May 31, 2004
Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness, as told to Robert Specht (author listed by LC as Anne Hobbs), 1976
I expected this would be a heartwarming tale, but verging on sentimental/romanticized/whitewashed. Nothing of the sort. Heartwarming, yes, but very candid about the difficulties and especially the racism of the Alaskan frontier. Since it was written in the 70s, even though it's set in the 20s, it has a level of frankness that would be unusual earlier. Anne (called "Tisha" (Teacher) by one of her students) sees the good and the bad in the people around her and is not corrosively bitter about it. And there's a happy ending--eventually--which since it's supposedly a true story (seems to be confirmed by witnesses), is especially gratifying. The one weird thing to me is that since Anne herself was 1/4 Native American, and she didn't make a point of concealing it, I would have expected that to be an issue discussed one way or the other.
The jacket blurb says that Specht "is now working on a sequel to Tisha," which he never did. Anne Hobbs Purdy wrote another book, Dark Boundary, which I'll see if I can track down. I wonder how much of the voice is Specht and how much Anne herself; he gets all the credit on the jacket but the Library of Congress record has her as primary author, as do other sources I've found on the Internet. Anyway, it's a terrific, absorbing book, and Anne is a brave and admirable character.
May 23, 2004
What About the Big Stuff? Finding Strength and Moving Forward When the Stakes Are High by Richard Carlson (2002)
The only really new/unique ideas I remember coming across in self-help books are those in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, specifically the techniques of recognizing the imagined physical properties of ideas/memories (where you "see" them, how crisp the pictures are, how loud the sound) and adjusting them for desired effects (for example, make a scary idea less real by projecting it on a screen, then shrinking the picture and lowering the volume, etc.) But trying out those techniques never had much effect in my actual life. Flylady, and to a lesser extent Judith Morgenstern's Organizing from the Inside Out, are the only self-help methods that have really made a difference to my day-to-day life.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson, 2003
Another inventor, J. B. McComber, representing the Chicago-Tower Spiral-Spring Ascension and Toboggan Transportation Company, proposed a tower with a height of 8,947 feet, nearly nine times the height of the Eiffel Tower, with a base one thousand feet in diameter sunk two thousand feet into the earth. Elevated rails would lead from the top of the tower all the way to New York, Boston, Baltimore, and other cities. Visitors ready to conclude their visit to the fair and daring enough to ride elevators to the top would then toboggan all the way back home. "As the cost of the tower and its slides is of secondary importance," McComber noted, "I do not mention it here, but will furnish figures upon application."
I'm about a dozen books behind... I initially thought of ending every post with "This is probably the last post ever" (instead of the kiss-of-death "I'm going to have more time for this blog soon!") Maybe I should start doing that now. We'll see.
May 20, 2004
H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O'Brian, 1973
May 17, 2004
Unusually Stupid Americans: A Compendium of All-American Stupidity, by Kathrun Petras and Ross Petras (2003)
May 16, 2004
Mr. Bass's Planetoid (1958) and Time and Mr. Bass (1967) by Eleanor Cameron
"C'mon Dave--let's go!" yelled Chuck, about to burst with impatience over his grandfather's slow, careful deliberations. How he hated waiting while people thought. He never could understand why they just didn't start in doing something.
Time is much more preoccupied with mythology than science fiction. The Necklace of Ta has been stolen and the gems that make it up distributed among an array of people. The gems make them crazy--obsessed with mushroom shapes and losing touch with everything that mattered to them before. The structure is that of a mystery, as Mr. Bass and the boys track the gems in search of the thief, Penmaen Parry. Stonehenge and the Arthurian legends make an appearance, and an ancient enemy called "Narrow Brain"--love that name.