Greetings and welcome to the If You Build It They Will Come Edition of You Are What You Read.
The eclipse may be ten days away but the madness is building. I think I was asked a total of 30 times this week if we are going to have eclipse glasses (answer is no), any idea where these glasses can be found (Amazon, they’re evil, but they have them) and are we doing anything programming wise (nope). In the midst of all this, my Work Wife Sally brought the following story to my attention.
Jim Reinders had no idea back in 1987 that this eclipse was coming. All he knew was that Stonehenge became an obsession for him while he was working as a petroleum engineer in England. He also knew he wanted to build a memorial for his father who had died a few years prior. And being a Petroleum Engineer, Jim knew that finding stones that met the required size and heft in Nebraska would be an impossible task.
What to do?
Cars. He built a replica with cars.
During a family reunion in 1987, he and his family carefully constructed their own version of what has to be the most famous prehistoric monument on the planet with a bunch of old junkers in Alliance Nebraska. Jim and the fam finished it in time for the June 1987 Summer Solstice.
Alliance, in a happy coincidence, is squarely in the path of optimum eclipse viewing. Normally the town has a population of 8,500 but they expect those numbers to vastly swell with visitors coming from all over to view the eclipse at Carhenge. Even the Governor will be there! They have made plans for all sorts of fun activities for that week, including a 30 team softball tournament, church suppers, music and plenty of Porta-Johns. And yes, they have glasses that you can purchase for viewing. If you plan on going, Kevin Howard head of Alliance’s visitor bureau has one request. Please be careful where you park, as the bean fields will still be, well, full of beans and unavailable for parking accommodations.
You can read about the story on NPR and if you decide to go (and let us know if you do!) you can learn more about the shenanigans on the Official Website for the eclipse in Alliance. Thanks to Sally for this week’s inspiration.
This week we have an Odyssey, Pakistan, royalty, a seemingly routine visit, gardens, and letters.
James is going classical this week as he so often does. “So this is going to be a bit round about so that I can highlight a few podcasts on our way to my actual book recommendation; you might be inclined to think of it as an odyssey of sorts, or not, that really depends on you. So, Radiolab has been for some time and remains a central tenant of my podcast diet, and I will always give any podcast mentioned on it a try. This year I have fallen in love with Kathy Tu and Tobin Low, hosts of the podcast, Nancy, another WNYC production, which focuses on LGBTQ issues and stories. I have laughed with them and cried with them and in general just can’t get enough of them. So, when Steph let me know they were guests on an episode of The Librarian is In, an NYPL podcast filled with interviews which always involve great book reviews and recommendation, I immediately subscribed and downloaded the episode. When asked, Kathy describes her development as a reader and mentions her precocious fascination with the classics and especially epic poetry noting also her earlier obsession with Xena Warrior Princess. Their conversations quickly converge on Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles. It is a crushing retelling of the Iliad from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles’ dedicated companion (θεράπων) and the tragedy of their ill-fated love. I listened to it as an audiobook which seemed befitting for a retelling of an epic poem. Miller manages to write with a gravitas that evokes that of the epic itself and uses knowledge of the myth to break the readers’ hearts observing Fate’s hand in building both one of mythology’s greatest loves and most devastating losses. I’m not sure I have ever cared about two characters more than in this story and ached more for their losses."
Spunky Jill M has just finished Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. “Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid provides emotional insight into the emigration and refugee problem that many civilians are forced to endure. He proposes some poignant questions about our global future as migrants fleeing from their war-torn homelands try to integrate into more stable countries. The story of Saeed and Nadia, a young couple who fall in love as their country is falling apart, reminded me of how fortunate we are to live in the US. I loved the tale of the two young emigrants, the reminder of freedom as we know it here in the US, and the poetic writing style that Hamid shares with the reader. I am so glad that I read this short novel and look forward to reading Hamid’s other works.”
J-Rae the Coolest is reading a little different this week. “I'm a huge fan of Tudor fiction but recently I picked up a nonfiction book that is just rocking my nerdy world! It's called The Private Lives of the Tudors : Uncovering the Secrets of Britain's Greatest Dynasty by Tracy Borman, and it is diligently researched and fantastically written. It's a hefty book that begins with King Henry VII and then onto the famous King Henry the VIII with his six wives. They had traditions for everything; from how they dress ed and undressed, to rituals of the privy chamber. I love learning (in sumptuous detail) of how these men and women acted behind closed doors. If you're a historical fiction buff you've got to check this out!”
Pat T is not listening this week. “I have just finished reading, The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs and it's a brilliant work that will always be a lasting legacy for her family. Nina was a thirty-seven-year-old mother of two young boys, wife to her husband John of 10 years, daughter to a mother diagnosed with terminal cancer, as well as longtime friend to Ginny, who was also dealing with a cancer diagnosis. After a routine visit, Nina got a call from her doctor who said that she had one small spot and her family rallied around her chanting that one small spot is fixable, it’s one year out of your life and it's not a death sentence. However, one year later, the breast cancer she was being treated for became metastatic and incurable. Nina, realizing there might not be a ‘normal’ from here on out, chose to hold on to each day as precious. As she kept up with daily activities, she attempted to reassure her family that the world was not ending, it was just the ground shifting. Her end came on an early morning just before the sun rose which was her favorite time of day! While this book is similar to When Breath Becomes Air, it has its own unique experience and writing style.”
Diane has not deviated and continues to read pretty.“Private Gardens of Connecticut was published several years ago, but the twenty-eight properties featured in the book are beautiful and full of inspiration. There are homes in New Canaan, Wilton, Greenwich and many more in the Litchfield area. Author Jane Garmey with photographer John M. Hall captured incredible images of these gardens. There are Open Garden Days this month in our area. The Garden Conservancy has a website with dates that specific gardens can be visited. I hope that I can get to a few of these gardens this August.”
I am a sucker for books written in epistolary style and Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel is a terrific one. Billed as a Tragicomic Novel in Letters, we get a glimpse at the life of Julie Feller from the letters that her friends and family send her. The cast of characters includes, her father the haiku writing former child prodigy, his second wife the exceedingly formal Mei-Ling, Julie’s mom who just may have a not so secret crush on her Rabbi, and Jane, who is Julie’s adopted sister living a stoner life in Arizona with an arsenal of firearms. Also heard from are Julie’s i-Phone, the Gerbil she drowned in 1990, and her new boyfriend’s dog. If you’re looking for a smart, funny beach read I highly recommend Nuclear Family."
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from that poor, sad state who last won a football game over another certain stellar neighboring state 2085 days ago with some final musings and The Playlist. What’s good Pats? “This week while everyone prepares for the solar eclipse I will be preparing for another spectacular show. The annual Dream Cruise is next weekend and if you don’t remember my year’s past writings on this event, it’s the World’s Largest Rolling Car Show. Thousands of folks from around the world bring their classic cars, muscle cars and bizarre wheels to Woodward Avenue and cruise up and down eight lanes of paved, Detroit road. So, enjoy the solar eclipse or get yourself out to Carhenge and enjoy the view from there. It’s preparation time folks. Enjoy some tunes to put you in the eclipse watching mood.”