Books for the Reading

Route 66: Part I

by Lynn Wienck, The Chisholm Trail Bookstore

The search for history is best started in your own back yard. With that in mind, I picked up and read two books regarding local road lore. These two volumes covered the first road to traverse the United States: U.S. Route 66, now legend, memory, and just a shade of larger-than-life myth.

Searching for 66 by Tom Teague (1991) is a first-person recounting of a 1986 trek to discover the mother road – the road that stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles, and covered 2,400 miles. The book is comfortable, personable, and informative; it mixes history, folklore, biography, interviews, personal impressions, and autobiography. The book is one fellow’s discovery. The road has personality, the book has personality, and the road is still there. Believe it.

Michael Wallis in Route 66: The Mother Road (1990) focuses on the visual and the history: more fact, less impression, and numerous photographs. The road and it’s retro-scenery sideshows are photogenic, remarkably photogenic. State-by-state, town-by-town, the highlights are covered in detail and in color.

From 1926 to 1984, inception to close, the route traversed through Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. The road was the brainchild of Cy Avery, who was a transplant from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma and had a vision for an interstate road system. This road went through many small towns and thereby encouraged roadside commerce and tourism – a lot of flavor, much of it unusual or just flat-out bizarre.

Bobby Troup wrote a song about the road. Woody Guthrie wrote a song about the road. There was a television show about the road. John Steinbeck wrote the Grapes of Wrath recounting the trek from Oklahoma to California during the depression, Dust Bowl years. Hence, the road is literature and music, too.

The road is not all memory. The Cadillac Ranch which consists of ten Cadillacs buried face-down in the dirt, is still somewhere outside Amarillo, Texas. The place is a Rand-McNally Road Atlas landmark. I checked; it’s on the map. On. The. Map. Incredible. What are future civilizations going to make of ten Caddies, some with fins, half-buried in the middle-of-nowhere, hot, dry, flat Texas dirt?

It was time to check out the Mother Road. Really. Roll down the highway and spit the bugs out from between the teeth. Yes, indeed, books lead to great adventures. Books are exciting. They are more exciting when put into practice.

Books for the Reading

by Lynn Wienck, The Chisholm Trail Bookstore

Several days past, I noticed that the Monarch butterflies had returned – distinctive, plentiful, colorful and fluttering merrily with vivid splashes of orange and black. They are headed toward Canada and in autumn will return headed for Mexico. They have already thinned and soon will be no more than another spring memory. Still, it’s nice to see them in their glorious migration.

Several days past, I unearthed a second edition (2007) of Barbara Mertz’s Temples, Tombs & Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt.  The included chronology at the book’s beginning provides a list of ancient Egyptian dynasties from 3150 B.C. to 30 B.C. and that’s quite a span of time for a civilization. The first edition was published in 1964; this edition presents additional topics and historical revisions based on recent discoveries. Barbara Mertz – who also writes under the nom de plume of Elizabeth Peters –  delivers a highly informative, thoughtful view of time and place balancing between archeological finds, archeological methodology, and ancient history.  The writing is crisp and fluid and observations pertinent and droll.

It’s time to return to The Bayeux Tapestry by David M. Wilson. I like to look at the photographs of the Tapestry and the Tapestry is mesmerizing in its beauty and detail. It wouldn’t hurt to read a bit more of the history, too. The book is on the coffee table waiting for me and begging to be perused a little more. The Tapestry is not actually a tapestry, rather it is linen cloth in panels, embroidered upon, and then pieced together. Early attribution was to Queen Mathilde, who was William the Conqueror’s wife, but later historical evidence showed the piece to be commissioned by Bishop Odo of Bayeux, half-brother to William the Conqueror. (I learned it was Queen Mathilde during my schooling-back-in-the-dark-ages-younger years.) My, but our understanding of history changes. Next thing you know, earth, air, fire, and water will no longer be considered as the four elements that comprise the universe.

Oh, butterflies, sweet butterflies, you have come and gone so quickly. Another spring memory is simultaneously refreshed and in the making. Oh, sweet seasons, you too, change so quickly, quickly.

Books for the Reading

by Lynn Wienck, The Chisholm Trail Bookstore

It’s definitely monsoon season here. The ponds are full; there’s been thunder and lightning. Sometimes the storms are violent and sometimes not. The weather is never very gentle here and usually at extremes.

“Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

And it rather seems as if water is indeed everywhere. The thick orange clay mud will soon find its way to sidewalks and roads and then stick to boots and shoes. Does anyone wear galoshes any more?

I’m just about over the science fiction marathon that strikes periodically and I’ve reverted to technology, history, art, and biography. Regarding all those home-shelf unread books: I always know there are interesting, available books; they will be ready for me when I’m ready for them.

I’ve started Elie Wiesel’s Night, an autobiographical account of the Holocaust – displacement and concentration camp life. Although first published in 1955, Yiddish, and then revised and published in 1958, French, it was not initially well received: too dark, too ugly, and a reminder of the past. This 2006 edition was a new translation from French to English, by the author’s wife, Marion Wiesel. A little preliminary research revealed dispute over whether the account is a literary tour de force or an historical autobiography. However, the work is powerful and thoughtful and captures the both the fatalistic sense of futility and misplaced optimism in the face of brutality and dehumanization.

The New York Times recently carried a nice special section on Museums (March 15, 2012) with a museum overview including articles and photographs. Although, I didn’t read all the articles, topics such as university libraries and acquisitions provided insight. I think museums are interesting and provide much in the way of cultural and informational perspective. Apparently museums or exhibitions can be on almost any topic – anything at all from history to art and ranging far, far beyond. (For example and not covered in the newspaper, I’ve visited an automotive museum, actually several of them, aircraft museums, and natural history museums which I think are fascinating.) Will I ever get to some museums mentioned in the special section – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles? Time will tell.

So, clouds, thunder, lightning, rain, sunshine, fog, storms, and back to clouds, thunder, lightning, storms, and rain. Summer, with blistering, scorching heat, will come soon enough.

Books for the Reading

Lynn Wienck, The Chisholm Trail Bookstore

It’s spring here and everything has blossomed into a riot of color. The
redbuds are florescent pink, the lilacs are… lilac. The Bradford pear
merry white blossoms have disappeared. Monsoon season as started, although
there are clear days where turtles can be seen trying to cross narrow,
one-and-a-half lane paved no-shoulder roads.

I’ve been buying science fiction for the reading and it seems I’ve been
purchasing it everywhere: stores and a healthy index figure for the
wonderful world wide web cart. How much and how fast can I push into the
cart? I must say, I do a pretty good job.

John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation is, according to the dust jacket blurb, a
reboot of H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy (with the permission H. Beam Piper’s
literary estate). I liked Little Fuzzy ( and just knew I had it on the
shelf, but it disappeared as soon as I reached for it and probably several
years past. (A comparison would have been nice as I remember none of the
original.) In this version, the protagonist, depicted in shades of gray, is
a prospector who discovers a planetary mother lode of gem about the same
time he discovers a native-world species. The book is a whole lot of fun,
and interesting with a none-too-subtle moral message.

Also into the cart went Metatropolis edited by John Scalzi. This book
consists of five stories by five authors about similarly structured cities
of the future – some of the stories I understand, some not. Curious about
the prefix, meta, I got such terms as “beyond” or “about” or “later stage”
when I went researching. The same terminology links each tale. The message
seems to be that cities are born, cities die, cities evolve. Still, I find
it a little difficult to wrap my head around the city of the future, however
that city is envisioned, when the building of the city is the author’s
imagination. I’ve been through these tales twice, but think perhaps another
go is required. I’m starting to “get” it.

I’ve started is Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age. I’m not sure quite what
this is all about, but there are vignettes, small drama everywhere. I’ve
only just started. Extreme poverty and extreme wealth exist side by side.
The book seems to describe a dystopia controlled by major entities;
nanotechnology and I guess you would call it “body sculpting” seem to be
part of the tale. Hey, I’m just along for the ride, however the author spins
it. It’s not my city, not my world, but I’m a visitor, and I’ll have to
learn the vocabulary. However, it’s a rough ride with some frontier justice.

Enough of science fiction cities. The bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush are
in bloom. A ground fog in the early dawn made the open ground by the road
look very mysterious and rather soft gray. The air is warm, mellow, and
slightly humid – it’s spring, spring, spring.

Books for the Reading

by Lynn Wienck, The Chisholm Trail Bookstore

The weather has been every which way; rain with cold — the kind that when you walk in the door sopping wet steam rises from your clothes, to spring and warmer. Daylight savings takes me a couple of days to adjust to as I like to wake to daylight. It makes it easier to rise (and shine).

The Bayeux Tapestry by David M. Wilson has been started — the shrinkwrap removed and the book opened. Such wonderful photographs. Of the tapestry itself, it’s not really a tapestry, rather wool embroidery on linen, repaired since it was sewn and the rougher for wear. It’s two dimensions, but it looks like three dimensions. Across the top is Latin explaining each “scene” and at the bottom and sometimes the top is a border of other things. It certainly is alive with characters, ships, and sometimes red horses, and along the bottom Aesop’s Fables and other stuff. (For reference: Aesop 620-560 BCE) At the rear of the book, is the translation from Latin to English and an historical explanation of the scenes in the tapestry.

Started, finished, and twice read is Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. The tale is not about museums, libraries, nor bookstores, but all are integral to the story. It’s  in illustrations and words about two children who seek to explore their world and work with what life hands them. It’s a fast read, but a slow think.

I like museums. There’s a nice natural history museum about 75 miles up the road. Sometimes, I go and look at the dinosaurs or the travelling exhibits. Last time I went there was an exhibit on the art of New Guinea. New Guinea is an island, a large island, off Australia. The New Guinea art is primitive and vibrant and unique: masks and all. Did time stand still somewhere?

While it was raining, I made a trip to the theatre for “John Carter” which was marvelous space opera. I’ve never read any of the Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and can’t begin to tell you if the film followed the book. “Princess of Mars” was the basis for the film according to the credits. The scenery (which I think is Utah with the Colorado pea-green River cutting through the red-orange rocks) is stunning.

I’m still trying to rise (and shine) here. Heck, I’ll settle for rising.

Books for the Reading

by Lynn Wienck, The Chisholm Trail Bookstore

Last year sometime, I worked through the home bookshelves. The bookcase with technical books still remains double stacked — another tale by itself. All these shelved books do book revenge — they multiply. It’s best not to ignore them too long, lest progeny be book club editions.

The good news is that these are books I want to read or reread; the bad news is that these are books I want to read or reread. I’m going to throw a birthday party for them and hand them the keys to the car so they can drive. (I’ve had them that long.)

Here are a few that I have never read, and have high hopes of reading sometime, and well, there they are:

“Arthur Rackham A Biography” by James Hamilton. The book is large with lots of illustrations. I flipped through it this morning. It is fascinating and it would be a good idea to read the words by the illustrations. Really. It’s a striking book.

“Gahan Wilson’s America.” Evil little cartoons with lots of commentary. (Imagine Charles Addams in squiggly line drawing and in color.) The evil little cartoons make me laugh. Gahan Wilson draws what everyone else is thinking. Good for him.

“Banana Republic Guide to Travel & Safari Clothing.” Why do I have this book? Well, it’s rather hysterical, that’s why. Why haven’t I read it? Because, because, because it got put on the shelf before it got put on the coffee table. I actually read books on the coffee table and there’s a stack now. If I’m not careful, I will mix in the library books, and then get them late to the library.

“Bayeux Tapestry” by David M. Wilson. At least I don’t have to ask why this book has never been read. It’s still in shrinkwrap. Still, according to the rear dust jacket panel, it contains photographs of the complete tapestry. In 1066, William the Conquerer (French) defeated the Anglo-Saxons (British). William conquered and the tapestry was later commissioned. The conquest is embroidered on the linen and Halley’s Comet is somewhere in there, too. It is surprising that this historical document (224 feet) has survived intact nearly 1,000 years. Approximately 40% of the English language is derived from the French. Thank William the Conqueror.

Enough on the homefront books. Books to clean and catalog in the bookstore.