‘Ennis Del Mar wakes before five, wind rocking the trailer, hissing in around the aluminium door and window frames.’ Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx.
‘All night long he would walk the ship, from bow to stern, from dusk until quarterlight, that sticklike limping man from Connemara with the drooping shoulders and ash-coloured clothes.’ Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor.
‘While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years.’ The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
‘”All good things must end,” said Frances Price.’ French Exit by Patrick de Witt.
‘It was love at first sight.’ Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.
‘The idea really came to me the day I got my new false teeth.’ Coming Up for Air by George Orwell.
I think that last one is my favourite but then, I’m a big Orwell fan!
What are your favourites? Tell me in the comments – I may discover more great books to read!
Last week was a strange one for me with various family situations, now resolved. Today I resume my routine. This morning I was out for my walk along the river and I thought very hard about which three books I loved the most; I came up with these three. David Copperfield, Catch 22 and Redhead by the Side of the Road. Which surprised me a little as my favourite writer for some years now is Patrick de Witt.
I first read David Copperfield when I was at school and I’ve read it at least twice since; so many wonderful characters, so many quotes still in my head. There was Peggotty, who worked as cook and maid in his mother’s house until she agreed to marry Mr Barkis, who signalled his intentions with the phrase,”Barkis is willin’.” And the wonderful Mr Micawber who was always sure that “something will turn up” and his wife declaring that she “would never desert” Mr Micawber. I’m going to stop with quotes here or I’ll be writing all day! I will just mention David’s cousins who lived in an upturned boat on the beach in Yarmouth; the boy he met in school called Steerforth who was a bad ‘un and became involved with Rosa Dartle. I can’t leave out his Aunt Betsey who took him in and cared for him and called him “Trotwood”. David’s first wife, Dora, made very little impression on me but apparently she was based on Dicken’s real-life first love. There are many more I could include and many, many quotes but – enough!
Catch 22 I first read in my twenties and again, I’ve read it many times since. It makes me laugh so much. Sometimes I stand at the book case and open it at random . . . I could be standing there for a long time! And sometimes I remember various passages when I’m on a bus or a train and I have to keep myself from laughing out loud. The first chapter sets the tone; the chaplain appears at Yossarian’s hospital bedside and begins a conversation. Yossarian doesn’t realise he is the chaplain and thinks he’s another mad soldier but he is happy to continue the conversation:
“Oh, pretty good,” he answered. “I’ve got a slight pain in my liver and I haven’t been the most regular of fellows, I guess, but all in all, I must admit that I feel pretty good.”
“That’s good,” said the chaplain.
“Yes,” Yossarian said. “Yes, that is good.”
The conversation continues in this vein with many – that’s good, yes that is good, and that’s bad, yes that is bad – until Yossarian realises he’s talking to the chaplain and is disappointed that there is a sane reason for the visit.
And what about Major Major Major Major whose father marches along the hospital corridor and register’s his son’s birth in the name of Major Major, unbeknownst to his resting wife. And the episode where the soldiers are listening to a speech by one of the Generals and they begin to moan at the sight of the General’s bosomy nurse, started by Yossarian of course. Ah yes . . .
Finally, Redhead by the Side of the Road. I won’t say much about this book as I recently posted a review on it. Suffice to say, when I was reading it, I carried it about with me and had many conversations with the main character, Micah Mortimer. Happy days!
This page from The Grapes of Wrath has stayed with me for forty years at least. I could feel the heat, smell the dust, see the insects going about their business, and most of all, the land turtle, star of thescene.
The sun lay on the grass and warmed it, and in the shade under the grass the insects moved, ants and ant lions to set traps for them, grasshoppers to jump into the air and flick their yellow wings for a second, sow bugs like little armadillos, plodding restlessly on many tender feet. And over the grass at the roadside a land turtle crawled, turning aside for nothing, dragging its high-domed shell over the grass. His hard legs and yellow-nailed feet threshed slowly through the grass, not really walking, but boosting and dragging his shell along. The barley beards slid off his shell, and the clover burrs fell on him and rolled to the ground. His horny beak was partly open, and his fierce, humorous eyes, under brows like finger-nails, stared straight ahead. He came over the grass leaving a beaten trail behind him, and the hill, which was the highway embankment, reared up ahead of him. For a moment he stopped, his head held high. He blinked and looked up and down. At last he started to climb the embankment. Front clawed feet reached forward but did not touch. The hind feet kicked his shell along and the horny head protruded as far as the neck could stretch . . .
For a moment the turtle rested. A red ant ran into the shell, into the soft skin inside the shell, and suddenly head and legs snapped in, and the armoured tail clamped in sideways. The red ant was crushed between body and legs . . . For a long moment the turtle lay still, and then the neck crept out and the old humorous frowning eyes looked about and the legs and tail came out . . .
Now the going was easy, and all the legs worked, and the shell boosted along, waggling from side to side. A sedan driven by a forty-year old woman approached. She saw the turtle and swung to the right, off the highway, the wheels screamed and a cloud of dust boiled up. Two wheels lifted for a moment and then settled. The car skidded back onto the road, and went on, but more slowly. The turtle had jerked back into its shell, but now it hurried on, for the highway was burning hot.
And now a light truck approached, and as it came near, the driver saw the turtle and swerved to hit it. His front wheel struck the edge of the shell, flipped the turtle like a tiddly-wink, spun it like a coin, and rolled it off the highway . . . Lying on its back, the turtle was tight in its shell for a long time. But at last its legs waved in the air, reaching for something to pull it over. Its front foot caught a piece of quartz and little by little the shell pulled over and flopped upright. The wild oat head fell out and three of the spearhead seeds stuck in the ground. And as the turtle crawled on down the embankment its shell dragged dirt over the seeds. The turtle entered a dust road and jerked itself along, drawing a wavy shallow trench in the dust with its shell. The old humorous eyes looked ahead, and the horny beak opened a little. His yellow toe-nails slipped a fraction in the dust.
Isn’t this wonderful? I left out a few bits – it’s very long, but unforgettable – for me anyway. Steinbeck rocks!
I haven’t read any reviews of this book but I’m looking forward to doing that as soon as I have posted this. I’ve never really been a fan of Anne Tyler’s but I loved this book and I will read it again sometime.
The first and last sections pose a question:
“You have to wonder what goes through the mind of man like Micah Mortimer. He lives alone; he keeps to himself; his routine is etched in stone.”
I expected a boring, colourless man with no joy in his life, no excitements, nothing unexpected, doing the same things at the same time every day. But I fell in love with Micah Mortimer when, a few pages in, I read that he spoke aloud to himself – in what he thought of as a foreign accent – while he did his chores about the house. Monday was the day for mopping the floor:
‘”Zee dreaded moppink,” he said. “Zee moppink of zee floors.”‘
This delighted me; I was on his side forever; I loved him. Next, we find out about the “traffic gods” – these supreme beings whom he imagines watching him when he’s driving, commenting to each other in tones of awe at the perfection of his moves:
‘“Flawless,” traffic god murmured.’
I’m beginning to appreciate now that Micah is not a dull, blank, robotic man and when a young lad appears at his door claiming that he’s actually Micah’s son, he becomes even more interesting. (Not only does he have a present, but maybe a past too!) Instead of turning Brink away he brings him in and feeds him and lets him stay for a few days.
Enter Cass, Micah’s long-term woman friend; a tall buxom woman; a school teacher. She plays music all the time in her apartment; the television talks all evening whether they are watching it or not. Micah finds it extremely irritating but he considers Cass restful to look at so he puts up with it when he’s there. But Cass has a problem; she may have to leave her apartment. It never occurs to Micah that she would like to move in with him and this causes a breach between them.
‘”In fact,” Cass said steadily, “what did you do? Quick-quick invite the nearest stranger into your spare room.”‘
And of course, there’s his wonderful four sisters and their families, boisterous, happy, loving, interested in everything that happens to Micah; they know Cass well and like her very much. Micah tolerates and loves them back equally.
I thought about Micah a lot; he’s very self-sufficient, content to live alone, kindly when anyone asks for help but always at a distance – until Cass suggests a break-up:
‘Something hit him in the concave place just below his rib cage.’
I found the writing warm, humourous, and delicious. When Micah meets his old girlfriend, he says:
‘ . . . she was so sharp-edged, both literally and figuratively – a small, vivacious mosquito of a girl, all elbows and darting movements.’
It’s the word – mosquito – that makes that sentence for me. And one final quote – I can’t leave it out:
“I’m a roomful of broken hearts.”
The pacing was perfect and the ending just as it should be.
I am very happy to give Redhead by the Side of the Road 5 stars. *****
Behind the Veil, the hordes gather, eager to savage the world. But Kalann il Drakk, First of Chaos, is untroubled by the shimmering wall that holds his beasts at bay. For if he cannot cleanse the land of life, the races will do it for him. All he needs is a spark to light the fire.
Three unlikely allies stand in his way.
A misfit elf plagued by failure—
When Elanalue Windthorn abandons her soldiers to hunt a goblin, she strays into forbidden territory.
A changeling who betrays his home—
Talin Raska is a talented liar, thief, and spy. He makes a fatal mistake—he falls for his mark.
A halfbreed goblin with deadly secrets—
Naj’ar is a loner with a talent he doesn’t understand and cannot control, one that threatens all he holds dear.
When the spark of Chaos ignites, miners go missing. But they won’t be the last to vanish. As the cycles of blame whirl through the Borderland, old animosities flare, accusations break bonds, and war looms.
Three outcasts, thrust into an alliance by fate, by oaths, and the churning gears of calamity, must learn the truth. For they hold the future of their world in their hands.
Q & A
Do you write for a specific audience?
I don’t write for a specific audience. I know I’m supposed to, but I don’t think about it. My stories start with a spark of inspiration, and I let them go where they need to go. One of the things I love about writing is how organic and surprising the process feels. As if the story already exists, and I’m just writing it down as it plays across my eyes. Some of my books have young adult protagonists and a YA label could apply. That said, most are geared toward adults. I think a teenager would enjoy Liars and Thieves, but in my old-fashioned opinion, the third book in the series is too dark for young teens.
If you wish to share the trailer, copy this link and paste it right onto WP. There’s no need to upload anything. The youtube frame should just show up when you preview the post.
D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked. Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two dogs, bats, owls, and the occasional family of coyotes.
Death in Venice – I read the short story, but oh, that wonderful movie!
Gone with the wind – again, unforgettable movie.
The Godfather – I read the book decades of years ago. I couldn’t read it now but the movie is still terrific.
The Forsyte Saga: I have this (in three volumes) three times over the years, but I have to admit that the very first series, with Eric Porter as Soames, was tremendous.
Brideshead Revisited – who could forget that wonderful series, so rich and deep and colourful, every character perfect.
A Room with a View. I have read all of E M Forster’s books, and I have seen the movies but this one in particular is an absolute joy and delight.
Misery. I find it almost impossible to read Stephen King – he’s too much for me – but Misery was a great movie – I’ve never trusted Cathy Bates since!
The Shining – again a great movie. Who could ever forget Jack Nicholson?
The Shawshank Redemption. I think I’ve seen it three times, I’ve only read the short story once.
Brokeback Mountain. When I first read this book, I thought it was the loving-est love story I had ever read and I made everyone I knew read it too. I worried about a movie coming out but it was great, the two guys were marvelous and it looked lovely too.
“The shirt seemed heavy until he saw there was another shirt inside it, the sleeves carefully worked down inside Jack’s sleeves. It was his own plaid shirt, lost, he’d thought, long ago in some damn laundry, his dirty shirt, the pocket ripped, buttons missing, stolen by Jack and hidden here inside Jack’s own shirt, the pair like two skins, one inside the other, two in one. He pressed his face into the fabric and breathed in slowly through his mouth and nose, hoping for the faintest smoke and mountain sage and salty sweet stink of Jack but there was no real scent, only the memory of it, the imagined power of Brokeback Mountain of which nothing was left but what he held in his hands.”
“There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.”
The most loving story I ever read; I made family and friends read it too – years before the movie, which I also enjoyed.