Friday, July 16, 2021

Reading about Panama

Some time ago, I pulled the Road Scholar [formerly known as Elderhostel] list for their Panama Canal week-long experience.

More recently, I started reading from the list. The first book I chose was older than I expected ... Panama: Yesterday and Today by Sue Core. It was published in 1945 by North River Press. The name of the publisher still exists ... but it is definitely a different kind of publisher. [Current web site - they now focus on the writings of Eliyahu M. [Eli] Goldratt who is known as the "father of the Theory of Constraints (TOC)," a process of ongoing improvement that identifies and leverages a system’s constraints in order to achieve the system’s goals.]

I looked for biographical information about the author...and had great difficulty finding anything. WorldCat and Amazon both list a fair number of books by her, but little biographical info. I think she may also be known as Sue/Susan Oman. But that requires some further work.

On to the book ... In reading the first two chapters, I went to double check the copyright date (1945). The author's description of the way the Spanish conquistadors destroyed the existing civilizations could have been written last week (2021). She expresses great admiration for the culture which existed in the 15th Century in the Americas. She talks about the systematic destruction of that culture.

Yet, when I got to the last chapters, her descriptions of those who worked to build the canal, and the description of society is incredibly dated, and loaded with inaccurate stereotypes. It was a reminder that this was written in a particular time and place.

In between, the book was a simplified description of the building of the Canal. And, yes, if you are following my reading list, you will note that I am in the process doing some reading about the building of the Canal. All of it is in hopeful preparation for a trip (as yet unplanned) to see the Canal, and going through it.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Books Read 2020

Better late than never, I suppose ... I was updating the page with the "Currently Reading" and realized that I never posted the 2020 list. It is surprisingly short - most likely because of all the distractions of the year.

In any case, here it is:

    Widows of Eastwick by John Updike
    Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
    The Ambassador's Daughter: A Novel by Pam Jenoff Signed by the Author
    Death Over a Diamond Stud: The assassination of the Orleans Parish District Attorney by Christophrt G. Pena
    Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert ARC
    After the Worst Thing Happens by Audrey Vernick ARC
    Latitudes of Longing: a novel by Shubhangi Swarup ARC
    Utopia by Thomas More [Yes, a second time]
    A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma Signed by the Author, ARC
    Wink: a novel (Surviving Middle School with One Eye Open) by Rob Harrell YA ARC
    Leaving Lymon by Lesa Cline-Ransome YAARC
    Blue Daisy by Helen Frost [J/YA] ARC
    Dear Beast by Dori Hillstead Butler, illustrated by Kevan Atteberry [graphic novel, J/YA] ARC
    The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg Signed by the Author
    Utopia by Thomas More

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Updike's Witches

I recently did something that I think I have never done before ... I read a couple books and then immediately watched the movie made from one of them. I no longer remember what inspired me to pull from the library stacks The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike. But this late fall, I was off and running/reading.

I have read Updike before. I read several of his books prior to introducing him at the Connecticut Library Association Annual Conference in 2000. After the Conference, I also read the book he was promoting at that time (Gertrude and Claudius) as well as an older collection (Bech is Back - which he most thoughtfully inscribed to me).

This time I did the following in this order:

  1. Read The Witches of Eastwick
  2. Read The Widows of Eastwick
  3. Watched the movie: "The Witches of Eastwick"

The action in The Widows takes place 30 years after the activities of The Witches. The Widows is an interesting take on the aging process, in addition to the other themes which follow from one book to the other. The theme of aging and those changes is a one which Updike explores in other works (most notably to me, the Rabbit series).

I was disappointed and disturbed by the movie adaptation. In both of the books, the women characters (Sukie, Jane, and Alexandra) are portrayed as strong women with a bond with each other, and having developed/found their unique skills which are most powerful when they are together. Darryl as a character arrives in Eastwick after there has already been action from the women. In the movie, however, Darryl (played by Jack Nicholson) is portrayed as the force which develops and binds the women's powers.

In the Wikipedia entry on The Witches (the book) it notes:

Updike described his novel as "about female power, a power that patriarchal societies have denied." Many scholars viewed it as strongly pro-feminist, "an intelligent engagement with feminism, and a rare case of a male novelist writing from women's points of view." Some have expressed concern that the book may be misogynistic, as it seems to reinforce the patriarchal conceptions of women as witches and of women requiring a man for personal growth; others believe that the book may be more of a satire of such ideas.

The movie clearly takes a different tack, as a vehicle for Nicholson, and focuses on his presence as the driving force - and the ending of the movie is a dramatic difference from the book - having repurposed one of the plot lines.

It has been interesting.

I will also confess, that part of the attraction for me was the setting. Eastwick is a fictional town on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. It is a setting with which I am familiar. I could see the setting in my minds' eye ... could hear the voices (and accents) ... could almost smell the salt air, and the mustiness endemic to older, wooden-framed homes near the salt-water coast.

I recommend the books - both of them. The movie, not so much.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

ALA Midwinter 2020 - Philadelphia

Here is my tentative schedule for ALA Midwinter. Note that it is still tentative!

I am flying in on Thursday (1/23) and leaving on the 28th. (Note: I have not figured out how to make "Agenda" the default view.") Clicking on any event will show details. And do note the time zone note on the bottom. Here, I am seeing things in the Central Time zone, not sure how true that is for others.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Books Read 2019

Here is the list of books I read in 2019.
    Basket Case: A Novel by Carl Hiaasen [library book]
    Major Taylor: The extraordinary career of a champion bicycle racer by Andrew Ritchie [library book]
    The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell ARC
    Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rosemary Wells
    Little Altars Everywhere by Rosemary Wells signed
    Failure to Launch: Why Your Twentysomething Hasn't Grown Up.. and What to Do About It by Mark McConville, Ph.D. ARC
    Seeing My Skin (A Story of Wrestling with Whiteness) by Peter Jarrett-Schell, Review ARC
    Guardians of Being: Spiritual Teachings from Our Dogs and Cats words by Eckhart Tolle, art by Patrick McDonnell
    Stray City: A Novel by Chelsey Johnson signed
    Contemplative Vision: Photography as a Spiritual Practice by Dirk deVries
    Mina's Guide to Minute Taking: Principles, Standards, & Practical Tools by Eli Mina
    Deep West: A Literary Tour of Wyoming
    The Nature of Life and Death: Every Body Leaves a Trace by Patricia Wiltshire ARC
    If You Want To Make God Laugh: A Novel by Bianca Marais ARC
    Redwood and Ponytail by K. A. Holt ARC
    Astro-Nuts by Jon Scieszka and {the other} Steven Weinberg ARC
    The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcarcel
    Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Z. Scoblic
    No Exit: a novel by Taylor Adams
    Food Rules: an Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan
    Jazz Scrapbook by Bill Russell and Some Highly Musical Friends
    The House in Poplar Wood by K. E. Ormsbee YA - ARC
    Five Days at Memorial by Sherry Fink
    Fifty Things That Aren't My Fault by Cathy Guisewite ARC
    Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman ARC