Jack Keroauc’s On the Road (Revisited Challenge)


On the Road by Jack Kerouac | Jorie’s Store @ Amazon

 
Title and Author(s):  Jack Kerouac and Matt Dillon’s On the Road
Release Date: 2000

Publisher: Caedmon

ISBN: 9780060755331
Hours: 11 
Source: Harris County Public Library 

* 1001 Books Book

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Reasons for Reading: I read this book a few years ago since it’s hailed as the book of the Beat Generation. Fortunately, I listened to the the version that actor Matt Dillon read. When On the Road won in the Revisited Challenge, I happily checked out the Matt Dillon version for the second time.

Summary: (This autobiographical narrative uses pseudonyms per publisher’s demands.) Salvatore “Sal” Paradise (Kerouac) tells the narrative of adventures had in the late 1940s and early 1950s “on the road” with his new found, free-spirited friend Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady). Through these treks, Dean and Sal use many drugs, drink many boos, and “sleep” with numerous partners. Sometimes, they stay with different Beats (Carlo Marx/Allen Ginsburg and Old Bull Lee/William S. Burroughs), and other times Beats join them on their trips. Also at play are the tensions between Dean’s partners Marylou (Luanne Henderson) and Camille (Carolyn Cassaday).

One Thing I Learned from this book: Previously, I’d thought the Beats were just the 1950s predecessors to the Hippies of the 1960s. Now, I see the differences along with the similarities between the two groups.

What I Liked: I really am glad I heard Matt Dillon read this book. Also, Kerouac’s prose clearly expresses the events.

What I Disliked: However, I didn’t care much for the characters. They’re lazy and wasteful; lowlifes. Lastly, I didn’t like the way women were treated in this book.

RR - Orange  Rainbow Rating: Orange – Restricted from those under age 17 


Song: 
Ricky Nelson – Hello Mary Lou (with solo by James Burton)

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National Hispanic Heritage Month – Sandra Cisneros


Sandra Cisneros | Goodreads

This post is part of a feature at Jorie’s Reads by Starry Night Elf called “Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.”

Sandra Cisneros holds the distinction of being the author of the first book I reviewed on this blog. To check out this review, click on “Wrapped up in Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros.”

Goodreads says:

Sandra Cisneros was born in Chicago in 1954. Internationally acclaimed for her poetry and fiction, she has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lannan Literary Award and the American Book Award, and of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the MacArthur Foundation. Cisneros is the author of two novels The House on Mango Street and Caramelo; a collection of short stories, Woman Hollering Creek; two books of poetry, My Wicked Ways and Loose Woman; and a children’s book, Hairs/Pelitos. She is the founder of the Macondo Foundation, an association of writers united to serve underserved communities (www.macondofoundation.org), and is Writer in Residence at Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.

While Caramelo is the only Cisneros work I’ve read, it’s a stellar one. She wrote a family saga with characters so distinctive that one can’t confuse them. Also, I found myself reminiscing about family road trips my own very different family. I liked the vignettes from the famous people as well.

I’d be remiss leaving to not mention hearing the legendary “Woman Hollering Creek.” I think of it each time I take a road trip from my native Houston to San Antonio. Shiver!

Orson Scott Card’s Pastwatch: The redemption of Christopher Columbus


Pastwatch: The redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card

Card, O. S. (1996). Pastwatch: The redemption of Christopher Columbus. New York: TOR. 9780312850586

One of the programs offered at the library takes place every August. This is the AP Book Discussion sessions. One of the books some of the kids in Clear Creek I.S.D. read was Orson Scott Card’s Pastwatch: The redemption of Christopher Columbus. As I’m not the biggest Sci-Fi fan, I had never read Card but the time travel motif appealed to me. So, I picked up this book in February.

Initially, we have two storylines. The first one reads like a biography of Christopher Columbus (taking place in the late 1400s.)  The other line introduces people living in the twenty-third century. They are living in a depleted planet and a group called Pastwatch studies human history.

Columbus struggles to make his way to the Far East. Tagiri, generations into the future, observes the past with her TempoView in Juba, Sudan. Tagiri studies her genealogy, finding a boy stolen into slavery. She leads a group to find that all the woes of the world were begotten by slavery. Additionally, she sees that the one who brought it to the Western Hemisphere was no other than Columbus. When Tagiri and Pastwatcher Hassan realize Haitians in the 1400s can Tagiri and Hassan, they study the chances of changing the past to preserve a future. Tagiri and Hassan marry, have two children. Their daughter, Diko, joins their effort. Also, the great Kemel and the “underachiever” Hunaphu get on board.

These concepts of alternate history, time travel, and undoing slavery still fascinate me. Also, I was quite impressed with a historical figure that I took for granted. Card presents many questions; “If I could undo a wrong, would I?,” “Was Columbus the vector of slavery?,” and “Why did Columbus go West?”

While the plot intrigues, the characters and the dialogue was hard for me to buy. A five year old Diko asked her mother if she were cute at two. That’s unrealistic! Furthermore, I’m not sure I buy Tagiri being a compassionate woman. I found the guys – Kemel, Hunaphu, and Columbus – much more believable.

Here’s my last question: Where are the other Pastwatch books?

Three Out of Five Pearls

Places: Juba, Sudan; Genova, Italy; Lagos, Portugal; Spain; Hispaniola, Mexico

Word Bank: Caravel,

For more on Card’s Pastwatch: The redemption of Christopher Columbus, please check out the following links:

Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate


 

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel | LibraryThing

*1001 Books Book

Esquivel, L. (1992). Like water for chocolate: a novel in monthly installments, with recipes, romances, and home remedies. New York: Doubleday. 9780385420167

            When I began my ill-fated study of Spanish in high school, my awesome Spanish teacher suggested we watch movies or TV shows in Spanish. Soon after, I stumbled upon the movie version of Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate. For the prudish sophomore I was, this was both eye opening and jaw dropping.

A couple of years later, some of my college friends raved about the book. The numerous recommendations and the accolade of being a 1001 Books book reinitiated my interest in reading Like Water for Chocolate.

A grandniece tells us the story of the protagonist – Tita de la Garza. Tita is the youngest of three daughters who live in early twentieth century Mexico, close to Texas. Mama Elena de la Garza has a ranch and rests easy in the knowledge that her spirited youngest daughter, Tita, will take care of her. This is tradition – the youngest daughter cares for her mother until death.

When Tita and a young man named Pedro fall in love, Mama Elena bars it and foists her second eldest daughter, Rosaura, on Pedro. In a world of pain, Tita’s only release is cooking. Tita cooks with all of her heart and this can be experienced by the consumers of the food. Similar to the saying, “If Mama ain’t happy. . .” Tita’s emotions become the eater of Tita’s food.

Perhaps it’s the magical realism but I sensed this to be a fairy tale. I liked Tita’s expression and use of the little control she has in her life. She’s no slouch.

Also, I liked that the book offered recipes – sort of going along with something Francis Ford Coppola said about making the first Godfather movie. Originally, the book was published in a magazine over a twelve month period. I considered myself fortunate to have all the stories and recipes condensed to one book.

Still, I did feel some sympathy for Rosaura; I don’t know if Esquivel had that in mind. She seemed to be in the way of everyone and used as a weapon against Tita and Pedro.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Places: Mexico, Texas

 

The Infinite Possibility of Life of Pi


 

Life of Pi by Yann Martel | LibraryThing

* 1001 Books Book

Martel, Y., & Woodman, J. (2002). Life of pi a novel. Minneapolis, MN: HighBridge. 9781565117792

I remember when Good Morning America announced it’s next book club read was Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Life of Pi is a novel in three parts with one hundred chapters Since then, I have seen Life of Pi repeatedly listed among my friends’ favorite books. I decided I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about and I was in for a treat. I checked out the audiobook version of Life of Pi (it’s citation is provided above) and enjoyed it immensely.

Part One begins with a wandering author in search of a story. While in Pondicherry, the capital of what was French India, the unnamed writer meets the elderly Francis Adirubasamy. Adirubasamy mentions the great story of Pi Patel. This is one that “will make you believe in God.” The author says that only Pi can tell this story. On the audio, there are two voices: the one of the author and that of Pi.

We first meet Piscene “Pi” Molitor Patel as a middle-aged man living with his family in Canada. He double-majored in Religion and Zoology. He voices the question that this is such an odd pairing. From there, the audience discovers that Pi was the son of a weary zoo keeper and a follower of Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. His affinity for both animals and loving God is expressed fervently by Pi. He’s also quite witty; forming the nickname of Pi so he deals less with classmates destroying his given name. All of this is in the midst of the Indian period called “The Emergency.” Due to political instability experienced in 1977 India, Pi’s father makes the hard decision to sell the zoo and its animals and immigrate with his family to Canada.

So, the Patels and numerous animals who once resided at the Pondicherry Zoo, sail upon a Japanese cargo ship to Canada. Part Two presents the sinking ship. Jumping into the water, Pi pulls himself into a lifeboat. Soon, he finds himself on board with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan called Orange Juice, and Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger. As the back cover mentions, it takes Pi’s knowledge of animals and his faith to survive. When he does, can anyone really believe that he managed within such a menagerie?

I have learned much from this book. I learned all kinds of things about animals such as tigers can make a sound referred to as  “prusten” which means no harm. Another thing I found within Pi’s ordeal was that it would take a Kierkegaardian leap of faith not only to survive but to believe.  Allegorical or not,  Life of Pi is now one of my favorite books, too.

Places: India, Pacific Ocean, Mexico, Canada

4  1/2 Pearls.



 

Wrapped up in Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros


Cisneros, S. (2002). Caramelo. New York: Harper Audio. 9780060515911

 Cisneros, S. (2002). In Caramelo, or, Puro cuento: A novel. New York: Knopf. 9781400041503

Caramelo was a novel of epic proportions (eighty plus chapters) written by well-known author Sandra Cisneros (The House on Mango Street). The book was published in 2002 by Harper Collins. The audio book is read by author Sandra Cisneros. I both listened to and read Caramelo.

This book seemed semi-autobiographical to me. Like the narrator, Lala Reyes, Cisneros was born into a large family and she was born in Chicago in the 1950s. Also, both are the only daughters born into the family. Each is of Mexican descent and, of course, each woman can really spin a thread. Nonetheless, the novel is prefaced with, perhaps, a caveat saying that not one bit is true. In fact, Cisneros disclaims, “If, in the course of my inventing, I have inadvertently stumbled on the truth, perdónenme.” Caramelo came in a Spanish edition as well. The English version which I experienced is liberally sprinkled with authentic Spanish phrases.

A few things about Caramelo caught my attention before I decided to read the book. The mention of the rebozo of San Luis Potosi, Mexico reminded me of mission trips I went on to SLP and my own search for a rebozo. Also, I read the back and saw that part of the book takes place in San Antonio, each Texan’s second home town. Then, there was the curiosity about Cisneros’s writing style. So, I gave Caramelo a chance.

With Caramelo, the reader is given a chance to learn or brush up on Mexican history, immerse him/herself in the Mexican-American experience as well as learn the stories and, sometimes, the Reyes family history. The young narrator, Celaya “Lala” Reyes provides her audience a window into her heritage, weaving in strands to create a rich, poignant caramelo rebozo of a tale.

Lala’s paternal grandmother, Soledad Reyes, comes from a family of the legendary, Mexican shawl of San Luis Potosi. The book begins with an annual summer pilgrimage from Lala’s native Chicago to visit the grandparents, the Awful Grandmother and the Little Grandfather, in Mexico City.

Caramelo begins with one such summer when Lala was a little girl. Here, the Awful Grandmother rules the roost. The Awful Grandmother dotes on her favorite child, Lala’s father, Inocencio, to the irritation of Lala’s mother, Zoila, and to the exclusion of the rest of the Awful Grandmother’s children. When Zoila reaches her breaking point with the Awful Grandmother, the story takes the reader on a journey to the time the Awful Grandmother was a sad, lonely little girl called Soledad Reyes.

The reader finds the little Soledad being sent with her late mother’s caramelo rebozo, a shawl of boasting the colors of toffee, licorice, and vanilla, (Cisneros 94) to Mexico City from San Luis Potosi and into a fateful introduction to Narciso Reyes (the Little Grandfather). In the midst of the Mexican Revolution (1911 – 1920), Narciso and Soledad come together, marry, and start of family. Inocencio, the first child and the favorite of Soledad, was born. As a young man, Inocencio moves to United States and works his way to Chicago, and meets Mexican-American Zoila.

The Awful Grandmother moves in with the Chicago Reyeses after the death of the Little Grandfather. At first, they all live in Chicago. Then, they all move to San Antonio where the Awful Grandmother dies. Teenage granddaughter Lala is left with numerous loose ends and looks into the family histories and stories to better understand her late grandmother.

Some reviewers have compared Caramelo to John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. I believe that while the Reyes family may not be monetarily wealthy, they are rich with stories and identity. At times this book was reminiscent of Forrest Gump in the numerous appearances of famous and/or infamous, true people. However, I did like the historical context these cameos lent the work.

For the most part, I enjoyed listening to this book. Cisneros was able to better convey her points with her vocal characterizations – from the Awful Grandmother’s whine to Inocencio’s formality to Zoila’s crackling sarcasm. Additionally, Cisneros can pronounce these words. She knows her own stuff and that’s great. Still, it was good to have the book to see exactly how some of these words looked so I could say, “Oh, that’s how you say that word.” If anyone has as little understanding of Spanish as I, Caramelo may be a struggle.

I appreciated that many of the characters had an oft-repeated sentiment throughout the work. Narciso (the Little Grandfather) was a man feo, fuerte, y formal although he was not ugly (Cisneros, 103) while Soledad (the Awful Grandmother) reminds herself “Just enough, but not too much (92).

I am happy I stuck it out, though. I was able to see Lala make and wear her very own rebozo with the help of various relatives, especially her grandmother. Thus, I recommend this to the patient history buff out there.

Caramelo receives three out of five pearls from me.