On my Bedside Table

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lily Dale: The True Story of the Town that Talks to the Dead

By Christine Wicker

I get the biggest kick out of the fact that New York State was the epicenter of new age freakiness in the latter half of the 19th century. Vegetarians, free-love cults, spiritualists -- all had upstate NY as their stomping grounds. Lily Dale is an outpost that survives to this day. I'll have to go visit.....

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Man in the Dark

by Paul Auster

There's an awful lot of stories going on in this slim volume, and they all kind of fight each other for space and attention. It's not a bad read, but it tries too hard. And the part where the granddaughter quizzes August about his relationship with her grandmother seem unformed, like you're reading character sketch notes that would have gone into writing the finished version...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Colony

by John Tayman

This is an amazing microhistory of the leper colony at Molokai covering the people, places and public health policy over a two hundred-year span. Father Damien is featured, of course, but Mother Marianne Cope and Joseph Dutton are there as well -- I'd never heard about them before, but they were just as impressive. From the beginning of the colony, when exiles were rowed to shore (or, indeed, heaved overboard near shore) to find no shelter, food, or medical attention waiting for them; to its development into a small, tight-knit community; to the stories of the last remaining colonists who only wanted to live out their remaining days in the place that had become their home -- the story of Molokai is by turns harrowing and moving. And lest you think we've come a long way -- I couldn't believe the note about the CA microbiologist that in the early days of AIDS recommended reviving Molokai as an AIDS colony..
This is a well-documented and researched history, compassionately written.