Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker (NF)*****
This is fascinating and heart-wrenching account of a family where six of the 12 children had some form of schizophrenia and what it was like for them and their parents. I’m not sure how author Kolker got so many of them to talk to him so openly, perhaps, in part, because they wanted the rest of us to know what this insidious and devastating disease is all about?
Additionally, and with great clarity, Kokler weaves throughout his telling of this family’s various experiences a clear account of the history of schizophrenia and what we know and don’t know about this disease,
I think this narrative has value not only for anyone who works in the field of mental health and education but also for other readers as well. My wife Ellen, who reads widely (over 100 books a year), has insisted that I do a special post on this book. While it is not one of her usual choices of books to read, she was captivated by it and says,
This book offers an unusually clear and vivid picture of schizophrenia – how it has been mis-treated and mis-diagnosed for years along with the various possible causes. But this is not an academic treatise. What is most important about what you read is understanding the impact of schizophrenia through the life of this one family. And it’s stunning.
This true account of the Galvin family of Colorado Springs, CO and their relationships is so well told and so riveting, and done with such empathy, that rather than being overwhelming and depressing, it will stay with you and inform you on many levels. It is a story told without judgement, and one for which we all should be thankful for its telling.
We owe a great deal of gratitude to Kokler for gathering and writing this narrative and even more thanks to the Galvin family for all agreeing to it being told and for their participation in its telling.
When the delivery man gently put the crate on our garage floor, I thought about giving him a hug and a kiss, but what with the COVID-19 issues, I decided simply to give him a generous tip instead.
Ellen said, “It looks like a casket,” but I could sense she was already beginning to soften. Well, maybe that’s too strong; perhaps it was her general belief that when something has been truly been decided, there’s no use carrying on about it. Plus, I had already begun my plan to get her involved in the continuing saga by appealing to her new ‘career’ as a photographer. After all, she knew I ws going to write something for MillersTime about the kayak, and I had told her I would need some of her photos to accompany the post.
I decided to let the Qajaq rest a bit after its seven and a half month journey from its home in Greenland to Iceland to the US and finally to its new home in DC. But after two hours, it ‘told’ me it was “ready to come up for air” and get out of its cramped crate.
Despite Ellen’s insistence that I needed someone with carpentry skills to help me open it, I gathered my Red Sox hammer, a bunch of screw drivers, some tools I hoped would serve as levers, etc. and went to work.
It was a snap. Mostly. I only had to use a phillips’ head screw driver and a bit of muscle, and the top was off. I called Ellen to bring me some band aids and join me in unpacking the interior of the crate as well as take a photo on my iPhone.
Although it was light enough for me to carry myself, I asked Ellen to help me remove it and help carry it into the house. “It’s not as big as I remembered,” I heard her murmur. We put it on the floor in the entrance hall, and Ellen walked around it as I cleared off the first place I thought it might go, under the front window in our living room beginning to think maybe this won’t be such a big hurdle after all. It didn’t seem as if it will dominate the room, which had been my fear.
We both kinda liked it there and decided to give it 24 hours to see if it and we were happy with the placement. I kept walking by the door to the living room, loving what I was seeing and delighted that Ellen was liking it too.
But at night, I couldn’t see it very well, and we both thought we might try another spot, one where the bottom didn’t blend in to the base and where more light was available.
We both liked this better, as the white off set the black, and you could see entire kayak when you were in our entrance hall or at the living room door. It felt better than the first placement, and we put some of the additional pieces on it, though we left two of the harpoons and some other artifacts off.
We agreed after another 24 hours that it needed to be raised a bit and perhaps the additional parts could be on the wall above it. We wondered if it needed a dedicated light above it.
I called our friend Vincent Sagart, the wonderful designer of our kitchen, who has a terrific eye and asked if he’d stop by and help us be sure we’re displaying it in the best possible way.
Don’t mention this to Ellen, but I’m wondering if it perhaps needs a whole room to itself.
“It’s the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important…You’re responsible for your rose.”
–Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
Part I. The Purchase (Sept. 7-8, 2019):
It all started on the first Saturday in September, 2019. Over seven months ago. We were concluding one of our more memorable trips, nine days in Greenland (Greenland: In Words & Photos), with its remote, wild, and awe-inspiring landscapes, seascapes, marine life, the ‘magic’ of the Northern Lights, and where its Inuit population was hurtling from the Stone Age to the iPhone Age.
It was our final day and night there, and we were in the small town of Kulusuk (pop. 300), awaiting our flight back to Iceland and then back to DC. The foggy weather was threatening to strand us there, and it was likely our plane would not arrive, nor leave if it did arrive.
I walked by the very tiny souvenir shop in our modest hotel and saw a ‘model’ of an Inuit kayak. I was captivated. But the shop was closed, and when I pointed the kayak out to Ellen, she immediately said, “Don’t buy it. It’s too big, and we don’t have any place to put it.” Others in our group of 12 saw it too and remarked at how unusual it was. Several seemed to be quite interested in it also.
Most of the group went off to ‘explore’ Kulusuk, and I stayed behind trying to find someone to open the shop. I eventually found Jakob Ibsen, the gruff, no nonsense Danish (Norweigan ?) manager of the hotel who opened the shop and began to tell me about the Qajaq (the Inuit spelling for the word kayak, pronounced “kayak”). He told me it was a 50+ year old, hand-crafted, one of a kind, replica of an Inuit kayak with its ropes, harpoon, and various other adorning artifacts. He said the craftsman, Jess Thorin, had recently died, and somehow he, Jakob, had come into possession of it.
The price was more than I had ever paid for a ‘souvenir’ throughout all of our travels, including my prized Masai shield purchased in 1963 in Tanganyika. But I didn’t think the price of this hand-made artifact was exorbitant for what it was. Plus, when one is truly captivated (can one be ‘truly captivated’?), cost can more easily be justified. It was art, after all.
There were some hurdles, however. Ellen was quite clear that I was not to pursue it. When she left with our other travelers to explore Kulusuk, she gave me ‘that look’ that was quite clear: “Don’t. Even. Consider. It. ” Those of you who know her, understand she is not one to be easily disregarded. Those of you who know me, understand my quiet determination.
Then there was the size, approximately 65 inches in length, and Ellen had a point about where we could display it in our home, already ladened with crafts gathered (over the course of 50 years) from around the world.
And besides all that, how would we get this somewhat fragile piece of art out of Greenland and to the US? I certainly couldn’t take it with me.
All of these hurdles proved to have some validity. But when one is captivated…
When Ellen returned from her photo journey around the town, she took one look at me and said, “You bought it, didn’t you?” (Plus a few other choice, and now repressed, remarks.)
I told her Jakob had assured me he would send it to Washington (after he had one small part of the kayak repaired as he thought he knew an artist who could do the work). He promised to build a crate to house the kayak and keep it safe during transport.
Ellen remained skeptical, largely because she didn’t see a place for us to house this ‘treasure’ nor how it could possibly be sent. My view was that it would become obvious where we could display it once it was in the house. Somehow, it would ‘tell us’ where it belonged.
You can guess how well that went over with Ellen.
Part II. The Wait (Sept. 9, 2019 – Apr. 21, 2020):
Jakob had told me as soon as he had that one portion of the Qajaq repaired, it would be on its way to me, probably sometime in October, 2019.
I will spare the reader all the frustrating emails, phone calls, swearing, doubts, etc., but suffice it to say I never lost hope that it would arrive. Ellen, on the other hand, seemed quite satisfied with what became a seven and a half month saga, secretly, I think, hoping that it might never arrive.
Briefly, there seemed to be a ‘hold up’ every month. Once, it was finding the right artist to do the repair. Then it was getting the right materials to do the repair. Then it was building a box, crate actually, to house the kayak. then there was a long silence from Jakob, and he neither answered my emails nor could I reach him by phone. 2019 turned into 2020, and all I had was a picture of the empty crate.
Finally, in mid January (four months after the purchase), Jakob answered his phone and told me everything was ready, but there were no flights leaving Kulusuk because of the weather! I’m not sure what happened over the next month and a half, but it was not until Mar. 11 that he wrote to say, “The kayak left Kulusuk today on Air Iceland, slowed by Icelandic Customs and concern if anyone handling the kayak and crate had come in contact with COVID-19.”
Ah, my faith in Jakob was restored, but of course the wait for the arrival did not end there. Somehow, it was held up in Reykjavik before it finally arrived in the US, three weeks later on April 2nd.
Then the US Customs got involved. They needed proof of sale, a description of all the contents, including the materials used to build it, my social security number, and my mother’s maiden name. Following a week of document exchanges, it was held in Baltimore until the Fish & Wildlife people would release it. (This is not a joke. Perhaps that was because there were parts of the kayak made with reindeer antler?). Then it was the USDA folks who had to approve it, which they did after several exchanges between Chicago, Iceland, Greenland, Baltimore and Washington (Don’t ask.)
And what then? Just a small hurdle (a week) to get it trucked from BWI to DC and my house (32.8 miles). Something about commercial vs residential delivery. And behold, today, Tuesday, April 21st at 2:01 PM, the crate was delivered to our house and placed in the garage, exactly seven months and 14 days after its purchase.
Saint-Exupery and The Little Prince would be so proud of me.
While baseball fans wait to see what will become of the 2020 season – if any games are gong to be played and under what circumstances – most sports writers are digging deeply to keep readers engaged (and no doubt keep their jobs in the process).
One sports writer, one of my favorites, Joe Posnanski, has been on a year long project of writing a column on each of the Top 100 Players in Baseball (The Baseball 100: A Project Celebrating the Greatest Players in History). Initially, Posnanski had planned to get to the number one player on the 2020 Opening Day. But he slowed down his columns and only recently published the last two, identifying The Greatest of the Greatest (in my lingo).
As some of you probably know, Posnanski has been writing in the somewhat new The Athletic (subscription required, but worth it imho) which is now the on-line, go to home of some of sports best writers. Posnanski himself has won virtually every baseball writer’s award given, some multiple times, and has his own blog, JoeBlogs – Baseball and News and Life(again, subscription required, $30, also worth it).
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a couple of worthwhile reads while awaiting baseball to resume, as well as in need of a break from the COVID-19 ‘news’, check out Posnanski’s final two columns on the two best players ever:
Ellen recently came across the German word Fernweh in an article on a travel site she follows, Atlas Obscura. This particular article struck both of us as an additional way to think about travel. We now have had some time to consider this idea of Fernwith even more, and it’s a concept we want to pass on to others.
Fernwith literally translates as “farsickness.” It’s the idea of feeling homesick for a place to which you’ve never been. What a wonderful idea, and one that rings true for me. One example: for at least 30 years I wanted to go to Antarctica for reasons I only partially understood. So too about traveling to Alaska, China, the Southwest in the US, the Lake Country in England, and other places. (We’ve been fortunate in being able to travel to all those places and many more.) Our traveling will cease for the foreseeable future. If, as we all hope, the world emerges from the current COVID-19 crisis and its fallout, we will of course travel again, including to places to which we have never been.
We wonder if others have experienced a sense of Fernweh?
In the meantime, we’re posting our third and final edition of commentary and photos from our recent SE Asia trip. In the 12 photos below you’ll see a combination of just a few shots from Bali, Singapore, and more from Papua New Guinea (PNG). There are links to three new slide shows if you want to see more. (We previously posted about the tribal peoples we met in PNG Before They Pass Away.)
A few more details to add about our stay in Papua New Guinea. As we mentioned we had a very special guide there — Alan Manning fromSouth Sea Horizons. We based our week in the countryside in two towns, Goroka and Mt. Hagen, both in the Highlands region. From there we explored the central highlands and daily life; took a deep dive into coffee growing, grading, and exporting business; had dinner with a family who is involved in both the coffee business and also in running a school; took an unforgettable day-long drive between the two towns mentioned above with stops at roadside stands and markets; and took extended walks through local markets and villages. We concluded our time in PNG with one day in the capital, Port Moresby and enjoyed its outstanding ethnographic National Museum & Art Gallery.
Singapore was an unexpected learning experience. We knew very little about its 50 year experiment with a type of government that appears to put community above the individual, albeit with strong authoritarian leadership. This is a very “planned” country/city, pretty much opposite from PNG and only partially similar to other major places in the world. In architecture it is a city both ultra modern with colonial aspects preserved. Its Chinatown, Arabtown, Indiatown, etc. contrasts with its 81 skyscrapers, more than 4,000 tall buildings, numerous high-end malls, and it has spectacular gardens. The food, as predicted, was fantastic, from the hawking markets to the small restaurants to the haute cuisine ones. The cleanliness and orderliness was unlike any other Asian country/city where we’ve been. (We did not try to confirm the rumor that if you spit on the streets you will be arrested.)
We had terrific guide who, over three days, not only introduced us to the city/state we describe above. We learned how it is governed and details about its housing, transportation, city planning, environmental, social, and medical policies which we found advanced, thoughtful, and very progressive. I have continued my reading about Singapore and particularly its visionary first leader, Lee Kuan Yew, who is in large part is responsible for the direction of the country over the past 50 years. Our Singapore ‘experience’ has led to my reexamination of our American belief that the individual and personal independence comes first, ahead of community.
,We ended our month long trip with four days based in the interior of Bali (Indonesia) in the town of Ubud. This was planned as a luxurious, relaxing end to our almost month long trip. However, as is probably not surprising, we turned it in to further exploration of a place we had never been. Again, we had a guide whom we continuously questioned and who patiently told us about his island, language, customs and rituals of its people. One long day was also spent with a delightful young man who took us to a mere seven of the more than 15,000 temples in Bali and told us more than we will ever remember about the role and rituals of religion in Bali. Another full day was devoted to a long drive to the eastern part of Bali and the best cooking ‘class’ we’ve ever had, which included almost two hours in a market, learning about, sampling, and gathering the ingredients that we later spent four hours preparing and finally eating. We did, of course, fit in three additional fine meals.
And then we began our 24+ hour return to the US, through airports where everyone seemed to be wearing masks and to be avoiding each other and where we had promised our children we’d do our best to stay safe. To our children’s relief, (and our own) we have been home now for well over a month and have shown no signs of illness.
Enjoy these 12 photos and check out the three slide shows if you want to see more of PNG, Singapore, and Bali through Ellen’s lens. (See link below.)
Thanks to each of the individuals below who responded to my appeal for a new version of MillesTime Readers Favorite Books – one book read over the last several months that stood out for the reader among all the others read (or listened to).
Hands down, I’ve been totally intrigued by The Body: A Guide for Occupants byBill Bryson (NF).While the man radiates obsessive compulsion, it’s balanced by his totally entertaining writing style. His descriptions of viruses is fascinatingly informative and timely as is his writing on diseases. I have learned a lot and enjoyed each “chapter-lectures”.
One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear Warby Michael Dobbs (NF). Written in 2009, this is a non-fiction thriller about how the United States and the Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear conflict over the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba. Read this for a George Washington University class on the Cold War. Chilling to think what would be if this happened with Trump in the White House.
The Cartiers: The Untold Story by Francesca Cartier Brickell (NF). A fascinating story of the creation of the Cartier stores told by the granddaughter of the 5th generation of Cartiers to work with/in/for the stores. Francesca found an old, dusty trunk in her grandfather’s basement, went through the papers diligently, talked to her grandfather, Jean-Jacques Cartier, and writes a fascinating tale of growing a jewelry empire, creating the jewels, selling them the rich and famous, and watching it sold off. It is a fascinating story of the jewelry but also of how it was created, the engineering behind it all, the changing of styles and items to “stay ahead of the crowd”, and how the fourth generation of three brothers worked together and really made it all happen… It is more than a book of creating fabulous jewels (and it is certainly that) but all that went on behind it to make it a great and co-operative grand success . . . then how it fell apart and was sold.
The Reckoning by Jeffrey Pierce (F), a biblical scale Armageddon, spurred by the horror of the First World War, demons rise and take possession of the slain. Author Michael Connolly writes about this book : “Eloquent and hard muscled, deeply researched and defy imagined…It is an entrancing, fantastical journey to the end you will never see coming.” I had the pleasure of reading it and following the audio tape of the actor/author’s voices for all the characters. (Ed. Note: Author is Bill & Kay Plitt’s son!)
The Man I Never Met by Adam Schefter (NF). Sports fans know Adam as the premiere NFL new-breaker; this is a story about his journey to find a soulmate and his now-wife’s journey to overcome losing her first husband in 9/11. The book runs the emotional spectrum from tragic to overjoyed. You don’t need to be a sports fan to read it, but you might want a box of tissues nearby.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (NF). This is a quick read about Noah Trevor’s growing up in South Africa. He is a wonderful comedian.
I’ve been enjoying Streak: Joe DiMaggio and the Summer of ‘41by Michael Seidel (NF). It combines interesting stories of a baseball nature with concurrent world events of the day. I’ll second the suggestion of Brian Doyle’s Mink River. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea as demonstrated by the negative reviews/letters that Brian faithfully/gleefully saved and which I had the pleasure of hearing his widow read at Powell’s Books not too long ago.
The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski (F).The Last Wish is a collection of fictional short stories in the Fantasy genre, collected and published together in 2008, which should be read first if you wish to read the published works in narrative chronological order (as opposed to the published order). This collection of stories is also the primary source material for the eponymous Netflix series, The Witcher. After watching the first season of that show, I became enamored with the world Mr. Sapkowski had created and started reading the source material.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (F). Wasn’t sure I was going to like this but could not put it down.Wife of journalist, who exposes the drug cartels in Acapulco and flees with son as migrants to the US. Gripping, scary, yet a mother’s love for son propels her to take unbelievable risks. A good read!
Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow (NF). Audio, read by Farrow himself it’s about his investigative journalistic effort to expose Harvey Weinstein. Farrow gets over 200 interviews to discover the truth. NBC’s coverup efforts of Weinstein and Matt Lauer are terribly disturbing. Admire Farrow’s tenacity and courage. History now values his efforts.
Shining Light on Transcendence – The Unconventional Journey of a Neuroscientistby Peter Fenwick (NF). Written by this distinguished British scientist and scholar now 84 years of age contains perhaps his most compelling and inspirationalwriting ever. Fenwick laments that the generally accepted view of science “equates consciousness with mind and sees both as a function of the brain.”He states that the prevailing scientific view is that the mind and brain are identical or that mind is created by the brain, and he makes it clear that this is not his view.
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield (F) Audio and Print. Good old fashion storytelling at its best! Set in 19th century England in a village on the banks of the Thames, it is a story of science, magic, folklore and fairy tale…a magical mystery tour of miraculous explanations and a chain of revelations as three families claim (a young girl) as their long lost kin.
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (F). It is a beautiful book! It is about the 13th summer in the life of the narrator, recalled about 30 years later in a elegant “whodunit”. The cadence of the book somehow captures the confusion and the concerns of that summer and the beauty of life.
Deacon King Kong by James McBride (F). This latest book is superb, filled with characters (sometimes hard to keep track of!), tone, and language that is brilliant, and a story to keep you moving. It tells the story of a crotchety, alcoholic old church deacon, Sportcoat, (a crazy and wise old man) who one day wanders into the courtyard of his housing project in South Brooklyn and shoots the project’s drug dealer. There’s a lot of humor in this book along with compassion and hope, and I highly recommend it.
Abigailby Magda Szabo (F). Audio. This is also a repeat author for me as Szabo is a stunning novelist. This book was written in 1970, but translated only recently, and tells the story of the teen-age girl, growing up during World War II and as the war intensified her father sends her away to boarding school — a strict religious institution where she had a very hard time fitting in. The story tells what happened to her there, a life-changing story, and one that is hard to put down; the writing is fluid and eloquent, the pace focused and intense, the audio version was well performed, and I loved it.
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara (F). It is a story told from the point of view of a 9 year old boy, Jai, living with his family in a “basti” slum outside a big city in India. Children are disappearing one by one, and Jai and his friends become detectives to help find them. The book is a heartbreaking, but the characters are so well described and the dialogue is totally charming.
Emily Nichols Grossi:
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (F). This novel, about a Mexican woman and her son escaping cartel violence in Acapulco by attempting to get to el norte, is riveting, horrific, gorgeous, educational, and unforgettable. It’s nearly 400 pages long, and I read it in maybe two days; I couldn’t, and didn’t want to, put it down. You may have heard about the backlash against American Dirt, based on Cummins’ being only partly Latina: who gets to tell whose stories? Here is a good article about the controversy, but nonetheless, I found the book magnificent and moving and think it’s absolutely worth reading.
The Convert by Stefan Hertmans (F). Using the same technique he did to great effect in War and Turpentine to mingle past with present, this time (Hertmans) tackles a tragic story from the 11th century of a Christian girl who marries a Jewish boy; she converts and thereafter for the rest of her life, faces the wrath of her father as she flees from his knights. History comes alive as we follow him and her through ancient cities and unimaginable circumstances. Hertmans based his story on a scrap of a document found in the genizah (storeroom) of the Ben Ezra synagogue in Cairo, and his book is a scholarly work of fiction, my favorite category.
The Institute by Steven King (F). It’s scary because it could really happen An excellent read that I couldn’t wait to get back to it every time I put it down.
The Light Between the Oceans by M.L. Stedman (HF). I haven’t finished because it’s narrative layout makes me face issues to hard to read more than a chapter a night. You’ll see. You’ll get deep into it with hints along the way that will make it impossible to just keep turning pages. I’ll finish Sunday night, less than 50 pages to go, and I don’t see anyway this can end well.
The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson (NF). I never cease to wonder at how Bryson comes up with factoids that both amuse and inform.
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (F). Audio. This audiobook is read by the author, and while I’ve enjoyed all of her books, this might be my favorite.
Ahab’s Wife:Or, The Star-Gazer by Sena Jeter Naslund (HF).
Jesse Leigh Maniff:
The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Definance During the Blitz by Erik Larson (NF). (The author) documents Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister.
I just finished Strangers in the House: A Prairie Story of Bigotry and Belonging by Candace Savage (F). I had trouble following this story at first, then realized it was because of my ignorance of Canadian history and geography. After moving into a house in Saskatoon and finding intriguing ‘found objects’ inside the walls during a renovation, she traces the history of the family who built the house and uncovers a level of prejudice and ethnic violence that I had no idea had existed in Canada. Very well written; the second half is easier to follow than the first.
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (HF). It is set in Minnesota in 1932 and chronicles the tale and relationship between two orphaned brothers as they first weather life at the “school” for Native American boys and then flee and venture out on their own journey. Along the way, they meet many people who further the story and help develop the characters and brothers’ relationship. It is pretty long, but really good.
The Overstory by Richard Powers (F). Just finished… it’s about the destruction of forests and is a parallel play about today’s times. The obvious is in front of us, and people continue to deny and do stupid things. Excellent read.
Re-reading The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology by Simon Winchester (NF). Smith, a canal digger in England in 1793, discovered he could follow layers of rock all over England, and he spent 22 years doing that and creating a map of the country’s geological roots. In 1815, this map was published in a full-color 5 foot by 8 foot book and turned the scientific and the religious world up side down. Clear explanation, excellent lively narrative, and lots of detail and asides to create context, five stars for content and presentation.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (F). A good book to get lost in by a Polish author and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. It’s an engaging story – cum mystery – about an eccentric Polish woman living in a remote village beset by some unusual deaths in which animals seem to be taking revenge on their human tormentors.
The Red Daughter by John Burnham Schwartz (HF). I loved this historical fiction about Joseph Stalin’s complex daughter who defected to the US – great background to the Cold War era told with an innovative narrative technique and psychological insight.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (NF). I have always been interested in Africa so I was drawn to this memoir of Trevor Noah’s life in Johannesburg during apartheid. He had quite a life as a boy, considering what he is doing now. What I liked most is that his story took my mind off COVID-19 so I’d fall asleep thinking of other things!
My newest favorite heroine detective is Veronica Speedwell (first book in the series) A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn (F). Feisty, smart, and set in the late 1800s London. Five books and counting, so makes a lovely little escape for a week or so depending on how quickly you can read these days.
(ALSO, plug for bookshop.org — a new website set up as an independent bookstore competitor to Amazon. It’s brand new and still in beta, but very VERY worth a gander and a purchase.)
A Day in the Bleachers by Arnold Hano (age 98!) (NF). With no games to watch, I enjoyed his account of the game containing “the catch.” Wes Westrum, Whitey Lockman, Alvin Dark, along w/ The Say Hey Kid; these guys & the others refreshed in my memory by this book were my first team. When I read the dimensions of the Polo Grounds now (which I didn’t know when I was 6), I am appalled (and a little thrilled).
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré (F). The novel focuses on Adunni, an intelligent and likeable 14 year old girl in a rural Nigerian village whose mother wanted her to get an education so that she could speak for herself with a Louding Voice to determine her future. Unfortunately, her mother died and her father was hopelessly poor and married Adduni for bride money from an older man with two wives who wanted a son heir….The book is fast-paced, and it is never clear whether Adunni would survive, let alone be victorious…
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nahesi Coates (F).
From Third World to First: The Singapore Story:1985-2000 by Lee Kuan Yew (NF). In conjunction with our recent trip to SE Asia, I began to learn about this city-state and more particularly its founding, visionary father, Lee Kuan Yew, and wondered how I had not known anything about either. The story of Singapore and this autobiography has affected me more than anything I’ve read about the world beyond the US. It’s 683 pages that I read in a couple of days, and I hope to say more about that as time goes on.
No Visable Bruises: What we don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder (NF). Audio. Worth the time. Didn’t expect to learn so much, about why and how individuals abuse, why victims stay in relationships, why it is so difficult for victims to escape, and about individuals and groups working on this issue.
Mink River by Brian Doyle (F). When I asked my local guy, Eric, at Pegasus Books in W. Seattle – used and new books – or a second recommendation after his first of A Gentleman In Moscow, he recommended Mink River.“I love this book,” he said, and so did I, a mix of stream of conscious narrative, humor, a good story, evocation of terrain on the Oregon Coast, and two wonderful wacky characters. It’s a love of a book.
Blood: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (NF). The story of Stanford dropout Elizabeth Holmes and the unicorn wunder startup Theranos — instant complex blood analysis from a finger prick — until the company crashed and burned. Stunning and enthralling. It made me want to stay up all night reading it.
I have finally finished a wonderful biography, Rebbe by Joseph Teleshukin (NF). The Chabad movement, has had a significant impact on the Jewish people, limited, in scope but also to the community at large.
The Night Watchman by Louis Erdrich (F). It may be fiction, however the story is based on Erdrich’s Chippewa grandfather who in the 1950s courageously fought against a bill in Congress that would terminate the reservations. The book also follows the travails of Pixie, as she tries to find her sister in “the cities” – Minneapolis-St Paul. Going back and forth in time, mood and stories, the book is lyrical, heartbreaking and affirming.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (F). Currently rereading (AK) and forgot how incredible Tolstoy is.
No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin (NF). On my bookshelf are many unread books; I picked No Ordinary Times this month because it explores the human story of how Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt worked together and apart as the country went through the late Depression and early World War II years. Kearns explores well how Franklin and Eleanor made their separate and joint decisions. While reading, I cannot help but compare how our country and the current occupant of the White House are making decisions in our current crisis
*** *** *** ***
Finally, if you missed sending one this time, no problem. I’m going to do this again for the beginning of June.
So any time between now and Memorial Day, May 25th, please send me up to TWO books (and two audio ones if you do that) that have been favorites since the beginning of 2020. And please consider adding your comments on what you send in THREE sentences on each book.
It wasn’t that we haven’t seen some good films since our last posting, but it’s a bit late to go back and review them. Some that come to mind now you have probably found for yourself. But if you haven’t seen these six — By the Grace of God, Dark Waters. Knives Out, Ford Vs Ferrari, The Irishman, Saint Frances – we highly recommend them. They are all quite different from each other, but they all meet MillersTime rating of a four or five stars.
Between these and our post from the Philadelphia Film Festival, many of these are available in the “streaming” world now. But given the times we now live in, your MillersTime reviewers have to get over their “Big Screen” fascination and focus on television for movie watching. (Our TV is currently regarded as under-sized by our daughters and probably yours would be too, but it will have to do for the moment.)
So, we are renewing our commitment to bring you movie reviews — recommendations on “screened” films. We’re not sure if seeing these at home makes them different from seeing them in a theater, but we’ll return to that thought as we continue to watch from home.
So settling down in the chairs in our study a couple of evenings a week, so far we’ve enjoyed:
This is the story of an African-American family whose eldest son dreams of becoming a sommelier, despite his father’s wishes that he go into the family’s very successful BBQ business. The plot is somewhat predictable – family dynamics – but the acting and direction of the film creates something unique. It’s set in Memphis where we’ve always want to spend some time, and the vibe of that city lends a lively backdrop to the story behind a quite reserved film. All and all, it’s very enjoyable. Writer and Director: Prentice Penny, NETFLIX
Ellen **** Richard **** 1/2
The Good Liar:
We missed this film when it was out in the theaters and were delighted by it when we saw it at home. The film is about a consummate con man Roy, played by Ian McKellan, who sets his sights not only on Russian mobsters and the like, but also on a lonely woman, played by Helen Mirren. Without giving away the plot (it’s intricate and clever), let’s just say that was a bad mistake on his part. Cleverly written, and of course superbly acted, you’re not going to be distracted by other things around you house that need doing. Director: Bill Condon AMAZON PRIME+
Ellen ***** Richard *****
This film won the Best Documentary Feature at 2020 Academy Awards. With its pedigree – the producer is Participant Media with support from the Obamas’ new film enterprise and two expert directors by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert – you’d expect nothing less than near perfect in the telling of the story. And that’s what you get.
The documentary focuses on the story of an abandoned GM car plant in Ohio, purchased and repurposed by a Chinese billionaire. It is a tale of clashing cultures, of ideas, goals, and commitments of American enterprise vs the Chinese one. The strength of this movie (told artfully through personal interviews and great documentary photography) are the interviews of both the Chinese and Americans involved in this enterprise, allowing them to tell their story. The film’s approach is even handed. The issues of the future of modern day manufacturing are laid bare for all to see. It offers no answers, but it does raise questions for the future of American industry that are profound. Directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. NETFLIX
Ellen ***** Richard *****
This is an older film (1995), a romance, and it was recommended on a list we found for people who enjoy travel. It tells the story of the two beautiful young people (Ethan Hawke as Jesse and Julie Delpy as Celine) who meet by happenstance on a train. Jesse is on his way back to the States, and he convinces Celine to spend 24 hours in Vienna with him. As they explore that classic city, they fall for each other. We’re not going to spoil the development of their relationship or the ending, which is predictably dramatic. Their conversations about love, marriage/partnership, and the meaning of life are thoughtful and ring true. This is not the type of movie usually in our wheelhouse, but we enjoyed it. Above all, it is a movie about taking a random chance that might just change your life. Director Richard Linklater. AMAZON PRIME VIDEO.
Ellen **** Richard ****
This very recently released film (AMAZON PRIME) is a Holocaust tale of bravery and selflessness in the face of supreme Nazi evil. It tells the story a young Marcel Marceau (born Marcel Mangel and played by Jesse Einsenberg). Marceau, along with his brother and other young members of the French Resistance faced peril and the horror of Klaus Barbe to rescue orphaned Jewish children of all ages. There’s plenty of drama and suspense to keep your attention. This is not just another story of the Holocaust. Richard and I recalled that we saw Marceau preform many years ago, but neither of us knew anything about his past as is explored in this new feature length film. Director: Jonathan Jakubowicz.
Ellen **** Richard ****
.** ** ** Finally, please feel free to add your thoughts (in the Comment section above or in an email) on any of these films and consider recommending others that you have seen recently and have enjoyed.
I know we’ve all heard, read, watched all sorts of advice, much of it good, some questionable, and some simply not up-to-date or just inaccurate.
Below you will find links to two videos/advice from Dr. David Price, a critical care pulmonologist caring for COVID-19 patients at NYC’s Weill Cornell Hospital. (Hat Tip to David P. Stang for alerting me to this information.)
He will tell you some of the things you know, some things you may not be sure about, and some things you may need to know in the days and weeks and months ahead.
What is outstanding about these two videos is the level of practical advice that comes from someone who is on the front lines of caring for people who come to one of our best hospitals. Dr. Price is clear, straight forward, and seems to have the very latest experiences and knowledge from the front lines.
I’m sure there is something in these two videos for everyone, no matter how much information you may know or where you live in this country or abroad, or what you already know that is valid or perhaps not valid.
He is positive and focuses his remarks for a wide range of people.