Friday, December 30, 2011


Lots of good laugh lines. Feminist and funny--an excellent pairing. But not much of a center as far as the overall shape of the book goes.

LOVE ADDICT by Ethlie Ann Vare

Yeh, yeh... Mr. Recent Ex is in there, I'm in there, ex-hubby's in there... Does reading this stuff help the painful process of looking in the mirror? Perhaps. But as far as this unhealthy relationship addict shit goes, I had far more fun seeing two exhibits at MoMA by two woman-addicts par excellence, DeKooning and Diego Rivera. Next up, McQueen, Fassbender-->Shame. VOGLIO UNA DONNA!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

STATE OF WONDER by Ann Patchett

Meh. Loved Patchett's memoir about her friendship with Lucy Grealy, and as always, she spins a good yarn... but this one is really yarn-y. Just didn't buy the plot, and couldn't make the leap of faith.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


What happens when political correctness gives rise to zero tolerance and zero compassion?

Many of the reviews I’ve read of this book call the protagonist impossible to sympathize with, and the subject matter nearly too disturbing to touch. I disagree. At the heart of the novel is a loner of young man, a convicted sex offender, who has been thrown out of the garden. Banks writes about human urges, about sanctimony, about compassion. His ear and eye are finely tuned to contemporary American language and culture, and his imagery is spot-on. He turns out a beautifully-crafted plot, except perhaps in the final chapters of the book where he goes a little Hollyrock (as he did in Rule of the Bone). Important and a great read.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kitchen Confidential, Gatsby, The Marriage Plot

After several months of underwhelming reading and personal hurdles better left for my nonexistent personal blog, I'm back in the saddle, um, armchair, um, something, with a book.

First up this fall, Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential--fun, breezy, and dangerous to the waistline; I ate my way through this book and enjoyed it.

Next, The Great Gatsby, which I suppose I read somewhere along the way, but which I remembered nothing at all about, except what I gleaned from a high school paper my son wrote a couple of years ago. While there are some lines that stopped me in my tracks, I couldn't help thinking that this slender novel wouldn't make the cut today. Even if one were to allow for the sexism of a book written in 1925, the characters are two-dimensional, and the plot doesn't really get going until the middle of the book. I'm not one of those folks who thinks we should reject the cannon just because of the Dead White Male factor. But why do we keep something on our syllabi when there's better literature out there?

Most recent read was Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot. I adored The Virgin Suicides, and very much liked Middlesex (though I thought it needed an editor to help with some bloat and meandering). Marriage, however, was clunky and sophmoric. (Actually, the protagonists are seniors in college, and as the novel progresses, recent graduates.) I'm still not sure what the book was about--a kind of love triangle of young folk, perhaps? Feels written from a distance, by someone who has left those days long behind him. I'll be reading more of Eugenides, but this one didn't do it for me.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Personal crap = lethargy = what have I read lately?

No doubt I'm missing a whole bunch of books. Here's what I can remember reading so far, this summer. It must be that I'm way cranky... because of the five I can call up, I loved only one of them, and didn't much care for the other four.

Pulitzer prize? Really?? A couple months down the road, and I can't remember what it was about. (Clearly my problem and not Egan's... but... just saying...) Remember enjoying it well enough, but thinking it didn't hold a candle to a number of other recent novels-via-linked-short-story oeuvres. (See my earlier and more cogent blog post on these.) Methinks Egan sorta, kinda smacks of the very clever but self-conscious literary pyrotechnics by those guys who are so trendy right now--Franzen (earlier blog post) et al... and they're, well, men... and so the Pulitzer to, um, let's find the woman who's writing like those literary luminaries du jour. Hey... I liked GOON SQUAD. But I didn't love it.

THE UNCOUPLING by Meg Wolitzer:
My own Mr. Uncoupling gave this book to me for our first uncoupled anniversary, after 32 coupled ones... sweet of him... and it's got a cute conceit--a modern day Lysistrata--but Wolitzer doesn't dig very deeply with this spoon.

BLUE HIGHWAYS by William Least Heat-Moon:
Considered a classic road trip book in the tradition of ON THE ROAD... the first 15 or 20 pages read like you're watching him highlight the route on a fusty, old map... first I went here, and then I went here, and then... and his language is a little too precious and pretty for me. Franky (my dear), I was bored. (Again, probably my problem and not Heat-Moon's.) Perhaps personal crap brings on a little ADHD... I didn't have the stamina to see if it gets better.

NATASHA by David Bezmozgis:
Yea!!! New best author! Poignant and sarcastic and funny and tender all at the same time. Economy of language; great images; sharp turns of phrase that I had to stop and read again; beautiful characters. Short stories about a family of Latvian Jewish immigrants in Toronto, with a teenage protagonist who Bezmozgis, in an interview, churlishly protesteth is not him... but is. Whatever. The guy can write.

SWAMPLANDIA! by Karen Russell:
Halfway through it. She's no Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Three Lost Months--Three for my journey, and one because it's only rock and roll:

I see I last updated this in mid-January. Hmmm... What have I read since then?

AGAINST LOVE by Laura Kipnis:
Yes, it's okay to be where I am... despite social norms that tell me differently.
(The shrink's perspective.)
Not exactly juicy, lyrical reading... but quite helpful to me at a time of, um, growth.

Basic Buddhist tenets, and their application to Western psychology. Not exactly juicy, lyrical reading... but quite helpful to me at a time of, um, growth. Bare attention, letting go... Excellent stuff.

SEX AT DAWN by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá:
Yes, it's okay to be where I am... despite social norms that tell me differently.
(The biologists' perspective.)
Not exactly juicy, lyrical reading... but quite helpful to me at a time of, um, growth.

LIFE by Keith Richards:
Now you're reading, girl! Keith is highly entertaining (but you knew that), and smart as a whip (I didn't know this... he is). A great read, a great voice on paper... especially compelling when he writes about finding a sound and the songwriting process. Sex and drugs and rock and roll.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Already on this blog, when I read it over the summer. Just taught it... and read it again.

I'll let my students speak this time.

Kate: I think when I look back at eighth grade, you know, like in five years or something, I'm going to remember two things. The eighth grade play, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Lucy: I think anyone who's becoming a citizen should have to read this book, because it will teach them about our history, but it will also teach them that we're trying to make things better.

Tyree: I really didn't want to read this book because it's, well, a Classic. But I'm really glad I did.

Lesly: I read the beginning of it before and hated it. I wouldn't have read it if we hadn't had to read it in class, but I think reading it together really helped. Part 1 was kind of boring, but I loved part 2. (True, Lesly, Part 1 can be a little slow in places.)

Ned: I'm really surprised at how much I loved this book. Because it's, well, a Classic.

Keka: I disagree that Part 1 is boring. I love stories about summer and childhood and family, and that feeling that you can just kind of hang around and do nothing and invent games...

Rieza: I love this book! Even though I would normally never read a book like this. You know, a Classic.

JULIET, NAKED by Nick Hornby

Still not ready for mental prime time. Needed another like the one I'd just finished. I've always found Hornby's novels fun to read. This one is no exception. A triangle between an aging has-been rock star, a die-hard fan and his girlfriend, Juliet is not Hornby's best, nor is it as laugh aloud funny as the Tropper, but goes down easy, is well-crafted, and thoroughly fit the bill.

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU by Jonathan Tropper

I was looking for a "beach read" in this winter of my discontent. I wanted to be entertained and distracted from my own thoughts. I didn't want to work at anything. But if the writing isn't excellent, why bother? Tropper is the master.

This is Where I Leave You is about a man sitting shiva for his father and the family. It's hilarious, breezy and well-written.