Up and Down the River by Cathy Johnson and guest writers is published weekly in the Big Rapids Pioneer.
By Olive Mullet
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (short-listed for 2017 Booker). This is a raw, beautifully written page-turner of a first novel, acclaimed in the Booker Award selection (though, as a long shot, not the winner). We meet Daniel, a preteen child, the first-person narrator running away from something and towards a hope of finding his teenage sister Cathy. What they are fleeing from when they lived off the land with their strong father is what we are to discover. The writing is poetic and insightful though maybe unrealistic for intermittently educated Daniel, although he’s a reader. In any case, the family’s lives – set in a wooded part of northern Yorkshire, Elmet, England – are threatened by their bully landowner, The book deals with important themes like how one cannot disentangle from the outside world, how bullies evolve, plus lots of social problems relevant to today, including the exploitation by the outside world ‘s strangers.
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan is very different from her Pulitzer Prize winning novel A Visit to the Goon Squad. The earlier novel was experimental in form which worked for the material. Manhattan Beach will be easier to read with a more traditional linear progression. Set during WWII in NYC, 12-year-old Anna Kerrigan accompanies her father to a ritzy house on Manhattan Beach and is told to play with the daughter, Tabitha, and Tabitha’s twin brothers while her father talks to the father of the rich children, Dexter Styles. During that visit Anna meets Mr. Styles on the beach where she shows her fortitude, impressing the man. Years later her father having disappeared, Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, one of many women repairing ships while men are away at war. Anna dreams of being a diver and eventually proves her metal there. And she meets Mr. Styles again – with unforeseen consequences. This is a beautifully written, riveting novel. Egan has again shown how good a novelist she is.
By Cathy Johnson Need a project for the month? Want to join 350,000 of your “closest friends” in an endeavor? Well, here’s a good one, except you’re behind the eight-ball already. Sorry. Every November for the last 18 years, thousands … Continue reading →
It is impossible to think of Michigan and November without having the mournful strains of Gordon Lightfoot’s plaintive ballad “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” come to mind. One of the most recognizable song openings ever written, the notes sing … Continue reading →
By Cathy Johnson Mother Nature has thoughtfully filled the season of autumn with sound but maybe it’s all so familiar we don’t even realize it. Humans have added their fair share to the symphony, but let’s take a listen and … Continue reading →
By Cathy Johnson So I read an article recently that really resonated with me and I thought I’d share the gist of it. The title was “I’ve Got the Old Piano Blues” by Neil Wertheimer. It ran in the October … Continue reading →
(Editor’s note: the information for this article was found on the website of the Library of Congress) Perhaps it happened so quietly that you missed in. I know I did. But it did happen…..in June. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden … Continue reading →
By Cathy Johnson The calendar and the thermometer both say it is time to get busy in your closet and change out your wardrobe to be ready for “deep fall” and the inevitable Michigan winter. And we all know what … Continue reading →
Although the national observance of Veterans Day takes place in November, the creative team at Artworks has arranged not one but multiple ways and displays for the community to acknowledge and appreciate the sacrifices and contributions of our military veterans, … Continue reading →
by Cathy Johnson The very word puts a knot in the pit of one’s stomach. No one wants to be labeled a failure. And yet failure is critical to success; it’s one of the ways we learn to persist. One … Continue reading →
By Cathy Johnson Who knew that for Voca Lyrica, the name of this column would finally come true in the summer of 2017? We literally did go up and down the Danube River on our recent performance tour. And it … Continue reading →