Saturday, August 17, 2019

A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold





I read and reviewed this book over three years ago, but somehow never posted it to my Contemplations of MoiBibliomaniac blog until now....


This book was the May 2016 nonfiction pick for a local book club my wife and I belonged to. It was written by the mother of one of the Columbine High School shooters. I read this book in April 2016. Only four months earlier, right after the San Bernardino shooting, I had read Gone Boy, written by a father whose son was murdered in a school shooting in Massachusetts in 1992. That book was a page turner; but I found that I was unable, for the longest time, to write a review of the book. It was just too uncomfortable a subject for me. A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, on the other hand, was a harder read, not because of the circumstances of the shooting, but because it seemed that Sue Klebold kept apologizing for her son's actions.

Sue Klebold bares her soul in documenting the before and after of the Columbine shooting. She divides the book into two parts, the first of which she is still in denial, and the second in which she begins to understand how her son became a killer. The other shooter, Eric Harris, wanted to kill people. While her son Dylan wanted to take his own life. Dylan's parents were unaware of his depressed state of mind. Both sets of parents were unaware of their sons' preparations for the shooting. What surprised me was that Eric had seen a psychiatrist and was on medication while both he and Dylan were attending a Diversion Program in lieu of jail after being arrested for theft 15 months prior to the shooting.

Looking back, Sue Klebold saw signs that her son was in trouble emotionally. But she did not notice them at the time. Another thing that somehow stayed below the radar was a school paper that her son wrote about a man dressed in black who kills the popular kids at school. The teacher did mention at a parent's conference that she was disturbed with the subject of the paper and referred it to the guidance counselor, but said the matter was under control. Sue Klebold asked her son to show her the paper, and he said he would that night. He didn't and the matter was forgotten. I mention this because bullying was a factor in the shooting. Sue Klebold believed that the arrest, the paper, and her son's mental state, when combined together, might have given cause for a threat assessment of her son by authorities.

There was a lively discussion of this book at our local book club. We came away with the opinion that it could have happened to any parent. But that every parent needs to be on the lookout for signs of mental or emotional problems of their children.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Library Book by Susan Orlean


If the Los Angeles Public Library were a living, breathing thing, then Susan Orlean, a staff writer at The New Yorker, has written a can't-put-it-down biography of its life and the people who worked there.  Interspersed throughout the book, beginning on the front pastedown, is the author's true-crime account of the library fire,  the disposition of the 700,000 books that were either wet or smoky or both, and the subsequent arson investigation into the cause of the fire, and its prime suspect Harry Peak.


With her pen, Susan Orlean seems to bring past city librarians back to life to tell their stories about the history and the  rebuilding of the Los Angeles Public Library.  She interviews library staff members, and we learn what they're doing at the library.  But most of all, we learn that they love being librarians.

I mentioned that the author begins her writing on the front pastedown with an account of the fire on April 29, 1986.  She has chapters but doesn't identify the chapters by title.  Instead, she uses the titles of books listed on library catalog cards to identify the subject matter of the chapter:




Timing is everything.  I read Chapter 25 a few weeks after The New York Times documented Donald Trump's ten-year billion-dollar losses in the real estate market.  So I had to chuckle when I read the title of the first book she uses to infer that part of the chapter is about the real estate market:




I like the book checkout information the author recorded on the library card that is displayed on the rear pastedown:




Ray Bradbury: author of Fahrenheit 451
Edith Gross: her mother
Austin Gillespie: her husband
 Her own name, Susan Orlean, with the date of the fire 4-29-86

Earlier, I mentioned something about the library being a living thing.  I'll close with the author's words as she roamed around the Los Angeles Public Library:
....The silence was more soothing than solemn.  A library is a good place to soften solitude; a place where you feel part of a conversation that has gone on for hundreds and hundreds of years even when you're all alone.  The library is a whispering post.  You don't need to take a book off a shelf to know there is a voice inside that is waiting to speak to you, and behind that was someone who truly believed that if he or she spoke, someone would listen....

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Grammarian in the Bedroom, Or, A Whole New Dimension to the Elements of Style



I am still actively collecting early editions of The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.  And I still don't have a copy of the 1918 edition.   But I'm still looking. Here's what the cover of a 1918 edition looks like in case you ever find one for me:


And here is what  the cover of any edition of The Elements of Style is not supposed to look like:



Createspace Independent Publishing Platform has been publishing this book since 2015.  I have to tell you though: reading this book will not improve your sexual prowess in the bedroom.  The cover has nothing whatsoever to do with the contents of the book.  I did, however, verify that this book is a reprint of the 1918 edition of The Elements of Style.  And William Strunk Jr. was the author of this book.  But I believe he would turn in his grave if he got a peek of this cover.

This particular book has received six reviews on Amazon:

1.  Four Stars:
I bought this book as a reference book and it works just fine that way.  I found its "plot" predictable, its "mood" thoughtful, its "pace" steady, and its "characters" developed.  It lacks suspense.  But it does have STYLE.
3 people found this helpful

2.  Five Stars:
Well written and excellent exlplanations. (sic) 

3.  Five Stars:
The book looked new.  The price was right.
One person found this helpful 
4.  Five Stars:
Perfect!
One person found this helpful

5.  Five Stars:
Get this, sit down, read it.  No don't study it, just read it, all 50 pages in one sitting. 
4 people found this helpful 
Note: There are 55 pages in this book.

6.  Four Stars:
Informative. Dry. For scholarly individuals. Not sure I'd recommend this to anyone except for high school or early college students. You should definitely know what's in the book, but I'd rather stick to the internet because I think I'd find many more references and examples. The book is a bit limiting.
Two people found this helpful 

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller by Carol Baxter

 

 I am slowly forming my second Sentimental Airman Collection.  So when I saw The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller listed in the February batch of Early Reviewer books on Library Thing, I requested it, won it, and received my copy in March.
     This book is about an Australian woman, Mrs Chubbie Miller, who meets a Royal Air Force Reservist, William "Bill" Newton Lancaster at a party in London in the late 1920s. He intends to be the first aviator to fly a light aircraft from Great Britain to Australia, but lacks the funds required for the trip.  Chubbie offers to help pay for the trip if she can fly as a passenger with him to Australia.  The trip is fraught with bad weather and mishaps, and another aviator becomes the first to complete the trip from Great Britain to Australia.  Chubbie, however, becomes the first woman to fly as a passenger from Great Britain to Australia.
     After spending a few months flying around in Australia, Chubbie and Bill decide to try their luck in America.  Chubbie learns to fly, and enters women's cross-country derby races, making a name for herself.
     The Great Depression happens and jobs are scarce.  Chubbie is hired to fly from Pittsburgh to Havana and back again.  The purpose of the her trip was to promote Pittsburgh as an air centre.  The weather deteriorates rapidly after Chubbie departs from Havana, and Chubbie never reaches Miami.  Search planes are sent out but no one can find her.  On the fourth day, everyone learns she is still alive.  Chubbie over-accounted for the strong winds of the storm that were pulling her off course.  Instead of running out of fuel over the Gulf, she ran out of fuel and landed in a remote marsh in Andros Island, Bahamas.
     In the last third of the book, Chubbie becomes involved in a love triangle in Miami.  While Bill is out of state looking for work, Chubbie has a romantic tryst with her ghostwriter, and then tells Bill of her ongoing affair in a letter.  Bill, still in love with Chubbie, rushes back to Miami and the ghostwriter dies that very night.  Bill either kills him or the ghostwriter commits suicide by gun.  The book now becomes a murder mystery with Bill on trial for murder and Chubbie as one of the witnesses.  And here is where I stop, because you will enjoy reading the true tale the author weaves of how the trial plays out.