Blue Nights, by Joan Didion
Two of the most life-challenging situations an individual can experience, the death of a child and the aging process, are very movingly and eloquently written about in Joan Didion's newest book, Blue Nights. Blue Nights could be considered a sequel to Didion's Year of Magical Thinking, which detailed her life in the aftermath of the death of her husband, the writer John Dunne and the beginning of her daughter, and only child, Quintana's terminal illness. Didion randomly reflects on various aspects of Quintana's life, including her adoption, upbringing, and their mother/daughter relationship. As she has turned 75 while writing the book, Didion also writes about various illnesses and physical complications which begin to plague her and truly demonstrate in real terms to her that she is indeed aging. Though this may sound like elements of a depressing book, Blue Nights is so well constructed and beautifully written that it becomes an affirmation of the human ability to handle the most emotionally daunting situations. Blues Nights might be best enjoyed after reading Year of Magical Thinking, a title also held by the Greenwich Library. Blue Nights is highly recommended!
January 2012 Archives
Blue Nights, by Joan Didion
The Rough Guide to Cult Movies, by Paul Simpson
If you're a real movie buff, then you should take a look at The Rough Guide to Cult Movies by Paul Simpson. It's a wonderful reference for some obscure, and not so obscure, movies. There are over 427 movie titles in all. They're organized under some unusual categories such as "Actor's lapses", "Bollywood" and "Weepies". Each movie description provides the name of the director, actors and plot summary. There is also quite a bit of background trivia available. If you're looking for something different, you should browse this guide and view some of the movies listed inside. Personally, I used Downloadable Library on the Greenwich Library webpage to load it to my Kindle Fire. You might want to purchase a copy to keep on your movie shelf, or download to your e-reader. It's worth the investment!
West With The Night, by Beryl Markham
The remarkable story of a young woman who went from horse trainer to pioneering pilot during her life in Africa where she grew up on her father's farm. Autobiographical, but not an autobiography, she relates compelling stories of various key incidents in her life, from surviving a lion's attack to her attempt to be the first to fly solo from England to the United States. She is a philosopher who writes poetically in prose.
Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time, by Mark Adams
This title should be on the "must read" list of anyone who has experienced first-hand the mysterious wonders of Machu Picchu as well as those who have always been fascinated by the endlessly intriguing Inca ruins in the Peruvian Andes. Adams, a writer specializing in travel/adventure articles, has written a most informative and entertaining personal account of his own travels to Machu Picchu. Included in this account is the history of this fourteenth century Inca settlement that shows so well the glories of the Inca civilization. Adams also details the twentieth century story of Machu Picchu by tracing the life and exploits of Hiram Bingham, the Yale professor, who has been credited with the supposed "rediscovery" of Machu Picchu in 1911. Recent writing in National Geographic has suggested that perhaps other adventurers beat Bingham to Machu Picchu and, therefore, he does not deserve full credit for this accomplishment.
Bingham's story, as told by Adams, includes a fun explanation of how he very well may have served as the model for the title character in the Indiana Jones movies. In all, Turn Right at Machu Picchu is highly recommended!
A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child, by Jennet Conant
This staff pick is really aimed for those who read My Life in France by Julia Child, which is her charmingly entertaining autobiography. A Covert Affair by Jennet Conant details the World War II years of Julia, her husband Paul and their widely-diverse group of friends when they worked in the Office of Strategic Services. Several of these friends of Julia's were mentioned, though not in great detail, in My Life in France.
Julia and Paul Child are the most interesting people in Conant's book. Julia's wartime service to the American government in several parts of the globe certainly is a total contrast to her later triumphs in promoting proper food preparation of French cuisine and other styles of cooking. An example of her assignments during the war was when Julia worked in Ceylon on a project associated with Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. While A Covert Affair may not be the equal to My Life in France in terms of a great reading experience, it is recommended for those who have already read her autobiography and want to know more about Julia and Paul Child.
Ben and Me: A New and Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin As Written by His Good Mouse Amos, by Robert Lawson
This story, "lately discovered" by Robert Lawson, is said to have been written during the colonial period of American history by a mouse named Amos. Amos wants to set the record straight about experiments and inventions credited to Benjamin Franklin. His claim? He gave Ben Franklin some of his best ideas! A wonderful story written in 1939 by award winning author Robert Lawson. Lawson's awards include the Caldecott Medal for They Were Strong and Good, 1941; Newbery Award for Rabbit Hill, 1945; and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award for Ben & Me, 1961.