Category Archives: Books

Adrift in Books

007_edited-1Today’s writing prompt is the perfect excuse to revisit the post about my raft book collection.

I’m not big on collections. I used to be. I had all sorts of collections. If I saw something I liked, I would start a collection. Until I felt that I was surrounding myself with things just for the sake of surrounding myself with things, and I got rid of most of them.

One collection I still have is my book collection. It’s not a collection like a porcelain elephant collection. My books represent a large part of my life. I’d no less get rid of my books–the ones worth keeping–than I would get rid of baby photos.

And within my collection of books, I’ve allowed myself another collection: raft books.

It all started with this one:

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This 1968 street directory of Sydney and the surrounding area usually lay on our coffee table.

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When we emigrated to Australia in 1965, we lived in a tiny trailer or caravan for the first six months or so. After that we first lived in Dee Why, then in Collaroy, and then in Dee Why again, before moving back to the Netherlands.

But I digress. It all started with the photo on the back of the Gregory’s street directory:

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This photo fascinated me. I could stare at it forever. I still can. Despite the fact that these three kids were obviously very Australian, wholesome, happy, well-fed and well-taken care of, I imagined that they were building that raft so they could run away from home. Or float away from home. In which case they also lived on waterfront property.

Around the same time I was also introduced to survival stories like Robinson Crusoe, and my favorite: The Swiss Family Robinson. These stories also got my imagination going.

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Decades later, when my parents were going to get rid of Gregory’s Street Directory, I saved it. It was the beginning of my collection of raft books.

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My definition of a raft book is very loose. Any kind of book that has any kind of mention or picture of a raft is a raft book. Except for the thousands of books about rafting down the Colorado River, rafting down the Grand Canyon, etc. The travel guide type of raft books are too easy and too numerous to be much sport.

Other than that, raft books include both fiction and non-fiction in which a raft plays a major role, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Raft Book, an instruction manual for building rafts.

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One of the most riveting survival raft books I’ve ever read is Adrift, by Stephen Callahan. And one of the worst is 65 Days Adrift, by William Butler. Well, it’s the worst in the sense that the author is incredibly unsympathetic. But that in itself is also interesting. It’s the only autobiographical story I’ve ever read by a complete jerk who has no idea that his own writing shows exactly what a jerk he is.

Books that only very briefly feature a raft count as well. An example is Sinister Island, by C. Bernard Rutley. And quality has nothing to do with it. Because Sinister Island is an example of a badly written book of the kind I would usually never even pick up. Part of the point of having a collection of raft books is that I find and read books I usually wouldn’t.

At first I didn’t look up raft books online, because I felt that was cheating. But once I had the most obvious ones, I did google raft books. I’ve got a list on my smartphone, and every now and then I find one of them at the Half Price Book Store. It’s great when that happens.

Ordering raft books that I’ve googled at a regular bookstore would still be cheating, but I do scan the shelves at both regular bookstores and Half Price Books for books that look like they might be raft books. Like the one below, from HPB. Doesn’t it look like there might be a raft in there somewhere? (If you’ve read it, don’t give it away.) And because it’s part two in a series, I had to buy part one as well.

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In the photo below, I’ve only read the last one, a very thin little picture book about words starting with an R. So I still have a couple of delicious raft books to read!

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If you know of any raft books that you don’t see in the photos above, let me know. Especially ones in which a raft doesn’t play a big part, because those don’t show up when I google raft books.

If you want to see most of my collection, visit my Pinterest board about my raft books.

 

Famine, War and Love: a Novel

famine, war and love

Image: amazon.com

A reader of my blog recently published a novel and he has been kind enough to send me a signed copy!

The story makes the connection between the famines of Ireland in the nineteenth century, the Netherlands during the Hunger Winter of 1944-1945 under German occupation, and Ethiopia in the early 1980s,  thus bringing into view the universality of the effects of hunger, war and displacement. Continue reading

Dinner and books in an Austin Strip Mall

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Image: telegraph.co.uk

R and I looked on Yelp for a place to eat in north Austin this evening, and we ended up in Troy, a Turkish/Mediterranean place in a little strip mall where we had been once before, a couple of years ago. Continue reading

Refueling: Filling my Tank With Drukwerk and Stroops

image: dutchcommunity.com

image: dutchcommunity.com

Well, waddaya know? The daily writing prompt is “Recharge“, just as I was getting ready to write about refueling as an immigrant. Another term I learned recently, from Akhtar’s book Immigration and Identity.

What do you do to refuel (or recharge) as an immigrant–to get your home fix, as it were? Continue reading

Lies Your Teacher Told You

image: sundown.afro.illinois.edu

image: sundown.afro.illinois.edu

So yesterday’s post set the stage for James W. Loewen’s book Lies My Teacher Told Me. It was first published in 1995 and then updated in 2007. Loewen points out a lot of the same things I mentioned in yesterday’s post. In addition, he found that high school students generally rank history as the least relevant subject, even less relevant and interesting than algebra. (No offence, math teachers.) Continue reading

This Country Great Again

image: huffingtonpost.com

image: huffingtonpost.com

The angry goldfish at the top of the GOP presidential candidate polls is blaming all the country’s woes on a vulnerable group in society–undocumented immigrants in this case. Continue reading

The Assault: Part 10: Time Eternal

Image: Jan Breughel the elder: Orpheus in the Underworld

Image: Jan Breughel the elder: Orpheus in the Underworld

The tinkering with time and events, which I addressed in the previous post, leads us to what Mulisch calls “time eternal;” the elements in his writing which put the historical events into a larger, more timeless perspective. Continue reading