We’ve been waiting for a free afternoon to see Jurassic World, and yesterday was it. We wanted to see it in 3D, although in retrospect, I am not so sure it makes that big a difference. It was LOUD. We are not hard of hearing, and at the beginning I had to cover my ears, it was so loud.
And, for all the movies I have seen, this one had some twists I didn’t see coming. It was full of exciting moments, and, within its own context, believable. You have to believe that humans let greed overcome their good judgement. You have to believe genetic manipulation is possible. You have to believe that the minute someone says “this is totally safe” you’d better be looking for a life jacket and a way out. All this, I believe.
AdventureMan had some struggles with unexplained things, but I think they were good at covering their bases, if you paid attention when the scientists were talking. I had a really hard time believing velociraptors could be tamed in any way. Trained – maybe if they are bored enough, and the training follows their normal instinctive practices. Tamed? Ummm, I don’t think so.
I loved the homage paid to Jurassic Park. I always love it when the bad guys get their just desserts. I always wonder, if we get curious and clone/create a prehistoric animal, will we be able to foresee all the possible outcomes?
“What are manners?”
“What is ‘nice’, what does it mean?”
“What is ‘kind’?” the most adorable little boy in Pensacola asked me. It was bath time, a time when we have some of our best conversations, and you never know where the conversation will go.
I love these conversations because I have to think, too, but most of all, because I love to watch this little boy’s mind grow in grasping concepts and perceptions. He is four; his class in school is on the letter “U” this coming week, and already he can sound out words in the books we read together. He knows what a globe is, and how it differs from a map. He knows his address, and he can point to Pensacola on the globe.
He knows things because we talk to him, and because he goes to school and his teachers talk to him. His mind is wide open and he is eager to learn, and he asks the most wonderful questions.
Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti has a new case that troubles him. He knows the dead man, not well, but he would see him in his quarter, and he often saw him helping out at the local laundry. He assumed the man was deaf and retarded, everyone knew that. When the dead man has no papers, in bureaucratic Italy, no birth certificate, no medical records, no finance records, no record of social aid (he is poor as well as disabled) Brunetti is troubled. How could such a familiar figure be so undocumented?
His mother is no help; her stories are transparent lies about travel to France and her son having grown up in the country with people whose name she cannot remember.
It is a troubling book. If you read Donna Leon, you will understand how close and wonderful and articulate Brunetti’s family is, how loved and cherished their children. We eat meals with them, we understand how the Venetian vernacular distinguishes those to whom one speaks more frankly and those to whom one lies. Brunetti’s a detective; the things he sees often trouble him, but this case troubles him more than most.
I can’t tell you more without spoiling the ending. All I can tell you is that it will encourage you to love your children, hold them closely, and give them all the benefits in their life-toolbox of attention, instruction and loving discipline that a parent (and grandparent!) can give.
AdventureMan came into the room where I was reading and handed me this book. “Will you read this?” he asked, and there was a note in his voice that sounded a little aggrieved.
“What’s up?” I asked. “You sound a little peeved.”
“I read this,” he said. “I thought it was pretty good, but when I read the reviews on Amazon, some people called it ‘trivial’,” and I could see he was embarrassed that something he thought was pretty good others believed was of little importance.
Big mistake, Adventureman.
I might read a little of the reviews when deciding whether to buy a book or not, because I won’t remember it when it comes time to actually read the book or review the book, but I never, NEVER read the reviews as I am reading or before I review a book. And, truthfully, I don’t really care what this reviewer says or that reviewer says. Sometimes I read a New Yorker review of a book and I think “that reviewer has her own filter and can’t see beyond her framework” or “Wow! That reviewer saw some things I’d like to see!” Sometimes I will read a review and then read the book and think that the reviewer really missed the mark, positively or negatively, it could be either way.
Reviews are opinions. We all have them. Some you might agree with, some you might not, but don’t let them touch you, or your experience with the book. We are each unique, and see through a unique lens!
First, it delighted me that I read this just after I read Babayaga, because I ejnoy Paris, and delight in walking Paris, and in Babayaga and in All the Light There Was, people do a lot of walking in Paris. So much so in All the Light There Was that I ran down to my little map collection for the Paris maps and would track the heroine through Paris. It was fun.
Although All the Light There Was is called a novel, I don’t think it is. As I read it, I thought it was highly biographical or autobiographical, based on a diary or diaries. The significant details – how the mama stockpiled food just as war was announced and all the places she stored it, including under the bed, the clothing they wore, the sweaters they knit, the indignities they endured, and the risks they bravely took against the occupying Germans – it doesn’t sound made up to me, it sounds like a story someone has told from that time.
The details are so strong – the bicycle tires that are treasured because if they go flat, that is the end of the last transport they have, the dresses that have become too big because people have eaten too little – these details sound like voices to me.
So I would not call this book trivial. This book captures a moment in time, it’s a snapshot. The characters don’t have a lot of depth, the events don’t have a lot of texture, but I do know what occupied Paris ate during the last years of the occupation (turnips) and the ambivalence with which Paris viewed their Jewish citizens. In this war-time Paris, Kricorian captures well Pastor Martin Niemoeller’s poem about When They Came for Me:
In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.”
Many in Paris were happy to see the Jews go, happy it wasn’t them. Kricorian tackles this issue indirectly, with a light but inescapable hand.
One of the things that was shocking to both of us what that when Maral’s ancient Auntie Shakeh died, and we see the tombstone – she is 35 years old. We knew she and Maral’s parents had escaped the Turkish efforts to eradicate the Armenians in Turkey, but because we are seeing the story through Maral’s eyes, her parents and aunt seem ancient, whereas in today’s terms, they are very young adults.
Don’t read the reviews, AdventureMan! Read the book, take from the book what you will, enjoy your own experience. Write your own reviews!
The first time I read anything by Jeannette Walls, I had not read her autobiographical best-seller, The Glass Castle. If I had, when I read the opening pages of one of my all-time-favorite books, Half Broke Horses , three young children out checking on the cows in America of the mid-1800’s, I would have said “Oh, yes, this is Jeannette Walls” instead of being so shocked that these three children were so far from home with a storm approaching. Not only does the storm approach – the oldest sister pushes her younger sister and brother up a tree and they are stuck there through a violent storm all night. No adult comes looking for them.
“Where is their mother?” in shock I thought, “a mother with three children out in the storm goes looking for them!”
Not if you are a Jeannette Walls mother. To ‘get’ Jeannette Walls, you really have to start with The Glass Castle, and learn about how she and her siblings are at the mercy of an alcoholic mother and father, both big liars, maybe with some attendant mental problems. Half Broke Horses is fiction, based on her own grandmother, who, at 15 rides 28 days across Indian territory to teach at a far-away school (What mother lets her 15 year old DAUGHTER ride for a month across dangerous country ALONE??)
I was on the send-as-soon-as-it’s-published list for Silver Star. And even once it arrived, I waited until I knew I might have a few free hours in the evening to read it – once you start Jeannette Walls, you can’t put it down. Her heroines in this novel are 15 year old Liz and 12 year old Bean (Jean) whose mother ran away from her hometown in Virginia to pursue a career in music. The mother has a small inheritance to sustain them; when life sours, as it often does for her, she packs the girls into her worn Dodge Dart and takes off. She isn’t always good about paying her bills. She talks to her girls about what a great team they are, and then takes off for a day or two, usually with some man, leaving them to eat chicken pot pies. Then, she abandons them with no sign of when she will be back.
The girls are pistols. They are survivors, much like Jeannette Walls grandmother in Half Broke Horses. When social services start coming around asking where their mother is, they take off headed for their Mom’s old home town, across the continent, in Virginia.
The heart of the story finds the girls living in the old family mansion, scouting for odd jobs, learning more about themselves and their heritage, and learning how a small community can smother, judge and support their community members in unexpected ways.
If you are a negligent, man-oriented, self-absorbed mother, you don’t want to have a writer for a daughter. Jeannette Walls is having a ball; her books are both sad and hilarious, and she has utter scorn for mothers who do not take the reins of motherhood and behave like grown-ups.
I danced when I saw the Amazon box; rarely do I buy hardcover (hurts too much when they fall over if I fall asleep reading, too bulky to carry on planes) but this one I was on the waiting list for, mail it as soon as it is published! Khaled Housseini, author of Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns has a new runaway best-seller; thanks to him I’ve just spent three days in Afghanistan, Paris and Los Angeles.
As the book opens, I am big brother to a baby sister whose Mom died in childbirth, living in a remote village in Afghanistan. Life is tough, but through the eyes of these children, life is idyllic, even though food is scarce and winters are cold. We have a huge oak tree with a swing, we play with the other children, and we have each other. Our father’s new wife is kind enough, but is busy with her own children, and the drudgery of cooking, cleaning and making do in a very small, poor Afghan village.
Later, I am Pari, living in Paris with an alcoholic, self-absorbed mother, making a life for myself, but always with a nagging feeling of something just outside my peripheral vision, another life . . .
The tale is told through the eyes of many, and on the way to the end of the tale we meet a wide spectrum of humanity, suffer the ills of war, callousness and unintended cruelties. We find that the man with superficial charm also saves and changes the lives of many, we find a doctor who finds fulfillment serving in the poorly resourced hospitals of Afghanistan, and we feel the agonies of a dutiful daughter watching her father fade into the world of Alzheimer’s.
It’s a wonderful, wild ride, richly textured, and when it finishes, you are not ready for it to end.