23 August 2019

Book Beginning: The Other Side of Everything by Lauren Doyle Owens



Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader. Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

Her shoes had come off during the struggle.



The next few sentences of this murder mystery have been a bit more gory than I like. But the reviews I've seen haven't used any of my NOT SAFE words, like "dark", "bleak", "raw", so I think I'll enjoy it.  Just not a fan of depressing books. I can read the news for that sort of mood.


16 August 2019

Where Can I Find a Bubbler?

Speaking American
*How Y'all, Youse, and You Guys Talk.
A Visual Guide
Josh Katz
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
203 pages


This book delves into regional differences in the terms we use in everyday American English, colorfully mapping the variations. And since the book is oversized, 10" x 9.5", it makes for maps that are easily read.




Some differences in terminology are widely known, such as the terms for canvas shoes with rubber soles: Tennis shoes, sneakers, or gym shoes. Apparently where I grew up, Milwaukee, and where I live now, Cincinnati, are both in a tiny minority of gym shoe users. Some I knew about but I didn't know all the options: Italian sandwich, sub, hoagie, grinder, hero, or wedge. Wedge?

The maps are accompanied by discussions about the words, sometimes a history of a term, or other interesting information about how and why we don't all speak alike. In addition there are paragraphs about many individual states with the flavor of "if you say this - then you are from here".

As someone who spent their first 30 years in Wisconsin, the overall summary of its words didn't quite ring true to me, but most of the Milwaukee area's verbal tics seen on the maps seemed spot on. First up, we do pronounce the state as Wi-scon'-sin not Wis-con'-sin.  When I lived in Washington, D.C., someone actually tried to correct how I pronounced "Wisconsin Avenue"! I told them that as a Wisconsinite, I said it correctly by default.

Although most of the US and Wisconsin call the tiny, sugary bits topping cupcakes "sprinkles", those of us from the Milwaukee area lean toward "jimmies" along with a lot of New Englanders. Our most famous word is probably "bubbler". You know, that porcelain fixture where you can get a drink of water? Sure, the rest of you know it as a "water fountain" or a "drinking fountain", but in most of Wisconsin (and a tiny part of Rhode Island) it's a "bubbler".



The most surprising thing for me was that there are different ways to pronounce the word "crayons". It can be krey'-awns, krey'-ahns, krowns, or krans. Turns out our "krans" is mostly found in the Milwaukee area, large swaths of Michigan and Minnesota, and the Buffalo area of New York state. My parents lived in Wisconsin and Michigan, and my mom was from Buffalo. So interesting!

This is a fun and informative read, with more visuals than words. If you are at all curious about words and language, you would enjoy this book.


Book Beginning: Speaking American by Josh Katz


http://www.rosecityreader.com/

Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader. Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

It used to be that if you wanted something to wear on your feet, your only option was expensive handcrafted leather.


The sub-title of this fun book might give you a better hint of its subject: "How Y'all, Youse, and You Guys Talk, a Visual Guide". Using many colorful maps of the United States, the author delves into regional differences in the terms we use in everyday American English. The opening sentence begins a discussion about canvas shoes with rubber soles. Tennis shoes? Sneakers? Gym shoes? Or my friend Don's term, Tenniebops? (And in England they're trainers.)

10 August 2019

Book Beginning: The Goshawk by T. H. White


http://www.rosecityreader.com/

Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader. Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

When I first saw him he was a round thing like a clothes basket covered with sacking. But he was tumultuous and frightening, repulsive in the same way as snakes are frightening to people who do not know them, or dangerous as the sudden movement of a toad by the door step when one goes out at night with a lantern into the dew.


Here T. H. White is describing his first sight of the goshawk he has just purchased, later to be named Gos. It's a short book, but has a lot of humor as White tries very hard to train Gos to hunt with him. I am reading it after seeing it mentioned in "H is for Hawk" by Helen Macdonald.


05 August 2019

Cat Fights

A Cat, a Man, and Two Women
Jun'ichiro Tanizaki
Kodansha International, 1990, translation by Paul McCarthy
Japanese original "Neko to Shozo to futari no onna", and other stories
164 pages


Mr. Tanizaki is a new author to me, although the end flap biography says that most Japanese readers would name him as the best Japanese writer of the 20th century. Apparently the stories in this small volume are different from his novels, as they are playful and lighthearted.

The book contains 3 stories, a novella called "A Cat, a Man, and Two Women" (1936), and two short stories, "The Little Kingdom" (1918) and "Professor Rado" (1923, 1928). All three were first published in magazines in Japan and went untranslated until this book appeared in 1990.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1911547038/ref=nosim/webxina/

In "The Cat" story, three female characters are vying for the attentions of the man, Shozo: ex-wife Shinako, current wife Fukuko, and a cat named Lily. Shozo is lazy, spoiled, and self-indulgent. His main passion seems to be for the cat. The two wives and his mother push him around all the time. Shozo just bumbles around and gets into arguments with all three women. They are all working class Japanese, just ordinary people.

Shinako is vindictive; she's been divorced and thrown out so he could marry a younger woman who has a bit of money. That younger woman, Fukuko, is rather flighty and runs home to daddy for days at a time to get more money and spend it. Meanwhile the fight over who gets the cat is sort of a proxy battle for Shozo.

The tone is a gentle comedy, and the author has great sympathy for these common people, and for the cat. The preface by the translator mentions that Tanizaki was a great cat-lover, and the depiction of Lily bears witness to that love. It was a fun story, although the people are rather pathetic in the end.

"The Little Kingdom" concerns a provincial school teacher and his family, suffering from poverty and illness. The main plot revolves around a power struggle between the teacher and one of his young pupils.

"Professor Rado" is a very odd tale about a journalist who pursues a pompous professor named Rado, relentlessly asking him questions to which the main answers are merely grunts. At the end, the journalist uncovers the professor's secret obsessions, which are a bit kinky.

I enjoyed these stories a lot, especially the one about Lily, the cat. It's one of those books I must have read about somewhere online, requested from the library, and then wonder how I ended up with such an odd little book. The power of the book bloggers, I guess!

This is my entry for the Back to the Classics 2019 Challenge, in the Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania category.