Books I have known

Rachel, over at More About the Song has a very intriguing and thought-provoking series of posts up at her blog. She’s asking readers to list books they have read (pre-1920 and post-1920) as kind of a referral guide for a novice reader of 17 years (a female). I have contributed to both posts, but this got me thinking further about books that I have enjoyed through the years. I realize that certain books fill a certain need at a particular time in our lives. I decided to compile a list of books that have meant something to me at one time or another, and exactly what they did for me at the time.

As well, Linda at Linda’s Twaddle posted a bit on people spoiling the plot of movies, books, etc. by re-telling the entire storyline in an effort to “sell” the product to the listener. This recalled to my mind, the time a babysitter gave away who the murderer was in a locked room Agatha Christie (see below – it’s set on an island)and how I have never forgiven her.

Please add your thoughts to the comments and let me know what books filled a space in your lives and for what reason.


Part One

Good Books I have known :

ANONYMOUS, Go Ask Alice – This book probably has much to do with the fact that I never tried any hard drugs – in fact, I’ve never been a smoker either (apart from the odd menthol cigarette at a party). The terror this instilled in me was enough to remain in my mind and niggle at the back of my brain anytime I fell in with a dangerous crowd. This book should be required reading in school.

MICHAEL CAPUZZO’s, Close to Shore – My friend, Deb (mentioned below under “The English Patient”) suggested this book to me and the concept of it greatly intrigued me. It details the true events of 1916 which presaged the movie “Jaws”. At that time, a great white shark terrorized the beaches and even the inlets along the New Jersey coast. The historical detail is flawless and riveting. Most interestingly, an element of the book is actually told from the shark’s perspective. A fascinating read that held me captive in the summer of 2001, shortly after we moved into the Hyggehus and I had a lovely back porch and a glorious (if scraggly) garden to enjoy.

AGATHA CHRISTIE’s, And Then There Were None (a.k.a. Ten Little Indians) – a fantastic read for a girl of 13, who,having graduated from The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew, couldn’t get enough of shocking murders and suspenseful situations. I loved the cast of characters in these books, the very British (and as yet unknown to me) environments and the surprise endings (although I soon got very good at working out the murderer’s identity).

KEN FOLLETT’s, The Eye of the Needle – This time the book came first. Follet is undeniably one of the masters of suspense writing. Though he’s had a few books that have failed to draw me in, I must admit, usually he is an author I find hard to walk away from. Eye of the Needle is, in a word, gripping. The world of Nazis and spies and killers is a spine-chilling and fast-moving one. This book was one I will not soon forget.

THOMAS HARDY’s, Jude the Obscure – This was a third-year university course book, but it had a profound effect on me. More than any other book, I think I felt the tragedy and confusion of the main characters. I struggled to read some of the novels I was assigned – George Eliot comes to mind here – but Hardy, was no problem at all.

ALISTAIR MACLEOD’s, No Great Mischief – I cannot say that I have ever picked up a piece of “literature” and read it cover-to-cover in one go. With this book, I came close. I read it in 2 days. Perhaps it was the way it pulled my heritage out of me and made me really see it for the first time. Or maybe it was the memorable images of the harshness of winter in early Nova Scotia. Possibly, it was the mellifluous, poetic language. No! It was all of that and more. It was a haunting, echoing experience that periodically calls to me. It re-awakened my affinity for my mother’s world just as we lost my Cape Breton aunt to a long, arduous illness. The book made me weep for joy and loss and it was the indescribable epiphany experience of MacLeod’s words that can be credited.

MICHAEL ONDAATJE’s, The English Patient – Okay, so I did see this film prior to reading the book. In fact, I saw the film a couple of times (didn’t really enjoy it the first time, but loved it the second). The book was brilliant! If you’ve seen the movie, but NOT read the book, I urge you to do so.
My friend, Deb and I read this book together. She lives an hour away, and has belonged to a book club for 10 years. I cannot be constricted by the confines of a book club. We decided to have our own private reading of this one and see where it went. I don’t recall the conversations we had about the book. I think we were never at the same spot and saw things quite differently, so our “private book club” never got off the ground. We both did say that we loved it. That’s all I can tell you.

PETER ROBINSON’s, In a Dry Season – Robinson is a transplanted Englishman who now, I’m happy to say, lives here in Canada. His mystery series featuring Inspector Alan Banks, is exceptionally well-written, always well thought out and fails to disappoint.
I have come to really appreciate books wherein the story harks back to an earlier time, but the plot is resolved in the present day. In a Dry Season is such a book. The drought of a reservoir reveals a skeleton and the story delves back in time to reveal what originally transpired. Riveting. Really.
This is the kind of book I like to read when I have nothing at all to do and so can devote myself to it 100%. That rarely happens, but if a book is good enough, sometimes you just have to make it happen.

BARBARA VINE’s (pseudonym of Ruth Rendell), Asta’s Book – This was heavy going for me, but I must add it to the list for three reasons: first, it is a flashback to an earlier time book and I do love the element of history; second, the historic part takes place in 19th century Denmark and as you know, my husband’s background is Danish and we are careful to preserve the Scandinavian culture (see the “Days of Hygge” poem); third, although I was mainly reading this on my lunch-hour at my pedestrian data-entry job with a small hydraulic power distributor and I had such a hard time staying focussed, eventually, the weight of the story kicked in and it became one of the most enjoyable reads of my life. Most importantly, the ending was such a shock and surprise that I went around for days with my mouth hanging open (okay, that’s a bit of an exagerration, BUT I was stunned).

EVELYN WAUGH’s, Brideshead Revisited – As some of you know from previous posts, this book has a permanent place in my psyche. I must admit that, yes, the BBC drama came first, and perhaps without Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews I should never have even ventured between its pages in the first place, BUT, once I did, I was eternally bound to the characters and their plight.
I was a student at university when the drama aired on television and I immediately bought the book and read it in record time. It may be my Catholicity, or it may just have been the romance of life at Oxford – who can say? I only know that Waugh struck a chord that forever plays for me.

More to come!


H.R. Pufnstuf – what a trip!

Seeing this after so many years have transpired, I have come to two conclusions: Sid and Marty Krofft must have been dropping acid when they dreamed this up, and this song will forever be embedded in my brain!

Who can possibly forget Witchie Poo and her sidekick, Orson, the vulture? Or how about Freddie, the flute? Or the Rescue-racers?
Of course, let’s not forget the hydrocephalic dragon, Pufnstuf, himself.

What a concept! What a wild, “Strawberry Fields” fantasy-land.

Little girls were gaga over British boy, Jack Wild, famous for his role as the Artful Dodger in the musical Oliver!

But the real scene-stealer, was Billie Hayes who played Witchie Poo – a blend of Wicked Witch of the West and Lucille Ball with a little Richard Simmons thrown in.

This is a show that has been indelibly imprinted in my mind. Whether or not Timothy Leary’s followers were behind it, it was still a fun, unforgettable show.

Kathleen Mortensen©2009

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eXhibit “B”

(Pre-Performance – do I look nervous? A little drop of Laphraoig Islay Malt helped with that!)

So, some of you may be wondering how the poetry event I participated in went down last night. Well, from my perspective, it was a more than modest success. I was able to conquer those first night jitters and take my place at the front of a room of people and for the first time ever, share my poetry aloud and in person with people other than my husband and my mom. It was a huge thrill and I get palpitations just thinking about it now!

I was up second–by choice. I figured it was best to let someone warm up the crowd and Unstruck’s rhyming rap to accompaniment of hip hop soundtrack, proved to be compelling, spiritual and uplifting–perfect to enervate the crowd of approximately 20. (Unstruck will be performing at Hype on King in Kitchener on Sept 6 at City Hall.)

Following my readings–after a short break–James McAuliffe took the stage and captivated us all with his vigourous, colloquial, everyman poetry. We were gripped by his political stance, chuckled at his satirical voice and even stunned by some of his riskier vocalizations. The highlight was definitely when he addressed one of his works to the kitchen through the cutout in the wall.

When Terre opened up the Mic, we were also treated to a moving poem about children of poverty, by a lovely and graceful woman named Elaine.

Yes, it was certainly a motley crew we made at the Ars Poetica event, but I believe all who attended were not disappointed.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to Terre Chartrand, the extraordinary young woman who coordinated the event, but more than that, proved to be a warm, funny and highly supportive person. She did a great job bringing 3 very distinct poets together and making it work. I’m certain the others had very positive things to say about the experience and how welcome we were made.

For anyone who wishes to read about the actual event – and see some pics of the 3 of us who performed, check out the Salon des Merveilles

Thanks to my friends who listened and posted their selections on my poll. I did take into account your preferences and these are the poems I ultimately read:

Dorothy’s Adventure

Lament of the Fiddleheads
Three Grackles, Bathing
Body Count
Tea Totaller
Scraps of Me

with a bit of an encore during the Open Mic portion featuring the following pieces:

Oh Nymph!
Snow Upon Snow

I received some generous and unexpected kind comments that made me feel I’m definitely on the right track. It was a big night!

Going to the dentist can be FUN!!!

For my buddy, Mike over at the Smoke and Mirrors blog, one of THE funniest routines ever created from the master of stand-up (and every other kind of comedy), Bill Cosby.

Mike’s having a molar extracted today and that’s never fun, is it? So, to make him laugh through his recovery, here’s The Coz from a performance in 1983, on dentists:

Best of luck, Mike! Just don’t eat any soup!

I’ll never say that!

Here’s a repeat of an old post from earlier this year. It was popular at the time and I just know that my current regular readers are going to get a kick out of reading this and coming up with their own. Enjoy!

Photo by S. Jackman on Flickr.

I don’t know if this sort of thing is out there on the blogs anywhere at all, but this morning while I was semi-conscious and lying in my bed, it occurred to me that I will never say the words, “My daughter” or “My son”. I don’t admit this to expose my regret or resentment over this fact; I have long since come to terms with not having any children, but it started me thinking about some other things I will never say. This list should reveal more about me than anything else I could tell you. Of course, since it is I who am dreaming this up, I’ve created a list more for its humourous value than for any poignancy…

So, this is my first homegrown Meme. I’m tagging whoever among you wants to do it.

Here in random order: 10 things you’ll never hear me say:

1. I’m going outside for a smoke.

2. Put another steak on the barbeque for me.

3. I got those WWF tickets!

4. I’ll load up the Hummer.

5. Crank up that Motorhead.

6. I can’t wait to watch “The View”.

7. Look at my new fur coat!

8. Let’s do some belly shots!

9. Just throw those boxes in the garbage.

10. We’re going bungee-jumping! Woo hoo!

Happy Anniversary – Flintstone-style!

Here’s a little tribute to my friend Willow at the Willow Manor. Thirty-one years ago today, she and her wonderful husband, WT, tied the knot. In honour of this occasion, here’s a classic clip from the Flintstones. I apologize in advance if you can’t get this out of your head for the rest of the day/week/month.

Which Muppet Are You?

You all know I love the Muppets. Well, I just came across this quiz at the No Nonsense Girl blog and I had to take it! I never expected to be this character! Who are you? Take the quiz and let me know.

Hey, wait a minute! It actually says I like writing poetry. So I guess that’s pretty dead on. Isn’t it?

You Are Big Bird

Talented, smart, and friendly… you’re also one of the sanest people around.

You are usually feeling: Happy. From riding a unicycle to writing poetry, you have plenty of hobbies to keep you busy.

You are famous for: Being a friend to everyone. Even the grumpiest person gets along with you.

How you life your life: Joyfully. “Super. Duper. Flooper.”

The Sesame Street Personality Quiz</div