Friday, October 24, 2014

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK- My year In A Women's Prison by Piper Kerman

Finished Mo 10/23/14

I was expecting this book to be a condescending put down by an uppity and privileged white girl distainful of lazy and shiftless women who couldn't or wouldn't follow the Republican playbook and 'work hard, and be successful', but was I in for a shock!! This was one of the best books I've read about life behind bars, and showed amazing insight into America's broken prison system.

The television show has very little to do with what 'the real' Piper experienced, but the show is still one of my faves. It's too sexually provocative and 'over the top', but I guess they mean it to be transgressively entertaining.

Piper must wait almost a decade before she begins her sentence. I think that alone would be punishment enough.

The show doesn't mention her running the track, and how important working out was to her sanity.

The last section of the book about her trip to Chicago to testify and the ride on Con-Air was fascinating.

Piper Kerman at wikipedia-

Amazon customer reviews-

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A STUDY IN SCARLET by Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle

October 2014 selection Classic Book Club

Finished Mo 10/20/14


I was kind of expecting more, and on the Monday morning before the meeting I watched on You Tube the BBC production from 1968 starring Peter Cushing. This was a 'theater production', and the second section of the novel that takes place in Utah was not included, but alluded to. (45"- probably an hour on British television including commercials)

They also added some material about the 'old woman' who answers Holmes's ad in the newspaper about the ring that was found with the first body.  He and Watson track this actor down to his playhouse and he's a popular 'drag artist', and had no connection to the crime, but the murderer had paid for his services. This isn't in the novel, and strange that this is the area that they chose to expand upon.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Finished Mo 10/13/14 Columbus Day at FitClub South

Last week I finished CARTHAGE and I found this novel of Oates in my collection. I loved it, and although not as long (340 pages), the writing was denser and less driven by dialog with more character development and descriptions.

The McCullough Family-

Ian, Glynnis- husband and wife. A seemingly happy couple, but not quite what they seem.
Bianca- Only daughter, although a son died at childbirth many years before. Bianca is a college student
Ian is employed in a think tank and deals with statistics and demographics. He is an avid racquetball  player- often with Denis.

In the end of the novel Bianca becomes deeply involved with Eastern Religion and makes a trip to the far east to study these philosophies. She calls her father a murderer and holds him accountable for her mother's death. Actually, I think Ian does too, and if it wasn't for his newfound love of Sigrid, he would have given up on life and went to prison (to die there).  

Nicholas Ottinger- Ian's lawyer when he is charged with second degree murder for the death of Glynnis. During at drunken dinner at The McCullough's (Bianca is at school), Glynnis tells Ian that she has found the cancelled check and is convinced that he had an affair with Sigrid and the money is an abortion for his child. A struggle ensues, Glynnis pulls a knife and Ian pushes her away and she falls through the plate glass window. The McCullough's live in a modern, glass house.

Sigrid Hunt- 'The Other Woman'. Originally a friend of Glynnis's but the Hunt woman was enamoured with them both. She asks Ian for help and a one thousand dollar loan for an abortion. The father was an Egyptian who was very jealous of Sigrid.

Meika and Vaughn Cassity- a married couple who are friends with The McCulloughs. During the trial, Ian has an affair with Meika. She drops him, and at the conclusion of the novel, Ian ends up with Sigrid and seems very happy.

Denis and Roberta Grinnell- Probably the closest couple to the McCulloughs in their wide circle of friends. Denis had an affair with Glynnis, and Ian suspects but doesn't know for sure. During the night of the incident Glynnis admits that she has had affairs, even with his close friends, and Ian suspects almost all of them. Ian tires to have an affair with Roberta during the trial, but she rebuffs him.

Samuel S. Lederer- The county prosecutor who is after Ian and probably motivated by politics. He is looking for publicity to attain higher public offices.

I suppose the point of the novel was that educated and upper class marriages in upstate New York during the late 1980' might look fabulous on the surface, they are serious cracks and flaws beneath the surface.

I loved this book, and it might even be better than CARTHAGE.

Friday, October 10, 2014

CARTHAGE by Joyce Carol Oates

Finished Th 10/10/14

I had hoped to recommend this one to The Contemporary Books Club, but I didn't because it was almost five hundred pages (482). However, this is a true page-turner; it's a thriller/mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end. Well written character development on every person in the novel.

Set in the Adirondacks town of Carthage, NY

The Mayfield Family-
Zeno, Arlette, Juliet, Cressida

Corporal Brett Kincaid

Prof. Cornelius Hinton (The Investigator)

Hayley McSwain- Armed forces veteran who rescues Cressida on the night of the incident.
Sabbath McSwain (Cressida assumes Hayley's sister's identity. They look similar

What happens on the night that Cressida confronts Brett is never explicitly explained, but she most likely declared her love for Brett after he had dumped Juliet. He still loves Juliet, but doesn't feel that (because of his disability) is worthy of her love. What exactly happened to him is also left to the imagination. He might have been the victim of 'friendly fire' because he wanted to 'come clean' about some of the atrocities that he witnessed.

When Sabbath (Cressida) tours the death row at the Orion Maximum Security Correctional Facility for Men she is asked to sit in the execution chamber and she freaks. Although not stated explicitly, she begins to understand what she has done to Brett and leaves Florida and The Investigator.

Travels by bus back to Carthage. The Mayfields are no longer together. Arlette works for a women's shelter and Zeno is living in a condo. He has a relationship with Genevieve who he drinks with, and is still deeply in love with Arlette and his family.

Juliet has married a man twenty years her senior and has two young children.

Cressida has been gone six years and seven months.

Brett in imprisoned for involuntary manslaughter and actually admitted to many murders which probably he witnessed or participated in while he was in Iraq.

Juliet at first cannot forgive Cressida for ruining The Love Of Her Life. She feels that she would have married Brett despite his disabilities.

Cressida was befriended by Brett when she was bike riding when she was in a bad area of Carthage when she was fourteen. He helped her when she was run off the road by a driver. This was their secret.

Monday, October 6, 2014


Finished Th 10/2/14

This had been 'bedside reading' for about two weeks. This makes the third time that I've read this novel since I bought it in 1996.

And, each time, I'm reminded how much more the story is about Sera than Ben. In the movie, Elizabeth Shue was great, but her performance was overshadowed by Nicolas Cage's 'scene-chewing' extravaganza. However, both the book and the film were exceptional, I think I preferred the book.