|an island holiday state of mind. photo by CT|
|an island holiday state of mind. photo by CT|
Literary Lotus has been all work and no play…that is until tomorrow when I jet off island for a much needed, well-deserved holiday.
My biggest challenge? Finding books I can bring that I don’t mind leaving behind when I’m done.
Suggestions are always welcome.
In honor of the martyred Saint Valentine, and our modern day celebration of love.
“Love is among the most pernicious and contagious of diseases. We who are afflicted with it can be detected by anyone. Dark circles under our eyes show that we never sleep, kept awake night after night by embraces or their absence. We suffer from devastating fevers and have an irresistible urge to say stupid things.
“Love can be induced by dropping a pinch of loveme with feigned casualness into a cup of coffee or soup, or a drink. It can induced by not prevented. Holy water does not prevent it, nor ground up host, and a clove of garlic is absolutely useless. Love is deaf to the divine Word and to witches spells. No government decree has any power over it nor can any potion prevent it, although women in the market hawk infallible brews complete with guarantees.”
–Eduardo Galeano in the Book of Embraces
By Eduardo Galeano
from The Book of Embraces
“The sun was gentle, the air clear, and the sky cloudless.
“Buried in the sand, the clay pot steamed. As they went from ocean to mouth, the shrimp passed through the hands of Fernando, master of ceremonies, who bathed them in a holy water of salt, onions, and garlic. There was good wine. Seated in a circle, we friends shared the wine and shrimp and the ocean that spread out free and luminous at our feet.
“As it took place, that happiness was already being remembered by our memory. It would never end, nor would we. For we are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass, which is something everyone knows, no matter how small his or her knowledge.”
If you’re going to focus on love today, why not focus on loving animals? And I mean all animals. Even though we’re called Homo Sapiens, we, too, are animals, as surely as the chinchilla in my backyard and the cat in your lap.
Sometimes the best way to love everyone around you is simply not to judge them, and not to take their actions personally, but also to be purposeful about your own actions–something NY Times columnist Amy Sutherland learned while researching an article on wild animal training (her resulting Times column became the most emailed article of 2006).
Now expanded into book form, What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage details how Sutherland applied exotic animal training techniques to her husband, friends, and anyone she came in contact with, and in doing so became happier, more patient, optimistic, and now gets along better with people.
Don’t think it’s possible to train people, even yourself? We try to do it all the time, Sutherland points out:
“All of us, whether consciously or not, spend a good chunk of our day trying to alter each other’s behavior. When you tailgate someone, you hope to make the car ahead of you speed up or get the hell out of the way. When you help someone, say, by explaining the appropriate length for toenails to your spouse or teasing a friend for obsessively tracking the underwear habits of Britney Spears, you are, to some extent, trying to change them. … Along the way we teach plenty of behaviors by accident. … People who respond to lunch and dinner invitations with breathless e-mails listing their busy schedules train their friends not to invite them to anything.”
Rather than just telling us what we can do to approach people differently, Sutherland candidly relates what she learned to her own interactions, revealing how she had unwittingly been trying to train her husband with “nagging, occasional diplomatic overtures, pleading, sarcasm, and a personal favorite, the cold shoulder. … Along the way, I had, by mistake, trained him to take refuge in the bathroom every time I mentioned gardening.”
She also discusses how in addition to training others differently, the first step was really training herself–to have more self control, patience, and to reward what she liked and ignore what she didn’t. That meant calling someone immediately when she got a present in the mail, or thanking her husband for picking up his wet exercise clothes, and ignoring that he’d left other messes around the house.
So when you get that bouquet of flowers today, or other tokens of affection, (assuming its desired) think like an animal–trainer, that is. How might you entice that person to do it again?
For the Hawaiian culture lover, a list of must-have collectibles books for their shelves that will be guaranteed shelf pleasers.
Guardian of the Sea: Jizo in Hawaii
By John R. K. Clark
Perhaps one reason books by former Deputy Fire Chief and one-time Sandy Beach lifeguard John Clark are so admired is, paradoxically, because he keeps himself out of them. Instead of interpreting history for us, Clark focuses on unearthing root source material to channel the story through those who actually experienced events. For his latest book, Clark interviewed over 300 people and fossicked through countless microfilm reels of Hawai`i’s English- and Japanese-language publications, to recount how the Buddhist bodhisattva Jizo came to guard Japanese fishermen and all islanders.
Life Behind Barbed Wire: The World War II Internment Memoirs of a Hawai’i Issei
By Yasutaro Soga
Throughout his nearly four-year internment, then editor of the Nippu Jiji Yasutaro Soga kept a daily record of what he saw, which after his release he used to write a captivating memoir. The first English translation of his story is unusual, for though one third of Japanese interned during World War II were issei, ineligible for citizenship, most accounts focus on Nisei, who were American citizens. In his typically fair and truthful way, Soga’s account provides a more complete portrait of this past period of American injustice.
Na Kua ‘Aina: Living Hawaiian Culture
By Davianna Pomaika`i McGregor
Unabashedly personal but also firmly academic, Davianna McGregor’s treatise on sustaining Native Hawaiian culture contends that its continuation depends upon a subsistence lifestyle that protects land and resources. Propelled by her profound realization upon a 1980’s trip to Kaho`olawe that she “was the typical single-minded urban Hawaiian academic, bent on getting where I wanted to go, but completely out of balance with the natural forces around me,” she has aimed this text and her general academic work towards perpetuation of the worldview and lifestyle of the kua`aina, whom she defines as “the keepers of Hawai`i’s sacred lands who are living Hawaiian culture.”
Loyal to the Land: The Legendary Parker Ranch, 1950-1970: Volume 2, The Senior Stewards
By Dr. Billy Bergin
The second volume of Bergin’s now classic documentation of Parker Ranch picks up where it left off, but limits its scope to twenty years of recent history instead of Volume One’s sweeping 1200 years. Focused on 1950-1970, Bergin illuminates the reigns of three senior stewards who shaped the ranch’s modern existence: Hartwell Carter, the son of A. W. Carter, credited with bringing the ranch into modernity and increasing its herd by 50 percent; Carter’s assistant, Dick Penhallow and his ambitious improvement goals; and Rally Greenwell’s growth initiatives infused with traditional values gleaned from his own family’s Kona ranching history.
Vaka Moana, Voyages of the Ancestors: The Discovery and Settlement of the Pacific
Edited by K. R. Howe
Much the same way crew members work together to sail a voyaging canoe, fourteen authors worked with Massey University professor and editor K. R. Howe to form this five-pound tome, a compilation of scholarly but accessible essays on the epic history of Pacific settlement. Swollen with 400 color and black and white illustrations, including beautiful photographs, artifacts, maps, and charts, each storyteller’s personalized prose conveys the most current knowledge about voyaging past and present.
Waikiki: A History of Forgetting & Remembering
Written by Andrea Feeser; Art and Design by Gaye Chan
Be prepared to have your expectations and assumptions challenged from the moment you pick up Chan and Feeser’s genre-defying book. The coffee table format and artful design masques its contentious underbelly, just as they argue Hawai`i’s tourism machine has done in the creation of a fictional Waikiki. Though the book’s composition is often beautiful, its meat is a dense academic dissertation that doggedly critiques the destruction of Waikiki by forces of capitalism and colonialism.
Aloha Niihau/ Oral Histories
Oral histories by Emalia Licayan, Virginia Nizo & Elama Kanahele
Rendered in the Ni`ihau dialect and in English, this compilation of oral histories by three Ni`ihau women from Niihau provide a window into ancient times and the Hawaiian perspective, while also preserving this relatively unchanged dialect.
Giving these books to the girlfriends in your group is like giving yourself a present, too. Just tell them to pass it down when they’re done.
For the clever mischief maker:
Kept: A Comedy of Sex and Manners
In this impressively deft debut novel about a Korean-American aristocrat who flirts with the courtesan trade to pay off credit card debt, the writing is immaculate: the story’s evolution nearly effortless, it has depth without being heavily messaged, light amusement without becoming fluffy and is a compelling multi-layered story without being plot-focused. And it’s difficult not to be charmed by a woman who looks up in the dictionary the words the boy she likes used to describe her, “pondering all [their] possible nuances.”
For the city girl:
The Emperor’s Children
By Claire Messud
Give the pleasure of reading this artful story, which on the surface is about the intersecting lives of three friends just beginning their thirties and living in New York City, composed of brilliantly plaited points of view and populated with dynamic, closely observed, complex characters, subtle plots lines rendered with perfect diction and immaculate writing that is heartfelt and intellectually engaging.
For the old-fashioned romantic:
The Blood of Flowers
By Anita Amirrezvani
Everything about Iran-born, former Northern California dance critic Amirrezvani’s debut novel is meticulously designed, down to its unnamed narrator, who elicits compassion and learns from her mistakes, but doesn’t fail to make new ones. It’s an entrancing tale of a quest for independence and self-reliance, and the discovery of one’s own worth.
For the young at heart:
Rosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for Girls
By Danielle Wood
These linked stories promise to reinvent the fairytale, originally meant to caution young girls against “bad” behavior. Marked in the table of contents not only by their titles but also categories, such as Virginity, Truth, Commitment, and Art, they are surprising reminders that we control the endings of our own stories.
For the life of the party:
Party Hawaii: A Guide to Entertaining in the Islands
By Kaui Philpotts, Photos Kaz Tanabe
This how-to book explores how we entertain in Hawai`i today, but also introduce you to new themes, decorations, recipes, locations and settings, and ways to shop like the locals do to prepare food whether for a potluck, baby lu`au, or stylish dinner party for your “closest” friends.
For the sports freak:
Hawaii Warrior Football
By J. David Miller, Foreword by June Jones
Peer behind the scenes at how the Bows became the Warriors, lifting themselves out of the wreck that was the UH football program, to develop a smart, cutting edge recipe for success.
For the life of the party:
The Hawaii Beer Book
By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi
A guide to the Islands’ bar scene and local brews, including ways brew your own, pair your favorite lager with food, or make your own beer-infused meal.
For the horror lover:
By Jose Carlos Somoza
If time travel were possible, where and to what occasion would you desire a visit? Somoza recently told an interviewer that his top choices would be the age of dinosaurs and Jerusalem of Jesus’ time, so it’s not unexpected that this scrupulously researched and truly terrifying scientific thriller centers on a covert government project that retrieves moments from precisely those eras.
For the historian:
The Unnatural History of the Sea
By Callum Roberts
With accessible, intimate prose, Roberts, professor of marine conservation at the University of York in England, presents evocative excerpts from historical diaries, printed chronicles, archaeological record, and descriptive eyewitness accounts, to remind us that our current state of overfished oceans is actually rooted in the emergence of commercial sea fishing in 11th century Europe.
For the war-story buff:
Tree of Smoke
by Denis Johnson
There are many reasons this 600+ page Viet Nam War era opus just won the National Book Award. One is the disparate but linked portraits of war – men on the front lines who feel wonderful only in the midst of violence and pain because it’s the only time they feel alive; men waiting on the sideline, strategizing and chasing ideals – and story lines that illuminate the ironies, where soldiers kill civilians but rescue puppies, rape girls but nick medicine for orphans.
For the trivia man:
The Little Book of the Sea
By Lorenz Schroeder
This pocket sized primer of the sea includes, lore, recipes, facts and figures, and such trivia as “coins with sea turtles on them. ” It offers the opportunity to go fishing for unexpected sea facts, but stay cozy and dry.
For the greenie:
Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility
By Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger
In this audacious and necessary book, the authors unabashedly and eloquently make their case, critiquing fundamental shortcomings—everything from misguided attempts to save the Amazon, NIMBY-ism, and Al Gore’s solution-bereft “An Inconvenient Truth”—in a clear and optimistic voice with a pinch of humor, and offers clear, positive solutions. Whether or not you agree, these contentions are ripe for discussion—because instead of arousing guilt and negativity, the aim here is to inspire.
Books never go out of style, so put down the toys and pick one of these smart tales for your niece, nephew, son or daughter.
A Clever Dog
By Jefferson Finney, illustrated by Pegge Hopper
Don’t blame menehune when your keys are missing. You’ll want to check for paw prints after reading the new book “A Clever Dog,” about a cunning canine that dreams of taking a joy ride in the family car while everyone is asleep. One dollar from each sale goes to the Hawaiian Humane Society.
Kula and the Old Ukulele
By Lance Wheeler and Jon Murakami
The Watercolor Cat
By Shelly Mecum and Peggy Chun
A tale for young and old about Hawai`i artist Peggy Chun’s imagination, paintings, struggle with ALS, and of course her beloved star cat. It’s beautiful and evocative.
Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed
By Emily Pearson, Fumi Kosaka
Wally Amos read me this book a couple of weeks ago–seriously. Even without his storytelling skills, this book will instruct children and adults about the importance one act can have on the world, and on our own hearts.
If You’re Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow
By Cooper Edens
My favorite Cooper Edens line is, If you forget the keys, throw away the house. This new gift set includes two of his classic books, with art and prose to get you thinking about possibility.
The Big One-Oh
By Dean Pitchford
If you’re nine years old, turning ten is a big deal–a momentous change from single to double digits. In this young adult novel, St. Louis School graduate and Academy Award-winning lyricist Dean Pitchford tells a universal tale of feeling a little bit different, but finding your own way through the challenge, and fun, of growing up.
Literary Lotus is taking a wee vacation–that’s why in the post below I’ve left you something to do: contribute your favorite saying. This way I’ll have something new to which to return when I get back early next week.
Here’s one to start you off, a Hawaiian proverb from ‘Olelo No’eau : Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings by Mary Kawena Pukui.