Friday, December 29, 2006


This and the next two posts will cover other books I read that were published in 1950 or won awards in that year. I make up these "other" lists myself, choosing authors I admire or have always wanted to read.

The Grass is Singing, Doris Lessing, Thomas Y Crowell Company, 1950, 245 pp
This is Doris Lessing's first novel; hard to believe because the writing is so good. It takes place in South Africa and is a dark, disturbing story having to do with race. The climax of the story, told in the first few pages, is the outcome of the twisted lives and emotions of both races, which is what gives the novel its power.

Mary, the main character, came from a poor white family where her father was a hapless drunk and her mother a bitter man hater. After escaping poverty for a while through education and a job in the city, Mary enters into marriage with an incompetent farmer and moves to the bush. As she had never grown up emotionally, she descends into a sort of female madness. Her biggest problem is dealing with servants, who are all black men and with whom she is forever dissatisfied, until finally she meets her match. Moses, a somewhat educated native, has enough intelligence along with wiliness, to make Mary his emotional slave. In the end he kills her.

It is a strange and terrible revenge for what the white man has done to his race. This is not a pretty story but the telling is superb and held me with a gruesome fascination. There is just no end to what kinds of ways mankind can find to torture one another.

Another Pamela (or Virtue Still Rewarded), Upton Sinclair, The Viking Press, 1950, 314 pp
Sinclair takes a break from Lanny Budd but not from social commentary. Pamela is a poor, religious girl who gets hired as a modern day parlormaid for a rich family in 1930s California. She is pursued by the nephew of the woman of the house. He is a young, dissipated and spoiled run-around who lives off his aunt's money.

Pamela sticks to her religion and values until the man gives up liquor, gambling and fast women. Only then will she agree to marry him. Meanwhile, as the story is told by Pamela through letters to her mother and sister, you get all of Sinclair's views. Madam is a bleeding heart for all the socialist causes of the times.

The conceit of the book is its parallel with the novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, written by Samuel Richardson in 1742. In fact, the Pamela of this novel is reading the Richardson novel and quotes from it in her letters. I found it a somewhat amusing read which held my interest because Sinclair is a good writer, but it was really a bit too cute.

Dark Green, Bright Red, Gore Vidal, E P Dutton & Co Inc, 1950, 307 pp
Vidal published two novels in 1950. In this one he writes a story of politics and revolution in post WWII Central America. General Alvarez is a deposed dictator, a man in his 50s, who has decided to reclaim his position. While the General had been in exile in New Orleans, his son had joined the US Army and befriended Peter Nelson as they fought together in WWII. Peter has now been brought to Central America by Alvarez to train his army of Central American natives.

The cast of characters also includes the General's daughter Elena, a priest and de Cluny, a washed up French writer who is acting as the General's secretary. The General has, he thinks, secured the backing of "The Company", a fruit growing and exporting concern run by an American businessman.

The story is brilliantly told, as Vidal brings all these elements of Central American politics and human aspiration together. Somehow I had not realized before reading this novel, that American governmental and financial intervention into the unstable politics of Central America was going on as far back as the late 1940s. Certainly Vidal must have been one of the earliest writers to make it the subject of a novel.

A Search For the King, Gore Vidal, E P Dutton & Company Inc, 1950, 255 pp
In this novel, Vidal goes far back into history to tell a tale of Richard, the Lion Hearted, though it is actually the story of Blondel, Richard's troubadour. As Richard traveled home from the Crusades he was captured by King Leopold of Austria who hoped to use Richard as a pawn in the game of Kings, Emperors and Popes for power. The only problem is that Richard never could be a pawn for anyone. In fact, though I don't know that much about him, Richard the Lion Hearted has always been one of my heroes.

Richard is a hard guy to get close to, as most heroes are, but Blondel is a true friend and is acknowledged by Richard as such. Blondel also knows how to be a friend to a powerful person. He wanders all over Eastern Europe in the dead of winter, keeping track of Richard's whereabouts. Finally he makes it back to France and England, where along with Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard's wife, he helps to arrange Richard's release. In the end, he gets to go into battle with his hero again.

During his travels, Blondel has encounters with all manner of legendary characters: dragons, werewolves and a vampire in an enchanted forest. He also experiences revelations and mystical phenomena, as befit a true artist. Through it all, he keeps writing songs and using his talents to get into and out of sticky situations. This is a finely wrought tale.

The Preacher and the Slave, Wallace Stegner, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950, 403 pp
Wow! What a book! The slave in the title is Joe Hill, hero of the IWW (the Wobblies) in the very early days of labor organizing in the United States. The IWW was a big deal from 1905 to the early 1920s. The goal was to have One Big Union for all types of workers, but the movement finally fell apart due to schisms, communist influences and very bad PR due to a rather enthusiastic use of violence.

Joe Hill did not function as an organizer but wrote songs for the workers and the Wobblies were big singers. Every meeting involved singing, they had their own songbook and most of those songs were written by Joe Hill. He set his words to popular melodies; a tradition carried on by Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.

Joe himself was quite a conflicted character: a Swedish immigrant, a bastard (literally), a loner with violent tendencies but a tender heart. At least that is the way Stegner portrays him, admitting in his forward that he created this fictional account around a scanty amount of actual available fact about either Joe Hill or the IWW.

Joe is clearly a doomed man from the beginning of the book and his life is a tragedy. His songs gave him just enough notoriety that government and business interests who wanted to squash the labor movement could use him as a scapegoat. He spends the last years of his life in prison while various lawyers try to prove him innocent of a murder charge which was probably trumped up. The whole case is a rallying point for the IWW and created the mythical stature of Joe Hill. I was captivated and educated by this earlier beginning to the many Guthrie/Dylan tales I have read.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Continuing with the bestsellers I read from 1950.

The Parasites, Daphne Du Maurier, Doubleday & Company Inc, 1950, 305 pp
The #6 bestseller in 1950 is the most contemporary of Du Maurier's books that I've read. The back story beings in WWI times when three children, Maria, Niall and Celia, are being raised in the theatres of Europe. Their parents are performers; the mother a dancer, the father a singer. They were successful and popular, so had a nurse/nanny to care for the kids.

Now those kids are adults but each one is a bit off in some way due to their unusual upbringing. Their lives aren't really working. Maria married a landed gentleman but after having three children returned to the stage, as she had been a famous actress herself. Now the marriage has broken down and Maria's husband calls the three of them parasites.

It wasn't a deep book and the writing is not her best, but I was intrigued by the odd life of these people. They loved their life as children because it was rich in adventure, fantasy and variation. They were never bored, but they got virtually no parenting and learned few social skills for handling adult life in England. When life becomes difficult for any one of them in terms of personal relationships, all they can do is turn to each other as they did in childhood and tragedy ensues. Since Du Maurier's grandfather was an artist and a writer and her father was an actor, I would guess that the book is somewhat autobiographical.

Floodtide, Frank Yerby, The Dial Press, 1950, 342 pp
The yearly bestseller by Yerby came in at #7. It is 1850 and Ross Pary arrives back in Natchez, MS, having spent some years abroad studying architecture and learning how to be a gentleman. He was born Under-the Hill amongst the brawling illiterate poor but now has plans to become a rich planter On-the-Hill.

His plans work out just fine. Ross Pary's trouble is women: Morgan, the beautiful but evil wife of the man who helps Ross the most in his social climb; Conchita, the fiery daughter of a Cuban revolutionary; Cathy, the homely yet fascinating daughter of another planter, who can run a plantation like a man herself.

We also have political and social change, as the Southern slaveholders fight against abolitionists and scheme to maintain slave holding as a way of life. Yerby's writing is getting better and so is his character development, which is a good thing since he has bestsellers every year until the mid 1950s.

The Jubilee Trail, Gwen Bristow, Thomas Y Crowell Company, 1950, 564 pp.
This is a quite good historical novel and was #8 on the bestseller list for 1950. Garnet Cameron is 18 years old, has just finished school and the only thing she has to look forward to is getting married to some young man from her rather wealthy class of people in New York City. It is 1844 and Garnet is a girl who craves adventure.

She meets Oliver Hale, a young prairie trader from the mysterious land of California. Since Oliver was raised in Boston, he knows how to play the gentleman. The next thing you know, he has won over the parents, he and Garnet are married and headed for the Jubilee Trail. From Independence, MO (the edge of civilization in those days) to Santa Fe, NM runs the Santa Fe Trail. From there to the village of Los Angeles, it is the Jubilee Trail. Huge trains of covered wagons, filled with goods to be traded, go back and forth across these trails every year. This year Garnet will go too.

Of course, another woman comes into the picture before Garnet and Oliver have even left New Orleans, where they have spent their honeymoon. Florinda Grove is a woman on the run. She has been a dance hall girl in New York and got mixed up in some bad trouble. In the way of historical romance novels, she ends up on the Jubilee Trail as well, where she and Garnet become great friends.

The whole book is adventure all the way. You totally get what it was like to ride those covered wagons and cross the desert. Reading about life in the early years of California was fascinating and when Garnet and Florinda are thrown together by tragedy, Bristow creates a realistic picture of what it was like for women in those uncivilized and wild times. The romances are pretty silly but the history is great. Here is another book I would never have read if I hadn't done this project.

The Adventurer, Mika Waltari, G P Putnam's Sons, 1050, 377 pp
One more rousing historical novel on the list for 1950 is The Adventurer, by the author of The Egyptian (#1 in 1949.) In Finland, early 1500s, Michael is about five years old, son of an unmarried woman, when his entire family is killed in a raid by the Jutes. He was raised a Catholic but the King of Finland is a conquering Dane and a Lutheran.

Michael grows up with a desire to be a priest and a scholar, nevertheless he spends most of his years in adventures all over Europe as a soldier and spy for various factions in all the many wars of the time. The book is a diatribe against religion, war and the hopeless nature of mankind though presented in a humorous light. It is all about men and their ways; the only females are the healer/witch who raised Michael and a courtesan/camp follower. Martin Luther comes off no better than the Pope. Good read and good history.

The Disenchanted, Budd Schulberg, Random House Inc, 1950, 388 pp.
The #10 bestseller starts out in Hollywood with a young writer, just hired by a movie studio. He is made the assistant/collaborator to Manley Halliday, a formerly famous novelist from the 1920s. Halliday needs money, has a nasty drinking problem which has devolved into diabetes and has taken this screenwriting job. The young hopeful writer is at first overawed by Halliday but as the story moves along and the older author's washed up condition outweighs his brilliance, things get extremely rocky.

The two writers are to work together on a vapid romantic comedy. The stereotypical studio head, Victor Migrim, drags them through a journey to the East coast college which is the setting for the movie. On and on it goes with Halliday steadily drinking and falling apart while telling his own back story as they go. The young writer is forced into the role of caretaker. After a while, the story begins to sound awfully familiar, so I Googled Schulberg and sure enough, Halliday is a fictional F Scott Fitzgerald, while Schulberg turns out to be the son a of movie studio head and had done a stint of collaboration with Fitzgerald back in the day.

I had no trouble reading the book which pulls you along relentlessly. The tragic downfall of a talented novelist was intermingled with incidents that ranged from comedic to slapstick, a combination which made me queasy. But The Disenchanted is a forerunner of many Hollywood novels, so stands as a historic volume of that genre.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Christmas is finally over and I can get back to something like normal life. I had hoped to write two more chapters of Reading For My Life by the end of the year. Alas, it will not be. But at least I can get 1950 done. Here then are the first of the bestsellers I read for 1950.

The Cardinal, Henry Morton Robinson, Simon and Schuster, 1950, 565 pp
At #1 is the story of a priest working his way up to Cardinal in the Catholic Church. Stephen Fermoyle, son of an Irish family in Boston, is a young priest returning from seminary in Rome to take up his first parish assignment at the opening of the story. Father Stephen is a Lanny Budd sort of character who comes through each challenge with his integrity intact. He has a deep call to the ministry, a quick intelligence, a love of people and a way with diplomacy. You are meant to admire him, though his struggles are a bit hard to believe because he is so flawless.

Since the story ranges from pre-WWI to WWII, the issues of the times are brought in and the views of the Catholic Church are promulgated: industrially created poverty, immigrants, the Depression, birth control, fascism, Communism are all addressed. While I don't hold with the patriarchal nature of the Catholic Church or with their views on women, I could see how a strong religious belief and practice are a stabilizing factor in a rapidly changing and unstable world.

It was interesting to learn how a pope is elected, how bishops run their areas and how the Catholic Church interfaces with secular concerns. I am quite sure the novel presents an extremely whitewashed version. Stephen, the Pope and the worldwide Church all come across as basically infallible.

The writing was typical for the bestsellers of the time and the storytelling kept me interested, but the style was what I became used to in the 1940s bestsellers. In any case, I was launched into a new decade of fiction.

Joy Street, Frances Parkinson Keyes, Julian Messner Inc, 1950, 461 pp
This was #2 on the 1950 bestseller list. Keyes's earlier books were all set in New Orleans, but Joy Street takes place in Boston during a similar time period to The Cardinal. Emily is from a rich, high society family and marries Roger, who has a good social standing but no money. He is just starting out at a law firm which is stodgy but has also recently hired a Jew, an Irishman and an Italian. It is Emily's and Roger's dream to be catalysts for all these conflicting elements and social levels.

Naturally it doesn't work out as planned. Emily's grandmother is the matriarch of the family and tries to control everyone, though she actually likes and helps Emily. Though there is no real sex in the book, there is plenty of sexual tension, affairs that almost happen and finally a happy and passionate ending for Emily.

Keyes has written a fairly good story though is a bit too wordy. The 1940s writing style again, but she is trying to be up-to-date in the details concerning the old ways giving over to the new post-war world.

Across the River and into the Trees, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1950, 308 pp
Making #3 on the list is a writer who never did write in the style of his day, though I did not find this novel to be one of his best. Richard, also called the Colonel, who had been a General and got demoted, who had fought in WWII and become disillusioned, is taking a leave to spend some time in Venice. He is there to see his lover, to go on a duck hunt and, you begin to realize, to die.

Richard is 50 years old, he is a cynical old bastard and he has a bad heart. His lover is an eighteen year old Venetian princess from some ancient family. The ducks are mostly mallards. Granted that Hemingway paints a good portrait of the Colonel and conjures both Venice and love as well as a bunch of unique characters, but it was way too much a man's book for me and very repetitive. I found nothing near the power of For Whom the Bell Tolls.

The Wall,
John Hersey, Alfred A Knopf, 1950, 632 pp
The Wall was the #4 bestseller in 1950 and I had heard so much about this book that I was excited to read it. I never really knew what it was about (the Berlin Wall maybe? the Wall of China?), but it would be mentioned in reverent tones so I assumed it was important. It is.

"The Wall" was built by Jews under Nazi orders in Warsaw, Poland beginning in 1939. In other words, after Hitler conquered Poland he got the Jews to enclose themselves in a ghetto. Eventually all the Jews in Warsaw and surrounding areas were forcibly ordered inside the wall, the entrances were guarded by German SS and finally the Nazis began to "relocate" these people, mostly to Treblinka, where the majority of them perished.

Though The Wall is fiction, it is written as the journal entries of a Jewish man named Noach Levinson, who recorded everything he could until 1943, when it finally became clear that the ghetto would be destroyed and he escaped along with a few others of the resistance.

The book is long, not very entertaining and it took me over three weeks to read it. I read other books in between, rarely reading as much as 100 pages at a time of The Wall. I started it when I had a stomach flu and finished it while I had bronchitis, so you see it was tough going. I had thoughts about life on planet earth being like living in a ghetto. I had other thoughts about how very difficult it is for human beings to get along, even in the same religion and about how it is the suppression certain humans perpetrate over others that makes that difficulty. I think it is important that Hersey wrote this story and was glad that I read it but it was very hard even for me who can read almost anything.

Star Money, Kathleen Winsor, Appleton-Century-Crofts Inc, 1950, 442 pp
One thing about the top 10 bestsellers in 1950 is the variety. Star Money was nothing like any of the four other books on the list so far. Winsor's second novel is half the length of Forever Amber, her 1944 bestseller, a blessing because the writing is quite bad. I suspected the story of being auto-biographical and learned that indeed it was. Forever Amber sold 3 million copies by 1949. It was banned in Boston for a while and is now considered the first bodice-ripper and a precedent for Peyton Place, not to mention other "racy" bestsellers about strong, immoral female heroines. Winsor divorced and remarried several times and was even married to Artie Shaw for a time.

In Star Money, Shireen Delaney is a bestselling author during WWII. While her husband is overseas fighting the war, she moves to NYC, sells her first novel, makes a pile of money, buys and decorates her own apartment and has several lovers. Shireen is ambitious, ruthless, self-centered, emotionally childlike and uses up men like disposable tissues. It is the emotional ridiculousness of the character that is so annoying as Winsor details Shireen's every vacillating thought. Now, I've read that sort of thing in Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, so it isn't the vacillating so much as the lame prose of Kathleen Winsor.

On the other hand, the talent, hard work and strength of Shireen are similar to Amber's. Women, including me, will always love reading about plucky heroines and the more ethically ambiguous the better. While reading Star Money, I was disgusted and fascinated at the same time.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Alice Zogg is a local author in Los Angeles. She is also a friend of mine. Alice writes mysteries in the style of Agatha Christie and PD James. She is a retired woman (though a very active sportswoman) who started writing after retirement and who writes for her own amusement, so she opted to use Print On Demand publishing rather than spend time dealing with the whole agent/publisher/promote yourself anyway scenario that confronts new authors these days.

Last month she released her fourth book, The Lonesome Autocrat. It features Private Investigator R A Huber, as have her earlier books. Alice has set this mystery in her native Switzerland, where Huber is visiting a childhood friend. When a murder is committed, Huber must switch gears and go to work finding the murderer since the victim is her friend's 84 year old father.

Otto Sonderegger was a hotel magnate whose sorrow in life was that none of his offspring chose to carry on the hotel business. He had been an overbearing and critical man, married twice and had affairs on the side. Any one of his heirs or lovers were thus suspect.

Ms Zogg depicts life in a Swiss mansion and nearby Davos, a resort town, with the skill of a travel writer. The discovery of the murderer involves a serious threat to R A Huber's life and a startling surprise to the reader. Though she writes in a traditional style, Zogg's characters are clearly of the modern world. Her strongest point is her plotting and I can never even guess who done it until it is revealed.

Reaching Checkmate: 2003
Turn the Joker Around: 2004
Tracking Backward: 2005
The Lonesome Autocrat: 2006

All of Alice Zogg's books are available at either Barnes and or

I had a chance to pose some questions to Alice about her latest book and her writing life and thought you might enjoy reading her answers:

KTW: Your earlier books all take place in California. What made you decide to set The Lonesome Autocrat in Switzerland?

AZ: I was born and raised in Switzerland and then moved to the United States as a young adult. Even though I made my home first in New York City and for the last three and a half decades in Southern California, I visit my native country frequently. When choosing the locale for The Lonesome Autocrat in the Davos resort area, I fulfilled nostalgia. I have skied in Davos numerous times.

KTW: R A Huber seems to have quite a bit of sympathy for Otto Sonderegger, yet I did not find him a likable character. Is he based on someone you have known?

AZ: I completely invented him, as I do with all my characters. R A Huber had a certain respect for the old tyrant, that is correct.

KTW: I like the way you let the reader into you private eye's thought processes as she goes about reasoning out the crime. When her husband Peter brings up the three basic types of motives for murder, it seems to help her sort out her evidence. Is that theory about the motives documented somewhere?

AZ: The three basic types of motives for murder; greed, passion and self-preservation; came "out of my head," I have to admit. There is no such theory documented.

KTW: Are there mystery writers whom you admire or feel have influenced you as a writer? If so, what do you like about them?

AZ: I have always been an Agatha Christie fan. Her plots are ingenious. P D James is another mystery writer whose intriguing and chilling tales I admire. Then there is Dick Francis who educates the reader about horse racing, while at the same time weaves a darned good murder story. Is it a coincidence that all three are British?

KTW: How did you become a writer?

AZ: A few years ago I went to the bookstore in search of new reading material. Having read all the mystery novels ever written by my favorite authors, I was planning to purchase works of more contemporary writers. I was out of luck and could not find any that appealed to me. I must have browsed the wrong shelves that day because I certainly have discovered many great books written by present day authors since then. (Elizabeth George, Parnell Hall, Christopher Reich-just to name a few.)

Anyhow, when I returned from the store empty-handed hours later, my husband asked, "Where are the books you bought?" After I explained my dilemma, he burst out mockingly, "Why don't you write your own stories since you're that picky?" I did not pay any attention to his banter at the time, but about a month later I thought, well why not? So I gave it a try with my first book and have not stopped writing since.

KTW: Could you talk about your decision to self-publish?

AZ: While I was plotting the first book, I bought several how-to manuals on publishing the traditional way. The more I learned about what was involved, the more I felt that it was not worth the headache and decided to self-publish. When I was writing my third mystery, an author I know got me all fired up about trying to get published in the standard manner. Then I did some soul-searching and came to the conclusion that there was no reason why I should put myself under the stress this would involve. I found this creative outlet called writing late in life and it gives me joy and fulfillment, but I am a retired grandma and want to avoid that kind of pressure.

KTW: What are you working on now?

AZ: In the manuscript I am currently working on R A Huber is back in California and will solve her next murder near Big Bear Lake. She will also have a side-kick in the form of a young, dynamic assistant. My previous stories are written in the first person from Huber's point of view. This tale I am writing in the third person, getting into each character's head.

KTW: Thanks, Alice. I look forward to the next book!

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Novel, George Singleton, Harcourt Inc, 2005, 335 pp

I read this for one of my reading groups, who picked it from a list of my suggestions. It was not a hit with the group but I liked it just fine. Admittedly, it is odd; Southern but comical, a complete spoof on many levels, one of which is writers, writing, writers' retreats, etc.

Novel Akers, raised with his two adopted sibilings by eccentric ex-concert pianists, is now married into a completely inbred South Carolina family. He finds himself living in Gruel, his wife's hometown, writing his memoirs. After his mother-in-law's death, caused by a spark from her son's cigarette while she was breathing through an oxygen tank, the couple inherited the family home and a defunct motel. Novel's wife Bekah turned the motel into a weight loss spa called Sneeze 'n' Tone (excessive sneezing caused by various air-borne particles pumped into the air led to rapid loss of pounds), but she got bored with that and with Novel and left town. Novel next turned the place into a writers' retreat.

But many things in the town of Gruel do not add up, so the book becomes somewhat of a mystery, though even the mystery is a spoof. There is heavy irony being attempted here and I felt that for the most part, Singleton pulled it off. I mostly chuckled inwardly and sometimes laughed out loud. There is a boring part about midway through but overall the book was a relief from overly serious literary fiction.

I think many people, especially middle-aged women who like a good dose of heartwarming sentiment, could hate this book. Most of my reading group did.


epicene-from Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner, p 55.

Looked up in Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition

epicene is an adjective meaning (in this context) belonging to one sex but having characteristics of the other, or of neither; specifically, effeminate; unmanly. (From the Greek word epikoinos, common.)

My sentence: The dancer's epicene build captured the attention of all the males in the room as well as the women's.

What is your sentence?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


The Places in Between, Rory Stewart, Harcourt Inc, 2004, 297 pp

The Places in Between is the truest thing I have read about the Middle East since 9/11. It is travel writing, memoir, political opinion, current events and extreme adventure all in one fairly slim volume. The writing is excellent: Stewart describes clearly and reports in a more emotional style than many non-fiction tales but doesn't overdo the emotion either.

On the other hand, this is not an easy read; not as hard as The Gate in the Sun, but not easy. Stewart walked across Afghanistan in January, 2002, shortly after the United States invasion drove out the Taliban but failed to find Osama Bin Laden. If you are not familiar with Afghanistan geography (who is?), read this book with your globe and your world atlas by your side. It is worth whatever you need to do to read this book if you truly want to understand the world we live in today.

After finishing, I was amazed that Rory Stewart lived to tell his story. Many times he almost did not. His knowledge of languages and dialects and his cojones pulled him through, not to mention the incredible dog he acquired on his journey. Just read it and let me know what you think.


fane-from The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley.

Looked up in Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition

fane is an Archaic noun meaning a temple or church, derived from Latin, fanum, which meant sanctuary, temple.

My sentence: The rebel took sanctuary in the fane, waiting for his pursuers to look elsewhere.

What is your sentence?

Monday, December 04, 2006


The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Lewis Buzbee, Graywolf Press, 2006, 216 pp

Another wonderful book about books and bookstores, this little volume went down like a pint of Ben and Jerry's. Buzbee evokes the true nature of book lust like no other writer I've read. I always like finding out that I am not alone nor hopelessly geeky in my love for books.

Lewis Buzbee has worked in bookstores and bookselling for most of his adult life, though he now teaches writing because he has a family to support. He freely acknowledges that bookselling is not a well compensated career path. Between the sections that are a memoir of his career, he tells the history of books, bookmaking, publishing and bookselling from the earliest days of the famous library in Alexandria. It all fits together seamlessly.

His message is clear: books and writing are the unsung heroes of freedom; as in the truth will keep us free. I felt reaffirmed in my belief that though the major publishers have been swallowed up by conglomerates, there will always be small, rebellious upstarts who will write, publish and run bookstores here and there in the nooks and crannies of the world. Of course, there will always be readers.


monomachy-from Prince Caspian by C S Lewis

Looked up in Webster's New World Dictionary Third College Edition

This was an interesting word search. The full word does not appear as an entry word, so I had to split it into mono- and -machy.

-machy is a combining form meaning struggle or contest of, derived from the Greek word for battle.
mono- (in this context) is a prefix meaning one, single, alone.

In the story, two characters are going to fight, each one representing his army. I was amazed to find such a big word in a book meant for children but I guess that is OK if children are taught to use a dictionary. Still, even I had to know enough to break it down. I am sure when I read this book as a child, I just cruised right past monomachy with no idea what it meant.

My sentence: My husband and I went through a whole day without monomachy.

What is your sentence?