Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May is Short Story Month - Ray Bradbury

May is Short Story Month and today's author is Ray Bradbury. Today we're going to take on time travel and paradox: the nature of time, the fabric of space, the butterfly effect and the ramifications of each step you take and every move you make.

Bradbury was one of the most-celebrated American writers of the twentieth century. A novelist, short story writer, essayist and playwrite, he specialized in science fiction, fantasy and horror; a descendant of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Edgar Allan Poe. Bradbury considered himself a fantasy writer, claiming that science fiction was the "art of the possible" and as such his only science fiction was his most well-known work,  Fahrenheit 451 (1953). Which is chilling, I mean have you READ Fahrenheit 451?

Bradbury was born in 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois, which morphs into "Green Town" in his stories. At the age of eleven he began writing, sometimes on butcher paper during the Great Depression. When he was fourteen the family moved to Los Angeles in search of work and Bradbury fell hard for Hollywood. He learned how to sneak into the Uptown Theater and was there every week. Now Bradbury has his own star on the Walk of Fame. He graduated from Los Angeles High School but never went on to college. He said that libraries raised him. For libraries, see Something Wicked This Way Comes. It was at the Powell Library on the campus of UCLA that Bradbury wrote The Fireman, later known the world over as Fahrenheit 451, which won the Prometheus Award.

Bradbury is credited with twenty-seven novels and more than six hundred short stories, I kid you not. Among these are The Martian Chronicles (1950), The Illustrated Man (1951) and Dandelion Wine (1957). Twenty-seven of his stories were adapted by EC Comics. Adaptations were also made for television such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. He made his debut in cinema in 1953 with It Came From Outer Space. Over the next fifty years more than thirty-five features, shorts and TV movies were made from his stories and screenplays. This is a complete list of works. I could attempt to include every award and honor earned by this giant but you'd be reading for the next hour, so here's another list.

Bradbury's writing is often quite lyrical. He gave credit for this to reading poetry every day. "If you're reluctant to weep, you won't live a full and complete life." For example, from today's selection:
Out of chars and ashes, out of dust and coals, like golden salamanders, the old years, the green years, might leap; roses sweeten the air, white hair turn Irish-black, wrinkles vanish; all, everything fly back to seed, flee death, rush down to their beginnings, suns rise in western skies and set in glorious easts, moons eat themselves opposite to the custom, all and everything cupping one in another like Chinese boxes, rabbits into hats, all and everything returning to the fresh death, the seed death, the green death, to the time before the beginning.
Bradbury died in Los Angeles in 2006 at the age of 91. Upon his death, The New York Times commended him for "bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream." Many contemporary artists claim Bradbury as their strongest influence, among them Steven Spielberg and Neil Gaiman. On the day Bradbury died Stephen King put this up on his website:
Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories. One of the latter was called 'A Sound of Thunder.' The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant's footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty.
Our story is "A Sound of Thunder," from R is for Rocket (1952).

Monday, May 27, 2013

Welcome Ukraine!

This afternoon I am pleased to welcome Ukraine to TexasBookLover. Laskavo prosymo!

In Memoriam

It is Memorial Day here in the United States of America. Today we remember our fallen and their families. We remember that our beloved country exists today thanks to the convictions and bravery of men and women willing to fight to the last for what should be universal truths.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed - Declaration of Independence
You don't have to agree with and support every move your country makes in order to be a patriot. There are plenty of things wrong here, I will not name them today. There are many more things that are right here, I will not name them today. I will say that patriotism means loving your country enough to gaze at it with eyes wide open, to appreciate and celebrate the good, and to examine the not-so-good with honesty and introspection. Patriotism demands that you get to work in support of the country that supports you, in whatever way you can.

In keeping with the literary theme of this blog, I offer you an essay by Lt. General William James Lennox, Jr., MA and PhD in Literature from Princeton University and fifty-sixth Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, on teaching literature and poetry to soldiers.

Romance and Reality
By Lt. Gen. William James Lennox Jr. 
As I write this, American soldiers serve in harm's way in places such as Mosul, Fallujah, and Jalalabad. For young leaders in today's Army, the war on terror constitutes a difficult and sometimes tragic reality.

Meanwhile, in the small classrooms of West Point, young cadets consider war through the eyes of Rudyard Kipling, Carl Sandburg, and John McCrae. During his or her plebe year, every West Point cadet takes a semester of English literature, reading and discussing poetry from Ovid to Owen, Spenser to Springsteen ("Thunder Road" provides a catalogue of poetic devices). Cadets must also recite poems from memory, a challenge that many graduates recall years later as one of their toughest hurdles.

Like warfare, poetry can result from the collision between romance and reality, as the ironic title of Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est" memorably observes. So too, our new cadets arrive full of romantic idealism, then spend the next forty-seven months at the Academy learning the pragmatic realities of discipline, integrity, and leadership.

Why, in an age of increasingly technical and complex warfare, would America's future combat leaders spend sixteen weeks studying the likes of simile, irony, rhyme, and meter?

Those who can't communicate can't lead. Poetry, because it describes reality with force and concision, provides an essential tool for effective communication. Like most colleges, West Point emphasizes both verbal and written communication skills, and our faculty evaluates cadets on their substance, style, organization, and correctness. In studying poetry, cadets gain a unique appreciation for the power of language. From alliteration to onomatopoeia, the poet's tools allow words to transcend the limitations of syntax. We may hear that transcendence in Shakespeare's imagery and Whitman's passion, but it is there as well in the closing cadence of MacArthur's farewell: "when I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the corps, and the corps, and the corps." We do not hold our cadets to this standard of stentorian elegance; we do, however, teach them to appreciate what makes this language different.

Second, poetry confronts cadets with new ideas that challenge their worldview. The West Point curriculum includes poetry, history, philosophy, politics, and law, because these subjects provide a universe of new ideas, different perspectives, competing values and conflicting emotions. In combat, our graduates face similar challenges: whether to fire at a sniper hiding in a mosque, or how to negotiate agreements between competing tribal leaders. Schoolbook solutions to these problems do not exist; combat leaders must rely on their own morality, their own creativity, their own wits. In teaching cadets poetry, we teach them not what to think, but how to think.

Finally, poetry gives our cadets a new and vital way to see the world, a world that many of my generation could not have imagined. When I entered West Point in the summer of 1967, Academy graduates were waging a very Cold War in central Europe and a very hot war in the jungles of Southeast Asia. In the thirty-eight years since, countless changes, some magnificent and some tragic, have shaped a very different future for my grandson.

Often, these tectonic shifts in history and society resist clear exposition, particularly when these shifts involve armed conflict. Louis Simpson noted this elusiveness when he wrote:

To a foot soldier, war is almost entirely physical. That is why some men, when they think about war, fall silent. Language seems to falsify physical life and to betray those who have experienced it absolutely—the dead.
Since the Iliad, poetry has allowed its writers to capture wars chaos and horror with a power that other artists lacked. One can, for example, read a hundred accounts of the Crimean War, but none of them will convey its pointless barbarity like Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade." Those few stanzas convey the romance and reality of warfare more clearly than any other medium.

We may not produce a poet laureate at the United States Military Academy. If, however, we develop graduates who can communicate clearly, think critically, and appreciate the world through different perspectives, we will provide the Army and the nation with better leaders.
Originally Published: March 1, 2006, Poetry Magazine

And the winner is....

Kali Duke! Kali has won The Secret Rescue: An Untold Story of American Nurses and Medics Behind Nazi Lines by Cate Lineberry. Congratulations!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

As Nora Jo Fades Away

Confessions of a Caregiver 
A Memoir
By Lisa Cerasoli
Five Star Publications, Inc., 186 pgs
Submitted by the author
Rating: 3.5

As Nora Jo Fades Away by Lisa Cerasoli will take your breath away, either from pain or laughing your ass off, one or the other. Humor is required, both coping mechanism and self-defense. I admit a certain bias: I, along with my stepmother and sister, was a caregiver for my father during the last fifteen months of his life. Like Nora Jo, he suffered from a certain amount of dementia, along with a long list of health problems, complications and the occasional (increasingly frequent) crisis. It was the best thing I've ever done and I am eternally grateful to my stepmother for allowing me to be there, for wanting me to be present. Witnessing is important. A lot of relationships don't survive such stresses. The relationships that do survive are sometimes damaged but sometimes the fire forges something stronger from the flames. I think that's what my stepmother and sister and I have now. Steel.

Nora Josephine Cerasoli
Nora Josephine Cerasoli, the author's grandmother, was diagnosed with dementia and then Alzheimer's in 2006. Two years later, after a mishap that could have burned her grandmother's house down with her in it, Lisa moved her Gram into her home with her relatively new family: young daughter, stepson and husband. Talk about trial by fire. Twenty-four hour caregiving is exhausting - physically, mentally and emotionally. The author did not sleep for the first two months. More than three days without sleep can cause hallucinations, did you know that? I do. Lisa describes it this way:
Every single night in bed I lay with eyes wide open, listening like a guard on graveyard shift at the state penitentiary waiting for a prison break. I took my job that seriously. There'd be a snore. Is she choking? A wheeze. Did she stop breathing? A creek. Crap, is she trying to get up? Is she going to fall again? And who's going to stop talking to me NEXT over all this rigmarole?
Nora Jo kept odd hours, almost flipping her days and nights. It's one o'clock in the afternoon why hasn't anyone made coffee yet? On the other hand, half the day is gone so forget the coffee, why not a brandy instead? New sign pasted to the microwave door: 'No beer cans or silverware in the microwave. Thanks.' She wouldn't remember eating and her brain had lost the connection to the stomach that tells you that you are full. So rail-thin Nora Jo eats, a lot. The Iraqis poisoned the lettuce, the proof of which was that she had to throw it away. Failure to identify everyday household objects: why is there a jar of twenty tweezers in the bathroom?

This is the quote that heads chapter one:
There's only one man I've ever loved. We met when I was fourteen and we were married for sixty-seven years. What the hell was his name? - Nora Jo
Lisa and her Gram
She didn't always know who you were. Holidays and birthdays can be frustrating and difficult because who the hell are all these people in my house? She often forgot that her husband and a son had preceded her in death. Can you imagine having to explain that over and over again? But there's something worse than that. Can you imagine having to hear that news and go through that pain, as if it were brand new, over and over again? This takes patience and it takes compassion and it takes empathy and it is hard. But then the question: what is worse? Not remembering, not understanding? Or, and this happens too: the fog clears suddenly, immediately and completely and the poor woman understands that she hasn't understood. And she is embarrassed and she is ashamed. Can you imagine? Dignity is a big deal.

Everyone has an opinion. You can't move her in. It'll end your marriage. Not your responsibility. That's what nursing homes are for. Everybody has a story they want to tell you. This is supposed to be illustrative of the utter impossibility of the situation. But Lisa did it, she moved her Gram in and learned to care for her. She had the help of her family and friends; support from an extended network of caregivers she had met during the course of writing this book; and the occasional prescription from the family doc. What it boiled down to for Lisa was this: This woman is my Gram and she would have gladly laid down her life for me at any time. Nora Jo passed on December 16, 2010.

The Author
The writing style here is spare, sardonic but still conveying the pathos of the situation. Some of the stories will leave you aghast but are still infused with love and gratitude. Lisa Cerasoli understands in her bones that we owe a debt to the people who loved us and took care of us and sacrificed for us. I do wish the book was longer, and that there were less quotation marks. But I'm not going to quibble punctuation style in the face of the honesty it took the author to turn the mirror on herself. There is a lovely family picture album included and an in memoriam section for other victims of Alzheimer's and their families that the author has met in support groups and nonprofit organizations, followed by a section of resources and references in case you need more help. It feels as if she has welcomed us into her kitchen, sat us down at the table with a beer or two, and started telling stories. It can be, as Lisa puts it, like a bizarre cross between Norman Rockwell and any random episode of All In the Family. But in the final analysis that's the point: family.

Bonus: One dollar for every book sold will go directly into a fund for The Alzheimer's Association and Leeza's Place.

Giveaway has Ended - The Secret Rescue

OK everybody, the book giveaway for The Secret Rescue: An Untold Story of American Nurses and Medics Behind Nazi Lines by Cate Lineberry has ended. I'll pick the winner by random drawing today and post the winner tomorrow. Thanks for participating and I'll announce another giveaway soon!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Selected Shorts

Since May is Short Story Month, I'd like to make introductions for those of you who may not be familiar with Selected Shorts. Selected Shorts is a weekly public radio show produced by Symphony Space and WNYC Radio. It is distributed by Public Radio International (PRI), reaching approximately 300,000 listeners. The program is based around a different theme or particular author each week. Well-known actors from stage, screen and television give dramatic readings of the stories, which are always fiction, some classics and some brand new. Selected Shorts is recorded live in front of sell-out audiences at the Peter Sharp Theater in New York City every week, where it has been running since 1985. Selected Shorts is also available on Sirius XM. The podcast is available the following Monday.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Short Story Month - Barry Hannah

May is Short Story Month and my pick for today is Barry Hannah. We're in the American South
again today, in Mississippi. It doesn't get any more American Southern than this, my friends. Land of the Klan, delta blues, catfish as big as your leg, King Cotton and Jefferson Davis. This stew produces the richest regional fiction this country has to offer. The thing to remember is this: there is really no such thing as the past in Mississippi. The past is present, always.

Barry Hannah was a novelist and a shorty story writer and a miracle. He formed one leg of a sort of literary triumvirate along with Pat Conroy and Larry Brown, direct cultural descendants of Faulkner and Tennessee Williams. Born in Meridian in 1942, he lived in Mississippi all his life, save a couple of brief sojourns hither and yon. Hannah grew up in Clinton and earned a BA in lit at Mississippi College, followed by a MA and MFA at the University of Arkansas.

His first novel was Geronimo Rex (1972), which was greeted with a William Faulkner Prize and a nomination for the National Book Award. Quite the beginning. His first short story collection was Airships (1978), most of which was first published in Esquire. Another collection, High Lonesome (1996), was nominated for a Pulitzer. Hannah taught creative writing at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the University of Alabama and Texas State University, among others. As the director of the MFA program at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss, Oxford), he served as teacher and mentor to some truly outstanding talents: Larry Brown, Donna Tartt, and Bob Shacochis, to name just a few. Hannah produced eight novels and five short story collections before his sudden death of a heart attack in 2010. This is a complete bibliography. Go here for a complete list of awards.
Larry Brown, Barry Hannah

Our story is "Water Liars," from Airships.

[Sadly, Larry Brown, Hannah's great friend and colleague, also succumbed to sudden, rude death from a heart attack in 2004. This is a lovely article written by Wells Tower, one of Hannah's students. It chronicles an afternoon spent with Hannah, looking for Brown's grave. It serves as a lovely eulogy for both men.]

Don't Forget to Enter - Contest Ends Tomorrow!

The book giveaway for The Secret Rescue: An Untold Story of American Nurses and Medics Behind Nazi Lines by Cate Lineberry ends TOMORROW, Saturday, May 25. This is a new release, a hardback first edition courtesy of the generous folks over at Little, Brown. Don't miss it!

Check out the original post for contest rules:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Welcome Pakistan!

I am proud tonight to welcome Pakistan to  
TexasBookLover. Khush Aamdeed! Pakheyr!

May is Short Story Month - Mary Hood

May is Short Story Month and today's author is Mary Hood. Ms. Hood is a novelist, essayist and short story author of the American South. Born in Georgia in 1946, she is a graduate of Georgia State University. She began her professional life as a librarian in Douglasville. She has held the Grisham Chair (yes, that Grisham) at the University of Mississippi, among other positions, and taught at the University of Georgia.

Hood's first published work was a collection of short fiction, How Far She Went (1984), which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction and the The Southern Review/Louisiana State University Award for Short Fiction. A second collection, And Venus is Blue (1986), won the Lillian Smith Book Award and the Townsend Prize for Fiction, among others. Her one novel (so far) is Familiar Heat, published in 1995. She has since had several stories published in The Georgia Review. Hood's stories have been anthologized frequently, notably in The Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Short Stories. This is a list of works. This is a list of awards.

Generations of southern identity are central to today's story and I don't think I've ever read a better, clearer characterization of the way the South understands the question of identity than this one from Hood. She had this to say:

Suppose a man is walking across a field. To the question "Who is that?" a Southerner would reply by saying something like "Wasn't his granddaddy the one whose dog and him got struck by lightning on the steel bridge? Mama's third cousin - dead before my time - found his railroad watch in that eight-pound catfish's stomach the next summer just above the dam. I think it was eight pounds. Big as Eunice's arm. The way he married for that new blue Cadillac automobile, reckon how come he's walking like he has on Sunday shoes, if that's who it is, and for sure it is." A Northerner would reply to the same question (only if directly asked, though, never volunteering), "That's Joe Smith." To which the Southerner might think (but be much too polite to say aloud), "They didn't ask his name, they asked who he is!"
Today's story deals with a particularly perilous time in the life of a teenage girl: suffering from that delusion during which teenage girls fancy themselves powerful because they are physically
attractive to men. It's a shot to the groin, hollow in the stomach, the idea that you can exert your will over a man. Not a boy, a man. If you manage to survive that phase relatively unscathed you can look back many years later and marvel that you made it through with no violence having been done you. At the time you're not thinking about things like that. You think you're in control. Until you're not.

Our story is "How Far She Went." Some women know how far she went, and some are glad they don't.

Welcome Malaysia!

This afternoon I am thrilled to welcome Malaysia to TexasBookLover. Dialu-alukan!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Welcome Algeria!

Yay, tonight I get to welcome Algeria to TexasBookLover. Marhaba! Bienvenue!

Welcome Venezuela!

I am delighted to welcome Venezuela to TexasBookLover. ¡Bienvenidos!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Welcome Nepal!

This afternoon I am pleased to welcome Nepal to TexasBookLover. स्वागतम् (swagatam)! 

May is Short Story Month - Tim O'Brien

May is Short Story Month and today's author is Tim O'Brien. An American novelist and short story writer, O'Brien is both critically-acclaimed and popular with the general reading public. The two things do not often go together. A lot of his work is semi-autobiographical and deals with the Vietnam War. He is a big believer, as am I, that fiction can often times be more truly authentic than the facts of a given situation. See verisimilitude. O'Brien has several times held the endowed chair in the MFA program at Texas State University in San Marcos. He lives with his sons in Austin.

Born in Minnesota in 1946, O'Brien was Student Body President, and graduated from the political science program of, Macalester College in 1968, shortly after which Uncle Sam came calling and he was drafted and shipped out to Vietnam. He took his place in 3rd Platoon, Company A, 5th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Division, US Army infantry, a grunt, and was in country from 1969 to 1970. After completing his service O'Brien went on to graduate school at Harvard and an internship at the Washington Post. His first book was published in 1973, If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, a memoir. He won the National Book Award in 1979 for Going After Cacciatoa novel of the Vietnam War.

Lest you think O'Brien is limited in any way to war stories, please see In the Lake of the Woods, which won the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best Historical Fiction in 1995, for a first-rate mystery (the word is inadequate as a description of this book). See Tomcat In Love for the priceless satirical tale of a gentleman(?) who might, or might not, be the mid-west's answer to Casa Nova. O'Brien is a recipient of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, awarded in 2012 for lifetime achievement. His papers are archived at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. Go here for a complete bibliography; here for the author's web site; here for his Facebook page.

O'Brien very rarely comments on the politics of the Vietnam era but when he does it can be quite sharp. For instance, he once remarked that his hometown was "a town that congratulates itself, day after day, on its own ignorance of the world: a town that got us into Vietnam..." Ouch. And bravo. Incredibly, we still suffer from this complex and it got us into Iraq and Afghanistan. To be proud of our ignorance and arrogance is a disservice to ourselves, our military, and, because of our power, a disservice to the entire globe. And...take a breath (hopping off my soap box). Back to lit.

Our story is "The Things They Carried," which is both the title of a story and the title of the collection. The devil, and everything else, is in the details.

Welcome Bahrain!

This morning I am delighted to welcome Bahrain to TexasBookLover. !ترحيب

Monday, May 20, 2013

May is Short Story Month - Ernest Hemingway

May is Short Story Month and today's author is Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway may be the most influential American author of the twentieth century, both for his writing and his personal life. He is the example of a spare, economical narrative style that would be much imitated. Henry James remarked that World War I "used up words." Hemingway was also an adrenaline junkie: women, bullfighting, big-game hunting and war as a sort of hobby.

Hemingway, WWI
Hemingway was born in 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. After graduating high school he went to work as a reporter for the Kansas City Star for a few months before heading for the Italian front as an ambulance driver in World War I. He was sent home seriously wounded by mortar fire (his conduct during this incident won him the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery) in 1918. He married Hadley, the first of his four wives, in 1923 and headed for Paris where he was a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star and part of a large (both famous and infamous) expat community. In Paris he met Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso, among many others. His first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems, was published in 1923 and his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, was published in 1926. It is widely considered his best work.

Hemingway and Hadley divorced and he promptly married his mistress, Pauline. She wanted to return to the United States and, upon the recommendation of John Dos Passos, they relocated to Key West. His next work, A Farewell to Arms, published in 1929, was the result of his experiences in WWI. It established his literary reputation. A nonfiction work, Death in the Afternoon, was the result of an extended sojourn in Spain in 1929 and a morbid fascination with bullfighting. 1933 found him on safari in Africa with Teddy Roosevelt's guide, where he suffered a prolapsed intestine from dysentery. This experience produced the short story "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." He returned to Key West and Green Hills of Africa was published in 1935 to mixed reviews.

In 1937 Hemingway agreed to cover the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance. He was at the Battle of the Ebro in 1938, witnessing the final republican stand. In 1939 he left Key West in his boat bound for Cuba where he would take up residence at the Hotel Havana for what became a long separation from Pauline. An acquaintance from Key West, Martha Gellhorn, joined him in Havana. They married in 1940 in Wyoming and she is said to have inspired his most well-known novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls. This marriage broke up when Hemingway met Mary Welsh in London in 1944 where he was reporting on World War II, during which he was present at the Normandy landings, the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of Paris. In fact, historian Paul Fussell states:
Hemingway got into considerable trouble playing infantry captain to a group of Resistance people that he gathered because a correspondent is not supposed to lead troops, even if he does it well. This was in fact in contravention of the Geneva Convention, and Hemingway was brought up on formal charges; he said he "beat the rap" by claiming that he only offered advice.
The man even got himself a Bronze Star. He married Mary in 1946 and tumbled into clinical
depression as an ever greater number of his contemporaries began to die on him: Yeats, Stein, Fitzgerald, Anderson, Joyce, and that's not the whole list. His health began to deteriorate during this period: migraines, high blood pressure and diabetes, not helped at all by years and years of drinking like a whale. Not much writing got done during this time but then came The Old Man and the Sea (1952), which won him a Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Prize in Literature.

Hemingway and Mary went off on safari to Africa in 1954 and were in not one, but two plane crashes that nearly killed him and left him in pain for the remainder of his life. According to Mary, his injuries included two cracked discs, a kidney rupture, liver rupture, a dislocated shoulder and a broken skull, which leaked cerebral fluid, as well as wide-spread second degree burns when the second plane actually exploded. He began a slide into depression that progressed to confusion and paranoia. He was checked into the Mayo Clinic under a false name in late 1960 and treated with shock therapy. Papa would not recover this time. As we all know, he took his life with a shotgun at his home in Idaho on July 2, 1961. (Note: Hemingway's father, a sister and a brother also died of suicide. A genetic condition called hemochromatosis is thought to be the cause.)

I tend to be of two minds where Papa Hemingway is concerned. His very name may as well be a synonym for testosterone run amok. I vacillate between wanting to tell him off and never see him
On safari
again, and then wanting to shake my head, make him another drink and climb into his lap so I can listen to another story. But oh what a life! What a glorious terrible mess; what fodder for an imagination and talent such as his. In the end, no other life would do. File this under: bad decisions make for good stories. Pain got him in the end but I think we should feel rather grateful to the old cuss. Otherwise, we'd have to do this shit ourselves.

Our story is "The Snows of Kilimanjaro."

Bonus: check out The Hemingway Women. They deserve their own book.

Welcome Belize!

This morning I am pleased to welcome Belize to 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May is Short Story Month - Gabriel García Márquez

May is Short Story Month and today's author is Gabriel García Márquez. His full name is Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez, but his fans call him Gabo. He is a Colombian novelist, short story writer, journalist, screenwriter and all-around certified genius. He abandoned a career in law for journalism and is not  afraid to call bullshit to the face of government, which can be lethal in South America. He speaks truth to power.

García Márquez has earned critical acclaim and popular success for his articles and short stories but is mainly known as a novelist. If you haven't read Love in the Time of Cholera (1985) stop whatever you're doing and go read. Now. García Márquez is credited for popularizing a literary style known as magical realism. That is, elements of the supernatural are interjected into the most mundane of circumstances. Normally, a man gazes out a window to the street below and sees a stray tomcat cross. In a García Márquez story, the tomcat is a peacock.

García Márquez spent his early years with his grandparents. His grandfather, the Colonel, a Liberal and a veteran of the Thousand Days War, was a gifted storyteller. He once told his grandson that nothing weighed as much as a dead man. García Márquez's politics and ideology were shaped by his grandfather and he would later translate these ideas into much of his work. His grandmother also played her part in contributing a sense of omens and superstition. You can find his grandmother refracted most clearly in his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)William Kennedy has called it "the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race." Add it to your list. In fact, here is a complete bibliography. García Márquez won a Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1972 and a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982.

Because of the controversies of his journalism and the popularity of his fiction, García Márquez actually served as negotiator between the government of Colombia and various rebel groups. He was friends with Fidel Castro, which occasioned a punch in the face from Mario Vargas Llosa (another genius everyone should read - try The Feast of the Goat) and denial of a visitor's visa by the United States. President Bill Clinton eventually lifted that ban.

I'll leave you with this:
Whether in fiction or nonfiction, in the epic novel or the concentrated story, Márquez is now recognized in the words of Carlos Fuentes as "the most popular and perhaps the best writer in Spanish since Cervantes." He is one of those very rare artists who succeed in chronicling not only a nation's life, culture and history, but also those of an entire continent, and a master storyteller who, as The New York Review of Books once said, "forces upon us at every page the wonder and extravagance of life."
Our story is "One of These Days."

Children's Book Week 2013 - Island of the Blue Dolphins

It's the last day of Children's Book Week 2013 and my pick for today is Island of the Blue Dolphins (1961) by Scott O'Dell. It is based on the true story of a young Nicoleño Indian girl stranded alone for eighteen years on San Nicolas Island in the 19th century. In 2012, archaeologists believe they found the cave she lived in and excavation is ongoing.

Karana's village is forced to leave the island and relocate but she is left behind when she jumps off the boat to follow her brother who has forgotten his spear. Her brother is subsequently killed by a pack of feral dogs and Karana must learn to survive. She must learn to be successful at all of the tasks traditionally reserved to men and boys, such as making spears and canoes and hunting. Over time she develops a kinship with the animals of the island, including the alpha male of the dog pack that killed her brother, as they are her only companions. Eighteen years after the departure of her entire village, a ship arrives on the island and carries Karana to the mission at Santa Barbara on the coast of California.

Island of the Blue Dolphins won a Newbery Medal in 1961 and was adapted to film in 1964, winning a Golden Globe Award for Celia Kaye as Karana. If you enjoyed this book, there is a sequel, Zia (1976).

Bonus: you can go here for an animated interactive exploration of the island.

¡Bienvenida a México!

Me alegra mucho daros la bienvenida a México a Texas amante de los Libros. 

Welcome Vietnam!

I am thrilled to welcome Vietnam to TexasBookLover! Chào đón!

Welcome Australia!

And, today I also get to welcome Australia to TexasBookLover! G'day!

Welcome Poland!

Today I get to welcome Poland to TexasBookLover. Witam! 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Children's Book Week 2013 - Trixie Belden

It's Day 6 of Children's Book Week 2013 and my pick for today is the Trixie Belden mystery series. I never was much for Nancy Drew, my girl was Trixie Belden. There are thirty-nine books in the series, written between 1948 and 1986. The series was completely out of print for many years but Random House began releasing titles again in 2003, although some are still hard to find. I suggest scouring your local used bookstores or you can find them on ebay and other such sites. The first title is Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion.

Trixie is a teenage girl living on a farm in the Hudson Valley of New York with her three brothers. Shy lonely rich girl Honey Wheeler moves into the estate next door and she and Trixie become fast friends. Trixie and Honey and their brothers and friends form a secret club and solve cases ranging from right next door; to New York City; a Navajo reservation in Arizona; and the banks of the Mississippi. There are many adventures and some pretty smart mysteries.

There is often a competitiveness between Trixie Belden fans and Nancy Drew fans. Trixie fans love to claim a more realistic character who has trouble with math and too often has to babysit her little brother. While she is not traipsing around Istanbul admiring the carpets, it is very waspy in here. I didn't know what that term meant in the the sixth grade and the differences in the world in which these stories are set and our present surroundings have multiplied exponentially since I was twelve. But I don't think younger readers will mind. They'll be too busy looking for the missing emeralds or wondering why there's a light tonight in that spooky abandoned lighthouse or wishing that witch would stop whispering because we're eavesdropping outside this window and really really can't hear quite well enough.....oops!

Another Book Giveaway - The Secret Rescue!

I am thrilled to offer y'all another book giveaway today! The book is The Secret Rescue: an Untold  Story of American Nurses and Medics Behind Nazi Lines by Cate Lineberry. This is a new release, a hardback first edition, that I got from the generous folks over at Little, Brown. This is author Cate Lineberry's first book. She is the former staff writer and Europe editor for National Geographic and the web editor for Smithsonian. You can find her on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

In November 1943 twenty-six US Army Air Forces flight nurses and medics boarded a military transport for the front line in Italy to evacuate the sick and injured. A ferocious storm knocked them off course into the path of German fighters and the flight was forced to crash-land into unknown territory behind enemy lines. No compass, no radio, one gun. The Secret Rescue is the story of their survival against terrifying odds.

And y'all know the drill - to enter this giveaway you must: 1) be a follower of TexasBookLover, I offer a number of ways to follow on this blog's homepage; and 2) leave a comment on this post with your wish to be included in the random drawing. This giveaway is open as of NOW and closes at midnight on Saturday, May 25 and I will announce the winners on Monday, May 27. This is an international contest, open to anyone over the age of thirteen. Good luck! ¡Buena suerte!