Sunday, August 31, 2008

Clever and Assorted Books

After reading this post on Wuthering Expectations, I decided I should become more of a specialist reader. Then it occurred to me that I already have a hodge podge of specialties (luck, rodents, YA fantasy, food and plants, more about them later). After that it occurred to me that I don't take the time to read through my eclectic pile now and I specializing would require more time and fewer books, moreover, there are enough focused and neurotic readers in the family already. I'll remain the dabbler.

So, this post is to catch up with some of my reading that doesn't fit under a category. Late in the spring I read Michael Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road without any expectations. Given to me without comment by the siblings-in-law, I was surprised to find an adventure novel written with a wide-ranging vocabulary, twisting sentences and characters simultaneously complex and caricatures. I liked it, probably all the more because I started listing words I needed to look up on the very first page. If Chabon hadn't added a silly afterward as to why, he, a great literary man, would write an adventure story, I would have liked it even more. That Chabon felt he needed to justify the book diminished it in my eyes, yet I still recommend it and will probably read The Yiddish Policemen's Union one of these times.

I read David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas because I was told to by "books i done read". I don't know the author of books I done read but I generally like her taste and I love her book reviews, so if you are wanting some suggestions, check out her site. Cloud Atlas is a story within a story within a story. At some point I was very fearful that it would all turn out to be just a story that someone made up. The thought then made me laugh because, well, that's exactly what novels are. All of the overlapping stories are made up by David Mitchell and the result it good. There were times I thought Mitchell was trying too hard to be clever, but in the end, I wanted the Mister to read it right away so we could talk about it and I thought I should flip back through to figure out what I missed, because I'm sure there was lots. Many of my readers will enjoy it and I'm sure some of you will love it, but I couldn't pick out who, for sure.

While I felt both Chabon and Mitchell were out to demonstrate that they were clever, well-read and in command of the language, sometimes self-consciously and snobbishly so, John Steinbeck wrote Travels with Charley as someone who long previously proved he could write and was now just out to relate an adventure. Travels with Charley is probably the most well-written road trip book I've read (to tempt me to add Grapes of Wrath to my list, it would have to be). For many of us wanderers, the introductory descriptions of wanderlust are well worth checking the book out from the library. The trip itself, a journey across the states with a poodle, falls short on adventure and scenery, but the themes of homogenization and racism made me laugh and cry at how much had changed since 1960 and how little.

Finally, back in May I read 2 more of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books and they remain recommended fun reading.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

No Lucky Quitter

I nearly returned Jackie Collins' Lucky after the first night of reading it. I couldn't stand the style or the characters and didn't give much of a hoot as to what happened to the gorgeous divorced-from-the-husbands-they-married-at-16, coke-snorting rich girls and their married lovers. But I don't like to quit books (perhaps why I don't start that many books I'm not going to like) and felt it would be somehow unlucky to quit the book Lucky during my year on luck. So I continued reading and Collins' words sucked me into the soap opera world of the early 1980s and suddenly I stayed up late last night to finish it.
I had never previously read Jackie Collins, or any of the writers I've assumed are similar: Danielle Steele, Sidney Sheldon, V.C. Andrews, Joan Collins, Barbara Taylor Bradford, and I really thought I could handle a Hollywood-laced beach read. After all, I read and enjoy bodice rippers and have encountered plenty of escapist plot-driven pulp, from chic lit to action mysteries and don't consider myself surprised by convenient sudden deaths, implausible sudden stardom or oral sex. Still, I had never read anything quite like Lucky, and didn't know quite how to take it until the Mister commented it was just a soap opera with extra sex and violence: way to many characters, tons of beauty, incredible fast plot twists, and short chapters further divided so that only one-half to three pages is ever spent on a scene.

Not recommended unless you're into that kind of thing, and even then this is probably way outdated.

Classes start tomorrow, but I'm hoping to take some time to write about the books I did enjoy this summer as well as post some photos of our great trip to the Canadian Maritimes. In the meantime, I'm sharing the 27 cents of luck we found Friday, the fantastic fortune I recently received, "You will be surrounded by true friends" (thanks to all of you for making it come true), and a question: does looking like Jackie Collins does at 70 involve deals with the devil or just a fleet of human specialists?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lucky to know him

The Mister's paternal grandfather died a week and a half ago. Without denying the sadness of the loss of a family member from our lives, which I just don't feel like blogging about, I must point out how genuinely lucky the Mister and I have been in the area of grandparents. I'm grateful that I had the chance to drink wine with the Mister's grandfather in New York and eat fried chicken with him at the Brookville Hotel and hear his stories about rodeos and pig roasts. I'm glad that the Mister had the chance to meet my grandfather and hear his advice about where to stop for pie on road trips. While the Mister and I only met one of the other's grandparents* we each knew all four of our own, which is very fortunate. All eight are now gone and sadly missed as individuals, but their spirits and personalities remain much alive in our families.
Hugs to all of the Mister's grandfather's family and friends.

*which still makes me sad because my maternal grandmother would have loved the Mister and joked with him in a way that my grandfather never could.