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HomeNewsArchivesAt Dockside: From the Himalaya to the Hills of L.A.

At Dockside: From the Himalaya to the Hills of L.A.

Here is where you will find what's new at St. Thomas' well-known, well-read Dockside Bookshop at Havensight Mall. Every week you will find new titles to peruse. Look for updates of our "picks" for fiction and nonfiction.
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tuesday and Friday: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Phone: 340-774-4937
E-mail: dockside@islands.vi
"Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himalaya" by Jamaica Kinkaid (National Geographic Directions series). National Geographic Society, travel, 208 p. $20.00
"This account of a walk I took while gathering the seeds of flowering plants in the foothills of the Himalayas has its origins in my love of the garden — my love of feeling isolated, of imagining myself all alone in the world and everything unfamiliar, or the familiar being strange, my love of being afraid but at the same time not letting my fear stand in the way."
So begins Jamaica Kincaid's adventure into the mountains of Nepal with a small group of botanists. After laborious training and preparation, the group leaves Kathmandu by small plane, into the Annapurna Valley to begin their trek. ("From inside the plane it always seemed to me as if we were about to collide with these sharp green peaks, I especially thought this would be true when I saw one of the pilots reading the newspaper, but Dan said that at the other times he'd flown in this part of the world the pilots always read the newspaper and it did not seem to affect the flight in a bad way.") The temperature was 96 degrees F. on arrival, and the little airport in Tumlingtar was awash in Maoists in camouflage fatigues. "What I was about to do, what I had in mind to do, what I planned for over a year to do, was still a mystery to me. I was on the edge of it though."
The group sets off with a large retinue of sherpas and bearers, and Kincaid, in simple, richly detailed prose describes the landscape, the Nepalese villages, the passing trekkers and yak herds. Direct and opinionated ("We decided to call them [other trekkers] the Germans because we didn't like them from the look of them, and Germans seem to be the one group of people left that cannot be liked because you feel like it."), Kincaid moves easily between closely observed, down-to-earth descriptions of the trek and larger musings, about gardens, nature, seed gathering, home, and family. Negotiations with the Maoists to pass through villages interject dramatic notes ("Dan and I became Canadians. Until then I would never have dreamt of calling myself anything other than American. But the Maoists had told Sunam [head sherpa] that President Powell had just been to Kathmandu and denounced them as terrorists and that had made them very angry with President Powell.").
The group presses on, determined in its search for "beautiful plants native to the Himalayas but will grow happily in Vermont or somewhere like that." Eventually they reach a spectacular pass at 15,600 feet and start back. Down at the village of Donge they have another run-in with the Maoists. They "lectured us all through the afternoon into the setting sun, mentioning again the indignity of being called mere terrorists by President Powell of the United States." To lessen the tension, the sherpas produces some Chang, an alcohol made from millet, intoxicating everyone, Kincaid included. At the airport, the Maoists are threatening attack, but the group must wait three days for an airplane. Finally they get off safely. "Days later, in Kathmandu, we heard that the very airport where we had camped for days had been attacked by Maoists and some people had been killed." In Kathmandu another Maoist attack closes the city down. "As we waited to leave this place, I remembered the carpet of gentians and the isolated but thick patches of Delphinium abloom in the melting snow. There were the forests of rhododendrons, specimens thirty feet high."
"I remembered all that I had seen but I especially remembered all that I had felt. I remembered my fears. I remembered how practically every step was fraught with memories of my past, and the immediate one of my son Harold all alone in Vermont, and my love for it and my fear of losing it."
"Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" by Jared Diamond. Viking Books, nonfiction hardcover, 575 pp. $29.95.
"I've set myself the modest task of trying to explain the broad pattern of human history, on all the continents, for the last 13,000 years. Why did history take such different evolutionary courses for peoples of different continents? This problem has fascinated me for a long time, but it's now ripe for a new synthesis because of recent advances in many fields seemingly remote from history, including molecular biology, plant and animal genetics and biogeography, archaeology, and linguistics." — Jared Diamond."
Who has looked on the ancient Maya or classical Mediterranean cities and not wondered why they were abandoned? Or whether they hold a message for us? In this fascinating book, Jared Diamond seeks to understand the fates of past societies that collapsed for ecological reasons, combining the most important policy debate of our generation with the romance and mystery of lost worlds. Citizens of first world societies look around and tend not to see signs of imminent ecological collapse: The supermarkets are full of food; water gushes from our faucets; we live amidst trees and green grass. Actually, though, many past civilizations – with far smaller populations and less potent destructive technologies than those of today – have inadvertently committed ecological suicide: the Polynesian societies on Easter Island and other Pacific islands or the Anasazi civilization, for example.
Ecocide asks why some societies make disastrous decisions, and how can we in the modern world learn better problem solving? Ecocide is an ecological history of human societies that considers why societies in some regions have been more vulnerable than those in other regions, and also compares the trajectories of past civilizations with likely trajectories of our own. Why did Greenland fail where Iceland succeeded? What links Rwanda and Australia? What can contemporary Montana learn from the ancient Mayans and modern Chinese?
"In Search of Pretty Young Black Men" by Stanley Bennett Clay.
Atria Books, fiction hardcover, 176 p. $15.95
Los Angeles has no ghettos, according to some. And that is nearly true. But even behind the sun-kissed facade of privilege in its Black upper middle class is a harsher reality.
"In Search of Pretty Young Black Men" is the tale of Dorian Moore, a mysterious and seductive young man who provides comfort to the moneyed, the neglected, the lost, and the lonely in an elegant hilltop community in Southern California.
Among the women is Maggie Lester-Allegro, who, disillusioned by a loveless marriage, finds support in her small circle of women friends and sexual healing in Dorian's arms. The blessing brought by this pretty black man soon becomes a fatal curse, as terrible truths come to light.
Maggie's husband, Lamont, seeks sexual solace outside of their picture-perfect marriage as well. He lives in the shadow of his larger-than-life father, a member of the Baldwin Hills gentry, and under the weight of secrets and lies that threaten to tumble the walls of his carefully guarded life and standing among the elite.
This stunning new novel, by the author of "Diva," is a poetically rendered, provocative, and revealing tale that challenges every notion of what we believe equals success, prestige, and, most of all, love.
We will gladly order any books you want. E-mail us at dockside@islands.vi, or call 340-774-4937.
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tuesday and Friday: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Phone: 340-774-4937
E-mail: dockside@islands.vi

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