Want to read with me? Follow this link to view the list and pick a book (or a few!) to read along with me. I'd love for this project to be collaborative, and will post anyone's thoughts beside my own.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The only way to know how long you are lost in the darkness is to be saved from it.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Spoiler Alert: Plot Poem Ahead

Caesar asks Cora to run,
But the answer is no.

Plantation 'holiday' makes a mess;
Whipped, owned, and now also claimed,
The next time Caesar asks, Cora says yes.

From Randall they run, at first a pair;
But Cora's friend Lovey makes three.
Hog hunters catch one, and Lovey is done.
To Fletcher and Lumbly, the railroad crew
They make it, but now they are only two.

South Carolina
Cora, now Bessie; Caesar now Christian.
Workers, not slaves, still government-owned.
Trains heading north, but none are taken.
Slave catcher Ridgeway, freedom undone,
Fire. Murder. And then there was one.

North Carolina
Martin and Ethel are agents unwilling;
The North Carolina stop is now closed.
Cora is free, but trapped in the attic;
Fridays for lynching, from the railroad, naught.
Then Fiona squeals, and Cora is caught.

With Ridgeway in chains, on the way 'home',
But first to Missouri for one more prize.
Cora tries to flee again and again,
But chained she remains, till Royal and Red.
Colored men with guns, a striking sight,
They flee with Cora into the night.

Valentine farm, are we safe at last?
Stay, and contribute, run no more.
Philosophers fight over what plan is best,
Should we stay as we are, or head further west?
Cora is happy, with Royal, in love.
Starting to heal, things undreamed of.
Shots in the back, peace broken once more,
Ridgeway returns to even the score.
Giddily evil, he looks to uncover
The railroad; its secrets are almost discovered.
But Cora is crafty, and not to be owned,
Downstairs they tumble, now Ridgeway's dethroned.
Alone, exhausted, broken, bereft;
Cora's finally free, but with nothing left.

Spoiler Over: Continue Here

Dear blob readers, 
   I decided to summarize the plot with a poem in a feeble attempt to match the lyrical beauty of this work. I am blobbing on this book both by popular request and because it was stunning. If you have not read it, I STRONGLY recommend it. I cannot promise I will not spoil anything in the later parts of this blob, but it is still 300% worth reading. So if you only grab one book this year, make it this one. My thoughts:

Kinds of weather
While horrific, the plantation descriptions were eerily beautiful. Not that the place itself was something lovely, but that Whitehead managed to eloquently depict the inhumanity and banality in equal measure. 
Cora's mother and Ava grew up on the plantation at the same time. They were treated to the same Randall hospitality, the travesties so routine and familiar that they were a kind of weather, and the ones so imaginative in their monstrousness that the mind refused to accommodate them.
Bogey men and other monsters
Ridgeway was a terrifying character, both creepily used to keep order among slaves and lauded by owners for his hunting prowess. This was a telling passage:
The slave mothers said, 'Mind yourself or Mister Ridgeway will come for you.'
The slave masters said, Send for Ridgeway.
Railroad is real
OK. So like I said, spoilers. #sorrynotsorry - So I picked this book up for three main reasons: 
(1) It had a red cover. I know, that sounds lame, but it's my favorite color, so it's the first thing I see. 
(2) I knew it was highly recommended, and my friend Dennis had mentioned it. 
(3) I wanted to read something written in the last few years, and I heard this had a historical fiction fantasy vibe going on. 

So it turns out that the only real 'fantastical' aspect is that the Underground Railroad is, in fact, an Underground Railroad. Which is revolutionary and wonderful, and very well done! But admittedly, I was expecting more fantasy. The happy accident, though, was that this book, fiction, but real to the bone, was jam-packed with brilliance, and more meaningful than any fantasy I've ever read. 

I thought about a lot of things from my life today as I read, and this was one of the lines that stood out, since my birthday recently passed:
What did you get for that, for knowing the day you were born into the white man's world? It didn't seem like the thing to remember. More like to forget.
Watch out. Another spoiler coming. So part of the crux of this story is that Cora's mother ran before she did, when Cora was little. And unlike every other runaway slave from Randall who was caught and brutally murdered, Mabel got away. Cora resents her for leaving without her, and Ridgeway hates the 'one who got away'. 
[Ridgeway] hated her mother as much as [Cora] did. That, and the fact they both had eyes in their head, meant they had two things in common. 
The book is beautifully told from different voices and perspectives, and we spend a great deal of time wondering what happened to Mabel. Did she make it to Canada? Was she somewhere up north? As time goes on, we start to seethe with Cora, and we feel her righteous indignation. How could she leave her behind? What good was freedom if her daughter was still a slave? 

It's not until very late in the book, long after Cora has been running and many have died, that we flash back to Mabel. And though it is so simple, and I should have assumed it all along, I was broken when we found out she only got to the nearby swamp. The very night she left, she decides to go back for Cora, and gets bitten by a snake. She was never mean, she was never selfish. She was never free, she was never away. She was eaten by the earth a mile from Randall. She's been dead for decades.

Palimpsest of pain
If you've read my other posts, you know that the history of America and its palimpsest of pain is a topic of much discussion. Here, the author didn't spend a lot of time on comparing injustices, but he eloquently alluded to the theft of the land that pre-dated the theft of the African people: 
Stolen bodies working stolen land.
Referents and Reverberations

This line, from The Underground Railroad:
  • She owned herself for a few hours every week.
Reminded me of this passage from Beloved:
  • For years they saw each other in full daylight only on Sundays. The rest of the time they spoke or touched or ate in darkness. Predawn darkness and the afterlight of sunset. So looking at each other intently was a Sunday-morning pleasure and Halle examined her as though storing up what he saw in sunlight for the shadow he saw the rest of the week.
and when Cora was trapped in the attic above Martin and Ethel, I was back in the annex with Anne, muffling every footstep and cough and existing in permanent terror.
  • What a world it is, Cora thought, that makes a living prison into your only haven. Was she out of bondage or in its web: how to describe the status of a runaway?
And Cora's time working in the 'Museum of Natural Wonders', acting in 'Scenes from Darkest Africa, Life on the Slave Ship, and Typical Day on the Plantation' reminded me of the This American Life episode on Afrofuturism, We Are in the Future, where we hear stories of a present-day black woman who played a slave at Mount Vernon, sharing her nuanced emotions and reliving their pain.

Striking sentences
  • How to undo slavery's injury to the mental faculties - so many freed men continued to be enslaved by the horrors they'd endured.
  • A plantation was a plantation; one might think one's misfortunes distinct, but the true horror lay in their universality.
  • Best to measure time now with one of the Randall plantation's cotton scales, her hunger and fear piling on one side while her hopes were removed from the other in increments. This is such an incredible sentence.
  • In America the quirk was that people were things.
  • On the Railroad itself: Their secret enterprise was a fraternity of odd souls.
This has been an epically lazy Sunday for me, for which I am deeply and thoughtfully grateful. Slavery is in our past and it impacts our present, and this book articulated the stories of people, willing and unwilling, who chose to buck the trend and fight for right. 

As you begin your new week, I encourage you to find Cora and read her story. If you are not inclined, I hope this small dedication has given you some idea of the beauty and intensity that Colson Whitehead brought to life. Be grateful that we have put at least this kind of slavery behind us, but remember that we still have work to do, and we should never, ever, ever forget.

Keep each other safe. Keep faith. Good night. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

A scarlet sin is a blab-mouth thing.

Scarlet Sister Mary by Julia Peterkin

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
Scarlet Sister Mary is the story of how one woman took life by the reins after it tried to throw her a hurricane. Mary, the protagonist, is a Gullah woman who was born and lives her entire life on Blue Brook Plantation in Georgia. The Gullah people are no longer slaves, but inhabit the plantation as their own, leading intricate and interwoven lives within its acreage.
   Mary's parents died early, so she is raised by Maum Hannah and Budda Ben, an elderly brother and sister. Mary grows up in a deeply Christian space, but falls for a man who is a little 'wild' for Maum Hannah's taste, named July. July has a twin, June, whom Mary also loves (I know, TRICKSY!) and before she gets married to July, Mary realizes she is pregnant, much to Maum Hannah's dismay. She gives birth to a child, Unex (for Unexpected, get it? ;)) and things are decent for a little while, but pretty soon July starts to itch for something more, and after he hits Mary once in a rage, things are permanently changed between them. He stays a little after that, basically using Mary as a cook and cleaningwoman to do his bidding, but eventually he runs off with another woman, Cinder.
   Mary initially blames Cinder for drawing July away, but with time, she comes to realize that July never had staying in his blood. Instead of taking a new husband, Mary opts to engage in relations with any men she likes, and racks up quite a brood of offspring. July eventually tries to return, but Mary denounces him. Mary has another child, at which time her oldest daughter, Seraphine, also has a secret child (whoopsies!) and Unex returns home from being away and he, too, brings a child with him, the mother having died shortly after she gave birth. Unex unfortunately has the same thing that plagued his wife, and he dies soon after. Mary is full of grief and overwhelmed (naturally) by the extensive amount of babies she now has to raise, but she reaches out to Maum Hannah and rejoins the church, at least to be a part of the community and have kinship with the rest of the Gullah people.
   In the final scene, the local charms-maker offers to take back the magic man-catching charm he made for her after July left, but Mary winks at him and says she's just going to hang on to it for a little while longer.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

In a fascinating (and confusing to untangle and unpack) plot twist, this book was written not by a Gullah woman, but by a white woman named Julia Peterkin. I don't know if I've ever read a book that entirely concerns a different race than the author, but where the author actually places herself directly into that racial narrative, as opposed to observing/commenting on it (generally in a negative way). I wasn't sure how to feel about it, and I wasn't sure how I should feel about her writing this book so eloquently about an incredible culture and group of people who were not hers to claim.

As you know if you're a consistent reader of this blob, I do not like to read things about the book before I've read the book itself. Occasionally I allow myself to do some research after the fact. I went back and read the introduction after I finished this book, largely to continue to marinate on the above quandary. 

Here's a quote from A.J. Verdelle, an African-American novelist, that I liked:
"Early in my experience of Scarlet Sister Mary, I presumed the book a slave novel because that's how it reads: the entire cast of characters is black, they live in the "Quarters" of a large plantation. They live in their own company - which is to say they seem segregated ... As a story, Scarlet Sister Mary seemed so authentic, so true to its subject, that it was a mild shock to learn later that its author was white. This realization and the questions it provoked continue to bemuse me, even from the mine of my memory."
In part, I wondered how Peterkin would know so much about the Gullah people, from the way they talk to the food they ate to the way their surroundings were a kind of extension of themself. In doing a little research, and reading more of the introduction, I found that Peterkin had a Gullah woman as a surrogate mother after her mother died: 
"From her 'Mauma', she learned the vocabulary, the speech patterns, and the value system of the Gullahs who populated the low country. Her early vocabulary incorporated Gullah dialect. For a time in her childhood, she considered that standard English was 'good-behavior' English."
I still don't really know what I think about the construct, but I will say this - I think the book is a beautiful novel, and really eloquently crafted. I can see why it won the Pulitzer. Here are a few more thoughts, in no real order:

On the Gullah way of life
  • "The lack of roads and bridges afforded them little contact with the outside world, and so, instead of going away to seek new fortunes, new advantages, easier work and more money, they kept faithful to the old life, contented with old ways and beliefs, holding fast to old traditions and superstitions."
I was really taken by the insularity of the Gullah culture. When I visited my friend's mom in Georgia, we went on a tour of Savannah, and even learned that much of Savannah is built on and around Gullah graveyards. In a strange way, and obviously moving beyond the whole 'they were only here because we kidnapped and enslaved them' premise, the Gullah reminded me of the Amish. Keeping to themselves, nurturing sacred traditions, preserving a piece of history forever in the simple act of living.

Christianity/slave culture -- in comparison with Underground Railroad
I happened to read 'Underground Railroad' by Colson Whitehead, just after I read this book. It wasn't originally on the blob list, but it caught my eye, and my friends convinced me I should blob on it, since I read it, and since it was so good. So that's coming up next - get amped! Anyway, it was interesting to read the kind of hyper-Christian space in the Gullah life, in comparison with Cora's thoughtful and intentional atheism. Again, complex feelings all around (especially writing this blob on a Sunday and with church bells chiming in the background) so I'm just putting this one out there as something to mull over, no specific intentions or definitions of 'right' or 'wrong'. 

Safe space for some, unsafe space for others -- not even a safe space for women if you look through 21st century lens
I was talking to a kindred spirit lately, and we were discussing the fact that so often, in creating a space that it safe for one group of people, the space becomes unsafe for another group of people. I love this idea of a space that is truly safe - for LGBT folk, for people of color, for women, for any group historically oppressed and repressed and villainized by people and institutions - but sometimes I wonder if that's just a pipe dream. 

SIDEBAR: I just looked up pipe dream to see where that saying comes from. Does anyone know? Points if you do! It's apparently from the early 19th century, in reference to a dream experienced when smoking an opium pipe. Who knew?! It's kind of perfect, given that Mary begins to smoke a pipe when she's a little older and after July leaves, and it's an amazing statement of independence/owning a traditionally masculine object/habit. 

Aaaaand, we're back. Anyway, I thought about this a lot, in that the book was in some ways a safe space for the Gullah (though you could argue that it's not because she's not Gullah and she's appropriating them), but also in other ways a really unsafe space for women. There were lots of times where I looked at it from a 21st century feminist lens and thought, oh NO. Definitely NOT. But in other ways, Mary was really forward-thinking and badass. Color me confused. 

Possum for supper
Need I say more? They eat it. I mean, I'm SURE it's probably not so bad, and possums scare the heck out of me, so I'm not SAD that someone is killing them and eating them, but I don't think you could make me come to the table if you led off with, "Come on down, it's time for POSSUM!" Apparently my grandmother could really make squirrel tasty though, or at least that's the legend. ;)

On killing Cinder
  • "I'd like to kill Cinder, Daddy [Cudjoe] - kill em dead. If you gi me a pizen I'll feed it to em till e is stone dead."
Lolololololz. This was one of my favorite lines. Although I felt that Mary's hatred for Cinder was mostly misplaced, given that July was a worthless jerk well before and after he ran off with Cinder, I did enjoy Mary's desire for revenge when she went to visit the charms-maker. It also reminded me for some reason of this line from 'My Fair Lady' - 'Ay say, them 'as pinched it, dun er in!'

Staying when July leaves
When July initially leaves, it's hard to comprehend why Mary would stay put, rather than just trying to start anew. Here's her description of why she can't:
  • "If she had the heart, she would go away and leave everything, everybody. She could find work of some kind in the town, and yet, this was home. She had known no other place in her life. The very earth here was a part of herself, and it held her so fast that she could never leave it, no matter what came."
The tie to the land was so deep, and still is, for the Gullah: 
"Because of a period of relative isolation from whites while working on large plantations in rural areas, the Africans, drawn from a variety of Central and West African ethnic groups, developed a creole culture that has preserved much of their African linguistic and cultural heritage from various peoples; in addition, they absorbed new influences from the region." 
Recalled to life
I love the way this book sort of takes 'The Scarlet Letter' and flips it on its head - Mary knows that she is an outsider, but she claims it, and she revels in it: 
  • "She was able to laugh and dance and sing again, her flesh had got back its old smoothness, her old sadness and weariness and bitterness were left behind. Thank God, she knew men at last, and she knew that not one of them is worth a drop of water that drains out of a woman's eye."
On Keepsie learning to read
Keepsie is one of Mary's younger children, and she has mixed feelings about him learning to read, in large part because it represents whiteness, and a fear and danger that comes with that. I love this line of hers: 
  • "Instead of reading all the time out of books and papers covered with printed words, he would do better to learn how to read other things: sunrises, moons, sunsets, clouds and stars, faces and eyes. Everything has its way of speaking and telling things worth knowing."
Readers, what can you read, aside from books? I think I can read children's faces, and bread almost baked, and friends' emotions. 

What child is this?
One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Seraphine has a child but then tries to pass it off like it just appeared in the house, since Mary had given birth to another child the same day. Here's the exchange between Maum Hannah and Mary:
"I been catchin' chillen all dese years. I know I ain' never caught one off de naked flo' befo in my life. Who dat put em on de flo'? Must be somebody."
  "I know e ain' me. No, Jedus. When I birth chillen, I know it."
Referents and Reverberations
A few moments that put me in mind of other works I've read:

Maum Hannah, to Mary, on spending time with July alone at night, and what comes of that: 
"Company in de dark don' do, gal. Company in de dark don' do."

This line cracked me up (even though Maum Hannah is Right, of course! ;)) and reminded me of two other moments:

(1) This line about Anne's burgeoning courtship with Peter in the annex, said by VanDaan and Dussel:
  • Is it suitable for young gentlemen to receive young girls in semidarkness?
and (2) this moment from 'The Bell Jar' with Esther: Reminded me of this moment with Esther:
  • When Constantin asked if I would like to come up to his apartment to hear some balalaika records I smiled to myself. My mother had always told me never under any circumstances to go with a man to a man's rooms after an evening out, it could mean only the one thing. 'I am very fond of balalaika music,' I said."
I can just see them now, Esther's mother and Maum Hannah and VanDaan and Dussel, waggling their fingers at Esther and Mary and Anne. ;)

And this line, about trees:

"The forest was the oldest thing on the plantation except the earth itself."
Reminded me of the way that Ambelin Kwaymullina talks about the tuarts in the Tribe series. 
  • "The Tribe had moved out of the caves about a week ago, more than willing to exchange the cold nights and mornings of early spring for open sky above our heads and the lemony scent of the tuarts in bloom.
New terminology I learned:
scuppernong - species of grape native to the Southern U.S.

bull bats - common nighthawk (nickname) - pictured left - it really DOES look like a bat!

jessamines -  any of numerous often climbing shrubs (genus Jasminum) of the olive family that usually have extremely fragrant flowers - pictured right

bullace - a thorny shrub or small tree of the rose family that bears purple-black fruits. It is a wild plum, of which the damson is the cultivated form.

Portulacas -  the type genus of the flowering plant family Portulacaceae, comprising about 40-100 species found in the tropics and warm temperate regions. They are also known as moss roses.

A few of my favorite lines
  • Life fills and enfolds everything here, never overlooking in the press of work to be done the smallest or most insignificant creature, and silently, with weariless patience and diligence, strange miracles are wrought as youth rises out of decay and death becomes only another beginning.
  • A full belly makes a brave heart. so true!
  • What you done pure cuts my heart-strings. Maum Hannah, on finding out "July and May-e 'is been a-havin sin'"
  • Dis is gwine to be a far-roamin child.
  • Lightning cracked sharp whips overhead and ran crooked white fingers through the cracks of the house.
  • Evening had come with a crimson sky and a clear thin wishing moon hung in the west.
  • God knew he was the only heart-child she had.
  • Her misery was not a garment that could be shed. It was mixed in her flesh and blood.
I'll leave you with one final line: 
"This last year had been a bad-luck year."
Here's hoping you have a full belly, a brave heart, thin wishing moons in the west, and nothing to cut your heart-strings in a good-luck year. I'm off to enjoy the rest of this beautiful April day, and since I've already finished 'Rabbit, Run', I may take a day off from reading books and read the sunset instead. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.

Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
I do not wish to share the plot of this particular novel, since it is truly an all-time favorite, and if you haven't read it, you simply must read it for yourself. Suffice it to say that there is a little prince, more than one planet, a rose, a sheep, a pilot, and a beautiful friendship. I wish to share no more.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

Dear Readers, 

Happy Easter, a belated chag sameach/happy Pesach, and happy Sunday to everyone else! It has been some time since my last blob - over a month! Which might make you think that I have not been reading. But in fact, I have been reading voraciously! I simply have not been blobbing immediately. Et pour ça, je suis désolée. Maintenant, je vais partager mes pensées sur un livre très petite et aussi magnifique. 

Oh, you don't want me to write the whole blob in French? Zut alors! Back to English, then. As it were, I read this book side by side in English and French, so I may share thoughts in a blend of the two languages.

Away we go! 

On children, and writing books to and for them
I love the way that Saint-Exupéry talks about adults in this book, particularly as they think compared to children. At one point, he talks about how much grown-ups love numbers, and the price of things, and how they never ask you the critical questions when you tell them you have a new friend.
Quand vous leur parlez d’un nouvel ami, elles ne vous questionnent jamais sur l’essentiel. Elles ne vous disent jamais : « Quel est le son de sa voix ? Quels sont les jeux qu’il préfère ? Est-ce qu’il collectionne les papillons ? » 
When you last told an adult about a new acquaintance, did you lead with the sound of their voice? Their laugh? Their face? Did you talk about how they collect butterflies and think about their favorite games? I like the idea of us shifting to this method of introduction: "Here is my new friend, XYZ - she loves the smell of a campfire and playing hearts, and her voice sounds like wind chimes."

The dedication of this book, to the child version of Léon Werth: 
"I will dedicate the book to the child from whom this grown-up grew."
Reminded me of one of my favorite C.S. Lewis lines: "One day, you will be old enough to read fairy tales again."

On friends; wanting them, having them, and losing them
Once again, I find it un-difficult (YES, that's Definitely a word) to connect the previous book on my list to the next one. Both the pilot/narrator and the little prince are lonely and low-key desperate for friends, which reminded me of how Anne started her diary because she wanted a true friend she could talk to.

Here's the pilot: "So I lived my life alone, without anyone that I could really talk to, until I had an accident with my plane..."

And later the fox asks the little prince: 
"Are you looking for chickens?'
And the little prince answers: "'No, I am looking for friends.'"

And the pilot, later on: 
"C'est triste d'oublier un ami. Tout le monde n'a pas eu un ami."

On having to grow old, like Peter
Those of you who have read this yourselves will likely remember fondly the drawing of sheep and boxes for said sheep. This line from the narrator:

"But I, alas, do not know how to see sheep through the walls of boxes. Perhaps I am a little like the grown-ups. I have had to grow old."

Reminded me of this scene from Hook:

Peter: Remember what?
Wendy: Peter, don't you know who you are? [turns the page of a storybook to reveal an illustration of Peter Pan]
[Peter remembers the last time he came for Wendy] Peter, I can't come with you. I've forgotten how to fly. I'm old, Peter. Ever so much more than twenty. I grew up a long time ago.

Proving you exist
In case you would like to prove to anyone that you exist, it's easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Here's an example: 
The proof that the little prince existed is that he was charming, that he laughed, and that he was looking for a sheep. If anybody wants a sheep, that is a proof that he exists.
So if I want to prove that I exist, I can say, "The proof that Meredith is existed is that she was compassionate, she crafted, and she was often snuggling with her cat." Now you try!

Waiting for the sunset to be fully baked
There's an amazing exchange with the little prince where he realizes that he cannot have a sunset as often as he might on his planet or other planets: 
"I am very fond of sunsets. Come, let us go look at a sunset now.'
 'But we must wait,' I said.
'Wait? For what?'
'For the sunset. We must wait until it is time.'"
It reminded me of when my sisters and I watched a sunset in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, and the various bystanders were discussing its progress like it was a cake in the oven: (Nearly there! Almost ready!)

Ministers of Magic and Sundry Other Matters
The little prince has many adventures on other planets, and he recounts these adventures to the narrator. One of my favorite visits was the king who offered to make the prince a Minister on his planet so he wouldn't leave:
"Do not go! I will make you a Minister!'
'Minister of what?'
'Minister of - of Justice!'"
The offer is not handsome enough to tempt the little prince, but it did remind me of this article about Great Britain's appointment of a Minister of Loneliness.

Other favorite lines:
  • De quelle planète es-tu? But we're not on my planet, are we? 
  • What makes the desert beautiful,' said the little prince, 'is that somewhere it hides a well.
  • C'est tellement mystérieux, le pays des larmes. (It is such a secret place, the land of tears.)
  • But you are innocent and true, and you come from a star..."
With that, I leave you to enjoy (or re-enjoy) the little prince, with its tales of ephemeral flowers, boxed sheep, endless baobabs, and volcanoes in desperate need of cleaning. 

Here are two of my favorite moments.

"All men have the stars, but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night. You - only you - will have stars that can laugh!"

And this one, which still makes me want to cry: "If you see the little prince, please comfort me. Send me word that he has come back."

I have (SPOILER ALERT) already read the next TWO books, but I will save their blobs for another day. Adieu, mes amis!