“Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends”

Brothers in Battle

[Explanation of Reading Journal/Entries]


2007 memoir by “Wild Bill” Guarnere and “Babe” Heffron, two members of the 101st Airborne Division featured in Stephen Ambrose’s 1992 book Band of Brothers (and the 2001 HBO miniseries). I read a first edition hardcover.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Times Read: 1

Seen the Movie: I’m calling the Band of Brothers mini-series the film version and yes, I’ve seen it several times.

Brothers in Battle was constructed from taped interviews between the veterans and journalist Robyn Post. Post does a fantastic job editing the dialogue and stories in a natural way, capturing Guarnere and Heffron’s voices and friendship in a way that each writing alone would have missed.

It’s a great supplement for fans of Ambrose’s book and the mini-series, filling in edges of the story and emphasizing the personalities, relationships, and motivations of these men. Continue reading

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“Tales From Watership Down”

Tales From Watership

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]


Richard Adams’ sort-of sequel/sort-of short story companion to Watership Down, published in 1996. I read a battered old 95-cent Avon paperback.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

Times Read: 1

Tales is divided into three parts. Part 1 consists of one-shot short stories about legendary rabbit El-ahrairah. Part 2 tells the longer story of El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle’s return to their own warren after meeting the Black Rabbit. And Part 3 continues the story of Hazel and the Watership Down warren though their first winter and their interactions with other warrens.

In Watership Down, the “current” story of Hazel’s group was effortlessly interwoven with tales of El-ahrairah. I think Adams would have done the same thing here if he had written a full story for Hazel. But Part 3 has a woefully unfinished, published-from-a-dead-author’s-notes feel (which wasn’t the case at all). It introduces Flyairth, a doe who had been Chief Rabbit of a doe-led warren and hints excessively that the Watership warren is approaching a terrible encounter with the White Blindness and/or men, but Flyairth drops out of the story and no doom ever befalls the warren. They just putter around for a couple of chapters before the book ends.

The lack of a terrible climax is a pity (as odd as that sounds to people who love the characters); the best parts of Tales are when Adams goes dark: El-ahrairah’s near-death experience in “The Hole in the Sky”, a terrible rabbit-murder being played out through eternity in “The Rabbit’s Ghost Story,” and the massacre of an entire peaceful warren in “The Story of the Terrible Hay-Making.”

Ultimately, these are disjointed and incomplete sections for what could have been a good, very dark sequel to Watership Down.

Continue reading

“Trial Balance” (Post 4/4)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

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[120] “The Funeral” (1937)

4.5 out of 5 stars. 

The Plot:

Young Reba is fascinated with another girl’s funeral.

Dark and insane; a story that I can’t believe anyone got away with writing. The excessive “black” dialect must be the only thing keeping this from being a Southern Gothic classic. I refuse to tell you anything more about it. You have to read it.

[121]

A week ago the little girl who had died had merely been another child, like any other, but with death she had taken on a strange sort of importance.

(p.349)

[122]

When she remembered again the words the preacher had spoken as he stood beside the child’s coffin that very afternoon, it did not seem sensible that anybody would want to live in a world as harsh as this one when they could have, so easily, not only eternal happiness in heaven, but a magnificent funeral as well.

(p.352) Continue reading

“Trial Balance” (Post 3/4)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

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[80] “Bill’s Eyes” (1936)

4 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

Blinded Bill is certain his eye operation from a world-famous doctor will be a success.

A near-perfect example of the author telling the reader everything they need to know while never explicitly saying it.


[81] “Geraldette” (1936)

4 out of 5 stars. 

The Plot:

Despite what her neighbors think, Geraldette Harper does much more than sew.

[82] References:

“I don’t for the life of me know what she does with all that Battenburg and Mexican drawn-work after she finishes with it.”

(p.248)

I’m guessing Battenburg sewing refers to a pattern like a Battenberg/Battenburg cake: a sponge cake with a distinctive two-by-two check pattern.

Drawn thread work is a form of counted-thread embroidery based on removing theads from the warp and/or the weft of a piece of even-weave fabric. The remaining threads are grouped or bundled together into a variety of patterns.

[83]

He was a small man, with dainty hands and feet. His full, sensual mouth was tightly compressed, and his nostrils lifted and fell with his breath, like the lid of a pot which is worried at its edges by steam.

(p.250) Continue reading

“Trial Balance” (Post 2/4)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

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[34] “Miss Daisy” (1930)

3.5 out of 5 stars. 

The Plot:

Harry worships Miss Daily as the purest soul in Reedyville until he hears her real thoughts.

[35]

Mrs. McArthur had a square flat face. She always wore gold earrings that went through her ears and fastened with a screw on the other side. The earrings were very heavy, and they pulled the bottoms of her ears down. I thought her face looked like a map of the United States with Florida on both sides.

(p.98 – 99)

[36]

Mr. Hemmes was tall and pale. He wore high starched collars and eyeglasses that hooked around one ear with a fine gold chair. I always had an idea that his head wasn’t fastened on his neck at all, but was only balanced on top of his collar like an egg in an egg cup. That Sunday I got to thinking how funny it would be if his head should roll off his collar and break on the floor, and I started laughing.

(p.103 – 104) Continue reading

“Trial Balance” (Post 1/4)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

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The collected short works of William March, published by the University of Alabama Press. The stories have copyrights from 1929 – 1945; the collection (and Introduction by Rosemary M. Canfield-Reisman) is copyrighted 1989. 

4 out of 5 stars (collection).

Times Read: 2

These stories take only about ten minutes to read apiece (fifty-five stories in a five-hundred-page collection means an average of about 9 pages per story). Some are little more than snapshots of a scene; a slight expansion of March’s style in Company K (review).

March’s most-used settings are his fictional Reedyville (also the location of three of his novels) and tales of World War I soldiers which continue themes from Company K.

The stories maintain an impressively high, consistent quality considering this is a full collection of all of March’s short stories (save one) and not a cherry-picked “best of” collection. There are a couple of flubs but March is solid (if not exceptional) overall.

Rosemary M. Canfield-Reisman gives an excellent introduction, summing up March’s themes:

[March] was soon convinced that war, like religion, was a fraud perpetuated by society, which encourages man’s natural cruelty and destroyed the innocent.

(p.xiii)

 

Most March stories conclude with the perception of loss – loss of a cause, of an ideal, of a dream, of a life. (…)

In other stories, characters must face the fact that a dream, a personal goal, is lost forever, and with it, the motivation for living.

(p.xvi)

March isn’t afraid to play with convention and explore the line between fantasy and reality, the future and the past. The worst I can say for him is that his characterization of black characters is terrible. March makes them speak in an offensive dialect that no other southern character is given (“gwiner” for “going to”, etc). It comes off really shitty.

I’ll review the stories in the order they appear in the book (which also follows their copyright dates).

Continue reading