Thursday, January 25, 2007

This is my fifth blog for January 2007

If you are looking for an adventure book there is a gem you must read. Do not hesitate: beg, buy, or browbeat your librarian so that you may begin to read "Three Cups of Tea." This is not a book where the title tells you anything about what you will experience in entering the world of Greg Mortenson. He would never have taken the time to put down in print the almost unbelievable events of his life without the help of his co-author David Oliver Relin.

Greg Motenson has lived a life that is so extraordinary one can hardly absorb all of the multitude of words which describe his work, his passions, his failures and his successes. The son of missionaries from Minnesota who raised their family in Africa, Greg had more trouble fitting into American culture than the many other poor and different lands he became so comfortable with.

Three Cups of Tea is about Greg's life and his mission: To build schools in Pakistan and later Afghanistan, especially for girls, and under the most difficult circumstances. You, as a reader, will begin to wonder that one man could do so much and accomplish building of these schools when there were so many obstacles to overcome.

We ordinary Americans can barely imagine the lives people live in these moutain lands. Greg not only learned about the lands and the people, he was able to live as a valued part of their communities. What began as a failed climbing of the moutain, K2, turned into a story of perserverence beyond most of us to even imagine.

You will be pulled into the life of a most unique and at times exasperating man. Even his co-author had moments of giving up the writing of this story because Greg lives on his own time schedule, not the time most of us follow.

The wonder of Greg's schools are that they exist at all. His contribution to the world is to build schools, one at a time at first, and finally many more, and by so doing , fight the most important fight of our times: terrorism.

Do not miss this book. It is a most absorbing story and it is about one of the most relevant themes in any time: how to conquer ignorance and poverty.

Monday, January 08, 2007

This is my fourth blog for 2007 January

Here is a challenge for any intrepid reader: There is a book just out in American publishing by a Maori lawyer from New Zealand, "First Pass Under Heaven." The book has been a best seller in New Zealand but is so new on the reading lists at Amazon that there are no comments from readers. You can get this book, for a very reasonable price, and be the first to give your ideas about the writing about the adventures detailed in this volume.

Nathan Hoturoa Gray, along with four other men: a Malaysian Buddist monk, an Argentinean photojournalist, an Italian recording artist and a Kiwi-American golfer began this true adventure story of walking the 2500 mile span of the Great Wall of China between Jiayuguan and Shanhaiguan passes. They had more than the normal obstacles to overcome: Minus 20 to 40 degree temperatures, blizzards, snakes, detentions by police and even
extreme thirst and hunger. They walked through some of the most horrible terrain in the world, including the scorching Gobi dessert and over 1200 miles of huge mountains.

This is a story not just about braving the elements and the bureaucracy but mostly about relationships with others under the most extreme conditions. They started out with great intentions: they wee going to join hands as a diverse group with very different backgrounds. Together they were going to overcome the horrendous conditions they had to face. After only 21 days together they split up!

Gray has only good things to say about the people of the region who were so kind to him and to the others that they would take no money and they gave them lots of food when they needed it the most.

The people who live along the Wall's shadow in this formidable region don't have a place to spend money so it is of no use to them. Yet Gray believes that even if they could have used funds, they would have refused to take anything from the travelers.

He hopes that these people will not be tainted by Western civilization, because they are such rare humans and he does not want any of the journey's route to become a tourist mecca. (That doesn't sound very likely, from his harrowing account of the journey, however.)

Gray believes the biggest challenge was to himself; to push himself to the limit and to go on to achieve some of his dreams.

This is your challenge: Read this volume and express your opinion.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

This is my third blog for 2007 January 4

Because the story" Brokeback Mountain" was made into a movie and a mutitude of jokes about cowboys, a reader might think they know something about the author, Annie Proulx. Don't believe that. Annie Proulx is a writer of rare, almost breathtaking talent. She won the Pulitizer Prize for her novel,"The Shipping News" and is recognized for her extremely original prose.

Having read "The Shipping News" not just once but twice, I did not warm up to Ms. Proulx . I started reading her short story collection, "Close Range, Wyoming Stories," with a critical approach. Now I am a convert who wants to help you appreciate her ability.

It is true that "Brokeback Mountain" is the last short story of this collection and I liked it very much, but the other stories she tells with such vivid lannguage and imaginative style are even better. She won a prize for the first story in this book, "The Half Skinned Steer." To me it was only a beginning; my favorite was "The Mud Below." I kept asking myself how she could know the world of rodeo so clearly with its pain and grittiness and brief moments of extreme excitement and pleasure? How could she know about the long drives and boredom and companions in that small club of rodeo riders? I don't know how she knew, but every sentence rings with truth.

Ms. Proulx also knows Wyoming well. The harsh reality of ranch life with the wind, the damn wind and the goddam wind, plus drought or too much rain and not enough profit; she portrays it all with an almost magic sense of living the characters and their relationship to an arid and unforgiving land. Those of us who live in the treeless and little rain West can only say "Well done!"

As a reader I strongly recommend "Close Range." The marvelous prose in this collection of short stories should not be missed.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

This is my second blog for the year 2007

A gift to me was on my bookcase for over eighteen months and I ignored it because of the title: "The Work of Wolves" didn't appeal to me. There came a day of desperation, "I haven't anything to read." Every bookworm knows that terrible feeling.

Having overcome my shunning of the title I began to read. The author is almost one of our own: he is a professor at Black Hills State in Spearfish, Kent Meyer by name. He has written a book that almost everyone could find very enjoyable. He knows the area about which he writes and he knows the people of that region.

I like horses and the story contains a very important event concerning horses. Mr. Meyer caught my interest and held it throughout this story of mystery, love, cruelty and action.

Carson Fielding is a ranch hand who fits the role of western hero perfectly. He knows himself and he knows horses. At least he thinks he knows himself until he meets Rebecca, the wife of Magnus Yarborough, a wealthy rancher who Carson has never liked ever since he was a teenager who could train horses and outsmart Yarborough in a horse purchase deal..

Shortly after Carson meets Rebecca and finds himself very attracted to her, a Lakota teenager, Earl Walks Alone, who is also a math whiz, encounters the German exchange student, Willie Schubert, at a prairie beer bust. Willie has discovered a mystery on the South Dakota plains and he wants Earl to help him unravel an event that neither of them can understand at first.

Weeks after Carson has taught Rebecca about horses,and fallen in love despite his best efforts to remain only friends , Earl and Willie begin enlisting Earl's alcoholic uncle, Ted Kills Many, to help them solve a mystery and save some very important characters: the horses. Carson also gets involved..

The author pulls you into the Lakota culture, and gives one a glimpse of the German facination with the American West. He knows ranch life and he understands their values and daily life.The events which give Carson a jolt from the ordinary are as interesting to the reader as they are to all these characters.

This is a very good book and the Bowman Library has a copy. Check it out and give yourself a real New Year's treat .

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

This is my first blog for the year 2007 January 2

A New Year's resolution: Keep writing blogs even when I have nothing of value to say! No that didn't come out right. The resolution is to FIND something interesting to tell you.

There is a new DVD just out for a movie which can bring you a great deal of pleasure. But first: This is a warning that the movie is full of the f word; everybody seems to use the word, especially Grandpa. If you can forget about the horrid language and just enjoy the acting, I can assure you that "Little Miss Sunshine" is going to make your day a much better one.Here is a priceless jewel of an actress called Olive in the movie.. I could look up her real name, but you would probably not know it anyway. However, once you view Olive you won't forget her and you may want to research the movie archives to find it so you won't forget to catch her next performance.

Olive's family is by all accounts a disfunctional one. Everybody likes to use that word lately. Olive's family is by my resoning pretty much normal. This family simply has a few more problems and a lot more dreams than the usual group next door to you. Olive finds out she is able to go to Los Angeles to be in the Little Miss Sunshine contest as she was the runner up in the Albuquerque program. She really wants to go and show the audience just how much fun you can have when she does her dancing and singing.

Grandpa is played by Alan Arkin and he does a very good job of making you want to strangle him one minute and love him the next. He really loves Olive and that makes up for a lot of the faults that Grandpa has.

Whenever Greg Kinnear is in a movie I know I am going to like it. I pray that Hollywood doesn't start casting him as a villain in some grade B production. Greg is Olive's dad and he rents a big yellow blob of a Volkswagon and off they go to L.A. with all of the family members on board. The problems are just beginning.

The person who keeps our interest is that wonderful Olive: her round cherub face and huge glasses, with her sweet personality radiating out will grab your heart and leave you feeling warm and fuzzy for a long time. Treat yourself and go rent the DVD "Little Miss Sunshine." You won't be sorry. And by the way, this is movie is really
not too sweet; just pleasant enough , and actually a lot of fun..

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

This is my seventh blog for 2006

There is a new paperback novel at the Bowman Library titled "Above the Thunder" by Renee Mnafredi. The book has a note attached to it saying that if you enjoyed "The Ha Ha" you will like this novel.

There is a plot line which is somewhat like that of "The Ha Ha." A young child, in this case a granddaughter, comes into the lives of adults and changes them. Although this is somewhat like the story in "The Ha Ha" the characters in "Above the Thunder" are sharply drawn and different in many ways. Anna is the grandmother, and she is estranged from her daughter.

The people in this novel are city people; much of the action takes place in Boston and some in small town Maine.
Anna is widowed and is living a life of unrecognized boredom. She is ready for some type of change but caught in her every day life of work and simple socializing with her friend Greta. When her much disliked son-law Marvin shows up at Anna's home with her granddaughter Flynn and minus Anna's daughter, Poppy, the life she had known changes completely.

When Anna meets two gay men at a support group she has reluctantly agreed to monitor, more complications of her daily experiences begin. Flynn is not an ordinary lovable granddaughter and Marvin, her father, is certainly not an average father. Add to this the love quarrels and illnesses of Jack and Stuart and there are many turns to follow for the reader.

There are some rather graphic scenes of homosexual encounters and the book is not for someone who is easily turned off by this. Also, Flynn is so bright and so different that she is difficult to identify with for the ordinary person who picks up a novel for entertainment. Ms. Manfredi feels she has a story worth telling and she does not shy away from the grimy details of life.

This reviewer was very pleased with "The Ha Ha." "Above the Thunder" was not a books I would pick up to read again. Check out the two and compare. You might want to make a choice and your reasons would be very valid and very interesting.

Monday, July 24, 2006

This is my sixth blog for the current year, 2006.

Can you remember ever being angry enough to literally bang your head on the floor? I can't, but I can recall very easily wanting to bang someone's head against a wall. The primary character in a new best'selling novel goes a step beyond most of us when he loses it completely and hurts his own head. The book is "The Ha Ha" by Dave King and is both unusual and entertaining. You will have to find out yourself what the title means; it is a part of any readers journey into the emotional and forceful experience of reading this book.

Howie has not been able to speak or write, and only read in brief flashes for thirty years. He lets us into his life when the author writes all that this maimed veteran of Viet Nam is thinking and feeling. The frustration level of not being able to speak is something most of us will never experience and we shudder at the idea. Howie takes us with him as his settled and almost normal life takes a dramatic turn.

A small boy comes into Howie's life and the feelings he beings to have, plus the entirely new experiences of raising a nine year old change the hum drum of his life dramatically. The girl friend from the past is pretty much easy to dismiss but Howie is still enchanted by her and the reader begins to go through the turmoil of change with him.

There are plenty of secondary characters who are shown to have the ability to grow and change as well as revert to selfish and devious behaviors. All of them are not as compelling as a protaganist who cannot speak but has the same intellect and emotions he had before he was so grieviously hurt.

You will be rewarded with new insights and special feelings for small victories of the human spirit when you have finished this novel.