Interlude

I’m between books right now. I’m out of town during the next two Book Club meetings so I don’t feel a pressing need to read those books; I’m going to Quebec for the first time and wanted to read about it but neither book I bought is terribly interesting; I was going to read Outlander because I’m enjoying the TV show so much, but then I heard the audiobook was amazing and now I’m waiting for it to arrive from the library. I have a stack of self-help books on my nightstand (one about losing weight and three about getting organized). I have stacks of books to read, maybe one of those organization books can give me some hints on how set up my reading list?

In the meantime, I will share this list of quotes about reading (after admitting I was drawn to it by the photo of a very young David Bowie reading a book) – Why We Read

And sign off with this quote from Haruki Murakami (and found on that article): If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.

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Filed under For The Love of Books

How The Story Ends

Leaflets

At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses. Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Despite the many awards and accolades, I don’t know that I would have read this book if it hadn’t been on the Book Club list. Blind girl and young German soldier meet in WWII, nothing automatically compelling in this boiled down description. (But isn’t it completely unfair to reduce any story down to so little?) What I’m trying to say is that I am grateful to Book Club for encouraging me to read this because I enjoyed it immensely.

The story that is told and the structure of how it is told are both mesmerizing.

I have a sense that Mr. Doerr’s characters came to life for him and told him how their story ended. As I read the final page there were parts I wanted to change, just a few minor revisions so this character or that character had a different outcome. But life doesn’t work that way, bad/sad things happen to decent people who don’t deserve those endings. I think it is a testament to writing skill that it feels as though the author didn’t give himself permission to rewrite his characters’ story so that all the good guys had happy endings, he wrote it the way it happened. Or the way it would have happened if these people had existed outside of his imagination.

This is the book we will be discussing Sunday and I’m so looking forward to it!

 

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Filed under Book Club Reading List, Writing

Does That Make Her Pretentious?

A thick drizzle from the sky, like a curtain’s sudden sweeping. The seabirds stopped their tuning, the ocean went mute. Houselights over the water dimmed to gray.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Goff

It is easy to find a wide range of reactions to this book. Whether you love it, hate it, or somewhere in between, a quick look at Goodreads or Amazon reviews will take you to someone who agrees completely with you.

I moved around a lot as a child, went to a different school every 6 to 18 months. I missed large chunks of educational basics because they were being taught in different grades at the different schools (I’ve never taken a geometry class something I often mention when playing pool or parallel parking). I was a precocious reader, but never studied Shakespeare, mythology, or many literature classics.

I took a long time for me to make the connection between the title and Greek Tragedy, and while reading the book I encountered many references that I only understood as much as you can get from watching Disney’s animated Hercules a few dozen times. My reaction to this was to be reminded that you might not ever need Algebra once you’ve left school, but a good literature class can stay with you forever.

Apparently other readers encountered references they didn’t completely understand either, but their reaction was to call the writing (or even the author) pretentious. I bet there is a myth or a fable that I could use as an analogy to demonstrate why it is wrong to cast aspersions at something just because you don’t understand it – but, as I’ve already mentioned, I don’t have that base of knowledge. So I’ll just go with, I think that is a cheap shot.

Otherwise, my brief review: I thought the Fates section would never end and came close to quitting a couple of times, but once I started on Furies, I couldn’t put it down. I would like to read an edited version, I’m betting there are complete paragraphs that could be cut that would only improve the reading experience. One of these days, after I’ve got a bit of Greek Tragedy added to my reading history, I think I’ll pick it up and read it again.

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Filed under Educational, I Need To Read This Again, The New York Times Book Review, Writing

Why Haven’t I Finished It?

Today is Book Club. The book we’re reading is well-written, well-reviewed, on David Bowie’s favorite 100 books, is a bestseller, has won awards (right on the cover it says “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize”), and is getting the better of me. I am on page 175 (of 335) of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I started reading it back in January, before I read The Martian and before I even considered reading Born Standing Up. When I sit down to read I am immediately drawn in, but once I set the book aside for the evening I seem to have a difficult time making the time to go back to it.

I think that will be my discussion point at Book Club today: why haven’t I finished this book?

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Filed under Book Club Reading List

A Comic’s Life

Beforehand

I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Watching the episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedian’s In Cars Getting Coffee when Steve Martin is the guest, a brief mention of Steve Martin’s writing and this book in particular, and the next thing I know I’ve ordered it for my sister.

The book was published in 2007 but at times it read a bit dated, although the only specific reference was the mention, a couple of times, of Bill Cosby in a positive light. With what we’ve learned about Cosby in recent years, this felt odd. Maybe it seemed dated because of the lack of a troubled young adulthood. It isn’t that Steve Martin tells his life as all sunshine and roses, but it isn’t a memoir that makes you wander how his daughter will feel when she reads it. Maybe that makes it an autobiography instead of a memoir?

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Filed under Memoirs and Autobiographies

But What Does She Look Like?

November 4, 1936

(HARRIET AT ZERO)

Here you come, Harriet Nathan, tiny face pinched, eyes squinting fiercely against the glare of surgical lamps, at a newly renovated Swedish hospital, high on Seattle’s First Hill.

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison

Once again transcribing the first sentences of a book I just finished shows me something I either missed or forgot while reading the book. It was somewhere around page 8 that I started wondering if the story was taking place in Seattle; specifically, was the store Frederick & Nelson in other places in the country that also had a Fourth Street and Union Street that intersected? But there it was in the very first sentence. Oh well, that is not what I came here to record.

I liked the books’ structure, and the title’s reference to the old TV show was perfect, but I’m a sucker for short chapters and non-linear storytelling. There were a few times that I felt something for the characters and a few times I was surprised by something, but maybe not enough.

Harriet, in my mind’s eye, was a generic “little old lady.” I couldn’t picture her, not at 78, not at 36, not at 18, etc. Mr. Evison gave her a personality, I should have given her a face and maybe then I would have been more invested.

Even in a non-linear story, it helps to have a beginning point – a time the story is moving forward from so that you can watch characters grow or learn, or something. I expect that was supposed to start on page 10, when we first meet Harriet at 78. But, other than getting soundly stepped on a few times, I don’t think Harriet changed between April 6, 2015 (when we first meet her) and August 26, 2015 (when we say goodbye). For me, in the end the entire story felt like something that had already happened, was completely set, and we were just revisiting to find out why Harriet was Harriet.

Rereading that first sentence and the first two chapters, I start to think more about the story. Maybe I should reread it again at some point in the future, perhaps it is the sort of book that once you stop wondering what is going to happen next, you slow down and get something completely different out of it.

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Filed under Books to Read on Planes, I Need To Read This Again, This Book Would Make A Great Movie

The Martian, The Book

Log Entry: Sol 6
I’m pretty much fucked.
That’s my considered opinion.

The Martian by Andy Weir

I missed the meeting yesterday, where this was the book discussed, but I did chat with a neighbor who was there and who told me most people did not particularly enjoy the book. Although I think I agree, it is a 435 page paperback, and I finished it, so there must have been something appealing.

I did skim some of the paragraphs that were overly science based, the ones that made it feel like the book had been written for some other audience, like my retired Nuclear Engineer friend.

It is odd that even with the Log Entries being dated, I didn’t realize how much time was going by until near the end when our hero makes a specific comment about how many days he’d been there. At the end of the story I felt like I knew very little about him in the way of biographical facts but that I understood his spirit quite well; and I liked his spirit.

I’d be surprised if the book would be on any best-seller list if hadn’t been made into a movie, but I bet it makes a good movie.

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Filed under See The Movie, Read The Book