Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Harvard at San Diego

Best Baby:  Willie Alford III
Best Band:  The makeshift band put together at the last minute by several Harvard alumni
Best Bar:  Clearly not in Old Town or at the hotel but it didn’t matter
Best Brothers:   Dave and Paul Scheper (Matt Foley was a no show, much to Jay's chagrin, so there was no competition)
Best Class:  1981
Best Cookie:  Saturday pregame tailgate (and there was no line)
Best Former Player I Hadn’t Seen in 32 Years:  Bob Woolway
Best Future Grandfather: Brian Hehir (checking that phone conscientiously)
Best Golfer:  I don’t think I heard who won but Tim Crudo assured me he was the worst
Best Hat:  Harvard hat with embroidery
Best License Plate:  My former roommate Loreen and I happened to park behind this car on Friday at a camera store miles from anywhere (see photo).  It turned out she knew the driver, a former baseball player named Dave Knolls.  He came to the party on Friday and the game on Saturday.  She also recruited him to be an alumni admissions interviewer!
Best Party:  Friday Night Reception
Best Plane/Adjacent Seat Companions:  Dan Mee going toward San Diego and Paul Brennan on the way back
Best Rate:  Marriott Courtyard (although I still think we need a hotel with a real bar - I liked the bar at the Marriott Coronado)
Best Roommate: Loreen
Best Score: Harvard 42-USD 20
Best Tee Shirt: See the onesie on Willie Alford III above (they should sell these at Dillon)
Best Trip for Golf: Paul Connors, returning to Atlanta for the Georgia Tech game
Best Victor: But I plan to continue calling him Orazio
Best View: From Wally Bregman’s infinity pool looking down into a valley (photo does not do it justice)

Best Weather: San Diego
Best Weekend: When can we do it again?  October 4, 2014 in DC

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Danger Calling (Book Review)

Title:  Danger Calling (Benbow Smith #2)
AuthorPatricia Wentworth
Publication Information:  J.B Lippincott Company, hardcover, 1931
Genre:  Mystery          Setting:  England and Paris 

Plot:  When Marian Rayne breaks her engagement to Lindsay Trevor a few days before the wedding, he is devastated. Everything is suddenly meaningless, including his job at a respected publishing house, which means it’s exactly the right moment for the mysterious Benbow Collingwood Horatio Smith to ask, “How would you like to die for your country?”  Wentworth fans know that Mr. Smith works discreetly in espionage for Britain and plays an important deus ex machina role in four books.   Here, he persuades Lindsay to disguise himself to take a job as private secretary to a flamboyant millionare, Algerius Restow, suspected of organizing a subversive movement to cause a war.  Just when Lindsay thinks Marian is gone from his life forever, he learns she is being blackmailed – but how can that be related to his investigation?
What I liked:  Lindsay Trevor is young and relatively serious; he served his country in the War and has written a well regarded book.  When Mr. Smith first propositions him, Lindsay is intrigued:

The whole business had a lure, and in other circumstances he would probably have jumped at it.  As it was –
“You’re offering me a job of some sort – a dangerous job?”
“Well—“ said Mr. Smith in non-committal tones….
“I’m afraid, sir, that I have got a previous engagement”….  Lindsay hesitated, and then put himself out of temptation’s way. “I’m being married next week, sir.”

A newly married man is not expected to risk his life for God and country but after the painful breakup with Marian is properly announced in the newspaper (now, I suppose the bride could merely change her Facebook status), Mr. Smith reaches out to Lindsay again and this time he accepts the assignment.

Lindsay’s finances are never mentioned but Marian is the heiress to an affluent uncle so he must be comfortably off or he would surely have been considered a fortune hunter.

What I disliked:  Well, it’s hard to like a hero named Lindsay, but how was Wentworth to know it would become primarily a female name?  The actual plot of this book is kind of silly, and Marian never comes to life as a character.  Even Lindsay does not have the sparkle of some of Wentworth’s later male characters – this book was written quite early in her career.  It is primarily the Miss Silver books that have been reprinted many times which is why this one is impossible to find.  Or is it because the story is so weak it was seldom reprinted?   Finally, I disliked all the snakes in the book.
Source:  I got this from the library while on vacation; I think it is one of the last copies in the country.  Thank you, CLAMS!

Click here for my other posts related to Patricia Wentworth.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Saracen Lamp (Book Review)

Title: The Saracen Lamp
Author: Ruth M. Arthur       Illustrator: Margery Gill
Publication Information: Atheneum, 1970 Hardcover
Genre: YA, Multigenerational

Plot: The book begins in 1300 when a French girl, Melisande, prepares  for her marriage to an English knight her father met on (the Ninth) Crusade.  Her trusted friend, Joseph, a Saracen servant, makes a beautiful lamp, gold with stained glass, to take with her.  Part I of the book is about Melisande’s life in England as she adjusts to married life and a new country, tries to keep peace with her disapproving mother-in-law, Lady Constance, has a family, and copes with tragedy.  Toward the end of her life, Melisande becomes aware of the presence of a young girl, in a chair with wheels.  She guesses/hopes the child is from the future and will one day live in Melisande’s beloved Littleperry Manor.
16th century Alys takes over the narrative in In Part II.  Humbly born, she becomes a servant at Littleperry, where the Saracen Lamp is still considered a treasure of the house.  Alys bears a strong resemblance to the Squire’s daughter, and when she learns she is his illegitimate daughter she becomes resentful and envious of her half-sister Cicely, for whom a great match is planned.  Alys steals the Lamp and runs away from Littleperry to London with disastrous results.

Part III is set in the 20th century where Perdita is staying at Littleperry with her grandmother, as her parents are missionary doctors in Africa.  While recovering from hip infection, she finds an old sampler:  “Till the water doth flowe from the stone lizard’s mouth, And the Saracen Lampe hangs again in the wall, Alys must wander.”   Perdita is determined to learn the secret of the Saracen Lamp but she is distracted by an imaginary friend who becomes disturbingly real… 

What I liked: Ruth Arthur is one of my favorite authors. This book is what she does best – a story told by several narrators in which she delicately paints a historical background for each vivid character, with a hint of the paranormal.  I love the description of the beautiful lamp, made for Melisande by a proud man her father captured while on Crusade with King Louis of France, and how it influences each young woman's life.   Arthur is particularly skillful at depicting relationships between children and older relatives or friends.  Even her bad characters are not usually entirely bad; for example, Alys, although bitter about her birth, is genuinely concerned for her grandmother’s well-being.   I think Arthur’s books would be popular with contemporary teenagers because of their paranormal element; perhaps someone like Lizzie Skurnick will rescue them from undeserved obscurity.  
Margery Gill was a gifted illustrator of children’s books, known not just for her drawings in Arthur’s books but for a wide body of work which included A Little Princess and Susan Cooper. 

What I disliked: Arthur’s bad characters make for some scary books but none more so than A Candle in Her Room!  The Alys ghost in this book somewhat resembles the evil Dido.

As a child, I didn't think much about Joseph, the Saracen slave who made the lamp for Melisande, but now I realize he was taken captive by sanctimonious French invaders and died far from home, after Melisande departed for England.  

Source:  I bought my copy from Gill Bilski some years ago but I initially read Arthur’s books from the Newton Boys and Girls Library.  I remember being so pleased when one of the librarians told me she had saved the newest Arthur for me when it arrived (it was The Autumn People, another favorite).  

(Image above copyright to Atheneum, 1970)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Early Literary Work

I hope my prose has improved since First Grade!  My artwork has definitely not made much progress.