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>July 2010: What I Read

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>This has got to be one of my stranger lists of reading-by-the-month:

1. Korea: A Walk Through The Land of Miracles – Simon Winchester. Back in the late 1980s, Simon Winchester set out to walk across South Korea. Most of his observations were spot-on, and I was happy to see that he walked very close to where I live now, but overall, I’d prefer a little less about Winchester (especially about how he’s so irresistible to Korean salon girls, ew) and a little more about Korea.

2. The Killer Inside Me – Jim Thompson. Even with the movie version recently released, it was difficult to find any of Thompson’s novels. I finally had success at a Borders in Kansas City. Dang. I wasn’t expecting Thompson to be so compulsively readable, so twisted and nightmarish or so darkly humorous at turns. This sick and brilliant foray into the mind of a psychotic killer made me jumpy and I was glad that people were nearby. In spite of feeling so disturbed, my appetite was whetted for more of Thompson’s work. Fellow CRACKED SPINZ crony Paul brought back Pop. 1280 and Savage Night from England and I can’t wait to read them.

3. The Plump Pig – Helen & Alf Evers. I sat close as Mom did a read-aloud. We’d both forgotten that while the title character was still living with the skinny farmer, he skipped going to the trough at mealtime and ran around the yard to get thinner, so that he might fit in. He only grew plumper and sadder. Sigh. Hooray for the plump family who was out for a drive one day!

4. Tinkers – Paul Harding. Ever since reading and loving The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao two years ago, the successive winners of the Pulitzer Prize have seemed really muted, very quiet in tone by comparison. Tinkers reminded me so much of Gilead, (Two old men in reflection at the end of their lives) except Tinkers was a little more metaphysical and Gilead seemed more religious/philosophical. I admire Harding’s novel, but it was like peering for treasure in fog.

5. Blockade Billy – Stephen King. I’m more used to Stephen King going on for hundreds of pages. This entertaining novella (you can tell that King loves the language of baseball and relishes an opportunity to dive right in and use it with great abandon) felt like it ended before it got started properly. The other title in the volume, a long short story called “Morality” didn’t seem to go with the title offering.

6. Nurse Nancy – Kathryn Jackson, Corinne Malvern. My preschool favorite appeared before me in a toy store in Amana, Iowa. I had to have it. They still include the decorated plastic bandages on the title page, although the ones in my orginal copy were different shapes like stars and hearts.

7. Somewhere To Belong – Judith Miller. The story of two young women in 1877 with Amana Colonies as the backdrop. Johanna has lived in Amana all her life and wonders about life beyond the colonies. Berta’s parents have abruptly moved to Amana after living a well-to-do lifestyle in Chicago. Johanna is assigned the job of teaching angry, rebellious Berta how to fit in at Amana. Berta is the fish-out-of-water that enables the reader to see inside the Utopian community. Miller’s depiction of the day-to-day rigorous schedule is instructive, entertaining and, since Berta and Johanna are put to work in the kitchen, mouthwatering. Both girls’ families are harboring secrets, and both girls are determined to know exactly what’s going on. Meanwhile, a man from another part of the Colonies has begun to show an interest in Johanna. Since Christian fiction and romance are not my favorite types of reading, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this wholesome novel. Recommended to me by Mom, who says she “lived every minute of it”, which is her ultimate praise for a book.

8. Flashman – George MacDonald Fraser. Harry Flashman, the bully who terrorized younger and smaller students at Rugby school in Tom Brown’s School Days (in one memorable scene, he and one of his thuggish friends attempt to literally roast Tom in front of the fire!) picks up writing his “memoirs” where Thomas Hughes left off. Being expelled from Rugby for drunkenness doesn’t slow Flashy down; he decides to join the military. In quick succession, he’s shuttled off to Scotland, India then Afghanistan, the latter to his great unease. Flashman makes no bones about being a self-professed “lily livered” coward who rarely thinks beyond his next ride (you can take that however you want) or his next drink. Flashman’s smart-ass narrative keeps the action moving swiftly and Fraser, the “editor” of this series of memoirs, provides notes backing up Flashman’s amazing historical accuracy or clarifying a few points. I’m now reading Royal Flash, the second volume of the series. Ooooh, gorgeous stuff…it’s like candy. Flashy’s a rake, a ramblin’ man, a villain, a coward and a certified gold-plated bastard, but he’s hilarious and I can’t help loving him.

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