Susan Marie Molloy

Life in the Oasis


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BOOK REVIEW: Where Flamingos Fly and Slow Hot Wind

It’s been awhile since I wrote any type of book review or author discussion here.  As you know, lately I’ve been focusing on amusing posts and photography that reflect my daily life. Reading is part of my daily life, and my negligence on writing about the best-of-the-best books that make my reading list is, well, not giving you the full aspect of my daily life and what I call A Year of Change.

I discovered a (new to me) author, Bobby Underwood, who writes some of the best noir-type books that I’ve come across in years. If you think of authors James Ellroy, James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, films such as The Glass Key, I Wake Up Screaming, and Call Northside 777, and actors and actresses such as Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Richard Widmark, Lana Turner, Lizbeth Scott, and Humphrey Bogart, you will see that Bobby Underwood’s books and characters follow the similar path of the cynical hard-boiled and rather damaged characters that when combined, help define the excellence of this genre.

So far, I’ve read four of Bobby Underwood’s books: Where Flamingos Fly, Beautiful Detour, Glass Alibi, and Slow Hot Wind.  Each captured my attention and kept it, each filled with action and well-developed characters. His writing style is so right-on the mark that the reader could presume they were written in the 1940s or 1950s.  In fact, these are more recently-written works, and it takes uncommon talent to capture the feel and language of this genus.

Each of these books are just the right length to read in an evening or two, or if you’re like me, you can read one during your long lunch break. What I especially like is that there is no vulgarity (those pesky four-letter words I deplore are thankfully absent), and any sexually-charged scenes are written so well using metaphors and entendre, that it adds to the sophistication of the stories.  The books’ titles are right on the mark, cleverly created.  And the book covers!  They are eye-catching.

Bobby Underwood is a prolific writer, and his books are readily available through Amazon.  I recommend you pick up one or two or all of his books.

You can read my reviews on my Goodreads site; more will be added as I finish his books on my “To Read List”:
Review of Beautiful Detour
Review of Slow Hot Wind and Glass Alibi
Review of Where Flamingos Fly

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Colored Fairy Books

There are twelve books of fairy tales I came across while searching for something different to read. They were compiled researched, translated and compiled by Andrew Lang (1844-1912) and his wife, Leonora Blanche Alleyne Lang. The books were illustrated by Henry J. Ford. Andrew Lang, a Scotsman, was a literary critic, novelist, poet, and a contributor to the field of anthropology.

Each book, published between 1889-1910, is a color: “The Pink Fairy Book, “The Violet Fair Book,” “The Olive Fairy Book,” and so on. The colors do not coincide with the stories, but rather, they are just the colors of the book covers.

Clever.

The sources for the tales came from traditions all over the world: German, French, Italian, Sicilian, Rhodesian, Japanese, and many more. Included are such favorites as “Snowflake,” “The Snow-queen,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “The Blue Bird,” “Rapunzel,” plus many more you’ve heard of and not heard of. These are the refreshingly original versions, in all their straightforward, and sometimes brutal, gory glory. (Don’t think Disney!) Some are easy to read and some are difficult due to some archaic language.  Each book has an average of thirty stories.  Multiply that by twelve, and that’s a lot of fairy tales!

All in all, I do recommend these books for literary and psychological research and analysis, and just for the fun of it, if you are so motivate.

All of the books are available on Amazon Kindle.

The Colored Fairy Books
By Andrew Lang
Pages: Various
Years published: 1889-1910

©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.

 


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BOOK REVIEW: A Gentleman Doesn’t Wear a Nose Ring, or On a Young Lady’s Conduct When Contemplating Marriage

I’m doing something a little different with my Wednesday Book Review. Instead of reviewing one book here, there are two, both published in 1860.

Yes, 1860. And they’re all about how to be gentleman and a lady, and I was all over these books post haste. I remained ladylike, I assure you, in my rush to get these books.

The first, “The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness Being a Complete Guide for a Gentleman’s Conduct in all his Relations Towards Society” by Cecil B. Hartley is 169 pages of the Do’s and Don’ts if one wishes to be a gentleman. Yes, there is the expected advice of keeping one’s hair clean and combed, soiled gloves are a no-no at all times, and ladies – including mom, sisters, grandma, aunts, and wife – are to be treated with the utmost respect and are to be helped with everything ad infinitum.  It’s a gentleman’s duty.  A gentleman must act like a gentleman towards every lady who acts like a lady.

If a gentleman knows an artist or literary person who works at home, the gentleman never calls on them during the workday; to do so would be rude and interrupt their workday.

The most surprising paragraph in the entire book was the advice given regarding nose rings: DON’T wear them! I wonder what segment of society in the mid-nineteenth century wore nose rings in America. Maybe bulls? But they are not the subject audience here. There is also stern advice to not attach a bunch of charms on one’s watch fob, too. That’s tacky.

To swear, use vulgarity, and toss about slang is a sign of “low-breeding.”

The companion book to “A Gentleman’s Guide” is “The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness: A Complete Hand Book for the Use of the Lady in Polite Society” by Florence Harley, also published in 1860 and is 159 pages long.

Here we would take seriously the advice on the importance of keeping one’s dress clean, ensuring lace is not worn in great amounts when shopping (a cotton chintz dress or woolen dress are some of the suggestions), the attention to good table manners is a sign of good breeding, how a lady travels either alone with an escort, writing letters, attending church, courting and getting married, the art of conversation, et cetera. In fact, this book is almost identical to the gentleman’s book, with the applicable gender references tailored to the right audience.

There are some knitting and crochet patterns to make clothing, and tips on how to clean such things. However, the most interesting section is the recipes and tips on how to keep oneself clean, how to clean your clothing, and dental hygiene.

People in mourning would find that the black dye in their mourning clothes would stain their skin. No problem — just mix together a few ingredients, including the poisonous olaxic acid, and voila! stains are history.

Your black lacy veil need cleaning? Mix together gall of bullock (gall from a castrated bovine) with musk and a few other ingredients, and you’re good to go.

Teeth need cleaning and whitening? Cuttle fish and chalk will do the trick. Strawberries help remove tartar, so eat them as frequently as possible when they are in season.

There are a multitude of cold creams, face creams, and lip balms ready for you to make and some common ingredients are butter, beeswax, almond paste, and spermaceti. Spermaceti? Yes, it’s that waxy substance found in the head of sperm whales.

Both books have sound advice and tips that would be well-followed in these twentieth century days. The only things that date these books are references to horses and carriages, style of clothing, hygiene (insofar as how little one washes as compared to today’s society), and the like.

Both of these books are available on Amazon Kindle at no cost.

The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness Being a Complete Guide for a Gentleman’s Conduct in all his Relations Towards Society
By Cecil B. Hartley
Pages: 169
Publisher: G.W. Cottrell, Boston
Year published: 1860

The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness: A Complete Hand Book for the Use of the Lady in Polite Society
By Florence Hartley
Pages: 159
Publisher: G.W. Cottrell, Boston
Year published: 1860

©Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


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BOOK REVIEW: A Little Florida Lady

It never fails that when I start researching for one thing, I come across something else that takes me down another road, then to something else again that may or may not be related to the first thing I was researching, and then I wind up with something new and exciting that I never dreamed at the start.

“A Little Florida Lady” is that “something new and exciting” discovery.

I came across this 1903 children’s story by Dorothy C. Paine while I was researching life in the Old South and plantation living for a separate writing project. One thing led to another, this book came across my radar, and I decided it might be worth a read.

The little Florida lady is Beth Davenport, a native New York little girl, who moves to Florida with her family. She experiences new sights and sounds, odd flora and fauna, and a different way of life and vernacular along the way, beginning with the train trip to Jacksonville, Florida, and then beyond to their new home in the South.

Paine uses dialect to perfection when the black characters speak. And to buttress the dialect, she describes the black characters in terms that today would be considered in bad taste. How times have changed! However, as long as the reader understands that this story was published in 1903, dialect and descriptions work well together. In fact, I found that I could easily visualize the characters and scenes because of that. It was real.

There are lessons in this story, though awkward and perhaps judgmental in today’s mind and thinking, yet are very good ones. For example, let’s look at this scene:

Beth loved to travel, and soon was on speaking terms with every one [sic] on the car. She hesitated slightly about being friends with the porter. He made her think of the first colored person she had ever seen. She remembered even now how the man’s rolling black eyes had frightened her, although it was the blackness of his skin that had impressed her the most. She believed that he had become dirty, the way she sometimes did, only in a greater degree.

“Mamma,” she whispered, “I never get as black as that man, do I? Do you s’pose he ever washes himself?”

Mrs. Davenport explained that cleanliness had nothing to do with the
man’s blackness.

“Is he black inside?” Beth questioned in great awe.

“No. All people are alike at heart. Clean thinking makes even the
black man white within, dear.”

Beth’s mother gently explained to her, in so many words, that people are people, no matter their outward appearance – a sort of “we are all God’s children” lesson.

We see a new world as Beth sees it. Cotton fields looked like “little specks of white [looking like] little balls of snow . . . on bushes.”

Beth sees Spanish moss on live oaks as “hair.” She compares new things to those she knows, and she has that feeling and reaction of awe:

She was impatient to see everything . . . She felt that she needed a thousand eyes. The trees bewildered her. There were so many varieties she had never seen before – magnolias with their wonderful glossy foliage; bamboos with their tropical stalks covered with luxuriant green; pomegranates; live-oaks and water-oaks; the wild olive with its feathery white blossoms, and many others.

Beth makes friends at her new home, including the ubiquitous chubby, happy, red kerchief-wearing, apron-toting black woman found in many Southern stories. Yes, it’s typical and almost expected in these old stories, but I remained unphased about it – after all, this “typical” character’s name was Maggie, and that was a nice change from – brace yourself – Mammy.

Pierce’s use of dialect works well, albeit with the vernacular at the time this story was written:

As Mr. Davenport and Beth walked to the side of the darky, he lifted
his stovepipe hat that had been brushed until the silk was wearing
away. He revealed thereby a shock of iron-gray wool. He made a
sweeping bow.

“Massa, am dis de little missy dat yo’ wuz tellin’ ’bout? I’se powerful glad to meet yo’, missy.”

And that is how the reader is introduced to the Davenport’s driver, January.

Pierce continues the stereotypical descriptions of people, but it’s almost unnoticeable since it is the story:

Beth returned to the barn with Duke. January as usual was idling. He
had his fiddle and was playing “Dixie.” Beth sat down on the hay near
him, while the dog family frolicked around her. She was happy, so
happy that from sheer light-heartedness she began to sing.

Along the way, Beth meets and befriends blonde, blue-eyed poor white trash Gustus, who helps to expand her new Southern world. He exposes her to fishing, and teaches her a lesson about alligators, which she thought at first were dragons.

All in all, “The Little Florida Lady” is a good read, and one that can be finished inside of a couple of hours. As long as the reader understands the timeframe in which this story was written and the thinking of people back then, it becomes a positive, learning-lesson type of story that can be applied today in various ways, despite the mischievousness of it.

As Pierce wrote about Beth’s recovery from an illness, we can possible apply our own recovery from the illness of injurious prejudice today:

With the elasticity of childhood, Beth grew well rapidly, and was once
more her mischievous self.

How elastic are we today, in a world vastly different than in 1903 when this book was published, in regards to anything that is negative? We can learn that while we can bounce back from the condition of misunderstanding and prejudice, we can also become our mischievous selves again. The point to ponder is, are to become mischievous in a playful and impish sense, or mischievous in a malicious and wicked sense?

You can find a free copy of this book in electronic format at LoyalBooks.

“A Little Florida Lady”
By Dorothy C. Paine
Copyright, 1903, by
George W. Jacobs & Company
Published, October, 1903

Pages: 156

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The original book cover.

©Susan Marie Molloy, and works within.


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My Collection of Poetic Epicurean Delights

susan-marie-molloy-grapes-suzetteOne day, while writing notes upon notes about my observations of the world, I realized I possessed a baker’s dozen of poems in my repertoire that spoke about eating and drinking. What the heck — I covered coffee, candy, fruit, meals, and more, in various forms of poetry.

I decided that it was high time I put these little poems in a collection and published them on Amazon Kindle.

As you read each poem and delight in these courses, you will read about each poem’s style and the background which inspired me to put pen to paper. Bon apétit!

This, my latest book of poetry is, “Grapes Suzette: A Collection of Poetic Epicurean Delights” is now available on Amazon Kindle.

(c)Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.