Saturday, January 22, 2011

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and other eastern tales of recommendation.

I received Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See as a get well gift from my Aunt.  Finally, after finishing Texas (what a long read that was), I treated myself to a choice from the long negleted  "book stack".  This book is a great selection! It is an historical fiction accounting of the the life of a chinese girl, Lily, set in the 1800's in a Hunan county.  The second chapter has a description of the disfiguring horrible tradition of foot binding  that I will never forget.  I learned that that the girl's toe bones and arch must break to complete this process.  I will edit this post as I have more to say about this book.  I can't wait to get back to this book later this evening.

It is as good as other eastern tales such as Aurthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha
 or some of Perl Buck's materpieces.  In the past, the New Mexico Readers' Group has discussed Memoirs of a Geisha, The Good Earth, Imperial Woman and Bound Feet and Western Dress, A Memoir by Pang-Mei Natasha Chang.  I hope that our book club picks an Amy Tan book at some point, as they are delightful also.  I would highly recommend my two favorites, The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife.

Perhaps if you never read the book Memoirs of a Geisha you could enjoy the movie.  I did not, and my recommendation would be to read the book.  It was excellent.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Book meeting on Texas, and great book choices for our next discussion

For the next discussion, one of the following three books will be our new choice.  It will all depend on how the people in the group vote.  Lisa choose the following books.  Usually, we vote on the next read at our meeting, but being at Texas Roadhouse, it was too noisy to decide.

To review the meeting, Texas Roadhouse was my (bad) choice for discussion.  We were lucky to be seated, but even at 4:30 in the evening, it was very crowed and noisy.  Most everyone liked the book with one exception.  There were door prizes for those who finished the book (another Mitchener book, Caribbean for one finished, and a pack of gum for the other finisher), and a door prize for the person who read the fewest number of pages (around 80 pages).  This prize was a caribou that pooped out candy when you lifted his tail.  It required no reading to enjoy!  Everyone got a real cotton boll from Lubbock (from my trip out there over Thanksgiving).  Anyway, if was fun.  Our next meeting is tentatively set for the 3rd Saturday in March.

The next job is to vote on the next pick and send Lisa an email.  I want to read all of them! 

And,  drum roll, here are the picks:

Pick number one:  Cutting for Stone by Verghese. Lisa wrote "I learned about this one when I saw my patient reading it. She loved the book. New via Amazon costs $8.44 and I saw it at Costco. It's a "magnificent, sweeping novel that moves from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in NYC over decades and generations"  Lots of medical stuff included. 688 pages. "

Pick number two: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Stein.  Lisa wrote "I listened to this in my car and really liked it. Everyone I know who has read it has also really enjoyed this novel. This one is told by a dog, which sounds dumb, but the author pulls it off beautifully. Enzo tells his master's life story, which includes "love, tragedy, redemption, danger and--most especially-- the canine narrator, Enzo". New via Amazon costs $4.96 and I also saw it at Costco. 336 pages."

Pick number three: Eternal on the Water by Monninger.  Lisa wrote "I read about this one in my Chinaberry magazine, where I get lots of good book ideas. It's a "poignant love story rooted in the forests of Maine" about a couple who falls in love on a camping trip. The heroine has Huntington's disease and the story goes from there, making it a "memorable story of love and courage"."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Texas, Chapter XIV, Power and Change, Last Chapter!

Finally we get to go to Dallas, also known by Dallasites as Big D, one of my hometowns.  I used to live in North Dallas as the child of a wheeler dealer in the 1970's and 80's.  I learned that money is very very nice.

I have heard a few people (well, two total) tell me that the last chapters of Michener's books aren't as appealing as the earlier chapters because they are about modern history.  This book was published originally in 1985, and I couldn't disagree more.  Having a unbiased description of current events (not that 1985 is even near to being a current time) is very interesting in a time where it seems that every current reporter of events has their own political agenda.

What really struck me in this chapter was the visitation of the Mexican illegal immigrant issue that Texas was experiencing in the 1980's.  This was as issue for the US government to fix via legislation. The words written outlining the issue, and the consequences of ignoring this issue, could be published word for word in our current 2011 paper and still be true!  I found this shocking.

There was discussion of the Simpson-Mazzoli bill, of which a version called the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was passed by congress after this book was published.  The problems have not gone away.  This is what was outlined as the issue, pre-1985!

"Simpson-Mazzoli was an effort ... to staunch the hemorrhaging along the Mexican border.... The bill offered three solutions: halt further illegal entry, grant generous amnesty and penalize American employers who hired illegals.....  opposed it vehemently on the dubious grounds that it would require immigrants... who had later obtained legal status to carry identification cards."

The issues viewed by the extreme radical Mexican-American revolutionary who wants to transform their portion of America into a reclaimed Mexican homeland and the patriot view of retaining American sovereignty are presented.  This is a follow up to the previous chapter's description of illegal immigration hardships and cruelties.   I would recommend purchasing this book just to read the last two chapters!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Texas, Chapter XIII, The Invaders

I'm just starting this chapter about Texas invaders, such as illegal Mexicans, people from other states, and ARMADILLOS (which have migrated from Mexico).

I love this stuff.  Click here to see a video of an Armadillo:
Video of an armadillo wallowing
If you watch the whole video (or fast forward), he comes out of his mud hole and looks around.

I was so excited to be learning about armadillos, that I asked a man who was the shuttle driver (from the car repair shop) for my ride to work today if he knew anything about armadillos, and boy, did he!  I wanted to tell him how they would always give birth to four in a litter, all of the same gender.  He beat me to it!

"I am in the Information business", he said.  "Did you know that the babies...."  etc.  Wow!  Someone who knows about armadillos.  Well, this guy actually seems to know something about everything.  Last ride was a lecture on CIA operations in Vietnam; armadillos followed the intricate workings of a steam locomotive.

He gave me a huge amount of information, including stories about his pet armadillo he caught by the tail as it was digging into its hole by the side of an Oklahoma road.

"They don't bite - have no teeth.  But you should see them suck up ground beef with their tongue!" he explained.

He told me that the first thing an armadillo does when startled  is to jump straight up into the air,  just to the height of a car grill.

"Which is why", he explained, "there are so many squashed armadillo's in the road."

My driver finished the lecture with a joke.

"Texas is not a middle of the road state, politically or otherwise.  Matter of fact, the only thing you will ever find in the middle of the road is a white line and a squashed armadillo! "

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Texas, Chapter XII, The Town

This was a very informative chapter.  The way the KKK tries to control the little town of Larkin is telling and eye opening.  Murder, assault, and open corruption committed in the early 1900's in Texas in the name of morality (enforced by hypocrites) is shocking to me.  Is this the nature of people in the absence of the law?

The theme that speaks to me in this chapter is that when money or political gain are involved, anything goes.  This theme was extended by speaking of the importance of winning high school football games by recruiting professional players and by cheating at the poles for political gain.

The high point for me was learning about the process of drilling for oil.  The struggle and expense of locating the oil, and the amazing risks taken for huge riches made this a fun chapter for me.  More information about the longhorn cattle is very interesting also.  After reading this though, I'm still wondering if my view of fellow man is too generous.  Perhaps man's nature is that given anarchy, a few immoral bastards rise to the top to subjugate their fellow man.