I’ve been putting off writing this post for long enough. The idea of writing it bores me about as much as reading the book did. I gave Across the River and into the Trees two stars on Goodreads, not because it’s a bad novel, per se, but because it’s a bad novel for Hemingway. It’s also his last completed novel, which was a bit of a draw for me. (He committed suicide before completing another novel, and his tone sounds kind of like he'd already lost interest in life.) And for that, it’s almost what one would expect – in hindsight, at least.
It’s about a 51-year-old retiring America colonel in Italy. He’s hopelessly in love with a 19-year-old contessa who won’t marry him (or do any of the things that go along with marriage with him). During the week, he works, but on the weekends he travels back to Venice, stays in a hotel, and spends his time with the girl. They eat in restaurants and float around in gondolas (in which there’s a gross kind-of sex scene in the vein of the stumpy one in To Have and Have Not). And that’s about it. There’s also the not-so-shocking almost twisty ending.
That said, it’s exactly what I’d expect from a depressed, aging Hemingway with one foot in the mental grave. It’s sad. The whole thing is sad – but in a boring way. The first fifty pages was just his trip to Venice for the weekend. I almost put it down at that point because it didn’t seem like it was going anywhere. Just military talk. He hadn’t even mentioned the contessa yet. The only thing that kept me reading at that point was the description on Goodreads. I’m not sorry I did, but, well, meh.
The only Hemingway novel I don’t like is The Old Man and the Sea, and the more Hemingway I read, the less sense that makes to me. It’s not like I actively dislike this one, either. I’m not interested enough in it to dislike it. Which is why I felt like I should go ahead and write this review: Across the River and into the Trees will be one of those novels I forget with a month.
Welcome to the pilot version of Big Library Read™! This is an opportunity to unite readers – and loyal library supporters – all over the world around a single eBook. Together with Sourcebooks, the leading independent publisher, OverDrive and your library are providing a compelling novel for all to read – with a valid library card, of course.
This pilot runs from May 15–June 1, 2013, and during that time the Big Library Read will be available to enjoy on all major devices, including Kindle® (US only) and iPad®, as well as in the browser via OverDrive Read™.
It’s National Train Day and the Shreve Memorial Library's Main Branch has planned a locomotive adventure! Scott Gerardy of Dirtfoot and Kern Courtney will perform train songs by Woody Guthrie and various others in the Eaves room at 10:00 a.m. Following this sing along concert will be crafting, train stories with Dr. Spaghetti, and refreshments. This is a family focused, all ages event.
I’m not sure why I picked up Iris Murdoch‘s The Bell, especially since her first novel, Under the Net, which has been on my list for months, was sitting right on my coffee table. I really have no idea. I’m definitely a fan, though: I first hear of her from the movie Iris, which is about her life. She seemed like an interesting character. I stumbled upon her again, at some point, and bought and read an old library copy of The Unicorn, but that was a long time ago (before I started writing this blog!). I really liked The Unicorn, by the way.
Anyway, I somehow started reading The Bell (which I also own but don’t know how or why), and I was instantly hooked. It’s just so good. It was one of those of which I enjoy every single page – which is why I guess I finished it so quickly.
It’s about a lay religious community that lives next to a comment. Dora Greenfield, who had left her husband, Paul, decides to return to him, but he is researching old documents at the convent, so they stay with the community for a time. It’s tense, as I’m sure you can imagine. Many years before, the convent had lost its bell, and a new one is about to be installed, and Things Happen because of that, too. The community’s leader, Michael, has his own problems: he’s gay, in an Anglican religious community, probably in the 1950s, and his former student with whom he had had a relationship has come to live there. That’s tense, too, to say the least. And there are other characters with their own issues, which interweave with these two primary ones. It’s a mess.
I think I liked The Bell so much because I identified with a lot of the characters. Their actions and motivations seemed not necessarily right, but reasonable, to me, under the difficult circumstances. Or at least I understood why they did what they did. Murdoch weaves together the story and creates such full characters and setting that I was engrossed. Murdoch is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.
“At first the music almost repelled me, it was so intense, and this man made no attempt to sugarcoat what he was trying to say, or play. It was hard-core, more than anything I had ever heard. After a few listenings I realized that, on some level, I had found the master, and that following this man's example would be my life work.” ― Eric Clapton
Robert Johnson – “The King of the Delta Blues” – was born 102 years ago today. Johnson’s legacy and influence still reverberate throughout popular music. Your library offers a few opportunities to explore the music of Robert Johnson. I recommend you check out the following titles:
Big Head Blues Club released a great Robert Johnson tribute album in 2011 entitled 100 Years of Robert Johnson. This album was recorded by the band Big Head Todd & The Monsters along with legends B.B. King, Hubert Sumlin, Charlie Musselwhite, and Honeyboy Edwards.