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Timothy J. Bazzett "BookHappy" RSS Feed (Reed City, MI USA)

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People of the Deer (Death of a People)
People of the Deer (Death of a People)
by Farley Mowat
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.85
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4.0 out of 5 stars Early Mowat. Great book. Highly recommended, November 25, 2015
PEOPLE OF THE DEER, by Farley Mowat.

In Canada, Farley Mowat was something of a revered national treasure for close to sixty years, right up until his death last year. Although he authored forty books or more, here in the U.S. he is probably known mostly for his book NEVER CRY WOLF, which was also adapted into a cinematically beautiful film. I read that book probably thirty years ago and loved it. More recently I had read a couple of his other memoirs, BORN NAKED and AND NO BIRDS SANG, in which he wrote of his childhood in Saskatchewan and then of his wartime service in Italy and Europe. This book, originally published in 1952, has stayed in print in numerous editions ever since. In PEOPLE OF THE DEER, Mowat tells of his sojourn in the Canadian Barrens in 1947 and '48, not long after he returned from the war. He lived during that time with the nearly extinct Eskimo tribe the Ihalmuit, the 'other people.' An inland tribe, their culture differed most markedly from the coastal Inuits in that they depended on caribou - 'the deer' - for almost all of their needs. The intrusion of the white men, who urged them to trap furs to exchange at trading posts, which diverted them from their deer-centered culture, was the beginning of the end. Sickness and famine decimated the Ihalmuit people, and Mowat was there in their last days, to document their customs, language and stories, and bear witness to their tragic extinction. (By the 1950s the Ihalmuits were nearly gone.) The story is, of course, heartbreaking. But it is also a study in the gorgeous kind of writing that made Mowat famous. The photographs and Samuel Bryant's line drawings (in this 2005 reprint from Carroll & Graf Publishers) serve to further enhance Mowat's stirring narrative. A great book. Highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER

His Whole Life
His Whole Life
by Elizabeth Hay
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.14
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rich in ideas and characters. My highest recommendation, November 23, 2015
This review is from: His Whole Life (Hardcover)
Reading fiction from Canadian writer Elizabeth Hay inevitably leaves me at a loss for words. Her writing, her characters, her storytelling skills, are simply so damn good! And her latest novel, HIS WHOLE LIFE, is no exception. Set mostly in the mid 90s, when Quebec was debating declaring its independence from Canada, the setting shifts from the rural and remote lake country of Ontario across the provincial border into Quebec, and also back and forth to New York City. Hay's usual omniscient point of view gives us deep insight into all of the book's major characters, of which there are at least four. Nan Bobak, a Canadian now married to George, a NYC native; her son Jim, who we watch grow from ages ten to seventeen; and her lifelong friend, Lulu, an aging aspiring actress.

As the story unfolds, again, in Hay's engaging beautiful style, we learn of Nan's older son from another marriage, Blake, a bible school student in Philadelphia, who has written her and the rest of her family off. And her current husband, George, who seems to be a bitter loner, unable to properly connect even with his immediate family, especially a younger brother, Martin, who has lived for years in Peru. Lulu, an alcoholic free spirit, disinherited by her father and brother, has traveled the U.S. and Canada with various theater troupes for years, and turns up at Nan's lakeside house in the Ontario woods, and Nan gladly takes her in. Probably a poor analogy, but her appearance at Nan's place, bedraggled and bleeding, brought to mind Robert Frost's 'hired man,' Silas. Except Lulu is a much richer, more fully realized character.

Jim, the boy, probably mostly because of his name, but also because of his thoughtful nature, reminded me of Tony Earley's title character from his bestseller, JIM THE BOY. But while I liked Earley's novel very much, it doesn't begin to approach the richness of Hay's writing, the depth she affords her characters. And the intensity of the love between Jim and his mother, Nan, carries the narrative more than anything else. Oh yes, there is all the historical stuff about Quebec's failed referendum on independence, as well as a wealth of literary references that also add to the story, but it is, without question, that mother-son bond as Jim comes of age that forms the core of this touching novel. It is not the kind of book one can rush through, looking for an exciting conclusion. Because there is none, although there are some deep personal and family secrets revealed. No, this is a book about the importance of family - and lifelong friends too.

And there is that love of books and literature that threads its way throughout the narrative too, something you'll find in all of Hay's books. Here's a small sample, with Nan watching her teenage son sleep -

"While he slept, she sat on beside his bed. How had she been so lucky as to have a son like Jim? A boy who loved books, who not only listened when she read the ODYSSEY to him but made the request for it night after night ... It was the best sort of luck to have a boy like this. I love him for it, she thought."

And Jim was indeed that kind of boy, one who made up his own stories and illustrated them, and who pored over old POGO comic strips and stacks of old NEW YORKER magazines his deceased uncle had left behind. Who knew both Holden Caulfield and Duddy Kravitz well enough to differentiate between them by saying Holden was a "voice," while Duddy was a "character."

This is a novel rich in ideas and some of the most human characters you might find in contemporary letters; and, oddly, one that is almost equally Canadian and American all at the same time. Bravo, Ms. Hay! I loved this book - savored it, in fact. My highest recommendation.

Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge
Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge
by Daniel A. Sjursen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $27.95
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5.0 out of 5 stars An intimate look into our all-volunteer army. Highly recommended, November 23, 2015

Add one more highly literate and moving memoir to the ever-growing mountain of books to come out of our current wars. Major Daniel Sjursen, currently a history teacher at West Point, gives us a thoughtful and very personal peek into a three-month period in 2006 that he spent as a platoon leader of a Scout squadron in southern Baghdad. In fact his unit had their year-long tour extended by an additional three months - a direct result of the very controversial "surge" he takes stringently to task in these pages.

Although Sjursen tries to think of himself as a street-smart kid from Staten Island (in order, I suspect, to more closely bond with the men in his platoon), he reveals early on that in reality he was "A soft kid who liked hanging out with his mother more than most." Which is understandable, given that his parents divorced when he was seven. But he bears them no ill will, thanking them both (in his Acknowledgments) for how they raised him, and his dad in particular for pointing him toward the USMA.

It's not surprising that the emphasis here is about soldiers and soldiering, and Sjursen's story is one of the very close and special bond formed between a small group of young men who went through training together and then faced down their own separate fears on daily patrols in the mean streets of Salman Pak and Baghdad. He introduces us to his men: Fuller, Ford, DeJane, South, Gass, Duzinskas, Faulkner and Smith; and they become real breathing human beings as he tells their stories, and his own. Some survive, some do not.

Sjursen is something of a paradox. A career officer who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he hates these wars, and strongly criticizes the policies and the people in power who have caused them. He is very much aware of his situation, noting, that while still a lieutenant in 2006, he wrote in his journal: "... how does an officer balance personal opposition to a war with his duty to serve and lead a combat platoon? ... I'm not sure I've yet found the answer."

Sjursen has made a careful study of the age-old feud between Sunni and Shia, and sees no easy answers to resolving the bitter and bloody civil wars between these factions that have now spread beyond Iraq into the entire Middle East, a direct result, he feels, of Bush's ill-advised invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime. His frustration with our own administration's cluelessness is obvious, for example -

"Cultural ignorance got a lot of people killed. Several accounts indicate that President Bush himself was unaware of the divide between Iraq's Sunni and Shia communities. 'I thought they were all Muslims,' he'd supposedly said during a Cabinet meeting."

In that respect, of course, Bush is probably no different than our general populace, but he is the PRESIDENT, for God's sake! He SHOULD know! Yeah, Danny. I get your frustration and anger.

In a narrative that walks us through the deaths and mutilations of some of the men he loves most, Sjursen gives us some excruciatingly concrete examples of just a few of the people killed by that casual ignorance. Some of these stories may bring you to tears. The waste of human lives, both soldier and civilian, is simply horrifying.

One of the things that sets Sjursen's story apart - and I found personally intriguing - is his inquiring mind and his voracious reading. The text is sprinkled throughout with quotes and references to authors he has read. Some are obvious: Heller, Tim O'Brien, Graham Greene, Vonnegut; the WWI writers Owen, Sassoon, Blunden and Graves. But there are also song lyrics here and there, from Steve Earle, Linkin Park, and Springsteen. There are verses from A.E. Housman and Dylan Thomas, mixed in with script lines from TV's THE WIRE and the film, THE CRYING GAME. More than once he quotes lines from Anton Myrer's 1968 bestselling novel, ONCE AN EAGLE - which is certainly appropriate, spanning as it did, both World Wars, Korea and Vietnam.
In his musings on the wisdom of the all-volunteer army and how it is often abused and stretched too thin, Sjursen seems in sympathy with retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich, and even quotes from his recent book, BREACH OF TRUST: HOW AMERICANS FAILED THEIR SOLDIERS AND THEIR COUNTRY. I mean this is a guy who reads widely, absorbs and remembers - and is still trying valiantly to sort it all out and make sense of the mess - the upheaval - of today's world at war. He makes a very cogent case for connecting the current ISIS problems directly to America's ill-advised invasion of Iraq and subsequent mistakes made in its aftermath. And he is extremely critical of the so-called successes of the "Surge" both in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

But at the heart of this memoir are the stark and intimate portraits Sjursen gives us of the men he fought with, both those who survived and those who did not. He takes a close unblinking look at the lives of these young men post-deployment - at the divorces, the drinking, the addictions, the suicides. And he does not exclude himself either, telling of his own binges, sudden inexplicable rages, and divorce.

GHOST RIDERS OF BAGHDAD is a book that members of Congress should be forced to read. Perhaps if they did they would not be so quick and casual with their "boots on the ground" recommendations. In fact I will recommend it highly to anyone who wants a better understanding of what our beleaguered all-volunteer military faces on a daily basis, and how it impacts not just their own lives, but also their families. This is a very good book, one that deserves a wide readership. Bravo, Major Sjursen. Be well.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the Cold War memoir, SOLDIER BOY: AT PLAY IN THE ASA

Petty: The Biography
Petty: The Biography
by Warren Zanes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.93
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good musical bio, but Petty the man remains a mystery, November 17, 2015
This review is from: Petty: The Biography (Hardcover)
PETTY: THE BIOGRAPHY, by Warren Zanes.

I was a big fan of Tom Petty's 'middle years,' those Jeff Lynne albums like "Full Moon Fever" and "The Traveling Wilburys." I'm just six years older than Petty, so his music didn't really come onto my rock and roll radar until I was into my thirties. And my older son became a fan in the 80s, so he seems to have kind of straddled a couple generations of fans.

But this is supposedly a rock and roll bio, so I read it from that slant. And to my mind it falls rather short of being a really good biography. But it's probably not author Zanes's fault. As Jackson Browne put it, "I always felt like there were several rings around Tom ... And he was this almost reclusive center." And Zanes himself describes Petty as "an emotional recluse" even as a young man

But Zanes obviously dug as deep as he was able in trying to figure out what made Petty tick, unearthing his origins as the son of a half-Cherokee abusive father who beat Petty brutally as a child in Gainesville, Florida, where he grew up. Music became his way out of that, and an outlet for his anger, pain and confusion. But who knows, perhaps without those sordid beginnings the songs Petty is now famous for would never have been written.

There is much here about the early bands (the Epics, Mudcrutch), the continuous shifting of band personnel, and finally the move to California and the forming of the Heartbreakers, and first contracts and records and contractual disputes, discord, drug abuse and bitter feelings throughout the years as Petty's star continued to rise. And the long marriage that finally fell apart. There's mention of a close friendship with George Harrison, which isn't really satisfactorily developed. Lots of rock and roll minutiae, in other words. But the book doesn't really feel all that compelling until the last hundred pages or so, when both the band and Petty's marriage all began to unravel at the same time and he slipped into a deep depression exacerbated even more by a heroin habit he finally managed to kick. And I finally began to 'feel' something for this guy - compassion, I suppose.

But the real problem with this biography is not its author. I suspect Zanes found his subject to be intensely frustrating in fact, because in the end he finally admits:

"Tom Petty hasn't ever made it his business to explain himself, to tell you the story of who he is, to construct a master narrative that positions him in some larger framework of American artists. He's let the songs do the bulk of that work, going home when the show is over. His social life has been quiet, the friendships limited."

Zanes paints a portrait here of a man driven to succeed, a man who worked almost constantly, a man with a musical vision. But the real, deeply personal side of Tom Petty remains a mystery. Only Tom Petty can really tell the whole story. He's sixty-five now. Maybe he'll slow down long enough to write his own book. I hope he does. Highly recommended for Petty fans. (three and a half stars)

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER

Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir
Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir
by Linda Ronstadt
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.97
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4.0 out of 5 stars What a rich talent. And she's a good writer too, November 13, 2015
SIMPLE DREAMS, by Linda Ronstadt.

Hey, what else could I possibly say after over five hundred reviews posted on Amazon? I'm still trying to figure out how I missed this memoir when it was initially published nearly two years ago. I ran across it on a bargain shelf at a local department store. A new hardcover for only six bucks! Of course I loved it, just as I have secretly loved Linda Ronstadt for close to fifty years now. Yeah, me and several million other guys. Turns out not only does she have an angelic face, body and voice, she's also a pretty damn good writer. She tells her story of life in the music industry with good grace and lets you know that she's never taken herself all that seriously, which makes me just love her even more. The book reads like a who's who of not just musicians, but quite a few other 'rich and famous' types too. Seems Linda had/has a lot of friends.

I knew she was California governor Jerry Brown's girl friend for a while, but I didn't know she'd also run with New York writer Pete Hamill (whose memoir of his own young years, A DRINKING LIFE, I loved). I was not surprised, maybe even a little glad, to learn of her longtime relationship with her musical collaborator, John David Souther. And I'm sure there were others over the years too. But the thing is, she doesn't get trashy about any of it, and it seems that most of these long-time lovers have remained friends with Ronstadt. That's a kind of class not often encountered in the entertainment industry.

She talks of other friendships too - the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Nelson Riddle, Rosemary Clooney. Literally dozens of friendships and probably hundreds of names are mentioned. I was glad for the index - and also for the discography. She says very little about her adopted children, and not much more about the Parkinson's that has silenced that lovely voice. But what a musical legacy Linda Ronstadt has left us. I am confident that people will be listening to her music for decades to come. In fact I am putting a Ronstadt CD on right now. Gonna sit back and remember how she and I traveled to the beat of a "Different Drum." Highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER

My Father's Geisha
My Father's Geisha
by James Gordon Bennett
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good book to reread on Veterans Day., November 11, 2015
This review is from: My Father's Geisha (Hardcover)
James Gordon Bennett wrote his probably autobiographical novel, MY FATHER'S GEISHA twenty-five years ago, and I'm pretty sure I read it the first time in 1992, because I found a receipt tucked inside it, from a store in Annapolis Mall. I didn't intend to reread the whole book; was just going to browse through it, but it was just so damn good I didn't want to put it down, so I just finished it about fifteen minutes ago. It's probably not in print anymore, but it oughta be. It DESERVES to be. Narrated by army brat, Teddy, it covers twenty-some years, and gives you an in-depth look at one dysfunctional family. Teddy's father, a decorated veteran of the Korean War, is one of those undomesticated husbands, who also fights in Vietnam and is posted also to Panama and Taiwan, places his wife refuses to go, because, she says, she won't fly. Furiously jealous, she constantly accuses her husband of infidelity. And she may be right, as women are often attracted to her handsome war hero husband. And there is Cora, Teddy's older sister, who has a thyroid condition, and a superiority complex. Teddy only gradually, over the years, comes to understand what a screwed-up family he belongs to, and his own maturity comes slowly. MY FATHER'S GEISHA was perhaps an appropriate book to pick up on this Veterans Day, as it affords its readers an intimate glimpse into the life of a military family headed by a career officer. It caused me to reflect back on my second enlistment when I caused my young family to be uprooted from its quiet normal life in southeast Michigan and moved to California, then back to Michigan, to Germany, etc., all in just five years. My two sons, both in their forties now, still do not quite know how to respond when people ask where they are from. Probably because in a relatively short period, they attended six different schools, which is not all that unusual for military dependents, or "army brats." As one himself, Bennett should know. His book got some pretty good reviews back in 1990. As it should have. (It has been compared to THE GREAT SANTINI and FRANNY AND ZOOEY. I would add one more book to that: Tim Farrington's excellent novel of the Vietnam years, LIZZIE'S WAR.) One more time: this is a damn good book. Very highly recommended.

From a Wooden Canoe: Reflections on Canoeing, Camping, and Classic Equipment
From a Wooden Canoe: Reflections on Canoeing, Camping, and Classic Equipment
by Jerry Dennis
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.19
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not a clinker in the bunch. Thoroughly enjoyable, November 11, 2015
FROM A WOODEN CANOE, by Jerry Dennis.

I just finished reading Dennis's collection of essays last night and I have to tell you that this book is a pure delight. There are thirty-two pieces here (I'm counting the Introduction, 'cause it's as instructive and fun as the rest), none of them more than three or four pages long, so it's a perfect bathroom book. And I mean that in only the best sense. Except these essays are like potato chips, "ya can't eat (i.e. read) just one." So you might end up sitting in that small study longer that you oughta.

Besides being a wonderful writer, Dennis is an outdoorsman, a guy who loves being out in the woods or on the water, camping, canoeing, fishing and all that other stuff those kinds of guys do. Starting with extolling the virtues of wooden canoes, he goes on to riff about tents, wooden matches, favorite old coats, long johns, coffee, duct tape, cast iron skillets, stupid stuff guys do, and, well, a lot of stuff, ya know? I especially liked the piece about knives ("Great Blades") - getting his first jack knife from his dad, favorite knives he's owned, and giving that first knife to each of his own sons, along with the usual admonitions: "It was not a toy. It was not to be thrown or handled carelessly ... By the age of ten or twelve, most boys are ready to give up toys for tools."

Words like this brought back memories of my own first jack knife and the games of mumblety peg and splits during school recesses. I know, "It's not a toy." But we were careful playing those games. We knew.

"Dumb Moves" shows Dennis's ability to look back and laugh at youthful mistakes, like the time he and a friend sunk a pickup truck at a boat launch. And his fondness for long johns is equally comical in "All Hail the Union Suit." He also staunchly defends his ratty old black and red wool hunting jacket and the importance of pockets in "Just Me and My Jacket."

I should probably tell ya that I am not an outdoorsman. I am much too fond of my worldly comforts, a comfortable chair and a good book, so I especially enjoyed "Autumn Journeys," in which Dennis admitted that, while he does love getting out, when the weather turns iffy, he is also glad for "the coffee pot in the kitchen and the winter's reading already piled on the shelves beside the fireplace." In the final piece, "Paddling at Dawn," Dennis compares the feel of slicing across the still waters of a pristine lake in his canoe to "the grip of the earth against your bare feet when you were a kid, running so fast across a lawn you were certain you could launch into flight." I haven't been a kid for nearly sixty years, but I could relate, and it was good to remember it again.

And that, in essence, is the magic of all of these pieces. Dennis makes you remember, or he takes you with him into sharply delicious outdoor adventures he has had. He remembers his childhood, he remembers his father's words and instructing his own children when they were young. These essays are lovely little jewels of writing, and there is not a clinker in the whole bunch.

And just as a postscript, I have to remember to ask Jerry some day if he has ever read the work of the late John Jerome, another very talented essayist. Because these pieces by Dennis kept bringing to mind Jerome's book, ON TURNING SIXTY-FIVE, written around the same time as this book. There was also another Jerome book I loved, called TRUCK. And currently I am making my way slowly through yet another Jerome book called STONE WORK. I'm pretty sure Dennis and Jerome would have had much to talk about had they ever met. Another older writer who kept coming to mind as I savored these pieces was Hal Borland, whose memoir, THE DOG WHO CAME TO STAY, is one of my all-time favorites.

The fact is Jerry Dennis is undoubtedly one of those very multi-faceted and multi-talented men, unlike me. I'm a guy who likes to sit and read - and dream. But we were both once that strange animal called an "English major," so I suspect we'd find plenty to talk of too. I thoroughly enjoyed this book - every page of it. Very highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER

The Thirty Years' War (Modern Scandinavian Literature in Translation)
The Thirty Years' War (Modern Scandinavian Literature in Translation)
by Henrik Tikkanen
Edition: Paperback
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3.0 out of 5 stars Dated political humor, not for the casual reader, November 4, 2015
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THE 30 YEARS' WAR, by Henrik Tikkanen (translated by George Blecher and Lone Thygesen Blecher).

I bought this book - and it's not that easy to find - because I had very much enjoyed another Tikkanen book I'd read four years ago, a memoir called A WINTER'S DAY, which was very funny, even in translation. THE 30 YEARS' WAR is one of the few other Tikkanen books that is available in English. Sadly, its humor is not nearly as accessible at A WINTER'S DAY. The story of Finnish Army Private Viktor Kappara, who doesn't get the news of the end of WWII, and so stolidy stays at his post in far northern Finland, awaiting further orders, for the next thirty years. I know there was a real case like this, only it was a Japanese soldier on a Pacific island. But no matter.

Kappara is less a character than a caricature here, a fictional vehicle for poking fun at the military, at war, and at politics, not only Finnish, but Soviet, American, and European politics too. The book was first published in 1977, and this English translation appeared ten years later, complete with numerous explanatory footnotes. But the political humor, which includes jabs at Watergate and the Vietnam war, is pretty dated by now, although its anti-war message remains relevant.

Nope. I was disappointed in this one. The book has been compared to Vonnegut's writing, but I don't think so. I was reminded more of a couple other books I read years ago - Vladimir Voinovich's THE LIFE AND EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF PRIVATE IVAN CHONKIN and Jaroslav Hasek's THE GOOD SOLDIER SCHWEIK. I liked both of those. But this one? Yeah, there are a few good chuckles here and there, but I would recommended it mainly for history enthusiasts, and perhaps for American readers who want to know more about Finnish history.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER

The Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great Lakes
The Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great Lakes
by Jerry Dennis
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.76
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4.0 out of 5 stars An affectionate ode to the Great Lakes from environmentalist Dennis. Highly recommended, October 27, 2015
THE WINDWARD SHORE, by Jerry Dennis.

In this book, Dennis continues his study of the Great Lakes that he began in his very important earlier volume, THE LIVING GREAT LAKES. This time, however, he studies the lakes at a more leisurely pace, and makes it a bit more personal. Dennis, a Michigan native, grew up near Lake Michigan and came back there to raise his family in an old house where he has now lived for nearly a quarter of a century.

An active outdoorsman and sports enthusiast, Dennis sustained a knee injury which forced him to slow down, so he used the time to live in various borrowed homes situated on the shores of the Great Lakes and spent a winter this way. Part of this time was alone, and part with family and friends, but Dennis was pretty consistent about considering, in depth, the history that surrounded him, whether it was in the old copper-mining country on the Keweenaw peninsula, or Cat Head Point at the top of Leelanau County. And, while he had plenty to say about the physical nature of the land - the geology, the botany, the topography and terrain - what I found most interesting here were the books and writers he mentioned, authors he studied to try to get an even better understanding of nature and man's place in it. There was Thoreau, of course, and Henry Beston and Italo Calvino, and also Rousseau, who, after spending a couple months studying botany on a lake island in Switzerland, commented: "I could have spent two years, two centuries, and all of eternity there without a moment's boredom."

Studying these big lakes, the earth and the night sky, Dennis writes: "... all we know for certain about the universe is that it is big. And we are small and temporary."

Reinforcing this theme, he later writes -

"Nature helps us recognize our lives for what they are: small and temporary. That's good. It's a good place to start. We're small, but not insignificant. We're temporary, but we have enough time."

In a leap of imagination that only a booklover could make, Dennis also writes -

"Books are epitomes of nature. If we think of words as organisms - vital, evolving, living within a community - then a book is the ecosystem in which they live, and a library is a world for books. Or, to take a larger measure: a book is a world, a library is a galaxy, and all the libraries together are a universe."

This is not the normal observation one might expect from a naturalist or an environmentalist, or from an avid outdoorsman. And Dennis is all of those. Ah, but he was also an English major, and is now a very fine writer. So of course he loves books.

If you enjoyed THE LIVING GREAT LAKES, then you will most certainly like this book. I did. Highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER

Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: Stories
Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: Stories
by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.00
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4.0 out of 5 stars If you're male, these stories may make you squirm. Excellent writing, October 24, 2015

There are sixteen stories here and if there is any unifying theme to be found it may be that men are untrustworthy, lying, "cheating, troubling sons of bitches ("The Fruit of the Pawpaw Tree")." Which is, essentially, what mothers should probably tell their daughters. Because the women who tell these stories have all, in one way or another, been beaten, molested, raped, abused, and abandoned by men who took what they wanted and then left. And most of them, like Jill, an adjunct professor, mother of four daughters (the youngest unwed and pregnant), finds herself pregnant again at 47 by her faithless professor husband who dallies with young students, are "not feeling terribly sympathetic toward the male of any species just now" ("Daughters of the Animal Kingdom").

The women who are on the receiving end of this brutal-to-indifferent treatment react in various ways. Some are mostly passive, choosing to re-paint their lives in pastel colors of love, like Sherry, a single mother whose much younger lover runs off with Sherry's teenage daughter ("Somewhere Warm"). Then there is the unnamed narrator in "To You, As a Woman," who is treated like an animal, abused and raped, but keeps on doing whatever she has to do to take care of her two young children. Almost all of these women, of course, are going it on their own, discards of men, and often of society itself. Denizens of the hard-scrabble unemployed or just barely making ends meet, they are, many of them, struggling desperately to get by.."

My favorite here is a story that doesn't fit this mold, "Children of Transylvania, 1983" about a woman biking through Romania. Very different from the others.

Campbell established herself firmly as a spokesperson for broken, damaged, abused women in her earlier book, AMERICAN SALVAGE, and she continues to give them a voice in this new collection. She has an uncanny and unerring ear for the way these women speak, and gives voice to their most secret and unspoken thoughts. And despite the grim subject and settings, she also displays a dry and often ribald sense of earthy humor.

I like the way Bonnie Jo Campbell writes. She knows her subjects and she knows her way around a good sentence and the English language. It's her subjects and this unrelenting theme of "men as bastards" that makes me uncomfortable. Which makes me wonder if that makes her a "women's writer." Because I know other men who feel the same way about her work - uncomfortable, a bit squirmy, maybe. So here's the thing. This is five-star writing. But, frankly, I was just a bit relieved to come to the end of these stories. So I can't really say I loved it. Hence my 4 stars. Having said all this, highly recommended, because this woman can write!

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER

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