Book Summaries: Around the World in 120 Days, Week Six, Day Two

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Book Summaries: Around the World in 120 Days, Week Six, Day Two

This is the sixth week, day two of the book summaries for Around the World in 120 Days for The Invisible Mentor’s Virtual Literary World Tour. Yesterday, we stopped our Tour in the United States with The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger and Slaughterhouse-Five: A Novel, Kurt Vonnegut. Today, we’ll remain in the US and next week we’ll wrap-up the Tour in Toronto, Canada and we may take a side trip to Sweden to look at The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Except for Superwomen, the books today are very “heavy”.

Around the World in 120 Days, Week Six, Day Two

  1. As I Lay Dying , William Faulkner, United States, New Albany, Mississippi
  2. Superwomen, Albert Payson Terhune, United States, Newark, New Jersey
  3. The Turn of the Screw, Henry James, United States, New York City, New York
  4. A Streetcar Named Desire , Tennessee Williams, United States, Columbus, Mississippi
  5. The Outsiders, SE Hinton, United States, Tulsa Oklahoma

Book Summaries: Around the World in 120 Days, Week Six, Day Two

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

First published in 1930, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner tells the story of a poor, Southern family. Addie Bundren, wife of Anse, is quite ill and will die soon. William Faulkner tells the story by using the voices of a variety of characters. Her oldest son, Cash, is making his mother’s casket in front of her bedroom window. He works diligently, making the coffin, calling on all his carpentry skills. Darl and Jewel leave to make a delivery for three dollars expecting that their mother will not die before they return.

Shortly before Addie takes her last breath, she calls out to Cash, and he raises the wood he is using to make the coffin so that she can see it. When she dies, Anse tells his daughter Dewey Dell to go and make supper because they have to keep up their strength. During the evening, the rain starts to fall heavily, yet Cash is outside with a lantern trying to finish the coffin for his mother’s body. Vernon Tull, their wealthier neighbor offers to assist him. Close to daybreak, the coffin is finally finished, and Cash, Vernon, Anse and Doctor Peabody lift the coffin and take it inside. Although the coffin is empty, they are very careful with it and walk very slowly.

As the story unfolds the reader journeys with the family through the ordeals they encounter as they fulfill Addie’s burial request and you get to know the main characters in the process.

Superwomen by Albert Payson Terhune

Superwomen by Albert Payson Terhune reads more like fiction than facts, and I’m glad that I read the book to learn about the 12 women he profiled. On average, Albert Payson Terhune dedicated one chapter, about 20 pages, to each of the women he wrote about in Superwomen. Except for two women, it was the first time I have ever heard about them.

  1. Chapter One: Lola Montez
  2. Chapter Two: Ninon De L’enclos
  3. Chapter Three: Peg Woffington
  4. Chapter Four: Helen Of Troy
  5. Chapter Five: Madame Jumel
  6. Chapter Six: Adrienne Lecouvreur
  7. Chapter Seven: Cleopatra
  8. Chapter Eight: George Sand
  9. Chapter Nine: Madame Du Barry
  10. Chapter Ten: Lady Blessington
  11. Chapter Eleven: Madame Recamier
  12. Chapter Twelve: Lady Hamilton

What makes a woman a superwoman? Terhune gives no clear definition, but after reading Superwomen, I would say that the women were bold – going after they wanted. There is also some role reversal. Although most of the women were very feminine, they had some of the most well-known men begging for their attention. The women had countless affairs, and had no qualms about giving their lovers his marching papers. Although I do not encourage others to behave the way these women did, I found the stories both delightful and refreshing. And these women knew about PR, they knew how to get the media’s attention.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Turn of the ScrewThe Turn of the Screw by Henry James is a ghost story, and the ghosts are the malevolent type. The unnamed narrator, listens as a friend reads a manuscript written by a governess who is now deceased. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is very ambiguous, therefore there are many interpretations of what it means and because of that it has a cult following.

In the story, a young governess is hired by a man to take care of his orphan niece and nephew – Miles and Flora – and he doesn’t want to be bothered with his charges. Prior to hiring the governess, there was another governess, Miss Jessel, who had a sexual relationship with another employee, Peter Quint.  Jessel and Quint spent a lot of time with Miles and Flora and after their deaths they didn’t rest in peace and wanted to take away the children. We do not know what they died from, but they are now malevolent spirits. The children are very aware of the ghosts even though they do not want to admit it. In the end, Miles dies in the new governess’ arms as she tries to shield him from Quint.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

A Streetcar Named DesireAfter reading A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, I thought, “One of the worst things anyone could do is to lie to herself.” The main characters are Stanley, Stella, Mitch and Blanche. Blanche married very young and her equally young husband commits suicide, and she has never forgiven herself. She becomes promiscuous and builds a less than sterling reputation. She loses the family’s house, as well as her job as a teacher, so she travels to visit her sister. Instead of being honest with her sister Stella, Blanche creates a fantastic story that she herself starts to believe. Stanley, Stella’s husband sees through Blanche, but he is no prince charming becuyse he rapes her. Stella doesn’t want to believe that her husband is a rapist, because if she does, that means she has to take action, and leave him. Stella has Blanche committed because her sister is out of touch with reality. Mitch believed the stories Blanche told him and wanted to marry her, but Stanley told him the truth, and he changed his mind.

The Outsiders, SE Hinton

The OutsidersThe Outsiders by SE Hinton is a very difficult book to read and at times it made me very anxious. The story is about two rival gangs – the Socs and Greasers. The first are made up of rich kids and the second, poor kids who live on the wrong side of the tracks. The Greasers are “family” and they stick together and the thing with gangs is that the members are trying to find a place where they belong. The interesting thing is that most of the kids in the Greasers weren’t bad, they just needed guidance. Most of the kids from the Socs were over-privileged kids whose parents never told them no – their raison d‘etre is to beat up members of the Greasers unprovoked.

The story is told from the perspective of Ponyboy Michael Curtis, a 14 year old boy who is the youngest member of the Greasers. Ponyboy lives with his two older brothers Sodapop and Darry, who are two and six years older than he is. Their parents died eight months before, and Darry is taking care of his two younger brothers, working two jobs. Sodapop drops out of school because he doesn’t like it and is not as smart as his two brothers. Darry has to give up going to college so that he can take care of his family. The Outsiders give us a close-up look at gangs. Incidentally, The Outsiders at one time was a banned book.

Interview With Rebecca Duffy

Avil Beckford: What are five books that you would recommend as must-reads? (Five books that profoundly moved you).

Rebecca Duffy:

Notable Australian Works

  1. Mary Poppins, PL Travers
  2. Schindler’s List, Thomas Keneally
  3. Waltzing Matilda (Banjo Paterson’s Waltzing Matilda), Banjo Patterson (bush poet)
  4. Works by Patrick White (playwright, homosexual influence, world traveler)
  5. My Brilliant Career, Miles Franklin
  6. All That Swagger, Miles Franklin

Australian Works That I Read and Enjoyed

  1. Breath: A Novel, Tim Winton and also Cloudstreet: A Novel (I have a thing for water)
  2. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak (I have a thing for books)
  3. Mao’s Last Dancer (Movie Tie-In), Li Cunxin (I like dance and have studied China. Li moved to Melbourne in 1995 and is currently at the Queensland Ballet)

My Favorites – The Ones That Moved Me

  1. The Gone-Away World, Nick Harkaway (interesting, demonstrates literary skill and a mind bender)
  2. Life of Pi, Yann Martel (Enjoyed the first read but it didn’t resonate with me until I read it again and saw the movie. And I have a thing for animals and a thing for spirituality)
  3. 1984 (Animal Farm and 1984), George Orwell (I am intrigued by human behavior and government policy, better than Animal Farm, Brave New World and We)
  4. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald (It stuck with me when I read it in school and understood the messages, but it is new again very relevant, not because Hollywood is doing a production, but because my generation saw a 1920’s party and everyone wanted to buy the big house, act rich and enjoy the green light on the other side of the lake.  Now of course we see the reality of that party and are paying a dear price)
  5. The Last Albatross – Ian Irvine (Human Rites trilogy), Ian Irvine (A scary but realistic look at the near future addressing technology, a coffee/wine shortage and climate change….all predictions are coming to pass….).

Didn’t Like

  1. Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham
  2. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
  3. The Good Earth (The Good Earth Trilogy), Pearl S. Buck

Also Enjoyed or Important Female Lit

All show women bond through difficult trials, can be heroic or depressing, important historical and cultural reads.

  1. The Red Tent: A Novel, Anita Diamant
  2. River God: A Novel of Ancient Egypt, Wilbur Smith
  3. The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
  4. Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O’Dell (Island of the Blue Dolphins #1)
  5. The Kitchen God’s Wife, Amy Tan

Avil Beckford: If you wanted to convince others to visit Australia what would your argument be?

Rebecca Duffy: Australia has the world’s oldest continuous culture and unique landscapes with unique flora and fauna.  It is a place unlike anywhere else, and there are places that seem out of this world.  In the cities, it is remarkably familiar.  I imagine Australian culture as a blend of British, Canadian, Polynesian and multicultural Asian.  It has something to match anyone’s interest, and it will be worth the journey.

Avil Beckford: What places would you recommend that they visit in Australia?

Rebecca Duffy: For Shopping, go to Sydney and Melbourne.  For Golf and wineries, go to Victoria and South Australia.  For Beaches, go to Perth/Margaret River or Queensland.  For original experiences, go down the Great Ocean Road on the southern coast, for the Great Barrier Reef and Tropical Forest go to Carins.  Also an outback tour to include the Kimberly’s, Alice Springs/Ayers Rock, Kakado.

Avil Beckford: What’s your favourite dish, and what is the recipe?

Rebecca Duffy: Pavalova

Avil Beckford: Who is your favourite musician from Australia?

Rebecca Duffy: Jessica Mauboy, Guy Sebastian, Jack Vidgen, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.

Book List for Week Six: Around the World in 120 Days

  1. As I Lay Dying , William Faulkner
  2. Superwomen, Albert Payson Terhune
  3. The Turn of the Screw, Henry James
  4. A Streetcar Named Desire , Tennessee Williams
  5. The Outsiders, SE Hinton
  6. Ficciones (English Translation), Jorges Luis Borges
  7. Love in the Time of Cholera , Gabriel García Márquez
  8. Popol Vuh: The Mayan Creation Myth(Popol Vuh)
  9. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
  10. The Catcher in the Rye, J D Salinger
  11. Slaughterhouse-Five: A Novel, Kurt Vonnegut
  12. The Success Principles(TM), Jack Canfield
  13. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated), Tim Ferriss
  14. The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living, the Dalai Lama
  15. Antonio Carluccio: A Recipe for Life, Antonio Carluccio
  16. On Leadership, Allan Leighton
  17. Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
  18. A Suitable Boy: A Novel (Modern Classics), Vikram Seth
  19. If This is a Man (If This Is a Man and The Truce), Primo Levi
  20. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, Nelson Mandela
  21. The Gone-Away World, Nick Harkaway
  22. Life of Pi, Yann Martel
  23. 1984 (Animal Farm and 1984), George Orwell
  24. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
  25. The Last Albatross – Ian Irvine (Human Rites trilogy), Ian Irvine

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