The merry recluse: a life in essays

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Knapp, Caroline
The merry recluse: a life in essays 
This was published posthumously in 2004. The compiler is Sandra Shea, her former editor. The author died of lung cancer in 2002 at the age of 42.  Ms. Knapp was a columnist for the Boston Phoenix, an alternative newspaper, and her essays also appeared in The New York Times, Salon, Siren magazine, and New Woman magazine. She wrote honestly about her struggles and her innermost thoughts and feelings.  She admits to feelings of jealousy, anxiety, grief, loneliness and rage that many of us deny. Her essays about her obsessions and addictions are truly brave. In “A letter to my father”, she states “I’ve come to see drinking as a relationship, as full and rich and sensual and complex as the kind you have with the key people in your life, as the kind I had with you.  I loved drinking, for a long time. I loved it so much I could have died for it, literally.  But you died first and in many ways, I guess that spared me.  On some key level, you see, I couldn’t give up drinking until I’d given up you.”
      “Life without anesthesia” is about how exposed one feels after giving up an addiction.  In her case, she hid behind anorexia and alcoholism.  In conquering a food disorder and alcoholism, she was sometimes flooded with too many emotions, but also experienced an authentic life.  Ms. Knapp was also a fine social critic.  The piece entitled “Teddy Bear II” is about a case where a woman abandoned her father who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  She argues that we as a nation do a very poor job of caring for our elderly.  She could be funny, too.  How many of us can relate to spending inordinate sums of money to furnish our homes in “Notes on Nesting” I saw myself in “I hate money”: “I hate money.  I hate dealing with it, thinking about it, managing it, planning for it, and accounting for it. On the other hand, I don’t have too many problems spending it, which complicates matters considerably.” ” Bills? What bills? I don’t see any bills. Who’s Bill? Let’s talk about something else.” Some essays might appeal more to women.  In “Barbie does death”, Ms. Knapp states that “The big walk down the aisle  is allegedly something a girl starts dreaming about as soon as she’s old enough to dream”.  She did an informal poll of 15 of her friends, and only two had the wedding fantasy.  The majority fantasized about being rock stars or superheroes.  The title essay “The merry recluse” is about the joys of living alone, and how this flies in the face of societal expectations.  It would have been amazing to see what other issues she would have tackled, if she had lived.

Seaworthy : a swordboat captain returns to the sea

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Greenlaw, Linda
Seaworthy : a swordboat captain returns to the sea
Linda Greenlaw wrote The hungry ocean, The lobster chronicles, and more. She was played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in the film “The perfect storm.” The book opens with Linda in jail in Newfoundland, so you know something goes wrong.  Linda decides to return to the Grand Banks off the coast of Canada to fish for swordfish after a ten year hiatus.  She has assembled a fantastic crew consisting of her friends Archie, Timmy, Dave, and an acquaintance, Mike.  She captains the Seahawk, a 63-foot boat in need of repairs.  Linda doesn’t know if she still has what it takes to be a swordfish captain at the age of forty-seven.  She wonders about her physical and mental abilities.  Will her body hold up? Will the crew respect her? Will she find fish?
     The crew nicknames the ship the Sh-thawk, because of all of the equipment failures.  I laughed out loud when she quoted Mike complaining to Archie about his cooking, “How about a salad? Did you order any lettuce? How about cabbage? I like coleslaw. We don’t have a single veggie on board, do we? I’ll have the first confirmed case of scurvy in the last century.” And this is Linda’s take on Mike:  “Mike snacked while lying in his bunk.  He got up one morning and found an entire Kit Kat bar in one of the folds of fat under his chin.  When he ate the melted mess, I was torn between disgust and admiration.”
      The book is suspenseful and it is fascinating to learn about life aboard a fishing vessel. Squeamish readers may want to skip sections that describe harpooning fish and killing sharks. The climax is when the Canadian Coast Guard arrests her for illegally fishing in Canada’s waters.  My problem with the book is that Ms. Greenlaw was not forthright about having a film crew with her the whole time. I read about it on the internet, and it is confirmed in her acknowledgements: “Thanks to Tom Beers and the crew at Original Productions and the Discovery Channel for making this trip possible.”  Some have accused Ms. Greenlaw of intentionally fishing in Canadian waters as a publicity stunt, or to get a book deal.  The question is whether she knew she drifted into Canada or not.  She claims she did not know, and that the tides shifted. You decide.

Twilight Zone: Walking Distance

From Carson, Teen Book Reviewer
author: Kneece, Mark
Twilight Zone: Walking Distance
The graphic novel The Twilight Zone: Walking Distance is about a man named Martin Sloan who wants to take a break from his busy schedule he has to deal with everyday. So he decides to drive further away from where he usually goes, somewhere up the road, looking for sanity. Then he sees Homewood up ahead. Martin grew up in Homewood and is surprised to see it coming up ahead in two miles. Thrilled with excitement, Martin drives up to Homewood and goes into an ice cream store.
Martin realizes once in the ice cream store how nothing has changed at all since he was a kid and used to go to the ice cream store. And when Martin orders three scoops of ice creams, the guy only says it will be a dime for the three scoops. This confuses Martin. Martin gets more confused. When he looks around his old neighborhood, he recalls how all the house look just as he had remembered them. Then Martin races to his old house. His own dad opens the door. Then the mom comes by the door. His parents don’t remember him.

I would recommend this book to people who like reading science fiction books and people who like books that you have to sit down and think about after reading.