Not The Target Market

Not Today’s Bestseller List

All the Dogs of My Life (And Other Matters)

I would like, to begin with, to say that though parents, husbands, children, lovers and friends are all very well, they are not dogs.  In my day and turn having been each of the above, — except that instead of husbands I was wives, — I know what I am talking about, and am well acquainted with the ups and downs, the daily ups and downs, the sometimes almost hourly ones in the thin-skinned, which seem inevitably to accompany human loves.

Dogs are free from these fluctuations.  Once they love, they love steadily, unchangingly, till their last breath.

That is how I like to be loved.

Therefore I will write of dogs. (more…)

The Shadow of His Wings

It is supposed to be the story of a priestly vocation, but the book The Shadow of His Wings, by Fr. Gereon Goldman reads more like an action thriller.  Done right, it would make a fabulous movie – the kind of Mission Impossible movie where every five minutes it seems the hero is done for – but, instead the plot twists and the hero finds himself in yet another incredible situation – the kind of situation where, if these Mission Impossible heroes were Christians, they would be praying the Hail Mary as fast as they could. (more…)

Anne of Green Gables

It is Lent and the only book I’ve been reading is the diary of St. Faustina.  Still, I don’t want to neglect my book posts and leave the impression that after that spate of reviews on taking to the Maine wilderness (which doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all given the present circumstances), I had nothing left.  Far from it.  But the books I have earmarked all need re-reading and I’m focused on other things at the moment.

There is, however, a book post I’ve been wanting to write which doesn’t involve any re-reading. I want to comment on one line from Anne of Green Gables. This line leapt out at me when, about a year ago, and probably for the first time as an adult, I re-read the Anne canon. (more…)

My Life in the Maine Woods

Annette Jackson’s writing in My Life in the Maine Woods – A Game Warden’s Wife in the Allagash Country is a bit formal and correct, but the book is absolutely worth a read because while Annette may not be a natural-born writer, she is a perfect, natural-born game warden’s wife.  She tells her stories simply and honestly, and throughout, it is obvious she is crazy in love with both her husband and the Maine woods. (more…)

Nine Mile Bridge

Helen Hamlin’s storytelling in Nine Mile Bridge is almost as breezy as Louise Dickinson Rich’s tales in We Took to the Woods.  Helen came from a family of game wardens and grew up bi-lingual in French and English in Fort Kent, Maine (at the very top of the state).  After attending a teachers’ college, she requested a rural, back-woods school and got it in the logging camp on Churchill Lake.  Because there were very few roads through northern Maine in 1938, her family drove her on a round about trip of 400 miles into Canada and then through Quebec and then back across the U.S. border at Lac Frontiere.  (If there had been a direct route, the trip would have been under 100 miles.)  As they crossed back into the U.S., the U.S. customs official informed Helen’s family that the logging camp at Churchill Lake is no place for a woman. (more…)

We Took to the Woods

In We Took to the Woods, Louise Dickinson Rich, lets us in on her life in the Rangeley area of Maine during the years 1933 – 1942.  Louise is the quintessential outsider turned insider, and she writes for all the rest of us outsiders by answering a series of questions laid out in the chapter titles such as “But How Do You Make a Living?”, “Isn’t Housekeeping Difficult?”, “Don’t You Ever Get Bored?” or “Don’t You Get Awfully Out of Touch?”  Her style is breezy and fairly informal, as if she is giving a talk rather than writing a book.  She sees the humorous side to most things and presents it with a dry, understated voice.  If you don’t actually laugh out loud, you will definitely smile and nod as she takes us deep inside daily life in “The Woods.” (more…)

Three About Maine

I would probably be rubbish in the way back beyond the beyond.  I have all I can to do to keep up with the laundry with an electric washer/dryer; I will do just about anything to cram all the dishes in the dishwasher; I am not all that fond of wild game meat, and I can’t for the life of me make a once-and-for-all grocery list that keeps me from going back to the store ten times in four days.  My thoughts on using an outhouse are unmentionable. (more…)

Aunt Jane of Kentucky by Eliza Calvert Hall

Aunt Jane of Kentucky by Eliza Calvert Hall, published in 1907, is the second book in this Not the Bestseller List series.

Aunt Jane of Kentucky is a collection of nine short stories in which a young, unnamed visitor describes her visits with Aunt Jane, an elderly widow.  During each visit Aunt Jane reminisces about family, friends and times past.  I would guess the visits happen about 1890, with Aunt Jane’s stories taking place in perhaps the 1840s and 1850s. (more…)

The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov

Ukraine has been much in the news recently; so, I thought I would be as trendy as I know how in this first Not Today’s Bestseller List and pick a novel that’s set there:  The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov.  In order to explain what this violent and at times disturbing book is doing on my shelf, I have to give a little background.

About 25 years ago I decided I would write a novel that took place in Ukraine.  I ended up writing two and they were both very bad, as first novels usually are.  For one thing, I really knew nothing about the physical landscape of the areas I was writing about (Ukraine and St. Petersburg Russia) and so had to do my best from reading other accounts.  Another reason was that I had no knowledge of Ukrainian and my Russian was extremely basic, so that limited my research to only books that had been translated and were available through inter-library loan (this was in the days before the internet.)  A third reason was that I was going to have to include quite a lot of evil in the stories and I am no good with evil.  I hate reading about it, especially when it is glorified, as it was during the time I proposed to set my story, and I certainly couldn’t do justice to it in my writing.  So, in the end, I produced two very bad novels. (more…)

Not Today’s Bestseller List

A severely edited book collection

Something I’ve been wondering about:   What if I promise to write a (weekly) series here on books.  Will this promise poke and prod me to post more to avoid embarrassment?  I honestly don’t know the answer to this.  I’m pretty good at ignoring what seems like a lot of work.  I vividly remember being appalled in freshmen college lit at the 3 essays a week requirement.  I couldn’t imagine anyone once free of that lit class requirement, actually signing up for something that required even a single weekly essay – like, say, a priest with a Sunday homily. (more…)