"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Review and quotes: NEWS OF THE WORLD

Title: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Opening page quote: 
Wichita Falls, Texas, Winter 1870
Captain Kidd laid out the Boston Morning Journal on the lectern and began to read from the article on the Fifteenth Amendment.
Friday56 quote:
He said, Miss Dillon, you know this how?
     An Gorta Mor [The Irish Famine of 1845-49], she said. In the famine children saw their parents die and then went to live with the people on the other side. In their minds they went. When they came back they were unfinished. They were forever falling. She shook out her wet, pinned up skirt and watched as Johanna carefully ate pieces of bacon with her hands.
Summary: Captain Jefferson Kidd, an elderly widower who participated and fought in three wars, is now an itinerant who makes a living by traveling around Northern Texas, reading the news to people hungry for a connection to the rest of the worldCaptain Kidd is asked to deliver Johanna, a ten-year-old girl captured and raised by Kiowa Indians, to her only living relatives 400 miles over rough and dangerous terrain, one filled with natural barriers (rivers, deserts) and man-made obstacles (political, cultural, and financial.) Johanna, who completely embraced the Kiowa culture, does not want to go. She wants to return to "her people", her Indian father and mother. She is wild by many standards: eating with her hands, throwing away her shoes, preferring the floor to a bed. But she is smart about nature, knows how to handle a revolver, and is a good problem solver. Nevertheless, as the miles pass, Capt. Kidd and Johanna form a bond of friendship and comradery. 

Review: News of the World was a National Book Award finalist in 2016. I read and reviewed it in 2017 and I loved it. When it was chosen as a recent book club selection, I decided to reread it and, boy, am I glad I did! It seemed more relevant to me today than I remember it being in 2017. On further reflection the word "classic" kept coming to my mind. In 1980 Italo Calvino described "a classic as a book that has never finished saying what it has to say." This seemed a very apt statement related to this book. It had something completely different to say to me in 2023 than 2017.

In 2017 I focused on the drama related to Johanna and Captain Kidd. I learned about the history of Texas during reconstruction years. I delighted in the descriptions of the geography, the towns, and the people they encountered along the way. In 2023 what I found myself focusing on was the politics and the lawlessness. In post Civil War days in Texas civility had broken down. Many people were angered by the acts made by Gov. Davis. They were angry about the success of the Union in the war and that federal soldiers were sent to keep the laws. They had to abolish slavery and pledge their loyalty to the union to be reinstated in the United States. Newspapers often printed biased and made-up, fact-free stories intended to incite anger and dissatisfaction. I couldn't help comparing what was happening today to what happened in the 1870s in Texas -- newspapers [news sources] that didn't bother with facts; people taking sides and fighting with their neighbors about their beliefs. I am not sure if it is a comfort, but it is interesting to learn that what we are experiencing in the US today isn't new to this century.

Now I'm off to see if I can find the movie of News of the World starring Tom Hanks.

I highly recommend the book.

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