Believe me, I’m as shocked as you are about still keeping up with this challenge. There should be worldwide festivals happening any moment now to celebrate this level of commitment.
Here’s what February involved.
Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter…
My favourite read this year, to date. I admit I have some resentment towards McCandless for putting his family through such hell, but this is a damned good book. The fact Krakauer managed to piece together such a story based on little information is unreal.
“So many people live within happy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.”
(I later Googled the image of McCandless holding his “good-bye” note to the world. His eyes and smile were filled with genuine peace and happiness. I have nothing but admiration, even if Alaskans apparently hate his guts.)
Buy Into the Wild, feed me.
The Round House – Louise Erdrich
One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe’s life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.
Three-line book review
The first book I’ve read by Erdrich, and definitely not my last. Somehow Erdrich makes it possible to relate to a 13-year-old boy. I don’t know what that says about me. Either way, Erdrich’s style is something I really dig.
“We passed over in a sweep of sorrow that would persist into our small forever. We just kept going.”
Buy The Round House, feed me.
The Cat’s Table – Michael Ondaatje
In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy boards a huge liner bound for England – a ‘castle that was to cross the sea’. At mealtimes, he is placed at the lowly ‘Cat’s Table’ with an eccentric group of grown-ups and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys become involved in the worlds and stories of the adults around them, tumbling from one adventure and delicious discovery to another, ‘bursting all over the place like freed mercury’. And at night, the boys spy on a shackled prisoner – his crime and fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.
I really, really love Ondaatje and his writing, but I couldn’t love this book. I slogged through most of it like I were wading uphill through molasses. Perhaps I had just grown sick of 13-year-old boys at this point.
“In spite of this, our table’s status on the Oronsay continued to be minimal, while those at the Captain’s Table were constantly toasting to one another’s significance. That was a small lesson I learned on the journey. What is interesting and important happens mostly in secret, in places where there is no power. Nothing much of lasting value ever happens at the head table, held together by familiar rhetoric. Those who already have power continue to glide along in the familiar rut they have made for themselves.”
Buy The Cat’s Table (Vintage International), feed me.
Tuesday’s With Morrie – Mitch Albom
Nearly 20 years after their first lessons, now dying college professor Morrie imparts his wisdom to student Mitch during weekly Tuesday meetings. A gentle mentor imparts the lessons of a long life.
Screw Albom and his dangling questions and dramatic short sentences. This book doesn’t deserve three lines, but Morrie deserves three stars.