Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Bag

Books are piling up again and the problem of where to put them doesn’t get any easier. Maybe getting rid of some plates and bowls and stacking books in their place would work. One solution would be to change my habits and buy the desired books in either Kindle or iPad format, but that’s not going to happen. Too much pleasure in the feel and smell of a new book in the hand. Suppose I’ll just have to find ways to create new stacks that don’t impede movement around the house. The best idea yet is from my friend R who wants a company called Piney Woods put up a prefab ‘book’ cottage across the driveway and solve both our problems.

Over the past two weeks three or four bundles of books have arrived at the door, each bundle providing a few gratifying hours of reading. Three of the books I read front to back right away, and others I placed around the house to be picked up at random times to browse a page or chapter. Likely one or another book will eventually get a review of sorts later on, but for now the intention is only to introduce a few titles and relevant points. Seven books on the list and here they are…

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller (2011)

Last month I read the earlier work, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight and was bowled over by the author’s style and her fascinating stories of growing up in Africa. Fuller’s latest book tells a story that is much about her mother—a riveting character—and how she came to live in Africa. Again, the author captures the reader with a wealth of stories impossible anywhere else. This one I have read only a few chapters of, and at this point can’t say much about. The strength of this book is Fuller’s ability to make characters so real you feel them sitting next to you.

Scribbling the Cat by Alexandra Fuller (2004)

Perhaps some translation is necessary here: ‘Scribbling’ is African slang for ‘killing.’ The book’s extended title includes …Travels with an African Soldier and that is an accurate description of what this book is about. Fuller returns to Zambia to spend some time with her parents, and during that time meets an African man living on a banana farm nearby. K is a former soldier who fought in several of Africa’s wars of independence, but is finally living the life of a farmer in Zambia. This one too is still in the reading stage, leaving me unable to say more. The unfamiliar stories of life in Africa amaze from the first paragraph of page one. Crocodiles, mud, rain, snakes, drought, insects, stultifying heat…welcome to the African bush.

The Affair by Lee Child (2011)

Such a hardcore fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, I have read each of the fifteen books the week of their release. Number sixteen is The Affair and this one too came to me only days after its release, pre-ordered months in advance. There is an element of mystery to all the Reacher stories, but more important is Child’s character of a moral man with the muscles and the smarts to right most wrongs. A Jack Reacher novel fits immediately into the ‘page-turner’ genre and is all about finesse, brawn and doing the right thing. Always and forever an exciting read.

Feast Day of Fools by James Lee Burke (2011)

Burke is the master of south Louisiana settings, but is more often these days turning his attention to south Texas. About Burke and any one of his thirty books, for the sake of brevity I will say only this: If you enjoy reading and you’ve never read a book by James Lee Burke, go to the bookstore today.

Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks (2011)

An on and off fan of Russell Banks, I found the title of this new book captivating, and buying it was far, far from a mistake. Two characters tell a story set on the west coast of Florida and each is fascinating. Sex offenses as they relate to underage victims is an extremely volatile subject but Banks carries this one off leaving the reader unquestionably in sympathy with the protagonist. How does he do that?

Gilgamesh, a new English translation by Stephen Mitchell (2004)

This is a story set in man’s earliest civilization, the 2750 BC Sumerian city of Urak, situated in present day Iraq at the convergence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The translation is what makes this version outstanding. The poetry is elegant and the tale wholly relevant to creation literature. In a story that precedes biblical literature, Gilgamesh is filled with Christian corollaries. It is the oldest story in the world, and in that sense alone is engaging.

The Gentlemen’s Hour by Don Winslow (2011)

Included here only because it arrived in the post late Wednesday afternoon and is one I've been eagerly awaiting. Winslow is an up and down kind of writer who can dazzle with one book and disappoint the next. Anyone familiar with his earlier book, The Dawn Patrol will jump for this new one which has the same characters and setting. Never read Winslow? Try California Fire and Life or The Power of the Dog.


  1. What is it about a pile of unread books that holds such magic? I will tell you it is a disease called bibliomania and it has been the ruin of many a poor boy (just like The House of the Rising Sun). But I can no more stop gathering books than stop breathing the dusty air that is always near them.

  2. An impressive pile of books and several are on my mental list to eventually gather around me like Scrooge McDuck and his millions.


About Me

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America