Monthly Archives: September 2008

The Story Behind Edgar Sawtelle

This field of a vast crop of sunflowers is a tribute to Henry Lamb, one of the characters in "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle."

This is a book mostly about dogs and their people, but I posted this photograph of this field of a vast crop of sunflowers as a tribute to Henry Lamb, one of the characters in "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle." Lamb's choice of sunflowers as a crop made Lamb unusual in a life he said many described as ordinary. (Also, I thought it was a gorgeous scene when I drove past this field on September 19 near Quapaw, Oklahoma.)

Here is the link to David Wroblewski’s the story behind “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.”  Our book club read this book as our September choice and we unanimously agreed we would recommend it.  Seldom are we all in accord!  Oprah now has decided to jump on our bandwagon and has recommended it for her book club, too.

David Wroblewski’s website is www.davidwroblewski.com, which has biography information and reviews.

David Wroblewski, author of "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle."

David Wroblewski.

 Janet Maslin’s review of the book from the New York Times: Talking to Dogs, Without a Word

 A story about the author in the New York Times: This Summer’s Dog Days Suit One Novelist Fine  It also includes links to other articles.

Oprah copies our book club:  Oprah Makes Her Pick  Cathy

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Fisticuffs over Edgar Allan Poe’s Body

Edward Pettit, an Edgar Allan Poe Scholar, argues that Poe’s body belongs in Philadelphia where he wrote many of his works not in Baltimore, where he’s buried because he happened to die there — under strange circumstances.  On January 13, Pettit is going to square off against Jeff Jerome, the curator of the Poe House in Baltimore.  January 19, 2009, marks the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth.

Jerome says he’ll argue with grace and facts and then walk over to Pettit like a gentleman and punch him square in the face.

For more about the story go to my blog at this link Philadelphia and Baltimore Fight Over Edgar Allan Poe’s Body.  There’s also a link on my blog to a story about it in the New York Times.  I’m too lazy to re-write it all here.  Cathy

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Guns, Germs and Steel

Our book club read Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, which turned out to be one of the books I have recommended the most often to people.  Although I didn’t completely agree with all of Diamond’s points (he has the Pulitzer prize, I don’t), the book is an extremely thought-provoking discussion of the forces that have shaped human history for the past 10,000 years.

Different factors may turn out to be more important in human history than Diamond stressed, while others will turn out not to be so significant.  Nevertheless, Diamond drew together information from so many sources and combined and analyzed it with a fresh perspective.

PBS televised a version of the book in 2005.  It has an interactive site that allows you to examine and review some of Diamond’s arguments.  There’s also an interactive map of the Earth’s continents. When you click on a location, you can learn about its climate, vegetation, wildlife and more. Cathy

Here’s the link: Guns, Germs and Steel interactive website on PBS. 

This is a review of Diamond’s book Collapse, which also discusses Guns, Germs and Steel:A Question of Blame When Societies Fall.

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Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe was recently featured in the Sept. 8, 2008, Time Magazine.

In 1998, we read Tom Wolfe’s recently published “A Man in Full,” a heavy tome that I’ve just gotten from the shelf and dusted off. I remember it was hot enough off the press then that I had to buy the thing. The waiting list at the library was too long. 

Mostly what I remember about the book was a scene at a horse stud farm.  It starts on page 301 in the 1998 first trade edition.  This is a G rated blog, so I’m sorry I can’t share it with you here.  There are four audio and seventeen print copies available at our library,  and probably some copies at your own library, if you’re curious.

We read another horse-related book, Jane Smiley’s “Horse Heaven,” which I liked better.  From Smiley’s book I learned about calming ponies and companion animals for race horses, which can also apply to humans just as easily.

In Time Magazine, Wolfe answered Ten Questions.  Here’s the link. The ’60s classic The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test celebrates its 40th anniversary.    He talks about New Journalism and Hunter S. Thompson.  I wrote about Wolfe and Thompson in a post called There Will Be Blog. 

I didn’t read the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, but I did take on Bonfire of the Vanities even before the movie came out.  In 1987, while traveling, my husband chose a seat next to Wolfe in the Boston airport. I would have chosen to sit farther away, since Wolfe looked so spiffy in his customary white suit, and I looked so scruffy after a day roaming the city on foot and on the T.  Wolfe was on a book tour plugging Bonfire.  In the book, Wolfe mentions scruffy travelers at airports.  Apparently, I wasn’t the first or even the worst one he’s ever seen.

Spoiler Alert: The concept of “Bonfire of the Vanities” has been used in a number of books, including The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason, which we read in 2004, the year it was published.  In 1497 in Florence, Italy, Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican priest, and his followers gathered up thousands of items of what they considered moral laxity, such as musical intruments, wordly art (including works by Michelangelo and Botticelli), mirrors, chess pieces — you get the picture– and had them burned.  The following year, Savonarola and a two of his followers were condemned, tortured and then burned on the same spot.

This is the link to a New York Times review about A Man in Full.  It doesn’t say anything about horses.     A Man in Tune With His Heritage; In His New Novel, Tom Wolfe Unearths His Southern Roots 

 Here’s a link to a review of The Rule of FourBOOKS OF THE TIMES; Deciphering a Mysterious Text and Puzzles of the Soul You’ll have to find a Bonfire of the Vanities review on your own. Cathy

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