Pause for a moment with THEBOOK JEANIE

An artist like Picasso creates a work of art for his own purpose and intention. The viewer is free to examine and interpret,  to create a personal meaning that transcends any critical appraisal of the work. In 1932, Picasso painted a dreamy portrait of his current lover, Marie-Therese Walter:  Woman with a Book. To me, I see a woman reflecting upon what she has read, making connections with her life and the world around her. I invite you to pause while you are reading, to make connections with the text, and reflect on how the book affects your own ideas and perceptions.    


The Man Without a Shadow by Joyce Carol Oates. "Can there be a man without a shadow? Without a memory is like being without a shadow. I am that person. I think." The voice is that of Eli Hoopes, a descendant of an old Philadelphia family, a somewhat solitary and rebellious member of the clan, who went camping alone on a small island in Lake George, New York and was infected by a virulent strain of encephalitis. By the time he sought medical help he had suffered irreversible brain damge due to high fever and swelling of the brain. His brain no longer establishes short or long term memories and he struggles to coherently recall memories of his life before his illness.  Margot Sharpe, a graduate student in neuropsychology, meets Eli in the memory lab at a university neurological center outside of Philadelphia and he becomes the focus of her research under the guidance of her mentor, Milton Ferris. As Eli attempts to make sense of his life, present and past, Margot struggles to establish her own identity despite being manipulated emotionally and professionally by her mentor. The narrative flows seamlessly between these two characters, revealing the fears and insecurities that haunt both Eli and Margot and prompt her to cross the ethical line in her relationship with her research subject. Oates explores the frailty and the complexity of the human brain, the cognitive as well as the more elusive emotional aspects, in this most compelling of novels.



My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.  Lucy is recovering in a New York City hospital after complications from minor surgery. After three weeks she awakens one afternoon to see her mother sitting in a chair next to her bed. It has been years since Lucy had seen her mother, a woman emotionally and physically abusive during Lucy's impoverished childhood in rural Illinois. But here she was and "her being there, using my pet name, which I had not heard in ages, made me feel warm and liquid-filled, as though all my tension had been a solid thing and now was not."  I listened to the first half of this book as an audio, performed exquisitely by Kimberly Farr, the gentle aching in her voice almost bringing tears to my eyes. Although Lucy would like to ask her mother so many questions, she is still afraid of rejection so she listens quietly while her mother shares bits of local gossip and opinions about people from her small hometown. These conversations prompt memories of the humiliations Lucy endured growing up in a dirty makeshift home in a garage, ashamed of her poverty and denied love and protection from her parents. Now she is now married with two daughters and is a successful writer, she still lacks confidence in herself despite all of her accomplishments. Strout tenderly evokes the hungering need that we all have for love and acceptance from our mothers and explores what fulfilling that need can mean.



Congratulations to Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner of the
2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Nguyen's book was reviewed in this blog last month.

Short takes

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian. Richard Chapman, a successful investment banker,  devoted husband and father, reluctantly agrees to host his free-wheeling brother's bachelor party. That decision, compounded by subsequent poor judgement when the evening begins to evolve into a bizarre and  out-of-control  frat boy sex-fantasy, provides the basis of Bohjalian's latest tense drama that he skillfully masters to the very end.  

Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at the Time by Mark Adams.  When Adams decides to follow in the footsteps of famed explorer Hiram Bingham (some call him the real Indiana Jones) he takes on a bit more than he had planned. Although he is familiar with the country and had traveled to Machu Picchu with his Peruvian wife and son, he finds that exploring the circuitous Andean route that Bingham took in his pursuit of the "lost city" of the Incas results in physical hardships he never imagined. His ego takes a bruising as well as he struggles to keep up with his inexhaustable Australian guide, John Leivers, as they makes steep ascents up the Andean peaks and then machete their way through thick jungle. Adams' adventuurous travelogue reads at times like an exciting and scholarly National Geographic article then brings us down to earth with his witty and humorous descriptions of his total lack of mountaineering skills.  


Now if you love reading and bookstores and want an unusual place to sleep in Tokyo, read on. . .

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There’s nothing better than cozying up in bed with a good book… or, as in the case of this Japanese hostel, a few thousand of them. 
Book and Bed is a small, 30-bed hostel in Tokyo where guests sleep in snug little cubbies hidden behind library shelves laden with books.
(The word “snug” may even be generous here, as the larger of the two room offerings measures just 6 by 4 feet.) 
On its website, the hostel — featured in a viral video posted on Facebook this week by INSIDER — is honest about what patrons should expect from the self-described “accommodation bookshop.”
“The perfect setting for a good night’s sleep is something you will not find here. There are no comfortable mattresses, fluffy pillows nor lightweight and warm down duvets,” the establishment warns.
Instead, the hostel promises its patrons a special experience, known well by book lovers the world over: 
“What we do offer is an experience while reading a book (or comic book). An experience shared by everyone at least once — the blissful ‘instant of falling asleep.’ It is already 2 a.m. but you think just a little more... with heavy drooping eyelids you continue reading only to realize you have fallen asleep... Dozing off obliviously during your treasured pasttime is the finest ‘moment of sleep,’ don’t you agree?”
It costs upwards of $34 a night to stay at Book and Bed. Each room comes with a simple mattress and reading light. There’s also free Wi-Fii.
The hostel, described by The Guardian last year as a “heaven for bookworms,” says its shelves can stock up to 3,000 books.
The books, a mix of English and Japanese offerings, are not for sale, however — they’re just there for the enjoyment of hostel patrons.
“When I go to five-star hotels, the bed is lovely but I find myself wanting to sleep in the bar,” So Rikimaru of R-Store, the company that runs the hostel, told The Guardian of the inspiration behind Book and Bed. “Even if there is a comfortable bed, sometimes you still want to be in a more interesting place. We wanted to make a place where people can just have a good time and sleep.”

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