This Sweet Sickness- Patricia Highsmith

Snip20170314_2I really enjoyed this book. It was not really a thriller but the suspense kept me turning pages. David Kelsey is a scientist. He used to date Annabelle but he moved in order to get a higher paying job and she married someone else. But…David is obsessed with Annabelle. Although she is now married he completely ignores that tiny fact and behaves as if they are engaged.

I don’t want to say too much about this book because I don’t want to spoil it.  David keeps a house outside of the town he works in. He tells people at the boarding house he is visiting his mother in a nursing home each weekend but he is really going to the house he built for Annabelle. He takes on another name and lives as another who is married to Annabelle. His fantasies and conversations with her in his weekend house keep him going. It is beginning to tell she has little interest in him.

The entire story is how he becomes more and more obsessed with her, the conflicts with several people that arise from his obsession and how it is all resolved at the end.

He becomes sicker and sicker with this obsession. The suspenseful part of the book is how other people, namely his friends, Wes (who has a wife he can’t stand to be with) and Effie ()who is completely in love with David) interfere in his plans. Every time he plans something one of them seems to crop up.  David begins with his fantasy life with Annabelle and then a particular event happens. This changes the entire direction of the story and the continued interference of thSnip20170315_1ose around him cause the suspense. You are always wondering, ‘how in the world is this going to end?’.

I think Patricia Highsmith is a brilliant story teller and I have not yet come across another author who can weave a story into the knots that she does. Last year I saw the play The Talented Mr. Ripley but have not read the book. I also saw the film Carol but have not read the corresponding book Ms. Highsmith wrote. Mr. Penguin read Strangers on a Train and I have yet to read that but I do remember the Alfred Hitchcock film. I wish this was a movie because I would love to see how they do it.

I would love to know what others thing of this book. I really enjoyed it.

Tuesday Trivia and A Quick Review

coffee-shop-penguinThis week has been a lovely movie going and reading week with a bit of other stuff thrown in. I have seen two movies since I last wrote. Hidden Figures, the story of the three African-American mathematicians who worked at NASA at the time of Alan ShephSnip20170227_3erd’s first orbit around the earth.  I remember those days so well. They were exciting times and I enjoyed this movie very much. I thought it was well done and I loved the actors who played the main characters.Though Kevin Costner looked so old.

I went to hear Rosalie Martin, Tasmania’s Australian of the Year speak on International Women’s day about her voluntary project she has been doing at Risdon Prison teaching literacy skills. As a speech pathologist I have known Rosie for many years as a colleague and she spoke of ways to establish ‘kind communication’ when speaking to others or teaching her autism students and prisoners. Speech pathologists have a great deal of knowledge of phonological awareness and meta-linguistics related to literacy development. Many teachers have yet to realise this and I remember my own struggles with teachers over the years about their students who weren’t developing communication skills or literacy developments.  The speech was Snip20170314_3motivational and inspiring. Rosie has now completed a criminology degree and combines the two areas very successful. Most interesting.

Saturday I took myself to the State Cinema in North Hobart to see the film, David Stratton, A Cinematic Life. If you are an Australian you will most likely have followed film reviews by David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz  over the years on SBS Snip20170314_4and later ABC. David Stratton has viewed over 42, 800 plus movies since he was 12 years old and has card catalogue files and notebooks with reviews and comments about everyone. His personal archive in his home was stunning. I could have watched an entire film about that. If you are a follower of Australian film then run, don’t walk to see this film. I could easily sit through it again and the clips of so many Australian films were wonderful. I was also proud to know that Australia produced the first feature length film in the world in 1906. It was about the bushranger Ned Kelly.  Hollywood did not exist at the time and the clip was shown at the film. Just so interesting.

Snip20170314_1Books I am reading or have finished:

I finished the End of Eddy by Edouard Louis. It is a French translation of his growing up in poverty in France as a gay boy and having no idea what is actually happening and why he is the way he is. I will write separately about this book. I loved it very much and so far it is the best book I have read this year. It should be required reading in every high school in the world.

I finished Patricia Highsmith’s book This Sweet Sickness which I also loved. I will do a separate review on this book quite soon also. I  loved it. She writes very well of one man’s obsession with a woman he loves and how he descends into complete madnes. A very complex love story.

Snip20170314_2Today I am off in our 31 C degree heat to my play reading class where we continue to read Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. 

I am enjoying the story very much. One of my classmates taught at Sydney University and he is very experienced in literature and drama. He supplied us a wonderful introduction to this play. I hadn’t realised it was part of the plays of the absurd. It really is very funny. So many truths in it also told in a very circular fashion.

Last week was most comforting with books and films. I always get a great deal of satisfaction from these two areas of my life. I didn’t follow the world news anymore than to listen to the headlines each morning on the ABC radio just to see if our seven continents continue to exist. They do, so I continue to distract myself with more pleasant things.

I’ll be back soon with another Tuesday trivia and the book reviews of the previously mentioned books.

What do you do for comfort in these politically turbulent times?

 

 

Classics Club Spin No. 15

The Classics Club has announced it is time for the 15th Spin (here). I did one early last year but have not done one since. Each blogger lists 20 books and numbers them accordingly. The book must then be read and reviewed on your blog by 1 May, 2017.

However I am going to change one little thing this time. I am only going to list 10 books. They are ten books I have had on my shelf for quite awhile. They are also quite short books. I want to get all ten of them read quite soon so I can either pass them on or sell them. They are TBR books I want to exit the house. I am trying to get the number of books off my shelves.  I know it is an impossible task as I then buy ones to replace it but believe it or not I am slowing down. I am going to concentrate on these 10 over the next few months.

I will be travelling in April and as they are short I can read them and leave them behind with the Book Phantom note in it with its email address. I think that would be fun too in order to see where they end up.

So here are the books:

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1. and 11.     Fly Away Peter by David Malouf:   For three very different people brought together by their love for birds, life on the Queensland coast in 1914 is the timeless and idyllic world of sandpipers, ibises and kingfishers. But the WWI is beginning. Two of the young men are drawn to the war. It is a story of the continuities of nature vrs. the obscenities of war. I have not read this before and it does sound interesting.

2.and 12.     The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers:  An American gothic tale of love and betrayal in the deep south of the USA. The story of Miss Amelia, a very unconventional woman. 6 feet, 2 inches, strong and self reliant, married to Marvin Macy, the meanest and most handsome man in town and then she threw him out after ten days. Her tale running a store alone when a strutting, hunchbacked dwarf, comes to town, steals her heart and transforms the store into a buzzing cafe. When her rejected husband returns a bizarre love triangle ensues and the battle of the sexes begins.  Need I say more? I hope to read this soon. Sounds like fun.

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3. and 13. Mozart’s Journey to Prague by Eduard Mörikes  Mozart is on his way to Prague for the opening of Don Giovanni. He steals an orange from a Bohemian family’s garden on the way and gets caught by a furious gardener. When the gardener’s family discovers who he is he is forgiven and welcomed by the family who have adored his music. Sounds like fun.

4. and 14. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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5. and 15.  On Listening by Martin Flanagan:  Part of the Curiosity Lecture Series, Penguin Special, non – fiction. A poetic and eloquent edition on the power of listening.

6. and 16. The Village By The Sea by Anita Desai:  A small fishing village near Bombay is still ruled by age old seasonal rhythms. Hari and Lila have lived in Thul all their lives, but their family is now desperately down on their luck. Their father drinks; their mother is seriously ill and there is no money to keep them fed and clothed. This is their tale. A tale from India.

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7. and 17.   The Guilty Party and Other Stories by O. Henry:  I have always loved O. Henry so looking forward to this. A book of 11 short stories.

8. and 18.  The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin:  I have been reading a great deal in the media lately that 1984 by Orwell and this book by Baldwin are more relevant than ever regarding the political climate in the world. The blurb on the back states, “Reviewing this short but powerful study of the Negro problem in America.”  A good book to revisit.

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9. and 19.   How I Came to Know Fish by Ota Pavel:  This is one of the Central European Classics published by Penguin in a set. Written in 1974, it is Ota Pavel’s magical memoir of his childhood in Czechoslovakia. Fishing with his father and his Uncle Prosek- the two finest fishermen in the world- he takes a peaceful pleasure from the rivers and ponds of his country…until the Nazi’s invade.

10. and 20. The Railway Station Man by Jennifer Johnston:  Published 1984, The railway station had been abandoned and decaying since the line was closed. But when the strange Englishman arrived, the war hero with a ruined body and scarred mind, he and young Damian Sweeney began to restore the old station with meticulous care, believing it could live again. Helen Cuffe, widowed, desultory and detached from his disapproving son, looks on…. hmmm.

Well you have the list. After writing out those descriptions I want to read all of them right away. So different from one another. I like the idea of the various countries these stories represent over a considerable span of time.

Stay tuned for Monday is the day that the Spin Number is announced.  I, for one, am looking forward to it. snip20170126_5

 

 

If you are young and love horses….

(A review for Storey Publications.)

I requested a few books from Net Galley for young people and a couple for adults. It is quite fun to see what the publishers are offering.

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I was accepted to review the book Wild for Horses compiled by Storey Publishers. When I was young I was one of those girls who was horse mad. We all know of them. I adored them and had pictures of horses all over my bedroom wall. My parents finally bought me a horse when I was about 12 or 13 because they wanted to keep me away from boys.

Little did they know when I reached 9th grade I met my future husband in a saddle club. We still love horses but don’t own any.

I would have loved this book.

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Storey publishers has this blurb about the book.

This one-of-a-kind book of horse posters and flash cards is packed with stunning images and essential information. Two dozen posters of all-time favorite breeds like Arabian, Shetland Pony, and Lipizzan show off the beauty of these majestic creatures, and kids can show them off, too: these pull-out pages are ready to hang on a bedroom wall, with two additional 12 x 30 posters that capture horses’ grandeur. Finally, each of the 24 punch-out flash cards include a pocketsize photo and fun facts. With both magnificent, ready-to-hang images and portable breed profiles, this unique package offers total immersion for horse-loving kids.  (Children’s non-fiction)

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I think young horse lovers, from maybe age 8 or 9 to about 12 or 13 will love these posters and pages. The photography is beautiful featuring various breeds of horses. The horses also feature in various jobs that they perform.

At my age I still enjoyed the photos as they are beautiful. Horses are stunning animals.

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The information pages are short blurbs of facts scattered within geometric covered pages of bright colours. I think in this age of short text messages and attention spans the kids are probably more likely to read these snippets than a long narrative on the various breeds  of horses and their uses. (Which of course is sad but hey knowledge is good in all its forms.)

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If you have a horse mad child in your family I think this book might be an addition to the collection of books and magazines about horses I know they already own.

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o be published 3 March, 2017 Price around 12.98 US.

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“Love my horses.”

Tuesday Trivia and a Quick Review

snip20170227_2This year seems to be sailing by. I had hoped it would be slower than 2016 but it doesn’t seem that way.

Last night I finished this book. I read it quickly because I could not put it down. This man can write. This man can think and his education through literature, science and medicine was astounding.  Paul Kalanithi trained for 10 years to become a neurosurgeon. Just as his career is to take off he dies of lung cancer at age 37. The pages of the book cover his journey to the point of diagnosis (Part I) and then the journey of the illness (Part II). His wife writes the final chapter.

He studied literature and talks about the relation between literature, death and science and how he applies it to his own life. I reread several passages. He gets married to another doctor and they have a daughter. His life ends eight months after hers begins.

The book I am referring to is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I sat in my chair a few moments after I closed the last page and just could not move. A lot has been written about this book so I won’t add much to what others have written. Suffice to say I loved it.  Whoever coined the phrase, “Only the good die young” knew what they were talking about. This man did so much with the 37 years given to him.

After all of the education, training and work he did for the good of human kind why on earth did this have to happen to him?  He said himself the chance of a 37 year old man getting lung cancer is less than .001 percent. Why him? The injustice of the situation just does not make sense at all. I watch the news in the evening and see the people who murder, maim and make life a misery and they seem to live forever. Again I ask why him?

The cover states when one finishes this book the reader will be left thinking about it for a long time. It is almost traumatising. I loved this book.

It seems this week will be busy. Tuesday I am celebrating the birthday at the cafe at the Tasmanian Museum cafe. A nice quiet cafe we will sit on the deck surrounding the courtyard.

snip20170227_3Wednesday night we are joining friends at the State Cinema to see the film Hidden Figures about the three African American women mathematicians that worked for NASA in its early days.

I will not watch the Academy Awards. It is all politics and I find it most exasperating. In my humble opinion it isn’t based on the stories told but the people who are known. I prefer the independent films to the Hollywood blockbusters most days.

The weather is looking good for the week. The mid to high 20’s C for the entire week (70’s to 80’s F). Hopefully the Penguin will join up with a motorbike ride going on.

Saturday night we are riding in a leukaemia fundraiser beginning at 6 pm and ending at a pub arousnip20170223_2nd midnight. (Don’t worry, I never drink alcohol when I know I’ll be on my bike). The bikes will be decorated with lights and ridden through town. I think there will be a lot of bikes. Stay tuned for that. It’s part of the Light Up the Night Leukemia Fundraiser.
So again I think this week is going to sail by before I have even adjusted to Monday. Hope all of you have a great week. Let me know what you are reading this week and what are your week’s plan?

Oops, I pushed a wrong button so guess this is a Monday Trivia review instead of a Tuesday one (before any of you wise crackers jump in ).

This n’ That

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The bus shelters have been painted to prevent the graffiti vandals in town from getting them.

This week has been a pleasant week. I have decided to resurrect our friend the Penguin that went with us to Great Britain. Both my friend and I have been missing travelling out of the house with him.

On Wednesday we caught the bus into the city for my writing group. Mr. Penguin had the car for the day for his weekly work on a farm with his friend. They work with sheep, cutting wood and storing cheese that his wife makes from the sheep milk.

We headed for our writing group at the Writer’s centre in Salamanca market. I have mentioned this group before. We are eight members of the Domain Writer’s Group. We meet Wednesday afternoons except for our break on the third Wednesday of the month. We range in age from late 50’s to low 90’s.

The assignment for today was to write a piece similar to an Aesop’s Fable. I had great fun with my piece the Fox and the Dog. Others wrote similar pieces of different styles. Each piece had a moral to the story. Everyone seemed to enjoy the session. For next week we each have a newspaper headline and need to incorporate a story around it. I will need to get onto that this weekend.

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Penguin enjoyed using his brain with the writing group.

The Penguin sat silently on the table and listened to the ‘tabled fables’ as we called them.

The following day I met a good friend at Fuller’s Book store for a coffee. Penguin also enjoyed the morning coffee chat and then spent some time with one of the staff members who is a lovely guy. He got right into the spirit of things and photos were taken. We have so much fun in this book store. They are coming on to their 100th anniversary in 2020 and I will be interested in seeing how they celebrate this long term family business.

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Nothing better than a cappuccino in a lovely cup.

As for books. Our book group met this week and we all enjoyed a nibble or a bit to drink at the Grand Chancellor hotel on the waterfront where we meet. The Penguin and I shared a light beer as I just wasn’t in the mood for anything else. We talked about the Good People by Hannah Kent. We all enjoyed it very much though some people thought a couple of loose ends weren’t sufficiently tied up and the ending might have been a bit unrealistic. Others disagreed. All who had read her first book, Burial Rites liked that one better. I have not read it yet. Typical book fare conversation. We all rated it 4 or 4.5 out of five.

Next month’s book will be Songs of a War Boy. The April book is going to be the Mothering Sunday. I have just begun listening to the audible version while in the car.  More thoughts on that much later.

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Tim is completing his PhD and working here. He keeps us all entertained. A lovely young man who is very bright.

I am currently reading Mothering Sunday, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi and dipping into I, Allan Sealy; The China Sketchbook. More on each of those as I finish them. The Allan Sealy book is a sketchbook he completed on a trip to China.

Mr. Penguin and I have a 17 day trip planned to Japan. We leave the 3rd of April. The Penguin is quite excited. I might make him a kimono or something. Photos will be put on the blog. I want so much to make a sketchbook journal of this trip but I draw like a three year old. However, being of an older age and not caring so much what people think anymore (the benefits of older ages) I might just do a journal anyway with my Crayolas. It isn’t for anyone else to think about anyway and my

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We both enjoy a cold beer among friends.

three year old neighbour kids might really enjoy it. They are so non-judgemental.  I will never forget the time I drew something in my job with a group of five year olds and one of them laughed so hard at a picture of an animal I drew he had tears running down his cheeks. Then all of us lost it because he couldn’t even breathe he was laughing so hard. It was such joy to laugh as hard as these five year olds did. Well that sums up the last few days of the week. I hope your week is going well and that you enjoy the photos of the Penguin and me.

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Allan Sealy sketches like a young child too so there is hope. Love this book. (more photos of it with a review later)

Carson McCuller’s Centenary

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Carson McCullers

I subscribe to the newsletter from Library of America and enjoy it quite a bit. Each week they send a short story on Monday morning. The one  I received last week was The Great Eaters of Georgia by Carson McCullers.

The southern author (of USA) Carson McCuller’s was born 100 years ago Sunday. As a very young person I had not heard of her. Then I saw the film The Heart is a Lonely Hunter  (1968 when I was in grade 12) with Alan Arkin and Sondra Locke. I have never forgotten it. It moved me greatly.  I then read the book and loved it as much. The book had a great deal more information in it as we have come to expect. Once read, seen and thought about it then disappeared from my mind. Last year our book club read it and all those memories came to the fore.

I read one of her short stories yesterday on her birthday.  The Great Eaters of Georgia is a memoir of her returning to Augusta, Georgia in 1953 from Paris when her marriage was breaking up. (Her husband soon died afterwards while she was in Georgia of alcoholism.)  She was raised in Georgia and revisited her childhood haunts. The old Victorian house she grew up in had been razed. When we move away from our childhood homes and revisit them many decades later there is seldom anything left that we remember. This was true of her too. ‘Memory ghosts’ haunt the streets.

She was able to meet her mother’s best friend Lillian Smith again. Lillian and Carson’s mother were like sisters. She  ran a girl’s camp on a remote mountain. They chatted about memories of her mother and the times they knew in younger days. snip20170220_2

She also mentioned Fort Benning, Georgia. Some of her memories included the black Americans picking cotton in the fields, eating watermelon outdoors and gathering pecans. The paragraph on how to anticipate the eating of a watermelon was mouth watering. She quotes,

“Some of the dearest memories of childhood concern the watermelon. It demands a special opera- tion and procedure. Ideally, it should be opened and eaten on a cool back porch with newspapers on the table. It should be frosty, cold to the touch on fevered summer days. When the man of the family is poised with the knife there should be a hush around the table, a breathless and pleasant anxiety. Then when the knife plunges there should be a faint crack of the splitting fruit, then the anxious craning to see if it is properly ripe. The inside should be round with delicate white frosting and the seeds quite black. After the pink part has been eaten the white part can be continued a little longer and the rind saved for pickling.”

When I was 11 years old my father went to military training in Ft Benning, Georgia and took our family with him.  We lived near the base for six months. She mentions looking for pecans. I remember my father driving us into the country when he had free time. We saw cotton picking, poor shareholder houses and yes, people sitting on the steps of the front porch eating watermelon. I found those times really interesting as life there was much different to fairly well off farmers in middle Michigan. I also remember when watermelons had big black seeds and great joy was had from spitting them at each other. My grandmother always told us if we ate the seeds they would grow in our bellies. We used to laugh so hard we would fall off the stoop we sat on.

My mother took us out in the car when my dad was working and we gathered pecans. Once playing with other children we caught a small snake and showed it to our parents. Michigan didn’t have poisonous snakes when we were children. We had heard not to touch black widow spiders we might see in window corners in Georgia but we didn’t know much about the poisonous copperhead or rattle snakes in Georgia at the time. We wondered why the tin can we had the small snake in was quickly thrown a good distance when we showed it to adults. It was a small copperhead.

She wrote of the manners and etiquette of the dinner hour and how much they ate. I heard about the table cloths of pure linen and the way the table was set. They used to have three large meals a day with the lunchtime meal being the largest. They ate all of my favourite southern foods. Grits, chicken, vegetables, pie.

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Stock photo

She referred to the Annie Dennis cookbook. I had not heard of it. She said she could never find one again. I had a look on abebooks.com as I thought it would be fun to find one. I found an old reprint of the cookbook from 1905 selling for $395.00. I don’t think I will own one though it is still in a reprint mode and one can buy it for much cheaper. Somehow I thought having the very old copy would be nice.

Carson McCuller’s went on to write several novels, short stories and essays. I don’t think I will ever forget her or The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. It is one of those books that get reread every few years and form part of a childhood.snip20161121_4

If you are interested in receiving an American short story a week you can sign up here.

http://storyoftheweek.loa.org

Have you read Carson McCullers? What did you think?