Saturday, June 29, 2013

WILD by Cheryl Strayed

A lot of my fantasy life is devoted to planning the big adventure... getting in my car in NYC with no itinerary, and driving until I reach Patagonia; hiking the G-7, moving to a cabin on the coast of fill-in-the-blank. Maybe this is in my future, when my kid finishes school and I retire from my steady gig. Meanwhile, I'll content myself with my little adventures--two weeks solo in Cuba; paddling, hiking, busing and training from California to Canada; three weeks of eating my way through Laos and Vietnam; and instead of an endless summer, the endless coffee break--body surfing wherever and whenever I can, in little snippets of free time. And while I dream bigger, I'll read about the folks who dreamed and actually did. Cheryl Strayed hiked the Pacific Coast Trail by herself, and wound up more at peace with herself. Her story is highly entertaining and well-crafted. She writes a good sentence, knows when to show, when to tell, what to put in and what to leave out. A vicarious thrill. Thanks, Cheryl!

Sunday, June 16, 2013


On page 64, and about to give up. Loved her early books, got lost and fell away from her later ones. Phillip Lopate advises memoirists "To Show and Tell." This book is all tell, tell, tell... whine, whine, whine. Little bits and pieces that never take flight. Get over how much you hate your mum. We all do our best, and it's never good enough. NYT bestseller. Vogue calls it a tour de force. Bored, recently, by a string of critically acclaimed books. Is it me?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkinson and THE OUTLAW ALBUM by Daniel Woodrell

The literary barometers love Life After Life. Once again, I may be missing something. Here’s the conceit: What if you could keep coming back to life until you got it right? And so the protagonist dies over and over, and comes back again and again, until she does what you pretty much know she’s going to do from early on in the book. It’s very cleverly structured. A neat parlour trick. But the writing is pedestrian.

Daniel Woodrell is the freshest, darkest, most compelling voice I’ve read this year. He’s been around for a while, writing what he’s coined ‘country noir,’ but somehow I missed him until now. These stories, set in the Ozarks, knocked my socks off.