Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Nevermore: Oregon Trail, Come Saturday, Look Who's Back, Boston Corbett, Karin Fossum, Frightful's Mountain

 Reported by Jeanne
Nevermore hit the trail this week—the Oregon Trail, that is, with one member praising Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey. Journalist Rinker set out with his brother and a dog to recreate as best he could, what it was like to travel on the Oregon Trail. They traveled in the time honored way using a covered wagon and a mule team for transportation.  Buck also recounts a history of the trail along with their present day adventures.  

For a view of the Trail it its heyday, the same reader tackled another book written by a journalist in 1846.  Francis Parkman was a twenty three year old when he took a two month trip through Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, and Kansas.  He wrote his adventures up as installments for Knickerbocker Magazine, then turned them into a book which was published in 1849. Some have noted that his views of the Native American tribes were generally negative, but Parkman still provides a vivid look at life at that time.  One thing that struck our reader was the many uses for dogs, including food.   Another member pointed out that travel along the Trail at that point was strongly dictated by nature:  travelers needed to leave by May or early June in order to reach the end of the trail before winter hit.  Those who failed to do so usually perished. Part of the problem was that on some parts of the Trail there was simply no way to turn around and go back.  The Donner Party was mentioned, but not so much as to spoil the fine Blackbird Bakery doughnuts the group was enjoying.

Another reader recommended Come Saturday by Doris Musick which is a novel based on a true incident.  In 1933, a group of men had gone to a gristmill near Lennon, Virginia when the boiler exploded. Several men were killed and several more were injured.  According to our reader, Musick does a good job with both the setting and with shedding some light on a bit of local history.

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes presents an intriguing scenario:  what if Adolf Hitler came back? In the book, he awakens in 2011.  He doesn’t realize that decades have passed and treats everything from a 1945 perspective. People believe he’s an actor or comedian pretending to be Hitler and find his outrageous comments to be “authentic.”  He becomes a TV personality with an avid following.  Our reviewer said she couldn’t decide if this was a satire or a farce but it was certainly entertaining.  

Most folks have heard of Jack Ruby, the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald, but far fewer would recognize the name Thomas “Boston” Corbett.  He was the man who killed another presidential assassin, John Wilkes Booth and for a time his name was known far and wide.  For a while after the war ended, Corbett would earn money by giving lectures, styling himself “Lincoln’s Avenger.” An extremely religious man who had reprimanded his superior officer for profanity and taking the Lord’s name in vain, Corbett’s behavior became increasingly strange and he seemed beset by paranoid delusions. In The Madman and the Assassin, author Martelle Scott tells the intriguing story of this British immigrant who was court martialed for insubordination, who spent months in Andersonville prison, and who became a foot note in American history. Our Nevermore reader called it “fascinating.”

The next reviewer opened with, “Karin Fossum hasn’t let me down yet!” He’s reading When the Devil Holds the Candle, which he describes as being about what happens when young men get confused and become misguided: they can end up in more trouble than they’re ready for.  As usual, this Inspector Sejer novel is heavy on psychology and is darkly thrilling.

Finally, a reader said that when she needed to read something to fill her with joy, she turns to Jean Craighhead George’s juvenile novel, Frightful’s Mountain. Frightful is a peregrine falcon first introduced in the classic My Side of the Mountain. The book is told from the bird’s point of view and is beautifully written.  George was a naturalist, so her books are full of authentic detail as well as a deep respect for nature and the environment.  Our reviewer described this as both a “feel good” book and as a spiritual book.  She highly recommends it to everyone.  The depiction of migration is especially good, and it almost made her feel as if she were about to take wing.

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