Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life
The title of this book is taken from a journal kept by Katherine Mansfield. It is a wonderful book title for this intimate memoir of depression and literature. The author is certainly well read and knowledgeable about authors. It is wonderful how she describes traveling with books as companions in her inward and outward journeys. It is a meandering and thoughtful book. There are some startlingly vivid insights along with the references to many works and authors previously unknown to me. In that way, it is a literature insider’s book.
The author writes honestly about her suicide attempt and alludes to her family. This reader is left wondering about her family and the impact her travels and illness have on them. It seems a huge thing to leave out of such a personal story. The author was born in Beijing and much of the book has the wonderful outlook of an outsider. She currently lives in Oakland and teaches at the University of California, Davis.
Dickinson in Her Own Time: A Biographical Chronicle of Her Life, Drawn from Recollections, Interviews, and Memoirs by Family, Friends, and Associates (Writers in Their Own Time)
Dickinson in Her Own Times provides a fascinating, unique perspective into the life and work of Emily Dickinson. This book is a compilation of personal letters, interviews, and memoirs by those who knew Dickinson and her work including her family, friends and acquaintances, and her reviewers. These sources provide an almost eyewitness account of the transformation of Dickinson as the brilliant eccentric who broke poetic convention to her status as an almost mythic, literary legend. Beautifully organized, this book begins with documents elucidating Dickinson’s life from girlhood.
On arriving at her death notices, the book turns to the documents addressing her poems published posthumously, as they take on a life of their own. Finally, the volume concludes with the centennial celebration of Dickinson’s birth.
For those truly interested in the study of Emily Dickinson’s life and work, this volume is not to be missed. However, even those who are not passionate about Dickinson’s work may find value here because this book bears witness to the world’s treatment of genius and contains lessons for those who would break with convention and pursue creativity.
Available: A Memoir of Heartbreak, Hookups, Love and Brunch
Suffering from a breakup, the writer details his dating life. What saves this book from total misogyny is that it is funny and seems true. After a bad breakup, Perry determines to avoid his serial monogamy and have casual sex. His character is emboldened by these experiences. The transformation from a timid and self-effacing shy guy to a bold and daring character is entertaining. It culminates with travel to the millennial rite of passage: Burning Man. He gets drugged up and enjoys himself.
This book reads like a male version of Sex and the City. He has the requisite small group of buddies that share their adventures and ultimately their girlfriends. They meet and have brunch in a Los Angeles bonding ceremony. It is very funny how the writer describes the difference between breakfast and LA brunch. His coining of “manic pixie dream girl” for his girlfriend who dumps him is also very amusing. So, like many of us, the writer goes from naive to world weary, ultimately finding that one can’t outrun heartbreak; there is no cure except through feeling it.
The World We Left Behind
As The World We Left Behind, a Journey from Georgia to Maine begins, author John Morris is at a very low point in his young life. Still only in his twenties, he feels overwhelmed with futility. He lives in the North Carolina community where he grew up. With no college education, he works the night shift at a nuclear facility, in a job he believes will lead nowhere. He has recently broken up with the woman hes been living with, and he finds himself lonely and trapped in a nearly empty apartment. Over and over again, he contemplates leaving everything behind, drawn to the idea of taking to the Appalachian Trail. He spends the first 90 pages of the book in a state of ennuibemoaning his dead end job, in various stages of alcoholic stupor, and stocking up on hiking equipment he fears he may never use. He is stuck. The challenges of abandoning everything he knows and embarking on the 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail are daunting.
Finally, however, Morris frustration with his status quo wins out. He leaves new girlfriend Melody and travels with his hiking pal, Torry, to Gainesville, Georgia, just a couple of hours from Springer Mountain, where the Appalachian Trail begins. Its here where thru-hikersthose who hike the entire trailset out.
Morris plans to hike all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maines Baxter State Park. To reach his destination, he must hike through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. He is not prepared, physically or psychologically, for the rigors of the trip. Cold and filthy, hes constantly exhausted under the weight of his pack. Hes brought with him too many things he doesnt need and has left behind some essential equipmentincluding a water filter to purify his drinking water. The trail is often more crowded than Morris had anticipated. He meets some potentially interesting fellow thru-hikers along the way, including folks with great trail names, like Hopper, Woodstock, and Bubblegum, but, somehow, the reader never really gets acquainted with these folks. Perhaps its because Morris never seems to make a true connection with them. For example, about CookIN, a former shop teacher from Indiana, Morris writes, I wondered how you went from being a shop teacher to wanting to walk a 2,199-mile trail but I never thought to ask him
The most compelling part of The World We Left Behind comes toward the end of the book, when Morris describes a near-disastrous solo hike. In this section, the reader feels the cold and terror of Morris experience, and it makes for a great read. One cant help but admire Morris for having the courage to leave the comforts of home and embark on a rigorous, months-long hike. His book reads something like a journal: He relates his day-to-day adventures and shares plenty about the mistakes he makes along the way and the physical challenges he faces. But he shares few of the insights one would expect such a personal quest to provide.
The book is a lengthy one, and this is just the first volume in a trilogy: As this first book comes to an end, Morris has made it only as far as Tennessee. The story would be strengthened, as would the readers enjoyment, with a disciplined editing and a focus that reveals more of the writers inner journey, as well as his outer one.
There is something profoundly fearless about Astonishments the new book by author Marian Armstrong Rogers. The book begins with images, memories of a long remembered and revisited moment in the authors’ life. A brown-shingled house on a hill, a collie dog, a school assembly, and a blue-eyed boy named Johnny. Johnny the young man would become her first husband. Yet despite the fairytale setting of the couple’s early years, each passage is written by the adult Rogers with muted notes of regret. Married life turns into parenthood. Mental illness and an affair quickly follow. Her second husband, Sam, brings to the story a heightened sense of love renewed, until he develops Alzheimer’s disease.
This is an unusual biography, there is an openness from the very beginning. The author is exposed and makes no attempts to pull the reader back or gloss over details. The mental associations found in the book are vast and vivid throughout this fast-moving book.
Honest and courageous, Astonishments is a book everyone should read as the progress and look back on their lives. Its’ a literary undertaking anyone should embark on whenever they need perspective or assess their future.
One of the most fascinating aspects about reading this compelling book is how much of a page-turner it truly is, and just how addicting it becomes. This is a rare achievement for a work of nonfiction and a near impossibility for a memoir or biography. Yet, the author’s voice is so rich and strong, that it seems to reach in and pull the reader forward. Those who don’t naturally enjoy nonfiction may complain about the level of descriptive details and the flowery recollections of the author. To such complaints I will only reply with a mild eye roll. This is a work of such merit, that it could serve on the defense of CreateSpace, as a perfect embodiment of what an author can achieve in this new exciting era of publishing.
Which brings me to the one frustration I have with the project, and its a real legitimate concern that I feel limits the authors’ book. This fine memoir was published through Amazons’ CreateSpace and not a traditional publisher. This gave her more freedom in the books structure, but denies her additional exposure. Despite this one personal concern, I still have very high hopes for this book. Marion Armstrong Rogers is a fine author and she should be very proud.
Today, the phrase Drink the Kool-Aid may be one of the only widely known legacies of the Jonestown mass murder-suicides that happened November 18, 1978. Those born since that date likely have no idea where the phrase originated, even as those who were alive thirty-seven years ago surely know but give little thought so many years later to the event that occurred in far-off Guyana. The deaths of 909 people, almost all brought about by drinking cyanide-laced Flavor-Aid (not, technically, Kool-Aid brand), were the largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001, as Wikipedia put it.
Kathryn Barbours memorial album of Who Died that tragic day is a sobering reminder that hundreds of good people lost their lives even as they had high hopes for living together in harmony, regardless of color or gender, sharing and working together. Barbour writes that she was a member of the Peoples Temple in California and knew many of the individuals pictured: the photographs show the dead as I last saw them, in 1976-1977, when Peoples Temple was at the height of its influence in San Francisco, its members full of energy and confidence.
The seventy-nine glossy pages with mostly full-color photographs memorialize every single person who was lost, with just a few spaces empty of a photo. Its a yearbook of the saddest kind, a remembrance of remarkable peopleaware, self-assured, and focused; of children of varying ages, of blacks and whites aspiring together for a better society free from the racial tensions of the time. Whenever there is a mass death we tend to think purely in numbers; we mourn but are still somehow separated from the reality of so many full lives being snuffed out. Who Died is valuable in its naming of each person, putting a photograph to each life lost. It will be a treasure for families and friends of the dead; it will be an important addition to libraries; it is a fine way for anyone to appreciate that whenever a mass killing happens, individuals are the casualties, and each life mattered.