*Spoiler alert*
Hannah Kohler has written a universal story about the insanity of war and what better backdrop than the Sixties, California and Vietnam War? Jeannie and Kip loose their mother in a tragic accident. This loss defines the teenage siblings’ lives for years to come. Kip gets into trouble, fights with his dad and on a whim decides to enlist and go to Vietnam. Jeannie gets into trouble with the first eligible man that comes along (a medical doctor no less) and settles for a quiet but unhappy life as a housewife. However, fate has other plans. For Kip the true nature of war uncovers gradually. There are no heroes, no honor. Just regular guys trying to survive day to day the best they can. And when Kip has finally had enough, he resorts to an act that will change his life forever. Back home Jeannie finds the lust for life with a young and beautiful but reckless anti-war activist Lee. Together they try to help drafted young men to avoid active duty by falsifying medical certificates. This side of the story I have no problem with. Kohler has done her research. The thing that is missing is the ever so important atmosphere. Kohler doesn’t describe enough the surroundings, clothing, decor, music etc. This story could have taken place anywhere, anytime. And for a 1960s enthusiast this is a bit disappointing. The lesbian relationship between Jeannie and Lee seems pointless. I don’t think that plot twist brings anything new to the story.

This novel inspires me to search for other novels or short stories about the Vietnam War and the home front. Preferably something that was written and/or published in the 1960s or 1970s. I have to research this topic further…
kohler

 

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I found this charming blogging challenge in Tarukirja blog. It’s pretty simple. You go through the alphabet and answer the following questions by naming women whose first or last name begins with the letter in question. (There is no time limit with this challenge which is very good indeed.)

  1. Who is your favourite female author?
  2. There is other culture besides literature. Who is your favourite woman in culture other than literature?
  3. Two questions, you can answer both or just one. A) The woman you would like to get to know better? B) Who is your absolute favourite and would like to bring to attention?

I’ll begin with the letter A.

1. Margaret Atwood. She is such a versatile writer. She could write pretty much anything and I would read it.

2. Alice Pike Barney. She was an American painter. Her work is so impressive and I would say even magical.

APB

Alice Pike Barney: Young Woman in Black Hat (1927)  From: Wikipedia Commons

3. A) Astrud Gilberto. She is a Brazilian singer. So far I’ve listened to repeatedly her version of The Shadow of Your Smile. But there is probably a lot more amazing music by Astrud and I have to listen to it asap.

Lola Bensky

07.01.2015

I immediately wanted to read Lily Brett’s novel Lola Bensky when I saw the cover. And read the book jacket that mentions the words “London music scene”, “1967” and “rock stars”. The novel is all that but also much more. It is a work of fiction but very autobiographical at that, the author did in fact work as a rock journalist in Australia in the 60s and she did interview many rock legends.

Lola Bensky is an Australian 19-year-old music journalist who is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Lola has heard many gruesome stories of the horrors of Auschwitz. These stories Lola recollects in her thoughts and sometimes even shares them with her interviewees. Lola meets and interviews for example Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. And even Paul Jones and The Bee Gees are mentioned. The passage about Paul Jones is brief but it made my day! Lola recounts her interview with Mr. Jones whom she finds very confident and direct in a good way, without false modesty.

The themes of confidence, modesty and self-esteem are very crucial in the novel. Lola Bensky, who is quite content to be a rock journalist, doesn’t know how to enjoy life or to appreciate herself. She feels fat and rather than living the life of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll like so many others in music business, she spends her time working and dieting (or planning her cockamamy diets consisting of boiled eggs and watermelon). To Lola’s mother Renia, excess weight is something suspicious, as only the traitors in death camp were allowed enough food to eat, others suffered from severe malnutrition. The Holocaust is Lola’s trauma through her parents, Renia and Edek, even though Lola herself was born after the war and didn’t experience it firsthand. The badly traumatized survivors didn’t know how deal with the fact that they survived while so many others died. To Renia her survival is a constant source of antagonizing guilt which lives on in her daughter. So, The Holocaust continues to be a collective trauma also for the next generation. Everywhere Lola goes she reflects her own Jewish roots to other Jews. How to make peace with a past so dreadful? How to live and go on knowing that humanity is capable of inflicting such horrors?

The novel also brings up gender issues. As Lola talks with Janis Joplin and later Mama Cass, they both reveal the difficulties of working in a very male dominated rock music business especially as women who are not considered to be sexually attractive or beautiful in the traditional sense. However, Lola finds both Mama Cass and Janis Joplin to be happy and content with their lives. Many of the beautiful and thin celebrities Lola meets seem to be more unhappy and troubled despite their perfect appearances.

All in all, Lola Bensky is a novel about making peace with your past and finding self-worth as a woman. And stories about some great rock music personalities whose depictions might be true. Or not.

Lily Brett’s interview in The Sydney Morning Herald. 

Gavin Baddeley: Vampire Lovers – Screen’s Seductive Creatures of the Night (2010) Plexus Publishing.

I don’t know if this book offers any new information to those interested in vampires as popular culture characters. But I had to buy it anyway,  there is an article on Mitchell! The book is a compilation of short articles covering every major bloodsucker from television and film, from  Bela Lugosi’s Dracula to Ian Somerhalder’s Damon Salvatore. Naturally there is one chapter about Twilight and Robert Pattinson *yuck* but you can always skip that part. The book is illustrated with lavish photos (nothing you’d never seen before though). Makes you want to watch all those classic vampire flicks all over again.