Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hemingway's Birthday~ We Remember You, Always...

Interesting additional cover!

Guest blogger Paula McLain, the author of The Paris Wife reminisces about Ernest Hemingway on today, his birthday.

Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in a wrought-iron bed on the second floor of a Queen Anne house in Oak Park, Illinois. The house still stands, as does the bed--but what’s even more a marvel is that 112 years after his birth, Hemingway himself is still going strong. His life and work are as interesting and relevant as ever, and, well, the man seems to be everywhere. This year alone he’s the subject of my novel, The Paris Wife; an HBO biopic in production, Hemingway and Gelhorn, about his fiery third marriage (Clive Owen will play Hemingway opposite Nicole Kidman, James Gandolfini produces); and Midnight in Paris, a feature film by Woody Allen, which opened the Cannes Film Festival in April and is currently enchanting audiences nationwide.

What Hemingway would have thought about all the hubbub, I wouldn’t try to guess. Though he spent most of his adult life cutting a very public figure, he placed a high value on solitude, and had an abiding fondness for the deep privacy of nature. He spent nearly every summer of his boyhood in Michigan’s north woods, and made his first trip there when he was just seven weeks old. The journey north was by no means easy at the turn-of-the-century. First there was the train from Oak Park into Chicago, then a horse-drawn cab to the pier on Lake Michigan where the Hemingways boarded a steamer to Petoskey. Once there, they took two different rail lines, and finally climbed into a rowboat that deposited them at a lovely piece of lakefront property Ernest’s doctor father had purchased the summer before. A cottage was eventually built on the site, dubbed Windemere by Ernest’s romantically-inclined mother, and the growing family returned there summer after summer, creating memories that later fed Hemingway’s imagination (see the Nick Adams stories in particular), and his soul.

Unlike the author’s Oak Park birthplace, Windemere isn’t open to the public. Hemingway’s nephew Ernie Mainland still spends summers there, and privileges privacy as much as his famous uncle. This past spring, I was lucky enough to be invited to the cottage for a brief personal tour. I was asked not to take any photographs, but stood for a long time by the hearth, where Ernest and his first wife Hadley dragged mattresses to make a cozy honeymoon nest in 1921. Opposite the hearth is a doorjamb with pencil tics recording the heights of the six Hemingway children. There was Ernest at age 14, standing 5’4 inches. And there he was at 17, having “sprung up,” as they say, to 5’11.’’ I confess I got goose bumps at this simple but profound sign of his coming of age. Scores of years later, I stand to salute Hemingway in his manifold complexity--the boy he was, the man he became, the author we still have much to learn from, and the myth we may never pierce through, no matter how we peer and scrutinize.

Happy birthday, Ernest.

The Dame Says:
Happy birthday, indeed, dear Ernest. You were a comet in the literary night, but one who's left an everlasting trail for us to enjoy.

There are a series of new non-fiction books written about Hemingway, his life, his wives, and his close association with F. Scott Fitzgerald, recently. A couple of weeks ago BookTV sponsored an indepth, riviting interview with professors and writers on Hemingway, as well as a brief tour of Key West and his home there.

On another pleasant front, the movie, "In Love and War" detailed below is one of the most beautifully romantic movies of recent years.

Netflix WriteUp:

This romantic historical drama is based on the diaries of Agnes Von Kurowsky, who while serving as a nurse during World War I had a love affair with a young man who would later become one of the great literary figures of the 20th century, Ernest Hemingway. In 1918, 18-year-old Hemingway has volunteered to fight in the great war; while he goes into battle imagining it to be a lark, he soon discovers that the realities of warfare are far more grim, and during a shelling attack in Italy, his leg is severely wounded. Hemingway has taken a great deal of shrapnel, and the doctors at the field hospital decide that amputation would be the quickest and most effective way to deal with the injury. However, the idea of losing a leg horrifies Hemingway, and he pleads with Agnes (Sandra Bullock), the Austrian nurse looking after him, not to let the doctors cut off his limb. Moved by Hemingway's concern, Agnes convinces the doctors to pursue other treatments, and she looks after him during his long and difficult convalescence. Love and passion bloom between the young and naive soldier and the 26-year-old nurse, but while he's eager for her to return home with him as he follows his muse as a writer, she regards him not as the love of her life but as a passing fling and thinks that he's too young to marry. Agnes eventually sends Hemingway a "Dear John" letter; later Hemingway would use her as the basis for several characters in his novels and short stories, not always flatteringly. In Love and War was directed by Richard Attenborough, previously an Academy Award winner for Gandhi. - Mark Deming, Rovi

Dame's Final Word :

Please join me in celebrating Hemingway's birthday today by indulging in a reading of one of his short stories, or a start of one of his beautiful books...or even viewing this beautiful movie, above.


Revisiting "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy~ In light of Jaycee Dugard...

Overview and Book Summary:

NATIONAL BESTSELLERPULITZER PRIZE WINNERNational Book Critic's Circle Award FinalistA New York Times Notable BookOne of the Best Books of the YearThe Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, The Denver Post, The Kansas City Star, Los Angeles Times, New York, People, Rocky Mountain News, Time, The Village Voice, The Washington Post

The searing, postapocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece.
A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food-—and each other.The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, "each the other's world entire," are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.

Winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
*This overview taken from Barnes & Noble booksite.

A Couple of Trailers:

Not easy to hear this first one!

My Review:

In keeping with Cormac McCarthy's style of writing, "The Road" is another masterpiece that causes us to look into the darkest moments of the human soul. It is the razor's edge of love and relationships that McCarthy is interested in. It's the "thing" that makes us survive...the non-descript element that keeps a human spirit going after all else seems lost and useless, and death may seem the better avenue to peace and deliverance from hardships.

"The Road" is a story that examines this spirit of mankind that causes some to stare into the face of defeat and inhumanity, and to contain the longing; not just the will, but the longing, to live on. Some seem to have this unchangeable belief in the goodness of mankind and creation.

"The Road," is a study of those who have the gift of endurance of heart. Some of those who have survived the most horrendous trials, both physical and psychological in history, share this nebulous quality of a pure, childlike heart that continues to hold on to hope in the face of the contrary. It is a hope that's anchored in a love that is unshakable; and, it seems to me that love nearly always has a link to another person.

What makes a survivor? When I saw and heard the recent interview by Diane Sawyer of Jaycee Dugard, I knew I was staring into the face of that pure, childlike, believing person/survivor. She represents to me that quality of man/womankind that faces the terrifying and with only the small candlelight of "hope," overcomes the evil. Jaycee said it was the "small hope" in her heart that kept her alive. Hope...

Her hope bloomed from Love. It was the love of and for her mother that kept Jaycee alive.  It was the hope of seeing her mother again that saved Jaycee, kept her calm and comforted, and saved her little girls. And, it was the love shown to her by her mother that made Jaycee the mother she became despite the fact that she was isolated from the world and abused. While Jaycee says that she's not sure about God in any form, yet, she knows her survival had to do with the belief and hope of seeing her mother again.

This is a testament to Corinthians 13: "...Love never fails....And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." Love never dies.

This is the message of "The Road," even as we sift through the ashes and darkness, and this is the message of Jaycee Dugard.

Please stop by in the coming month when I'll be reviewing "A Stolen Life."

Have you read "The Road" or seen the movie?  Share your thoughts with us...any comments will be posted on this entry on this front page!   We'll all love to hear from you.  


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pawnography! "License To Pawn" by Rick Harrison

Quite often my sweet husband takes a nosedive into the unknown and takes up with a new adventure/obsession with something "strange." I found this serendipitous oddity a very attractive characteristic when we first met (I flag??), and frankly, it's had its ups and downs on my last nerve over the years. All in all; however, there's never a dull moment with Anthony if you just sit back and brace yourself.

The show is mind-boggling. As I sit in my little apple green recliner writing reviews while DH watches "his" shows, I'm wont to look up once in a while to see what's going on.

Against my better judgement, sometimes I'm captured by the absurdities of men: Men in the greater outdoors hunting with lots of equipment (guns, bows & steel tipped arrows, whistles, bright florescent suits, misshapen, weird hats & assorted other "gear"), excavating big mountains with equipment they don't know how to maneuver & in icy weather, clambering about and becoming lost without food in crumbling old caves with their teen aged daughters, panning for gold in muddy streams and gleefully coming up with minute particles which value is less than the cost of the pan, or pulling up by hand man-eating fish in mosquito infested jungles... Recently, I've been pulled in by pawn shops on the Tube! Ugh! This wars against every bone in my WASPish, DAR body, and would disgrace my family.  It's really tantamount to watching a strip show!

Primary among such shows is Rick Harrison's straight from Las Vegas "Pawn Stars." Pawn Stars is a fabulous program! I love it, and it's become my latest dirty little out in the open! We've agreed it's the only pawn show we'll watch.

Rick is an intelligent, witty and well-informed guy who actually makes wise choices about some seriously fabulous items brought to his shop. The experts Rick brings in to evaluate some of the items are so learned they add a dimension of knowledge and intelligence that rivals experts I've seen and heard from auction houses and museums in Boston. A couple of them are experienced in museum collections and authentic documents of early America and interesting to hear and watch. I have learned a good deal from Rick, his dad and these experts.

One of the most fetching (did I use that word?) and hilarious things about the show is Chumly, Rick's doofus nephew. Chum is a complete novice at pawn, and life, it seems. He has no idea what's "good" and what's "fake," what are stolen goods, what's trash and what's treasure. He is a guy whose life is chockful of accidents and mishaps; i.e., nearly everything he touches falls apart, breaks down, or costs the shop money. In fact, Chum nearly costs his grandad more money than the shop brings in on some days! In the latest episode, Chumly test flies a valuable, antique kite and snags it on a highwire electrical flew it--you can't get it down--you bought it! And, poor Chum is always shocked by these manifistations of Murphy's Law in his life.

Chumly is the fall guy for the show, and makes it all worthwhile to watch...just for the hilarity of it. Rick's dad is also sooo funny as he glumly and stoically mumbles his way through all the trials and troubles of the shop and Chum. And, Big Hoss, Rick's son, who is assigned to watch over and teach Chum, as well as to be the Ass't Mgr., lumbers along making a couple of wise choices on the way, but mostly watching Chumly mess up and telling on him. Honestly, Chum is the best comedic character on tv.

All this to give you some kind of intro. into Rick Harrison's new book "License To Pawn" which I wholeheartedly recommend for your sweethearts and you when you want a different ride on the wild side.

Book Summary from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Press:

In Las Vegas, there’s a family-owned business called the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, run by three generations of the Harrison family: Rick; his son, Big Hoss; and Rick’s dad, the Old Man. Now License to Pawn takes readers behind the scenes of the hit History show Pawn Stars and shares the fascinating life story of its star, Rick Harrison, and the equally intriguing story behind the shop, the customers, and the items for sale.

Rick hasn’t had it easy. He was a math whiz at an early age, but developed a similarly uncanny ability to find ever-deepening trouble that nearly ruined his life. With the birth of his son, he sobered up, reconnected with his dad, and they started their booming business together.

License to Pawn also offers an entertaining walk through the pawn shop’s history. It’s a captivating look into how the Gold & Silver works, with incredible stories about the crazy customers and the one-of-a-kind items that the shop sells. Rick isn’t only a businessman; he’s also a historian and keen observer of human nature. For instance, did you know that pimps wear lots of jewelry for a reason? It’s because if they’re arrested, jewelry doesn’t get confiscated like cash does, and ready money will be available for bail. Or that WWII bomber jackets and Zippo lighters can sell for a freakishly high price in Japan? Have you ever heard that the makers of Ormolu clocks, which Rick sells for as much as $15,000 apiece, frequently died before forty thanks to the mercury in the paint?

Rick also reveals the items he loves so much he’ll never sell. The shop has three Olympic bronze medals, a Patriots Super Bowl ring, a Samurai sword from 1490, and an original Iwo Jima battle plan. Each object has an incredible story behind it, of course. Rick shares them all, and so much more—there’s an irresistible treasure trove of history behind both the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop and the life of Rick Harrison.

From the Bookish Dame's perspective this is a no-brainer book purchase. Everyone will love, your husband/significant other, your teen aged kids, and the neighbors!

5 stars to the TV Show, and to this book

The Bookish Dame/Deborah

PS: Have you ever been into a pawn shop? Ever pawned anything?

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Megan's Way" ~ A Novel of Love, Leavings and Choices by Melissa Foster

Catch Melissa Foster's Summer Blog Tour on her website at:

Book Notes:

"Megan's Way is a fine and fascinating read that many will find hope in." Midwest Book Review

The Megan's Way film will be entered in the Sundance Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, South By Southwest Festival (SXSW In Austin Texas), Amsterdam Film Festival, as well as New York, LA , and Miami (just to name a few). This is a "Fest-Best" type of film and expected to make a major impact on festivals world wide.

My Review:
I first want to share with my readers the personal perspective I bring to this review of "Megan's Way." Some 29 years ago I was widowed as a young woman with three children under the ages of 9. My precious young husband died of melanoma that had metastasized to major organs: we had several months to prepare for his death. This came after the original cancer of 11 years in the first year of our marriage. So, I'm someone well acquainted with cancer's toll on a person and those who love them. I read this book with that intimate awareness.

Melissa Foster has given us a true-to-life rendering of the process of dying. From the earliest stages of the person's acknowledgement of impending death, to their release of loved ones, their body and spirit; to the angst and responses of those who live with and love them, Ms Foster paints a portrait of the struggles and survivals. She understands the pain of those left behind and the awareness of those who have to do the leaving.

Through her very beautiful and tender portrayals, we come to know Megan and her intimate friends as if they were family. We get a clear and close up understanding of Megan's loving and tumultuous relationship with her teen aged daughter, Olivia. And, we are given unique insights into Megan's personality, thoughts, fears and death and dying processes from her own perspective, as well as from the perspectives of her friends and daughter. Ms Foster is spot on in her every detail of this experience with death, in my experience.

I found Melissa's writing, however, to be somewhat stilted in her efforts to get across all the points of the process, and then the major theme of the choices we have about our own death and dying. There is something lost in the flow of a story as the book progresses when it starts to be overtaken by a series of details on these numerous processes and points of dying, rather than having it more balanced within a storyline. This, however, does not take very much from the book or enjoyment of it in total, since I think it's worthy on many other levels.

While Megan considers her options of ceasing any other chemo or "prolonging" measures, and as she also contemplates the virtues of taking into her own hands the method and timing of her death, we are allowed to witness her conflicts. This option to choose is one that many come face-to-face with. Ms Foster gives us a balanced and open view of a woman who looks boldly into the face of death, weighs her options and takes into loving consideration the daughter she will leave behind.

The complexity of "Megan's Way" made this novel one that I loved reading. Certainly, it rang true to me in so many ways. It also touched my heart with its attempts to bring readers into a center of meaning and choices that will be an evitability in most of our lives.

The intertwined tale of friends and surrogate family lends itself to be a realistic possibility in light of the "secrets" that people tend to hold close in relationships. While one is living, the secret is easily kept and the "family" can pretend to overlook and rationalize...but once a foundational/pivotal person is going to be removed--the structure that holds it all together is jeopardized and must be delicately "readjusted." This is an element I'm also familiar with, personally, and one I thought Ms Foster handled elegantly.

I recommend your choosing to read "Megan's Way" before it's made into the movie for the Sundance Film Festival. It's going to have a great impact! And, it's a very enjoyable read on the order of a Jodi Picoult novel.

Strongly urge you to read more about Melissa Foster and her outreach programs, her newest book "Chasing Amy," and other books, and her social community for women called "The Women's Nest."


4.5 stars from TheBookishDame