Sunday, July 31, 2011

When I was a young girl, I read every book in my house. My mother was a reader and loved books. So was I. I still am. During the summers I would go to the library and pick up the "Recommended Reading" pamphlets and make a goal to start at the top of the list and read every book. Needless to say, I'm not super motivated by goals, and my literary mission would soon fall by the wayside and I fell back to re-reading the stacks in my own little collection. Story of my life.

A book that was ALWAYS included in those reading lists was "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn"

by Betty Smith. How could I have missed out on this book, especially since the title starts with "A"? Was I that lazy that I quit so shortly after starting? How is it that I survived my navel gazing, woe is me teen years without reading the WONDERFUL story of Francie Nolan? Born in 1901, the story follows Francie throughout her childhood in turn of the century Brooklyn, living in the poverty that was pervasive for immigrant families. Unflinching and honest, yet respectful and never vulgar, this book tackles subjects I'm sure were uncomfortable to its contemporary audience: sex, alcoholism, poverty and prejudice. The voices are plain and real and compelling. I honestly looked forward to picking it up every evening and was sad when the last page turned. Beautiful, amazing, lovely.

Monday, July 25, 2011

In my last post I mentioned that I was going to read a book called "Image of Josephine" by Booth Tarkington. I was excited because who wouldn't want to read something by an author with such a FABULOUS name? I mean, really, Booth Tarkington? That sounds so old Hollywood, so morning talk show host that no matter how crap the book ended up, one just has to check it out. So I did.

The plot is of a young soldier, sent home from the front to recuperate as, get this, an assistant curator in an art museum. Apparently, his doctor thought it to be a place where he would experience quiet and stable work and, thus, be healed from whatever awful experience he had in battle. He shows up to the museum and gets to work. He meets the staff, including his supervisor, a lovely and intelligent woman named Helena Jyre. He also meets a royal beeatch, Josephine Oaklin, the granddaughter of the museum's founder. Oaklin is en fuego most of the time because she feels that no one on the museum staff is qualified to do anything because, while they are educated in the subject, they do not understand ART. And she does. Better than anyone. Ever. Nyah, nyah, nyah. She rages and taunts and makes intentional efforts to thwart anyone's work that does not align perfectly with her vision. She is manipulative and nasty and just plain mean. The soldier finds out that she is distantly related to the queen bee and ends up in her plot to get her own way, no matter what.

Basically, this book read like the plot of a movie, complete with a twist ending and well placed soliloquies about the nature of ART. Perfect for a book by a guy named Booth Tarkington. I should probably start working on the screenplay. Cameron Diaz should play Josephine Oaklin. She could pull off the self-righteous shrew role pretty darn well. Wait, oh crap, she has already done this role in "Bad Teacher". Would hate to typecast the girl.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

During World War II, the British Fourteenth Army and the 1st Air Commando Group of the United States Air Force joined to fight the Japanese Army in what was called the Burma Campaign. This unit was established in response to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1943 introduction to Brigadier Orde Wingate's vision of what could be done in Burma with proper air support. The U.S. Air Force created the 5318th Air Unit and in March 1944, they were designated the 1st Air Commando Group. Colonels John Alison and Philip Cochran were chosen as co-commanders of the unit. This unit was only in existence for one year as it was disbanded in 1945.  The book, Road To Mandalay by Lowell Thomas is the story of that British and American collaboration. Reading this book felt like it took longer than the entire campaign.  It would be an excellent read for military history buffs and fans of the gameRisk.

I am grateful that I read this as the whole point of the "Owen Reading Project" is to get to know my grandfather better through the books he had on his shelves.  Really, though, when I saw the title, I was hoping for more of story like the old Bob Hope/Bing Crosby "On the Road" movies.  Now those were fun.

Next on the nightstand: Image of Josephine by Booth Tarkington. I'm excited simply because the author's name is Booth Tarkington. How could you go wrong with a name like that?