TSS ~ Oh, the Book Gluttony!

The Sunday Salon.com

This weekend, my local library held their first book sale since before Thanksgiving, which meant I had gone TWO WHOLE MONTHS without being able to peruse, pet, and purchase previously loved (some more lightly than others) books.  I LOVE the library sales!  If I could, I’d just pack them all up and take them home.  As it is, I have to limit myself for two reasons:  1)  We always walk to the library, and it’s about 6 or so blocks, so I have to carry home everything I buy.  2)  I would go broke if I didn’t watch myself.  So I went in with a self-imposed $10 cap on my total, and I left having forked over $9.50 for two sturdy bagfuls of lovely books. 

Library Book Sale Loot

One of the things I love about the book sales is that I can get books that I might not otherwise ever know about, and they often turn out to be quite a treasure.  This weekend’s loot has introduced me to Angela Thirkell, who has quite a pedigree and a life well-worth reading her biography (and I hate biography books!).  As I was looking through the titles on the tables, my attention was caught by Wild Strawberries

A witty romp through English Country-house life at its most delightfully absurd. At Rushwater House in West Barsetshire, Lady Emily Leslie and her family are entertaining an assortment of house guests, hangers-on, and French monarchists. Amid a perfect welter of rapturous embraces and moonlight madness, a marriage is finally arranged. A glittering summer party provides a hilarious climax to the various intrigues. -from product description at Amazon.com

As soon as I picked it up, I noticed there were three more by the same author, so they all jumped in my bag.  I also found some wonderful treasures I had previously heard of like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and the box set of James Herriot’s All Things first four books.  I also picked up a couple books that I’ve read before and loved, but no longer own like The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Salinger’s Franny and Zooey.

A couple of books I picked up just to put on BookMooch and PaperBackSwap.  Obsession and Intimidation by Wanda Dyson are the second and third, respectively, in Dyson’s Shefford-Johnson Case series.  The library didn’t have the first book in the series, Abduction, but the books looked nice and new and I thought someone some where would appreciate them.

Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Goldman GelmanA couple books I picked up I did so after reviewing Islands Apart and making the statement that there were no women authored Waldens out there.  Care of Care’s Online Book Club commented that Eat, Pray, Love (one of her favorite books in 2007) was one such book, so when I saw it sitting in one of the boxes, I snatched it up.  Then, as if by fate, the title Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman caught my eye.

I am a modern-day nomad. I have no permanent address,  no possessions except the ones I carry, and I rarely know where I’ll be six months from now. I move through the world without a plan, guided by instinct, connecting through trust, and constantly watching for serendipitous opportunities.  -from the author’s site.

After separating from her husband, 48-year-old Gelman looked around at her well-to-do life and her soul cried out for change.  She took off to explore the world and hasn’t had a permanent address since 1986.  As you would expect, she initially got flak from her friends and family for running away.  Of course, her kids were in their early twenties when she began her new life as a nomad, which still leaves me saying that if it were a mother instead of a father who took off to explore the world like McAlpine did, she would get hate mail from readers, society would label her a bad mother, and she’d likely lose her children.  And YES! I am still jealous that they can jaunt all over and see the world 😉

I had to do the book-victory dance when I found a book that I have wanted for a LONG time, and was the basis for one of my all-time favorite movies:  The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.  I was initially “forced” to watch the movie when Turner Classic Movies first showed up on our cable box and my dad never changed the channel again.  Ingrid Bergman is one the greatest and most beautiful actresses of all time, so it didn’t take too much coaxing.  When I found out it was based on a book, I made my way to the library, only to discover they didn’t have a copy.  Years have passed, and I’ve never forgotten I wanted to read the book, but never found it in the bookstores or library.  So seeing it in the book sale was quite a surprise.  Where have they been hiding it all this time?

POC Reading ChallengeA couple of the other books I picked up in response to the Persons of Color discussions and The POC Reading Challenge that will be, I’m sure, the last challenge I sign up for this year, as I’m getting to where I can’t remember which books are for which challenges and what challenges I’m doing.  The books for this challenge are to be either by authors of color or are about persons of color.  The levels are:

Level 1: Read 1-3 POC books
Level 2. Read 4-6 POC books
Level 3. Read 7-9 POC books
Level 4. Read 10-15 POC books
Level 5. Read 16-25 POC books

I’ve committed at the 3rd level, though I’ll probably read more than 9.  I’ve never really sat and specifically thought consciously about the race of the author or characters, though I’ve generally leaned toward POC books anyway.  So, now that it’s something that I’m more aware of, I snatched up the following books:

Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah.

Mah revisits the territory she covered in her adult bestseller, Falling Leaves, for this painful and poignant memoir aimed at younger readers. Blamed for the loss of her mother, who died shortly after giving birth to her, Mah is an outcast in her own family. When her father remarries and moves the family to Shanghai to evade the Japanese during WWII, Mah and her siblings are relegated to second-class status by their stepmother. They are given attic rooms in their big Shanghai home, they have nothing to wear but school uniforms, and they subsist on a bare-bones diet while their stepmother’s children dine sumptuously. Mah finds escape from this emotionally barren landscape at school, but the academic awards she wins only enrage her jealous siblings and stepmother, and she is eventually torn from her aunt, her one champion, and shipped off to boarding school. That Mah eventually soars above her circumstances is proof of her strength of character. The author recreates moments of cruelty and victory so convincingly that readers will feel almost as if they’re in the room with her. She never veers from a child’s sensibility; the child in these pages rarely judges the actions of those around her, she’s simply bent on surviving. Mah easily weaves details of her family’s life alongside the traditions of China (e.g., her grandmother’s bound feet) and the changes throughout the war years and subsequent Communist takeover. This memoir is hard to put down. -from Amazon.com

 

Journal of Emperor BaburBabur Nama -The Journal of Emperor Babur abridged, edited, and introduced by Dilip Hiro and translated from the original Turkish by Annette Susannah Beveridge.

The “Babur Nama”, a journal kept by Zahir Uddin Muhammad Babur (1483-1530), the founder of the Mughal Empire, is the earliest example of autobiographical writing in world literature, and one of the finest. Against the turbulent backdrop of medieval history, it paints a precise and vivid picture of life in Central Asia and Afghanistan – where Babur ruled in Samarkand and Kabul – and in the Indian subcontinent, where his dazzling military career culminated in the founding of a dynasty that lasted three centuries.

Babur was far more than a skilled, often ruthless, warrior and master strategist… [This is] a unique historical document that is at once objective and intensely personal – for, in Babur’s words, ‘the truth should be reached in every matter’. -From the back of the book

This sounds like it might go good with The Art of Warfare.

Maya Angelou's Heart of a WomanThe Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou –  I love Maya Angelou!  She’s a fabulous woman and writer, and I always have to chuckle when I think about Nikki Giovanni.  When I was in college at IUK, Nikki was a guest professor, though I never had the privilege of being a student in her classes.  I had never heard of her as an author, so when she donated her time as a tutor in the math and language lab, I just chatted with her like you would with any normal person.  One day, we were all talking about her upcoming trip to a writing conference for African-American women (I still hadn’t realized Nikki was, herself, an author) and she asked me if there was anyone’s autograph I’d like.  “Maya Angelou” was quickly off my tongue, as I’d recently read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and was, to be honest, the only black author I’d known of at the time other than Alex Haley (I read Malcolm X a couple years before, and who hasn’t heard of Roots?).  I spent the whole school year never realizing the secret treasure that was in my friend, and didn’t know until the school held a book signing at the end of the year.

Nikki is one of the people God had put in my life at a perfect time period in my life who helped combat the racism I had grown up with.  The names of some of the others I’ve forgotten now, not realizing at the time how important they were to me.  Phyllis and Manny, good friends when I desperately needed some.  Nikita, who patiently answered every stupid question I had ever wanted to ask and my mother forbade me ask (“Why are your palms white?  Are there other spots that are like that?  Can you sunburn?” among others).  Kisha, who opened my eyes to the fact Jesus was NOT white with blonde hair and blue eyes, and who told me flat out, “God didn’t put me on this earth to answer your questions about being black.”  Scotti, who was a friend and fellow mom, who was there for me when I was stressed out beyond belief.  And the Professor Emeritus, whose name I’ve long-since forgot, who challenged my thinking that I’d inherited and made me see the world in a different way.  I am eternally grateful to all them 🙂

Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Helen OxenburyOne last look around before leaving yielded the last 50 cents spent.  A beautiful copy of Alice in Wonderland (I now have 3 different copies of this book) by Lewis Carroll and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.  It’s an updated version of this classic, and I thought Maggie would love it.

A quick look through shows a more modern Alice, colorful illustrations, and larger print than my other two copies.  I have loved this classic since I myself was a little girl, and remember my mom reading it to me.  So I thought Mags would be able to enjoy this book as much as I had, and maybe we could enjoy it together 🙂  AND it’s worth 12 AR points 😉  which made her smile.

The only book I haven’t mentioned is The Stolen White Elephant and Other Detective Stories which is a collection of Mark Twain’s detective stories, including Tom Sawyer, Detective.  I adore Twain, and have since I first discovered Tom and Huck.  I actually had a book crush on Huck for about 3 or 4 years as a kid 🙂

So are you a book glutton, too?  Do you go to your library’s book sales?  Do you like used books? or do you preffer all new ones?

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Title:  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Author:  F. Scott Fitzgerald

Paperback:  32 pages

Date Published:  February 18, 2008

Publisher:  Juniper Grove

ISBN:  9781603550833

A nurse was sitting behind a desk in the opaque gloom of the hall.  Swallowing his shame, Mr. Button approached her.

“Good-morning,” she remarked, looking up at him pleasantly.

“Good-morning.  I -I am Mr. Button.”

At this a look of utter terror spread itself over the girl’s face.  She rose to her feet and seemed about to fly from the hall, restraining herself only with the most apparent difficulty.

“I want to see my child,” said Mr. Button.

…Ranged around the walls were half a dozen white-enameled rolling cribs, each with a tag tied at the head.

“Well,” gasped Mr. Button, “which is mine?”

“There!” said the nurse.

Mr. Button’s eyes followed her pointing finger, and this is what he saw.  Wrapped in a voluminous white blanket, and partially crammed into one of the cribs, there sat an old man apparently about seventy years of age.  His sparse hair was almost white, and from his chin dripped a long smoke-colored beard, which waved absurdly back and forth, fanned by the breeze coming in at the window.  He looked up at Mr. Button with dim, faded eyes in which lurked a puzzled question.

“Am I mad?”  thundered Mr. Button, his terror resolving into rage.  “Is this some ghastly hospital joke?”

“It doesn’t seem like a joke to us,”  replied the nurse severely.  “And I don’t know whether you’re mad or not – but that is most certainly your child.”

-“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, pages 3-4

Originally published in Collier’s,  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” was inspired by a comment once made by Mark Twain.

Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of 80 and gradually approach 18.

Such was the beginning for the stories main character, Benjamin Button.  Born as an elderly man, much to the chagrin of his socially and financially prominent family, his father initially intends to name his newborn “Methuselah” after the longest-living biblical patriarch who died at the age of 969 years of age.

Throughout the story, Benjamin lives a life that lacks, for the most part, acceptance.  His father doesn’t accept him as  a child and insists he wear short pants and play with toys, all the while the aged young Button would rather read the Encyclopedia Britannica and smoke Cuban cigars.  At the age of 18 (though looking 50), Benjamin is run out of New Haven, Connecticut by a mob when he insists to the Yale registrar that he is indeed both a freshman and eighteen.  As he grows younger and his wife grows older, she insists he stop being different and grow old like normal people, a sentiment later echoed by his own son.

While “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is an interesting story, it is dated in it’s language and cultural sense.  A fifty-year-old college freshman would be commended today, rather than mocked.  In a world with the Internet and Paparazzi lurking behind every bush, waiting to snap a picture of the social elite, when those same pictures are discussed for weeks and speculations are made on national television, blogs and by comedians and late-night talk show host as to whether they’ve had work done, are suffering from an eating disorder or are doing crack, the global nature of our “community” would render it impossible to notice Button’s de-aging process.

And I won’t even go into the physiological impossibility for a woman of average height, 5′ 4″ to give birth to a 5’8″ baby.  She wouldn’t have even been able to carry the baby to term.  And this same baby is born with the ability to talk intelligently, to know the difference between milk and steak, and to walk home from the hospital?  OKAY… so this story requires an incredible amount of “willingness to suspend belief”.

But, most of all…. This is a short story that I very much wish had been fleshed out into a novel.  It leaves out so much detail and is over so quickly.  I was able to read it in about an hour, as it was only 26 pages, and I judged a cartwheel contest in that hour, as well.

It is important to remember that “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was written by Fitzgerald in the early 20s.  I thought about one of my favorite television series from my childhood, Mork and Mindy, the movie Jack and, of course, the recent film version of the short story starring Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt.

Not only did Fitzgerald take his inspiration for the story, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” from Mark Twain, but the writing style also had a Twain-esque feel to it, which was probably one of the things that helped me get through it.  All in all, I’d say, if ya got the book lying around,  read it… it’s short enough not to be a punishment… but don’t go out of your way to find a copy.  I can now watch the movie, guilt-free, and I’m betting the movie is better than the book, which feels more like a concept for a novel than a completed work.  I give “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

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Trailer for the movie version of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons”…  And I would definitely HAVE TO SAY that the movie is about as much “based” on Fitzgerald’s story as the story was “based” on Twain’s quote.  From what I’ve seen in the trailer, I’d have to say that it bears little resemblance to the short story, but it looks a lot more magical than the written story was.