Information, Answers & Reviews

Our Souls at Night

ISBN: 
9781101875896

This moving book describes a love affair late in life. It’s set in the fictional county of Holt, Colorado. One day Addie Moore visits her neighbor Louis.  Louis almost falls off his chair when she asks him if he will come to her house and sleep with her that night.  To share conversation, Addie adds, “not sex.”

Shortly after their night visits have begun (pajamas and toothbrush, paper bag will travel), Louis asks Addie, “Why me?” She answers with a question, do you think I’d just invite anyone. Because you’re a good man, that’s why I chose you.

Haruf, writes laconically, the kind of conversation you might expect from a man raised in a small agricultural town two hours east of Colorado Springs. Yet he succeeds masterfully at tackling the deep subjects: love, death, marriage, the friction between adult children and their parents.

Happy Birthday, National Park Service, 100 Years!

ISBN: 
9780374280093

Terry Tempest Williams writes passionately about our natural world in the tradition of Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopard, Annie Dillard, and Edward Abbey.

This book--timed to come out with the hundredth year anniversary of the National Park System--argues strongly about the necessity of keeping our park lands protected. It also reinforces why we need them in our modern world.

“Whenever I go to a national park, I meet the miraculous,” she writes in the opening section. She also says that our national parks “are blood. They are more than scenery, they are portals and thresholds of wonder.” Having just returned from Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, I heartily second that.

Although she has visited many parks, and some, over and over, she has chosen twelve to highlight here. And I love how she does it. Not only does she share personal anecdotes about each of the twelve, but she uses various formats to do so.  For example, in the Big Bend section, she includes journal entries she wrote while there. Through riffs, all on a color theme, she shares what she saw and experienced there.

The Great Race

ISBN: 
085391109129

A while back I posted an entry about the 1965 movie Those Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines. In that post, I mentioned another film that came out the same year called The Great Race. While I am entranced by the old planes in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying machines, The Great Race is really my favorite of the two.  The film stars Tony Curtis as “The Great Leslie,” a stereotype 1910 pure as gold hero in white and Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, a stereotype 1910 pure villain in black and tells the story of their race around the world by automobile. Leslie and Professor Fate are not the only cars racing.  The race starts with a much larger pack of automobiles;

Living with a Dead Language

ISBN: 
9781101980224

They say that you really learn about a people only when you learn their language. Multiply that for a culture long gone, say, that of the Romans.

This book by a former editor describes her love for Latin-- how she went back to college to study it after thirty-five years in New York City publishing.  I can’t believe I even picked it up after all my complaints about being forced to take Latin in high school. But the fact that I continued studying the language after the mandatory first two years tells you something.

But this is a book about much more than Latin. It’s about following one’s passion. Along the way, Ann Patty reveals much about her life. She describes sharing a home with a man entirely opposite herself. Her partner, an arborist, lives for the outdoor life. He hikes and skis, even on the coldest days. She’s definitely a city person even though she now lives in upstate New York, often rushing back to the city for cultural events.

Arsenic and Old Lace

ISBN: 
883929151615

Mortimer Brewster’s aunts Abby and Martha are two of the kindest, most loving women you could ever hope to meet.  They are always willing to help others and always seemed to have a kind word for everyone.  They raised Mortimer and his brothers Jonathan and Teddy from a young age.  Mortimer has developed into a well-rounded young man who works for the city’s paper reviewing the theatre.  Brother Teddy, while harmless, suffers from the delusion that he is President Theodore Roosevelt. Brother Jonathan, well, the less said about him the better.  He was the type of child who enjoyed pulling the wings off of flies and the legs off of spiders.     The “fun” begins when Mortimer is excitedly preparing to share the good news of his coming engagement to the girl next door rather unexpectedly finds a dead body in the window box seat of his Aunts’ home.  Later that same night his brother Jonathan returns home after a long absence; who after numerous face changing surgeries looks a great deal like the actor Boris Karloff. With him comes an alcoholic plastic surgeon and another dead body.  Meanwhile, Teddy seems to be digging body sized locks for the Panama Canal in the basement. 

The Dogs of Littlefield

ISBN: 
9781476794242

Something is happening to the dogs of Littlefield, Mass.  Is someone poisoning them or does the blame fall on something more supernatural?  A cast of delightful, small-town characters suffers through this travesty as circumstance and personality pit one against each other.

It begins with the posting of warnings: pet-owners should not let their dogs roam free in the park. The signs start off politely, then denigrate into meaner advice: “Leash your beast or else.” Then a white bull-mastiff is found poisoned in the park woods.  Soon the aldermen schedule a meeting to discuss two diametrically-opposed proposals: ban all dogs from the park, or create a leash-free area for the dogs to play and have freedom.

Littlefield, long on the top ten list of best small communities to live in America, appears to be coming apart in myriad ways. Most of the teens and adults have therapists. The veneer of social niceness quickly disappears.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (Television Series)

ISBN: 
883929422180

The 1960’s was the time of the “Cold War” and the “Iron Curtain” Both of these terms were indicative of our relationship with Russia during those years.  We may not have been in a shooting war, but we were very much at odds with them in terms of our political philosophies and both countries were very much concerned that these differing political philosophies would spread or worse contaminate their own people. So it is surprising that one of the most popular spy shows on television in the sixties featured an organization made up of agents from many different countries with no regard to the political affiliation or beliefs of their home countries.  In fact, the organization's two top agents and their best team consisted of American agent Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Russian agent Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum).  The series was known as “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and it was popular enough to spawn several made-for-TV movies, a spin-off series known as “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E,” and an attempted movie reboot in 2015.   

Eligible

ISBN: 
9781400068326

What do jogging, hate sex, cross fit gyms, and reality TV have to do with Jane Austen? Don’t be so 19th century. So what if Austen is rolling over in her grave. Sittenfeld has made a delightful pastiche of Pride and Prejudice, much more to my fiction-reading tastes than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

In this reimagined version of the classic, it’s 2013 and the Bennet family has relocated to a spider-infected old Tudor in an upscale neighborhood of Cincinnati. Country club lunches, anyone?

The five unmarried daughters still ground the story although all of them have turned very 21st century. Even Mrs. Bennet has been modernized, she’s now a shopaholic busybody. However, she still remains in determined pursuit of worthy husbands (rich, upper class) for her daughters.   

Jane and Liz have flown the nest for New York City where gentle Jane teaches yoga, and Liz, writes for the entertainment mag, Mascara. She also sleeps with her married boyfriend. At thirty-nine, Jane has given up on finding a man, and has begun in vitro fertilization treatments in the hopes of having a child. Alas, no wedding bells in the offing for both Jane and Liz.

Those Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines

ISBN: 
024543112044

In 1965, there were two racing comedies released both of them set during the first 10 years of 1900’s.  The more popular of two was “The Great Race,” which was about an around the world automobile race; the second was Those Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines, about an air race between London and Paris in very early  and flimsy aircraft.  While I will admit there is something special about The Great Race and it certainly had more stars who were known in the United States, Those Magnificent Men and their flying Machines had something the other did not … History.

What do I mean by history?  First of all, there is the light-hearted review of man’s attempts to fly featuring the comic skills of Red Skelton mixed with historic footage of some of the more outrageous of man’s attempts and failures to fly before the opening credits.  You are not likely to see more historical film footage of man’s failed attempts to fly in another movie.  But of even greater interest to someone like me is that every plane used in the film was a recreation of a historic airplane from the birth of aviation.  In a few cases, they added some safety devices or a small change was made to better protect the pilots, but the planes did fly, or, at least, those that were supposed to fly did, and they were actually flown for the movie’s footage.

Half-Earth: our Planet's Fight for Life

ISBN: 
9781631490828

The central premise of this book is that in order to save many of the world’s species, humankind has to do something truly radical, that is, create wildlife and nature preserves over half the earth. 

Renowned entomologist and conservationist, Edward O. Wilson, presents in this book many examples of how interconnected life is in on our planet, and then makes a clarion call to save it. As someone who has actively worked for conservation for decades, Wilson is very knowledgeable.

He points out that of all the fauna and flora now on earth, we know only 20% of them at most at the species level. And much less about how they work together to maintain this web of life. To learn all these species, even were they to survive, would take at least a couple more centuries.

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