The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer

Great collection of short stories detailing the round-the-world adventures of a twenty something traveler. From pearl-diving in Thursday Island to fish trading in the Maldives to shipping crates from Calcutta, Eric brings warms stories of his encounters with people he meets along the way. Some of the best stories are Life at the Grand Hotel and Cooking with Madame Zoya. Throughout the stories, there is a constant thread of his penis obsession (banana slugs’ 6-10 inch member, the Thursday Island handshake, helping out at Mother Theresa’s establishment in Calcutta).

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Like the Red Panda

Delicious Andrea Seigel writing– I just sped through her first book, trying to slow down and savor it, but it was too damn good, so it just pushed me to the end. Stella is orphaned at 11 when both her parents OD on coke within minutes of each other. Put into foster care with Simon & Shauna, she reconnects with her maybe-grandfather Donald (her grammy might have cheated on him and paternity was never certain), a crotchety old gent who doesn’t give her much, except the feeling of blood relation & belonging. Simon & Shauna the flat, bland, quiet types who give Stella a wide berth (Shauna even fearing Stella, calling her a wolf at the end). The only joyful connections she has with people are ex-boyfriend Daniel and new friend Ainsley. Stella’s on her way to Princeton at the end of the summer, but decides life isn’t worth living.
At the end, Donald & she go out together, quoting Seneca, “The wise man will live as long as he ought, not as long as he can.”
This afternoon in drama are the opening words of the book, and also the title of Ms. Seigel’s kick-ass blog.
And now I’m ready for more.

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Leonard Woolf

Nothing matters. This was Leonard’s mantra, his guiding force during his early years. I’ve finally glimpsed behind the curtain to see the man who helped stabilize Virgina Woolf enough to write her genius gifts to literature. LW a force in his own right, part of the Bloomsbury set, Cambridge educated with the rest of the lot (Toby Stephens, Lytton Strachey, Maynard Keynes, etc.), spending years in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) as a colonial administrator, then returning to London to pursue marriage with Virginia. VW accepts after having a few breakdowns, and thus their happy strange life begins. VW becomes hysterical when LW tries to consummate the marriage, thus their union is sexless (until VW gets involved with Vita Sackville-West). Years later LW announces at an editorial meeting “My wife was a lesbian.” After VW’s suicide, LW quickly latches onto Trekkie, a married woman who then spends the rest of her life shuttling between her husband and LW. I’m skimming over large bits of his life– his importance as an editor, VW encourager, Labor politician, village letter-writer.
The bio a bit too long for my tastes, but he did live a long and extremely productive life, so I won’t begrudge him the pages. This has my appetite whet for a re-read of The Waves, and finally to delve into Natania Rosenfeld’s book on the couple.

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