Monday, November 27, 2006

A Big Storm Knocked It Over by Laurie Colwin

I have been doing so much rereading right now—for my book group and other projects—that I was craving something fresh, short, and utterly delightful. Why didn’t I think of Laurie Colwin earlier? I have always enjoyed anything I have read by her for their breezy brilliance, and this is no exception. Jane Louise is a recently married graphic artist for a publishing company in Manhattan whose work is constantly being interrupted by her oversexed co-worker, Sven. Jane Louise and her husband Teddy have a lovely life together, although Jane Louise constantly suffers pangs that he married the wrong woman—he should have married a prim, blonde Christian instead of a skinny, anxiety-ridden Jewish girl. And she allows herself to contemplate sex with the ever-scheming Sven, which sets her into an endless spiral of confusion. But really this is just a sweet, simple novel about a young woman learning about love and family and herself, and learning to trust in the life that she has chosen. I also loved how pregnancy and motherhood and friendship is depicted in this novel. You really feel as though you are among friends when reading Colwin’s books—there is an easy familiarity and chattiness that entertains as it fills a void (for me anyway—my dearest friend is 3,000 miles away and we mainly communicate through letters). It is just so sad to think that this is Colwin’s last novel; she died of a heart attack at the age of 48.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

This is a seamless, compulsively readable short story collection that certainly deserves its Pulitzer Prize. And I still can’t believe that it was a debut! I reread this as Lahiri has been chosen as the 2007 selection for Seattle Public Library’s “Seattle Reads” program, and I am writing discussion questions for a Reading Group Toolbox. My favorite story is still “This Blessed House”—so amazing.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Let me just say that this isn’t the kind of book I generally gravitate to. And that I need to stop reading such morbidly violent books while pregnant! But it is a debut novel by an Entertainment Weekly writer (I love that magazine an obscene amount) and the reviews were good. Camille Preaker is a young journalist who isn’t quite as accomplished as she could be. But her boss believes in her, and pushes her into a big assignment in her old hometown. Two young girls have been found strangled with their teeth pulled out within a year of each other. Camille heads back to a home she has avoided for years to investigate. She stays with her Mom, a beautiful, rich socialite who is as chilly and strange as they come, a vacant step-father, and precociously dangerous, popular teenage half-sister. I was drawn to read the book from the descriptions of the dysfunctional family—and boy is it dysfunctional. Camille has been living in the shadow of her sister who died, and receives no love from her mother. Camille’s past and her family’s secrets get dragged out in the investigation, and there are a few surprises therein. Not, perhaps, as surprising as they could have been. But if you’re in the mood for a dark thriller, this is a compelling one.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I am reposting this for the benefit of the Library Success wiki and RickLibrarian's page.


Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes
Possession by A.S. Byatt
Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
The Ramona books by Beverly Cleary
Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwin
The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
Break It Down by Lydia Davis
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Anything by George Eliot, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda in particular
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer
China To Me by Emily Hahn
Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi
At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom by Amy Hempel
Oyster by Janette Turner Hospital
The Bone People by Keri Hulme
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Obasan by Joy Kogawa
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Time Will Darken It by William Maxwell
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Sisters by Mary S. Lovell
The Pursuit of Love & Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
Birds of America by Lorrie Moore
Hopeful Monsters by Nicholas Mosley
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Iris Murdoch (everything I’ve read so far, which isn’t much considering how prolific she was)
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems Selected and New by Adrienne Rich
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
The Way It Is: Poems by William Stafford
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Waterland by Graham Swift
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Slaughter-house 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
Sleepwalking by Meg Wolitzer
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Friday, November 03, 2006

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

Link’s stories are the stuff of dreams—they are luminous, unpredictable shape-shifters that illuminate the inner workings of the mind. Like her first collection, Stranger Things Happen, these stories are genre-bending—they lean to the fantastical, but can’t quite be pinned down as fantasy or literary. At their spooky best, you are left bewildered and enchanted. My favorite stories in the collection are “The faery handbag” and the self-titled story which features a television show called ‘The Library.’

I had the good fortune to run into Kelly Link at the library where I work a few weeks ago. More to the point, I dashed after her madly after I saw her exit an elevator. I got red-faced and giddy and asked her to autograph my notebook! She was extremely gracious and kind and calm with my fan-ness; apparently, I am the first person ever to recognize her! But I calmed down once we started talking about restaurants in Amherst and Northampton—where she lives and where I once did (and man, is the food good there—I don’t think I like any Seattle restaurants as much as I liked some of the places there.) And later even sent a deck of cards (with the Magic for Beginners cover) and told me that I made her year! It’s so nice when the authors we like turn out to be really cool human beings.
Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

This is a book lover’s dream! In every chapter Prose breaks down the art of literature by its dazzling components--the sentence, the paragraph, characterization, gesture, dialogue—and creates an understanding and appreciation for the masters of the craft. The authors, stories, and scenes she uses to illustrate her point are inspired and inspiring—I wanted to run right out and read every author, short story, and novel she cited as examples throughout. One of the final chapters is dedicated to the reading of Chekhov’s short stories and how he broke every rule and convention Prose felt she kept trying to impart on her writing students. I can’t wait to dedicate a little time to Chekhov myself. And I know that I will slow down and savor my reading a little more—pay closer attention to how authors do what they do.