Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Heroic Measures

Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment gives us 48 hours in the lives of an elderly couple and their dog. Dorothy, the dachshund, suffers paralysis of the hind quarters the night before Alex and Ruth Cohen are about to have an open house in order to sell their East Village 5th floor walkup apartment which they have owned for almost 50 years. They hope, with the proceeds of the sale, to be able to afford an apartment in an elevator building. Complicating their trip to the dog hospital with Dorothy is a city in panic over first, the jackknifed gasoline tanker truck in the tunnel, and then the fear that the escaped driver may be a terrorist. All of this plays out as they leave Dorothy for surgery, show their own apartment and look at a couple of others and even meet friends for dinner. The tension created by the potential terrorist colors everything. There is gentle humor in much of this, especially in the media's feeding frenzy. The story switches perspectives often from Ruth to Alex to Dorothy and gives an insight into each personality. A truly lovely book.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Isabella Bird, World Traveler of the 19th Century

For an overview of Isabella Bird, see the entertaining Wikipedia article. Her writings were either in the form of letters to her loved ones back home or written in full from copious notes taken on her travels. These books are now in the public domain and have been lovingly preserved by the Gutenberg Project. My preference for public domain is, an elegant and easy to use site. I downloaded several of her books for my Kindle and then realized that two of these were also available in free audio in the same place via a zipped archive for each book. They are very competently read by Laura Caldwell and were easy to add to my iTunes library. They should be equally easy to add to your Kindle for listening if you like audio on the large device. In my opinion, smaller is better, and the iPod or iPhone is my preferred way of listening. The books are:

Among the Tibetans

The Englishwoman in America (also in audio)

The Golden Chersonese and The Way Thither

The Hawaiian Archipelago - Six Months Among the Palm Groves, Coral Reefs, and Volcanoes of the Sandwich Islands

A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains (also in audio)

Unbeaten Tracks in Japan