Light Years: A Girlhood in Hawai'i by Susanna Moore, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Light Years: A Girlhood in Hawai'i

Light Years: A Girlhood in Hawai'i

by Susanna Moore
     
 

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Susanna Moore is best known for her critically acclaimed novels—complex and compelling works like In the Cut and My Old Sweetheart. Now, Moore’s Light Years is a shimmering look at the early life of this cherished novelist. Taking the form of a Commonplace Book, it mixes reminiscences with passages from famous works of literature

Overview

Susanna Moore is best known for her critically acclaimed novels—complex and compelling works like In the Cut and My Old Sweetheart. Now, Moore’s Light Years is a shimmering look at the early life of this cherished novelist. Taking the form of a Commonplace Book, it mixes reminiscences with passages from famous works of literature that were formative in her younger years. Born in Hawai’i at a time when the islands were separated from the U.S. mainland by five days’ ship travel, Moore was raised in a secluded paradise of water, light, and color. As a child she spent endless days holed up with a bundle of books while the sound of the ocean and the calls of her brothers and sister drifted toward her through the palm grove. All around her, Moore saw flashes of the ocean described in those pages: a force of kaleidoscopic beauty and romantic possibility, but with an undercurrent of unfathomable darkness. In Light Years: A Girlhood in Hawai’i, she weaves reminiscences of her childhood with some of her favorite pieces of literature—excerpts from Robinson Crusoe, Moby-Dick, Treasure Island, Kon-Tiki, To the Lighthouse, and many others.

Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
When Moore, a novelist, was growing up in Hawaii, in the early fifties, it still took five days to reach the islands by sea from San Francisco. Yet life there for haoles (foreigners) was not unlike that of bluebloods summering in Maine: Moore and her four siblings roamed the landscape at will, while their mother, prone to nervous breakdowns, attempted to outfit them in seersucker shorts. Moore’s recollections are faithful to a child’s purview; she was shocked to learn, later, that “only haoles were allowed to live in the most desirable neighborhoods.” Interwoven in the text are excerpts from Darwin and Woolf, among others, although the most memorable line comes from an early-twentieth-century visitor to Hawaii, who reported that nearly no one was left alive who could play the nose flute “as it should be played, to the excruciation of every nerve in a Caucasian body.”
Andrew Ervin
It's a lush and beautiful book; her reminisces read in many cases like a series of dreams…Light Years artfully recalls a time when life often felt carefree, even when it wasn't.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Moore (In the Cut; One Last Look), born in Hawai'i to a mother plagued by mental illness, recalls the two salvations of her childhood-the sea and books. Lying in the shade of a coconut grove that was said to have been planted by the king in the 19th century, she read Robinson Crusoe, Moby-Dick, Treasure Island, To the Lighthouse. She relished passages about the sea, copying her favorites into her journal and eventually excerpting them here. In her own life as well as her voyages through literature, she knew the sea as a playmate, a menace, a protector and an undertaker. In her youth in the 1950s and '60s, just before jet air travel brought mass tourism to the state, the mysteries of islands dotting the waters awed her, as did the alluring mishmash of cultures and classes (Moore's family were members of the haole elite). Now an island dweller of another sort-a New Yorker-she mourns losing her beloved southern seas, once-constant companions for which the Atlantic is no substitute. Moore's premise is intriguing, and her prose elegant, with quick, vivid sketches of her island girlhood; however, with the inclusion of well over 30 passages of seafarers' musings from canon literature, Moore's memoir makes for an excerpt-heavy read that's regrettably light on her personal vision. (Mar.)

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Kirkus Reviews
A literary journey through memory to childhood in 1950s Hawaii. For novelist Moore (One Last Look, 2003, etc.), the sea is a wild, ever-present reality: "It was always there, and I was always in it." In this mix of memoir and anthology-a stilted, irritating format-the author discusses her distant home, "a ravishing little world . . . an isolated place, redolent with romance." Like many writers, Moore read voraciously as a child, borrowing books from the Adults Only shelves at the local library. In 1954, she recalls, Robinson Crusoe inspired her at age eight to build "a lean-to made of palm fronds, stocked with old ropes, carefully-rendered maps of hidden treasure and hemp bags of dried fruit and stale bread." Robinson Crusoe led her to Treasure Island, which led her to Typhoon. She began to keep a notebook of copied passages from the books she read, most highlighting the literature of the sea. This book is, presumably, a showcase of these discoveries; Moore includes short snippets from (among others) Hesiod, Keats, Thoreau, Woolf, Dickinson and Chekhov, along with, most interestingly, a passage from Isabella Bird's Six Months in the Sandwich Islands and a tale from "His Hawaiian Majesty King Kalakaua." The highlights of this short tome are the author's far-too-infrequent sprints back into her youth. She describes roaming freely through wild country without fences or boundaries, picking guavas, lichees and Surinam cherries when she was hungry, digging up rare ferns for replanting indoors. She had a pet spider; she went everywhere barefoot. She slid down flumes that irrigated the pineapple fields, a forbidden pastime, and after a rainfall used giant ti leaves to sled down the ancientHawaiian he'e holua slides. Moore grew up in a Hawaiian paradise where ethereal myth and corporeal pursuits commingled. Her book is most delightful when she draws on her memories, disappointing when she quotes disruptively and at length from her favorite texts. Well written and passionate, though frequently frustrating.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802144065
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
02/03/2009
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.20(h) x 0.70(d)

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