During the cooler months, there’s the summer that lives nostalgic in our minds. Thoughts of plump strawberries and wading pools swim about. Idealizing lazy days tending garden and nights of front porch sitting circle around a few times too.
At first when it comes, the summer is all that we’d hoped for. Strolling through parks with sandal covered feet we pass through May and then June comes too. The solstice is marked and July strikes. Now we’re pointed straight towards the sun whose heat feels like it's here to stay. The grasses turn from vibrant true greens into a crunchy yellowish brown as the air conditioner struggles to keep up. It’s just one ozone action day after the next.
If you are looking for a sympathy for having lost your spot in the shade and want to pick up a little hope you might check out a copy of Come on Rain by Karen Hesse and Jon J. Muth.
The prose captures the oppression of midsummer while singing one girl’s refrain for reprieve so well it makes you sweat as you read. You reach out for a glass of iced tea as an involuntary response to Jon Muth’s water colored pictures.
Mama lifts a listless vine and sighs.
Cats pant, heat wavers off tar patches in the broiling alleyway.
A creeper of hope circles ‘round my bones. “Come on rain!” I whisper.
Well, this is more like it.
If you find that you hear the sound of thunder when there isn't any as you carry a sloshing can of water towards your drooping plants or even wonder if it would be indecent to wear a swimsuit on your commute, you might share this with a child as you both cry out for rain.
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There comes a time in your life when you have to think about what is important to you and what happens when those things are jeopardized. In An Accidental Affair by Eric Jerome Dickey, the protagonist, James Thicke, finds himself in just such a situation. James is a screenwriter deeply in love with his wife, Regina Baptiste, an A-List Hollywood actress. Then he receives an email which rocks him to the core.
Included with the e-mail is a video clip of his wife and an actor, Johnny Bergs, in a compromising situation. James goes ballistic at first, attacking Johnny in front of cameras. Both the original video and the new footage of the fight are released on the Internet where they spread like wildfire.
James decides to distance himself from the situation by leaving Hollywood and the controversy behind. Down the road, in the small town of Downey, he takes up residence in a dilapidated apartment complex. The tenants James meets there, many of them women, have as many or more problems than he does. Before long, James finds himself entangled in the web of lust, deceit, and blackmail that envelope the neighborhood.
This book reminds me of many that I have read before, such as Mr. Dickey’s previous novel, Milk in My Coffee. I like his writing style because he makes you feel all of the emotions that the characters are feeling by the way he plays with words. If you are the type of person that likes to jump right in to the action of the story, this may not be the book for you.
The book was well written and if you like intrigue and intimacy there is enough of it here to last a lifetime. Mr. Dickey has done a good job with this one and if you get a chance to read it, I hope that you enjoy it.
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Or are you interested in finding out more about the songs or artists mentioned in your favorite novel?
Then you should check out our sister blog, LFPL's Music Corner!
There you will find:
• The current month's visual display of a music theme.
• Links to the the Library's catalog for browsing music by genre.
• A list of LFPL's New Sound Recordings.
• Links of interest about music.
• A staff pick of music selections or music-themed videos.
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“There is a light that never goes out.” – Morrissey and Johnny Marr
First and foremost, Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and The Smiths by Simon Goddard is one of the most serious compendiums of pop music information that I’ve ever read that wasn’t simply a record guide. This work on the life of Steven Patrick Morrissey, former lead singer of The Smiths, is incredibly dense and comprehensive in its coverage of his life, works, influences, opinions on miscellaneous subjects, and cultural impact.
However, this is not a traditional biography. It is an encyclopedia and as such it is has the extra benefits that a biography lacks. While each entry has a kind of narrative, there is no running narrative for the entire work. Information is laid out in alphabetical order and cross-referential terms are in bold letters, allowing the reader to skip around the tome where his or her interest in a topic leads rather than hoping all will be revealed in the end.
Goddard has not written the entries in a typically boring academic manner. By which I mean a manner that lays out facts as if bones found at an archeological dig, bare and blanched in the sun. No, he is often trying to make those bones dance. As he writes in the prefacing section titled “Mozingredients,”
“Great art such as [Morrissey’s] defies dispassion and should never suffer the fate of fusty objective analysis.” (p. ix)
Take for instance, the matter of the song meanings. Goddard not only explores the lyrics themselves but also the impact that a song has on him personally. For example, when discussing the B-side, “There Speaks A True Friend,” he writes,
“Despite vain efforts to enliven it with guitar solos and a weird, abrupt ending (Morrissey’s idea as he didn’t like its original prolonged outro), it remains an inconsequential leftover.” (p.443)
Gems like this are sprinkled throughout asserting that Morrissey’s songs are witty, duplicitously simple story pieces with multiple layers of emotional truth. Some of the stories are well executed and resonant while others simply do not work out.
Mozipedia also includes sidebars of topics deemed particularly key to the reader’s understanding, a gallery of pictures, an extensive bibliography, and a full discography in chronological order of both The Smiths' and Morrissey’s solo releases. If there is any criticism to be given, other than on matters of taste in music, it is that the work is almost too much (as it spans over 500 pages). I have had to put it down for stretches of time in order to reasonably absorb what I have read. But like the light in this review’s epigraph, my interest in this book never seems to go out.
If you are interested in perusing Mozipedia, click here to reserve a copy.
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I picked up Prague Winter because I am interested in Czechoslovakia. This is a well-told story of one Czech who later became a very influential American. If it is a curse to have been born in interesting times, Dr. Albright was certainly well and truly cursed. But, as in the best fairy tales, the curse was balanced by having been blessed with wonderfully prescient parents who stayed one step ahead of events and kept their little daughter safe. The nation of their birth, Czechoslovakia, did not fare as well during the twentieth century. The author has woven a nuanced tale of her own childhood place within the story of the fate of her homeland from 1937 to 1948.
Her father's career as a diplomat gave the family some agility which others in those years probably lacked. Thus, the family spent the years of World War II with the exiled Czech government in London. After the war, with her father assigned to the Czech embassy in Yugoslavia, they were once again able to keep a step ahead of the communist takeover in Czechoslovakia and seek asylum in the U.S. By such roundabout paths is a future secretary of state made!
This book is rich with detail and, because of the personal aspects of the story, you feel as if you were there. I think most people are familiar with the outline of the history of World War II, but Dr. Albright includes many accounts of the heroism of ordinary people about which we have not previously heard. There are stories of the famous and of the unsung, and I was struck yet again at the absolute horror of those years. Dr. Albright says it so much better than I ever could in some of the concluding remarks to her book:
"Given the events described in this book, we cannot help but acknowledge the capacity within us for unspeakable cruelty or--to give the virtuous their due--at least some degree of moral cowardice. There is a piece of the traitor within most of us, a slice of the collaborator, an aptitude for appeasement, a touch of the unfeeling prison guard. Who among us has not dehumanized others, if not by word or action, then at least in thought? From the maternity ward to the deathbed, all that goes on within our breasts is not sweetness and light." (p. 413-414)
She then goes on to quote Vaclav Havel's perception of this human quandary:
"...Amid the repression of those [Cold War] years, he discerned two varieties of hope. The first he compared to the longing for 'some kind of salvation from the outside.'...'On the other end of the spectrum', said Havel, there are those who insist on 'speaking the truth simply because it [is] the right thing to do....' " (p. 414)
She then closes her book with these powerful lines:
"I have spent a lifetime looking for remedies to all manner of life's problems--personal, social, political, global. I am deeply suspicious of those who offer simple solutions and statements of absolute certainty or who claim full possession of the truth. Yet I have grown equally skeptical of those who suggest that all is too nuanced and complex for us to learn any lessons, that there are so many sides to everything that we can pursue knowledge every day of our lives and still know nothing for sure. I believe we can recognize truth when we see it, just not at first and not without ever relenting in our efforts to learn more. This is because the goal we seek, and the good we hope for, comes not as some final reward but as the hidden companion to our quest. It is not what we find, but the reason we cannot stop looking and striving, that tells us why we are here." ( 415-416)
This is so well said, and is the reason I love reading. How else could I ever learn the thoughts of this wise, experienced woman? Through books such as this, our journey is enhanced, our life experience enlarged, as we all seek after our purpose on this earth.
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