American travel book-all population and weather?

snip20170117_2Travel writing is one of my favourite genres of books to read. Especially if the authors have walked across a country, ridden a bicycle, motorcycle, donkey or horse. I love  the different ways people see the world.

I came across Old Man on a Bicycle: A Ride Across America on a Kindle special deal so decided to give it a try. It was a pretty easy read and the style of it made me laugh. The book is in a combined paragraph to journal format. Don was 71 yrs of age when he decided to ride his bicycle from New Hampshire to San Francisco, California.  The journey itself is amazing. Unfortunately he gets tied up not so much in the trip itself but stating what Australian people always tell me about Americans. “They love the weather and they love to know the population of various cities.  While attending a conference once in Brisbane, Qld, we had a keynote speaker from a university in Maine, USA. My Aussie friend sitting beside me said, “You wait, her power point presentation will have initial photos of the state of Maine, where it is on the map, what the population is of her state and city and what the weather is like. They always do this.”  I, of course said, “No they won’t.” Her reply was, “Yes she will.”

The speaker is introduced, the lights go down and the large screen in front of us lights up with a huge picture of Maine. She introduced us to her university (photo 2) and then told us the population and showed two more photos. Maine in summer and Maine in winter. Well of course my friend and I were paralysed with silent laughter.  She whispered, “I rest my case.”  Over the years I have watched for this and I have to admit that is what American speakers do when visiting here. I find it highly entertaining.

So I was not surprised when 71 year old Don stated on almost every page of his journal, the population of all the towns he went through and gave me detailed weather updates.

I did enjoy this book but was glad it wasn’t any longer than it was. He described the roads in detail, the winds and what their measurement was. He would start riding about 5:00 am and finish about noon to 2:00 pm. I admired his stamina. I admired his determination. I also admired him when he was wiped out by an inattentive driver in Utah (She was reaching for her coffee on the floorboard when she veered to the right and wiped him out on a freeway) and returned to the same spot a year later to finish his journey to California.

What I found tedious was the health information. Whenever he mentioned something to do with his training he might say he didn’t smoke, he ate well, all the things you would expect a 71 yr old man to mention while training for a cross country ride.

snip20170117_4However, if smoking was mentioned he would then go into a long page or two lecture about the physiological things that happen to a body when one smokes. That would include statistics (another American favourite).  Then he did the same thing to nutrition, African politics (more on that later) as well as aging complaints and illnesses.

There were several topics he mentioned while continuing with the story that the lecture began. I found it tedious and skipped over those bits.  The one paragraph or two I did agree with him on was the aging factor and how society views and talks about the elderly.  I have always maintained the elderly are their own worst enemy as they continually pass cartoons and jokes around about incontinent, brain dead, droopy breasted, technologically phobic oldies.  They complain with one hand how the elderly are treated but then go on to absolutely denigrate the whole range of elderly in the same conversation.

When I produced the regional Senior’s Association newsletter I put a stop to the aged cartoons and jokes. I received several and I said I would not be continuing this practice. I do feel strongly about it so don’t feel too left out if I never post one here.

I wondered why this book was written like a military manual. Then as the ride progressed he began telling us about himself. First thing is he was an ambassador to Somalia in Africa in the early 1980’s. Then he talked about being a congressman for the state of New Hampshire.  That is when everything fell into place about my thinking. A retired politician. No wonder the writing was so vague.

When I read travel writing I like to hear about the people, the quirky places, the conversations in the various places they visit. The only conversations this guy reported on were those of people in diners telling him how “awesome” he was for undertaking this trip.  Many Americans don’t seem to realise there are people doing these things all over the world and we barely hear a thing about it unless it involves the moon.

So get over yourself and read a couple of Anne Mustoe’s incredible bicycle journeys (the British woman who truly was awesome).

Would I recommend this book?  I think it would be good to read by a person contemplating this journey because of the detailed weather reports, wind speeds and how one must adjust their mileage to better find accommodation in a country that has vast spaces and none available.  Though had he begun in San Francisco and gone eastward to New Hampshire he wouldn’t have spent half the book talking about the head winds. They almost always come from the west.screen-shot-2013-05-22-at-16-40-48

To the armchair traveller there is more exciting travel writing.  I do admire his undertaking and his perseverance.  There were a lot of bits I did truly enjoy reading but over all I would say it was pretty average writing.  And being an American-Australian I did enjoy hearing about the population, weather and statistics.

Is there such a thing as the Great American Novel?

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That is today’s query. I subscribe to Lit Hub, a free online magazine and there are many articles that pop up I find of interest. I was getting it daily but I just don’t have time to read the featured eight to ten articles a day so now I get it on weekends only. If you have not heard of it you can view it here.

The author, Emily Temple writes,

“On this date in 1868, novelist John William DeForest coined the now inescapable term “the great American novel” in the title of an essay in The Nation. Now, don’t forget that in 1868, just a few years after the end of the Civil War, “America” was still an uncertain concept for many—though actually, in 2017 we might assert the same thing, which should give you a hint as to why the term “great American novel” is so problematic.  

At the time of his writing, DeForest claimed that the Great American Novel, which he defined as “the picture of the ordinary emotions and manners of American existence,” had not yet been achieved, though he thought he could spot it on the horizon—he noted that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was “the nearest approach to the desired phenomenon.” (He also pooh-poohed both Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, …”)

The article then goes on to a list. I know how much people who read books like lists but I thought a couple of choices on the list didn’t belong there but I won’t mention details as I know everyone has their own opinions. You could argue this list forever and never reach agreement.

What I did enjoy in the article is the illustrated map (here). You can link to the map for more detail through the article but here is the picture of it:

snip20170110_1As I am such a visual learner I love it. It would be fun to take the trip around the country and read  all of the books. For you ‘challenge people’ you might like to do this. After all you have a full year ahead of you.

The question is: Next time you read an American novel ask yourself, Is this “a Great American novel?” or is it “THE Great American Novel. ”

I see the article has been featured on the John Steinbeck centre Facebook page with a conversation about his books being on the list. It comes down to:

Is there such a thing as The Great American Novel over all others? Or is it an impossibility.  It was a fun read.

(All highlighted text above goes to a link.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Quick Catch Up

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from 11 yr old Maya in Russia

This year seems to already be running along as quickly as 2016 did and I have decided I need to slow it down. In the vein of Forest Gump life seems to not only be like a box of cherries but quite like an amusement park. Some rides go faster than others.

I am reading an assortment of things. I am well into the Margery Sharp book which I am enjoying. I will post my review up for the Margery Sharp day towards the end of January. I need to check the date.

I finished off The Good People by Hannah Kent and that review will go up in February. Not before my book club meets. Funny how secretive we all like to be about what we think about our club book.  I am getting caught up on my book club reads so I can now enjoy the many books I own that I have pulled out of the closet and from under the bed and put onto the shelves. I am really enjoying seeing them all. out the book club books.

p1080762I am now listening to Songs of a War Boy by Deng Thiak Adut every time I get into my car. I am enjoying this non fiction piece of work very much but how this guy ever survived I really don’t know. This is for our March book club so sorry guys, that post won’t be up until later.

I have been having great fun with postcrossing.com with the postcards. I signed up for the first five addresses we are given with the registration number on them. Once the recipient gets it they register the number and then another address is released to me. The cards from other people are starting to come in and I really enjoy seeing what they send.

So far I have heard from a woman in Illinois who has returned from a Florida holiday and sent me a card. I have received a card from a Dutch woman who is currently living in Edinburgh, Scotland working as a tour guide. I got a Penguin Scootering card from a 45 yr old German woman. Today I got a wonderful card from 11 yr old Maya in Russia who loves to travel. She has visited 10 countries so far and she sent me a photo of her city taken at night. This has just been so much fun and the only cost is the postage stamp I put on the cards I send.p1080768

When I requested another address today when I registered Maya’s card I got the address of a Finnish retired speech pathologist. As I am a retired speech pathologist I look forward to sending her a card.

My dog Odie had a bit of gastro this past week and he was on anti -inflammatories and antibiotics. He felt sorry for himself but bounced back to chase his frisbee in a couple of days after the medication kicked in. I have told him to leave the possum business alone in the yard but of course being a half beagle dog that doesn’t really stay still in his brain.

p1080763On a final note I also got a charming card from Mudpuddle in Oregon. Some of you will know him as he comments on several blogs I follow and always comments on mine. Thank you ‘Mud’.

I’ll be back again soon with some bookish news. You know how it is when you are in the middle of three or four books and none of them are quite finished. They are moving though. Hope your week goes well. Tell me what you have been up to this week.

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Muddle’s card of Clatskanie River, Oregon

Happy New Year- Bring on 2017

penguin-1904This past week has flown by with the social events of the holidays. We didn’t do much on the actual day of Christmas and New Year’s Eve but the leading up time and the ‘after time’ continues.  It is summer which also adds social events to the calendar.

It feels good to have a new year upon us. A blank slate, so to speak.

snip20170101_5I finished the book The Good People by Hannah Kent from audible.com.  I will put up a review of it but not before our book group meets on the last Wed night of February. It is our monthly pick.  It is very hard to not talk about  it though.

I have started our March book from audible- Songs of a War Boy by Deng Thiak Adut. This book grabs you by the throat and really takes hold. It is also an audible book.

I am not going to set specific goals or get too excited about challenges on my blog this year. Something else always gets in the way and they go by the wayside and that makes me look like a really unreliable blogger. Which I can be at times.

snip20170101_6I have decided to use my monthly audible.com credit for my book group books. I seem to be in the car a lot and it is so nice how my phone will connect with the bluetooth in my car and start playing the book as soon as I turn it on.

I rescue wildlife for Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. The park itself is about 45 minutes from my home and they always need animals transported either to the sanctuary or from it to vet appointments or wildlife carer’s.  I used to not volunteer as much because the ride got so boring.

I have solved the problem of reading book group books I don’t always want to read along with the boring route to the park every week or every day if you volunteered enough.

Bonorong gets a phone call from a person who has found injured wildlife on the road or in their yard or tangled in fishline in the water. A text message goes out to all volunteers and whoever is free texts back and says, “Ring me.” You know what suburb the animal is in but not a specific address. You then get a call with the details. Once the job is finished you text the words back to them, “All sorted.” I have volunteered for several years now. This past year volunteers rescued more than 8000 (yes, 8000) animals.

I had the care of a blue tongue lizard the other night. A friend of mine who is a veterinarian was heading off with five children in the car and asnip20170101_3ll their bikes on the back on the way for some family riding. She found the lizard on the side of the road and rang me to keep it overnight. It was very cold so I warmed it up, kept it safe overnight. The next day I took it out to Bonorong for some R & R ,treatment and heat. I listened to the Songs of a War boy there and back. 90 minutes of reading this book. I think my book count will go up significantly for 2017 if I keep doing Bonorong work.

My goals for the year, if you want to call them that are:

1  Listen to my book group books on audible.

2  Read the books on my shelves that are now unpacked from boxes and drawers and have been shelved on the old empty Penguin shelves.

3  Keep reading some children’s books from 1001 Books Every Child Should Read. Only because they are interesting stories. They keep me in the loop about what young people read who are not like me, middle class, middle aged retired folk.

4  Shop for new books (to me) in the library catalogue instead of bringing home a bunch more books to put on my over burdened shelves. I enjoy reading all the reviews on blogs and going straight to the library’s web site to see if they are there and put them on my wish list. I will read library books because I feel it is important to support libraries. We do have a wonderful service here and I would hate to see it end.

5  I want to make sure I comment on the blogs I read regularly to further establish those friendships. This might mean cutting  back on blogs that don’t interest me. I like to explore new ones but don’t often find a lot I want to follow for a long time. So many blogs that focus on fantasy, mystery only, romance or historical fiction.

6  Write more on my blog. Keep the variety of the blog growing and do not get stale. My reviews are not nearly as extensive as some but I want to keep the enthusiasm going for the books I do read.

7. Update Books of the Century years and read more books on that list.

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Last week I had to transfer a baby Eastern Rosella to a carer and four days later I had to transfer an adult Eastern Rosella to the same carer. It was found impaled on a cactus needle in someone’s yard. 

8.  Keep better stats so I can actually do an end of year analysis and report.

That sums it up. I just plan to relax with it all and have heaps of fun with like minded, intelligent bloggers.

I guess that is the week that was. Mostly mental with some Christmas and New Year’s cheer thrown in.

 

Farewell Penguins- Part II

coffee-shop-penguinI talked about the decision making regarding giving up my extensive Penguin collection yesterday. I feel sad about that but today I am thinking about the happiness this collection has given me.

Penguin books are disappearing as the baby boomers of the world also disappear. I think a few young people appreciate the books but they have been the domain of the older generations. The books in my collection dated from 1935 to 1970. The world is a different place these days.

In collecting the Penguins I have experienced two overseas trips to the UK that were both great fun. We talked to booksellers, found rarer books, saw parts of the world not seen before. The first trip would not have happened if I wasn’t collecting these books.

While travelling on the first trip I also saw how many book readers and collectors started blogging. I started getting into that more so when I returned home. I have had the best experiences blogging. I have made bookish friends in Australia as well as in England. I have met and stayed in touch with three people in the UK,  one of which has a blogs, one that is also a Penguin collector. One person from the UK has visited me in Tasmania and is coming back again in March.

I am a member of the Penguin Collector’s society and their publications have been excellent. I will continue to support them.

I am on a first name basis with all the book store owners in Hobart because of the time I have spent in their store looking for Penguins. I have enjoyed their enthusiasm.  The Penguin network goes through out the world.

I found a first printed Penguin in South America. A No 1 book, 1937,  written in Spanish. That was exciting. I have a French Penguin from that country.  I am always happy when I see that little bird on the bottom of a spine with a number next to it.

I have conducted four presentations through schools for seniors in Tasmania about the history of the Penguin publications. As I shared the various Penguin series with these people, I saw what a  great deal of pleasure handling the books and retelling their memories of Penguins in their life when they were growing up gave them.

I will continue to keep Penguins out of landfill but they won’t live at my house. They will all be gone one day, as nothing is permanent but the attachment will not lie with me anymore.

I will enjoy the Penguin series of poetry, classics, handbooks and Kings that I will retain for now.  One day they too will find new homes.

I look forward to chatting to others about the books that aren’t Penguins and that don’t live in boxes in closets and under the bed any longer.

Farewell to the Penguins-Part I

snip20161229_1After considerable thought and having way too many books in the house, I have sold my main collection of the Penguin collection.  I packed up 13 cartons of the books the other day and a local bookseller has bought the lot of the main series. It is close to 1000 books.I also have removed the small collection of Pelicans I had.

However I continue to save many of the books in the other series of vintage Penguins. I will keep everything else you see listed above, the poets, the classics, the Kings, the Puffins (maybe). I will also keep the ephemera.

I have had too many books that aren’t Penguins packed away in many boxes and in the drawers under the bed.  At night I found myself waking up and thinking, “There is too much in this house.” I am approaching the next decade of my life in another three years and I need to get rid of things while I am still able to lift and move things.

When I talked to the store owner I had to fight back tears as I have loved collecting them. I ask myself why I kept them in the first place. Answer: to keep them out of landfill.  As many of them came from the Tip shop I have achieved this goal.

I had contacted libraries and a museums but nobody has enough staff to catalogue them all and transportation of 13 cartons to the mainland is too much for me to handle. The cost would also be considerable. The man who bought them is a youngish guy and he loves books, probably more than anyone I know. (outside of myself). He has coveted these books for a long time.

I worry that if I or Mr. P left alone one day, we do not want to have to deal with this massive collection at that time. One must be pragmatic and realistic about the older years.

The exciting thing is the shelves are now filled with beautiful books I have collected that are not Penguins and the books I really do want to read and write about.

I have one whole wall devoted to built in shelves that will keep these books. I have had four additional full size book shelves full of everything else. One bookshelf is in the hallway and has my old book collection which I love. John Steinbeck first editions, Hemingway, Jack London and quite a few other older things. I have collected old hardcover books of dog adventure stories from 1800’s to 1950 longer than I have collected Penguins. I will spend some time with them and share those with you. I collect them mainly for the illustrations that are wonderful. They are books too that I would read.

Of the three bookshelves that are portable in the front library room two of them will be sold. I will have more room now for my computer, desk and furniture. It won’t be so cramped. It won’t be so cluttered.

It is true what ‘they’ say about clutter causing stress. My stress levels were starting to rise as I could not adequately control the amount of books I had. In the past couple of years including the Penguin sales I will have removed about 2000 books from this house. I probably still have between 500 and 800 books left but they all fit comfortably on the shelves. If they don’t fit then they will have to go.

As I read through some of the books I own I will be giving some away through the blog. I won’t need to retain most of them once read. 2017 will focus heavily on my own books. I am looking forward to it.

Part II of this post will talk more about the excellent experiences that have happened to me through this collection.

I will feel sad for awhile but once they are gone I will be happy to begin reading the books that have been in storage for so long and if there is room add a few more??

 

 

 

 

Richard Adams – RIP

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credit: Wikipedia

I cannot believe another loved author has died. The news this past year has been full of the death of loved music literary people we cared about deeply.

Richard Adams, author of Watership Down passed away at the grand old age of 96.

I turned on the early morning news and I heard the news. Watership Down was a book many of us read years and years ago as young people. We hadn’t exposure to many books as this ‘back then’ and it left a big imprint.

The story of a family of rabbits, dear Fiver, and the perils they faced. I was only thinking the other day as I sorted through  box of books I pulled out of the closet I should reread this book. It has been a long time.

Do others have thoughts on this story?

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Credit: Wikipedia

Do you remember what you were doing in life when you first read it?