THE CONSTANT RABBIT: A NOVEL BY JASPER FFORDE

The Constant Rabbit: A Novel

By: Jasper Fforde

Narrated by: Andrew Wincott

England, 2022. There are 1.2 million human-size rabbits living in the UK. They wear clothes and can walk, talk, and drive cars, and do pretty much anything most human beings can do. They are the result of an inexplicable Spontaneous Anthropomorphizing Event 55 years earlier. Nobody knows what the Spontaneous Anthropomorphizing Event was intended to accomplish. No one knows why the rabbits came to populate Great Britain, but as a result, there are people — human, standard people throughout the UK, and then there are rabbits. Human-like in terms of how they live, what they do with their lives. But they are oppressed. Avoided. Never given the “good” jobs.

It’s systemic Rabbit Oppression. And logically, by all the standards of British law, these rabbits should have the same rights as other sentient creatures, they don’t. What is more, there are human foxes who slaughter rabbits … because they are foxes and some weird law say that rabbits are prey and foxes have the right to kill prey. Those are some scary foxes, too.

Jasper Fforde used to write very funny books about books and nursery rhyme people, but in his last two standalone books, he has gotten more serious. He’s still lighthearted, at least some of the time … but the issues of the day have struck home and this one, in particular, is not an amusing romp. It isn’t a dark book, but it isn’t as twinkly as his earlier books. I think the world has changed so much, he can’t write the way he used to.

Suffice to say this is — in its own very unique way — a brilliant book. I can’t tell you a lot about it without giving away more plot than i want to offer. But there is a lot to think about in this novel. It gets stuck in our head, too and doesn’t go away.

Set in the ancient village of Much Wenlock in the middle of Hereford (which is in the middle of the UK), this is a book to read at least twice. It’s beautifully well-written and as an audiobook, also beautifully narrated. There is love, loyalty, fear, bravery, and romance (both human and rabbit-style). There’s bad government, unfair laws, and the distinct feeling that rabbits might really be immigrants. And there is also something strangely Beatrix Potter going on …

I highly recommend it. If you want — need — something to think about but not so dark that it makes you cry buckets of tears, this is the book. I’m not sure what you would call it. It’s sort of science fiction, but it’s not only that. It’s something else.

TZU HSI: THE LAST EMPRESS AND THE RAPE OF CHINA By PEARL BUCK

Tzu Hsi – The Last Empress and the Rape of China, by Pearl Buck

This is the story of Tzu Hsi, a woman who rose from obscurity to rule first as regent to her son, the boy emperor, then ultimately as the last Empress of China from 1861 to 1908. Her death heralded the end of the old China. The empire collapsed only three years after her death, in 1911. First chosen as one of many concubines to the young emperor – no more than a child himself – she manipulates herself into position as his favorite, cultivates his favor until he depends on her completely. Still in love with her childhood sweetheart, a single night of love produces a son, the next emperor.

Intelligent, highly (self) educated Tzu Hsi makes herself essential to her debauched, physically weakened, opium-addicted husband. His early death leaves her regent to her son. She is forced to preside over the destruction of Chinese culture. Her fight against white imperialism is hopeless. As the representative of the last Dynasty, she tries to find her way while the China she has known is assaulted by wave after wave of western imperialist pirates under the guise of missionaries, traders, and ambassadors.

Once the rape of China begins, she is powerless to stop it. Even the rare victory is no more than a holding action. Despite all evidence, she cannot believe China can lose to these invaders and she never loses her unyielding belief in the superiority of Chinese culture … the ultimate irony given the unyielding belief of the Western powers of their superiority. The unstoppable force meets the immoveable object and the result is – as might be expected – tragic.

In a way, she was more right than she knew. The old China collapsed but from its ashes, the new China has gained more power than the old ever had. There are a number of ways to read this book. It’s a brilliant, detailed picture of a vanished civilization … beautiful and to modern minds, bizarre. And, it’s the story of Tzu Hsi, her life, her deeply flawed, complex personality. Her bad decisions based on the logic of a world already gone to which the rules no longer applied.

You can also read Imperial Woman as a much larger story, how the western nations took the oldest culture on earth and destroyed it so we could plunder it for opium. How we destroyed thousands of years of art and cultural treasures so each country from the west — who had no right to any of China — treated the Chinese people as if they were the barbarians because they did not want to become just like us.

Portrait of the Qing dynasty Imperial dowager Empress of China –1900s

The European powers with the help of the United States transformed China into a monster. Then we have the gall to complain we don’t like the way it turned out. China would never have become what it is today or taken the path it did without the brutality and devastation wrought by European imperialism. And of course, look what opium and all that has followed in its wake has done to improve our society? Karma is a nasty bitch.

Written in 1956, the story is probably more relevant today, 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent to the transformation of Communist China into the world’s biggest, baddest economic superpower. On many levels, for a lot of different reasons, it serves us right. We destroyed China. Now, in its own way, China is destroying us. One good turn deserves another.

I read Imperial Woman not long after it first came out. I was in my early teens and it was just a story. I read it as an interesting, even fascinating story. But at the time, it meant no more than that. Reading it now meant a lot more not only because of the changes in my perspective, knowledge, and interest in China’s history, but because the world has changed.

Imperial Woman was written at the peak of the Communist witch hunts in the U.S. and during the hottest part of the Cold War. The world in which we live today different yet weirdly similar. If you have a reasonable knowledge of history, a sense of destiny and fundamental belief in Karma, you will find Imperial Woman contains many layers of meaning. It’s elegantly written, not even slightly dated.

Imperial Woman is available on Kindle. It’s also available on Audible.com and as a paperback. It’s probably available at your local library. It’s a classic and absolutely worth reading as much now as ever.

YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP

I had that kind of day. My old HDX 10 inch Kindle finally refused to work with any of the newer stuff they were sending down from Audible — AND my Blue-Tooth speaker started beeping when it was fully charged. It’s like a decade old, so its internal battery probably died. The company that made it was bought by Apple and now the same speaker — which cost me $25 cost $200 — the same speaker, really and they aren’t going to send me a battery. I tried to use my 8 inch much newer Kindle, but it had been sitting unused for too long and it wouldn’t work. It didn’t work all that well when it was new and it turns out, my eyes need a bigger screen.

Mine is considered “plum.” More like peach, but okay, I’ll take plum.

So I gave in and bought a newly recertified yet somehow brand new 10″ Kindle and everything was going fine until the download of all 1476 of my audiobooks. It was a mess. I couldn’t delete anything and it had lumped all the downloaded and non-downloaded books together and most of the things in the “downloaded” pile were never actually downloaded and wouldn’t play anyway. I thought I got it fixed this morning, but then I went to listen to a book and it punked out in the middle.

I was then disconnected who knows how many times from Audible’s tech department and when I tried to explain the problem, they had NO idea what I was talking about. To make things worse, most of them spoke with a heavy non-American accent which didn’t make explaining the problem any easier — for me OR them. The day wore on and I was cut off, hung up on, disconnected, put on hold (and no one came back) and all I wanted to do was listen to a book.

Finally, I got someone who actually figured out what a godawful mess my account really was. It turns out that I had three accounts under three different user names. One name I knew about. I wanted to merge those books with my other books, but was told they couldn’t because of some issue involving paying publishers something. Then there was a third account under an email address I have never used which included another 456 books, so between the three accounts, I actually got back books I didn’t know I still had … from like 2001. That was the good part. But It was a long, long day on the telephone. I was hungry and I had a headache. All I wanted was a Kindle that worked so I could listen to books. Is that too much to ask?

Eventually, we got all my accounts merged — a major miracle — and in theory, the problem is fixed. But when you have that many books, the problem is never really fixed. The Kindle was not designed to store that many books, so it’s pretty easy for the storage thing to go wacko. I’m adding an extra 64 GB mini-CD card which should help, but still, I have to be careful how many books I download.

They also sent me instructions on how to fix the storage if and probably when, it breaks again.

He was a really nice guy. Very tech savvy (and how grateful I was!) — and even through his Spanish accent, I could easily understand him. I think by the end he was having trouble understanding me. The more tired I got, the more incoherent I became. I know we have a world to save and a nation to salvage, but sometimes, these little things can stop us in our tracks. I need books. I can cope with almost anything as long as I can read and listen.

BATTLEGROUND BY JIM BUTCHER – COMING AT THE END OF SEPTEMBER!

We already know I’m a huge fan of Jim Butcher and while I dread the ending of this series, I’m also pretty much holding my breath for the next book. I have included the trailers for”Peace Talks” and “Battleground.” The latter is due for release on September 29th.

“Peace Talks” was beyond fantastic … and so were the books that came before it. I got into reading backwards through the books down to book 9, after which I decided it was time to start upward again to get myself emotionally in tune with what was coming.

I think the next book (I think — no, I have NOT read it) seems likely to be Jim Butcher’s Ragnorok, minus Loki — though who knows? A few Norse mythological characters might show up. Why not? It’s not like they haven’t been taking shape in the shadows of the previous sixteen books.

Now, here’s the trailer for “Peace Talks.” This was released last month. I bought the hard copy of the book because I was helpless. I had to have it. I have read it only once so far. I will read it again. Soon. I’m waiting. It’s like having a birthday but saving the best gift (you always know what the best gift is, don’t you?) until the end.

Next is the trailer for “Battleground.” It’s due for release September 29, 2020. I’ve pre-ordered the hard copy because, as I said, I can’t help it. The trailer took my breath away and I don’t think it was the heavy layer of pollen in the early autumn air.

You can follow Jim on Twitter at @longshotauthor. If you are as loony as I am about his books, you can also follow Molly Carpenter and more of Jim’s other characters, human, human-like, and bizarrely “other.” He writes (on Twitter) using the personality of various characters. This totally blows my mind since I can barely keep track of me these days, much less a panoply of human, fey, wizards, werewolves and oh so many more. Name the mythology and they are in his books, sometimes as major characters or lurking in the shadows, waiting for a turn in the spotlight.

Call me crazy, but I think this would make a gangbusters mini (or not so mini) series. I’ll even dig up the money to pay for yet one more streaming channel if this ever gets produced. Oh please make it real! I need this. Reality is not working for me.

TIME TRAVEL AND DECISION MAKING

Fandango’s Provocative Question #85: LIFE DECISIONS & TIME TRAVEL

Time travel is my favorite science fiction subject along with witchery and wizardry. There are rules about time travel and always have been. I actually had to look up the rules, to make sure I remembered them. I found two sets, one from 2009 and another from 2015.

Both of these sets of rules are typically found in tales of time travel. The whole concept of time travel is mentally paradoxical and if you really think about it, it’s quite unhinging. That’s why I like it. I love the wild and crazy way you have to think about traveling in time. It’s impossible, but don’t we wish we could do it anyway? There’s a great series of books by Jodi Taylor called “The Chronicles of St. Mary’s” where nutty historians travel in time to view actual historical events and record them so that people finally get to know what really happened. The books are exciting and frequently hilarious. I think the series is beginning to wind down, but if you’ve never read the books, you have a whole series you can read or listen to on Audiobooks. I listen to them. Actually, I listen to them often. I’ve listened to the entire series several times, and a new book just came out which I have only read once … and I know there’s another one due in December.

So, about Fandango’s question:

The answer is yes, but no. Of course I’ve made bad decisions. Some were really terrible and I will regret them forever. But (there’s always a “but”), for every bad decision, in some way my life was changed, ultimately for the better. Change was not immediate or even quickly. Decisions made as a teenager didn’t come home to roost until I was well into adulthood. Karma doesn’t work fast, but but grinds very fine. Moreover, context matters. It can be decades before you realize that the bad decision you made in 1979 has somehow morphed over the course of decades to a great life.

I know there is no such thing as time travel. Even if there were “real” time travel, it would be dangerous beyond imagining because if you change one thing or one little part of a past event, other things will change. You cannot know what the potential fallout could be. Read Stephen King’s “11/22/63” about time travel and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It’s a brilliant piece of writing and it’s not one of King’s creepy horror stories. It’s genuine science fiction. Beautifully written and sometimes, almost poetry.

I know this sounds more like a book report than an opinion, but I’m seriously into time travel stories. If there’s not time travel, then I’m opting for magic. One of the other, but both would be lovely.

So, speaking of time …

DOES THE CHARACTER MATCH THE IMAGE IN THE BOOK?

Fandango’s Provocative Question #84


I’ve got a four answers here and really, there should be more. I’ve put them in order of their dates of release.

The Haunting is a 1963 British horror film directed and produced by Robert Wise and adapted by Nelson Gidding from the 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It stars Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, and Russ Tamblyn. The film depicts the experiences of a small group of people invited by a paranormal investigator to investigate a purportedly haunted house.

This is one of those amazing movies where it might even be better than the book. Julie Harris and Claire Bloom are perfect. The house — which is definitely one of the characters — is perfect. It manages to to genuinely horrifying without special effects and while sticking to the novella both in character, mood, and concept. If you haven’t seen it, please see it. It also shows you why black and white is sometimes exactly the right combination for a movie!

The Lion in Winter is a 1968 British historical drama film set around the Christmas of 1183, about political and personal turmoil among the royal family of Henry II of England, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, their children, and their guests. It is based on the 1966 Broadway play of the same name by James Goldman.

I’m not sure if this counts since it wasn’t a book, but was a stage play. Nonetheless, I can’t even think of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine without seeing this movie in my head. I didn’t “read the book,” but I sure did read the history!

The Three and Four Musketeers – The 1973 hit and its sequel were filmed as a single film which really pissed off the cast. They sued,the studio lost and the caste was paid for both movies. This delayed the release of both movies. This light-hearted (except when it wasn’t) version of the Dumas swashbuckler has the four swordsman doing battle with the devious Cardinal Richelieu and his evil accomplice Milady de Winter, determined to wreak havoc on the French monarchy.

It starred Michael York, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, and Frank Finlay. Release date: February 26, 1975 (USA) Directed by Richard Lester; Story by: Alexandre Dumas, screenplay, George MacDonald Fraser. I loved this movies so much I went to see it four times in it’s opening week.

Little Women, the 1994 version of the movie was and is a gem. It starred Winona Ryder as Jo March, Trini Alvarado Trini Alvarado as Meg March, Samantha Mathis as the older Amy March, Kirsten Dunst as the younger Amy March, Claire Danes as Beth March, Christian Bale as Laurie, Eric Stoltz as John Brooke, John Neville as Mr. Laurence, Mary Wickes as Aunt March, and Susan Sarandon as Mrs. March.

Considering how frequently this movie has been made and remade, this particular version is a pearl amidst pebbles. It captures the characters and essence of the book and not just the look and feel of the characters. I loved it and watch it whenever it is on TV … and of course I have it on DVD.

The Lord of the Rings was a series of three films (the book was also published in three volumes) shot in New Zealand by Peter Jackson.The three epic fantasy films were based on the novel written by J. R. R. Tolkien. The films are subtitled The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

The caste is much too long to list here, but I think they nailed it, They looked right, they felt right. I loved it when it came out. I still love it. And I read the book at least half a dozen times over the decades.


I should mention that there have been quite a number of history-based movies where the character characterizations were brilliant.

And now, to a couple of the worst-cast movies. In this category, there are so many, I don’t even know where to start. The earliest “talkie” version of Little Women was so badly miscast I can’t watch it. Fine actresses, badly cast. Embarrassingly miscast. All the supposed girls were full-grown women and looked it. AWFUL.

I’m with Di, at Pensitivity101 who wrote, “I know I’ve said it umpteen times, but casting Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher lost all credibility for me.” If you read the book, Jack Reacher was a big brawny bruiser of a guy and Tom Cruise looks NOTHING like him in any way at all. I know that Tom bought the rights so he got to play the role, but he really shouldn’t have. He should have had some generosity of spirit and given the role to someone else. That, however, is not Tom Cruise’s style.

Most of the movies I’ve seem seem to choose the characters more on the star’s popularity than by their resemblance to the character in the book. Sometimes, if I haven’t read the book, I have no preconception and I don’t notice, but if I have already read the book  — especially if I’ve listened to the book on audiobooks — I have a very strong idea what they look like. Sometimes I reject even the audio version because it doesn’t go with the character either. These day, most of the movies I watch are relatively old since we almost never went to the movies — and now, obviously, don’t go at all.

Garry’s contribution is the Stephen King time-travel story about JFK 11/22/63. It was particularly appalling because the book was brilliant. Overall, we are not Stephen King fans. This is not because he’s not a great writer because he is, but because he writes horror stories which generally, we don’t like. With a few exceptions. Most science fiction is not done very well no matter who wrote it or whether it’s written for movies or TV.

Oh, right. I should mention there was an absolutely appalling version of “The Scarlet Letter” in which not only were the characters nothing like the characters in the book, but the script bore little resemblance to the book either. Mostly, unless you’ve gotten a review from someone you know whose taste you trust, skip the movie. Read the book.

THINKING THROUGH THE WEEKEND

I wanted to take some time off and I am doing exactly that. I spent all yesterday pondering the possibilities of dog adoptions, wrote a few letters, didn’t read anything and didn’t really want to read much of anything. I didn’t prepare a bunch of posts for today and since hardly anyone read any of my posts from yesterday, if you want, they await.

Rain!

I think there comes a moment in blogging when you’ve been pushing yourself for a long time and your realize you just don’t want to do it. At least not today. Maybe not for a few days. It’s not that I’m not interested in blogging, it’s just that life has been hectic, worrisome and I’ve been feeling more and more pressure to somehow produce material, whether I want to or not. Today, I decided I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to write something new, rewrite something from earlier, process pictures or anything. I just wanted to not do anything. So I didn’t except for this.

What am I doing? Reading. Fixing up the kitchen. I put in a new drain-rack for the dishes. There are new racks for the bottom of the sink,  and a few other odds and ends. We did some cleaning. Garry did most of it. I’ve got three new books to read by three favorite authors and I’m going to read them. What a delightful thought!

I’ll get back to you all, probably sooner rather than later. But right now? I need a break!

And remarkably enough, it’s raining. Not heavily. Not pouring, but water is coming from the sky and more is expected tomorrow and the next day. This is a good thing. A very good thing.

NOTE: I also have a really bad toothache and it’s hard to think about anything but the pain in my face. I have an appointment tomorrow, but that seems a million years away right now. It would be ironic to manage to miss COVID and be taken out by a tooth infection!

WHEN A COMMENT TURNS INTO A POST – HOW DO I FEEL ABOUT HARRY POTTER?

To Melanie’s two part “Share My World” — How do I feel about Harry Potter?


I’m grinding slowly towards the conclusion of our refinance. As of this morning, we have cleared all the hurdles. They needed this month’s mortgage payment information, a copy of the last bank statement (I sent the wrong statement, oops). Meanwhile, I’ve got some big bills lurking in the near future so this needs to be finished.

I think it’ll be another week to 10-days before it’s completed. Worrying about money is the pits. I can’t quite let it go, though I try. It sits in the back of my brain and gnaws at me. To top it off, I have a toothache and I may need to cancel something else and get this seen to because it really hurts.

About Harry Potter.

I wasn’t a wild-eyed fan of the Harry Potter books. I liked some of them — especially anything about Quidditch because I always wanted to fly — but I didn’t like the relationships and I downright disliked a lot of the people. The books were cleverly written. I appreciate wit. The movies were more fun because they left out annoying details.

There will always be bullies and victims and Harry certainly had his share of being victimized. But I didn’t care for all the sneaking around in the Potter books, eavesdropping, and rumors perpetrated by the so-called “good” guys. Maybe there’s a teaching moment in there, but I didn’t see it. All I saw is that when confronted by bullies, victims can then use any means to get back at them.

I had never given any serious thought to the books. They were light entertainment. The problem is, these questions forced me to actually think about the series. I know it was supposed to be good fun, but when you have to think about the books, there’s a lot of nastiness and meanness. It didn’t bother me because I read them at super high speed and forgot them pretty much immediately The teachers were more interesting than the kids. I still want to know Dumbledore’s motives. Other teachers were downright kinky.

Harry Potter audiobooks

The Potter books don’t hold up well compared to many other good children’s sagas. I doubt I’ll read them again. Other series, like the Narnia books, “Little Women,” “The Black Stallion” series and other books about young people learning how to become adults have much stronger messages. The Hobbit has a more stalwart sense of honor and ethics. The “Little House” books are wonderful a hundred years after publication. To give children a sense of ethics and morals, the author needs to have to have a grip on them too. To convey meaning to kids, the writer has to be invested. In none of the Potter books did I get anything more than a sense of fun. But I liked Quidditch.

I’ve read the Narnia series half a dozen times and once during the past 6 months. I think they are better now than they were when I first read them. I’ve read “Little Women” so many times I can recite it. I reread “The Black Stallion” a couple of months ago. Even “Pollyanna” had a sincere message. But the Potter books don’t. To be fair, I’m not a fan of “youth fiction.” There’s a lot of it being published and most of it isn’t worth the time. It’s no different than reading comics and some of them had more principled characters. I always believed in Superman, The Lone Ranger, and Hopalong Cassidy. Those were GOOD guys.

Are the Harry Potter books fun? Yes. If your goal is to find something that your child will read, these books might accomplish that. Anything that gets kids to read books is by definition a good thing. Just don’t tell me really think about them!

ANGELIQUE

“Nounou,” inquired Angelique, “Why did Giles de Retz kill so many children? With these words, one of the world’s greatest series of historical fiction begins. It is a translation from French. I have been told that much was lost in a not-very-good translation. But I don’t read well enough in French to fully enjoy the books.. Once, I did, but that was a very long time ago.

angelique book cover

Nothing will change the way I feel about these books. Most were written long years ago. I read the first of them when I was 13. I still have the book, though the binding is broken and the pages are beginning to turn to dust.

The first book was published in 1957 and I read it in 1960. In those days, I lived in books. I didn’t have friends. I was too different. I’ve always been out of step. Sometimes, a lot, occasionally almost catching up with my peers. But back then … I was weird.

Then I met Angelique.


The fifth child of an impoverished country nobleman, Angélique de Sancé grows up in the Poitou marshlands, a region known as the “Green Venice”, halfway between the ocean and the forests. She is a free child, as one with the forest and the marshes, discovering nature’s healing secrets with the help of the witch Mélusine. Her logical destiny would be to marry a poor country nobleman, have children and spend her life fighting for a meager subsistence.

Destiny has other plans in store for her. At 17, when she returns from the convent where she has been getting an education, she finds herself betrothed to the wealthy count of Toulouse, Joffrey de Peyrac. He is 12 years her senior, lame, scarred and rumored to be a wizard.

from the review by Harvey Adkins


Angélique’s life and adventures inspired me and gave me courage.

angelique pages book

Thus the story begins. In subsequent volumes, they will take you through most of the world of Louis XIV. Joffrey becomes the love of Angélique’s life. After he is burned at the stake for heresy (and for being too politically powerful), Angélique finds herself homeless, penniless, with babies to protect in the underworld of Paris. Yet she rises up from the gutters back to the glittering court of Louis XIV. Confronts him on the murder of her husband, rebels against him, leads a group of Huguenots to the New World. Builds a colony, fights emissaries of the church and King to retain her freedom. Along the way, she has children — from a variety of fathers, including one resulting from rape — and one is murdered.

With all the power of Crown and Church arrayed against her, Angélique finds a way through and emerges victorious. Bowed, but never beaten. Her defeats are temporary setbacks, her triumphs change the world.

She is deathlessly beautiful. If you are a woman taking on the world, it’s never bad to have golden hair and hypnotic green eyes. But Angélique doesn’t win the day using sex. When she leads, she carries a gun and a sword. She will kill in defense of her own (and does). She will fight for her family, her home, her beliefs.

She became much more than a fictional character to me. At a time when female role models were few and far between, Angélique was fearless. Unstoppable. No simpering lady of fashion, she was tough. Smart. She suffered the worst life could dish out. She faced down unspeakable challenges. And there were casualties.

Back in the real world, author Anne Golan was fighting her publisher for the rights to her books.

Anne Golon was born 17 December 1921 as Simone Changeux in Toulon, France. She published her first novel at 18 as Joëlle Danterne. During World War II, she traveled by bicycle through France and Spain writing under various pen-names. She helped create France Magazine. Was sent to Africa as a journalist, where she met Vsevolod Sergeïvich Goloubinoff, her husband, Serge Golon.

angelique french editionThey collaborated on Angélique. Anne wrote. Serge did the considerable research required by these surprisingly accurate books. The first book in the series was an astounding success. The books were credited to Serge and Anne Golon, (Sergeanne Golon), the names having been merged by publishers who were reluctant to print books written by women.

In 1972, Anne and Serge Golon went to Canada to continue research. Anne wrote Angélique and the Ghosts. Serge died.

Anne continued writing and raising her 4 children. Between 1972 and 1985, she wrote four more books. While battling Hachette for unpaid royalties and rights, Anne Golon lived in extreme poverty. She finally won, leaving her sole owner of the works.

These are the books which were translated into English:

Angélique, The Marquise of the Angels
Angélique: The Road to Versailles (US and the UK with the 1st volume, Angélique)
Angélique and the King
Angélique and the Sultan (aka, Angélique in Barbary)
Angélique in Revolt
Angélique in Love
The Countess Angélique
The Temptation of Angélique (In Canada as: The Temptation of Angélique 1: The Jesuit Trap, The Temptation of Angélique 2: The Downfall of Goldbeard)
Angélique and the Demon
Angélique and the Ghosts.

The English translation of this series stopped abruptly with Angélique and the Ghosts. Anne Golon’s fans — like their fictional heroine — wanted to know what had happened to the author. We found her, in Paris, alive, well, and still writing. We learned — as of August, 2009 — there were three yet-untranslated books already in the series:

Angélique à Quebec
Angélique: Route de L’Espoir
Victoire d’Angélique

Ms. Golon also announced 2 more books: Royaume de France, (“Kingdom of France”) to follow Victoire, and a 15th and final volume, yet untitled. None of these has been translated. English-language readers — like me — have waited more than 35 years. An entire lifetime during which I have gone from adolescent to a senior citizen.

Anne-Golon

I’ve read thousands of books during these long years, but never lost hope for translations of the new Angélique book. Anne Golon is well into her 90s, but like Angélique herself, nothing short of Death himself can stop this remarkable woman.

July 2017: Anne Golon passed away on Friday at the age of 95. She was writing until the end. She inspired me as a girl and instilled the belief I could do anything a man could do. She was a wind behind my back for a lifetime. If you read French, there is an article in Figaro here.

DOOMSDAY BOOK BY CONNIE WILLIS

I read this for the first time when it was first published in 2008. It wasn’t available as an audible book yet, though it would be soon. So my first reading was words on paper.

It’s the story of the plague, the Bubonic Plague in England. In addition to the many light-hearted stores Ms. Willis has written, she has written a four book series about Time Travel and this was the first of the series. She’s not very technical. Her idea of time travel is to take a modern person and move them in time back to a part of history when something unusual was happening and then watch this “modern” human interact with the real inhabitants of that period.

This is either the best or worst time in history to read about Bubonic Plague. On one level, it makes COVID-19 sound like a walk in the park. Bubonic Plague is a powerful disease, borne of a bacteria rather than a virus. Which means you can’t create a vaccine against it and in all these years while Plague has been coming and going around the world, there is no vaccine. These days, it usually can be beaten back with heavy doses of antibiotics, but not always. It still kills people and it pops up all over the world, including in the United States.

In 1348 when the plague hit England and killed at least half the entire population and in some areas, killed everybody leaving towns deserted, everyone knew what we know:


WEAR A MASK. DON’T GET CLOSE TO OTHER PEOPLE.
AVOID “THE HOT SPOTS.” 


The wealthy who had homes far out in the country went there and locked the gates. Those who had no recourse — peasants and merchants — did the best they could. Everyone wore masks until people started to get crazy and say “I’m going to die anyway, so I might as well have fun in the meantime.”

Just like now.

Basically, the Black Death rampaged through England, Europe, and Asia for a few hundred years The 14th century was the biggest hit, but not the only hit. It lurked, so when a new generation was growing up, it struck again. Which is why you see remnants of the plague hitting in the Gobi Desert in prehistoric times, the Justinian Plague in Roman times, then the big one that came in with infected rats to Italian ports and ultimately, everywhere in Europe and England..

This book deals exclusively with 1348 to 1349, the years that the Plague arrived and did its best to kill everyone. It did a pretty good job. No one really knows what proportion of the human population was killed during the plague years, but it was no less than 50% and might have been as high as 75% — and in some areas, as I said, It involved the complete elimination of the entire human population and entire towns and regions. Areas that are regarded as having not been hit by plague were indeed hit, but they only lost 15 to 20% of the population — not enough deaths to even put them on the map.

Ponder that.

Today, we have a problem with freight and moving goods in the world as the Pandemic wreaks havoc. They didn’t have freight or shipping. They barely had roads. Instead, they lost so many peasants there was no one left to grow crops. So in addition to dying of plague, many died of starvation.

I found it more relaxing to read than watching the numbers of new COVID cases on the news every night. This is history. It happened. It’s over. COVID is right now. We are not free from it and we do not know when or if we will be free of it. Although it isn’t as fast a killer as Bubonic Plague, it’s still killing a lot of people and beginning to take a toll on younger people who were supposedly “immune” to it.

Even though, way back in 1348, everyone knew there was no immunity unless you just got lucky, they were as stupid about caring for themselves and each other as we are today. Supposedly they were so much less knowledgeable … but in the end, the answer was exactly the same then as now.


Social distancing and masks.


People were stupid in 1348. They are equally stupid in 2020. Times change. People don’t.

FROM THE EARTH ABIDES PROJECT: YEAR 71 — BY RANGERDON

The Year 71 – EARTH ABIDES By George R. Stewart

This is certainly the Year of Earth Abides, Year 71 to carve on Indian Rock, and there will a new printing of Earth Abides in October to celebrate.  It will be notable for two reasons:

The new edition of “Earth Abides”

Most of the previous covers for the novel have focused on people or the ruins of a post-pandemic world. The new printing has a distinctive, beautiful cover featuring  Ish’s Hammer.(The Hammer of Ish is one of two major symbols in Stewart’s work.  The Pitcher in Sheep Rock is his female symbol. The Hammer of Ish, his male symbol.)

Its “Introduction” is by distinguished writer Kim Stanley Robinson.  Even if you already have a copy of the novel, buying this edition will bring the Hammer of Ish and Robinson’s excellent survey of the book and Stewart’s life and work to your library.  (You can preorder it from Amazon or your local independent bookseller.)

Ø Ø Ø

Robinson’s  “Introduction” joins two other essays on Earth Abides to make a trilogy of considerations of novel and author.    Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Introduction” is a wonderfully-written, well-researched essay about the book as influenced by Stewart’s life, and in comparison to his other work.  James Sallis’s fine essay is a poetic consideration of the book as great literature.  Pat Joseph’s article for Californiathe University of California  Alumni Magazine, is written with an eye to Berkeley and the University’s role in the novel; and  it examines the parallels with Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague

Source: The Year 71 | the EARTH ABIDES project

THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED By JOHN BOLTON – Marilyn Armstrong

I expected it to be dull, but it wasn’t dull. I think I’d describe it as “dry.” Not unlike the material I wrote for many years.

I wasn’t going to read it, but I decided my curiosity was stronger than my desire to avoid reading a book about Trump by a Republican I basically don’t much like. Surprisingly, I didn’t find the book nearly as distasteful as I expected.

For one thing, although on most levels I completely disagree with everything Bolton has to say — personally and politically — I was surprised that the book was not intentionally divisive. He pretty much describes the facts as he perceived them coming from many years as a very hawkish Republican. I’m not hawkish and I’m not a Republican, but I realized for the first time in years it’s possible to read a book with which I disagree and still find interesting material and not feel personally offended. In 2020 in the U.S.A., that’s a big deal.

Bolton’s comments on Democrats are the usually stupid ones you hear from Republicans, but they aren’t offensive. Just dismissive and mostly wrong.

However, not everything he said was wrong. We are today seeing just how awful the original Bill Clinton NAFTA agreement was. It did exactly what we thought it would do. It stripped manufacturing out of the U.S. and created massive job losses. It greatly complicated freight and shipping on everything from underwear to trucks. We are paying a heavy price for that now. Having closed all our major industrial centers, you can’t rebuild them nearly as quickly as we abandoned them. It was a bad deal and I doubt anyone will argue the point now. All it took was one international calamity for us to discover how bad a deal it is to have all of your goods made in China and have to get them here by airplane. Maybe we’ll go back to steamships?

Other than that, the issue of war and reprisals came up often. It never seems to be of any importance to any president of either party how “incidents” begin or what we did versus what they did. We — as a people — know shockingly little about what’s really going on internationally. Not only does our government not tell us, but once the press gets hold of it, the various versions that come out are astoundingly different from each other. Fox just makes stuff up, but all the news purveyors sell their version of events. The stories may not be outright lies, but they also aren’t the truth. You have to read a lot of news to get a grip on what really happened. And even so, there’s more we don’t know no matter how much we read.

Overall, I agree that the impeachment was a farce.I thought it would be before it started. Both parties made it an exclusively party-driven event. Once the GOP announced they wouldn’t allow witnesses and wouldn’t listen to them even if they spoke, what was the point of continuing? Trump absolutely deserved to be impeached — the single thing  Bolton and I agree on. He felt there was nothing he could say that anyone would listen to and I believe he was right.

It’s not a great book, but it’s interesting and if you are a liberal Democrat, it probably won’t make you froth at the mouth. I have a feeling the true Trumpistas are more likely to find themselves frothing. Whatever he says about Democrats pales in comparison to what he says about Republicans and Trump.

Bolton isn’t exactly a convert to my politics, but he has come very far from Trumpism — and that’s a good thing.

FILE PHOTO: National Security Advisor John Bolton adjusts his glasses as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks while meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 2, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

Do I recommend it? If you have the time, it’s worth the effort. It’s interesting to get a different point of view. It’s also noteworthy recognizing Republicans aren’t the only party to have made a mess of our country. This disaster has been many years in the making. It didn’t all happen in 2016 and it won’t be over in four years, either.

We started in slavery and with the philosophy that “anyone could make it.”  This was never true. It was a lie when we wrote the Constitution and the years haven’t changed it. It will take a lot of work and a lot of  people working together to fix even a part of the disaster. I think it will take a lot longer than that to get it right, assuming we can remember after a year or so how bad it was in 2020.

We tend to have very short memories in this country and if we forget, decide it’s too much effort, the world will be no better in a decade than it is now — and that’s politically. In most other ways, it will be much worse.

We need to decide who we are, who we want to be, and how much effort we are willing to put into the struggle that is coming.