Archive for the 'blooks' Category

Franny and Zooey and Geronimo

Friday, December 7th, 2007


I don’t often read online books, but twice recently I found myself doing so. It had been a long long time since I’d read Franny and Zooey, but something Lisa wrote on Lemon Gloria reminded me of it. (Again with the LG! Seems I have LG on the brain.) She was talking about not being able to find her car in DC — not being able to remember quite where she parked it. So she’d been walking around looking for it, talking to her mom on the phone.

So as I’m talking to Betty I hear my father in the background saying “Tell her to ask the police to drive her around to find it.” This made me laugh out loud.

He went on to say that at some point when he was in college he and a friend lost their car in New Orleans and the police drove them street by street to find it.

And I was totally reminded of Les Glass and the tangerine. Les Glass is the father of Franny and Zooey (and all Salinger‘s other Glass children).

So I had to go hunting for the bit I was reminded of. I eventually found it, but ended up reading the whole of both stories. Turns out there’s more than one bit about the tangerine. In the first one, Bessie Glass (the mother) is talking to Zooey Glass (the youngest son) about Franny (the youngest daughter (she’s twenty-one)) and her precarious mental state. Zooey is in the bathroom, in the bath actually. The curtain is closed and his mother is sitting outside it smoking and talking to him.

“Oh, I wish I knew what I’m supposed to do with that child!” She took a deep breath. “I’m absolutely at the end of my rope.” She gave the shower curtain an X-ray-like look. “You’re none of you any help whatsoever. But none! Your father doesn’t even like to talk about anything like this. You know that! He’s worried, too, naturally–I know that look on his face–but he simply will not face anything.” Mrs. Glass’s mouth tightened. “He’s never faced anything as long as I’ve known him. He thinks anything peculiar or unpleasant will just go away if he turns on the radio and some little schnook starts singing.”

A great single roar of laughter came from the closed-off Zooey. It was scarcely distinguishable from his guffaw, but there was a difference.

“Well, he does!” Mrs. Glass insisted, humorlessly. She sat forward. “Would you like to know what I honestly think?” she demanded. “Would you?”

“Bessie. For God’s sake. You’re going to tell me anyway, so what’s the difference if I–”

“I honestly think–I mean this, now–I honestly think he keeps hoping to hear all you children on the radio again. I’m serious, now.” Mrs. Glass took another deep breath. “Every single time your father turns on the radio, I honestly think he expects to tune in on ‘It’s a Wise Child’ [*] and hear all you children, one by one, answering questions again.” She compressed her lips and paused, unconsciously, for additional emphasis. “And I mean all of you,” she said, and abruptly straightened her posture a trifle. “That includes Seymour and Walt.” She took a brisk but voluminous drag on her cigarette. “He lives entirely in the past. But entirely. He hardly ever even watches television, unless you’re on. And don’t laugh, Zooey. It isn’t funny.”

“Who in God’s name is laughing?”

“Well, it’s true! He has absolutely no conception of anything being really wrong with Franny. But none! Right after the eleven-o’clock news last night, what do you think he asks me? If I think Franny might like a tangerine! The child’s laying there by the hour crying her eyes out if you say boo to her, and mumbling heaven knows what to herself, and your father wonders if maybe she’d like a tangerine. I could’ve killed him. The next time he–” Mrs. Glass broke off. She glared at the shower curtain. “What’s so funny?” she demanded.

“Nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing. I like the tangerine. All right, who else is being no help to you? Me. Les. Buddy. Who else? Pour your heart out to me, Bessie. Don’t be reticent. That’s the whole trouble with this family–we keep things bottled up too much.”

“Oh, you’re about as funny as a crutch, young man,” Mrs. Glass said.

Later, Zooey is in the living room with Franny. She’s on the couch. He’s lying on the floor mostly out of sight. They are talking.

“Are you finished?” Franny said, sitting very notably forward. The tremor had returned to her voice.

“All right, Franny. C’mon, now. You said you’d hear me out. I’ve said the worst, I think. I’m just trying to tell you–I’m not trying, I’m telling you–that this just is not fair to Bessie and Les. It’s terrible for them–and you know it. Did you know, God damn it, that Les was all for bringing a tangerine in to you last night before he went to bed? My God. Even Bessie can’t stand stories with tangerines in them. And God knows I can’t. If you’re going to go on with this breakdown business, I wish to hell you’d go back to college to have it. Where you’re not the baby of the family. And where, God knows, nobody’ll have any urges to bring you any tangerines. And where you don’t keep your goddam tap shoes in the closet.”

Franny, at this point, reached rather blindly, but soundlessly, for the box of Kleenex on the marble coffee table.

So, first of all, I am in no way suggesting that Lisa of LG is mentally unstable, or that her father doesn’t face things. Really! I was just reminded of the tangerine. Because of the father’s naivete? His sincerity? The simplicity of his sentiment, his solution? (Simplicity being not at all the same as simple-mindedness.) Of course a policeman would drive around helping to find a misplaced car! Policemen are there to help, right?

In any case, it was lovely to be reminded of that tangerine, and it was interesting to read the stories again. I love how Salinger pokes fun at his own stuff. (“My God. Even Bessie can’t stand stories with tangerines in them. And God knows I can’t.”) Sigh. I just love Salinger’s writing.

Somehow, though, this atheist (me) had managed to forget just how Jesus-oriented those stories are. Weird that I could block that out, and weirder that I know I’ll read Franny and Zooey again sometime (for the umpteenth time).

Last, a note about the online version: it seems someone scanned the book with some sort of character recognition software and then stuck it online. As a result, each story is one long page with several weird little character flaws (so to speak). Occasionally it’s hard to figure out what the heck the author is saying, unless you’ve read it before. Plus, there are lengthy footnotes here and there, and it’s kind of hard to figure out what to read first in this one-long-page format. So, if you read a little and like what you see, then go get the book and read it that way. You’ll be doing yourself a favor. Or hey, I’d be happy to lend you my copy. Just kindly refrain from assuming it means I want to talk about Jesus.

On to Geronimo! Recently I was browsing at Etsy and, for reasons that remain unclear to me, I couldn’t resist this Geronimo pendant. Maybe because he looks so grumpy? I don’t know. But I decided if I’m going to go around wearing a picture of Geronimo, then I’d better know a little something about him. First I read the wikipedia article about him, which was pretty interesting, and from there I went to an online version of a sort of autobiography that was dictated by Geronimo, then translated by the son of an Apache chief who was known to him, and then taken down by a white guy who had developed an interest in Geronimo’s story. (White guy’s name is featured prominently on the title page.) I probably shouldn’t call him white guy, since without him the story would probably never have been published. In fact, he had to fight to make the book happen:

In the latter part of that summer I asked the old chief to allow me to publish some of the things he had told me, but he objected, saying, however, that if I would pay him, and if the officers in charge did not object, he would tell me the whole story of his life. I immediately called at the fort (Fort Sill) and asked the officer in charge, Lieutenant Purington, for permission to write the life of Geronimo. I was promptly informed that the privilege would not be granted. Lieutenant Purington explained to me the many depredations committed by Geronimo and his warriors, and the enormous cost of subduing the Apaches, adding that the old Apache deserved to be hanged rather than spoiled by so much attention from civilians. A suggestion from me that our government had paid many soldiers and officers to go to Arizona and kill Geronimo and the Apaches, and that they did not seem to know how to do it, did not prove very gratifying to the pride of the regular army officer, and I decided to seek elsewhere for permission. Accordingly I wrote to President Roosevelt that here was an old Indian who had been held a prisoner of war for twenty years and had never been given a chance to tell his side of the story, and asked that Geronimo be granted permission to tell for publication, in his own way, the story of his life, and that he be guaranteed that the publication of his story would not affect unfavorably the Apache prisoners of war. By return mail I received word that the authority had been granted.

So yes. He did good. But since it’s not a story about him, I leave out his name. Sorry, white guy.

Geronimo’s Story of His Life is a very interesting read, all the way to the end. I do admit I skimmed or skipped a few parts, namely those that weren’t written from Geronimo’s perspective. Because it was most fascinating to see the world through his eyes. At the moment I’m thinking of the part about his time at the World’s Fair. He spent six months there, selling signed photographs, and visiting other exhibits at the fair. His description of one of the shows struck me as kind of crazy, even in context. Out of context it’s quite crazy.

There were some little brown people at the Fair that United States troops captured recently on some islands far away from here….

I do not know how true the report was, but I heard that the President sent them to the Fair so that they could learn some manners, and when they went home teach their people how to dress and how to behave.

I don’t know if it’s the phrase “little brown people” or the reference to the president (Teddy Roosevelt at the time — Geronimo had great respect for him) or the casual mention of U.S. troops capturing people, but something about those passages just gets me.

But most of the story is about Geronimo’s life before he surrendered. He led such a violent life. The violence was actually hard for me to imagine, even right while I was reading it. He suffered great losses which twisted him all up toward revenge. And more revenge, and more revenge. Awful. But I am glad to have read the whole thing. The weirdest thing is to think it was written only about a hundred years ago. A hundred years is not very long.

I’m having trouble ending this eternal post. I’ll just slap this cool little bit up here and let it be the end. A tiny piece of what life was like as an Apache.

“Salt Lake”

We obtained our salt from a little lake in the Gila Mountains. This is a very small lake of clear, shallow water, and in the center a small mound arises above the surface of the water. The water is too salty to drink, and the bottom of the lake is covered with a brown crust. When this crust is broken cakes of salt adhere to it. These cakes of salt may be washed clear in the water of this lake, but if washed in other water will dissolve.

When visiting this lake our people were not allowed to even kill game or attack an enemy. All creatures were free to go and come without molestation.


Saturday, September 15th, 2007

L is for lake

Well, it’s been a long long time since I posted about any books. You’d think I had stopped reading them altogether! There have been a few dry-ish spells what with the baby and all, but now that I’m making up the list, it turns out to be longer than I would have guessed. What’s crazy is I started this post over a year ago, in April 2006! Weird! Time just flies now (cf. baby).

Here’s the problem with waiting this long to get a books post together: some of the items on the list are so far back in the dim past of my brain, I don’t have much to say about them. Take, for instance, these three compilations of short stories:

    Nick Hornby, ed., Speaking with the Angel
    Eggers & Horowitz, eds., The Better of McSweeney’s
    Al Barrantonio, ed., Redshift

I know I finished them. I just don’t remember a lot about them. I’m pretty sure they weren’t bad. So if you like short stories, them’s some short story books.

Hopefully the brain will be more helpful with the rest of the list.

First, the kiddie books.

Scott O’Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins
I first read this when I was really young, like, around sixth or seventh grade, and I loved it. It’s the story of a girl stranded on an island, fending for herself in amazing and beautiful ways. I particularly liked the skirt she made of feathers, and the fortress she built against the wild animals. That thing was cool. She had to find or catch all her food — I remember spending some time trying to imagine what abalone might taste like. It was a good story then and it is now too. Reading it this time, I was caught off guard by the sad parts. I suppose kids are generally more cavalier about death than adults. At least, apparently, I was more able as a child to take a tragic death in stride than I am these days, because I know I didn’t cry the first time I read it. If you haven’t read this book, then you should. I’m wishing I was reading it right now.

Patricia Scarry, Hop, Little Kangaroo
This is another book I had as a child, but younger. I still have my little copy of it, and I remember reading it and having it read to me. A little kangaroo has grown too big for his mother’s pouch, so it’s time for him to learn how to hop. She sets him down on the ground and tells him she’s going home to make lunch and he’s got to hop home on his own. Then she leaves. He’s scared, and doesn’t know how to hop, so the animals around him try to help him with all sorts of suggestions for how he might get home — flying, swinging on a vine, digging a tunnel. The tunnel part is a bit of a Winnie-the-Pooh rip-off, but that’s okay — kids don’t mind. The wonderful thing was learning a little about Australian wildlife — there’s a whole bunch of animals, including a kookaburra, a bandicoot, and a soft-spoken sugar glider. (I always thought sugar glider was a strange name for an animal. Imagine my surprise upon learning — much later — that some people keep sugar gliders as pets! Crazy!) The other wonderful thing was the picture of the berry pie at the end. Mmmmmmmm. Pie.

Oh oh oh! I was just googling Patricia Scarry to see if there was any relation to Richard Scarry, and I ran across the book Good Night, Little Bear, which I haven’t seen for so so long, and omg it was such a favorite. Tomorrow, J. and I are going out to lunch, then to the bookstore. Guess what’s coming home with me?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Now it’s later, and I did indeed find the Good Night, Little Bear book, hooray! The nice fellow at the bookstore also found Richard Scarry’s Chipmunk’s ABC, which was very exciting. It’s full of these eerily familiar pictures, but reading it, the text is not memorable at all. I must have just looked at the pictures a lot before I knew how to read. Or something. We have a Mother Goose book that’s kind of the same that way — it’s full of these beautiful illustrations that are very well known to my mind, practically engraved there, but most of the poems are pretty much totally unfamiliar.

Other books brought home today:

Shapes, an Ann Geddes board book. We didn’t have a shapes book, it’s got pictures of babies and the baby loves that, and it was on super clearance and cost nineteen cents. Woo hoo!

Lucy Cousins, Country Animals, another board book. The board books are fun because baby gets to turn the pages. She is favoring this one over the others tonight.

A Handful of Beans, Six Fairy Tales Retold by Jeanne Steig with pictures by William Steig. So far I’ve read Rumpelstiltskin and Beauty and the Beast, and they were both great, funny and well written. Any Steig thing is great though. More on that later [next post].

Philip Abraham, Amelia Earhart. This is one for beginning readers, and it has some nice photographs. I heart Amelia.

Heyward & Hack, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. Here’s another from the bargain table. The cover illustration caught my eye, so I opened it and found it was full of lovely and familiar paintings of bunnies. And the story is distinctly feminist, in a 1939 sort of way. Totally recommended.

Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Goes to School. Yay for Pippi! Plus it was another bargain.

OK, turns out the rest of these are also from the clearance tables (no wonder I came home with so many!):

William Steig, Doctor De Soto. Can’t resist the Steig. A funny story about a mouse dentist who ordinarily refuses to serve cats and other dangerous animals.

Richard Scarry, The Best Story Collection Ever!
Love that Lowly!

Brown & Hurd, Runaway Bunny. The classic. I love the picture of the Mother fishing for the little bunny, using a carrot for bait.

McCloskey, Make Way for Ducklings. Another classic. I hope we don’t have it already.

White, Charlotte’s Web. A nice big read-aloud version. It’s a little disheartening to see these great old books, hardbound even, going for so cheap. I don’t get it.

Whew! That’s a lotta books!

I also picked up a few items that are more clearly for me. One by Tao Lin called Eeeee Eee Eeee. Looks interesting. And three from Nicholson Baker, one of my very favorite writers. Vox, which I’ve been meaning to pick up for years, The Mezzanine, and Room Temperature.

Next time, we’ll get back to the list, starting with a few more kid’s books, and maybe do a few grownups’ books as well.*


*Not sure about the apostrophes in this sentence. So I cop out and go with the mixed bag. Because I can. Nyah nyah!

Good Baby / Douglas Adams / Darker Matter / WWdN:iX / Hit and Run

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

so cozy

Our four month doctor appointment went very well. The doctor says baby is perfect. Woo hoo! She cried less than her mother during the immunizations (not that anyone was surprised) and impressed the doctor with her advanced social skills. And we have new stats! She weighs 16 pounds 9 ounces now! And she’s a tall baby — 25 inches. Best of all, she has the most excellent head circumference. 42 centimeters! Considering Douglas Adams is among her favorite authors… well, it’s just right.

Speaking of DNA, a previously unpublished interview with him has recently come out in a new internest [sic] SF magazine called Darker Matter. There doesn’t seem to be a great amount of new information in there so far (only two of three parts have yet come out) but it’s still exciting to me. I only wish someone would unearth another book or two….

The magazine itself has had some interesting stories, and I would recommend checking it out. They could use a better editor though. I don’t know if it’s just the copy editing that needs help or if it’s something more. I just know it doesn’t seem as flawless as I’d hoped, for a magazine calling itself “the high quality online science fiction magazine so many worlds have been waiting for” — but maybe it’s me, still wishing the internest [sic] wasn’t so so full of sloppy writing. Even one of my very favorite blog-o-writers, who gained fame as an actor but is now a writer first and actor second — or hmm, I should say, family man first, writer second, actor somewhere after that, judging by his recent writings… anyway, this blogorator is top-notch, and even he makes an annoying error here and there. (If I may humbly say, Wil: “led” is not spelled “lead.”) But with him I don’t mind much. I recently ordered one of his books on CD, and can’t wait for it to arrive. And if I ever get around to finishing the latest “Books” post (months in the making, oy) I’ll be sure to include some kind of something about that.

A strange thing happened after we left the pediatrician’s office. We were in the parking lot, trying to get the baby settled in her car seat. The straps were acting funny. So we were fiddling around with them, and just when we were getting them to work right, there was this terrific huge crash, then an even louder crash. I ran around to the other side of the car in time to see a small pickup less than a hundred feet away, on its side in the middle of the road, and another car with a bashed up front end accelerating away from the scene. I hadn’t seen the license plate, so I started to run after the car to see if I could get a glimpse. M. had the same idea — we nearly collided — and I let him do the chasing while I stayed with the baby. He was gone for several minutes. Tense minutes! I didn’t approach the truck, as a number of other people had come to give aid, including a nurse from the pediatrician’s office. Finally there were sirens and M. came back. He hadn’t spotted the car’s license plate number, but did get a description of it and saw which way it had gone. He went over to the scene to be a witness, and I hung back with the baby and watched the flashing lights and the traffic jam. After a little while M. came back with good news: the people in the truck were okay. Plus, when he and other witnesses were describing the runner’s car, they were conflicted about the color of the paint. Was it beige or gold? Oh hey, look over there, it’s a piece of the bumper. It’s beige — M. was right — and, omg, here attached to it is the license plate! Best ground score ever!

I have to say, thinking about it later — that accident freaked me right out. M. had seen more of it than I did. He saw the truck while it was still airborne, turning sideways and backwards as it flew. Airborne! It wasn’t even the freeway! Yikes! And, oh yikes, what if those car seat straps hadn’t caused that small delay? We could have been in the middle of the whole mess.

One other thing I was glad of: even though I had my camera with me, my brain did not tell me to take any pictures.

Sometimes I like my brain.

Hate John Knowles?

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

A while ago I was watching an old Simpsons episode in which we meet Homer’s mother. At one point she and Lisa have a bonding moment on the front stoop:

Grandma: I saw all your awards, Lisa. They’re mighty impressive.
Lisa: Aw, I just keep them out to bug Bart, heh.
Grandma: [reproachful] Don’t be bashful. When I was your age, kids made fun of me because I read at the ninth-grade level.
Lisa: Me too!
Homer: [walking on his hands] Hey, Mom! Look at me! Look at what I can do!
Grandma: I see you, Homer. That’s very nice.
[to Lisa] Although I hardly consider “A Separate Peace” the ninth-grade level.
Lisa: Shyeah, more like preschool.
Grandma: I hate John Knowles.
Lisa: Me too.
[they both laugh, then sigh]
Homer: Mom! You’re not looking!
Grandma: You know, Lisa, I feel like I have an instant rapport with you.
Lisa: [gasps] You didn’t dumb it down! You said “rapport”.

The funny thing is, I was partway through a re-reading of A Separate Peace at the time. I read it when I was a kid, I think because my friend Colleen said it was good. I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it that time. Then recently, I picked it up from the bargain table at the bookstore a few weeks — or maybe months — before that Simpsons aired. Finally, later, got around to re-reading it to see what I thought of it as a grownup, and to gauge my powers of recollection. And that’s when we watched that episode. Funny coincidence. Any case, it was a strange read. I kept expecting something horrible to happen. I remembered it as a book about a kid’s friend dying, but reading it I started to think I had it mixed up with some other book. I didn’t enjoy the read all that much. Who knows, though? I’m somewhat impressionable at times, and if Lisa Simpson didn’t like it, maybe my brain decided I couldn’t either. Hm.

Books of late

Sunday, March 5th, 2006

yellow chick

Bitter with Baggage Seeks Same, Sloane Tanen
Sister E. brought this book to me. Super funny and silly.

The Prydain Chronicles, Lloyd Alexander
M. recommended these books. He was re-reading them, and thought I would enjoy them too. I am so glad I read them! They’d be great even without the giant cat. I would recommend them for anyone 10 or older.

By the Shores of Silver Lake, Laura Ingalls Wilder
And thanks once again to the lovely Chanzara, who got me reading the series. This one’s excellent like all the others, and full of signs of things to come. First glimpse of Almanzo, for instance. And now that I’ve read it I’m going to give it to the lovely C., since it appears she doesn’t have it! It’s a surprise. Chanzara, if you’re reading this… Surprise!

How to Cure a Fanatic, Amos Oz
There are two essays in this book. I have read the first one. It is the most interesting piece I’ve read about Israel and Palestine. His predictions about the solution — compromise — are very interesting, and I hope to see them come true some day.

And two more from the Chanzara-n-Me Book Club:

The Gun Seller, Hugh Laurie
Ok, I love Hugh Laurie. M. and I have been watching a lot of House lately, and so it’s easy to hear this book in his voice, which makes it all the better — even considering the distraction caused by my brain going back and forth between his British (real) voice and his American accent voice.

Lamb, Christopher Moore
This Christopher Moore person, well, hmm, let’s just say if he wrote a book like this about anything Muslim, he’d be dead by now. Way funny and interesting. And oh, Hooray! He’s coming to a bookstore near me! Soon! Think I just might go to the reading.

On deck:

The Elements of Style, Strunk/White/Kalman
A new edition of the little book? How about that! And illustrated by one of my favorites! In this new edition — hardback no less — on the inside of the front cover is the word hello. How beautiful is that?

Don’t get too comfortable, David Rakoff
I loved his book Fraud and can’t wait to get to this one.