Thursday, April 28, 2016

On hiatus.

I have been remiss. I thought I had posted that I planned to take last week off, but I guess I didn't. And I don't have a review ready for this week, either.  Bad author! No donut!

I'll be back in top form next week, I promise...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Then and Now: The Harmony of the Instantaneous All - Randy Attwood

It's been said that if you remember the 1960s, you weren't really there. In Then and Now, Attwood captures the mood of that turbulent time with a protagonist who writes down his memories of his college years to try to make sense of them.

Stan Nelson is middle-aged now, but in 1969 he was a graduate student at the University of Kansas. As he pieces together his memories, his story's narration shifts viewpoint to various people he knew there. Among them: Peter Thomas, who staged and directed an avant-garde production of the Greek tragedy Oresteia in which Stan improbably landed a part; Melvin Washington, originally from Trinidad, who found himself as angry as any native-born American black man; Yen Li, the Chinese woman Stan fell for; Charlie Wilson, the drugged-out non-student; Betty Reed, who would rather live on a farm without electricity than spend another night under the roof of her father, a racist cop.

Interspersed with their stories are Stan's updates on how they turned out, and how their memories of the events of '69 and '70 compare with his. As for Stan himself, he has built a tea house on a hillside to learn the Tao of tea.

My own college experience began several years later, but I had very little trouble recognizing the character types. (We even had our own Charlie Wilson, in a way; the late Leon Varjian made a name for himself at my alma mater, Indiana University, before going on to become a legend at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.) The difference for us was that the draft was no longer hanging over the heads of male students.

Anyway. The episodic nature of the narrative gives the book a feeling of being a little rough around the edges. But then, the late '60s were like that. If you're interested in what it was really like back then -- or if you find yourself struggling to remember -- I'd recommend Then and Now.

(The author gave me a copy of this book without requesting a review. The decision to review it is mine alone.)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The One Grapes: Addressing Hospital Food with Crude Doodles - Joseph Picard

It's time for this month's entry in the Indies Unlimited 2016 Reading Challenge. For April, I am reviewing a humorous (or is that humourous?) book. Presenting:

Author Joseph Picard is a paraplegic. In early 2015, he developed a pressure wound that landed him in the hospital for two months. So he had a lot of time to, um, appreciate the food -- and to ponder the meal order slips that the kitchen always attached to his tray. Early on, one of those slips listed, "1 EA GRAPES". As a creative kind of guy, Picard couldn't let that slide. So he doodled One Grapes having an existential moment and sent it back down with the empty tray. He heard the ladies in the kitchen liked it. So he started doing doodles on every slip, and snapping a photo of each one with his cell phone before his tray was whisked away.

With that much material, The One Grapes was practically inevitable.

I found the sketches witty enough for at least a chuckle and their descriptions charming. Picard's narration features a self-deprecating style that springs from a kind heart. Must be because he's Canadian.

If you've ever been hospitalized, you'll appreciate this book. If you know someone who's in the hospital -- or, hey, someone who works in a hospital kitchen -- this would be an awesome gift. Highly recommended, in other words, for just about everybody.