Friday, August 8, 2014

A peak into A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Professor and the Madman

Late again - it has been that kind of a week. I am re-reading and reading for the first time, some classic children's novels for the Midnight Garden's Classic YA Readalong, so for Book Beginnings on Friday, hosted by Rose City Reader here is the beginning of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, which is this months book ...

Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. Especially in the summer of 1912. Somber, as a word was better. But it did not apply to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Prairie was lovely and Shenandoah had a beautiful sound, but you couldn't fit those words into Brooklyn. Serene was the only word for it; especially on a Saturday afternoon in summer. 

 I am going to go ahead and admit right here that I had to re-read that beginning bit several times over to convince myself that there wasn't a typo of some sort, 'cause you know, when I was in New York City, serene is quite possibly the last word on Earth that would have come to mind. Chaotic, huge, loud, fast, crowded ... serene just doesn't run with that crowd.

So Brooklyn now ...

Brooklyn in 1912 ...

A totally different world really.

And for non-fiction, here is the beginning of The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester, source of some of the words for my Wondrous Words Wednesday post this week ... 

In Victorian London, even in a place as louche and notoriously crime-ridden as Lambeth Marsh, the sound of gunshots was a rare event indeed. The marsh was a sinister place, a jumble of slums and sin that crouched, dark and ogrelike, on the bank of the Thames just across from Westminster; few respectable Londoners would ever admit to venturing there. It was a robustly violent part of town as well–the footpad lurked in Lambeth, there had once been an outbreak of garroting, and in every crowded ally were the roughest kinds of pickpocket. Fagin, Bill Sikes, and Oliver Twist would have all seemed quite at home in Victorian Lambeth: This was Dickensian London writ large.

For The Friday 56 hosted at Freda's Voice page 56 of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is blank, so that won't work.  We will go with the start of Book Two on page 57 ...

It was in another Brooklyn summer but twelve years earlier, in nineteen hundred, that Johnny Nolan first met Katie Rommely. He was nineteen and she was seventeen. Katie worked in the Castle Braid Factory. So did Hildy O'Dair, her best friend.  

I have to skootch back to page 55 of The Professor and the Madman for continuity ...

"Forest fires raged," wrote another solider who was at the Wilderness, "ammunition trains exploded; the dead were roasted in the conflagration; the wounded, roused by its hot breath, dragged themselves along their torn and mangled limbs, in the mad energy of despair, to escape the ravages of the flames; and every bush seemed hung with shreds of bloodstained clothing..." 

Okay - poetic and horrifying. Um, that is a really lousy note to end a post on so we need a bonus piece here. This is Friday after all. And of course the next book on the pile is 1984 - well that will make everyone feel better. The next one won't help either - man, I have to rearrange this stack of books!

How about page 1 of Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon (the forth Meg Langslow mystery) by Donna Andrews ...

"Mutant Wizards," I said. "Could you hold, please?" 

I switched the phone to my left ear, holding it with my awkwardly bandaged left hand, and stabbed at a button to answer another line. 

"Eat Your Way Skinny," I said. "Could you hold, please?" 

As I reached to punch the first line's button and deal with the Wizards' caller, I heard a gurgling noise. I looked up to see that the automatic mail cart had arrived while I was juggling phones. A man lay on top, his head thrown back, one arm flung out while the other clutched the knife handle rising from his chest. He gurgled again. Red drops fell from his outstretched hand onto the carpet. 

"Very funny, Ted," I said, reaching out to press the button that would send the mail cart on its way again. "You can come back later to clean up the stage blood." 

I could hear him snickering as the cart beeped and lurched away, ...

 Have a great weekend ! 


  1. I love the quote from Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon. It must be a really fun book to read.

  2. I really want to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn! Happy weekend!

  3. Serene New York. LOL I would never use a word like that to describe it.
    sherry @ fundinmental


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