Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pulitzer Collection: Ten To Go!

I have been working seriously on my Pulitzer fiction collection for nearly ten years. After taking stock last week, I discovered that I only have ten to go to complete my set. Of course this collection can never truly be completed as long as there is a prize awarded, but once I reel in these final few, I'll bask in a sense of doneness for eleven months at a whack:

Middlesex. 2003.

Advise and Consent.  1960.

Guard of Honor.  1949.

Dragon's Teeth.  1943.

Gone with the Wind. 1937.

Honey in the Horn. 1936.

The Store. 1933.

The Good Earth. 1932.

Laughing Boy. 1930.

The Able McLaughlins. 1924.

Okay, back to Nonfiction November! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Prologue to Love - Book Giveaway

It took some years and patience, but a hardcover copy of one of my all-time favorite novels finally fell into my waiting hands:

Now I have an extra copy. It's an older paperback in good condition. Anyone interested?  Let me know in the comments section.

What's it about?  The life and times of Caroline Ames, the richest woman in the world. The setting is in and around Boston and Europe in the years between the American Civil War and World War I. Good storytelling, a little on the sudsy side, but so enjoyable. It feels like a Dickens novel ; he was undoubtedly one of Caldwell's influences.

Other questions?  I could talk about this book all day!

Friday, November 13, 2015

The DNF Files: Patsy

I paused in my reading of Ball Four by Jim Bouton because I found a biography of Patsy Cline at the library. I am so very much in love with biographies and memoirs of country music stars, especially female country music stars, but this one...I had to give it up. My disillusionment is worthy of a country song in its own right.

Patsy: The Life and Times of Patsy Cline by Margaret Jones (1994) starts out strong and has some wonderful pictures, but as Patsy begins to pursue stardom, all the people and places Patsy encounters garner their fair share of print and the effect is that Patsy is crowded out of her own life story. If this weren't bad enough, the anecdotes about Patsy are repeated. As further evidence of sloppy writing and editing, descriptions of Patsy's mannerisms can be found in identical form on subsequent pages. The book may have improved as she became famous, but I felt bogged down and had to quit. It pains me that this turned into one of my DNFs for the year.

Patsy Cline was an artist and a perfectionist. She was passionate about her craft. She deserves a better biography than this. I wish she had lived long enough to write her own memoir.

Trying to get a handle on my bookworm heartbreak, I resumed Ball Four. Found out that I've been saying Jim Bouton's name wrong. I was saying it "Boo-tahwn" with a slight Frenchified nasal thing going on. Turns out that it's actually "Bough-ton". This information comes from an old-time baseball fan, so I trust him. Furthermore, he didn't laugh at my mispronunciation.  Baseball is all about making adjustments.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Fiction and Nonfiction Pairing #nonficnov

Last week I read On the Way Home, Laura Ingalls Wilder's 1894 diary of  her 650 mile trip with Almanzo (her husband) and Rose (her young daughter) from South Dakota to Mansfield, MO.  If you think a lot about the Laura/Rose collaboration on the "Little House" books (which I do, call me Bonnethead, I don't care) this is a nice specimen of both voices shown to their best advantage without one crowding out the other.

On the Way Home (published in 1962) begins with a "setting" by Rose Wilder Lane:

 Farming has been a bust for Almanzo and Laura. Rose has gone to live with Laura's parents because Laura and Almanzo have been seriously ill with diphtheria. After recovering, they have determined to leave South Dakota and settle in Mansfield, MO, which is being touted as the apple capital of the world. Almanzo is picking up work here and there, and Laura is back making buttonholes for a dollar a day. Finally, they have enough saved for the trip and a down payment on some property. They pack the wagon, say goodbye to the Ingalls family and they're off.

The next section is Laura's diary, in which she wrote a few lines every day. On the whole, it's a no-frills account, sober reporting. Laura makes note of how much hay is going for in each town, as well as the price of an acre. She also gives her sometimes tart impressions of the people they meet and the states they pass through. She didn't care a bit for Nebraska, but loved Kansas. At one point, she says that if she and "Manly" don't like Missouri, they will come back to Kansas.

For a child, this would be eye-crossingly boring reading, but I've gotten to an age at which I enjoy Laura's plain, unadorned voice here as well as in The First Four Years and Pioneer Girl. This newfound appreciation in no way diminishes my love for the "Little House" series, but some of the pings and flourishes seem intrusive now.

After the Wilders get to Mansfield, Laura's diary ends and Rose's narrative picks up again, which is a good thing because there was some real-life drama which gives the book some needed tension. Rose reins herself in, minimizing the pings and flourishes. She's a wonderful, powerful storyteller.

Little House on Rocky Ridge by Roger Lea MacBride is the fictionalized version of On the Way Home. MacBride was Rose's lifelong friend and the executor of her estate. He did an admirable job of capturing the tone of the original books written by Laura and Rose.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

A Look Back at My Nonfiction Year

Before Nonfiction November started, I read 32 nonfiction books in 2015. This pleases me. I need fiction like nobody's business, but I want to be perceived as a  nonfiction type.  I don't know why; perhaps I need a bookworm shrink.

Anyway, here are some of the nonfiction books that stood out for me, in both senses of the phrase:

The Book of Margery Kempe.
I got off to a rocky start in 2015. Tried to read like it was 1439, and I was just... WTF? and...No.

The Talented Miss Highsmith.
A great, gossipy and snoopy biography that sometimes bordered on creepy. The biographer carries around a pair of Patricia Highsmith's Levis! There's a video on YouTube. I cannot judge because I would totally be all over clothing belonging to Katherine Mansfield or Sylvia Plath, given the opportunity.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Oh, Marie Kondo. I could not have done that international move without you. Every time I fold an item of clothing, I thank you so hard.

The Millionaire Next Door.
So much interesting information, but dull, deadly prose, and all those tables! Reading this book was like kneeling in an ice-cold stream, panning for gold.

Hissing Cousins
A fun biography of first cousins Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth. I am enjoying this trend of saucy biographers.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Nonfiction November: Adding On

I didn't mean to add another book to my nonfiction November, but eleven is such a nice number. I immediately got in touch with my inner Edith Piaf.

Plus, Salem! Too much to resist.

Okay, I'll stop now. 

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Nonfiction November!

Book blogger Care is such a good influence on me. She encouraged me to #SalemAlong last month, and really sink my teeth into it. Now she is doing Nonfiction November, and I have been compelled to "shop my shelves" and join in.

 Here's the tasty stack I've assembled (so far). Except for the first one, this list is in no particular order:

1. Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic - Jennifer L. Scott

2. The Warmth of Other Suns - Isabel Wilkerson

3. On The Way Home - Laura Ingalls Wilder

4. Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food & Love from an American Midwest Family - Kathleen Flinn (I also hope to find and read Flinn's previous book, The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry)

5. Offbeat Museums: The Collections and Curators of American's Most Unusual Museums - Saul Rubin

6, Unfamiliar Fishes - Sarah Vowell

7. Ball Four - Jim Bouton

8. Drama - John Lithgow

9. The Boys in the Boat - Daniel James Brown

10. Without You, There Is No Us - Suki Kim