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For Book Butterflies Witty Sticks!
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Tue, June 03 2008 - 1:39 pm

August 23, 2008

Most amazing serendipity that the next book I should pick up after reading the last two I responded to should be Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  No accident, perhaps, that the writer was a woman but otherwise I only knew that it was one of Oprah's choices.  My sister sent it months ago to my mother, who read it immediately.  I saw it in a pile of books on the floor, and thought, "It's about time!"

Well, it is an interesting contrast to the Gelman book.  Gilbert is so Eastern!  And I don't mean as in Asian!

She is much more admittedly self-hating at the beginning of her quest (yes, this book is also a break-out book!)  She admits to having done a great deal of work on herself and shares some it with us, which exposes how serious her problems were.  Those damn internal voices, and how forbearingly (and self-destructively) we entertain them!

Gilbert decides to go to Italy, India, and Indonesia on a self-nurturing, spiritual quest (note to the author - the "I" is also a number nine, universal letter, a great one to write about!  I don't know if that is in tune with Farrakhan's numerology, I got mine from Vincent Lopez (via a book.))

So, Italy, India, and Indonesia, here we all came, on the Gilbert frigate, and it is a fascinating trip - well worth the effort!

I found much to put me off in her ambition for the men in her life (admitted, not illustrated in this book) (brrrr!) and I am more likely to call New York word "struggle" or "ambition" than the verb "achieve" but hey, that's subjective.

I'm really just kind of skittering around the edges of this book.  As always, I want you to be able to savor the heart of it.  (And yes, that contains a double meaning!)

I am convinced I would recognize her real life characters if I chanced to meet them, she brings them to us so vividly.

I am delighted to know my Indonesian name, Made, and that my Midwestern upbringing allowed me to meet an outrageously good-looking young man named Patrick McDevitt without thinking twice about it.  (A cool name, I thought, but did I remember the name, mostly, or the lad?  I think I know the answer!  I wonder if the Patrick McDevitt of Gilbert's acquaintance is a son or nephew of my schoolmate?)

Elizabeth Gilbert is weird.  But mostly a good weird.  Mostly an expressive, interesting weird.  I just wish she had asked her network for help for her medicine man, Ketut.  Well, after this book, his bank account should not be too hungry, either!

  

August 18, 2008

A week or so ago I started reading two different books:  Going Gray by Anne Kreamer and Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Gelman.

They are both kind of coming-of-age breakaway books for the middle-aged, and both were written by women of (at least when they broke out) the privileged classes, but there the comparison ends.  And of course, given the bizarre coincidental timing of my reading of these books, I cannot fail to contrast them.

Going Gray I read for the next Valparaiso Library book club meeting.  It's a quick read, relatively.  And interesting in its own way: a journalistic study and experimental going-gray after years (and $60,000 worth) of hair dying on the part of the author.

She not only documents her own experiences with gray, but also puts questionnaires on the internet and interviews all sorts of professionals about the issue of gray hair.  It is well-written and interesting with some surprising contradictions to conventional wisdom.

But oh, what a different break-out Rita Gelman experiences!  (I know, it is hardly fair to compare them!)

Rita Gelman breaks away from a marriage (unintentionally, it seems) and class and culture and country and continent in a big way for a long time.

And that has made all the difference!

For people who are in going-gray crisis (I never really have been, although I have given it some thought) Going Gray might be helpful.

For people who want to learn more about the world, want to "run toward" something completely different from everyday American reality, Tales of a Female Nomad will provide you with a great armchair ticket.

I have my modest nomadic tendencies, but Rita Gelman makes my little adventures look like black-and-white cartoons!  This woman puts herself through major discomfort to earn the experiences she earns, but she reaps major rewards, and tells us about those too.

What a courageous soul! (Except she does seem to have a phobia about solitude!)  What a writer!  How open to experience!

I always have wanted to travel the world, but slowly.  I think it would be great to plunk myself down in one place and stay there for two to six month before moving on to the next place.  I haven't yet had the financial independence to do it.

Gelman has.  She has made every location not only a vacation spot, but an opportunity to work, whether the project is a children's book, language lessons, or a contribution to this volume.  I'm looking forward to the next one, but I guess until then I'll go to the children's department of the local library and read a bunch of her kids' books! 

August 11, 2008

My daughter described this book in one word "awesome."  And guess what?

She was right!  Barack Obama's book Dreams from my Father is so well written it could be fiction!

I have read a couple of other memoirs of Africa (written by white people) one of whom at least was living in England.  (Oh, don't ask me who, that was in the day before I developed my external internet memory!)  It was interesting (she had a compelling story to tell of her parents' struggles for survival), but it was definitely the work of an outsider to the native cultures she encountered.

Although Barack visited rather than lived in Africa, the story of his family (the stories of his families, really!) gave me a much more vivid picture of the lives of black people as they are/were actually lived in Barack's dad's homeland, Kenya.  The story of how his grandfather entered the white man's world at the same time as he kept many of his original values is related by Barack's African "granny."

(I found the familial relationships too convoluted to keep track of in this polygamous society - good luck to you in your reading!)

And do I hope you read this.  See how personable Obama is?  I find myself calling him by his first name!

Obama blames the silence his father and grandfather kept about their problems for much of their feelings of isolation.  I think of this as not just a racial silence; I think it was a generational silence as well.  World War II vets seem to have held to it also, perhaps to the detriment of their sons.  (The book Shafted reports this, at any rate.)  My mother's generation in general doesn't seem real big on communication!

Obama's mom tells him he gets his character from his father, but any woman who can spend three hours every morning educating her child before going to work had a lot more discipline than I ever had!  They both must have had intelligence to the nth degree.

His description of _________ almost brought me to tears.  (No, I can't tell you what - read the book yourself!)

This is not just a good book, it is a great one.

No wonder the young are so enthusiastic about him!  I want him to be President, too!

(Wait a minute.  I thought the youth were supposed to be too busy fooling around to read.  Evidently some of them are reading!  What is your excuse for not reading this book, older people?  No Independent voter should go to the polls without reading this book!  No, that's not strong enough.  No voter should go to the polls without reading this book!)

(What is that you say?  I have to give John McCain equal time?  I'll try to read his book and let you know what I think!  (Okay, okay, Brittney Spears' book too!  Geesh!)

So much to read, so little time!

 

July 28 (? just lost this date!)

Where did I go wrong?  How did I end up reading a book on (blush) punctuation?

Sure, it has a cute title taken from a joke.  The cover is amusing.  I have had some questions now and then about commas and apostrophes.  It was handy on my mother's book shelf.

But those are just excuses.  I read Eats, Shoots and Leaves because I love punctuation!

I know this means there is something wrong with me.

Maybe it is the rage I felt when I learned as the result of typing (and editing and interviewing the "writer" to find out what the hell she was trying to say) that punctuation does not come naturally, especially to one who views it as so much toilet paper!  (25 cents a page I got for that!  And no appreciation!)

Maybe it stems from the feeling I got (as if my avatar had been sucker-punched!) when a paralegal teacher brushed off a semicolon.  I love semicolons!  "Why do we need them?" he asked dismissively as a rhetorical question!

I tried to answer him, but he had already moved on, (alas as so many men in my life!  I lump him in with the rest of them - a bunch of ignoramuses incapable of appreciating the value of either me or punctuation, which so many people love to hate.)

Maybe it is the powerlessness I felt when a word-processing program wouldn't let me double-space after a period ("dot" to you young'uns.)  The horror of it!  I still experience claustrophobia sometimes, reading modern print-jobs.  Thank God I can double-space after sentences in these virtual pages!

But all these "reasons" are just excuses.

No, the sad pathetic truth is that I love punctuation.  (In spite of the foregoing sentence!  And these nonsentences!  Really!)

Of course, having said that, I give Lynne Truss and all other snobbish punctuation nuts notice that I will use it any way I damn well want to.  But I think that is okay, because I do want what I write to be readable and enjoyable.  If you find fault with my ideas or my punctuation, that's okay!  I'll forgive your lack of intelligence and aesthetic judgement!  Ha!  (Or judgment, for you US efficiency experts!  After GBS - read the book!) 

I also reserve the right to be inconsistent in whether I use US or UK conventions.  I still don't remember which is which, and if you notice I'm being inconsistent I'm not writing well enough, I figure.

My nature is buoyant and enthusiastic (er... and sarcastic) so of course I reserve the right to use as many exclamation points as I damn well want!

Actually, I just remembered why you might want to read this book too.  It's funny!  No, really, it is very funny!

I think the funniest part begins on page - no, I can't tell you!  You might cheat and go straight to that section and miss all the other goodies that came before!

I wouldn't want to ruin the book for you!

It has changed my life.  I will no longer underline book titles, which, it seems, was a long-hand convention!  Mortifying!

Well, what do you know.  I actually learned something!

(By the way, Truss's way to get a real dash doesn't work on my computer.  I was really happy to read about it, but it didn't work for me....) Maybe that is why dashes are getting shorter with a space on both sides - because we have no choice!  Dammit, I want my dashes to be more dashing!

July 26, 2008

When I finished the murderous book I reviewed a week ago, I decided to read something more worthwhile.  My hand hovered over a book on punctuation (that I will review later).  Too real. 

I actually picked up and opened a book of Rumi's poetry.  No, too ecstatic for my present mood.

What won?  Escapist literature, of course!  A Little Class on Murder by Carolyn G. Hart.  Okay, okay.  A cosy.  Definitely a cosy.  But just about anything is more worthwhile than... okay, I'll give my tirade about that last book a rest.

The Hart book is a fun cosy, though, brought by my daughter when she came to visit.  I might keep it on hand for a while as a source book for more readable mysteries, since the protagonist is a murder book store (Death on Demand) owner.  I think a real book store owner could profit from some of Hart's marketing ideas!

This book is meant for better murder buffs than I, because the author's constant allusions to mystery writers, their characters and plots usually pass me by.

Even though I am not the kind of mystery reader that feels the need to solve literary crimes myself (I would like to say that a novel or two by Agatha Christie (in which the murderer himself doesn't know he did it) discouraged me, but I can't swear I ever approached mystery reading (which I consider escape literature) with more intellectual rigor than I do now.  As I like to say when confronted with an offer to play chess, if I'm going to think that hard, I'd rather take a class in mathematics!  Or more recently, physics!) I do know a little bit about academics, so I was able to - oops, I don't want to ruin it for you!

You think that was a run-on sentence?  Okay.

   

July 19, 2008

Severance Package by Duane Swierczynski:

Murder.  Unintentional suicide.  Attempted murder.  Another attempted murder?  I don't remember.

What the hell...?  Will this never end?

Boredom.  But maybe I should keep reading.

I know this is bloody black humor.  Anything else?

Finished.  Too bizarro, but is bizarro violence for the sake of violence pornographic?  I think so.

Onions, nothing.  Vomit!  Dead rotten maggoty bunny rabbits!

Oh, have I ruined it for you?  So sorry!

(I am willing to admit that Duane might be making an important social point, but if so, this falls into the category of the movies that steep themselves in what they pretend to decry. Not convincingly.)

September 11 Second thought:  Fiction, but not a novel.  Long short story, maybe.  Aha!  He's hoping for a screenplay!  (Is that why they are all writing these days?  I'm drowning in the visual!  I put this book down - and screamed!)

July 17, 2008

In the middle of reading Barack Obama's book, I took a little side-trip into the next library book club book, Teacher's Funeral by Richard Peck.

Another young adult's book for adults.  These people are beginning to remind me of an acquaintance of mine and my mother, who watch children's cartoons.

But the book is good.  A quick read, lots of fun.  Still set in the old old days, I think, but maybe that's just the way these childhood nostalgia stories run.  (Just found out the author is close to seventy years old, so the one-room school house thing is probably not fake for him!  I had a friend in high school (one of four high school valedictorians in my class!) who went to a one-room school house here in Northern Indiana for grade school.  Unfortunately, she never told any stories about it to me.)

The values of the book are great.  Its inclusive ideals are a good thing for any reader of any age.

Someday maybe we'll read nostalgia stories about computer escapades and stuff like that.  Stories about the good old days in the good old high-gated communities.  Yeah.

Well, we'll see.

I hope this book brings some younger readers to our book club!

July 16, 2008

Finished Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope the other day.  After reading this book I am more than ever convinced that I will vote for him in the next Presidential election.  I've learned from reading it that he values the Constitution highly, that he is very knowledgeable about foreign countries compared to the average citizen, and that he has the basic respect for other people (and other peoples) necessary to change the world's perception of our attitude towards them.

This book is a first, I believe, in allowing us to get inside the life, values and mind of a presidential candidate.

I've heard that Dreams from my Father is "awesome", too.  I hope the library has it!  

July 9, 2008

Barack Obama, like all writers, reveals a good deal about himself when he writes.  This is very courageous of him, especially since he quotes things he has been criticized for.  He gives his side of the story, of course, but I might not have heard the story at all if he hadn't told about it in his book The Audacity of Hope (see other comments below.)  It is another good eye-opener, of course, about what politicians go through with regards to the media and the public eye.

One thing I believe after reading a good portion of this book (not finished yet!)  The electorate who will have voted for McCain in the fall will get a much better hearing under Obama if McCain loses than vice versa.

Obama is really good at self-examination and hearing what people critical of him are objecting to.  More later - I hope to finish this book soon!

Oh, I forgot to say earlier, he has a broad interpretation of the golden rule that may take care of my objection that the golden rule is too subjective!  I'll have to think about it. 

July 8, 2008

Ann Packer's Songs Without Words was July's book club book at Valparaiso Public Library.  Unfortunately I finished it in the wee hours this a.m. and didn't get a chance to write about it before our discussion so my opinion is not exactly unsullied by the opinions of others!

At any rate, in this book Packer has preserved her reputation for irritating characters that I am tempted to lose patience with.  Although I could relate to these characters way better than those in The Dive From Claussen's Pier because of my own personal experience, I found that my response was by no means universal!

You have to give Packer credit for dealing with difficult subjects (both human and otherwise).  Now that I think about it, maybe she takes Marquez' thesis that the history of the world is a history of misunderstandings highly seriously.  Her characters tend to be universally well-meaning but highly flawed, and in my opinion overly nice and underly honest.

The discussion we had at the library?  Why don't you come to the next book club and experience one at first hand?  One of our number described them as "highly lively!"  That's for sure!

(There was only one male in attendance today and he had not read the book.  Coincidence?  A signal that men wouldn't enjoy it?  I lean toward the latter interpretation.  I don't think the average male would enjoy this book any more than he really would want to see a "girl flick."  A lot less, actually.)

It is a sign of real change in my reading taste that I regretted putting aside Barack Obama's book to read this novel!  Was it worth it?  Maybe not!  The Obama book is now overdue and unrenewable, and I have company coming!  I may finish reading it (and writing about it) in a few weeks.  I continue to think it is excellent!

July 5, 2008

I am experiencing something reading Obama's book The Audacity of Hope that I have never experienced before.  It is the consciousness that this person, who is obviously dynamite smart and willing to engage in dialog and willing to make compromises and consider all sides of an issue until this nation finds a solution to every problem "that works" is not just a theoretician that is hoping to influence the public and convince the electorate.

He is a person that is potentially in a position to actually use these wonderful attitudes and attributes to affect the way things are done in Washington!

Hallelujah!

What's more, he has taught Constitutional Law for years!  This guy knows a lot about the Constitution!  And obviously cares about it!

I have learned a lot about this country by reading this book.  It should be required reading for all U.S. citizens.  But I'm still only a little more than halfway through!

For the first time in my life I am really excited about a Presidental candidate!

June 27, 2008

I started Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope the other day and by page 4 I positively loved him!

Oh, come on, surely you don't expect me to tell you why!  Surely you can manage to read through to page four!

On page 12, the immediacy of his description of... well, hell, you can get to page 12, too!  I'm only on page 28 myself!  More later!

June 24, 2008

Unfortunately I started reading Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku weeks ago, then put it down for book club and other reading, so I lost my momentum.

This is, like The Elegant Universe, tricky reading for me because it is out of my comfort zone, but some easier because of the nature of its concerns.

Basically Michio Kaku has taken the question, "Wouldn't it be cool if we could...?" and considered the possibility of attaining the dreams, giving them different levels of impossibility (kind of a fun, playful paradox in itself!)

He has an endearing way of referring to science fiction, movies, TV and videogames (virtually none of which I have experienced!) to help orient the reader to the world of speculation he is dealing with.  While I appreciate his efforts and have heard, of course, of many of these wishful thoughts (my own personal favorite being teleportation) I'm still struggling to understand what I am reading a good deal of the time.

While The Elegant Theory made me kind of mad at my high school physics teacher, this book makes me irritated with my college!  It seems to me that while our basic courses in natural science gave us a good grounding of some of the history of physics, it sure didn't expose us (no, not even expose us) to some important stuff that was going on at the time.

Maybe it is one of those cases where hindsight is 20/20 and physicists at the time couldn't really see the forest for the trees (or should I say the dark matter for the vaccuum and I wouldn't swear that this makes sense!)

I feel kind of like Hugh Laurie playing House.  Er, I mean, Doctor (ha, ha!)  He learns his lines and presumably understands what they mean when he's saying them, but after the shoot immediately forgets them.

That's how I feel about reading the book, kinda.  I feel like I'm more or less following the discussion;  I'm enjoying it as much as my florally biologically oriented mind is capable of enjoying it.  But afterwards, could I make intelligent conversation about it?

Evidently not!  But it is a really cool book!  It's not the author's fault that I am swimming in waters too deep for me!

(But I'll give you a hint.  Don't hold your breath while waiting for any of these inventions to become relevant to your daily life!)

I really hope I'll feel like picking up this book again in a year so that I can become more comfortable with the physics and technology involved in Kaku's descriptions.  And I really hope everybody reads this book because there is stuff in here that we really should all know!

Read it!  Then email me about some of the really cool things you learn about approaches to robotics, electrons that move backward in time, and other scientific obsessions!  Even if you won't be able to pass a test after reading it, it will expand the world for you!

 

June 18, 2008                                   Valparaiso, IN

I picked up The Last Single Woman in America by Cindy Guidry because of the title, of course.  The picture on the front cover was amusing, but as I read the book I thought it was backward.  "This woman is not burnt out!"  But I guess that is the point.  She starts out sounding kind of burnt out and discouraged, but after you get halfway through the book you are likely to see the back cover, which I think gives the more accurate picture.

I would love to hear other responses to this book, because what I feel is that she has been reading my website for the past year or two.  Which means probably that we are possibly both more introspective than most.  And word-loving (I think female writers often arrive at the craft late - am I wrong?)

Her fate and mine are not at all the same.  I became a wife and mother - she should have known me.  I whined and cried about it all the time.  She would have felt really good, being single!

But we have so much in common!  We have arrived at so many of the same solutions to questions!  She is much more afraid of being earnest than I am, but then I have never lived in Hollywood (living in Santa Fe was close enough, thank you!)

For me, Guidry's book starts out okay, becomes really quite funny and entertaining in the middle, building up to a point where I really quite love her (except she lies too much - but of course, she says her book is not a courtroom transcript, so maybe she's lying about lying!), and then... well, let's put it this way:  I'm not sure that the essay about being in love was the best in the book.  Maybe Simon had an agenda that she didn't meet by asking her to write it (we don't really know so I haven't ruined anything for you!) but for me it was really a little too well-yes-I-have-heard-all-this-before-and-not-just-coming-out-of-my-own-mouth!

If I heard it just from me and her, of course she is a genius!  If it is a little too familiar - well.  'Nuff said.

I like the book.  It made me laugh out loud.  It also made me realize I am really more naive than I thought (but not more than I wish to be!) about certain sexual practices.  (There's a hook for you!)

The thing that bugs me the most, though, is that she says she has dropped the Internet (I hope the way I quit chocolate!  **Newsflash! Update!  I just looked up her name on the internet and she has a website! with an entry dated May 20, 2008!  Ha!  I knew it!  She can't stay away from it!)  If she has read my site, how could she drop me?  And if she hasn't read my site and drops the Internet, I doubt she will ever read my stuff, because I most probably will never be in a published real book made with paper and ink!

Poor Cindy.  She obviously is obssessive like me.  But unlike me (I am sixty, after all) she hasn't yet learned the virtues of moderation about things like sitting in front of a computer keyboard.  (**Update!  I take that back!)  But then, I'm just a small-town girl.  The trees, the breeze, the birds and yes, the turds have a power of attraction/distraction to equal the virtual life!

Besides, if all I did was sit here, what would I write about? 

 

June 15, 2008                                    Valparaiso, IN

I finished Steve Coll's book, The Bin Ladens.  I kept reading after my last commentary and found out that for some reason the CIA (among others) believed that Osama Bin Laden had 300 million dollars, which would have been wealth of more grotesqueness than the mere twenty-odd million he got from his family.  But he did do a lot of fund-raising for "charity" (some of which evidently went toward creating more need for it!  Talk about job security!) which raised untold amounts of wealth!

Steve Coll also wrote a Pulitzer prize-winning book titled Ghost Wars which also deals with, possibly among other things, Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda (I haven't read it yet) and I imagine that this work draws on some of the same material.  My eyes were truly opened by how much was already known about this man and his activities long before 9/ll.  What a travesty that we suffered that attack at all, but to realize it did not at all come out of the blue makes it worse.

Osama Bin Laden himself comes across as a very sick puppy.  (Well, on the face of it, by my definition!  And I'm not saying we don't have some powerful, wealthy sick puppies of our own in the U.S!  (It's Father's Day today, maybe a good time to remind fathers to treat your sons as equally as possible all around the world, or the rest of us will pay!))

Forget acts of terrorism, if you need further evidence of insanity on the part of Osama Bin Laden.  Reading a poem written by yourself on the day of your closest son's wedding celebrating not the ceremony of union, but a successful terrorist attack (planned by you and your cohorts) is downright rude!  Reading it not once but twice (while obsessing about which performance created the better video) is nothing short of narcissistic.  Oh, damn, that probably ruined the book for you!

Hardly.  There's a lot more to that story!  An incredible amount of work and difficult interviewing and research went into this volume.  Thank you, Steve Coll et al.! 

June 12, 2008                                   Valparaiso, IN

I haven't done much reading since I wrote last, but I have to comment on Steve Coll's attempt to refute the "myth" of Osama Bin Laden's wealth.  He was, Coll says, wealthy but not "grotesquely" so.  After all, Bin Laden only got at least $20 million or so in twenty years centered around the 1980's - not counting his own earnings, of course!

I hate to tell you, Steve Coll, but in a world in which a $20,000 a year income puts you into the top 5% of the people (forget for a while the differences in standard of living - it doesn't really matter here) Osama Bin Laden is grotesquely wealthy!  Just because others in his family are more grotesquely wealthy doesn't change that fact!

If I had an income of a million dollars a year I would consider myself grotesquely wealthy!  And I am not some poor, scrounging, trying-to-survive Middle Easterner!

The fact that Steve Coll doesn't think that Bin Laden is ridiculously affluent makes me think that Coll is.

Got a million to spare, buddy?  I could make it last twenty years or so!

June 8, 2008                                     Valparaiso, IN

I'm only halfway through Steve Coll's The Bin Ladens: an Arabian Family in the American Century but that is 300 pages worth!

This is a book everyone who pretends to be interested in foreign affairs and terrorism should read.  Did you know that Osama Bin Laden was one of 54 children by the same father, Mohamed Bin Laden?  That his mother was fourteen when his father married her?  Fifteen when she bore him a son, Osama?  That Osama's father died when he was - well, no, I don't want to ruin it for you!

But the rise of poverty-stricken Mohamed Bin Laden (originally from Yemen) in Saudi Arabia is an amazing story in itself and takes up at least a fourth of this book.  It is easy to see why Coll titled this book with the name of the whole family.  More is known about other members of the family than about Osama, and without the larger picture it would be hard to see where he comes from.  (I'm not talking understanding, here, exactly.)

Obviously they are in many ways a family like any other family, subject to the extreme ranges of personality and character we see in most families.  Just multiply it by, say, fifty!  (Or however many wives Mohamed had, I forget!  An Arab visitor to the United States quoted in the book said that in Arabia they don't bother to count how many sisters they have!)  Osama is one of the almost painfully pious of the big clan, but still very privileged financially.

One eye-opener is the description of the conspicuous consumption practiced by the Saudi kings and their faithful employee, Mohamed, all newly enriched by oil profits.  After reading this book, I think we learned about conspicuous consumption from them!  I bet the royal family of England and the likes of even rich men like Conrad Hilton would have been amazed and appalled!  (Even, Donald Trump, I bet!  (Well, who knows?))

You would not believe what Mohamed Bin Laden did with John Deere caterpillars and such-like when he was finished with a project!

I won't tell!  You'll have to read the book to find out!  

June 3, 2008

I've been reading two books which I will talk about later (probably when I finish them!) but I dropped them to read A Brilliant Solution by Carol Berkin, our Valparaiso Public Library Book Club book for June.

This is really an amazing work.  How you can make a history book about the creating of the U.S. Constitution a page turner, I don't know, but she does!  Okay, okay.  Lower your standards a little.  I'm not talking guts-twisting breath-stopping page turner.  I'm talking about a book that is really easy to read in a couple of days (if you aren't working full-time) and highly entertaining.  (Until you get to the end, which is comprised of short biographies of the participants in the Constitutional Convention.  These are well-written enough, but due to being a listing they don't have the chronological flow of the major narrative.  And I really am left confused about the Pinckneys, a little.)

Sure, I had lists of what the two legislative bodies could and could not do when I was in high school.  Yawn.  I didn't have the life experience to understand why it mattered, or the historical background to know what the origins of all these dispersed powers were.

If you read this you will be amazed at the secrecy the convention required, the sheer tenacity of purpose needed to endure four long months of (often) dickering (I was in jury duty once and one juror was about to go crazy after two hours!) and some of the ploys used by these politicians to get the Constitution ratified in their home states.  You will get more insight into Alexander Hamilton and find out that he wasn't the only delegate to end his life duelling.  Of course there is more fascinating detail, including what Benjamin Franklin said at the end to get people to sign.

No, I won't tell you!  Read the book!  Our constitution will seem even more miraculous and precious to you if you do!  

 

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