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07/08/2024
profile-icon Dr. Brittnee Fisher

The icing on the cake of this fantastic book is the acknowledgments section at the end. In this portion of the book, LaValle recounts how his story came to be. Like me, he buys books about local histories during his trips. While visiting the University of Montana in Missoula, he picked up a copy of Dr. Sarah Carter’s work Montana Women Homesteaders: A Field of One’s OwnDiscovering that there had been lone women homesteaders, free of husbands who were not necessarily white, blew his mind. His subsequent obsession with learning more inspired the fictional tale of the Lone Women homesteaders in his book. We love a story inspired by actual history…especially one that is little known! 

Technically, this is a horror story. And before you ask, yes, there is some gore. But tell me why I found myself tearing up at the end. Feeling feelings ranging from rage to hope. Sadness to joy. Fear to awe.  This is honestly one of the most subtly brilliant books I’ve read. And darn this man for writing an empathetic tale about the female experience. This was just a good book. Read it!

I wasn’t sure I’d like it when I started this one. It’s told from the perspective of a seven-year-old girl named Elsa. As you can imagine, she’s an advanced child for her age, which isn’t helping her connect socially with her peers at school. Her best friend is her kooky grandmother, who tells her vivid fairytales in a secret language that they only share. Unfortunately for Elsa, her grandmother dies at the beginning of this story. Through a series of apology letters, Elsa’s grandmother reveals the truth behind the fictional stories and introduces Elsa to a new reality. Have the tissues ready for this one. 

This was a pleasant surprise. I picked it up because I’ve been gravitating toward horror a lot lately. I can get really lost in a good horror book- I find them highly entertaining. This book was a bit more complex than the “good old-fashioned ghost story” I was expecting. I’d describe this as a fable about addiction and grief told through a thrilling ghost story. It was unexpected, and I couldn’t predict many of the twists and turns throughout the book, which was nice. I did find all the characters unlikeable, but that ends up playing into the plot. So, stick with it until the end to find out why! 

I’ve been interested in John Dillinger for as long as I can remember. The hit movie Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp, gave his lore a resurgence in popular culture around 2009 when it was released. He was again in the news in 2019 when his niece and nephew planned to exhume his body, citing evidence that they may have killed the wrong man in Chicago back in 1934. 

I recognize that Dillinger’s actions were wrong, but he was charismatic! While the movie takes some artistic liberties with his love life and lore, the book confirms that Dillinger was well-loved and admired throughout his “career” in crime. 

If you are interested in true crime, bank robbery, or the likes of “Bonnie & Clyde”, “Machine Gun Kelly”, or “Baby Face Nelson” then you’ll love this read! 

Recently, a few people recommended Barbara Kingsolver's books to me. I’ve never read her, but I figured it was time- the universe sometimes decides where my reading will go next! After reviewing a few of her book descriptions, I decided on her book Animal Dreams over some of her more popular titles, such as The Poisonwood Bible and Demon Copperhead. I was drawn to this title because I love a “woman finally finds herself” story, and the Goodreads reviews supported this notion. 

Upon completion, I think this story was good. Kingsolver uses flashbacks, dreams, legends, and the characters’ current narratives to build something beautiful. Her description of the natural beauty of Arizona made me want to catch a flight there soon. 

I will be reading more books by this author. I’ll probably pick up another title by Kingsolver to get lost in on a beautiful Florida beach day. 

This is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand women’s health better. I certainly wish I had a copy of this book starting around age 12 to carry with me through life. You could read this cover to cover or use it like a reference book. It’s full of helpful health (not “wellness”) tips and great recipe ideas! 

No Subjects
07/03/2024
profile-icon Andrew Macfarlane---SJR State College

Good afternoon everyone, everyone good afternoon!

The book I have chosen to discuss this week means a lot to me. Whenever anyone asks me about a book that impacted my thinking, this book is my answer. Please enjoy my brief description, and if you decide to read this book, you will be rewarded with quite a story.

"Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn is a philosophical novel that explores the relationship between humans and the natural world through a unique narrative framework. The story centers on a disillusioned narrator who responds to an ad from a teacher seeking a pupil interested in saving the world. This leads him to Ishmael, a telepathic gorilla who becomes his mentor. (I know that is a bit of a stretch, but rewarding if you can stay with it!)

Ishmael divides human societies into two categories: the "Takers" and the "Leavers." The Takers represent modern, industrialized societies that exploit the environment, while the Leavers are traditional societies that live in harmony with nature. Through their dialogues, Ishmael challenges the narrator to reconsider the common assumptions about civilization, progress, and human destiny.

A central theme is the Takers' cultural mythology, which began with the Agricultural Revolution. This mythology promotes the idea that humans are the pinnacle of evolution and have the right to dominate the earth. Ishmael argues that this mindset leads to environmental destruction and the potential collapse of human civilization.

Ishmael also introduces the concept of "Mother Culture," an invisible force shaping beliefs and behaviors within Taker society. This narrative perpetuates the false notion that human well-being is separate from the well-being of the planet. Ishmael highlights the interconnectedness of all life and the need for a new cultural mythology that respects the natural world. Ishmael also delves into how organized religion has played a role in our culture.

Ultimately, "Ishmael" challenges readers to question their cultural assumptions and consider the ethical implications of their relationship with the environment. The novel advocates for sustainable, ecological principles and a rejection of exploitative practices, encouraging a deeper reflection on humanity's place in the world and the choices shaping our future.

 

IshmaelIshmael by Daniel Quinn; D. Quinn; BookSource Staff (Compiled by)

ISBN: 9780613080934
Publication Date: 1995-05-01

 

 

 

 

06/24/2024
profile-icon Randi Gibson

This week we have another amazing recommendation from our friendly SAC librarian Victoria. At this point, if she tells me to read something, I’m just going to read it! She hasn’t led me astray yet… even though I despised The Magicians, but we don’t have to talk about that. This time she introduced me to a book that has easily become one of my top ten. So, to Victoria, I say you had me at the title, and the story didn’t disappoint. I love books about books, bookshops, book merchants, researchers, and libraries. Books are at the heart of this story, but it is so much more.

 

I found The Lost Bookshop to be utterly magical and absorbing, despite it being a multiple timeline novel. Each chapter is told in the first person in turn by Opaline beginning in 1920s Dublin, Martha in the recent past and that of Henry her recent acquaintance. Normally, I despise multi-perspective books, I would find myself rushing through chapters because I had grown bored of reading a certain character’s perspective. This book handled that trope with such grace that I found myself actually enjoying each character’s unique insight to their experiences. 

 

Opaline is running from her family and tyrannical brother, who is forcing her to marry. She runs abroad to Paris and, using her genuine love and knowledge of books, gets a job at the bookshop Shakespeare and Company (which I was told by our resident Writing Coordinator, Brenda, is a real place). Unfortunately, she ends up having to run again and finds herself in Dublin where she rents an old curiosity shop. Adding her own flair to the shop, she sets herself up as a successful bookseller. All the while trying to hide her identity and constantly having to look over her shoulder. 

 

Meanwhile, Martha is running from a violent husband. She finds herself a job as a housemaid to a strange old woman in a large Georgian House, ideal for hiding from her problems. It is from the window of her small bedroom that we meet Henry, a slightly obsessive academic. He is convinced that a bookshop should be on the site of the house Martha is living and working in. The only proof he has of the book shop is a letter from a rare book collector to the owner of the shop, Miss Opaline Gray, to prove it once existed. But it wouldn’t be called The Lost Bookshop if it was easy to find. 

 

I feel compelled to warn any interested readers that while this book has a wonderful ending, it’s also beautifully sad. There are very few wins for our protagonists, each time you think “Ah, this character finally has a happy aspect in their life” it is quickly ripped away. Never have I read a book that was so constantly tragic, and at the same time always left a sense of hope for the characters. I honestly don’t want to spoil the book any further, but I feel like one character never got the justice they deserved. Sure, they had a happy ending, but it feels like the cost of their journey offset anything positive. 

 

This frustrated me to no end until I had the sad realization that life is sometimes like that, and the beauty of their story lies in their ability to find meaning and purpose despite their suffering. I suppose that’s what the author was trying to explore: the themes of justice and resolution in a nuanced way. The notion that life’s hardships can offset positive outcomes speaks to a realistic portrayal of human experience. The lack of full justice for the character reflects the idea that not all struggles are adequately compensated, and not all stories have perfectly balanced resolutions.

 

I completely lost myself reading the book. The compelling stories covering addiction, violence, war, grief, and other topics as they touched the lives of the three characters. All the while the mysterious bookshop and the promise of finding a long-lost manuscript haunts the pages of each of their stories. Despite the taint of sadness that is woven throughout the book, so too is a hint of magic. This is a powerful and enriching imaginative story that had me glued to its pages, wrapped in the arms of its glorious prose. A must-read for the heart that likes to step beyond boundaries.

The Lost BookshopThe Lost Bookshop by Evie Woods

ISBN: 9780008609214
Publication Date: 2023-06-22
The Echo of Old Books meets The Lost Apothecary in this evocative and charming novel full of mystery and secrets. 'The thing about books,' she said 'is that they help you to imagine a life bigger and better than you could ever dream of.' On a quiet street in Dublin, a lost bookshop is waiting to be found... For too long, Opaline, Martha and Henry have been the side characters in their own lives. But when a vanishing bookshop casts its spell, these three unsuspecting strangers will discover that their own stories are every bit as extraordinary as the ones found in the pages of their beloved books. And by unlocking the secrets of the shelves, they find themselves transported to a world of wonder... where nothing is as it seems. 
No Subjects
06/10/2024
profile-icon Victoria Slaughter

The Haunting of Danielle series has been my literary companion for quite some time now. With 33 of the 34 currently published books sitting triumphantly on my read list, it’s safe to say I’ve spent many enchanting hours immersed in the ghostly charm of Marlow House and the idyllic town of Frederickport. This series, written by Bobbi Holmes, has provided an escape into a world where the past and present intertwine in the most delightful ways. 

The Setting

Frederickport, the charming coastal town where the series is set, is more than just a backdrop; it’s a character in its own right. From the very first book, I was drawn to its picturesque streets, quaint shops, and the ever-mysterious Marlow House. Holmes does an exceptional job of painting a vivid picture of this Pacific Northwest town, where history seems to whisper from every corner. What makes Frederickport truly special is its rich history, seamlessly woven into the fabric of the present. The town’s past is not just a distant memory but a living, breathing part of everyday life. Ghosts from different eras interact, or at least try to interact with the living, bringing the town’s history to life.

The Very Slow Burn of Romance

At the heart of The Haunting of Danielle series is the beautifully crafted slow-burn romance between Danielle Boatman and Walt Marlow. Their relationship, which evolves over the course of the series, is a masterclass in romantic tension and emotional growth. Unlike many romances that rush to the finish line, Danielle and Walt’s love story is a journey, filled with obstacles (such as murder and pesky ghosts), misunderstandings (like who killed Walt or the many other ghosts in town), and moments of pure, heartwarming connection.

What I appreciate most about their romance is its authenticity. Danielle, a modern-day woman running a B&B, and Walt, a ghost from the Prohibition era, have a relationship that feels genuine and relatable despite its supernatural elements. Their love grows naturally out of friendship and mutual respect—taking more than 16 books to go from friends to more, making every step of their journey deeply satisfying and thrilling.

The Best of Friends

Another aspect of the series that I adore is the close-knit community of friends who all live on the same street. This sense of camaraderie and neighborly support adds a layer of warmth and charm to the story. The residents of Marlow House and its surrounding homes are not just characters in a book; they feel like friends and family. Their interactions, whether solving mysteries, dealing with personal issues, or simply enjoying each other’s company, create a sense of belonging and community that is both comforting and inspiring.

The World Worth Visiting

As I look back on the 33 books I’ve read, I can’t help but feel a sense of anticipation for the 34th installment. The Haunting of Danielle series has become more than just a collection of stories for me—it is a world I look forward to revisiting. Each book is a new chapter in the lives of characters I’ve come to love, set in a town that feels like a second home.

Bobbi Holmes has created a series that is not only entertaining but also deeply engaging, with its rich setting, authentic romance, and memorable characters. Whether you’re a fan of ghost stories, slow-burn romances, or simply love a good mystery, The Haunting of Danielle series offers something for everyone. Here’s to the magic of Frederickport and the many more stories yet to be told.

 

 

The Ghost of Marlow House by Bobbi Holmes

  • ISBN: 978-1515224693
  • Publication Date: October 19, 2015

When Danielle Boatman inherits Marlow House, she dreams of turning it into a seaside bed and breakfast. Since she's never visited the property, Danielle's not sure what awaits her in Oregon. She certainly doesn't expect to find one of the house's previous owners still in residence. After all, the man has been dead for almost ninety years--shouldn't he have moved on by now? Charming Walt Marlow convinces Danielle the only way he can move on is if she solves the mystery of his death. Danielle soon discovers her real problems may come from the living--those who have their sights on Marlow House's other secrets.

 

No Subjects
06/03/2024
profile-icon Kayla Cook

Developing an interest in the Franklin Expedition has opened my eyes to whole genres and sub-genres of literature I didn’t even know existed. One of the most fascinating of these, and certainly the most entertaining, has been the emerging sub-genre of romance specifically about members of the Franklin Expedition. 

Real-person fiction (RPF) has existed in public knowledge since at least the late medieval and early modern eras, if not earlier. In the early 14th century, Dante Alighieri wrote about meeting many well-known classical and contemporary figures in The Divine Comedy. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, William Shakespeare, too, wrote a great deal about real people, mainly members of the royal family. But it wasn’t until the 1960s that RPF really began to expand and gain traction. This occurred alongside the increasing popularity of traditional fictional-character fanfiction and the development of what we know today as modern fan culture. This is something we have fans of the original Star Trek series, many of whom were housewives and stay-at-home mothers, to thank for (LLAP, ladies <3). 

Skipping ahead to the 1980s, the Franklin Expedition, which had been a subject of interest for some time in the UK and Canada, became more widely known when forensic anthropologist Owen Beattie excavated the Franklin-era Beechey Island graves of John Hartnell, John Torrington, and William Braine and found their bodies incredibly well-preserved. He completed the autopsies begun shortly after their deaths in 1846 by Harry Goodsir (mentioning him now as he’ll be important later...), the assistant surgeon on the HMS Erebus, the lead ship of the Franklin Expedition. With modern scientific knowledge, Beattie was able to determine that many of Franklin’s men likely died of overexposure to lead from their food, which was contaminated in production and worsened over time, and from various vitamin and heavy metal deficiencies due to their inadequate diet, things which would not have been understood at the time of their demise. 

Beattie's account of the gravesite excavation and the autopsies he performed were also incredibly detailed and lovingly described in his book Frozen in Time (first published in 1987 and reissued several times since then). Beattie’s descriptions of the Beechey Island “ice mummies,” as they are now widely known, and particularly the body of 19-year-old stoker John Torrington, went on to inspire Margaret Atwood to write her short story “The Age of Lead,” about a woman who had been in love with a man who died of a mysterious illness and now finds herself reliving her time with him while watching Beattie excavate Torrington’s grave on a TV documentary. 

Atwood’s short story might not technically be RPF, but it was a masterful opening to what would become a long line of romantic and borderline-romantic fiction about the Franklin Expedition, the most well-known of which is probably Dan Simmons’s 2007 novel The Terror. This book largely focuses on Captain Francis Crozier, the captain of the HMS Terror, the expedition’s second ship. After the death of Sir John Franklin, Simmons’s Crozier is tasked with leading the expedition and leading his men through the Arctic all while battling not only the elements and their own failing wits, but a bearlike creature called the Tuunbaq, which has been killing men off one by one. 

In 2018, AMC released a limited series of ten episodes inspired by Simmons’s book. The series is certainly more palatable than the book was, and (in my opinion) much better. The showrunners made the characters more likable, while still making their prejudices and biases abundantly clear, and they were given greater emotional depth, something which Simmons is not very good at doing as an author. 

The AMC series introduced the world of The Terror and the history of the Franklin Expedition to a wider audience, and its rich characterization of key players created a strong jumping-off point for RPF and plain old fictional-character fanfiction authors alike (I would argue that both are applicable to varying degrees as many of these fan works exist in a weird gray zone between being based on the fictionalized version of the character as presented in both versions of The Terror and based on historical research into the lives of the actual men). There is a strong Terror fandom, for instance, on Tumblr, and as of the morning of May 30, when I am writing this post, there are 6,807 works based on the AMC series on the fanfiction website Archive of Our Own (AO3). 

There are also two romance novels about members of the Franklin Expedition which were inspired by AMC’s The Terror, and I suspect—or rather, I hope—there are more to come. 

These books are unique from one another. They are about two different characters and set in two very different universes. But they also share a few similarities, including the existence of time travel, bringing one singular guy from the expedition to the 2020s and leaving the rest to die as they historically did, and these guys somehow not dying of some modern illness they’ve never been exposed to or infecting someone else with some formerly eradicated 19th century illness upon arrival. 

The first piece of Terror-fanfiction-cum-RPF-romance to be published following the release of AMC’s The Terror was Jennifer Reinfried’s In Eternity. This book centers around a former rock guitarist with a master’s degree in history named Annie Ross (seemingly named after the wife of Sir James Ross, a Royal Navy officer who led a rescue mission to find Franklin’s men, only to discover they had all died before his arrival) whose world has been destroyed by demonic wraiths that destroy everything in their path, and which have seemingly killed every other living thing—plant, animal, person, and even bacterium—on the planet. 

Annie and her friends survive the apocalypse by hiding in an underground government bunker where her friends’ mother used to work, and there they find a room filled with books on the Franklin Expedition, including a diary written by assistant surgeon Harry Goodsir, and a time machine. Annie becomes convinced that Harry has supernatural powers and that he may be able to help them save the world, so she talks her friends into going back to 1848 to rescue him and bring him to 2020. 

Reinfried’s book is clearly derivative of The Terror, following many of the same plot lines but with a few different characters (She can’t copy absolutely everything! There is a big reveal at the end of The Terror, which definitely would have counted as plagiarism if she’d copied it, even if she got away with copying nearly everything else). Her Goodsir is also obviously based on the character as played by British actor Paul Ready in both characterization and appearance, with a Scottish accent tacked on because the historical Goodsir was Scottish, despite his portrayal as an upper-middle class Englishman in The Terror. 

In Eternity was a somewhat annoying read because of how blatantly it was based on The Terror. Not only that, so much of the plot didn’t make sense, the sci-fi was disappointingly sci-less, the main character’s lack of knowledge of history and music were frustrating to me as someone who knows both history and music well, and the villain was unfortunately kind of laughable. This book could have been an AO3 fanfiction. Nevertheless, I did finish reading it rather quickly, and if Reinfried ever publishes the rest of the series, I will probably read the other books as well. 

Earlier this month, a second Franklin Expedition- and Terror-inspired sci-fi romance novel was published, titled The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley. This book, unlike Reinfried’s self-published In Eternity, was published by a well-known publishing house, Avid Reader Press, which is an imprint of Simon and Schuster. 

Bradley’s book is written in a way that reads almost like an anonymous confession or a tell-all memoir about a corrupt government agency by one of its former lower-level officials. Known only as “the bridge,” and identified as a former government translator of Cambodian descent, the narrator of this novel is assigned by her superiors to help assimilate a 19th century man to our modern world. That man is Graham Gore, First Lieutenant of the HMS Erebus, who was rescued shortly before his death in 1847. 

And, of course, things get, uhh, interesting, rather quickly between Gore and the bridge. She notes on their first meeting that they are instantly attracted to one another, which she seems to recognize as inappropriate. Nevertheless, she proceeds with the job, and proceeds to engage in a number of inappropriate or unapproved behaviors with him, including smoking, drinking, recreational drug use, and, yes, eventually sex, all while painting a very clear picture of an unsavory power imbalance between the two of them as she is the holder of the information he needs in order to succeed in assimilating into modern society, and she has been tasked with protecting and teaching him what behaviors are acceptable. However, I would argue that this was all deliberately done by Bradley as the book is also an ambitious commentary on imperialism. 

Though Bradley's goals aren’t always met as effectively as they could be, what she presented was deeply engaging and thought-provoking, and I’m hoping that the BBC television adaptation of the book, which has already been announced, will be able to realize her goals in the same way the AMC adaptation of The Terror helped to clarify and refocus Dan Simmons’s story. 

I also hope, as I have already said, that this is just the beginning of what will be a whole new subgenre of romance, historical and science fiction, and modern literature as a whole because these books are so fascinating to me. I could probably read 129 Franklin Expedition RPF sci-fi romance novels and never get tired of them. 

No Subjects
05/23/2024
profile-icon Brenda Hoffman

 

The first time I heard Gary Gulman’s stand-up was on Spotify, and his bit “Undone by a Semicolon” grabbed me: I wish I knew there was going to be this much typing! He regrets horsing around in typing class because his whole life is the computer. Appearing on countless late night talk shows, he recalls the “harrowing” tale of how the states came to be abbreviated with two letters. Who does that? Listen to Gary Gulman States' Abbreviations Bit to appreciate Gulman’s wit, command of language, and ability to turn a phrase that rivals another wordsmith and Pulitzer Prize winner, David Foster Wallace. Gulamn is in DFW’s league. He’s that good.

Randi’s (Gibson) new book suggestions brought me to Gulman’s memoir misfit. Praise for the book that chronicles his life from first grade through twelfth grade—with a page or two inserted between grades chronicling his years-long struggle with crippling depression provide context for his awkwardness, quirkiness and humor—is heaped on the funny man from comedy greats themselves including Amy Schumer, Judd Apatow, Seth Meyers and This American Life host Ira Glass, who said of Gulman's memoir, “[misfit] is about how a soft, football-hating kid like him ended up playing the sport—and tells lots of stories, too…he really was a little boy destined to become a comic.”

In the 80s, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” was an early reality TV show featuring windbag Robin Leach sucking up to rich people who showed off their lavish (read: gaudy) homes. Gary parodied that show narrating descriptions of his own home (he wasn’t rich, and he detailed the amount of stuff in his house that his mom lifted from various jobs) called “Lifestyles of the Broke and Hopeless.” His narration is funny and clever: “Let’s visit the bathroom, where this bar of soap is actually a sliver of Dial [soap] fused to a bar of Ivoryyyyyy. This bottle of Prell’s life has also been extended through an infusion of shower water. It’s now certain to last these losers another ten shampoooooos.” The cassette tape of that parody went viral at his school way before the virality of YouTube and Tik-Tok encouraging the stand-up hopeful to make people laugh. But it was first grade where he made his first joke that cracked up the class—and the teacher. During story time Mrs. Burns asks: “What is a chick?” The smartest girl in the class, Lori-Ann McGloughin, answers: “It is a baby chicken.” Future joke writer Gulman pipes up, too: “Or a girl!” Everybody laughed, including the teacher. Gary decided then that he would spend the rest of his life “chasing that high!” And I’m amazed at his memory! He remembers all his teachers’ names, random classmates, and people that he hasn’t seen since age five.

But he was not a happy-go-lucky kid. Suffering from undiagnosed depression, he acted out and struggled to make friends. He loved basketball and played for hours at the end of his driveway. He began eighth grade with two ambitions:

  1. Make the basketball team.
  2. Don’t get murdered.

He succeeded, but playing on a team proved problematic and escaping classroom and schoolyard bullies was a daily thing. During practice, scoring baskets was easy but come game time and Gary choked. A bully, whose name he doesn’t reveal for fear of retaliation even some 40 years later, warned he would “kill him,” so Gary never walked alone in school and took varied routes home from school, but eventually he took the beating, and to this day he has no idea why the kid was after him. Of growing up in the 80s, he quips, “One way to look at my childhood is to think of Charlie Brown…if Snoopy had died.” His signature sad sack story that ends with a punch. He amuses audiences with his HBO special “The Great Depresh,” and while relating his struggles he’s at once dark and funny, “I look at the sunset and think: Yeah, you gave up, too.” And dryly reports that “eating ice cream with a fork is an unofficial symptom of depression.” His clever syntax reminds me of the genius filmmaker Charlie Chaplin who said: “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” To wit, Gulman’s suffering was tragic, but with time, perspective, therapy, and medication, he’s found a way to laugh through it. And talking about depression openly and reaching thousands of people is way more helpful than hiding from the mental illness that a quick Google search reveals affects around 280 million people worldwide.

Listening to and watching Gulman’s stand-up isn’t a prerequisite for reading this wonderfully-remembered, hilarious, and candid memoir, but it does remind the reader that he recovers from his depression, as well as the hell of school where his father insisted on holding him back in first grade because “he’s not mature enough to move on.” misfit is a quick read, especially if you were a kid in the 70s/80s because his minutiae-like recall of Ralph Lauren, IOU, and Air Jordans will have you pining for the good ol’ days, even if for Gulman they weren’t so good.

Watch his CBS Saturday Morning Interview "Misfit", and I dare you not to wanna pick up his memoir that talk show host, Seth Meyers claims of Gulman, “Gary is thoughtful and funny in a way few others are.”

Thanks to Randi at SAC who sent me a text announcing Gulman’s stand up tour, Scott (my husband) and I will experience Gulman’s live show at the Terry Theatre in Jacksonville on Friday, September 20, 2024! Interested?

Get tickets here: https://www.axs.com/events/560591/gary-gulman-tickets

Cover ArtMisfit by Gary Gulman

ISBN: 9781250777065
Publication Date: 2023-09-19
 
 
 
 
"One of my favorite books of all time." Amy Schumer 
A tour de force of comedy and reflection about the perilous journey from kindergarten to twelfth grade and beyondâe*from the beloved stand-up comic and creator of The Great Depresh For years, Gary Gulman had been the comedian's comedian, acclaimed for his delight in language and his bracing honesty. But after two stints in a psych ward, he found himself back in his mother's house in Boston--living in his childhood bedroom at age forty-six, as he struggled to regain his mental health. That's where Misfit begins. Then it goes way back. This is no ordinary book about growing older and growing up. Gulman has an astonishing memory and takes the reader through every year of his childhood education, with obsessively detailed stories that are in turn alarming and riotously funny. We meet Gulman's family, neighbors, teachers, heroes, and antagonists, and get to know the young comedian-in-the-making who is his own worstâe*and most persistentâe*enemy. From failing to impress at grade school show-and-tell to literally fumbling at his first big football gameâe*in settings that take us all the way from the local playground to the local mall, from Hebrew School to his best (and only) friend's rec room, young Gary becomes a stand-in for everyone who grew up wondering if they would ever truly fit in. And that's not all: the book is also chock-full of '80s nostalgia (Scented Markers, indifference to sunscreen, mall culture). Misfit is a book that only Gary Gulman could have written: a brilliant, witty, poignant, laugh-until-your-face-hurts memoir that speaks directly to the awkward child in us all.
No Subjects
05/20/2024
profile-icon Dr. Brittnee Fisher

Have you ever read a book that you hated and loved at the same time? I finished A Little Life and I can’t stop thinking that it was the best book I’ve read in a very long time, but I also have the urge to throw it against a wall. How do you recommend a book to others that made you want to cry repeatedly? How do you tell people to read something that will make them contemplate their existence and the true impact of their lives on the lives of others? You can’t. This is just me telling you about the book. The decision to read it is entirely your own.

You shouldn’t feel sorry for me about the big feelings I’m having about this story. It’s my own fault. I should have learned my lesson already about books from BookTok after the whole Haunting Adeline debacle, but I didn’t. I watched a video of a woman being filmed while reading A Little Life. She was so emotional. Her reading of this book looked like an experience. I was intrigued. Before starting the book, I asked at a recent book club meeting if anyone had read it. It was no’s all around. Yet one participant said she’d heard the book referred to as “trauma porn”. That should have served as a warning and not an enticement. Yet here I am.

And even with all the compiled trauma, I still found myself invested in the story and falling in love with the unfortunate characters. It’s hard to describe why the book is so endearing without spoiling the story, but love is at the core of it all. The strength of this book is how it leads you through the many different forms love can take. And in just the same way, it drags you through the adverse experiences of sadness, despair, and anger. This book does something that not many books can do. It makes you feel. It’s not always pleasant, but it sticks with you in a way that is rare.

I don’t regret A Little Life. It will take time for me to process the entirety of the story and my true feelings about it. I’m anticipating that, eventually, I’ll recover enough to find the courage to watch the film adaptation of the stage play. And then I can traumatize myself all over again. (Please send help).

 

Cover ArtA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Call Number: Orange Park Popular Fiction ; PS3625.A674 L58 2015
ISBN: 9780385539258
Publication Date: 2015-03-10
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST SHORT-LISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light. Truly an amazement--and a great gift for its readers.   When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring act∨ JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he'll not only be unable to overcome--but that will define his life forever.   In rich and resplendent prose, Yanagihara has fashioned a tragic and transcendent hymn to brotherly love, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.

No Subjects
05/13/2024
profile-icon Kayla Cook

Kelsey Rodgers is a student on the Palatka campus and a regular attendee of the Book Club. She writes poetry and has an interest in novel- and screen-writing. Kelsey made her debut as a guest blogger in early April. This is her second post on the Book Blog.


Poetry has brought an abundance of comfort to me as a writer. Sometimes I like to revisit old poems I wrote as a teenager. Reading these fills me with a weird sense of nostalgia, as well as an understanding of myself. My most recent return to my old poems, however, seemed different. I could not help but to be shocked at the difference in my writing compared to the present day. My poems from the past lack the core elements of imagery and abstractions that I’ve become accustomed to using. So, what happened? What caused it to change? 

I’ve heard that reading can help improve your writing skills all my life, but I never took that advice seriously until I decided on being a creative writing major. I am a member of the Palatka campus SJR Book Club. This fall term will mark 2 years of attendance. Book Club has helped me form a routine of setting aside time for reading. I decided to also revisit some of my past reads from the meetings. 

I was surprised to realize how much inspiration was taken from these books. My abstract style mirrored the nature of Julia Armfield’s writing in Our Wives Under the Sea. Similarly, my use of religious allusions could be compared to the ones of Adam and Eve found in Jenny Hval’s Paradise Rot. These books subconsciously inspired me to explore literary devices I hadn't previously employed. Falling in love with reading has made me fall in love with writing in return. I am excited to read more books and see what new writing adventures await me!

No Subjects
05/06/2024
profile-icon Kendall McCurley

Summer is here! That means it’s time for sunshine, relaxation, and finally some time to tackle that TBR (to be read) list! Whether you're lounging poolside, lying on the beach, picnicking in the park, or embarking on a road trip, now is the time to pick up some fun reads! Here are some ideas to help you get started with your summer reading:

  • Start by setting achievable reading goals for the summer. Whether it's a certain number of books you want to read, a specific genre you want to explore, or even just dedicating a certain amount of time each day to reading, having clear objectives can help keep you motivated and on track. Remember: Summer is the time to read whatever you want, so read whatever makes you happy!
  • With longer days and more opportunities for outdoor activities, it can be easy to let reading fall by the wayside during the summer. To ensure you prioritize your reading time, try incorporating it into your daily routine. Whether it's dedicating some quiet time in the morning before the day gets busy, unwinding with a book in the evening as the sun sets, or even listening to audiobooks while you go for a walk or run, find a reading routine that works for you.
  • Speaking of audiobooks, if you're traveling or spending a lot of time outdoors this summer, consider incorporating audiobooks and e-books into your reading repertoire. With the convenience of smartphones and tablets, you can take your entire library with you wherever you go, making it easy to squeeze in some reading time during long car rides, flights, or lazy afternoons by the pool.
  • Consider participating in a summer reading challenge or joining a reading community to help stay motivated and engaged. SJR is still having book club over the summer! We will be meeting on zoom, so you never have to miss out if you are not on campus! Our first summer book club meeting is this Wednesday, May 8th! Don’t miss out!

So, as the temperature rises and the days grow longer, don't let the summer slip away without making time for the simple pleasure of reading. Here is a list of some great summer reads to help you get started! Happy reading!

 

 

People to Follow : a novelPeople to Follow : a novel by Olivia Worley
ISBN: 9781250881342
Publication Date: 2023-10-31
In Olivia Worley's pitch-perfect debut, People to Follow, ten teen influencers come to a remote island to star in a reality show, but when one of them winds up dead, they realize that this time, the price of getting "cancelled" could be their lives. A reality show on a remote Caribbean island. Ten teen influencers. One dead body. Welcome to "In Real Life," the hot new reality show that forces social media's reigning kings and queens to unplug for three weeks and "go live" without any filters. IRL is supposed to be the opportunity of a lifetime, watched closely by legions of loyal followers. But for these rising stars--including Elody, an Instagram model with an impulsive streak; Kira, a child star turned fitness influencer; Logan, a disgraced TikTok celeb with a secret; and Max, a YouTuber famous for exposés on his fellow creators--it's about to turn into a nightmare. When the production crew fails to show up and one of their own meets a violent end, these social media moguls find themselves stranded with a dead body and no way to reach the outside world. When they start receiving messages from a mysterious Sponsor threatening to expose their darkest secrets, they realize that they've been lured into a deadly game...and one of them might be pulling the strings. With the body count rising and cameras tracking their every move, the creators must figure out who is trying to get them canceled--like, literally--before their #1 follower strikes again.

 

The Heiress : a novelThe Heiress : a novel by Rachel Hawkins
ISBN: 9781250280039
Publication Date: 2024-01-09
NATIONAL BESTSELLER * A January Indie Next Pick and LibraryReads Pick "The reigning queen of the Gothic thriller." --Entertainment Weekly THERE'S NOTHING AS GOOD AS THE RICH GONE BAD. When Ruby McTavish Callahan Woodward Miller Kenmore dies, she's not only North Carolina's richest woman, she's also its most notorious. The victim of a famous kidnapping as a child and a widow four times over, Ruby ruled the tiny town of Tavistock from Ashby House, her family's estate high in the Blue Ridge Mountains. But in the aftermath of her death, her adopted son, Camden, wants little to do with the house or the money--and even less to do with the surviving McTavishes. Instead, he rejects his inheritance, settling into a normal life as an English teacher in Colorado and marrying Jules, a woman just as eager to escape her own messy past. Ten years later, his uncle's death pulls Cam and Jules back into the family fold at Ashby House. Its views are just as stunning as ever, its rooms just as elegant, but the legacy of Ruby is inescapable. And as Ashby House tightens its grip on Jules and Camden, questions about the infamous heiress come to light. Was there any truth to the persistent rumors following her disappearance as a girl? What really happened to those four husbands, who all died under mysterious circumstances? And why did she adopt Cam in the first place? Soon, Jules and Cam realize that an inheritance can entail far more than what's written in a will--and that the bonds of family stretch far beyond the grave.

 

Come and Get It : a novelCome and Get It : a novel by Kiley Reid
ISBN: 9780593328200
Publication Date: 2024-01-30
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER National Bestseller USA Today Bestseller A Good Morning America Book Club Pick An Indie Next Pick A LibraryReads Pick From the celebrated New York Times bestselling author of Such a Fun Age comes a fresh and provocative story about a residential assistant and her messy entanglement with a professor and three unruly students. It's 2017 at the University of Arkansas. Millie Cousins, a senior resident assistant, wants to graduate, get a job, and buy a house. So when Agatha Paul, a visiting professor and writer, offers Millie an easy yet unusual opportunity, she jumps at the chance. But Millie's starry-eyed hustle becomes jeopardized by odd new friends, vengeful dorm pranks, and illicit intrigue. A fresh and intimate portrait of desire, consumption, and reckless abandon, Come and Get It is a tension-filled story about money, indiscretion, and bad behavior--and the highly anticipated new novel by acclaimed and award-winning author Kiley Reid.

 

Love on the BrainLove on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood
ISBN: 9780593336847
Publication Date: 2022-08-23
An Instant New York Times Bestseller A #1 LibraryReads and Indie Next Pick! From the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis comes a new STEMinist rom-com in which a scientist is forced to work on a project with her nemesis--with explosive results. Like an avenging, purple-haired Jedi bringing balance to the mansplained universe, Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project--a literal dream come true after years scraping by on the crumbs of academia--Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward.   Sure, Levi is attractive in a tall, dark, and piercing-eyes kind of way. And sure, he caught her in his powerfully corded arms like a romance novel hero when she accidentally damseled in distress on her first day in the lab. But Levi made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school--archenemies work best employed in their own galaxies far, far away.   Now, her equipment is missing, the staff is ignoring her, and Bee finds her floundering career in somewhat of a pickle. Perhaps it's her occipital cortex playing tricks on her, but Bee could swear she can see Levi softening into an ally, backing her plays, seconding her ideas...devouring her with those eyes. And the possibilities have all her neurons firing. But when it comes time to actually make a move and put her heart on the line, there's only one question that matters: What will Bee Königswasser do?

 

Cover ArtThe Takeover by Cara Tanamachi
Call Number: PS3612.O258 T35 2024
ISBN: 9781250842282
Publication Date: 2024-01-30
Sometimes, when you ask the universe for your soulmate, you wind up with your hate mate instead. On Nami's 30th birthday, she's reminded at every turn that her life isn't what she planned. She's always excelled at everything - until now. Her fiancé blew up their engagement. Her pride and joy, the tech company she helped to found, is about to lose funding. And her sister, Sora, is getting married to the man of her dreams, Jack, and instead of being happy for her, as she knows she ought to be, she's fighting off jealousy. Frustrated with her life, she makes a wish on a birthday candle to find her soulmate. Instead, the universe delivers her hate mate, Nami's old high school nemesis, Jae Lee, the most popular kid from high school, who also narrowly beat her out for valedictorian. More than a decade later, Jae is still as effortlessly cool, charming, and stylish as ever, and, to make matters worse, is planning a hostile take-over of her start-up. Cue: sharp elbows and even sharper banter as the two go head-to-head to see who'll win this time. But when their rivalry ignites a different kind of passion, Nami starts to realize that it's not just her company that's in danger of being taken over, but her heart as well. "Readers will cheer on this pair of sparring hearts." - Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
Cover ArtFunny Story by Emily Henry
ISBN: 9780593441282
Publication Date: 2024-04-23
Named a Most Anticipated book of 2024 by TIME ∙ The New York Times ∙ Goodreads ∙ Entertainment Weekly ∙ Today.com ∙ Paste ∙ SheReads ∙ BookPage ∙ Woman's World ∙ The Nerd Daily and more! A shimmering, joyful new novel about a pair of opposites with the wrong thing in common, from #1 New York Times bestselling author Emily Henry. Daphne always loved the way her fiancé Peter told their story. How they met (on a blustery day), fell in love (over an errant hat), and moved back to his lakeside hometown to begin their life together. He really was good at telling it...right up until the moment he realized he was actually in love with his childhood best friend Petra.   Which is how Daphne begins her new story: Stranded in beautiful Waning Bay, Michigan, without friends or family but with a dream job as a children's librarian (that barely pays the bills), and proposing to be roommates with the only person who could possibly understand her predicament: Petra's ex, Miles Nowak.   Scruffy and chaotic--with a penchant for taking solace in the sounds of heart break love ballads--Miles is exactly the opposite of practical, buttoned up Daphne, whose coworkers know so little about her they have a running bet that she's either FBI or in witness protection. The roommates mainly avoid one another, until one day, while drowning their sorrows, they form a tenuous friendship and a plan. If said plan also involves posting deliberately misleading photos of their summer adventures together, well, who could blame them?   But it's all just for show, of course, because there's no way Daphne would actually start her new chapter by falling in love with her ex-fiancé's new fiancée's ex...right?
Charlotte Illes Is Not a DetectiveCharlotte Illes Is Not a Detective by Katie Siegel
ISBN: 9781496740984
Publication Date: 2023-06-27
"An immensely fun, voice-y read with a twisty mystery." -Mia P. Manansala, author of the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Award-winning Arsenic and Adobo "Charlotte is a delight." --The New York Times For anyone seeking to satisfy their Harriet the Spy, Encyclopedia Brown, or Nancy Drew nostalgia, this charming, entertaining debut based on the popular @katiefliesaway TikTok series stars a twentysomething former kid detective who's coaxed out of retirement for one last case. The downside of being a famous child detective is that sooner or later, you have to grow up . . . As a kid, Charlotte Illes' uncanny sleuthing abilities made her a minor celebrity. But in high school, she hung up her detective's hat and stashed away the signature blue landline in her "office"--aka garage--convinced that finding her adult purpose would be as easy as tracking down missing pudding cups or locating stolen diamonds. Now twenty-five, Charlotte has a nagging fear that she hit her peak in middle school. She's living with her mom, scrolling through job listings, and her love life consists mostly of first dates. When it comes to knowing what to do next, Charlotte hasn't got a clue. And then, her old blue phone rings . . . Reluctantly, Charlotte is pulled back into the mystery-solving world she knew--just one more time. But that world is a whole lot more complicated for an adult. As a kid, she was able to crack the case and still get her homework done on time. Now she's dealing with dead bodies, missing persons, and villains who actually see her as a viable threat. And the detective skills she was once so eager to never use again are the only things that can stop a killer ready to make sure her next retirement is permanent . . . "Kept me guessing and left me with a warm and happy glow." -Mary Robinette Kowal, author of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Award-winning The Calculating Stars
 
Legends and LattesLegends and Lattes by Travis Baldree
ISBN: 9781250886088
Publication Date: 2022-11-08
An Instant New York Times Bestseller A Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2022 A Library Reads Pick An Indie Next Pick A Goodreads Best Fantasy Choice Award Nominee The much-beloved BookTok sensation, Travis Baldree's novel of high fantasy and low stakes. *This new edition includes a very special, never-before-seen bonus story, 'Pages to Fill.'* After a lifetime of bounties and bloodshed, Viv is hanging up her sword for the last time. The battle-weary orc aims to start fresh, opening the first ever coffee shop in the city of Thune. But old and new rivals stand in the way of success -- not to mention the fact that no one has the faintest idea what coffee actually is. If Viv wants to put the blade behind her and make her plans a reality, she won't be able to go it alone. But the true rewards of the uncharted path are the travelers you meet along the way. And whether drawn together by ancient magic, flaky pastry, or a freshly brewed cup, they may become partners, family, and something deeper than she ever could have dreamed. "Take a break from epic battles and saving the world. Legends & Lattes is a low-stakes fantasy that delivers exactly what's advertised: a wholesome, cozy novel that feels like a warm hug. This is my new comfort read."--Genevieve Gornichec, author of The Witch's Heart
No Subjects
05/03/2024
profile-icon Andrew Macfarlane---SJR State College

Hello Everyone, Everyone Hello!

For my blog post this go around I will be switching back to my non-fiction graphic novel theme! I read this one a while ago, but it has a resonating message for our times.

"Tiananmen 1989" is a poignant and powerful graphic novel that delves into one of the most significant and tragic events in modern Chinese history. Written and illustrated by Lun Zhang with co-authors Adrien Gombeaud and Ameziane, the novel provides a gripping and emotional account of the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. It is almost hard to believe this was 35 short years ago y’all!

Through stunning artwork and compelling storytelling, the graphic novel captures the fervor and idealism of the student-led movement, while also shedding light on the harsh realities of government suppression and censorship. The authors skillfully intertwine personal narratives with historical context, offering readers a multifaceted understanding of the events leading up to the infamous June 4th massacre. The main voice you hear from is a professor of Sociology, who aids students and citizens and helps organize them.

What sets "Tiananmen 1989" apart is its humanizing portrayal of the individuals involved in the protests. From the idealistic students to the weary soldiers, each character is rendered with depth and empathy, allowing readers to empathize with their struggles and sacrifices. The novel doesn't shy away from depicting the brutality of the crackdown, yet it also emphasizes the resilience and spirit of the protesters in the face of adversity.

In addition to its compelling narrative, "Tiananmen 1989" is also a visually stunning work of art. Ameziane's illustrations are both evocative and haunting, capturing the chaos and emotion of the protests with striking detail and nuance.

Overall, "Tiananmen 1989" is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the events that shook China and the world three decades ago. It serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of free expression and the enduring quest for democracy.

 

 

 

Cover ArtTiananmen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes by Adrien Gombeaud; Lun Zhang
ISBN: 9781684056996
Publication Date: 2020-06-16
Follow the story of China's infamous June Fourth Incident -- otherwise known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre -- from the first-hand account of a young sociology teacher who witnessed it all. Over 30 years ago, on April 15th 1989, the occupation of Tiananmen Square began. As tens of thousands of students and concerned Chinese citizens took to the streets demanding political reforms, the fate of China's communist system was unknown. When reports of soldiers marching into Beijing to suppress the protests reverberated across Western airwaves, the world didn't know what to expect. Lun Zhang was just a young sociology teacher then, in charge of management and safety service for the protests. Now, in this powerful graphic novel, Zhang pairs with French journalist and Asia specialist Adrien Gombeaud, and artist Ameziane, to share his unvarnished memory of this crucial moment in world history for the first time. Providing comprehensive coverage of the 1989 protests that ended in bloodshed and drew global scrutiny, Zhang includes context for these explosive events, sympathetically depicting a world of discontented, idealistic, activist Chinese youth rarely portrayed in Western media. Many voices and viewpoints are on display, from Western journalists to Chinese administrators. Describing how the hope of a generation was shattered when authorities opened fire on protestors and bystanders, Tiananmen 1989 shows the way in which contemporary China shaped itself.

Huckleberry takes a back seat on Twain's raft in Percival Everett's James

07/15/2024
Brenda Hoffman
No Subjects

Percival Everett's James – The Brooklyn Rail

 

 

In an interview following the release of his brilliant James, Percival Everett reimagined Mark Twain’s quote about heaven and hellTwain once quipped: “Heaven for the climate; hell for the company.” Everett, showing off his love and respect for Twain said: “Heaven for the climate; hell for my long-awaited lunch with Mark Twain.” Everett, in 2023, wrote a love letter to Twain with James, a re-telling of Huck Finn where Jim is the central character and narrator. The book is difficult to summarize, but I’m gonna try. As in Huck, Jim realizes that he is going to be sold away from his family and endure a harsh(er) owner, so he decides to run. His hope is to earn some money up North and buy his family. Huckleberry wants to run, too, to escape his mean and abusive Pap. Along the way on the Mississippi, the two runaways have “adventures,” that are dissimilar to the original tale. Huck leaves Jim’s story early in Everett’s version, and James negotiates the South managing to avoid death through stealth and smarts. There are several reveals that I won’t share because they are amazing, especially if you are familiar with the original story. 

Did you know how popular Huck Finn was in the past and is today? Published in March of 1884, by May of 1885 it had sold over 57,000 copies. Pretty darn good for the time. A google search revealed asking prices of $10,000.00 for leather-bound first editions. Did you also know that Huck Finn has been challenged by parents (because of the N-word) in various school districts every year since the novel became required reading in English classes? A publisher in Alabama revised Twain’s masterpiece to placate the uncomfortable masses. I wish Twain were alive to tell that publisher what it can do with its perverted version. 

In 2011 on “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart and Larry Wilmore discussed New South Book Publishing replacing the N-word with what Wilmore jokingly referred to as a “promotion” for Jim: “Slave,” citing teachers’ discomfort with reading the novel where Twain wrote 219 instances of the N-word. Wilmore decried the decision saying that eventually the Jim character might be removed completely. And a 1950s movie did just that! Here’s the exchange between Stewart and Wilmore. Remember that “The Daily Show” often employs satire to make a point: 

STEWART: You know what, you're very passionate in your defense of the character Jim. 

WILMORE: I have to be, Jon, otherwise they'd take the brother out of the book completely. 

STEWART: Well, I don't think they'd take him out.... 

WILMORE: No, believe me, they already tried.  They made a TV movie version in the 1950s that did away with the Jim character completely! 

Huck Finn 1955 TV Movie. Where's Jim? 

WILMORE: Look, that's just Dennis the Menace on a raft!  What the [#@%*], 1950s? 

Too bad that Twain’s works are in public domain, because replacing the word commonly used to describe Black people in 1884 when Huck was published would have the author rolling in his grave.   

Here are some other notable ideas about Huck

  1. 14: Number of films and/or television shows based on Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 
  2. 3: Number of those films and/or television shows that eliminated the Jim character. 
  3. And now, as far as I know, 1: Version where Jim is the narrator and protagonist. 

Everett wrote James, a reimagining of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, to give Jim, er, James, a voice. And what a voice James possesses and uses with aplomb…but not in front of white folk.  

James starts out similarly enough to Twain’s Huck, but I knew I was in for a true adventure when James tutors his children in code switching—the ways in which a member of an underrepresented group (consciously or unconsciously) adjusts their language, syntax, grammatical structure, behavior, and appearance to fit into the dominant culture—to hide James and his family’s education. James steals, er, borrows books from Judge Thatcher’s library and learns to read and write. But demonstrating those skills will get them killed; hence, the lessons in hiding one’s education.  

Everett also takes a swipe at James’ owner’s hypocritical religiousness. When Rachel, James’ daughter, asks “’Why did God set [slavery] up like this? “With them as masters and us as slaves?’” James’ answer is brilliant:  

“There is no God, child. There’s religion but there’s no God of theirs. Their religion tells that we will get our reward in the end. However, it apparently doesn’t say anything about their punishment. But when we’re around them, we believe in God. Oh, Lawdy Lawd, we’s be believin.’ Religion is just a controlling tool they employ to adhere to when convenient.” 

How refreshing it was for this reader to discover an alternate portrayal of how slaves might’ve felt about a god who created a program that forced on them “grueling labor” where “enslaved men and women were beaten mercilessly, separated from loved ones arbitrarily, and, regardless of sex, treated as property in the eyes of the law.” Oxford University graduate Noel Rae outlines Christians' justification for slavery in The Great Stain (2018). She cites two sections, from both the Old and New Testaments, of The King James Bible that slaveowners often referred to claiming the right to own and oppress human beings. You can read the text from KJV here: Genesis IX, 18-27 and Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, VI, 5-7. And famous orator and author of the speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” Frederick Douglass was taught the alphabet, some simple words, and eventually the bible by his owner, Sophia Auld. He also taught other slaves to read the New Testament. But when he was fed up with fruitlessly praying for freedom, Douglass famously asserted: “I prayed for freedom for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” Douglass ran. I wonder if he, akin to James, saw the perverted double standard laid out in the good book when prayers were ignored.

Everett's title character doesn't find solace in the bible; it is with philosophers that James' ideas are challenged. After James is bitten by a snake, he has fever dreams where the reader is privy to his conversations with Voltaire, Locke, and Rousseau. Voltaire enters his sleep and reminds James of the Candide character Cunegonde, who is a “symbol for the futility of human desires.” Did I know this reference before consulting Google? Heck, no! But what a lovely little Easter egg! Is Voltaire warning Jim to stay where he is and be sold off to the highest bidder because his own “human desires” are futile? That’s what I gleaned from the dream. In another dream James and John Locke discuss the hypocrisy of the [U. S] constitution that justified slavery.

Everett also plays with the original narrative in clever ways that show off his erudition. Huck looks to James for advice and genuinely cares for him. James genuinely cares for Huck, but for different and surprising reasons that I’ll leave out here. When James cries out in his dreams in a standard dialect that confounds Huck’s understanding of who Jim is, he presses him for answers: 

"Jim," Huck said.

 

"What?"

"Why you talkin’ so funny?"

"Whatchu be meanin'?" I was panicking inside.

"You were talkin'—I don't know—you didn't sound like no slave."

 

James can’t reveal the truth of his ability to speak standard English, to read, and write to Huck, even though he obviously loves James saying, as he does in the original text, that “I’ll go to Hell, then!” when he realizes that not turning James in will surely be against his religion. It is through James that Huck, as in the original text, discovers his humanity. 

The novel is filled with arcane, beautiful, and deft allusions. If you’ve read Richard Wright’s Black Boy (American Hunger): A Record of Childhood and Youth, you might notice another connection when Miss Watson asks Jim if he was in Judge Thatcher’s library room because some books were off the shelves. Jim laughs and employs the code switching he teaches his children, “What I gone do wif a book?” In the same way, Wright worked for a man who often sent him with a list of books to check out of the library. Wright—who was self-taught to read and write despite his grandmother who burned any book he brought into the house that wasn’t the bible—would add titles to the man’s list and head to the “Whites Only” library. Noticing the difference in handwriting on the list, the librarian accused him of adding the titles for himself to which Wright replied, “I don’t know [why the titles at the end are in another handwriting]. I can’t read.” Another clever Easter egg…if, dear reader, you can find it hidden amongst Everett’s astute prose.  

The book has other interesting changes, too. Because Huck disappears early in James, his absence allows Jim to become James. In a repugnant reminder of the price of knowledge, an enslaved man is lynched when his master realizes that the man stole a pencil for Jim to write in a notebook that he stole from Huck’s deadbeat, abusive dad. And in a comic/satiric turn, Jim is bought by the Virginia Minstrels, a blackface singing troupe, which counts as a member Howard who is an enslaved man passing as White. No Black man can be on stage, so they cover Jim in blackface. Huh? You ask. James explains the ludicrousness: “one Black man passing for white and painted black, and me, a light brown, Black man painted black in such a way as to appear like a white man trying to pass for Black.” The troupe heard James singing and his tenor voice was magical, so they slapped white, then black shoe polish on his black face and fooled white audiences. James performs only one time before he and Howard take off in the middle of the night. 

You don’t need to read Twain’s novel to appreciate Everett’s take on the classic novel. And like Larry Wilmore who is passionate about the Jim character in Twain’s Huck Finn, Everett is passionate about providing James with a voice, an identity, a life. And I'd like to be a fly on the wall at Twain and Everett's “long-awaited lunch." And like Huck, “I’ll go to hell” to witness it!

Watch for Everett’s James to come to a movie theater near you with Stephen Spielberg to executive produce and Taika Waititi to direct. 

A person sitting on a chair with two dogs

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Percival Everett with pups Harry and Banjo 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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