THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY

17 Oct
Originally published in hardcover by Crown Publishers 2003 First Vintage Books Edition/a Division of Random House, Inc. 2004 Non fiction soft cover - 424 pages including Notes and Sources

Originally published in hardcover by Crown Publishers 2003
First Vintage Books Edition/a Division of Random House, Inc. 2004
Non fiction soft cover – 424 pages including Notes and Sources

This is the true story of Herman Webster Mudgett aka Dr. Henry H. Holmes, the first documented serial killer in the U.S.; and Daniel H. Burnham, architect of the great World’s Fair of 1893 Chicago. Foremost, this is the true story of the madness that cloaked them both.

Real people, real places, real photographs, and very real events written in novel form.

“….. However strange or macabre some of the following incidents may seem, this is not a work of fiction. Anything between quotation marks comes from a letter, memoir, or other written document.” ….. “I beg forbearance, too, for the occasional side journey demanded by the story, including excursions into the medical acquisition of corpses and the correct use of Black Prince geraniums in an Olmstedian landscape.”*

‘Black Prince geraniums in an Olmstedian landscape’ – this is where Mr. Larson caught my attention.

We first meet Daniel Hudson Burnham in April of 1912. We are aboard the R.M.S. Olympic of the White Star Line.** This is where the story ends. Then we go back into the mid to late 1800s where Dr. Holmes is living a quiet unassuming life. This is where the story begins. This is a book mostly about these two men, yet all about one narrative. This is a book about two separate events having taken place in Chicago, Illinois during the same years. One story is about an architect and the making of the World’s Fair; the other, a mild mannered sociopath and the women he kills. These two stories, woven together, create one time-line. These separate accounts in history do not intersect. Ever.

This is a good book if you like reading about historical events and real people. Whilst this is a book with two stories, they are not separated one from the other. Both stories are told concurrently. You’ll have to know how to compartmentalize your thoughts if you want to enjoy this one.

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*Taken, in-part, from page xi [of this book]
Evils Imminent (A Note)
Erik Larson
Seattle

**for those of you who are historians, the significance of this time and place will not have escaped you.

LIGHT BOXES

21 Sep
First published by Publishing Genius Press 2009 Penguin Books 2010 Soft cover 147 pages Fable, fairy-tale

First published by Publishing Genius Press 2009
Penguin Books 2010
Soft cover 147 pages
Fable, fairy-tale

The first word that comes to mind, after having read this something-like-a-déjà vu-feeling of a novel, is magical. The last time I remember reading such a unique style of writing was when I first met Griffin & Sabine – as introduced to me by Nick Bantock in 1991. Unlike Griffin & Sabine, however, which is written in epistolary form, Light Boxes is written in several different fonts and sizes, ignoring word-count per page, whilst throwing away everything that even remotely resembles some semblance of continuity for the many inhabitants living in a small town under the spell of February. Phew.

The cold and dark month of February doesn’t like things that fly. So to punish the residents who fly kites and hot air balloons, February has banned flight of every kind and has catapulted the town with snow and ice and cold and dark, into a forever winter. During February’s long stay, children go missing, and depression filters into the crevices whilst the town begins to ban together to ward-off the nightmare of unending winter.

“Bianca whispers into the bathwater.

Maybe the priests aren’t really priests. Look at the way their silly robes move.
I want to be safe. I want to live inside a turtle shell.” page 20

Thaddeus, Bianca, Selah, Caldor.
The girl who smelled of honey and smoke.
War Effort members.
The Solution – who wear bird masks and black top hats.
And of course,
a godlike spirit named February.

“Then the stench of burning leaves, and the bulbs bloomed crystal white across his face. The War Effort cheered. Some ran out into the snow-filled plains to mock the sky. Others took turns fitting the box over their heads, letting the light soak into their winter beards. Their tongues tasting the blood from their splitting lips.” page 43

I found myself being thrown into a psychological war of words, having to seek comfort in what I perceived to be the thread of the matter. This book is not for everyone. You will actually have to think in order to deduce your odds of likeability. A bravura of a debut (cult-following) novel.

AND THE BAND PLAYED ON

3 Sep
IMG_3129 (2)

Penguin Group 1987 soft cover 621 pages including Afterword – non fiction politics and the AIDS epidemic

For the past month or so, I’ve seemingly been in a delirium with regard to reading anything other than that of a spiritual nature. Interesting how we tend to gravitate toward the sacrosanct when life doubles you over with a sucker-punch. Anyway, in looking through my up-stairs’ personal library for something to read other than that of a soul searching kind, I’ve come across many non-fiction books (didn’t realize how many I had until I started assimilating through the masses). These are my scavengers: the strays without a home who have somehow found a way to congregate amongst their own kind. So, having prefaced with this anomaly, I now continue onward with one of the non fiction books I’ve been reading when I haven‘t been immersed in the study of religious theories.

And the Band Played On is the true story about how the Aids (Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome) epidemic began and how it was swept under the rug by government bureaucracy for years. This is a true story about my generation. We, who lived through it, and we who didn’t.

During the late 1970s, as I recall, while I was still in California, the baby boomer generation was just beginning its transition into a new decade as a hushed plague was making itself comfortable. Something out there was killing us – singeing and torching lives before anyone noticed and certainly before anyone wanted to notice. The hub of the matter, in California, was in San Francisco, not far from the maddening crowd, as they say.

Randy Shilts (1951-1994) was the first openly gay journalist to work for a mainstream newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle. The book, as it turned out, was to be his own uncanny prophecy. On the day he gave his manuscript for publication (1987), he also learned that he had tested positive for HIV, which later turned into full blown AIDS.

The story chronicles some of the individuals who were ill at the time, and the scientific community who were trying to put a face on a serial killer. Obviously, since its publication, more light has been shed on this disease, but at that time, the yawn of indifference spoke volumes. No one cared. This was, at the time, not a mainstream concern.

All that changed in 1985 when the spotlight shinned so bright that the executioner could no longer hide. This is the story of the inception of a lethal dose of a reality being swept under the rug. Not only by the politics of the time, but by the scientific community as well. This book is a tour de force piece of journalistic writing. It gets down and dirty. It name’s names and makes no excuses for it.

Yes, I know. You already know all about it. Do you? Do you really?

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME

23 Aug
A Bantam Book/a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group 1988 Hard cover 187 pages including Glossary Cosmology

A Bantam Book/a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group 1988
Hard cover 187 pages including Glossary
Cosmology

I believe in a Creator. I also believe in the evolution of the time-space continuum. To me, they are all-encompassing. A disjunctive proposition where one alternative does not and can not rule-out the other.

“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 KJV
“And the earth was without form, and void: and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2 KJV
“And God said, let there be light: and there was light.” Genesis 1:3 KJV

Clearly, something spoiled the original creation which made it necessary for God to restore order out of chaos. The Hebrew word ‘hayah’ as written in the original scripture of Genesis has been incorrectly translated to mean ‘was’. When in actuality, the Hebrew word ‘hayah’, as scholars have attested, rightly translates to mean ‘became’: “And the earth ‘became’ without form, and void…..”. (Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words – ‘to be’)

“…..only a cosmic catastrophe could account for the introduction of chaotic confusion into the original perfection of God’s creation.” (A Survey of Old Testament Introduction written by Gleason Archer, professor of biblical languages).

The Bible, read as a whole, supports a time-gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. So, what we have here is the science of what is now known as The Big Bang Theory through the words of God Himself.

Stephen W. Hawking, Theoretical physicist and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge has given us a look into the time-space continuum without condescension or overly technical language… a remarkable rendering into the Big Bang singularity that any layperson can identify with.

Professor Hawking, regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein, reviews some of the theories set forth by a few of the greatest scientific minds in history: Galileo, Newton, Einstein. Quantum mechanics, astronomy, cosmology, and physics are explained in such a way that the non-specialist can easily understand.

Space and time; black holes; forces of nature; the expanding universe; and God, all as they relate to the science of theoretical physics. Hawking, who adds a bit of levity into the seriousness of this subject, also weaves snippets of his own personal journey: his marriage, children and debilitating illness throughout the pages of his time-space theories.

Why do we and the universe exist? “If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph to human reason — for then we would know the mind of God.” page 175

In 1981, Professor Hawking attended a conference on cosmology in the Vatican where he was granted an audience with the Pope:

“He told us that it was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the big bang, but we should not inquire into the big bang itself because that was the moment of Creation and therefore the work of God.” page 116

Giving some allowance to doubt, regardless the direction, each of us will have to determine for ourselves. So, this is where I leave you – to ponder our beginning within your own understanding.

WHEN I AM AN OLD WOMAN I SHALL WEAR PURPLE

10 Aug
Papier-Mache Press 1991 Soft cover 181 pages Anthology on aging

Papier-Mache Press 1991
Soft cover 181 pages
Anthology on aging

This book takes it’s cue from the poem written by Jenny Joseph:

Warning

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter……” (in-part)

Warning is the first poem in this anthology of essays, photographs and poems, and was the inspiration for my own poem posted here.

When I am an Old Woman is a compilation of sentiments regarding midlife and beyond. A varied semblance of authors and photographers sewn together by it’s Editor, Sandra Martz.

Ruby at the Fair photographer Lyn Cowan

Ruby at the Fair
photographer Lyn Cowan

One of my favored poems in this book, is –

The Thugs
written by Mura Dehn

“The years don’t serve their time,
they’re runaways, they bump each other off
sun up, sun down.

Time, master mugger,
snatched this century
out of my hands
and fled.”

Two Grandmas photographer Therese Becker

Two Grandmas
photographer Therese Becker

IMG_3039

Photo by Rod Bradley

This is the type of book that comes back to visit like an old friend you haven’t heard from in years. The kind where not a beat is skipped in the conversations and laughter between you as you see each other again. As though time had stood still.

The photographs depict women in their aging years, and the words overflow with a passion that not everyone can relate to. Except, of course, if your youth has been spent. To those of you who still own the young years of your life, take heed to appreciate that you too carry your book inside until it’s time to let it go.

Ruth Harriet Jacobs said it best in her poem:

Becoming Sixty

“….. A book flowed from my life
to those who needed it
and love flowed back to me…..” (in-part)

Stunning photographs; Passion; and a road shared by all of us. Sooner or later.

GUYS LIKE ME

3 Aug
Librairie Artheme Fayard 2007  First published in French as Les Types Comme moi New Vessel Press 2015 French to American translation by Howard Curtis Soft cover novella fiction 144 pages

Librairie Artheme Fayard 2007
First published in French as Les Types Comme moi
New Vessel Press 2015 French to American translation by Howard Curtis
Soft cover novella fiction 144 pages

You ever read a book and turn the last page knowing absolutely nothing about what you just read, yet, the entire time you were reading you just couldn’t stop?

This is the story about a working class guy with whom we are never introduced. He is our nameless first person voice. This is a quiet story about three middle-aged friends who live in a suburb just outside Paris, and find that they are ‘similarly adrift’. This is a story about any one of us –

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The melody from Fabre’s writing emanates off every page. A soothing melody that finds itself in seamless alliance with the three characters who want nothing more than something else. A flawless subdued tone that keeps the reader engaged.

La Quinzaine Litteraire says Dominique Fabre is “An author who lays bare the essence of Paris.” I say, Dominique Fabre is “An author who lays bare the essence of ….. [humanity].”

OPEN HOUSE

29 Jul
 McGraw-Hill Book Company 1985 Hardcover (Book Club Edition) 181 pages Psychological Murder Mystery/fiction


McGraw-Hill Book Company 1985
Hardcover (Book Club Edition) 181 pages
Psychological Mystery/fiction

This is a book I read about a month ago, and it’s been hanging around, I suppose, to garner some attention before retiring to its proper shelf. This was an okay story. One of those that can be read through without having to think too much. Light entertainment even though the story-line is dark. Keep in mind that this crime drama is set in the 1980s so putting aside your 2015 attitude is essential for your reading pleasure.

A rash of murders with no traceable clues; a detective assigned to find the murderer whom, it appears, all the victims knew; and a young woman who begins receiving anonymous gifts in the mail …

This page turner, even though the reader sees early-on what the author is up to, is suspenseful at every turn. The story unfolds through the voices of the three main characters: the killer; the detective; and the young woman who has caught the killer’s attention.

Enjoyable thriller.

A DOG’S RANSOM

20 Jul
Alfred A Knopf 1972 First American Edition Hard cover 275 pages/deckle edged  Thriller suspense fiction

Alfred A Knopf 1972
First American Edition
Hard cover 275 pages/deckle edged
Thriller suspense fiction

A Dog’s Ransom is written by the same woman who wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley. So yes, I was a bit intrigued whence otherwise I would not have been.

“A dog disappears.
A ransom is demanded.
The well-meaning, middle-aged New York couple-childless, generous-pay up. And pay again.
The kidnapper-angry, perhaps psychotic- tricks them.
The decent young policeman, obsessed with the case, falls deeper and deeper into involvement with the criminal, and with his victims.
A “minor” crime inexorably grows into an agonizing and violent tragedy.” -book jacket

This is not your typical crime fiction. What appears to be a ‘simple’ misdemeanor dog-napping turns into a psychological suspense thriller with a side of slow-burn.

Great crisp character studies that just jump off the pages, and a thread of a story that has a life of it’s own. You won’t be able to stop reading.

ROOMS

18 Jul

If ever there was fiction that should be read with an open heart, this one is at the top of my list.

For those who believe in the Word, you assuredly know that the Word was written in parables. Thus said, Rooms is a parable for edification of the Higher Power, and not for the rolling of the eyes when something far-fetched takes us into the fog of a twilight zone.

Sometimes a book will open right in front of you that hasn’t been opened in years for no apparent reason. When I first read this book in 2010, I just read it. I recall thinking of it then as okay. Entertaining. About a week ago there it was again, misplaced, otherwise I would not have seen it. Instead of returning it to its proper shelf, however, providence intervened, and I read from it:

“What can you ever really know of other people’s souls—
of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles?
One soul in the whole creation you do know:
and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands.”
—C. S. Lewis

B&H Publishing Group 2010 soft cover 375 pages Spiritual mystery fiction

B&H Publishing Group 2010
soft cover 375 pages
Spiritual mystery fiction

This is the story of Micah Taylor who receives a letter from a great uncle he never met, written 25 years earlier. A letter that will take him on a spiritual journey he never expected.

I believe we see what we are meant to see at the time we need to see it most. This time, unlike in 2010, I didn’t just read this book. This time, I paid attention.

Rooms is a journey back to the path we are meant to walk. And the cool thing is, it doesn’t even matter what you believe, or by what name you call your ’Higher Power’, the message is the same for all of us.

Extraordinary first novel.

CURRENTLY READING

17 Jul

“In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark Bridge, which is of iron, and London Bridge, which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in.”

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Bealtaine Cottage

Colette O'Neill, creative force at Bealtaine Cottage... Ireland's Sustainable Living, Permaculture Lifestyle Practitioner, celebrating 12 yrs growing a sustainable sanctuary for Mother Earth, with magical gardens powered by Goddess-inspired Permaculture. Mother Earth can live without us. We cannot live apart from Her. It's time to nurture and care for our only home.

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