Reading Challenge #6

Oh, my…  I believe that “Lincoln in the Bardo” is one of the best books I have ever read.  I am moved beyond words at this beautiful story, so uniquely told.

The title intrigued me right away, as I am familiar with the Tibetan Buddhist definition of Bardo: “a state of existence between death and rebirth, varying in length according to a person’s conduct in life and manner of, or age at, death.”

Bardo is the “in-between place” a “transitional state,” the period of the afterlife between two states, sort of like a waiting space before you enter into your next birth (or not).  I would say this applies to the bereaved, as well as the deceased. If you’ve lost a loved one, you know that it takes some time of grieving before you can transition to the reality of your life without them.

At the time of his 11-year-old son Willie’s death,  it was reported that Lincoln often visited the crypt where he was interred to hold his son’s body.  Note that:  he would go to the mausoleum, pull the corpse out of the coffin, and Hold his son’s Body.  The grief that one can feel in that image is the essence of this book and has been fully and imaginatively depicted, told by the deceased in the cemetery who remain in the bardo.

The conversations are more like rambling monologues, all speaking at once, creating a cacophony of thoughts of past lives, current obsessions, and watching as Willie is laid to rest, watching as his father removes him from his “sick box”, watching as Willie waits for his father to return. There are “historic references” interspersed between the dialogues (monologues?)   Lincoln does return, and the ending is so True…

The story is told in such a unique way—like a play—and yet each character becomes as real as a dream.  I’ve always enjoyed George Saunders’ short stories, but this format is as brilliant as his prose is moving, presenting Lincoln’s grief so poignantly that it will break your heart.

I haven’t done it justice, really.  You just need to read this one…

Next up is “A book set in a place you want to visit”….hmmm

definitely not the bardo…

Peace

Reading Challenge: Nos. 4 & 5

I cheated a little.

#4 challenge was “A book with a color in the title”.

Whilst searching for such a book, I wanted something kind of short, frankly.   We’re so busy in the garden that I’ve gone into REM before I can get in my usual bedtime reading, but I’m determined to complete this challenge.   When I came across “A Study in Scarlet”, 108 pages of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I was delighted.  I had read several Sherlock Holmes mysteries, but not this one, and it just so happened to be the First!  To top it off as an inspired choice,

#5 on the challenge is “A book that’s more than 100 years old”, so I get a twofer…

Plus, I love detective stories starring old-fashioned sleuths like Nero Wolfe, Hercule Poirot, and, of course, Sherlock Holmes. Holmes has been the most portrayed fictional character in film history: 75 actors have played him in 211 movies. Having seen many of those movies before I read the books, I pictured him as Basil Rathbone, a fella who never did much for me, so I judged them a little stuffy.  It wasn’t until Benedict Cumberbatch and the excellent BBC series “Sherlock” that I picked up a collection and, envisioning Cumberbatch, fell in love with Sir A.C. Doyle’s cerebral detective.

A Study in Scarlet (1888)

Ward, Lock & Co. published the first separate book edition of A Study in Scarlet in July 1888.  This small and fragile 7×5 inch book had paper covers glued to the spine and included six line drawings for the story by Charles Doyle, the author’s father.  Shown here is the rare first impression.  A second impression, issued in March 1889, came with a slightly different cover.

 

Study in Scarlet 1888 Ward Lock cover

 

A Study in Scarlet, 1888, First British Edition.

Lent by Dr. Constantine Rossakis.

Photo © Private Library of Constantine Rossakis, M.D.

(from the website http://www.bestofsherlock.com)

 

Can you imagine a time when Sherlock Holmes hadn’t been created?  Detective fiction started with the 1841 publication of Poe’s “Murder in the Rue Morgue”, featuring the brilliant and eccentric C. Auguste Dupin.  There were some others following, but it’s intriguing to imagine what an impact this story made to our reading world.

 Part one of this very first Sherlock Holmes story is subtitled

Being a reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D., Late of the Army Medical Department.  

 Watson is a British surgeon whose health was ruined in one of those unending wars in Afghanistan.  He’s drifting around, lost and depressed.  He needs a flatmate, as does Holmes, and they are brought together by a mutual friend.  From the first, Sherlock is already Sherlock, seeing clues and putting them together instinctively to Wow the room with his brilliant deductions.  Watson is amazed at his jaw-dropping genius.  It all goes along and Sherlock solves the crime…but…Suddenly, you are in Part Two, subtitled

The Country of the Saints

 This is a totally different book full of Mormons and frontiersmen and no Sherlock.  I almost thought that there had been a problem with the printing and another book had been mistakenly placed there, but I kept reading.  I was transported to another time, another place.  Somehow everything ended up coming together and this story is as riveting as the happenings on Baker St.

You ought to read it.  It’s great.  And it took me a lot less time to read than it did to write this post.  I actually finished it up last week and am now working on

 #6 of the challenge…A Book you chose for the cover…

I’m reading “Lincoln in the Bardo” because its cover said “Lincoln in the Bardo” and that is a book I want to read…

I’ll tell you all about it later…

Peace

Remember the Book Challenge?

From 2/9/17:

Attention, Readers!  Are you wondering what to read next?

My favorite used-book store, Better World Books,  put out an interesting 2017 Reading Challenge.  Instead of them assigning you some books to read, you pick your own from their prompt.  They started the first of the year, so they are well ahead of us, but we could start now and see how many of the 25 challenges we complete before the end of the year..!  I have tried to link you to the list, but the best I can do is to link you to the blog and you’ll have to dig a little for it here

Let’s get started!  I’m headed to the library to choose a book to fulfill the first challenge:

Read a food memoir…

Ideas?  Suggestions?  What are You going to read?……

The food memoir I chose:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:  A Year of Food Life

by Barbara Kingsolver

with Steven L. Hoff and Camille Kingsolver

animalvegetable

With Barbara Kingsolver as our guide, we live out the year that she took her family from Tucson, AZ to a farm in Virginia to homestead, specifically eating only from their own garden or from local growers.  Kingsolver preaches quite a bit about the evils of the agriculture industry, but she writes so well that you don’t mind the manipulation..at first. I think she could have cut the diatribe short, and her husband’s contributions were pretty technical and dry.  Kingsolver was at her best as she took us through her year of growing and learning from the land and its seasons.    Her daughter, Camille, provides little journal-type entries that include interesting and doable recipes.  They have some funny moments with their animals (they raise turkeys, chickens, cows), and overall the family seems to just delight in their project.   It’s not only their story, but also has a huge amount of information about topics ranging from organics to lactose intolerance, to bad attitudes toward food.

I’m inspired to become totally locally sourced…but…I can’t imagine not having my blueberries and strawberries in winter.  We can’t let them go to waste…  When I walked by the asparagus at the grocery store today, I felt guilty for the longing I felt.

What the author and her family did is out of reach of most, if not all, of us (they are obviously well-off and living on a family farm in Appalachia).   They planned this for years, knew exactly what they wanted, and the 2 daughters are remarkably well-adjusted.   I can really appreciate the work, and their love of it, but I’d make a terrible farmer…too lazy.

Overall, I thought this book was just okay.  It is good for reference.  I like the recipes, and Kingsolver’s prose is seductive.  As mentioned, she’s a little preachy.   The book has a website (click here) with recipes, farm tours, and book info that I highly recommend.

When I was a visiting nurse, my “route” was up in Warrick County farmland, worked by the 80-year-olds who had spent their lives turning that earth.  They were the most inspiring folks I’ve ever come across and I started gardening because I wanted to be like them.   I do my best, and I’m planning a bigger, better garden this year, so this lovely book has reinforced my commitment to growing.  I’m also determined to meet more local growers and am looking forward to Farmers Market season in my area.

Next up on the challenge:

Read a collection of Short Stories…

Oh, good, that’s an easy one…

Peace