Finished Krakauer’s Mormon History; Now for the Chess Queen

Spent the afternoon running errands around Redwood City. Weather: gorgeous (if only self could get rid of that pesky cough).

Self went to the library and discovered that the book she was looking for, The Bookseller of Kabul — book by a Norwegian writer who lived with a kindly bookseller for four months, then wrote a book that showed that the bookseller was actually a petty tyrant at home, which led the bookseller to cry foul — was only available in the libraries of Burlingame and Belmont, both several miles to the north. Self made a mental note to wend down there this weekend.

Self arrives home and switches on the TV (to A & E’s “American Justice”) just in time to hear the following:

“Mr. xxxxx was convicted of the murder of his wife, which was of small comfort to his sons.” Then, one of the sons is shown being interviewed. “The point is,” the boy is saying, “Nothing’s going to bring my mom back. So I’m not going to waste my time trying to figure out whether my dad killed her or not. He’s still my father and, guilty or not, I’m still going to love him.”

Which quote just about broke self’s heart.

Self finished reading Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven a few hours ago. She was surprised when she realized that it had taken her just five days to read the entire book (about 340 pages). For it seemed to her that she lived each moment with such intensity. What a strange and bloody history the Mormons had! They were persecuted, jeered at, abused, and they in turn persecuted, jeered at, and abused others.

Self learned that there is a thriving Mormon community in Corvallis, Oregon, which also happens to be the home of the nation’s oldest feminist press and the publisher of self’s first book, Calyx.

Self learned much about the Mormons she had never known before, such as the strictures against smoking, drinking, etc etc; the belief in the golden tablets revealed to Joseph Smith by the angel Moroni, and other fascinating topics. No one could write a novel that was as fascinating as the truth of the visions, the plural marriages, the betrayals, the endurance, the eventual triumphs.

Now self is starting Marilyn Yalom’s Birth of the Chess Queen. (First she was on a novel kick; now she’s on a non-fiction kick). Yalom, a Stanford feminist scholar, is the wife of Irwin Yalom, whose tales of psychiatry, Love’s Executioner, self lugged all the way to Palawan in 2006, and finished reading there, in a tiny hotel in Puerto Prinsesa (across the street from famed seafood restaurant Ka Louie’s) whose airconditioned rooms cost — are you ready for this, dear blog readers? — exactly $12/night.

Self is amazed to discover from the Acknowledgements that Ms. Yalom has the same agent as Amy Tan: Sandra Dijkstra. And it is indeed very heartwarming to learn that the Yaloms’ son was instrumental in “the developmental stages of the book,” as well as during the careful editing of the final version. Self dreams of the day when she can write, in an Acknowledgement to one of her own books: “A was extremely helpful in providing material for the stories herein. In fact, all of them are taken from his life. Many thanks, son, for being alive and for providing your mother with so much material for her literary work.” Something like that.

Among Ms. Yalom’s other books are the following exceedingly interesting titles:

    A History of the Wife
    A History of the Breast
    Blood Sisters: The French Revolution in Women’s Memory
    Maternity, Mortality, and the Literature of Madness

And now, self is extremely desirous to begin Marilyn Yalom’s book. Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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2 responses to “Finished Krakauer’s Mormon History; Now for the Chess Queen”

  1. I’m reading “History of the Wife” while recuperating from this dreadful flu. I’m also loving “Writing from the Heart”!

    I’ve heard that this flu’s trademark is the lingering cough. My brother in San Diego says that a cough drop does the trick for him – though he had the flu WEEKS ago!

    Get well soon!


  2. Kathleen,

    I’d like to know what you think about “History of the Wife,” when you’ve finished it. When I first heard the title I thought: Wow, that is such a very interesting subject!

    And, commiserations on your also having the flu. Gee, this winter is turning out to be a wicked one for the flu, isn’t it? And I hate that I have to teach in spite of my cough. As there are few things more awkward than having to talk to a room full of students with a lozenge in your mouth — !!


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