Wednesday, 29 April 2015

What She Left Behind

"What She Left Behind" by Ellen Marie Wiseman

   Much of this novel takes place in Willard State Asylum in New York in the 1930's.  The author researched this subject before writing the book.  It is distressing to see how the patients were treated and to realize that some of the women were there because they were not compliant with their parents' wishes or their husbands' wishes.  They were not mentally ill, but still spent much of their lives in an asylum.
   Actually, the protagonist does not live in the asylum.  She is a 17-year-old girl, Isabelle Stone, whose mother had shot her father.  Her mother had been put in a mental asylum. Isabelle was in a foster home, in 1995, with parents who were curators at the museum and as part of their work, they were examining the articles left in the abandoned Willard State Asylum.  As Isabelle, working with her foster mother, was checking the contents of a suitcase, she discovered a diary.  This led to a wonderful entwining of the two stories: Clara Cartwright, 18, in 1930, and Isabelle Stone, 17, in 1995.
   The story is upsetting but I couldn't put it down.  The author is very descriptive and, at times, I needed to rush through that description to see what would happen.
 The two storylines fit together beautifully, and came together in a very dramatic ending.
  This is Wiseman's second novel.  It had received great reviews!

"Coal River" is Wiseman's new book, coming in December.  It is about a young woman who tries to end child labour in an early 20th century Pennsylvania mining town.
I expect it will also be tense and distressing.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Words Related to Books will send you a word a day.  I look forward to it every morning. It also includes a thought for the day. Always interesting.

There is a theme for the week and this week's theme relates to BOOKS.

"Writing is hard work. Fortunately, that hard work is only mental now.  It wasn’t always so.  At one time writing meant chiseling on a piece of rock or dipping a quill into homemade ink and scribbling on a piece of parchment.  Each piece was unique.  Archeologists haven’t discovered any ancient photocopy machine yet, so making a copy likely meant sharpening chisels again or finding another piece of parchment and mixing another pot of ink.  No wonder books were precious and needed to be protected by any measure.  Imagine hopping into a time machine, going a few thousand years back in time, and telling people that you carry hundreds of books in your pocket.   Who is going to believe you?

  Monday:   colophon

  1. A note at the end of the book giving information about its production: font, paper, binding, printer, etc.
  2. A publisher’s emblem, usually on the spine or the title page of the book.

  Tuesday: recto

 The front of a leaf, the side that is to be read first.

  Wednesday: bibliogony

The art of producing or publishing books. Also known as bibliogenesis.

  Thursday: codex

   A manuscript volume (as opposed to a scroll). especially of an ancient text.

Friday: opisthograph
A text written on both front and back (of some parchment, papyrus, stone, etc.)

Thought for today:
Never lend books -- nobody ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are those which people have lent me. -Anatole France, novelist, essayist, Nobel laureate (16 Apr 1844-1924) 

Saturday, 11 April 2015

A Whole New Mind (continued)

  This book has absorbed my thoughts for the last few days and I think I have mentioned it to nearly everyone that I have had contact with.  Perhaps I have been obnoxious.  So now let me bore you!
  The brain fascinates me and the importance of the right brain for the future is worth considering.
Because we have abundance that has not created happiness, because many products are outsourced, and because automation is causing changes in white collar jobs, it does appear that a shift is imminent.

These are the right-brained activities that Daniel Pink feels will be important:
1.) design- we will want articles that are beautiful, whimsical and emotionally engaging, not just cheap.
2.) story - everybody has access to facts.  We need them put into context, with an emotional impact- in medicine, law, etc.
3.) symphony- we need to see the big picture in all aspects
4.) empathy- relationships and ability to empathize
5.) play- improves health issues, school grades, workforce competence
6.) meaning-  people are looking for purpose and meaning in their lives.

He ends with quotes from Viktor Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning".
"I understand how a man who has nothing left in the world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved".
  The focus on left- brain activities has not brought happiness and this author talks a lot about "What makes happiness"?
What could be more interesting?

Some surprises for me:
- I had just seen Oprah's interview with the author last week, so I thought this book was new.  But it is nine years old!  In fact, Daniel has written four books since then.
- the author sees importance in video games.  "Video games can sharpen many of the skills that are vital in the Conceptual Age".  He even quotes a study that shows that doctors make 37 % fewer mistakes if they spend some time playing video games.  Say what???
  He quotes many studies and gives internet sites for references.  Also he has lots of suggestions for developing your right brain.  One suggestion for design is to notice the design of everything around you.

  Here is the BIG surprise.  The design of the book cover!  The head is cut out on the cover so that the next page can show through.  But in a very short time, rips occur in the cover.  The library copy has a taped up cover.  When I went to buy a copy at Chapters, only one copy was sellable.  The others were torn.  Bad design!!!
  But still thought- provoking ideas. And I will continue to chatter on......

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

A Whole New Mind

   Yesterday, I was recovering from a bout with intestinal flu.  When I moved from my bed to the chair, my husband had lots of fluids ready for me- jello, gatorade, ginger ale, etc.  And, alongside those remedies, I found a magazine- "The Enquirer".
   I sometimes have a look at these magazines as I pass the checkout at the drug store, but certainly they aren't enjoyable for regular reading.
   However, when I was feeling so weak, it seemed to be just what I needed- bits and pieces of gossip, written in a dramatic way.

  This morning, I am feeling better and have picked up a book that I had started reading- "A Whole New Mind", by Daniel Pink.
   His premise is that the world is moving from the Information Age into a new era.  He calls it the 'Conceptual Age'.  Left-brain skills will not be as important- logical, linear, computerlike capabilities.
   The future belongs to right-brained people (artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers).
His reasons for the change are these:
1.) material abundance that is deepening our nonmaterial yearnings
2.) globalization that is shipping white-collar work overseas
3.) powerful technologies that are eliminating certain kinds of work altogether

  The elements that he believes will be important in the future are: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning.
  It seems like a strange concept but as you read, it begins to make sense.  I am finding this book quite fascinating and I am thinking of buying copies for my grandchildren.  Oprah gave a copy to each Harvard graduate this year.  I saw her interview with Daniel and found his ideas thought-provoking.

  And, there is a connection here.  Story is important whether it is in a book,  on the news, shared around the table, or in gossip magazines.  People thrive on story.

Friday, 3 April 2015

"Doc" by Mary Doria Russell

Dodge City, 1800's
   In 1996, the year of my retirement, we explored the Santa Fe Trail, where 20 million cattle were moved from Franklin, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico in the 1800's.  The need for periodic rest stations, led to the establishment of "cow towns" such as Dodge City.  We found Dodge City quite fascinating as we wandered around imagining it as a 'wild frontier town'. It was quiet when we were there, because the tourist attractions take place during the summer only- rowdy dance halls, shoot outs, and wagon rides.
Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp

  Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp are characters who are well- remembered from those days, because Hollywood found a market for movies based on "the wild west"- drinking, gambling, shoots-outs, dance hall girls.
  I have not read books from this era, so I was interested in reading "Doc" by Mary Doria Russell.
  The book really puts you into the town as you get to know many characters.  The title refers to Doc Holliday, who was the focus of the book.

  John Henry Holliday was really a fascinating man.  He was born in 1851 with a cleft palate.  Interestingly, anesthesia had just been discovered 3 months previously and a doctor was able to repair the palate.
But he suffered from T.B. all his adult life .
  He was born in Georgia and received a classical education from his mother who died when he was 15.  He had learned to play the piano, and knew all the great composers and musical compositions.  He also had read the classics and knew Greek and Latin.
  At 22, he moved to Dodge City for his health.
His training was in dentistry and he set up a practice, but few local citizens could afford his skills.  And he was extremely skilled!  But he also had an edge at cards and was able to supplement his income.

The author:
Mary Russell is also fascinating!  Her father was a sheriff and she grew up with cops and guns but she also has a doctorate in biological anthropology.  She taught 'gross anatomy' at a school of dentistry.  I can't fathom the 'biological anthropology', but I know that in 'gross anatomy', they dissect bodies.
Does this sweet lady on the left look like she could handle a shoot-out AND a dissection?
Perhaps she understood the complexity of Doc Holiday because she is also very complex.  Her descriptions of Doc's practice are very technical- mandibular arch, interproximal surfaces.
  For sure, she is a very intelligent lady and Doc also had great intelligence.  Mary and Doc both appreciated other languages.

There are many characters in this book and they are described in detail. The book has a complex plot, looking at many issues from the 'wild west'.  It certainly transports you 150 years in the past to Dodge City.
Although the book is called "Doc', it does not cover the 'gunfight at the O.K. Corral" for which he was most remembered.  But there is a follow- up book called "Epitaph: a novel of the O.K. Corral".
I was tempted to read it until I held the book in my hands and browsed through the 577 pages of fine print.  Perhaps I know enough of this topic.