very much.  And why I have no interest in Nooks and such.  I want print on paper, I want to hold a book in my hands.  Fortunately, I've discovered the book shelf at the local Goodwill.  $1 for paperbacks, $2 for hardback.  I'm in heaven.  You don't get that lovely new book smell, and there isn't as much variety as a book store, but, still.  Given the cost of books these days, I'm much more likely to take a risk at $1 than I would be at the $17 publishing price.  And I'm finding some really good books there, the latest being:

Yowza!  There's a scene in a disaster/adventure movie where astronauts sent up to save the world find a rickety space station and a half-cracked cosmonaut.  That's a pretty accurate picture of the Russian space station MIR towards the end of its life.  The cosmonauts weren't crazy, though.  They were just overworked, exhausted, buried under stress, and had a totally different space philosophy than ours.  And we started sending astronauts up to MIR in the '90s.  Aging and cluttered, MIR wasn't great anyway.  Extra oxygen was generated from chemical oxygen canisters - and one of them sparked during replacement.  Yeah boy, an acetylene torch in space, right in a spot that blocked evacuation with the Soyez emergency ship.  Even more fun was when a docking supply ship hit a solar array and put a 3 centimeter hole through the wall of one of the modules.  Decompression, destabilization, and drift that moved the solar arrays so that they could no longer get enough sunlight to generate power.  There's a point in this book where I think I stopped breathing and had to remind myself that I know enough history to know everybody got out alive.  But you start thinking "What else could go wrong?"  And then you find out because it does.

Mostly it's fiction on the shelves, but a good variety of that.

Lyrical.  It won't get cycled back as a donation.  It's mid-60's and Grandma is dying.  As the family waits, stories of their small mountain community during her days are woven through the narration.  I think I respond to this because this could be the Whetzell Settlement, and the stories are the stories I wish I had recorded.  But I didn't stop to listen before the time machines were gone.

I hope kids are reading.  Obviously good books are still being published for them:

Buxton was a community of former slaves who had escaped to Canada through the Underground Railroad.  It's located about 75 miles east of Detroit, and there's a museum there that I'd like to visit.  Elijah is 12, the first of the community to be born into freedom.  All he knows is a neat and comfortable farming community built by people who, for the first time in their lives, have been able to keep the profits of their labors and build lives without fear of their families being taken from them.  There is a scene where Elijah refers to himself as "nigger" and receives a backhand slap that sets him on his heels and a lecture that makes it clear it's not to happen again.

The book made me angry.  Not the book, per se - it's very good.  It made me angry to compare these people to so much that goes on today.  When freedom came, the roads were full of men searching for the families sold away from them.  For decades, blacks who tried to be a part of the governing process in the South were caricatured as clowns who would run rampant, misuse their positions, profit from corruption.  And what do we have now?  A whole industry of corrupt race-baiters like like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who have proved the point of those who caricatured blacks 100 years ago.  We have baby-daddies with multiple children that they don't really care about and leave for someone else to take care of.   They are a disgrace to their ancestors, to people who suffered and fought for freedom, family, respect and lives of their own.

And once in a while there's a classic.

Some time in the dim past I read The Old Man and The Sea.  He always looks like Spencer Tracy in my mind's eye.  This book is a series of vignettes, pictures of Hemingway's life in Paris in the 1920s.  It's interesting - so many familiar names:  Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Scott Fitzgerald.  Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.  A community of artists and authors all together as "The Lost Generation".  Despite the names I recognized, I wasn't sure I liked his style until I hit the first chapter with F. Scott Fitzgerald.  When Hemingway first met the Fitzgeralds, he didn't know the Scott was a raging alcoholic.  He let himself get talked into a trip with him, and it's hilarious as confusion and annoyance moves to "Oh crud!  How do I get this guy home?"  Unfortunately, a check of the local library shows that I don't have a local resource for other Hemingway writings - I'd like to read some that were based on his war experiences.

I've gone through a bunch of others, some good, some excellent.  Most will go back as donations, but some are keepers, and I've got a shelf full of others waiting on me - I do a sweep now and again when I'm over on that side of town.  I just have to be in the mood for the genre or subject.    Recently I snagged this one for $1, definitely a "Score!":

Just waiting for the right time to dive into it.


  1. I have gotten away from reading as a constant hobby, as life is so busy these days. Your post reminds me that reading is the best antidote for that. :)

    1. Reading, even non-fiction, so helps to slow up the pace of life.

  2. Yep, I try to read too, it's a good 'escape'... And real books are great, but as much as I travel, somtimes the Nook is just a better fit... sigh

    1. I might feel different about things like Nooks if I wasn't on a computer all day long.