Old Favorites: Ambrose Bierce

I was going to substitute this feature with something else about the Great American Read, but then I realized that Ambrose Bierce’s birthday was this coming Sunday and, well, I just had to pen an ode to one of my favorite writers, AKA Bitter Bierce, The Diabolical Bierce, The Wickedest Man in San Francisco, The Rascal with the Sorrel Hair, The Laughing Devil, and (last but not least) The Devil’s Lexicographer. (I think I hit all the high points and included all the nicknames.)

Now, these nicknames make Bierce seem like evil incarnate, but he wasn’t. Honest!

He was just really, really, really, really grouchy, even by 19th century standards. And according to biographers, he was a crotchety, eccentric kid, so maybe when he entered this world on June 24, 1842, in rural Ohio, he was already destined to be one of the world’s best known literary misanthropes. (Though certain life events certainly did help him along that path.)

If you know of Bierce, it is likely because his two most famous works: his delightfully mean Devil’s Dictionary and his haunting, surreal Civil War short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” These are both great, but there’s a lot more to Bierce than meets the eye. . . .

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Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove

lonesome-dove

We’ve been chatting a lot about our “first favorites” for the Great American Read and Great Berryville Read. Those are the first books on the list of 100 books that jump out at you as automatic favorites.

I had 3 instant picks, and the one I have been leaning toward the most is Larry McMurtry’s modern classic Western Lonesome Dove. I’ve discussed my love of Westerns before, but I really don’t think you can get much better than this one. (As far as Westerns go, the only thing that I think ties with it is possibly Ron Hansen’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, another personal favorite. But it didn’t make the list!)

Trying to summarize the plot doesn’t do this novel, which is rich in characters and themes, justice. But at its heart, it’s the story of two former Texas Rangers, bored and burnt out with retired life, setting off on a cattle drive from South Texas to Montana. Along the way, they encounter psychopathic killers, stampedes, storms, snakes, sorrow, and more.

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Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours

Growing up in the Great Depression in a houseboat on the Mississippi River isn’t easy, but Rill Foss and her siblings know no other life. And despite the hardships, the life they do have with their parents and each other is exciting, loving, and even magical, at least to hear her father’s stories. That life comes to a grinding halt when the siblings are abruptly separated from their parents and sent to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. At the time, the orphanage was seen as a place for wealthy, prominent couples to acquire orphans from “good” backgrounds. But it’s now well-known as a nightmarish place that kidnapped poor children and adopted them out.

Interwoven with the story of the Foss family is that of Avery Stafford, a contemporary woman from a prominent South Carolina political family. Despite her ostensibly happy life as a successful prosecutor with a promising political future, she is troubled by the poor health of her beloved father and grandmother and her own uncertainty about her future. A chance meeting at a photo op in a nursing home unnerves her, piques her curiosity, and leads her onto a collision course with the Foss family’s tale. . . .

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Book Buzz: Mysterious Tea Cakes, Ill-Fated Arctic Expeditions, and Tasty Bread Recipes

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For May, we’re looking at a story of a mother and daughter long separated,  a really cold camping trip, and an ode to bread. . . .

In honor of the upcoming Books in Bloom festival, each of the books we’re profiling is also from a Books in Bloom author. It’s not too late to check out a copy and read it just in time to meet the author in person at Books in Bloom on Sunday, May 20th, at the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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Book Buzz: Lost Items, Successful Suffragettes, and Proper Gothic Murders

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For April, we’re looking at a touching tale of things lost and things found, a history of how women won the right to vote in the United States, and a Gothic series about a 19th century woman with an unusually comprehensive knowledge of anatomy. . . .

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Movie Review: Loving Vincent (2017)

Loving Vincent

Armand Roulin is the neer-do-well son of the postmaster in 19th century Arles, France. His father tasks him with delivering the final letter of a late friend to surviving relatives, a task Armand resents because he never much cared for that friend, Vincent van Gogh. In Roulin’s eyes, Vincent was little more than a shiftless painter, who caused his father and the town much grief before he committed suicide after moving away.

Even more irritatingly for Armand is that he is having trouble finding anyone to give the letter. Vincent’s beloved brother Theo is nowhere to be found. However, as Armand spends more and more energy trying to track down a surviving relation, he finds himself more and more intrigued by the mysteries surrounding the life and death of Vincent van Gogh.

My friend Craig recommended this film to me, and I’m so glad he did! It was a lovely, visually-stunning movie. (Thanks for the great recommendation, Craig!)

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Old Favorites: Ancient Rome

We’re focusing on newer books, movies, and television shows for 2018, but that doesn’t mean we’re entirely ignoring old favorites! After all, what’s that saying–what’s old may just become new again (or something like that)?

Last week was the Ides of March, and what better way to mark the occasion than reading and watching some old favorites about ancient Rome?

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