Car & Reader

I know, we have not been very good at writing posts the last few weeks.  We have been a bit distracted with the sale of the house, work, and all the decisions/options/thoughts around the move. We will be going to the D.C. area later this month to poke around and I am sure we will write about that next week.

After last week’s musings about cars and transmissions, I was reading a moderately interesting book, The Ghosts of Eden Park by Karen Abbott, about George Remus, a bootlegger during prohibition. (I haven’t finished it yet, so I can’t tell you if it is worth reading, but I will try to remember to mention it once I am done.) There are numerous mentions of the cars he owned and drove. It made me think about my favorite books about cars  and driving and figured this was a good forum to list a few of my favorites.

First, of course On The Road by Jack Kerouac.  It is a brilliant book about road trips and living the beatnik lifestyle. There is something about his writing style that defined a generation and introduced me (and maybe others) to the brilliance of  Alan Ginsberg, Ken Kesey (who is forgiven for Bonfire of the Vanities—I guess he needed the money) and William S. Burroughs. I long to go back to the time before I was born, to live a life that didn’t really exist, and to do things which I never would really have done. Oh, I am wearing only the best of rose-colored glasses

Next on my favorites list is Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent. My first contact with this book was hearing the author read a capture of  it live on BBC. I was, appropriately enough, in my car (A metallic blue Citroën  BX19 GTI) driving to work.  It was so funny and so enjoyable, that I sat in my car in the parking lot waiting for him to finish before going into work. I went out that afternoon and bought the book and read it all that day.  It is fabulous. Please do me a favor, follow the link and read the first paragraph of the book, it is that good. Full disclosure—I have read everything Bill Bryson has written and I love all his books.

Third is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig.  It is a deeply personal and disturbing account of a man and his son riding a motorcycle across the country. I read it a long time ago and still think about it. It is one of those books that just stays with you—at least it did for me. Mark Richardson wrote  Zen and Now in 2008, which followed the same route as Pirsig and tracked down many of the people from the book. It is worth reading too, but I would classify it as an homage rather than a critique or covering new ground.

I would welcome you comments and any suggestions on good road trip books.




Journey Within the Pages

When there’s a lull in travel plans, like say when I’ve just gone back to my job at a high school and I’m planning  a wedding, my next best way to get out of my own experience and environment is to read. I don’t need to read books about women like me–not only am I one, but I know a fair number more. I like reading about people whose experience is different from mine and places and times that are unfamiliar.

Right now, I am in the middle of “Do Not Say We Have Nothing,” by Madeleine Thien and “A Girl Like That” by Tanaz Bhathena. The Thien novel was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2016, so if you like those selections, you will like this. It travels from the eyes of a young Chinese-American girl in recent-day Vancouver back though th61URvJoRYJL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_.jpge Cultural Revolution and it’s far-reaching repercussions. I have been to China once, but I suspect you  could spend a lifetime in China and still feel that you’ve barely scratched the surface. I like seeing things through the eyes of a woman–Li-Ling or her English name, Marie–remembering her 10-year-old self dealing with the suicide of her father, a classical musician who was treated as an enemy of the people during the Cultural Revolution. Through a family friend who briefly comes to live with her and her mother, Li-Ling begins to figure out her father’s story and we experience the trauma of the Cultural Revolution. I am about a third of the way through and whenever I pick this book up, I feel as though I am truly with Li-Ling on her journey.

29451548Because I work with teens, and try desperately to get them to read, I often read YA (young adult for those of you who don’t know any) literature during the school year. “A Girl Like That” takes place in a South Asian community in Saudi Arabia. It begins when Zarin Wadia and a boy named Porus die in a car crash. No one is surprised because Zarin has a reputation as a bad girl. She was born in Mumbai to unmarried parents, one Parsi and one Hindu. Plus, her father was a gangster who disappears and then dies. When her mother dies, she is forced to live with her uncle and aunt.  Zarin’s background marks her from the start in the restrictive Saudi environment and she rebels. I’m only about 60 pages in, but the glimpse into a  community I don’t know much about and a girl’s reaction to it, makes me feel like I’m not sitting in a classroom in suburban Chicago.

Sometimes, the journey happens all in your mind and on the page and that’s OK. For a month or two, anyway.