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Timothy J. Bazzett "BookHappy" RSS Feed (Reed City, MI USA)
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The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II
by Denise Kiernan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.35
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3.0 out of 5 stars A gender-based study with personal touches of an already much written about subject. Mildly interesting., March 4, 2015
THE GIRLS OF ATOMIC CITY, by Denise Kiernan.
I've been sampling and skim-reading Kiernan's book for a couple weeks now. It's the kind of book I could easily put down for a while, which is probably not much of a recommendation, but in truth I found the book only mildly interesting, and I'm not entirely sure why, because the writing is workmanlike enough and even very good at times. So it must be the subject. I was already familiar with the story of the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, complex which was part of the Manhattan Project to develop the bomb and bring a decisive end to the war. This book focuses, of course, on the thousands of women who were recruited to work at Oak Ridge, and details their living conditions, a little about their jobs and the strict compartmentalization that was - and still is - typical of classified work. There is also much about how they filled their off-hours, how they dated, fell in love, and sometimes married. Some attention was paid to the disparity in accommodations and the segregation of the races too, a practice that was also common in the military during the war.

Yes, the hutments, trailers, dormitories and prefab housing units were substandard, soot-ridden and inconvenient; and the mud and the dust was everywhere. Privacy was hard to come by, and personal lives and habits were closely monitored by the 'creeps.'

The often scarce and poor housing and the camaraderie that developed between young families reminded me of similar conditions experienced by GI Bill veterans and their families attending colleges and universities all over the U.S. when the war was over. Willow Run Village, near Detroit, intended to be only temporary housing for employees at a bomber factory, became veterans housing, comes to mind. One excellent such book I read not long ago was Stella Suberman's THE GI BILL BOYS.

Kiernan's account of women's role in the development of the bomb is indeed a slightly different take on an already much researched and written about subject, and I suspect that women will find the book fascinating. The writing, as I said earlier, is good, but I found THE GIRLS OF ATOMIC CITY to be mostly a gender-based curiosity, and only mildly interesting.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER


By Louie Anderson Goodbye Jumbo...Hello Cruel World [Paperback]
By Louie Anderson Goodbye Jumbo...Hello Cruel World [Paperback]
by Louie Anderson
Edition: Paperback
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3.0 out of 5 stars A comic talent born of pain and unhappiness. Fat? Yes. Jolly? Nope, March 3, 2015
GOODBYE JUMBO ... HELLO CRUEL WORLD, by Louie Anderson.
I picked up this book at a thrift store a year or more ago. I read it today as I was in between 'real' books. Turns out Anderson's story of his life-long struggles with his weight, self-esteem, and a dysfunctional family - an alcoholic abusive father, a nurturing but enabling mother, and ten siblings - is pretty damn real itself.

It's a slight book as memoirs go, and a quick read; but it does contain some pretty important truths about fat people (Anderson uses the 'f' word freely, so I will too), how they got the way they are and how much they often tend to hate themselves. Anderson is trying to work out his own self-hate and transform it into self-love, all the while still struggling with the recent loss of his mother and unresolved issues with his late father. (I have not read his first book, DEAR DAD.)

Here's a sample of how he tries to explain that 'fat and lazy' don't necessarily go together.

"So there's the fallacy. Fat people aren't lazy. It takes immense practice and energy to plan our day, to eat without anyone seeing us, to pretend we aren't hungry, to sneak and cheat without being caught. The truth is, it takes a lot of work to get your weight up to three hundred and fifty pounds and then keep it there."

So yeah, he's a comedian and he's still joking, but yet he's not. He then says: "It also requires a large threshold for pain."

Because while this is a book that appears to be light reading, it's really not. It's a story of a life filled with pain and yearning to be normal, to be loved. By the book's end, Anderson seems to have reached some kind of peace with himself and his family. I wonder if it lasted. The book was published over twenty years ago, but it's still a pretty relevant read, particularly, I suspect for people who, like Louie, are obese and in pain. It seems ironic that so many talented comics and comedians - people like the late Robin Williams - have such a dark, pain-filled interior life. I remember being surprised at how serious Steve Martin's memoir, BORN STANDING UP, turned out to be. Anderson's is too, but it seemed just a bit too pat, or maybe just too short, to pack as strong a punch as it might have. But I'll recommend it. (three and a half stars)

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER


Inheritance of Horses
Inheritance of Horses
by James Kilgo
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful meditations on nature, family, life and death. My highest recommendation, March 2, 2015
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INHERITANCE OF HORSES, by James Kilgo.
This 1994 book is the third essay collection I've read by the late James Kilgo, who is perhaps best known for his first one, Deep Enough for Ivorybills (Brown Thrasher Books). That book was primarily about his hunting, fishing and birding experiences both as a boy and as a man. And there is more of that here too. "According to Hemingway" tells of a deep sea fishing trip in the Caribbean and remembering what Hemingway wrote about his time doing the same. "Indian Givers" talks more of hunting, but also about looking for arrowheads and other pieces of history, again, as both boy and man. "A Gift from the Bear" is about camping trips to Yellowstone with his son, John, hoping to sight a grizzly bear, and also to fish. But the two cornerstone pieces of this collection, at least in my estimation, are the ones about his grandfathers. "Taken by Storm" is about his maternal grandfather, Bob "Doc" Lawton, who was bedridden for much of his life from various illnesses and ailments, and yet continued to try to make the most of his life. Doc figures largely too in the title piece, last in the collection, "Inheritance of Horses." In it, Kilgo tries valiantly to unravel the puzzle that was his paternal grandfather and namesake, Jim Kilgo, who died when the author was very young. A complex riddle of a man, 'Papa' continued to loom large in Kilgo's imagination for the rest of his life. Kilgo's two grandfathers were close friends their whole lives. Indeed, the letters between the two men, which Kilgo studies almost religiously, show a closeness that was rare and mysterious, especially for the times in which they were written, the 1920s and 30s. Kilgo sees a disciple-like relationship in Papa's love and respect for a near Christ-like Doc, but also speculates on the possibility of a repressed homosexual attraction. He also wonders about an alleged affair that Papa engaged in while still a relatively young man that resulted in a polite and formal separate bedroom arrangement between him and his wife for the rest of their marriage.

Kilgo's writings are unique in the way he looks closely at his natural surroundings, using his hunting and fishing trips to make sense of what we are all here for. His observations touch on the deeply personal things we all think about but rarely speak of - nature, family, life and death. Kilgo died a dozen years ago from cancer. But his words live on in these essays. He was a damn fine writer. My highest recommendation.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER


Moody Food: A Novel
Moody Food: A Novel
by Ray Robertson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.00
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5.0 out of 5 stars Nails the essence of the 'sex, drugs and rock'n' roll' sixties. A damn fine novel, February 27, 2015
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MOODY FOOD, by Ray Robertson. I literally ripped through this book. I mean I just hated to put it down. A riveting read about the fast-changing pop music scene of the mid-sixties, it's a must-read for gray-beards like me who came of age in those exciting times. Robertson's tale of hippie-culture in Toronto's Yorkville, introduces us to American draft dodger, Thomas Graham, and his band the Duckhead Secret Society, formed to launch an entirely new kind of music, "Interstellar North American Music," a fusion of several disparate kinds of music. The story is told by Bill Hansen, a college dropout bookstore clerk, who falls under the spell of Thomas and becomes the band's drummer. Bill in turn brings in his folk-singer girlfriend, Christine, to play bass and sing high harmony with Thomas, who imports another American, an aging drunk named Slippery Bannister, a steel guitar wizard.

If ever a novel nailed the essence of the "sex, drugs and rock & roll" culture of the 60s, it's MOODY FOOD (title taken from a line in Shakespeare's ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA which describes music as "moody food"), because the first two elements are here in abundance. The rock & roll is there too, but mixed liberally with George Jones, Buck Owens, Little Richard, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, etc. - it's all in there: pop, rock, R&B, country, gospel, folk.

In his acknowledgements, Robertson credits the music and the influence of Gram Parsons, and although there are probably a number of parallels to Parsons, Robertson's Thomas Graham is a totally fascinating creation that carries the story along at a careening pace. But so too is the narrator, Bill Hansen, who tells not just Thomas's story, but his own too, as he falls deeper and deeper under Thomas's influence, delving into ever harder and harder drugs. Because the drugs and the addictions get darker and deeper as the story progresses.

To tell the truth, I didn't remember much about the short flameout career of Gram Parsons, but this book got me curious, had me looking him up, listening to a few of his tunes from the 60s and early 70s. There have been a number of bios written about Parsons and how he left a lasting mark, despite dying young. Stints with the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, the International Submarine Band, as well as a brief but memorable collaboration with Emmylou Harris. It was one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction kind of lives. I may have to take a look at one of those biographies now. But this book, MOODY FOOD, is first-class fiction, writing that soars, climbs and crashes, just like its subject. A damn fine novel. Very highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER


The Society of Friends: Stories
The Society of Friends: Stories
by Kelly Cherry
Edition: Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars A heady mix of profound and funny. Loved it. My highest recommendation, February 21, 2015
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THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS: STORIES, by Kelly Cherry

Wow! This is the kinda book that makes me wish I were a more eloquent, erudite sort of writer. But I’m not, and I’ve learned to be okay with that. Kelly Cherry, on the other hand, IS that kind of writer. Hence the ‘Wow.’ And I enjoyed the holy hell outa reading these stories.

When I read the name on the cover of this book I thought, Hmm, Quakers! But no, not really, although there is a Quaker wedding ceremony in the title story. But then I thought about what I know about Quaker services (which, admittedly, ain’t all that much) - how the services are often just silent meetings, where people sometimes get up to speak if the spirit moves them. There are a baker’s dozen stories here - in which various families, couples, singles - are doing the best they can, quietly living their lives - lives often marked by that kind of “quiet desperation” that Thoreau remarked on. And all the important characters live on the same block, somewhere near downtown Madison, Wisconsin, at the tail end of the twentieth century. So think of that city block as a Quaker Meeting House, and think of each of these stories as one of the congregants standing up and ‘testifying,’ or telling his story. There’s quite a collection of characters here too. There’s a nurse named Shelley, who’s just learned her twenty year-old daughter is gay, so she’s trying to deal with that, aided by her husband and ex-husband, and she’s also pondering life and death matters at her job, watching a young man die slowly and painfully from AIDS (“Not the Phil Donahue Show”). There's a bookstore owner named Guy whose business (in “the kind of city where people get their books from the library”) is going bust (“Tell Her”). There’s Conrad, a medical librarian who has recently lost both his wife and small son, still in shock, trying to put his life back together again (“Chores”). And a young, gifted and black performance artist named Jazz, who has a purple streak in her hair, a cat named Zora Neale, and who may find love with an Assistant D.A. named Manny Durkheim (“Lunachick”). There’s Larry, a fast-talking commodities trader whose wife wants a divorce, and she wants it now, which, as Larry is sadly beginning to understand, is just “How It Goes.”

And there’s Nina Bryant, the most interesting character of all, and the one who ties all of these other characters’ stories together. (Think OLIVE KITTERIDGE, only Nina’s a much nicer person, and this book came out before Strout’s.) Nina is a writer who teaches at the University. She lives with Tavy, her four year-old adopted daughter (who is also her great-niece - it’s a long story; just read it, okay?), and a little dog she’s had for nearly fourteen years (yeah, you know where that’s probably going, but try not to think about it). Nina loves Tavy, and she loves her little dog, but she is lonely. She has not had sex in “a decade,” which she ruefully admits to Palmer, a new and promising suitor. She also harbors some dark secrets from her past, some truly nasty family skeletons.

Nina shows up in about half of the stories here, but two of them, “As It Is In Heaven” and “Love in the Middle Ages” are key to understanding Nina and her particular situation. I refuse to inject any ‘spoilers’ here, because Nina’s story is meant to be one that unfolds slowly, so you’ve gotta just keep reading, okay? Trust me; it’s worth the wait. Because I have to tell you, I love Nina. She is one of the best fictional characters since Scout Finch. Where’d THAT come from? Well, probably all the hoo-haw recently about a new novel coming from Harper Lee. Really though. Nina is an absolutely fascinating character, as are her eccentric musician parents, who, after they retired, moved to England. And Nina and Tavy's visit there after her father dies, in “As It Is In Heaven,” is one of the oddest family visits you’ll ever read about, one that gives you a glimpse of a heaven worth pondering. A story profound and funny, all at the same time - which, I discovered is one of Kelly Cherry's specialties, mixing the ridiculous and the sublime.

Here’s a for-instance for ya. In “Chapters from a Dog’s Life” Nina tells of a visit from another writer friend whose youthful looks make her feel old, and she describes how, after forty -

“… your eyebrows, discovering themselves to be completely exhausted, lied down almost on the tops of your eyelids for a long snooze through the next thirty years.
Let’s face it. Once, your underwear was spanking clean. You could legitimately call it lingerie … Now you tell yourself that God would never let you get in an accident with what you've got on.
What you've got on is already an accident.”

And in the same story, her writer friend (a cat person), on observing the little dog ‘scooting’ his butt, drawls condescendingly, “How very doglike of him.” To which Nina comments -

“After she left I found myself wondering what she thinks writers do. Seems to me we’re all expressing our anal sacs too.”

I love it when an author can poke fun at herself and her profession. These hilarious moments are mixed right in with much sadder moments, like Nina’s noting her dog's advancing age, how he sleeps most of the time now, and how she loves him “because he taught me about being responsible for someone I loved that made me know I could raise a child on my own. I love Tavy better because I loved him first.”

Kelly Cherry knows how to make you think deeply about your own life, but she also knows how to make you laugh. She loves puns - good and bad - as well as riddles (“How many creative writers does it take to change a light bulb? One to change the bulb and ten to workshop it.”), and she sprinkles both lavishly throughout the book, creating comic relief, often just in time. Here’s Nina on Ronald Reagan: “We could all get killed because he thinks being president of the United States is no different from being president of the Screen Actors Guild.” Or Jazz's mother on the purple streak in her daughter's hair: “There's no need to go being the color purple on top of being black.” Some of Cherry's sentences go on and on, but they work, because she is the queen of the comma, the princess of the pregnant pause. I mean this KC don't need no Sunshine Band. This woman can WRITE!

I was torn about this book. I wanted to keep it clean and pristine looking. But I also wanted to dog-ear pages and underline particular passages and make notes. Alas, I did the latter. The book looks battle-worn and weary. Like many of its characters. But you will remember these people. They survived (or did not and went to heaven), whatever the state of their underwear. And they became friends, a “society of friends.”

I could go on and on with the jokes and profundities; Cherry's got a million of 'em. But enough. I loved this book. Made me laugh. Made me cry. Made me shake my head in wonder and admiration. My highest recommendation.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER


He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird, and His Daughter's Quest to Know Him
He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird, and His Daughter's Quest to Know Him
by Mimi Baird
Edition: Hardcover
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting artifact in treatments of mental illness, February 20, 2015
Mimi Beard put together HE WANTED THE MOON in an effort to understand her mostly missing father, who suffered from bipolar disorder (called a manic-depressive in those days of the 30s and 40s), and disappeared from her life when she was only 6 (her mother divorced and remarried). I say she 'put it together,' because she had a very accomplished co-writer in Eve Claxton and also cites a large number of other professionals who helped her get the book published, after she'd worked on it off and on for close to twenty years.

I found the book rather interesting in that her father's writing gave you an intimate peek into the mental workings - ranging from nearly normal to meandering, disjointed and delusional - of a man in the harsh grip of bipolar disorder. Through Dr. Perry Baird's letters and journals you get a sense of both the highs and the lows of this devastating disease, as well as the primitive attempts to treat this then-mysterious ailment, using remedies (straitjackets, cold packs, 'narcosis,' and even lobotomies) he characterized (and quite rightly so) as 'barbaric.' The author describes how she could tell reading these worn penciled documents when her father slipped from normal to delusional by his handwriting, the way it went from neat and orderly to a wild, looping, near-illegible script.

And there is obviously no doubt, in reading Dr. Baird's manuscript, that he was indeed quite insane. I kept wishing there had been a bit more input from the Mimi Baird herself in this book, but she (or her editor) apparently decided to keep her part to a minimum. I felt this was a mistake, but I could be wrong. In any case, without that more personal touch I was hoping for, the book was, in the end, only mildly interesting - an artifact of the early days of the treatment of mental illness. For readers like me who prefer a more personal touch in a tale of family insanity and mental institutions from an earlier era, I would recommend Steve Luxenberg's splendidly researched ANNIE'S GHOSTS: A JOURNEY INTO A FAMILY SECRET.

But Mimi Baird did accomplish what she set out to do. She got her father's lost manuscript out there and published for a general audience. And she also emphasized that he did display flashed of genius via his published medical essays, and even was a pioneer of sorts in early experiments with the treatment of manic depression. She did not hide her father's story behind a wall of silence as her mother had done. It is obvious that she loved and admired her father even all these years later, and now, with this book, she has proven that. (three and a half stars)

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER


Selected Letters of Norman Mailer
Selected Letters of Norman Mailer
by Michael Lennon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $29.42
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A meticulously researched book about an unlikeable man, February 18, 2015
SELECTED LETTERS OF NORMAN MAILER, edited by J. Michael Lennon.
I struggled mightily to make myself finish reading this book, but alas, I failed. The problem? Norman Mailer. A short man with an enormous ego, the overriding theme in so many of these hundreds of letters seems to be his absolutely certainty that he is smarter than everyone else. Mailer is simply not a likeable person. Unable to take criticism of any kind, he often wrote insulting, bullying letters of retaliation to any and all who dared to write negative reviews of his work. There were also a number of letters which shamelessly offered and solicited blurbs to and from other writers and publishers. I should probably confess that I have only read one Mailer book, THE NAKED AND THE DEAD, but I remember almost nothing of it, and, to be brutally honest, I'm not even sure if I finished it. But I did think, considering all of the famous people, both literary and other (many of the biggest names are listed on the back cover), that Mailer corresponded with, from the 1950s into the 2000s, that I would enjoy this book. Well, I was wrong. I have never so NOT enjoyed a book in many years. (Lennon tells us in his introduction that Mailer wrote over 45,000 letters, and he has selected just over 700 of them for this volume.) In just over a week of intermittent reading, I managed to struggle reluctantly through 350 pages and nearly 300 letters before finally surrendering. That was enough. I simply did not like Norman Mailer enough to read further. To warn other readers: the addressees - all those famous names - are mostly irrelevant. These letters are ONLY about Norman Mailer, who comes across most of the time as a self-absorbed, pompous, know-it-all Jerk. (Yes, with a capital 'J.' I really wanted to use the P-word that also ends with a k, but thought better of it.)

That said, I have to admire editor Lennon's work. In fact, I think I enjoyed his short introductory comments to the decades and his end notes more than I did Mailer's letters. They were well researched, succinct and informative. I have nothing but sympathy for a man who hung around long enough to become the confidante and chronicler of such a difficult, self-styled 'literary lion.' Lennon did a lot of homework and has produced an admirable book. Mailer? Sorry, but I could not make myself like the guy, and I now have zero interest in reading his work.

But if you are a Mailer fan - and I know there are quite a few of you out there - then you'll probably enjoy this book. But as for me - call it personal bias, repugnance, call it whatever you want - I simply can't bring myself to recommend it. (two and a half stars)


Flight of Passage: A Memoir
Flight of Passage: A Memoir
by Rinker Buck
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.80
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding story of flying and family. Highly recommended, February 17, 2015
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FLIGHT OF PASSAGE: A MEMOIR, by Rinker Buck.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. And that cover photo of an immaculately restored Piper Cub only tells half the story. Sure, there's plenty in here about that, and also a wonderful recreation of the young Buck brothers' news-making transcontinental flight in said aircraft; and Rinker Buck's journalistic background is evident in the fine writing displayed here. But the real story is about family. First, about an extrovert younger brother (Rinker) who had always overshadowed and outshone his introverted, geeky, highly intelligent older sibling (Kern), and how their relationship changed in the months-long process of restoring the Cub and then flying it together coast-to-coast in the course of one adventure-filled and often dangerous week which tested the limits of their flying skills, but, even more importantly, brought them closer together. They became friends and equals during the trip. And second, Rinker confronts the problems he's had with his father, Tom Buck, a flamboyant, self-made man who had taught himself to fly during the Great Depression and barnstormed his way out of poverty into a successful career in publishing.

The often crushingly frustrating, head-to-head conflict between fifteen year-old Rinker and his father is perhaps best explained, metaphorically, by a phenomenon the author calls "copilot vertigo," a "phenomenon ... where visibility over the pilot in front is limited .. [and] the copilot longs to battle the turbulence himself and restore his sense of control." Rinker was at a point in his development where he needed to get out from under the thumb of his rigidly controlling father, and the journey he makes with his brother helps him to do this. Indeed, at the very heart of this eloquent memoir is the story of a son finally coming to terms with what was for so long a deeply difficult relationship with his own father.

I was able to connect to this story at both levels, as a son, and as a father. In fact I nearly wept at the author's description of the first phone call home from the boys after the initial leg of their flight from New Jersey to Indiana.

"My father must have been sitting all evening with the phone in his lap. We didn't even get off a full ring before he picked it up. When he heard it was us, we could hear the tension and worry going out of his voice."

Yeah, wondering if his 17 year-old and 15 year-old sons were okay on this momentous and maybe foolhardy adventure. Dad was probably a muddle of guilt, fear and envy about the whole thing. But mostly he was probably scared for them. Yeah, I could relate. Just like I could relate to the constant confrontations between the ebullient 14 and 15-year old Rinker and his strict, disciplinarian dad. And this is so important - being able to relate, I mean - and LIKING the main character, in this case the author narrator, Rinker Buck. And I liked Buck, no mistake. Not only a great writer, but obviously a great human being, looking back at those days over thirty years later with the advantage of those extra intervening years working for him in telling his story.

Because this is so much also a book about flying, I was often reminded of a couple similar memoirs I've read in the past ten or twelve years: Clyde Edgerton's Solo: My Adventures in the Air, and Samuel Hynes's Flights of Passage: Recollections of a World War II Aviator. Both are wonderful books about both flying and a young man's coming of age. If you liked Buck's book, you'd certainly like Hynes and Edgerton too. This book? Outstanding. Highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER


One Minus One (Nancy Pearl's Book Lust Rediscoveries)
One Minus One (Nancy Pearl's Book Lust Rediscoveries)
by Ruth Doan MacDougall
Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars A sweet time capsule of a novel with a delightful heroine. Highly recommended, February 14, 2015
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ONE MINUS ONE, by Ruth Doan MacDougall.
This is a MacDougall book I'd never heard of until I noticed it recently as a Nancy Pearl Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason Rediscovery edition (2013). Pearl tells us in her intro to that she's been a fan of MacDougall and her Snowy: A Sequel to THE CHEERLEADER books since she was a college student in 1965, and also tells us that she has always been most drawn to "character-driven" novels. Me too, Nancy. Maybe that's why we're both fans of Ruth's work. Because all of her SNOWY books are certainly about the characters more than they are about plot. And ONE MINUS ONE's protagonist, newly divorced Emily Bean, is a fascinating character. Heartbroken that her husband of ten-plus years had left her for another younger woman, Emily is trying to figure out what comes next. She's a wannabe-writer, as yet unpublished, but now she has to make a living, so takes a job teaching high school English, and doesn't like it very much. Filled with self-doubt, fears, sorrows and regrets, she doggedly forges ahead with her life, entering into a loveless affair with a local radio announcer in the small New Hampshire town she's moved to. Then into yet another perhaps more promising one with a fellow teacher. And, for a young woman (she's 31) who seems quite well-brought up and lady-like, she is also a surprisingly sensual creature, as is evidenced by a couple of decidedly juicy sex scenes. The fact is Emily Bean is about as natural a "human bean" as you'll find in the pages of fiction. And I kept being reminded that this is a book first published in 1971, because it's full of touches from that era - the clothes, the TV shows, the music, cigarettes, snacks, rent and food prices, etc. All of it works for this novel, and all of it screams late sixties, early seventies. Which was okay with me. I enjoyed remembering it all.

Like a number of other reader/reviewers, I may have wished for more of a resolution at the book's end, but that didn't really bother me so much. Real life often lacks resolution, or closure. And Emily is still stuck with all the good memories of her failed marriage, still a little in love with her ex, so c'mon, readers. Give her a little more time, okay? She'll come around, I'm sure.

Here's my own post-script. I wish Nancy Pearl had chosen another MacDougall book long out of print, one that's my own personal favorite. Wife and mother was, I think, a much better novel, one with some weight, enough that it has stayed with me since the first time I read it, more than 35 years ago. (And I've read it a couple times since.) I think it deserves a new generation of readers. This book? It's a pretty decent and very entertaining read, a kind of literary time capsule with a most believable heroine in Emily Bean. Highly recommended, especially if you're a fan of Ruth Doan MacDougall's work.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER


In Any Case
In Any Case
by Richard G. Stern
Edition: Hardcover
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4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for WWII history buffs - a literary story of spies and double agents, February 4, 2015
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This review is from: In Any Case (Hardcover)
IN ANY CASE, by Richard G. Stern, is a novel I've had lying around here for months, ever since I read A Critical Friendship: Donald Justice and Richard Stern, 1946-1961, a book of letters between Stern and the poet, Donald Justice. At that time I had read only one Stern book, a novel called Other Men's Daughters, one of those books you keep and read again every now and then. (I've probably read it 3-4 times now.) But the book of letters, showing a lifelong friendship between the two writers, was so fascinating that I wanted to read more Stern. So I read his A Father's Words, which I liked very much. And now, finally, this one.

IN ANY CASE is called "a novel of suspense and self-discovery," and it is indeed. It covers a five-year period between 1948 and 1953 in the life of Sam Curry, an expatriate WWI veteran living in Paris, as he tries to unravel the mystery and betrayals surrounding the death of his son, Bobbie, who was part of the Allied Underground working with the French Resistance during the Second World War. It is a very complex story, filled with interesting characters, so many in fact that I almost had to start writing them down. Sam himself is the most interesting of all, of course, as the story is told in his voice. You learn he was a rather selfish, hedonistic man for much of his life, but now, in his late fifties and early sixties, he begins to reflect on and evaluate his life and feels guilt at how he neglected his son, the son who is dead now and beyond any reconciliation. But he meets Jacqueline, who was his son's lover and comrade in the world of espionage during the war, and falls in love with her. More guilty feelings, of course. He also meets and befriends the man who may have been responsible for Bobbie's death. It is a complex web of double agents and subterfuge that Sam uncovers as he tries to clear his son's name of the wrongdoing ascribed to him in a book written a few years after the war. This is not an easy read. You have to pay close attention to keep abreast of who betrayed who. But when a strange triangle forms between Sam, Jacqueline, and Jean Arastignac, cover name "Robert," the story begins to snowball ahead and I was drawn quickly into it. Stern obviously did a lot of historical research for this 1962 book, and his narrative is compelling and genuine-feeling. I enjoyed it immensely, even though it's not the kind of book I would normally pick up and read. I'd probably still rank OTHER MEN'S DAUGHTERS as my favorite Stern book, but this one too is a keeper, and I will recommend it, especially to WWII history buffs.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER


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