Information, Answers & Reviews

The Past

This novel is a dense, rich celebration of an English family, first in the present time, then in the past--the late 60s and early 70s.

In the first half, four siblings: Harriet, Alice, Roland, and Jane meet at the old family homestead near the sea for a family reunion.  The house is being sold, and it will be their last time together at their childhood home.

Accompanying them, are children (Jane’s), a new South American wife (Roland’s--his third), a young friend, and son of a former lover (Alice’s), and all alone, (Harriet).

In the siblings’ idiosyncratic fashion, Harriet arrives first; she leaves the house locked and goes wandering in the forest.  Alice arrives with Kasim, and then realizes, what she has done, brought an eighteen-year old to a place with nothing going on. Roland calls and says there will be delay, and that he and Pilar will arrive on Sunday.

Alice runs through the house, throwing open windows, picking and placing beautiful bouquets in each of the adults’ room, while Jane, the mom, practically begins cooking the evening meal as her two children, Ivy and Arthur explore.

Privately, Jane and Harriet discuss whether Kazim is more than a friend to wild, actress Alice. Kazim reads on the porch terribly bored. But on Sunday when Roland, Pilar and Molly, Roland’s sixteen year old daughter, arrive. Kazim immediately perks up at Molly’s appearance.

Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane tells the fictional story of rich newspaper publisher Charles Foster Kane, his rise to power and eventual decline as he shifts from an idealistic publisher/editor into egotist whose power has gone to his head.  It was based loosely on the life of William Randolph Hurst, but not loosely enough to suit Hurst.  The film pulled few punches and Hurst was not amused at being the subject, even if indirectly of such a movie. Citizen Kane almost completely failed at the box office when it was released and even before the production was finished the film was wrapped in controversy. Director and writer Orson Wells was accused by Hurst of the being a communist, and a homosexual, both of which were considered major issues in 1941.  Interestingly he also accused Wells of being a womanizer and Socialist as well. As you can see the accusations leveled at Wells were often contradictory and usually untrue.  The major newspapers, owned by Hurst refused to review the film or allow it to be advertised in their pages.  In fact, no review of Citizen Kane appeared in any paper owned by Hurst until the mid- seventies over 30 years after its release. 

Cheyenne Social Club

Harley Sullivan: What kind of business you figure your brother left you?
John O'Hanlan: Well, the letter don't say - but that's just like a lawyer. They don't tell you no more than it takes to confuse you. But it's a... something called the Cheyenne Social Club.

 

After receiving a letter informing him of the death of his brother John O’Hanlan (James Stewart) leaves his position as a hired hand on a cattle drive to take over the Cheyenne Social Club the business his brother left him in his will.  It might seem obvious to us by the name of the business and the movie just exactly what the nature of the business is, but this is a story about a more innocent time and John O’Hanlan is a more innocent man.  He is joined on his trek across the country and into Cheyenne by his good friend Harley (Henry Fonda).  The film which was directed by Gene Kelly moves fluidly through the story from one situation to another.  Low Key” may be the best way to describe this film about a man of high morals, and a kind heart who suddenly finds himself the owner of the most famous brothel in Wyoming. 

How the World Breaks: Life in Catastrophe's Path from the Caribbean to Siberia

Anyone following the news these days sees far too many disasters:  from wildfires to typhoons, mega-rain storms to landslides, tornados to earthquakes. This book examines how humans react to disasters, what is causing them, and what the future may bring.

Written by the father/son team of Stan and Paul Cox, this book looks at twelve major disasters in depth including some still in progress. The chapter “Atlantis of the Americas” covers the flooding of Miami, Fl. that happens now even on clear days, and is expected to eventually make the city uninhabitable.

In “Gray Goo: East Java, Indonesia,” the Coxes examines an event that caused massive amounts of mud to erupt over what was once a crowded middle class area.  The authors believe that a mining operation triggered this extremely destructive mud volcano. As in many disasters, the authors show how the government got stuck with a huge bill while powerful companies got off the hook.

Our Souls at Night

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!

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.

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