Tag Archives: Five Star Review

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.

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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.

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.

THE PECULIAR LIFE OF A LONELY POSTMAN

13 Jul
First published in French 2005  Soft cover edition published by Hesperus Press Limited 2014 Translated from French into the Queen’s English by Liedewy Hawke 2008 Fiction novella 108 pages

First published in French 2005
Soft cover edition published by Hesperus Press Limited 2014
Translated from French into the Queen’s English by Liedewy Hawke 2008
Fiction novella 108 pages

“Secretly steaming open envelopes and reading the letters inside, Bilodo has found an escape from his lonely and routine life as a postman. When one day he comes across a mysterious letter containing only a single haiku, he finds himself avidly caught up in the relationship between a long-distance couple, who write to each other using only beautiful poetry. He feasts on their words, vicariously living a life for which he longs.”

Stunning imagery; unforgettable characters; and a story suspended within a dream that is haunting. From the very first page, we become Bilodo. We live his lonely nights and walk his postal days, day-in, day-out. Until, that is, Bilodo the postman does the unthinkable.

This is a short book but you will be long in reading it – by choice.

THE SHADOW-LINE … A CONFESSION

18 May
First published in book form by J. W. Dent/London and Toronto; and by Doubleday/New York 1917 Soft cover, Penguin Books 1986/157 pages in total - the actual story begins on page 35 and ends on page 145 …. The remainder of pages are most informative. Autobiographical fiction

First published in book form by J. W. Dent/London and Toronto; and by Doubleday/New York 1917
Soft cover, Penguin Books 1986/157 pages in total – the actual story begins on page 35 and ends on page 145 …. The remainder of pages are most informative.
Autobiographical fiction

“The sparkle of the sea filled my eyes ….. The sails hung motionless and slack, the very folds of their sagging surfaces moved no more ….. For a long, long time I faced an empty world, steeped in an infinity of silence, through which the sunshine poured and flowed for some mysterious purpose.” *

I came to The Shadow Line by way of The House of Paper reviewed here. Joseph Conrad was know to me when, in High School, Lord Jim was required reading. And, even though my tattered paperback has followed me the world over since, I never read Lord Jim again.

Joseph Conrad pens this fictionalized autobiography, which, for the most part is going to be difficult if not impossible to describe. Were I able to tell you, however, you would have the sense of it in the same way that you experience a fly buzzing the ether unseen. Enthralled within the movement of words, with eyes not wanting to leave the page, you will hear the story – whispering from behind the shadow line of it’s exquisite prose.

Every page a gift.

This book is about a young captain who is hastily given his first command of a “ghost” ship. It‘s about a first mate who will lose his mind to madness as the malaria sickness spreads without medicine. This book is about a calm sea with not a sigh of a wind to move the ship. And, even though Conrad himself tells us this story is not about the supernatural, a curse and the first captain who died before Conrad took command, tells us otherwise.

Every page a memory.

The telling is told, not so much in the way it actually happened, but rather in the way that Conrad remembers it. When this book was written, in 1915, the world was in the throes of the Great War, and the agony emanated infused itself into this darkly told story.

“If the line between sanity and madness is a thin one, it is scarcely surprising that the distinction between a rational and a superstitious reading of the text should not be blatant.” **

Most excellent adventure.

* first paragraph (in-part) Chapter Five

** page 21 (in-part) Introduction by Jacques Berthoud

MURDER AS A FINE ART

10 May
Mulholland Books/Little, Brown and Company A division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. 2013 First edition hardcover 354 pages including Postscript; and Afterword Historical (thriller) fiction

Mulholland Books/Little, Brown and Company
A division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. 2013
First edition hardcover 354 pages including Postscript; and Afterword
Historical (thriller) fiction

“Does reality exist objectively, or is it a subjective projection of our thoughts?”
Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804)
German Philosopher

Had I have known the name of the author who wrote the book, the movie *First Blood is based on, I would have made David Morrell’s acquaintance much sooner. Much sooner.

Last summer I met Thomas de Quincey. I would not have otherwise met him were it not for the fact that he ate Opium. I wrote of that encounter here. Since then, whilst he was an intriguing enough chap, I gave him no further thought. No further thought, that is, until a few days ago when Morrell caught my attention with this book.

Murder as a Fine Art is spellbinding.

It’s 1854 and we are in London. It’s night here and the cobbles glisten beneath the mist-laden fog. The man with the yellow beard, referred to as ’the artist’, hesitates briefly beneath the gas-light, then stealthily disappears once again into the night fog.

Murders, heinous slaughters; Scotland Yard; Thomas de Quincey; suspense; diabolical agendas; Victorian gothic settings; secrets; oh, and did I mention the notorious writer Thomas de Quincey?

So well written, pages turn themselves.

~
*First Blood is a 1971 book written by David Morrell – subsequently made into an American film in 1982 staring American actor Sylvester Stallone. The first in the trilogy of the Rambo character.

THE RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM

10 Apr
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First published in 1859. My copy is a 1942 Classics Club edition published by Walter J. Black – 178 pages containing five versions collated with the original Rubaiyat, a collection of poems written by Omar Khayyam (1048-1122), Persian mathematician, astronomer, poet, tent maker, and philosopher. In addition to Khayyam’s poems, included are Notes; Vocabulary; and a Comparative Table of Stanzas for all five versions. I also like that this Classics Club edition includes an extensive Introduction about Edward FitzGerald and the Rubaiyat by Gordon S. Haight, as well as a section about Omar Khayyam written by Edward FitzGerald.

This lyrical ‘interpretation’ by Edward FitzGerald is my introduction to 75 of Khayyam’s Quatrains (each a four-line verse of poetry). Understandings differ from one translation to another (there are several interpretations in various languages), but FitzGerald‘s is considered to be the most authentic.

Some, who are not familiar with the poetry of Omar Khayyam, perhaps will recognize these two quatrains:

“The moving finger writes,
and having written moves on.
Nor all thy pity nor all thy wit,
Can cancel half a line of it.”

&

“It is a flash from the stage of non-belief to faith,
There is no more than a syllable between doubt and certainty:
Prize this precious moment dearly,
It is our life’s only fruit.”

As a general rule, I don’t like poetry, but I enjoyed reading this book.

Originally published in 1859 - [re]published for the Classics Club by Walter J. Black, Inc. 1942 poetry

Originally published in 1859 – [re]published for the Classics Club by Walter J. Black, Inc. 1942
poetry

MISS HARGREAVES

26 Mar

The Tellers-of-Tales are real.

They make visible, only to those of us who believe, the magic. 

First published by Eyre and Spottiswoode 1940 Penguin Books soft cover 1950 - 315 pages Fantasy

First published by Eyre and Spottiswoode 1940
Penguin Books soft cover 1950 – 315 pages
Fantasy

“Call me a raging liar if you like, although it’s an actual fact that I’ve never lied in order to get out of things so much as to get into things. Sometimes I think all those books in father’s shop led me astray. Books do lead you on.”

Even though Cornelius (Norman’s father) is a secondary character, I believe it is him I mostly looked forward to being with. But this isn’t his story. This ‘story’ belongs to Norman, a young man who is our narrator and inventor, in tandem with his friend Henry, of course. This is the story about 83 year old Constance Hargreaves, Henry and Norman’s fictional friend, to whom the boys post a letter, out of sheer boredom; and from whom they receive a response.

“Strange as it is, the most convincing people are often creatures of our own imaginings …… Perhaps we can imagine people only because they do exist somewhere and somehow, and have, by some peculiar process, sprung to mind despite ourselves.”

When Miss Hargreaves arrives in Cornford for a visit and begins disrupting the flow of life there with her hats and all her peculiarities, Norman thinks he is losing his mind. But when she ingratiates herself with Norman’s family and some of the townsfolk, Norman confesses his lie to his family – the old woman is nothing but a figment of his imagination. No one believes him, no one except Cornelius, that is. The Bookseller.

This is a delightful story. All the characters are crisp, and quite likeable. A very refreshing and rare treat indeed.

— a few more words on this book here.

NARCISSUS AND GOLDMUND

10 Mar
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. 1968 Originally published as Narziss und Goldmund by Fischer Verlag 1930; translated 1932 by Geoffrey Dunlop as Death and The Lover translated 1968 by Ursule Molinaro, under its original title 315 soft cover pages Historical Fiction - spiritual

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. 1968 – Originally published as Narziss und Goldmund by Fischer Verlag 1930; translated 1932 by Geoffrey Dunlop as Death and The Lover – (pictured below); translated 1968 by Ursule Molinaro under its original title – 315 soft cover pages/Historical fiction – spiritual

Hermann Hesse sews his words together with a shimmer, thread through the eye of a gold needle. When we are young, we glean a glimmer of that thread, or think we do the first time we meet him. When we are still virgins to his madness. Then, years later he shows up again, this time after we’ve already joined the movement. You know the one. Especially if you’re a hippy like me. The movement into self realization.

In search of what we are all searching for, Goldmund enters a catholic monastery where he is taken under the wing of Narcissus, a monk who helps Goldmund find his true nature. Not suited to a monk’s ascetic life, Goldmund sets out on the path of wander-lust where we, his companions, begin to understand.

“ Narcissus knew only too well what a charming golden bird had flown to him. This hermit soon sensed a kindred soul in Goldmund, in spite of their apparent contrasts. Narcissus was dark and spare; Goldmund, a radiant youth. Narcissus was analytical, a thinker; Goldmund, a dreamer with the soul of a child. But something they had in common bridged these contrasts: both were refined; both were different from others because of obvious gifts and signs; both bore the special mark of fate. ”

I believe each of us will take away from Hesse that which we are in need of at the time. Meditative, calming, spiritual, philosophically insightful, and brilliantly written.

Hermann Hesse (1877 - 1962) German-Swiss Painter, Novelist, Poet Nobel Price in Literature 1946

Hermann Hesse (1877 – 1962)
German-Swiss Painter, Novelist & Poet
– Nobel Price in Literature 1946

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CANNERY ROW

3 Mar
The Viking Press 1945 In full compliance with All War Production Board Conservation Orders Hardcover 208 pages - fiction Working class romantic comedy (realism)

The Viking Press 1945
In full compliance with All War Production Board Conservation Orders
Hardcover 208 pages – fiction
Working class romantic comedy (realism)

“Unburdened by the material necessities of the more fortunate, the denizens of Cannery Row discover rewards unknown in more traditional society. Henry the painter sorts through junk lots for pieces of wood to incorporate into the boat he is building, while the girls from Dora Flood’s bordello venture out now and then to enjoy a bit of sunshine. Lee Chong stocks his grocery with almost anything a man could want, and Doc, a young marine biologist, who ministers to sick puppies and unhappy souls unexpectedly finds true love.” Amazon

This novel is a series of (accidental) vignettes interconnected by place, manner and circumstance. But mostly, it’s about the handful of people who know something the rest of us only aspire to know. The ones who have chosen to live just slightly off-balance. On the edge of just teetering. But not quite. Some of them inhabit the Palace Flophouse and Grill. Mack and his friends. Gentlemen and philosophers, all of whom share a common dislike of a steady job; a few of the women live in Dora’s house. Dora, the orange haired madam; there is Doc, with whom the story revolves. Doc is a marine biologist who runs the marine laboratory on Cannery Row. Doc collects frogs, rattlesnakes, octopi and the such for experimental purposes. He lives in the lab. Alone with his specimens. He prefers it that way. So, when Mack and his buddies concoct a scheme to ’grab’ five hundred midnight frogs for an exchange of currency in order to throw a party for their unsuspecting acquaintance and neighbor, Doc is not pleased. Steinbeck based this novel on his friend, Edward (Doc) Ricketts, an accomplished marine biologist who, in the 1930s did indeed work and live on Cannery Row, savoring every sardine scented moment of it.

Full of rich descriptive details and characters, all of whom are not ambitious to be anything other than who they are. A warm camaraderie of emotions as you find yourself laughing out loud.

“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.” Cannery Row – first sentence

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