Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Eugene Gochenour's Memoirs Part 4

Today I continue to share my father's memories of growing up in Tonawanda, NY in the 1930s and 1940s. Here Dad writes about making a tractor, hay farming, tragic deaths, camping along the Niagara River, about the local airport and even the town dump! I remember going to 'the dock' at Grand Island as a girl and wading in the Niagara River. I was told not to go far out as the current could carry one over the Falls!
Eugene Gochenour
"Father decided to get a real tractor and found one in the country and somehow hauled it home. It was a Fordson tractor with a four-cylinder engine and was built sometime around the late '20s, or early '30s. Once home, he found it needed some spark coils, so we had to drive to Holland, New York, to a tractor parts store to buy them. Holland was about thirty miles away. When we got back, he installed the coils, made sure it had gas and oil, and cranked it up. After he got it running well he painted it red, and it looked and ran great!
John Kuhn on a tractor built by Al Gochenour from a 1928 Buick.
1937 Eugene Gochenour and with sister Mary on tractor at Kuhn's farm.
The house in the right background was on Waverly St and belonged to Phil and Edna Kuhn.

Gene Gochenour age 14
"During the summer, I would drive the tractor and John Kuhn would ride behind operating the sickle machine, the hay rake, or pitch hay onto the hay wagon. The tractor had huge rear wheels and small steel wheels in the front. I was probably thirteen years old when I started to drive it.

"The fields we mowed were Timothy grass, alfalfa, and clover. The first cutting was usually during the middle of June. When it was time, I would drive the tractor, and John would control the sickle bar, which was like a large lawnmower.

"After a few days, when the hay was dry, I would tow John as he operated the hay rake. We raked the hay into long lines so that when we brought the hay wagon out, we could drive along the line and pitch the hay onto it. Then we hauled it to the barn where it would be stored in the hayloft. Salt was added at that time. The salt helped keep the hay dry by absorbing moisture from the hay, and the salt was a good addition to the cattle’s diet when they ate it.

"When John no longer had any animals, he baled the hay and sold it to the riding stables that were near by. Each bale weighed around 100 pounds. John sold them for about a dollar each.

John Kuhn bringing in the hay, 1930s
"There were always many cats around the farm, and some of them were half wild. They would go into the fields to catch mice. The mowing machine had a long sickle bar that cut the hay and sometimes a cat would be in the field and lose a leg to the machine. There were a few three-legged cats on the farm. Occasionally a pheasant would also get caught and lose its life. Dogs, rabbits, and other animals seemed to be smart enough to move away.

"John also had a cider press and father borrowed it one fall to make some apple cider. Dad had made a box trailer and one fall day we went to the orchards by Lake Ontario and brought back a load of apples. The press was wooden with a hand crank. After the apples were washed they were dumped into the top of the press. Turning the handle chopped the apples up. Then the apples were crushed by a press that was on the machine. The press had a large wooden dowel attached to a screw, and as you turned it, the juice flowed out of the bottom into a trough. The trough drained the juice to where you could fill either jugs or barrels. When the juice first flows it tastes like apple juice, but before long, it tastes like cider. Some of the cider father gave away, some he sold, and some he made into Applejack, a high alcohol drink.

"We were very good friends with the Kuhns and one evening we invited them to a corn roast. When John ate the corn he remarked how good it was. We said it should be, because it had come from his field! We all got a big laugh from that!

"The end of the airport landing field was two blocks west of our house, and about a half mile past that was the Sheridan Park Golf Course. The airport hangers were about a half mile north, and east of them was the town dump.

"Almost every evening during the summer, a man named Peewee would parachute from a plane. One evening he jumped from the plane, and the chute did not open. He landed in the dump and was killed. The oldest Morrow boy was called Buster, and he had always helped Peewee pack his chute, and he felt bad when Peewee was killed.

"There was always something going on at the airport. There were midair shows, and they gave flying lessons, and plane rides to customers. Once during the Second World War, a P-38 warplane made a forced landing and had to be towed up Military Road past our house because the field was too short for it to take off. Another time a Grumman Wildcat fighter plane crash-landed. I went over to see it and was surprised how big it was. It had belly flopped and the propeller blades were all bent back. That plane also had to be towed past our house. During the war I knew every war plane there was.

"Whenever there was something going on at the airport it drew huge crowds. Then a neighbor friend, Ridgely Ware, and I would put a sign on the lot behind his house and charge 25 cents to let people park their cars there. I don’t know who owned the lot, but people were glad to park.

"Levant (Lee) Becker was my mother’s brother and my uncle. He was about two years older than I and we hung around together a lot. He and I had many adventures together. He lived with my grandmother and grandfather on Morgan Street in the City of Tonawanda, about four miles away. Sometimes I would walk through the fields to his house.
Lee Becker at the family camp on the Niagara River
"They had a rowboat they left on the shore of the Niagara River about four blocks from their house. Sometimes Lee and I would row out onto the river and hook onto a barge that was that was being towed up the river. We would tie the rowboat to the last barge, then run up to the front of it and jump into the river, let the barge steam by, then grab the rowboat as it passed by. The only person on the tug was the captain, and he was so many barges away that he could not holler at us. After we left the barge, we drifted back down the river and rowed over to Grand Island. The river at that point is about a half mile across, and on the Grand Island side was a spot called Elephant Rock. It had that name because of a huge boulder that sat out in deep water, about a foot under the surface. It was in deep water, but we could swim to it, and stand on it. We also called the spot “bare ass beach” for obvious reasons. The bank of the river was about twenty feet high there, and a road went along at the top of the bank. I am sure people saw us at our nude beach.

"Sometimes when we were at Lee’s house we would walk to the Erie Canal where it went through the City of Tonawanda. There was a swing bridge that went over the canal that we dove and swam from. The water was not exactly clean but that did not bother us. The Robert Gair Paper Mill was next to the bridge and we found many comic books in the bales of paper. The top of the cover page was cut off because they had been returned from stores when they were not sold. We eventually had a huge pile of comic books.

"Lee spent a lot of time at our house and one night when he was there he and I crawled out the front upstairs window onto the roof. From there we could watch the cars drive by on Military Road. Dad worked at the Buffalo Bolt Company and he brought us home some of the scrap slugs that we used with our slingshots. Well, we had our slingshots, and we decided to shoot at the cars as they passed by. We had done this before, and never hit one, but on this night when we shot, we both hit a car. The car stopped, and a man got out, walked around the car, and when he could not see what had happened, got back in, and drove away. We were so scared we never did that again!
Al Gochenour in front of  the 'chicken coop'
"There was an old chicken coop in our backyard and Lee and I would sometimes climb onto the roof and sunbathe. My father suspected we were climbing on it and told us he would kick us in the butt if he ever caught us on it. We did not listen very good and one day he did catch us on it, and he did kick us both in the butt! We never did climb that roof again!

"Lee and I fished together a lot. Sometimes we would go at night and fish for suckers or bullheads at Spicy Creek on Grand Island, or at Burnt Ship Creek Bay which was over by the North Grand Island Bridge. We fished for Northern Pike both there and at Jackie Senn’s boat livery on the East Niagara River.

"Lee got a car before I got my wheels and occasionally we would drive to a rink in North Tonawanda to roller skate.

"We spent one winter each building our own sailboat. The boat was called a sailfish and we built it from a plan we found in a magazine. It was a one-person boat and you wore a bathing suit when you sailed it 'cause you sure got wet sailing. Sailing on the river was a challenge because of the strong current.

"Nineteen Forty-Six was a great year for me. I had a motorcycle for wheels, a girlfriend, and when summer came my parents allowed me to stay at the family campground on Grand Island. The camp was a beach on the Niagara River that was leased by the year. All our relatives paid toward the lease. Lee and I stayed there all summer.
The dock at the family campground on Grand Island along the Niagara River.

"My future brother-in-law Clyde Guenther worked at the International Paper Mill but stayed when he was not working. At the camp was my father’s large Army tent, a twelve-foot trailer that he and I had built, a raft, dock, rowboat, and a sixteen-foot sailboat. We had a friend whose father owned a brewery across the river. We let him have parties at our camp as long as he supplied the beer. He also had an eighteen-foot sailboat and occasionally we would sail the river with him. The boat could hold seven or eight people, and sailing on a warm summer was beautiful. 
Clyde Guenther. Getting ready to target shoot at the camp.
"At night we would have a campfire on the shore. Crayfish (crabs) would come near the shore at night and we would catch them using a flashlight. We would throw the largest ones on the fire, and cook them in their shells. They would turn orange in color, and when they were cooked and cool, we would peel the claws and tail and feast on them. They were like lobster. 
Camping along the Niagara River

'Moose', Lee Becker, Abbey Becker, Clyde Guenther, and Gene Gochernour at the camp
"On weekends many of the relatives would come to the camp. It was like a family reunion.
Emma Gochenour along the Niagara River in 1956
Lee Becker at 'the dock' on the Niagara River in 1956
Alice Gochenour at 'the dock' on the Niagara River
"Crayfish would come near the shore at night and we would catch them using a flashlight. We would throw the largest ones on the fire and cook them in their shells. They would turn orange in color, and when they were cooked and cool we would peel the claws and tail and feast on them. They were like lobster.

"Crayfish were the best bait for catching bass. The bait shops charged $1.25 for a dozen so Lee and I would catch our own. We knew a certain weed that the soft-shelled crabs liked to hide in. Crabs shed their shells as they grow, so they hide till their new shells harden. They are the best bait for bass.
We would row to the certain weed bed, and with a net haul the mass of weeds onto the deck of the boat, and pick out the crabs. We saved them in a minnow bucket till we used them.

"Grand Island split the Niagara River into the west and east rivers. Our first camp was across from the City of Tonawanda on the east river. It was just upriver from Elephant Rock, a huge boulder in the river that we could swim to, and was knee deep under the surface. To get drinking water we had to row across the river to a park. The river had a strong current and it was probably a half mile across so it took a while to row over there and back. But we had always rowed the river and were used to it. We had a nickname for the camp. We called it Gismo Beach. Lee had been in the army and had served in Korea, and he came up with the name. Back then everything was a Gismo.

"There was a lady who walked her dog by our camp every day early in the morning. One day she knocked on our trailer door while we were sleeping, and excitedly told us about someone lying in the bushes by Elephant Rock. We were all only half awake and went back to sleep and forgot about it. Late in the day we saw a Sheriff car by Elephant Rock and walked there to see what was going on. There was a young man lying in the bushes and he was dead. Someone had turned him on his back because you could see the imprint of grass on his face. Later in the week, we read an article in the newspaper that he had been in the U. S. Navy, but they did not say what he had died from. Where he was lying was only about one hundred feet from our camp."

Clyde Guenther at the Niagara River Camp. Elephant Rock is in the background.
Where the white posts meet the trees a dead body was found.

Clyde Guenther's sailboat on shore near Franklin Street
"East, and across Military Road from the airport, was a very large field that was used for the town dump. It extended from Military Road to Delaware Road, and from Knoche Road to Waverly Road. This was where Pee Wee died when his parachute failed to open, and where we kids would junk pick.

"Many ferocious wild cats lived there. They were probably farm cats that had gone wild. They lived in the piles of trash, and if we chanced upon one, they would hiss and snarl like demons. One small pond was left back in the field, and a muskrat lived there. The dump was used for many years but finally became full.

"When they stopped dumping there they dumped in the gully next to our house. So for a while, we lived next to a dump. Living next to the dump was not too nice because of the noise, dust, smell, and flies. This was during the war, and a man told us kids he would pay us a nickel a bushel for broken bottles if we broke them up. Well, it seemed like fun at first, breaking bottles and putting them in bushel baskets, but we soon decided it was too much work and told him so. So that enterprise was short lived.

"It did not take long to fill the gully so they then started to dump at an abandoned gravel pit on the other side of the airport. Before it was made a dump we fished and swam there. We called it the Pit. Many rats lived at the dump and we would take our 22 rifles an shoot them for target practice. The original dump east of the airport changed from a dump to a cemetery. I often wonder what they run into when they dig for a grave? The gully next to our house was eventually the site of a Texaco gas station, and a bicycle repair shop."

[Ed.note: Reader Bud Reid informs that the airport Dad referenced was the Consolidated Bell Airport at Military and Ensminger Roads.]

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Washington's Spys by Alexander Rose

We have been watching the AMC series Turn about General Washington's Culper spy ring and so dear hubby bought me the book that inspired it, Washington's Spys: The Story of America's First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose.

As Nathaniel Philbrick notes in Valient Ambition, the Revolutionary War was also a Civil War, dividing families and communities according to allegiences as Loyalists or Patriots.

Then there were those oppotunists who preyed on anyone and allied with whatever side was most profitable, the "vultures, vultures everywhere" always found during war time, coyboys and skinners and piratical whaleboatmen.

I like how the series Turn portrays Setauket as under seige from all these angles.

Long Island was a British military base and under matial law. Corruption and looting was rampant. Colonel Simcoe of the Queen's Rangers was brutal. Consquently, the British served to increase citizens' Patriot leanings.

Washington's Setauket based spy Abraham Woodall, AKA Samuel Culper, resorted to setting up citizens to cover his tracks, even burning down the barn of the father of Robert Townsend, AKA Samuel Culper Jr.

Of course there is a lot of fiction in the AMC series and romances and interpersonal conflict to keep things interesting. Rose's book offers the facts, just the facts, which is mighty interesting without embellishment.

The book begins with failed spy Nathaniel Hal; it ends with war hero General Benedict Arnold's defection and ignomous end, and the hanging of British spy John Andre'--who earned the respect of countrymen and enemy alike for doing his duty. In between we learn the intricacies of how the Culper ring developed, how it worked, and the impact it had on the war.

The main ring was comprised of Setauket friends who trusted each other: Ben Talmadge, Washington's head of  intelligence; the Setauket based spy Samual Culper, in real life Abraham Woodall; Quaker Townsend, who had gone to New York to practise business and provided observations on the British; and whaleboatman Caleb Brewster, fearless and bold.

We encounter a new side of General Washington as he forged a new kind of spycraft, utilizing advanced methods and emplying flawed, couraegeous, and colorful civilians.

In a letter from Rose found at the AMC website,
"Instead of remaining faceless names or nameless faces...through their letters the personalities of the spies themselves emerge and we perceive them not as invincible superheros like James Bond or Jason Bourne, but as ordinary individuals coping the best they can in an extraordinary time. These secret agents--because they're frail, because they're flawed, because they're sometimes fearful--come across...as recognizable, symatetic, real people having to make unenviable, hard choices while facing potential lethal challenges. 
"What I've found most remarkable about TURN is that eveyone involved is willing to throw out the conventional goodies vs baddies narrative of the War of Independence in order to explore these very human factors lying at the heart of that titanic clah of nations and ideologies."
Here is an interview with Rose about the AMC series based on his book:

Washington's Spies
Alexander Rose
$17 paperback
ISBN 9780553392593

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myselt by Julie Barton

Childhood trauma left author Julie Barton with crippling negative self-talk and a major depressive breakdown. Leaving behind her New York City job and unhealthy love affair she returned to her Ohio family. With help from her parents, doctors, and therapists she underwent treatment. But it was the love for a dog, Bunker Hill, that ultimately gave Barton purpose and the unconditional love she desperately needed.

Barton audaciously takes a chance on life again, with Bunker at her side. When Bunker is discovered to have a congenital defect she had to choose to save his life through painful and expensive surgeries, or euthanize him.

I read Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself, A Memoir, for National Dog Day. Barton describes her life long struggle with self esteem and depression with no holds, vividly exposing depression's insiduous destruction. Her chronicle culminates in the salvation found in a warm body with big brown eyes, the joy of a puppy's unconditional love. Barton also must learn to trust herself and to accept that forgiveness, of one's self as well as forgiving others, is a necessary part of moving on.
"What if I decided that all of those mistakes were teachings? Maybe all of those choices I'd made were so that I could learn that what I wanted wasn't drama and sorrow, just love, love in the way Bunker gave love. Unconditional. No expectations. No strings. Just love, because what is more beautiful than that?"
Dog lovers, anyone who has struggled with depression or self esteem issues or childhood abuse, and those who enjoy honest and beautifully written memoirs will enjoy Dog Medicine.

I received a free book from Penguin through a Facebook giveaway.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

"Whatever is lost will be found": The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

"The past is a grenade that explodes when thrown."

The Gap of Time: A Cover Version of William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale by Jeanette Winterson was the first cover in the series by Hogarth Shakespeare. I previously read the Hogarth Shakespeare version of The Taming of the Shrew, Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, and you can read my review here. I have Hag Seed, the cover for The Tempest by Margaret Atwood, on my NetGalley shelf.

I admit the last time I read this Shakespeare play was in university. The course compared the early and last plays of three playrights; the Bard's The Winter's Tale and The Tempest were his last plays that we studied. The theme of the course was that the last works of the authors revisited early themes but with a comic or hopeful ending.

Winterson's novel places the story in modern London after the financial crisis which left the rich getting richer off of the misery of the rest of us. Leo Kaiser has wealth, a beautiful and talented wife MiMi, and a son Milo--plus MiMi is pregnant. Leo, like Othello, also is in a jealous rage, imagining that his old and close friend Xeno has been having an affair with MiMi; he believes that her baby is Xeno's. To complicate things, Leo and Xeno were sexual partners as teens and Xeno does love MiMi.

The early part of the novel is full of passion and rage. We learn about the youthful love shared between Leo and Xeno and how Leo 'accidently' nearly killed Xeno. We watch Leo rant and rave in jealous fits, spying on his wife. He tries to kill Xeno, driving him into 'exile'; then both loving and hating his wife, alienates MiMi and rejects their baby.

The baby, Perdita, is sent to her supposed father but a series of events brings her into the loving home of Shep and his son Clo, where she grows into a happy and beauiful girl. Age 17, Peridta is in love with Zel; they find themsleves on a journey of self-discovery that challanges everything they believed about their--and their parent's--identities.

I was uncomfortable with Leo's thought language of hate and his strange sexual arousal in the midst of jealous rage. At the same time I realize that the original plays by Shakespeare involve these extreme emotions and sick thinking. Leo and Xeno are damaged persons; "they had a life and they destroyed it. Their own and other people's."  Xeno fathers a child, 'a vanity project' his son labels it. Xeno retreats from the world in an alcoholic daze while creating a computer game, The Gap of Time, about the end of the world, where tragic and terrible things make possible sacrifice, struggle, and hope.

The teenage Perdita's story brings the novel scenes of family love, comedy and romance. In a game she says she would want Miranda from The Tempest as her dinner guest; later she assumes the name Miranda when meeting her father Leo for the first time. Winterson explains that in The Tempest, "Miranda...gets a father worth being born for."

At the end, the complicated realtionships are unraveled to the happiness of all.

The author plays with themes of time, 'The Fall' of man, angels, disguises, and shifting identities including sexual. The greatest threat comes from within ourselves. Time is reversible, she writes, time can be redeemed; that which is lost is found.

Winterson starts with a recap of  Shakespeare's play and wraps up with a commentary on the theme of the play: forgiveness.

For all my discomfort with Leo's actions, to the point that I considered not reading on, I finished the book in one evening's sitting and feel it growing on me. I may have to read it again.

I received a free book through Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair an unbiased review.

The Gap of Time
by Jeanette Winterson
Hogarth Shakespeare
Penguin Random House
$15 paperback
IBN: 978-0-8041-4137-6

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Vintage Patterns: Circus Elephants and Flowers

Blue Ribbon Patterns p-130 includes 23 quilt patterns. The pamphlet was published in 1974, based on patterns that appeared in previous Tower Press pulications.

The Circus Quilt contributed by Betty Nordwall has an adorable elephant border. Once elephants were associated with circuses; thankfully these intelligent creatures are being phased out of such servitude.
Circus parade coming into town, 1930s-early 1940s. Family photo.
"Finished quilt is 35" by 57". It is made of 11" blocks. It requires 1 2/3 yards of white or plain light colored fabric for the top, 1 yard gay stripe, 1 2/3 yards backing, 1 2/3 yards flannel for the middle layer.

"Cut 12 blocks 12"x12" of plain fabric (1/2" seam allowance). Cut a strip 12"x35" of the same fabric. Cut 12 elephants from various print scraps you have. Cut 24 ears and 12 blankets from various plain fabrics.

"Trim blankets with 2 rows of metallic rick-rack and applique on elephants.  Applique elephants on blocks, putting 8 on straight and 4 on diagonal for the corners. Chain sttich head decorations with 6 strand embroidery thread. Embroider star medallion.

"Sew ears together in pairs, leaving open bottoms; turn, and tuck in ear as indicated by arrow and sew in place at bottom and 1/2" up each side only, leaving ears to flop.

"For tents, cut two blocks 9" by 7" (allow 1/4" seams) from the stripe on the diagonal. Applique on center stip, rounding bottom and top curves slightly.

"To make a 1" deep scallop, cut two strips of plain material 1 1/2" x 9" on bias. Sew with right sides together along sides and bottom in a scalloping manner. Attach to tent along top only. Cut a triangle 9" along the base and 6" high on the diaonal stripe. Applique on tent top, curving all sides as needed. Embroider markings and flag staff. Add colorful flag, 2" x 1 1/4" (allowing for 1/4" seam).

"Sew blocks together and make washable yarn (cotton, nylon, or orlon) tails. Cut 3 strands of yarn 9" long, tie in center, fold and braid. Tie end and trim. Tack in place and also on next elephant's trunk. The tail on corer may not reach.

"Baste quilt top to backing and flannel middle layer. For the edging, but 4 yards of 3" stripe on biased, fold in half and iron down. Sew around with 1/2" seam. Quilt or tack as desired."

The Pansy Quilt applique pattern was submitted by Gertrude Riden, Rt. 3, Box 222, Rollin, Missouri. Instructions read, "Here is the pattern. Use your own color combinations. This quilt takes 32, 10 inch appliqued bloks. It is set together with 10 inch solid color blocks."

Hand appliqued, crayon and pen enchanced. by Nancy Bekofske

Next is Old Fashioned Rose, a pieced pattern submitted by Mrs. Rosa Anna Ratlff. "This bautiful quilt is rarely shown today ut if there should be any qult "addicts" among you who may want to tackle this pattern these are the instructions.

Quilt size- 82x108
No. of Blocks - 20
4 blocks wide and 5 blocks long

P-pink R-rose   LtG- light green   Dk. G-dark green  B-brown

Actual size with sean allowance chart for blocks
Four blocks assembled
Increase blcoks to 1 1/2"

Materials needed:
2 1/2 yds dark green
1 3/4 light green
1/3 dark brown
3/4 yd rose
2 1/4 yd pink
1/4 yard pink or green for square between blocks
7 yds white for blocks and strips

"This quilt is made up of 1 1/2 inch squares and at least a 1/4 inch seam allowance. However I suppose it could be made larger easier enough by the yardage would have to be re-estimated. Anyone with a rule and a block of the quilt could draft it!"

Last of all is the Rose Cross Quilt. Only the applique patterns were included.

I already shared the Bird of Friendship pattern from this issue; find it here.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Quilt Modern with Thomas Knauer's Design Coloring Book

Reproduction quilts have been popular since the early 20th c. In recent years we have made Amish quilts, 1930s quilts, Civil War era quilts, and British antique quilt reproductions. Today quilters are looking back 100 years to Modern Art for quilt inspiration.

It requires a real paradigm shift, a new fabric stash, and inventing new patterns.

Or you can make your own pattern.

What! How? We are used to traditional quilt blocks as the basis of pattern making. How can we make a quilt not based on a repeated set of blocks?
Thomas Knauer has written a book to help with the pesky problem of designing a modern quilt.

The Quilt Design Coloring Workbook: 91 Modern Art-Inspired Designs and Exercises has 90 ready-to-color pages and design prompts for creating your own modern quilt.

Knauer begins by introducing the history and attributes of modern art.

WWI toppled Europe and changed how people viewed history and life. The values and expectations of the past did not coincide with the experience of modern life.

In literature we call the writers of this time The Lost Generation. Hemingway's classic novel The Sun Also Rises  about veteran American expats wandering about Europe looking to drown their memories in thrills and liquor is the classic literary representation.

Knauer offers a concise tour of how artists responded to this upheaval. He begins with writing about 'Blending Traditions: Art, Quilts, and Novel Inspirations."

Along with WWI, other early 20th c influences include photography, scientific advances that opened new understandings of movement and vision, and shifting cultural and political issues.

Knauer also reviews basic color theory and his own starting point of finding a mid-tone color then introducing lighter and darker colors.

Chapters cover the use of space, balance, intuition and chance, simplicity, the grid layout, geometric, repetition in Modern Art, and how to adapt the concepts to quilts. Short essays with illustrations from Modern Art introduce each design concept with their influences.

The exercises can be completed with colored pencils or other medium after drawing the design with an erasable pencil.

Some of the exercises require determining line, others are based on his completed quilts which illustrate the design concept.

I was not able to copy or print the exercise pages to give it a try; my ebook galley did not allow it.

For those interested in art history the approach will be very interesting. For those who don't care but like the challenge of design the exercises will be useful.

Thomas Knauer's column Quilt Matters appears in the Quilter's Newsletter Magazine. He is the host of Design Studio with Thomas Knauer on QNNtv.com and author of Modern Quilt Perspectives. Find his blog at ThomasKnauerSews.com.

I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

The Quilt Design Coloring Book
Thomas Knauer
Storey Publishing
Publication Date: August 23, 2016
$18.95 paperback
ISBN: 9781612127859

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mini Reviews, Life Stories Real and Imagined

I read that A Whole Life was an international bestseller similar to John William's Stoner and Marilynne Robinson's Lila. And since I was very impressed with Stoner and have read Robinson's Gilead THREE times I put in my request at NetGalley.

I woke one night and couldn't get back to sleep so I got up and read this short novel in one sitting. It is the story of Andreas Egger, a woe-begotten man for whom life was one disappointment after another. Orphaned, beaten, suffered WWI in battle and in a Russian prison camp, tragically widowed, and then he dies. What he does have is a love for the landscape of his isolated village.

"Scars are like years", he said,"one follows another and it's all of them together that make a person who they are."

Andreas survived "his childhood, a war and an avalanche." He lead a clean life, turning from worldly temptations. And he had loved. He had no regrets. Andreas learned that "Every one of us limps alone."

This novel is far darker than Stoner. I felt more pity and felt a lack of affirmation. But thousands across the world have catapulted the book into an international best seller.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler
Translated from the German by Charlotte Collins
$23 hard cover
ISBN: 9780374289867

I bought John Muir and the Ice that Started a Fire on Kindle after watching Ken Burns' National Parks on PBS. I wanted to know more about Muir.

Although I read this ebook over many months, mostly in waiting rooms, I enjoyed it and found it informative, moving, and inspirational. Heacox offers a wonderful biography of a man who could have had a lucrative career but gave it up for his love of nature and the wild. Muir dared to stand against a country worshiping wealth, a nation that had lost it's vision of the sublimity of America's unique landscapes.

Dedicating himself to research, educating and writing and pushing for polity to protect his beloved lands, Muir had a mystical belief in the healing property of the environment which today is becoming recognized as truth.

The book's particular focus is on Muir's enraptured love of Alaska's glaciers. I appreciated that the book does not end with Muir's death, but continues to the present day, addressing how climate change is affecting the glaciers (which were already diminishing during Muir's lifetime.)

John Muir and the Ice that Started a Fire: How A Visionary and the Glaciers of Alaska Changed America
Kim Heacox
Lyons Press
Published 2014

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates won the National Book Award. I borrowed it from my public library. Written as a letter to his teenage son Coates offers an unvarnished and appalling condemnation of race in America and what it means to be born 'black' in a 'white' dominated culture. I have thought about this book for several weeks. I don't feel qualified to make a statement. Just read it.  Read the Atlantic Magazine article written by Coates here.

Between the World and Me
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Spiegel & Grau

Another book I borrowed through Overdrive was Mary Gaitskill's novel The Mare. The characterization and story is captivating and I read it in two days.

A woman with a troubled past and unable to ground herself hosts an inner city girl through the Fresh Air Fund, changing their lives and the lives of their families in complicated and unexpected ways. The girl Velvet connects with an abused mare; together they cobble together their redemption.

I loved the juxtaposition of the two worlds, the inner city and the suburbs, peeling back the pressures and stresses of each. My favorite ah-ha moment is when Velvet's host mom recognizes her own latent racism, the sad and horrible tragedy of American society that affects us all.

The Mare
Mary Gaitskill

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Eugene Gochenour Memoirs Part III

I have been sharing Dad's memoirs over the past weeks. Today's excerpt continues his childhood memories from the Depression.
Gochenour family in late 1930s; Eugene is front right; his mother back right,
sister Mary back left and to her right is Al Gochenour.
"Military Road was built centuries ago for armies to travel from Buffalo to Niagara Falls. The road was elevated at the location where the house we lived in was built. On each side of the house was a gully. The strip of land where the farm house was placed was filled [with dirt] to the level of the road.

"The foundation of the house was about three feet thick, built of stone that probably came from a nearby quarry. When we first moved there the house had a dirt floor in the basement but later Dad and some friends put in a concrete floor. Huge logs with one flat side supported the floor of the house. Wooden pegs held the logs together. A cistern was located under the rear porch but of course it had not been used for dozens of years.
1865 Military Rd in the 1940s after Al Gochenour bought the
property and fixed it up. 
"The house sat quite far back from the road and one day as we sat on our front porch, to our amazement, we saw elephants walking past on the road. The elephants led a parade of horse-drawn wagons filled with lions, tigers, and other animals. Now as children we had never seen elephants, and we were amazed to see the size of them. The circus had come to town and this was their way of advertising it.
Circus passes down Military Rd at Ensminger Rd; an Ensminger family house in the background.
"The first photo shows the elephants as they passed by. Across the street is the Ensminger farm house. It sat at the corner of Military and Ensminger Roads.

"When we first moved there Ensminger Road was just a dirt road leading into the fields. The barn that sat behind the house had already been torn down, and soon [about 1960-61] the house would be intentionally be burned down to make room for a bowling alley. A childhood friend, Ridgely Ware, had lived there with his mother and aunt. As a child I remember drinking water from a well with a hand pump that was on their side lawn. I drank it with cupped hands and it was cold and delicious. Before the barn was torn down, two old horse carriages were parked in it. Ridgely was about two years older than I, but occasionally we did things together. Sometimes we would go into the barn and sit in the carriages and make believe we were driving them. There was also a well with a hand pump in the barn, but I was told that the water in that well was bad, so I never tried it.

"During the ‘40s the Ensminger barn was torn down then during the ‘50s the house was sold.

"One day early in the morning I looked out of my upstairs window and saw the Ensminger house burning. Rather than tear the house down the owners decided to have it burned down. So they got the firemen to set it afire and control it. It is an awesome sight to see a burning house with the flames reaching high into the sky. The heat was so intense it could be felt blocks away. A bowling alley was built on the lot next to where the house had been, and the house lot became a parking lot. Such is progress.
Circus parade with donkeys passing on Military Rd near Ensminger past
where a bowling alley would be built in the 1960s
"The next photo shows a donkey, pony, and horse. As you can see the previous animals had made their contribution to the highway and the fly population. Across the road is the field where there would soon be a bowling alley.
Circus parade traveling on Military Rd north towards City of Tonawanda;
the field would later house the Erie County Highway Department garage; foreground
later had a Texaco gas station and Schwinn Bicycle shop.
"The third photo shows the parade as it travels north toward the city of Tonawanda. The field across the street is where the Erie County Highway Department garage would be built. The lot on this side of the street is where a Texaco gas station and a bicycle shop would be built. The lot had once been a town dump.

"The old farmhouse had a basement only under part of the house. When we first moved there, it had only a dirt floor. The kitchen area had a crawl space under it, and when the water pipes would freeze during the winter father would have to crawl under there with a blow torch to thaw them out. Rats and mice had chewed passages through the walls and ceilings for a hundred years, and during the fall and winter you could hear them scurrying around. Our kitchen cupboards had many holes covered with tin can patches that had been nailed on probably from the time when tin cans were first made. But the rats would just chew another hole. One night a rat got into the house, and we saw it. Well, everyone went chasing it through the house trying to whack it with a broom or stick. We finally cornered and killed it. That was our excitement for that evening! A few years later when I was older, it was my job to go into the crawl space and retrieve any dead smelly rats that had ate the rat poison bait that we had set out for them. We eventually hired an exterminator who treated the house monthly.
Emma Becker Gochernour with Mary and Alice on left,
Gene on right, and Emma's brother Lee in center. Open land on right
would eventually be where Rosemont Ave. was built.
"As kids, we could always find something to eat. There was a house on Delaware Avenue that had a garage that sat quite far back from the street. There a person sat all day making the sugar cones used for ice cream cones. Broken cones were always left on the window sill for us to eat. They were like candy to us.

"Many people had fruit trees, strawberry patches, and grapevines in their yards, and we always knew when they were in season. We usually would raid them at night, but occasionally we would pull a daytime raid. The neighbors we took from probably did not even care, but to us it was exciting. We also had a Bartlet pear tree in our yard that had great pears.

"In the springtime, [my Uncle] Lee and I would pick and eat all the meadow mushrooms we would find in the fields. Eaten fresh and raw, they are very good. The second week of June is when the wild strawberries were usually ripe, and mother would spend hours in the fields picking them. She always took the dog along because she was afraid of snakes, and the dog would chase them away. Mother made jam from the strawberries. Mother would also pick dandelion leaves during the spring, and make a salad with it. Even I liked that salad.

"Near the airport and the dump was a golf driving range. During the late ‘30s some of us kids were hired to pick up golf balls from the field. We were paid ten cents for our work and we would give back five cents for our favorite candy bar, a Milky Way. We liked to go to the dump also. There we found what we thought was some neat stuff, and took it home. When our parents saw what we had hauled home, they made us put it out to the street so the rubbish man could haul it back to the dump. I often wonder if the rubbish man thought that some of those things seemed familiar!

"The Sheridan Park Golf Course had some nice hills where we could sled during the winter. One day I slid down the hill and ended in the creek. It was a long freezing walk home! There was also a pond where we ice skated on.

"When summer came, I would go to the fields next to the golf course to find golf balls that the golfers had lost. Then I would sell them back to them. One day I found and sold twelve dollars worth of balls, with which I bought a portable radio. Since they were new on the market at that time few people had them. The radio was large by today’s standards. I liked the smell of the plastic material that covered it. The plastic looked like leather, and the radio had large batteries. It was great to take anywhere and have music.

"During the '30s and '40s I had many ways to make money. I picked up pop and beer bottles from along the roadways and took them back to the store where I got two cents each for them. I had a paper route, cut lawns, worked in the field with John Kuhn, and got a weekly allowance of twenty-five cents from mother for my home chores. During the fall and winter, I went to the housing project where I received a dollar for each ton of coal I could carry from the street to the customer’s coal bin. My friend Dale Thiel and I would usually do the coal jobs together. We would use the customer’s trash cans to haul the coal. It took about 20 to 23 cans for the ton of coal. Also during the winter, I would shovel snow from people’s driveways and sidewalks, for two or three dollars.

"The nearby horse riding stables rented out horses to the public. They made many trails through the woods and fields that we would ride our bikes on. We literally had trail bikes in those days! Also in the woods, we would build tree houses from scrap wood we found."

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Victorian Police Officer in Petticoats: The Female Detective by Andrew Forrester

The Female Detective was published in 1864 when law enforcement organizations were cutting edge. Mike Ashley's introduction to The Female Detective notes the first British police agency was organized in 1829 and Scotland Yard was created in 1842. Edgar Allen Poe introduced the first detective in fiction in 1841. Alan Pinkerton employed the first woman detective in 1856. The character of 'Miss B', undercover police agent, was novel and original.

The Female Detective stories were written by Andrew Forrester, the pen name of writer and editor James Redding Ware. His unnamed heroine addresses the reader to explain the importance of her secretive work and justify the role of the female spy in society.

Who am I?It can matter little who I am.
I would have my readers at once accept my declaration that whatever may be the results of the practice of my profession in others, in me that profession has not led me towards hardheartedness. 
For what reason do I write this book?
...I may as well say at once I write in order to show, in a small way, that the profession to which I belong is so useful that it should not be despised.
Seven stories follow, some showing how our female detective operates, some are stories she has heard, and the last story is a comedic delight that is quite Dickensian in humor. Her purpose is to broadly illustrate the importance of the detective.

Miss B predates Sherlock Holmes but uses the same logical thinking to puzzle out her cases. She posses as a milliner or takes up local residence to gain access to her subject. She cross-examines in the guise of a friendly ear. Then she makes her deduction and sets out for proof.

Her powers of observation are astute. Boot marks "have sent more men to the gallows, as parts of circumstantial evidence than any other proof whatever," Miss B proclaims. She advises evildoers to carry a second pair of boots to wear while committing their crime! She explains what she calls the "audacity of hiding," that the safest hiding place is the most obvious, citing "the great enigma-novelist, Edgar Poe" who illustrated this when a man places a letter in a card-rack on the mantelpiece when he knows his house will be searched.
...the value of the detective lies not so much in discovering facts, as in putting them together and finding out what they mean.
Because our female detective is not heartless, but is committed to the law, she can find herself faced with perplexing moral choices. She places her duty above pity.
A man is your friend, but if he transgresses that law which it is your duty to see observed, you have no right to spare him...
She accuses the English police system as requiring "more intellect infused into it. Many of the men are extraordinarily acute and are able to seize facts as they rise to the surface. But they are unable to work out what is below the surface."

I enjoyed the sense of humor in the writing, often at the expense of her male coequals. "I found out the constable, and I am constrained to say--a greater fool I never indeed did meet. He was too stupid to be anything else than utterly, though idiotically, honest."

The stories are varied in subject and style; some are recognizable as traditional detective fiction, some more anecdotal and not directly related to Miss B. I enjoyed reading them all.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

The Female Detective
Andrew Forrester
Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date August, 2016
ISBN: 9781464206481 ebook

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Guilty Until Proven Innocent? Damaged by Lisa Scottoline

Mary DiNunzio, South Philly born and bred, has risen to partnership in Bennie Rosato's legendary Center City law firm. If Bennie is the strong and sure leader of her practice, Mary is all heart--and lots of righteous indignation.

Mary was the Neighborhood Girl Who Made Good, so she got her self-esteem from being universally beloved.
Mary has a big case and a wedding weeks away when an elderly grandfather comes into the office. His orphaned grandson, an engaging ten-year-old with Dyslexia, is accused of attacking a school aide and they are being sued. Patrick reveales that the aide molested him. Mary takes the case. Discovering the school has failed to offer Patrick the help he needs to learn to read and become successful she arranges for his admission into a private school.

That evening Mary stops by their house to find the grandfather has died and Patrick is in denial. Stepping in to help, Mary becomes emotionally attached and can't let go. She decides to become Patrick's foster parent to ensure he gets the help he needs.

But is Patrick as innocent as he appears? When a fraught Patrick holds a gun on the Department of Human Services case worker who wants to separate him from Mary he is classified as a threat. The police even suspect Patrick of causing his grandfather's death by an overdose of insulin.

Damaged is the newest Lisa Scottoline book in the best selling Rosato & DiNunzio series. It is geared to shed light on the complexities of child welfare, the intricacies of the foster system, and the challenges facing special needs children. Most of the novel revolves around Mary's fight to become Patrick's foster mom.

The subplot offers suspense and thrills after Mary starts piecing things together. Meanwhile, her fiancée is out of town and unaware of Mary's decisions. What will Anthony think when he returns to find Mary is committing to parenting a child without his input? Will their relationship end as they realize they are not operating as 'married', but as individuals make decisions alone, not jointly?

The issues Scottoline address in the novel are important and readers learn along with Mary. This does slow the book down, but the tension of what will happen--and what did happen--drives the reader's interest. Mary's delightful family and neighborhood friends are always fun and add lighthearted comic moments.

Read the first chapter at http://scottoline.com/book/damaged/

Read my review on Scottline's previous book Corrupted here

I received a free book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Lisa Scottoline
St Martin's Press
$27.99 hard cover, $14.99 ebook
Publication August 16, 2016

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Memoirs of Eugene Gochenour Part II

Today I am continuing to share from Dad's memoirs about his family and life growing up in Tonawanda, NY. Today is about his Depression era childhood.
Emma, Al, Mary and Gene Gochenour
The Depression was at its worst during 1935, the year we moved to Military Road when I was five years old.

One day some of us kids were over by the railroad tracks when we saw this huge monster coming down the tracks toward us. With black smoke billowing from its smokestack, the whistle screaming as it approached the road, and the ground shaking as it went by, my first sight of a steam engine was terrifying. But it did not take long before we were used to the ironwheeled monster.

Sometimes we would put pennies on the track to have the train flatten them out as it passed by. We would count the box cars, tankers, and gondola cars, and read the names on them. A really long train had about one hundred and fifty cars and one caboose.

A huge, deserted factory was near the tracks about four blocks away, the old Jewett Stove Company, and I guess it had closed a few years before we moved there. The building’s windows were broke out and the doors were open so us kids would run through the building playing games, and looking at the piles of paper and other things that had been left there. Years later the building would become the Lucidol Corporation, where a huge explosion would occur, causing many deaths.

There were other signs of the Depression. Basements were dug on Oakridge Street by Elmwood Avenue, and when the work stopped they filled with water and became a hazard. Near the railroad tracks by the airport was a field where a business had closed. There were some old trucks, and a deep pit where a mechanic could work on the underside of them. At all these places it looked as though the people had just dropped everything and left.

But one place that had stayed in business was the Eastern States Grain Company. Huge grain elevators, or silos, sat by the tracks just somewhat south of Sheridan Drive. Spilled grain lay on the tracks there, and many birds, mostly pigeons, lived off of it. Years later when I raised rabbits, I would take a bag and gather grain to feed to them.

There were four movie theaters within probably five miles from where we lived. Three were at the Tonawandas: the Star, the Rivera, and the Avondale. One more theater was in the city of Kenmore. To get to them we had to walk to Delaware Avenue and catch a bus. Years later there were also three drivein-theaters. One was on Ensminger Road, one on Delaware, and another on Niagara Falls Boulevard.

The entrance to the Erie Canal was at Buffalo, New York, about ten miles south of where we lived. It followed parallel and next to the Niagara River to Tonawanda. Many huge factories were built, supplied by the raw material that came through the Great Lakes. On many days when the wind blew from the west, you could smell the odors from the Semet Solvay plant, and when near the Niagara River the odor and see the soda ash that emanated from the International Paper Mill.

When we first moved to Military Road us kids would walk to Two Mile Creek by the golf course. The water was crystal clear, and many fish and frogs lived there. But during the Second World War, the creek became contaminated from all the factories, and filled with black silt, killing all the wildlife. In those days no one thought of pollution, but one place it was very visible was at the Niagara River by Wheeler Street in the city of Tonawanda. There was a drain pipe from the Spaulding Fiber Company that emptied into the river there, and every day the water that came out of it was a different color. It was a strange sight to see a bright red or green stream enter the river, then mix and slowly disappear.

This picture of my father and I was taken at the porch at our side of the house. Dad is in his work clothes, sitting on the rickety porch. We finally had a fuel oil furnace, and the oil tank that fed it stands behind him. My bike is leaning against the porch. It did not have a chain guard and the pants on my right leg were all chewed up from getting stuck in the chain. One day I decided to paint my bike silver. When Dad came home and saw what I had done, he gave me a spanking. He didn’t like my artistic flair I guess!

There were still some horse stables and farms then, and their manure piles created many flies and odors. The screen door of our house was often coated with flies during the summer. We used fly swatters and fly strips to control the houseflies and horseflies.
Gochenour Homestead in Woodstock, VA

The second trip we took to my father’s birthplace in Virginia was around 1940 or 1941. At that time my father, mother, Mary, Alice, Grandfather Becker, and I went in Dad’s 1937 Buick. The trip seemed to take forever. I remember Dad showing us the seven horseshoe turns of the Shenandoah River on the way.

When we got there we stayed at the farm. On the farm they had some turkeys. I had never seen turkeys, and when three went into the barnyard, they chased me. Everybody thought it was funny except me. I was terrified! Mother and father went into town, and when they came back, they bought us kids some Kazoos, an instrument you blow into to make a tune. It probably wasn’t long before they were sorry!

Since it was Christmas time Dad and I went out into the woods and found a tree. We cut it down and hauled it back to the house. It seemed strange to celebrate Christmas when there was no snow and it was not cold. Before we made the trip, mother had bought me a pair of high top boots. They were the latest thing, and they came with a jack knife, and a knife holder sewn onto one boot. I was so proud of them, and when we went to church that Sunday, I wore them. I was quite the envy of the boys there. Soon it was time to leave. The trip was uneventful until we got near home. Grandfather got car sick, and we had to stop the car so he could heave. Nice thing to remember, huh?

One summer night father heard men talking out at the road in front of the house. It was during the year of 1937, and I was seven years old. Military Road had a speed limit of 50 miles per hour, a pretty fast speed for those times. Dad got dressed, and went out to see what was going on and found some men attempting to change a flat tire. He offered to help and was kneeling down taking the tire off of the car when a drunk driver hit the vehicle. Dad was thrown down the road about 50 feet. A neighbor from down the street who was watching was killed, and the person who owned the car with the flat tire was killed. The driver of the car that hit them fled the scene, but was caught later. Dad went to the hospital and survived, but had back trouble for the rest of his life. The day after the accident, I walked out on the street, and saw car parts, and what I thought were human brains. The man that was driving the car that fled the scene, was never prosecuted, and no one ever received any compensation. 

Years later, after my father had died, our station had become a New York Inspection Station, and occasionally a state trooper would come in and inspect our station. When one trooper came in, he saw the name on the form, and asked if my father had been in an accident years ago at this location? I told him yes, and I was his son. He said the driver of the vehicle that was hit was his father, and that the man who drove the car that killed him was rich, and had found a way to avoid liability. He said he had always kept track of that man, and said the man was struck and killed by a car two years previous.

Near the airport and the dump was a golf driving range. During the late ‘30s, some of us kids were hired to pick up golf balls from the field. We were paid ten cents for our work and we would give back five cents for our favorite candy bar, a Milky Way. 

We liked to go to the dump also. There we found what we thought was some neat stuff and took it home. When our parents saw what we had hauled home they made us put it out to the street so the rubbish man could haul it back to the dump. I often wonder if the rubbish man thought that some of those things seemed familiar! 

The Sheridan Park Golf Course had some nice hills where we could sled during the winter. One day I slid down the hill and ended in the creek. It was a long freezing walk home! There was also a pond where we ice skated on. When summer came, I would go to the fields next to the golf course to find golf balls that the golfers had lost. Then I would sell them back to them. One day I found and sold twelve dollars worth of balls, with which I bought a portable radio. Since they were new on the market at that time, few people had them. The radio was large by today’s standards. I liked the smell of the plastic material that covered it. The plastic looked like leather, and the radio had large batteries. It was great to take anywhere and have music. 

During the ‘30s and ‘40s, I had many ways to make money. I picked up pop and beer bottles from along the roadways, and took them back to the store where I got two cents each for them. I had a paper route, cut lawns, worked in the field with John, and got a weekly allowance of twenty five cents from mother for my home chores. During the fall and winter, I went to the housing project where I received a dollar for each ton of coal I could carry from the street to the customer’s coal bin. My friend Dale Thiel and I would usually do the coal jobs together. We would use the customer’s trash cans to haul the coal. It took about 20 to 23 cans for the ton of coal. Also during the winter I would shovel snow from people’s driveways and sidewalks, for two or three dollars. The nearby horse riding stables rented out horses to the public. They made many trails through the woods and fields that we would ride our bikes on. We literally had trail bikes in those days! Also in the woods we would build tree houses from scrap wood we found.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

What is left when you cease to distinguish truths from fiction? And Other Existential Questions

Alan Thier's novel Mr Eternity probes the philosophical questions that each generation struggles to answer. What is freedom? What is truth? Can we trust individual or corporate memory? Was there a Utopian age, and can we recreate it? Can--will-- we find our own version of El Dorado? Or the Anna Gloria woman of our dreams? What is the meaning of life? Can we find happiness?

Survivor of 24 shipwrecks, Daniel Defoe/Old Dan/The ancient mariner--his name changing over the centuries--tells stories dredged from his jumbled memories. He has seen the world change and change back again. Myth and history become fused in his memory. Generations of young adults hope he holds answers:

  • A college drop-out in 2016 wants to make a film on 'the ancient mariner'. At twenty-seven years old, he 'is nothing', popping pills and worrying about global warming and the future. He travels with Dan on a treasure quest.
  • In 1560 a native Indian Pirahoa girl travels with Daniel de Fo, 100 years old, and the Christian conquistadors who seek El Dorado. Her world is about to collapse. 
  • In 2200 Jam is traveling down the coast from Boston to Florida with Old Dan, 750 years old. Dan seeks his long lost love Anna Gloria. Jam is nineteen, a poor orphan, angry and lusting for the past world of air conditioners and mosquito repellent. 
  • Dr. Dan Defoe was 300 years old in 1750 when John Green meets him in the Bahamas. John was the child of his slave mother and her master. With his death and rebirth Dr. Dan helps him find freedom and love.
  • In 2500 Jasmine Roulette, the daughter of the King of St Louis and president of the Democratic Federation of Mississippi States, is a powerless political pawn living in decadent luxury. An anachro-feminist and insatiable reader, she is obsessed with the lost American civilization. She was 26 when her father bought an old slave named Daniel Defoe who remembered the glory of the United States. 

Daniel Defoe's long life has brought wisdom: kingdoms come and go; civilizations are destroyed. Each generation must learn to let go of what they cannot control and enjoy life, even a life lived when the world is ending. True love should be each man's El Dorado, even only spun from imagination.

I was fascinated by this book. I found each character engaging. Daniel DeFoe shares aspects of the title character in his namesake's novel Robinson Crusoe, surviving shipwrecks and being sold into slavery. The young adult characters voices and perceptions are distinct and clear.

I loved the wacky, mishmash stories Dan tells of the past; they were hilarious, but also chillingly revealing. Thomas Jefferson is remembered as a revolutionary terrorist in the jihad against Great Britain. Dan says he knew a space captain named Robinson Caruso who built farms and cities on Mars.

Daniel explains the collapse of American civilization: it was more economical to allow the destruction of the world than to save it. In the future Georgia becomes the pineapple state, St. Louis is surrounded by arid desert and camels.

Readers who prefer a novel that is plot or character-driven, or following a linear time line, will find this book a challenge. Although it deals with philosophical issues, the issues rise out of the characters struggles.

The theme of the book is eternal, the specific concerns timely.

I received a free ARC through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.


Mr. Eternity
Alan Thier
Bloomsbury Books USA
$26 hard cover
Publication August 9, 2016
ISBN 9781632860934

Thursday, August 4, 2016

It's a Dark Night Inside: The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

Caring for a dying parent is a universal and timeless experience. Some children hover, an administering angel, while others stay in distant denial; some vent their anger at the gods or fate that they are being left, or being left to care, while others eagerly await the freedom that parental death can sometimes bring to a child. It is a time when we face the past and the future, forgive or hold on to resentment, become the child our parent always wished for, or being cut loose can finally become ourself.
The Language of Dying is an honest and moving journey into the soul and heart of a daughter caring for her father's last days. Her dysfunctional family, which has "so much colour that the brightness is damaging", comes together briefly to the family home.

There is the older sister Penny, a 'glowing' woman who hides behind a 'Gucci persona', full of excuses why she did not take on their father's care.

Older brother Paul is a dominating and charming man addicted to excesses. and who disappears for months at a time.

The twin boys are the youngest, beset with demons. Davey, dually addicted, tenuously holding onto sanity and sobriety, and lost Simon whose self-destructive dive began when abused by a trusted older man.

And our heroine, victim of an abusive marriage, struggling to repair her life, who cares for her dying father day and night.

Their shared past is their parent's alcoholism and break-up, but our heroine alone sees the wild, red eyed creature, wonderful and waiting for her.

"Love is hard to kill," she thinks, like life, and the family bounds hold tenuously.

Pingborough's insightful writing captures the emotional life of her narrator. It is also beautiful and memorable writing.

My father died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and spent over two months in the hospital and one day in the hospital Hospice. Every day I went to the hospital at 9 am and left when my brother arrived at 5 pm. My brother and I were with dad his last days. The language of dying, the special lingo of death, the practices of caring for the terminally ill and the strange rituals that become everyday is captured in this moving novel.

But there is another level to the story, the wild creature that comes in the night to lure our heroine to another world.
"Well, now that we have seen each other', said the Unicorn,/'If you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you.' Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There
She first saw the vision the night her mother left the family. It haunts her at pivotal moments in her life, a summons to come away. Call it fantasy, magic, or projection, in this novella the unicorn represents a place of belonging and the freedom of new life. "This creature and I belong together. I know it and so does he," she thinks. He is nothing like the archetypal unicorn, he is black not white, his horn is twisted and deformed. He brings her "joy, pure and bright" before disappearing into the night. She knows it waits for her. When will she be ready to follow?

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

The Language of Dying
Sarah Pinborough
Publication August 2, 2016
$9.99 ebook
ISBN: 9781681444345