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Stephen Siciliano "the highway scribe" (Los Angeles, CA USA)

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La Regenta (Spanish Edition)
La Regenta (Spanish Edition)

4.0 out of 5 stars A highwayscribery Book Report, 30 Sept. 2013
Basta decir que "La Regenta" es mucho "La Regenta."

Cuando se trata de cosa tan clasica como puede ser éste obra monumental de Leopoldo Alas, "Clarín," poco sentido tiene el declararlo "bueno" o "malo." Mas seguro es alistarse con los en "pro," que tampoco cuesta tanto con un libro de valor tan indiscutible.

Mejor escarbar unas cuantas palabras acerca de cómo "Clarín" hacia su trabajo y de que va este enorme esfuerzo.

La historia se trata de una lucha entre dos hombres, rivales sociales, y enemigos espirituales, para seducir a una bellísima casada, Ana Ozores. Como está casada con hombre que fue "Regente" sobre la pequeña ciudad bajo escrutinio, Vetusta (que dicen que se trata de Oviedo), todo el pueblo la hayan puesto el mote de "La Regenta" y asi un señal del modernísmo utilizado por el autor, de su íntima relación con lo que se califica como lenguaje (y mentalidad) de la calle.

"La Regenta," como libro, es una ópera epica, con un ejercito to personajes que representan lo mas barriobajero hasta las alcurnias mas altas. Lo peor de Clarin is su técnica de introducir los personajes todo de entrada, de sopetón, lo cual requiere del lector que se vuelve atrás para confirmar de quien esta hablando y como son.

Esto hace la lectura mas difícil, y menos placentera que una obra donde los temas y personajes estan mejor tejidos.

Através de su menáge a trois, el libro es todo un comentario sobre los vaivienes de una sociedad cerrada y católica a fines del Siglo decimonico. Obviamente, La Regenta, casada como es con un viejo de la alta sociedad, no puede consumar la relación sexual que le brinda el seductor, Don Alvaro Mesías.

El Provisor de la catedral, prominente miembro del clero, tampoco puede ser honesto consigo, ni con los demás, sobre su deseo de pelar la bella confesante. En estos conflictos, y los de carácteres menores, se investíga de pies a la cabeza la iglesia católica Española, la socieded que rige, la política progresísta, y la mente proletario de la epoca.

Tampoco son del todo tejidos estas discusiónes del antiguo periodista Alas, pero cuenta con suficiente talento e ideas para enganchar un lector dispuesto a "estudiar" su obra mas que simplement leerlo.

Se siente este libro-de-sexo-casi-sin-sexo como se lo ha vivído el sexo en España durante siglos. Lento, sugeriente, descriptívo, espíritual, "La Regenta" calienta al lector baron y viríl hasta dejarle con ganas de saltar la página y cumplir lo que Mesías y El Provisor tarden tanto en iniciar.

Guiado por las mismas reglas que la sociedad retratada, Clarín no se nos pega con gran sorpresa al fín de su tragedia, pero aún asi queda sorprendente la resolución aquí en oferta.


Venice: History of the Floating City
Venice: History of the Floating City
by Joanne M. Ferraro
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A highwayscribery Book Report, 11 Sept. 2013
"Venice: History of the Floating City" is strictly an academic affair.

Author Joanne Ferraros's enthusiasm shines through and she feels the poetry of Venice, cites it often, but doesn't quite conjure it in this work.

Read together with a novel about Venice, let's say, Gabriele D'Annunzio's "Flame of Life," this book would help put things in high relief: make clear where the fabulous fabric hailed from, valuate the rank of a fading Countess's family, explain why the shipyard is an important place.

Someone with a basic of knowledge of Venice will find their stores greatly increased after finishing this work, which does a top-to-bottom examination of the city's political and social structures. It covers Venice's rise through war, trade, and Mediterranean colonialism. It restores the profiles of novel thinkers, forgotten by time, to their rightful place in the history of the floating city.

Without knowing much about Venice-related scholarship (the author shares the perspectives of others with her readers) this book may be breaking new ground by putting in historical perspective the contributions and tribulations of women (they were many) during the rise and plateauing of Venetian might.

Similarly, we get a glimpse of what life was like for the poor, the unmarried and other who didn't fit a rather strict of behavior determined by a group of wealthy folks on high.

Which is to say the rich and powerful, as always, have their story told, but the contributions or aspirations of the weak or marginal are given air time, too.

Not to say this book is some Marxist tract. The author enjoys and revels in the commerce the once-great city-state engaged the world through and provides and comprehensive account of how Venice raked in treasure and how it was spent.

"Venice," will not grip you. The "story" of the city is subject to the business of correctly ordered facts, and necessities that don't always thrill, but ensure the record accurate. It is worth the effort to take a chapter-by-chapter approach and marvel at the beauty of things past Ferraro has curated, and at the horrors, too.


Noir Forties
Noir Forties
by Richard Lingeman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A highwayscribery Book Report, 11 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Noir Forties (Hardcover)
"The Noir Forties" promises less than it delivers.

By his own admission, author Richard Lingeman was counseled to shorten his manuscript, but you may find he did not achieve good enough a pruning.

Or, sometimes less is more. The author has an engaging idea about the collective American mind in the years immediately after World War II. Lingeman proposal is to draw lines linking the particulars of that mind-state and what it projected onto movie screens in late 1940s America.

In films like "D.O.A.", "Double-Indemnity" "Blue Dahlia," and others, the writer says, "The war's psychological shocks reverberated through the popular culture, most prominently in the films noir that proliferated in the late '40s...."

Lingeman notes that strikes, a desperate rush for security, continued wartime rationing, the readjustment pains of 14 million veterans, were all moods that, "merged into a vague sense of gloom and pessimism, the reverse image of traditional American optimism and faith in the future. It tempered the victory dreams of postwar abundance, which seemed ephemeral to a generation scarred by the Depression."

In the book's best moments, the author weaves policy and news both big and small with films noir that serve as literary and cinematic parallels. The fun thing to do is watch the movies as he brings them up for discussion.

Having developed the idea a bit further, perhaps examined a few more films and drawn a more developed argument to completion, Lingeman might have had a sweet, pocket-sized seller that was attractive to a cross section of film fans/students and American politico/cultural buffs.

But it's his book and his call, and the author decided upon a path that winds into the "rouge" fifties of anti-communist propaganda films, the Korean War, and McCarthyism.

Mr. Lingeman served in the Korean War and a lot of what he presents in "Noir" is clearly of personal import to him.

A writer with "The Nation," his progressive analysis of President Franklin Roosevelt's absent vision for a post-war world, Harry Truman's capitulation to the country's most rancid and conservative forces, and the Red Scare, are all fine and good, especially if you have never delved into such topics in the kind of detail a knowledgeable journalist and political writer would.

Just know that's what your buying, that the focus on film fades (though is not completely abandoned), as the book goes on, replaced in its stead by something closer to a harrowing account of the shabby treatment endured by liberals, veterans, unions, and responsible scientists during what was, for many including the author, a kind of dark age.


The Orphan Master's Son
The Orphan Master's Son
by Adam Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A highwayscribery Book Report, 31 May 2013
If books can be passports to other places, then "The Orphan Master's Son," gains you entree to the forbidden land of North Korea.

Of course, you have to be open to that sort of thing, and should in this case.

The author, Adam Johnson, as per his own account, bathed in North Korean culture, history and politics until they were expunged from his being in the form of characters. He traveled to the strange land of Kim Il Sung, smelled it, saw it, breathed it, and lived to come back and put it all down on paper.

And he was one of the lucky ones, if the North Korea in "The Orphan Master's Son," has even a shadow of authenticity to it.

Truly, no one gets out alive.

And so before us we have the story of Jun Do, a young fellow groomed in the hell-holes the regime sets aside for orphans. Held in the lowest regard, the kids are sent off to labor camps and mines and worked until death.

Some how Jun Do gets out, which is when the reader meets him. Hard-boiled by physical abuse, and wiser for the psychological type, he ends up on a detail kidnapping Japanese opera singers and wayward beachcombers for the entertainment and delight of the Dear Leader.

The pace of revelation is that of a classic bildungsroman, but the magic is in the details. Maybe it's because life in the People's Democratic Republic of North Korea is organized so distinctly from our own, or because Mr. Johnson is a skilled story-teller.

It doesn't really matter, a good read is a good read.

Jun Do is sent on an espionage mission to a gathering at a Texas senator's ranch. It doesn't go well and the leader of the operation, Dr. Song, is disappeared from the world for underperformance.

For his part, the young orphan-man disappears into the jail system, which the author will fill you in on, and resurfaces as a new character for the second half of the book.

Keeping it short, he kills a rival of the Dear Leader, a zany political chess player, who then lets him keep the murdered man's identity and his wife, the most famous actress in North Korea, Sun Moon.

A player in the court of a madman, Jun Do (Now Commander Ga) has much to relay about the way decisions are made in the Peoples Democratic Republic, before he is swallowed up into the void as well.

highwayscribery will leave a detailing of the myriad and piquant ways people are tortured to the author, but provide one passage for taste.

One of Johnson's narrators electrocutes people with an "intervenor" until the mind essentially breaks. "Pain of this nature creates a rift in the identity," he explains, "the person who makes it to the far shore will have little resemblance to the professor who now begins his crossing."

These new people are then sent off to work in a rural collective.

"We placed the professor's biography on the shelf, right next to the girl dancer from last week. She had us all weeping as she described how her little brother lost his eyes, and when the moment came to apply the autopilot to her, the pain made her limbs rise and sweep the air in rhythmic graceful gestures, as if she were telling her story one last time through movement."

Yikes. Under this umbrella of random terror, a love story, a political drama, a sly critique of the United States ("where nothing is free, not even a simple blood transfusion"), and harrowing portrait of a man requiring immediate removal from office and a good old fashion trial.

The liberal democratic way.

"The Orphan Master's Son," has many things to say, and it says them well and clearly. But it is strong coffee. A passport, yes, but no "Under the Tuscan Sun." You're traveling to the dark side.

Of the ten or so books this reviewer has cashiered through the Vine program -- very much a showcase for current writers -- this novel is the liveliest because of Johnson's willingness to go where few go, the scope of his exercise, and his adventurous approach to prose.


Death Comes For The Archbishop (VMC)
Death Comes For The Archbishop (VMC)
by Willa Cather
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A highwayscribery Book Report, 15 Jan. 2013
Through one man's story, Willa Cather fashions a thumbprint history of Santa Fé, New Mexico and its environs.

"Death Comes for the Archbishop" takes place in the mid-19th Century, but hundreds of years'-worth of prior events are brought to life in the famed scribe's limped prose.

The short novel recounts the life of Father Jean Marie LaTour, a fictional (?) French Jesuit, woven into the fabric of New Mexican lore as he rubs soldiers with scout and Indian killer Kit Carson, jousts with the Catholic poo-bah in Taos, Father Antonio Jose Martínez, and others peopling the time and region.

The title is a misnomer. The story is one of LaTour's entire missionary life, with memories of a youth in France thrown in for some Old World/New World contrast. His death comes only at the end, and without much surprise.

This yarn is episodic, and moves from the mid-1800s to the later ones in fits and starts, zig-zags, backs-and-forths, but for all that, has a sense of being at least mildly woven.

It is not a classic narrative that develops and reaches a climax. It is, simply, the life of a man moving among the notable and not so notable of old New Mexico, expending energy in his particular calling, gathering experience and enduring hardship until his own ending, unhappy as it is for us all.

highwayscribery took "Death Comes to the Archbishop" on a recent trip to New Mexico and it served, eighty-something years later, as a marvelous tour guide because the state's history is hammered into (and out of) its landscape and everywhere places or features detailed in Cather's book jump out at you.

Her descriptions of the land are dead-on. Early in the story, LaTour approaches his destination. The reader is with him:

"As the wagons went forward and the sun sank lower, a sweep of red carnelian-coloured hills lying at the foot of the mountains came into view; they curved like two arms about a depression in the plain; and in that depression was Santa Fé, at last! A thin wavering adobe town...green plaza...at one end of a church with two earthen towers that rose high above the flatness. The long main street began at the church, the town seemed to flow fro it like a stream from a spring."

A spring that flowed into the author's heart like manna and unto the bookish and adventurous alike, for decades after.


A Possible Life
A Possible Life
by Sebastian Faulks
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A highwayscribery Book Report, 21 Nov. 2012
This review is from: A Possible Life (Hardcover)
Can you not be sure of what's going on and still like a book?

The packaging of "A Possible Life" hints at something other than a collection of short stories: "A Novel in Five Parts."

After a pleasurable once-through, highwayscribery is not exactly sure what binds these otherwise tasty tales together.

In the fifth and final piece the narrator dwells on what might represent a common thread/unifying principle to the work under scrutiny here.

"I was almost sixty years old, but I didn't understand anything. It all in the end seemed to have been a matter of purest chance. But for a succession of tiny pieces of good fortune, I might never have had a glimpse of Weepah Way [his upstate New York farm], or Anya King [the subject of this tale]. Yet I also new that if any of those bits of luck had fallen out in a different way and I had had another life, it would in some odd way have been the same - my heart existing, as Anya put it, by a different name."

Or not.

Let's see. The first story involves Geoffrey, whose "middle rank" may have been the determining factor in his internment at a Nazi concentration camp. The harrowing portrait of that experience, and the gentler one of the peculiar life in prep school England stand out.

The second story involves Billy, who lives in England during the second half of the 19th century. Poverty might have been the overriding factor to his existence, save for his personal moxy, which sets up the kind of Horatio Alger yarn gobbled up so readily by we Yanks.

Guess our Protestant work ethic came from somewhere.

Here, author Sebastian Faulk's recuperation or remembrance of the workhouse where parents sent children they could not afford to feed and clothe is strong coffee, and will make you feel lucky (if you haven't been in a workhouse yourself).

"Elena" takes place in 2029 and, with the exception of a few "scanners" and some commentary on the rundown nature of an industrial democracy - Italy - fails for the most part as future lit.

It does set up the kind of face-off conjured by Herman Hesse in "Narcissus and Goldmund." Elena is precise, rational and scientific. Bruno emotional and feeling. These two youths struggle to find a common ground that will accommodate their strong mutual attraction.

The fourth story, or "part" as the author proposes it, features Jeanne, an illiterate, rural lumpen proletarian. She lives with a petit bourgeois family in provincial France and Faulks does a nice job of helping us see the world through the eyes of a person whose life is burdened with quite so many disadvantages, eyes lacking the clarity of enlightenment.

The fifth part is the story of Anya as seen through the eyes of a successful musician on the 1970s rock and roll scene. It's a lovely recall of those buzzy fuzzy times and a remembrance of how people then "lived" music as much as they listened to it.

Anya herself is something of a siren, a unique talent, if damaged goods thanks to an unsteady childhood, accessible, but alone as any ship on sweeping sea.

Perhaps these are all lives in which environment provide the ultimate arbiter of life direction.

Or not.

Maybe you can figure it out. To be sure, the writer's clean prose and even-handed story-telling make the challenge worth a shot.


Black Flower
Black Flower
by Young-Ha Kim
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.22

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A highwayscribery Book Report, 22 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Black Flower (Hardcover)
In general, this story has been told before. In particular, author Young-Ha Kim had his reasons for retelling it in "Black Flower."

This is a tale of misbegotten folk who were sold a bill of goods about a rich land where they could elevate their lives, erase their present miseries, and live prosperously.

The author's interest here is in the plight of approximately 1,000 Koreans who fled their crumbling kingdom for Mexico in 1905.

After a harrowing three-month journey in which disease overtakes the boat, they are sold to various hacienda owners in the Yucatan Peninsula and bound to a four-year contract.

The group is dotted with aristocrats, thieves, farmers and anything else Korea was producing at the time. Kim (Young-Ha?) makes threads of certain passengers' stories in varying degrees of detail.

There's a young aristocratic women whose scent of deer roe blood drives the male passengers to distraction, the solitary teenage boy who falls in love with her, a common thief, a disgraced Catholic priest, the last eunuch to serve a Korean imperial court, a reticent shaman, and a slew of former soldiers.

Back-breaking toil for paltry wages spent at the company store, physical abuse, evisceration of their own beliefs by Catholic maniacs, and death for those who escape, are the unfortunate pilgrims' lot.

Young-Ha provides nice historical backdrops both to the simultaneous subjugation of their Korean homeland by Japan (so that they've no place to return to), and the Mexican revolution, which upends the henequen haciendas in which they work and absorbs them in its senseless cycles of murder.

Sent to differing haciendas, theirs is the progress of a mini-diaspora that ultimately extends from San Francisco to Guatemala. Few come out of their contracts with enough money to return home. Some open small shops in Mexican cities. Others marry their indigenous coworkers and begin melting into their new land.

Another band join Mayan revolutionaries in Guatemala and found the nation of New Korea in the tropical jungle. Spoiler alert: It doesn't go well for them.

According to the back cover of "Black Flower," Young-Ha Kim is a popular and respected writer in South Korea. He'd heard the inklings of this story about a boatload of Koreans who disappeared into the Mexican landscape and took on the job of recuperating their memory through this narrative dramatization of their star-crossed plight.

"While I was writing," Kim explains in the epilogue, "I thought of myself as a sort of shaman. The desires of those who had left for a distant place and been completely forgotten came to me like letters in bottles cast into the sea, and I believed that the emigrants directed me to write their stories."

The translation is a straight-ahead, serviceable English stripped of literary device and much poetry. It does not lag, nor get confusing, and successfully imparts an interesting history lesson, a portrait of human cruelty, and cautionary tale for utopian seekers.


Turn It Up!
Turn It Up!

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A highwayscribery Book Review, 20 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Turn It Up! (Kindle Edition)
Thirty-five years ago to the day of this review's posting, Lynyrd Skynyrd lost its leader and three other family members when the band's private plane crashed in a forest outside McComb, Miss.

Ron Eckerman, author of "Turn It Up!" was on that plane, but lived to tell this lively story of what he called, "an extraordinarily talented band of misfits that had managed to define Southern Rock."

This is an era of rock remembrances. Greg Allman and Keith Richard come to mind and one can expect there are more on tap as the hippy generation continues its look back on the old days.

"Roneckerman," as he says the band referred to him ("Roneckerman where's my per diem?"), provides here, not an overarching look at a lifetime, but a recounting of approximately three dizzying years with a legendary touring band.

His being pulled into their orbit had everything to do with Lynyrd Skynyrd's soaring prospects at the start of 1974 as did a 14-year old highwayscribery's jumping on the band's wagon.

Skynyrd was getting big, reaching beyond its southern base, and needed more help, which Ronekerman provided as road manager, in this case a grueling combination of on-the-fly accountant and babysitter to some very bad boys.

"Turn It Up!" is a calendar-like recall of an exhausting whirlwind of tours that took him on plane and bus rides to small gigs on the chitlin' circuit, and stadium shows at which weaker rock rivals were dispatched with a stunning three-guitar attack.

Ronekerman has to maintain receipts for expenses yet honor the boys' requests for cocaine money. He has to watch the players drink themselves into unconsciousness and violence, and then pay for the destruction they wreak.

There are drugs up and down this book and it looks far from attractive in hindsight. But if you were not of age in the early 1970s, it would be difficult to understand the druggy zeitgeist afoot in America at the time.

Narcotics were draped in a glamorous halo and there was no virtue in turning one's nose up at them for moral or health-rooted reasons. That would have been a hassle, man.

The sixties were the time of cultural battle, and the seventies were when some gains from that battle were enjoyed by those of alternative stripe. Add to this the decade's penchant for excess and you get the Lynyrd Skynyrd lifestyle.

And, for highwayscribery's money, it was that lifestyle as unsupervised mad hippies that gave the band its allure, not the redneck brawling they so openly embraced and showcased.

There was a lot of social freedom to the decade and "Turn It Up!" captures the vibe beautifully.

When Skynyrd rolled into the Beacon Theater during the autumn of 1975, the scribe's mom approved not only his attendance, but that of his seven-year old brother. Dad drove us into the city, did the drop-off, and then went to find a drink in the Manhattan neighborhood.

A scandal by today's standards, yet we are all still here.

While out-of-control, the Skynyrds were also sensitive artists kind enough to insist their road employees be paid while the band was not touring.

The author knew the numbers and knew this brew of drug accounts, damage payouts, and rock 'n roll welfare meant the band, hugely popular, must stay on the road to stay afloat.

Roneckerman stayed with them.

His portrait of Van Zant, the band's leader, is the fullest and most complex. Ronnie is an almost grown-up antidote to the juvenile antics of his band brothers and the one who plots the players' course as a collective. Van Zant is the rooster who rules. The high school friend who gained respect the hard way, and continued to do so.

Van Zant could be a vicious drunk, but he is rendered here as highly intuitive, a student of human nature, and manipulator thereon, who took his motley crew to the top of rock.

Roneckerman provides a running account of how all this plays out in his personal life, a subtext that lends real context the story.

The author tries to balance the ageless tension between that desire to roam and be free, and the longing for hearth and home.

He is neither getting rich or famous. He's what they call "below-the-line" on a Hollywood set, a behind the scenes guy. And though he's a happy warrior, it is hard to conclude that the job is something he enjoys.

What he does enjoy is the band and it's night-in-night-out ability to shed the dysfunction backstage and blow their fans away. With significant road miles behind him, Roneckerman knows he is part of something special and sticks it out.

There is no end to the author's claims that, as a warm-up act, Lynyrd Skynyrd was the most merciless in the game, guilty of upstaging the Rolling Stones, ZZ Top, and Peter Frampton to name a few unfortunate headliners sharing the bill with them.

Is the author partial?

Lynyrd Skynyrd was armed with two inspired guitarist in Collins and Gary Rossington, along with a catalogue of finely arranged and crafted songs. The picture of shabby long-haired chaos --"dirtbags" (in the North) and "freaks" (in the south) -- their work was regularly lauded by the most respectable tribunals in rock as boogie that could be elegant and sophisticated.

The band had complete credibility as composers and musicians and, on top of that, they had "Freebird."

At the aforementioned Beacon show (covered in this book), the audience started yelling out that name half-way through the show. New fans, we were familiar with "Second Helping" album, and the newest, "Gimme Back My Bullets," but had never heard "Freebird" from the debut disc.

If drugs were big in the seventies, so was the electric guitar and there wasn't a rock 'n roller around who could resist the cutting assault launched by Collins in the band's masterpiece rave-up.

Again and again, throughout the road-tour-that-wouldn't-end, Roneckerman reports Skynyrd's ability to break down the most resistant audiences when taking off on the wings of "Freebird."

His proof is the band's trajectory, which could only be halted by that plane crash.

"Turn It Up!" follows a straight, never-deviating chronology through the period covered. There is but one nod to poetry here. It is found in the author's memory of the crash, which he breaks up into pieces and applies as chapter openers to sobering effect.

Roneckerman does not want you to ever forget that all the frantic brawling, drinking, road-going, politics, and marvelous music he's going on about are unfolding beneath a merciless and mighty hand of destiny.

The plane ran out of fuel. The band and crew knew for about fifteen minutes they were headed for a crash. Total silence reigns in Eckerman's account as all are prepared, heads down between legs.

One can only imagine what these young people, with so much zest for life, and so much to be hopeful about, were thinking during the slow, engineless descent through the twilight.

Hopelessness," is what Eckerman remembers,"...a gut emotion that can rip your heart apart. If you've never felt it, it's difficult to explain. It's a primordial feeling, an instinct, and it pervades your being far past the 'fight or flight' syndrome that's taught in Psych 101. It's past panic, past any emotion I've ever felt. It's a feeling that can't or shouldn't be thought about, much less experienced. It will grab your mind and twist it until you're incapable of reasoning or thought."

Also lost in the crash were back-up singer Cassie Gaines and her brother, guitarist Steve. Roneckerman's account highlights how much fresh creativity the recent addition had brought to the band and is pat in his characterization of the ill-fated musician as a "genius."

"I think about them every day of my life," he writes, "and will be haunted by this unfortunate incident to my death."

Ron Eckerman can rest assured that "Turn It Up," is an insightful and engaging account of life on the rock 'n roll road, a valuable remembrance of a great American band, and worthy tribute to those who haunt his memories still.


La gaviota (Spanish Edition)
La gaviota (Spanish Edition)
Price: £0.00

3.0 out of 5 stars A highwayscribery Book Report, 12 Sept. 2012
"La Gaviota" es una novela en cual la tierra pesa tanto como los personajes.

Es una novela "andalúza" desde las pies a la cabeza.

Las pies tomen lugar en Villamar, un pueblito Gaditano que perdurece en el olvido.

Su población esta hecho por unas cuantas personajes muy pintorescos y decimonónicas que la autora Fernán Caballero -- nom de plum de la Alemana Cecilia Francisca Josefa Böhl de Faber -- quien pasó buen rato en las tierras moras de la península Iberica.

Llega a este lugar marinera un tal Stein; Aleman que ha venido a luchar en una guerra Española de la decada 1840. Malparado, los buenos y simples del pueblo le devuelven su salud.

Stein se queda en Villamar mientras la autora nos familiaríza con las maneras y charlas de la gente llana y andalúza de aquella epoca. Mientras tanto, Stein se enamora de una rapaza del sitio conocida por los vecinos como "La Gaviota" gracias a su carácter de arrogante y desairada.

Resulta ésta ser gran cantaora quien crece bajo la instrucción de Stein. Acaban casandose. Su madurez y el profundo cariño que Stein guarda para "La Gaviota" hace que se pasan buen y alégre rato en el campo.

Pero un aristócrata de Sevilla la escucha cantar y se enamora de la impertinente joven.

La cabeza de la historia se encuentra en la capital andalúza a donde el conde los lleva a Stein y su esposa. He aquí la novela se centra en las charlas que se desarollan en el salón de una condesa con sus tan-pintorescos-como-los-campesinos amigos de la alta sociedad hispalense.

En Sevilla la cantaora se enrede, como no, con un torero, cosa que la puede venir bien o mal, pero eso no se cuenta aquí.

"La Gaviota" es entrañable aunque lento a veces. La autora pasa much tiempo dejando sus personajes desplegar las ideas, dichos, y noticias de la epoca mientras la trama se desarolla con menos energía que la palabrarería empleado en los largos intercambios de ideas, noticias, insultas, cotilleo etc.

Tiene, o relata, Caballero un gran sentido de humor demostrado através de las bocas de sus tertuliantes.

Es decir que las piezas de "La Gaviota" valen mas que la enteridad pero, aun asi, merece la pena leerlo sobre todo para conocer las ideas y maneras de ser en tiempos y lugares lejanos pero no carecientes de interés.

De mérito especial son los tremendos retratos que hace Caballero de unas corridas de toros en tiempos cuando los caballos de los picadores se morían a rachas y la sangre y tortura excedían lo que se presencia en el espectaculo moderno.


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4.0 out of 5 stars A highwayscribery Book Report, 9 Aug. 2012
Things do happen in places where things never happen.

If history unfolds in the metropolis, the circle of life - birth, growth, death, and birth again - is magnified in the province.

"Juliet in August," follows a few denizens of a homonymous western Canadian town for approximately two day's time.

The characters play out different personal dramas (emphasize dramas) related to the more incremental stops along that circle of life: the confused adolescent, the indebted family farmer, the cafe proprietor and her fading charms, the balding bank officer, the pregnant teen.

The author, Dianne Warren, chooses to run these dramas along separate rails, essentially laying out a handful of stories, breaking them up, and then interspersing those parts.

You spend a little time with Lee Torgeson on his desert trek, you jump to Willard at the drive-in, and then to Shiloh in his new basement room.

These are working folks and westerns folks, and Warren's prose reflects their idioms.

"Juliet in August" strikes a nice balance between showing and explaining, alternating lively, regionally tinged dialogue with concise introspection. The author's ear for the language of long-term matrimony is certain.

It's a grim with that silver-lining-of-hope kind of story. The humanity of these small and anonymous people out in the desert of Saskatchewan renders them universal. We can relate. We dream of escape, too.

There is no big bang here, no classic denouement once events have transpired. Perhaps a vague peak toward the end that closes the narrative somewhat.

There is no neat and tidy resolution to some of the problems the characters confront, only the lessons they impart. They have only tomorrow to look forward to and the next phase in their own circumnavigation.


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