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Guest Post by David L. FaucheuxI decided to let one entry – edited a bit for length -- in my book to speak for me. This one includes a book review that I emailed to a group of blind readers who download books from BARD. BARD, an acronym for Braille and Audio Reading Download, is a website run by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped or NLS. NLS is the library system that provides books to a blind and print challenged patron base. Books are available in braille, large print, and in audio. Several years ago, the conversion from slow speed four-track audio cassettes to digital cartridges was completed. These digital books are also available online through the BARD site via download.Monday, July 28, 2014: Of DB ReviewsI emailed the following review to the DB–Review list.George, MargaretThe Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by his Fool, Will SomersHas there been a British monarch more written about, more controversial, or more baffling? In his early years, Henry was educated to the priesthood, as his elder brother, Arthur, was to be king. It was only upon Arthur’s sudden death in 1502 that Henry became a key player in the royal succession. The young monarch was fun–loving, handsome, lavish, amusing, educated, and musical. If he had a flaw, it was his ability to let Cardinal Wolsey run everything while he played at being Sir Loyal Heart for his wife, the self–same Catherine of Aragon who had first married his brother.Margaret George came onto the historical novel scene with this fictionalized autobiography in 1986. Previously, I had only heard of this technique when Ernest Gaines used it to tell the story of a fictional African–American everywoman, Jane Pittman, in 1971. While Henry is definitely a real personage, this autobiography is fiction that is possibly close to its creative best.The NLS annotation tells us that this novel blends history with dramatic narrative. The author develops the story of Henry VIII through the use of fictitious memoirs that delight in the pleasures and perils of power. These memoirs are interspersed with irreverent comments from his jester and confidant, Will Somers.I felt that British actor Norman Barrs, who is no longer with us, did a splendid job of narrating this 932–page romp through Tudor England. This book is a 44–hour monument to the narrator’s art. Barrs does not over–dramatize, but his rendering of the caustic asides of Will Somers are amusing, and they keep Henry’s self–absorbed pomposity in check.While going through my decades’–long master book list, I found these notes that give me cause for concern. They relate to differences between the George novel and the Alison Weir book, Henry VIII: The King and His Court, brought to life through the elegant diction of Anne Flosnik. Weir states that after Henry’s death, Sommers remained at court, entertaining Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth did not employ any more fools after his retirement, preferring more sophisticated entertainment.Margaret George, however, has Somers leaving the court shortly after Henry’s death, being told by Thomas Seymour, “We have no need of you here.” But Wikipedia also supports the idea that Sommers stayed on into the reign of Elizabeth I. George also says that Henry kept Jane Seymour’s attendants on at court for several years, whereas Weir says they were shortly disbanded.Notice the spelling variation of the last name, Somers vs. Sommers, in the three sources. I did not misspell, but used the spelling preferred by the particular source that I referenced in each instance. How to resolve these historical contradictions, however, I do not know.In conclusion, George is an interesting writer with more positive than negative reviews of her Henry VIII book on the Goodreads website. She has several other long historicals to her credit that are also on BARD. She has written of Mary Queen of Scots, Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, and Elizabeth I. I wonder what she would do with Empress Eugénie, Tzarina Catherine the Great, Hawaii’s Queen Liliuokalani, Queen Tamar of Georgia, or Empress Nur Jahan of the Mughal Empire.Although I did not include the following in my DB review, because blind listserv members would already know this, I thought it might be of interest to my sighted readers. The NLS (National Library Service) patron is informed by the annotator that there are some descriptions of sex and violence and instances of strong language in the book. As many readers of NLS–produced books are older, it was felt that such warnings of occasional or frequent sexual content, violence, and strong language would help them avoid such material if they so wished. Some of the younger blind readers of today are not always appreciative of this practice, feeling that it suggests a paternalistic attitude. It is not followed for the commercially produced material that NLS has adapted for its program, but does continue when NLS narrators read materials for the collection. As a teen, such warnings sometimes caused me to want to read a book to see just how trashy it might be. Think Valley of the Dolls or anything by the late Harold Robbins or Frank Yerby.
My journal had gone through final edits by the time I learned that George has a new book out, The Confessions of Young Nero. Drat. But I do hope to read it.
Across Two Novembers
By David L. Faucheux
Publisher: David Faucheux
Release Date: June 3, 2017
Length: 510 pages
About the book:
Friends and family. Restaurants and recipes. Hobbies and history. TV programs the author loved when he could see and music he enjoys. The schools he attended and the two degrees he attained. The career that eluded him and the physical problems that challenge him. And books, books, books: over 200 of them quoted from or reviewed. All In all, an astonishing work of erudition and remembrance.
EXCERPTIntroductionMore than at any other time, when I hold a beloved book in my hand, my limitations fall from me, my spirit is free.—Helen Keller (1880–1968)I have long wanted to write and publish something, be it an historic novel, a young adult novel, or nonfiction. When, in November 2013, Dr. Katherine Schneider asked me to read and review her just–published Occupying Aging, I conquered my usual reservations: Would I be a good reviewer? Would I be able to write something interesting and help her book sales? I dove in and came up with this review, which appeared on www.goodreads.com:This book, with its mixture of the quotidian and sublime, stands as an interesting glimpse into the life of one early 21st–century woman. Schneider, a retired psychologist, recounts a year of thoughts and events in this journal. Her ruminations on death, spirituality, dogs, and navigating the landscape of the sighted as a totally blind inhabitant of her Wisconsin college town are enlightening. Touches of humor involving Fran, her Seeing Eye® dog, add a sense of fun.As someone who is acquainted with Dr. Schneider (we have exchanged emails), I could wish I occupied my 40s quite as well as she does her 60s. The proactive attempts to educate about disability issues, the volunteering, and the public speaking are outstanding. Maybe some of her enthusiasm for life will rub off on all her readers.—An excellent vade mecum, a handbook, for handling the uncertainties of retirement.While reading her book and formulating my review, I thought, Oh! I just might be able to write something in this journal–type format. So I jumped in right then, not waiting to begin on the more traditional January 1. I thought that to wait was to postpone indefinitely and fail; to start could mean a chance at a successful resolution. Who says a journal has to run from January 1 to December 31 to be of interest?So, everyone, here goes nothing!
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
I’m pleased to take a moment to talk about myself and what makes me tick. I’d have to say books, books, and more books. Let me explain. Braille and recorded books take me places and show me things I would otherwise never get to encounter. They see for me by their descriptions, their vivid word pictures, and lyrical prose. They befriend me when I'm lonely, educate me when I'm curious, and amuse me when I'm in a blue mood. I have always known I could pick up a book and for a time be in a better or at least A different place. Books don't judge, ignore, or marginalize us. I remember long, hot, Louisiana summers that were perfect for curling up with a good book. I have had to struggle some nights to put the book away because I’d not be able to get up for work the next morning. That’s being a bit too biblioholic.
I have worked as a medical transcriptionist and braille instructor. I attended library school in the late 1990s when the Internet was starting to take off. I ran an audio blog for several years. I have also served on the board of a nonprofit organization that attempted to start a radio reading service in the town where I live. Since 2006, I have reviewed audio books for Library Journal.
You might wish to view a segment about me done by a local reporter in February of this year.