SHOP PRODUCTS
Houzz Logo Print
friedag

March Reading: What's Your Latest?

friedag
8 years ago

I'm currently reading A Mencken Chrestomathy: His Own Selection of His Choicest Writings, edited and annotated by H.L.M. Mencken is perhaps best-known for dubbing The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes (a 1925 case) as "The Scopes Monkey Trial", the repercussions of which are still with us today. I am most interested in his linguistic study The American Language. What a curmudgeon he was!

Comments (123)

  • bookmom41
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I'm reading, and enjoying Helen Simonson's The Summer Before the War. Set in Rye as Germany invades Belgium and drawing England into WWI, it focuses on a young woman hired to teach Latin at a local school and the local gentry who take her under their wing. Simonson wrote Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, which was tartly funny and charming; I'd say this book is somewhat more serious, but just as well written. It is disturbing to read how difficult it was for a single woman, despite being intelligent and educated, to "make it" on her own, with legal, financial and societal roadblocks put before her. Beatrice's realization that those older women whom she thought were joyless and penny-pinching, were probably just trying to make their meager funds stretch so they would not starve or be homeless is particularly poignant. OK, I am making this story sound more grim than it really is...

    Some of you are mentioning favorite books of mine: The Garden of Evening Mists and All the Light We Cannot See. I had to push through the beginnings of both, and ended up wishing they would not end.

  • sheri_z6
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I'm two-thirds of the way through All the Light We Cannot See and I'm entranced. He writes so beautifully, and there's an immediacy to the story that has really pulled me in. I was up waaaaay too late last night reading.

    Bookmom, thanks for the recommendation of The Summer Before the War, I like the author and will definitely look for it.

  • Related Discussions

    March! What are you reading?

    Q

    Comments (115)
    I just heard on the radio that our 'local' author Winifred Foley has died aged 94. I know many of you enjoyed her Child of the Forest which has now been reprinted as Full Hearts and Empty Bellies. If you go to the site below you should be able to hear the interview on iPlayer with her made a few weeks ago. Press 'Listen Now' for today (Tuesday's) prog, or 'Listen Again' after Tuesday. The item is about 10 mins into the programme. It is not easy to understand everything WF says as she is very old and deaf and has a 'Forest' accent but it's well-worth concentrating. Listen out for the bit where she tells the story of receiving a 'doll' for Christmas made of an old black stocking with two odd button eyes. She is so disappointed with Father Christmas that she tells the family that "'im can take the bugger back." Here is a link that might be useful: Winifred Foley Interview
    ...See More

    What are you reading in March?

    Q

    Comments (90)
    4kids4us - I hope that you enjoy Tomorrow. I'd like to hear your opinion. Travers's life was, to put it mildly, controversial. And your mention of Girl at War reminds me that sitting and mocking me on a bookshelf is Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Rebecca West's tour de force ( 1158 pgs.) of her journey through the Balkans prior to WW2. This book is considered a 20th century masterpiece. I want so much to read it, but its length is daunting - and it has no maps! Here's another one for you: Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, by Georgina Howell. Bell was born a Victorian Englishwoman, expected to be dainty and calm and eventually someone's wife. Instead she first became a master mountain-climber, nearly freezing in the Alps, and then she went on to her main calling - exploring the Levant and Arabia and Mesopotamia by camel caravans that she organized herself, schlepping her frocks and laces and china in trunks from Beirut to Jerusalem to the depths of Arabia and on to Baghdad, entertaining sheikhs and politicians along the way, mystifying and amazing some very tough men. Eventually she became part of the British and French team that divided up the Levant after WW1. It's a very good read!
    ...See More

    March: What are you reading this month?

    Q

    Comments (157)
    Frieda - The murder of the minister occurred in 1946, so the protagonist had not been back from the war for very long. Part of his standing in the community was that of a war hero. During his years at war, the army visited the family and told them that he was missing and presumed dead. So that's what the family and believed, of course. In truth, when he fell out of the Bataan Death March, he survived and became a guerilla fighter in the jungle. The description of this character's service in the Philippines was truly horrible. I certainly hope your father did not experience anything that bad, but I had the impression that everything about the war in the Philippines was pretty terrible. If my father had fought there, I don't think I would want to read this book. It's just too heartbreaking. By the way, I believe the American surrender in the Bataan Peninsula was the only surrender of US armed forces in a foreign war.
    ...See More

    What are we reading? March 2019

    Q

    Comments (98)
    I don't post here much because I haven't been reading much of interest. But, I noticed something about my reading. I like to read a book associated with something I've seen or heard. Like, the book the led to a movie or show, or a book about another book (Prairie Fires is on my stack, for example, also The Catalog of Lost Books). So, recently I saw the show "Million Dollar Quartet". I enjoyed it so much I saw it again a week later! I hadn't realized it was based on an actual event, I thought is was just a "what if..." kind of story. Well, that got me looking for the actual recording of the day Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash, gathered at Sun Records for a jam session that was recorded. The CD is so fun to listen to with lots of chatter, and there's a book -- also titled Million Dollar Quartet -- written after the show came out, with brief bios of the guys and the founder of Sun up to that day, then about the session, and then a little bit about each track on the recording. So fun! I'm having kind of a "multi-media" moment, a delightful distraction from life.
    ...See More
  • kathy_t
    8 years ago

    Sheri - I felt the same way about All the Light We Cannot See. It's a real standout.

  • carolyn_ky
    8 years ago

    Bookmom, I have requested The Summer Before the War from the library and am No. 56 on the waiting list. I enjoyed Major Pettigrew.

  • michellecoxwrites
    8 years ago

    Have heard wonderful things about All the Light We Cannot See and LOVED Major Pettigrew. Will def. put her new one on my TBR. Too many books!!!!

  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Bookmom41:

    Some of you are mentioning favorite books of mine: The Garden of Evening Mists and All the Light We Cannot See. I had to push through the beginnings of both, and ended up wishing they would not end.

    I haven't read 'The...Evening Mists' book, but I'm interested in your saying that you "had to push through the beginnings of both [it and All the Light We Cannot See]."

    I've started 'All the Light...' twice only to set it aside and then I forget to pick it up again, by which time I need to start over to get back into it. In your estimation, when does it start getting good? I don't recall how far I got the first time, but I think I got to around page 150 the second time.

    My problems with it seem to be:

    1) the present tense -- which I find annoying. I have read other books (e.g., Mantel's Wolf Hall) that use present tense which I have managed to get accustomed to and even like after a while because, as Sheri mentioned, it adds immediacy . . . but not this one for some reason; and

    2) the choppiness -- the very short chapters really shouldn't bother me because I have the attention span of a gnat sometimes, but in this case I think the brevity exacerbates my inability to concentrate on the story -- my mind wanders; and

    3) the jumping back and forth; the non-chronological arrangement of the storytelling (NOT between the characters of Marie-Laure and Werner, where I see the point) -- I understand and don't mind backtracking or flashbacks or flash forwards, occasionally, when there's a good reason for them, but as I can't discern much reason for all the jumping around in time yet, I've become rather skeptical about whether there is a real purpose or it's mostly an exercise in stylistics.

    That's probably enough to describe my problems with this book. The story and the characters seem to have a lot of potential as, of course, the settings and backdrop of events already have to me. Reading it through to the end should be rewarding, I hope; if I can stick with it longer than 150 pages. That's why I'm asking you, Bookmom -- or anyone else who has read it -- when did it coalesce for you? Of course, I'm expecting an answer of "keep reading" from those who really, really like it, but those who might have struggled with the beginning, like Bookmom, might be able to give me more specific encouragement. :-)

  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Bookmom, you explained why you like both books very eloquently. If you call your post 'rattling', then I'm willing to read everything you have to say!

    I wish that to be true of Doerr's book as well. I'm not worried about the 'easiness' or his sometimes flowery prose since I like a challenge, so maybe that's how I should consider it -- a pretty good incentive, I think. I also should probably slow down my reading.

    I looked up The Garden of Evening Mists and now remember that Martin reviewed it in one of his annual 'Booker' threads, although I don't recall what he thought of it. The descriptions of it are very alluring to me. I think I might like it better than All the Light... Now I'll read both!

  • sheri_z6
    8 years ago

    I finished All the Light We Cannot See yesterday and I feel like I have a book hangover today. I can't imagine starting something else for at least a couple of days. Loved it!

    Frieda, I was pulled in immediately, and I like books that jump back and forth in time. I did have to flip back and forth on occasion to be certain of "when" I was in the story, but that was OK, too. I think I probably liked all the things you didn't :)


  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Sheri, differences are grand! I remember Smith's How to Be Both which I thought was a pain in the butt to read; but I can recall a lot more of the details of it than I ever thought I would, mainly thanks to your and Martin's enthusiasm for it.

  • msmeow
    8 years ago

    Wow, this is an interesting discussion of "All the Light"! Those of you who loved it had just about convinced me to try it, but with Frieda and Bookmom's comments I'm not so sure. I don't mind present tense, but jumping back and forth in time (especially if it's hard to tell when it jumps LOL) usually doesn't interest me. I remember so many people raving about Toni Morrison's "Beloved" and I plowed my way through the whole thing, but I hated it because the story jumped back and forth in time and it was very hard to tell when it happened.

    But, if I start "All the Light" and don't like it, I can always return it, right?

    Donna

  • woodnymph2_gw
    8 years ago

    I found "All the Light We Cannot See" amazing and wonderful. I read it when it first came out and was fully engrossed. I do recall flipping pages back and forth sometimes. But as I recall, I was so fascinated by the French girl and the German boy and how their disparate threads were ultimately woven together that I was able to overlook issues that may have bothered some of you.

    For whatever it's worth, I hated "How to be Both" although I wanted to like it, having had a major in the history of art and having spent a lot of time touring Italian cathedrals.

  • carolyn_ky
    8 years ago

    I think maybe you all are trying too hard with All the Light. When I don't quite "get" the first of a story that lots of other people like, I just keep reading, although I, too, did hate Beloved start to finish.

  • bookmom41
    8 years ago

    Such interesting comments, all proving that reading is such a subjective experience. How can someone who loves Italian art hate How to Be Both yet the one who fell sound asleep during her Art History 101 lectures (hey, the room was dark and it was after lunch!) love it? Although, I think it mattered in How to be Both whose story you got first, too.

    I hope my comments about All the Light or The Garden of Evening Mists don't stop anyone from reading them because I loved with a capital L both of those books. Woodnymph, what you said about the disparate threads weaving together holds true for both those stories. That said, Frieda made me chuckle about Doerr's prose getting flowery. Occasionally, I'd pause and think, "was that over the top?" but then I'd read on.

    Now, back to The Summer Before the War. :)

  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Mary, I finished my second reading of 'Smilla'. As Bookmom said above about each reader's experience being subjective, this time my experience was completely different from my first reading of sixteen or seventeen years ago.

    This time I more clearly realized that Hoeg's beef is against 'civilization'. His book was first published in the early 1990s, so he was influenced by what was going on in the world at that time and before -- what he apparently viewed as 'civilization is a form of hell' with its evil inhabitants. In the intervening years, I doubt that Hoeg would think things have improved. By those lights, things have gotten considerably worse, making the theme of his thriller still valid -- perhaps more so. On that I concur.

    Hoeg was hard on Denmark, I think. Do you agree, Mary? Yes, there's Denmark's past colonialism and the social inequalities in Denmark of the immigrants from the colonies. But today that seems rather incongruous, because lately Denmark has been lauded, and perhaps idealized and romanticized, for being some sort of utopia for progressive social ideas that work remarkably well for the Danes. Denmark is also supposed to be 'the happiest nation of people' in the world presently, according to that survey that is trotted out every year.

    Equally romanticized is the notion that 'primitive' people, such as the Inuit, are purer and thus naturally superior, although 'civilized' people deride them for their simplicity, thinking that's a sign of inferiority instead (actually, they are anything but simple as Hoeg effectively pointed out). The way civilization views primitives can be transferred to how females are viewed. Hoeg's protagonist is female to characterize and bolster his theme -- it seems to me. (I'm a bit surprised that the character of Smilla wasn't expanded into other books -- at least I haven't heard of any -- like that of Lisbeth Salander, a similar protagonist in some ways, in Stieg Larsson's series. I wonder if Larsson was influenced by Hoeg.)

    Without getting into specifics of the plot because I don't want to reveal too much, when I got to the ending this time, I realized that Hoeg was being consistent with his theme. There's no resolution in his book because there's not likely to be one in real life any time soon, or possibly ever. Hoeg's story is realistic in that sense, although I'm not convinced his philosophizing is any less skewed.

    'Smilla' is a good thriller in spite of what I think are considerable flaws. But, hey, it's entertainment . . . albeit on the serious side.

    Mary, those are random thoughts because I said I would get back to you. You might agree with some things I wrote and think I'm completely daffy about others. Either way, I enjoyed the rereading experience. :-)

  • dandyrandylou
    8 years ago

    Just finished Surprise Party by Wm Katz. At first felt the writing seemed prosaic in parts, but read to the end and definitely recommend it. It's a story of a married man with an abnormal psyche termed a "calendar schizophrenic".

    Into Carolyn Hart's Dead by Midnight but the author's propensity for reference to other mystery authors/titles is annoying. Has anyone read Hart's books?




  • woodnymph2_gw
    8 years ago

    Spoilers ahead:

    Frieda, thanks for taking the time to re-read and comment further. I suppose one could say the author is hard on Denmark, now being billed as a socialist utopia, almost by the media. I will type from some further notes I jotted down, only my opinions:

    I think in one of your posts you wrote you found Smilla "cold." I did not. Indeed, she shows great caring and empathy for the lonely boy, before he dies, as does her friend/lover "the mechanic." These 2 show the lonely boy the only care he receives before his untimely death.

    For me, the truly "cold" character is Tjork. His cruelty and ruthlessness seem to make him an embodiment of the "devil." I found Smilla's Danish father "cold", as well, in a quite different way.

    I saw Smilla as a product of her Inuit early formative environment. I admired her strength and courage to go "against the grain." She copies her mother's culture: hunting like a man, unafraid of ice, being self-sufficient and clever. I see her as a female "warrior", brought up in a tough hunter-gatherer culture of males. The lessons she learns from her Inuit mother to me explain her estrangement from bland, sleek, urban culture that is Copenhagen.

    I found the novel brilliant in the questions it poses: e.g. What is "civilization" What is "barbarism." It reveals the fragility of man's link with unforgiving, raw nature, as we see in the Arctic, as contrasted with the westernized, arrogant, sophisticated, society of Copenhagen.

    Another question the author raises has to do with science, when carried to extremes. (Is it always beneficial to mankind?) As we know from past history, science can be the handmaiden of either good or of evil.

    One final thought: if you have been watching "The Good Wife", I see Smilla as a sort of Kalendra Sharma, adaptable, feisty, strong, despite being utterly feminine, at the same time: a paradox.

    Let me know your further thoughts.


    friedag thanked woodnymph2_gw
  • carolyn_ky
    8 years ago

    PJMama, I read Carolyn Hart. I used to buy them, but they have become somewhat repetitious and "fluffy" so now I get them from the library. The references to other mysteries don't bother me; in fact, I have used them to look for other books. I am enjoying her Bailey Ruth books, preposterous as they are.

  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    SPOILER ALERT

    Mary, on this second reading I found Smilla less cold than what I remembered in my earlier reading. Yes, she showed empathy to Isaiah and obviously cared about him. She recognized that he was the same kind of wounded child that she once was. But I still feel that the 'cold' side of her personality influenced most of her relationships and her outlook on life, perhaps as a defense mechanism. She's not altogether reliable about her motivations and her feelings -- for instance, as she said (paraphrasing), she wasn't really that interested in love. She's bitter and she may have good reasons to be, but she remains remote -- and that's what I mean by 'cold' really -- remote is perhaps a better word. She's enigmatic and, as you say, a paradox.

    In some ways, I think Hoeg created in his character of Smilla a woman that would fascinate male readers perhaps more than most female readers. She has to be extraordinary. I noticed the same thing with Larsson's Lisbeth Salander -- a normal woman won't do -- she's got to be super clever, as well as a ballbuster, to beat the men at the game. Women readers, however, can probably enjoy the female protagonist getting the best of or outlasting all those villainous men.

    I was a bit irked by the several observations of Smilla's fashion consciousness -- how well turned out she always aimed to be. She had trouble adapting to some parts of Danish culture, but evidently she picked up the preoccupation of having nice clothes easily enough! And Smilla didn't inherit much adipose to help keep her warm, a genetic adaptation passed down in indigenous populations of very cold climates. She must have got 'lucky' and received Danish genes in that regard. I wonder if Hoeg ever realized that bit of ethnocentrism!

    Mary, I think it's interesting that the Inuit themselves were colonizers of Greenland. There were at least two pre-Inuit cultures, the people either having very distinct or somewhat different, although perhaps related, anthropological features from the later Inuit. The older cultures disappeared perhaps because of warming periods that interfered with their hunting and fishing. When the Norse first settled Greenland during the Medieval Warm Period they had very little contact with aboriginals for the simple reason that there weren't any (or very few) around at that time. It wasn't until the onset of The Little Ice Age (that ultimately doomed the Norse settlements) that the Inuit ancestors began to re-settle the environs -- the cold was actually better for them.

    Well, I better break this off. But, you know me, Mary, I can discuss a book such as 'Smilla' at great length. It has such a lot of material to cover, and it's an interesting mix of good and bad. I haven't even touched on the science part, or the Mechanic or the evil expedition leader that you alluded to above. You might be able to guess my favorite secondary character: the blind linguist. :-)

  • vee_new
    8 years ago

    I've just finished a couple of memoirs which couldn't have been more different.

    The Outsider by Frederick Forsyth, who wrote 'Day of the Jackal' etc. recounts his being in the right place at the right time (and I suppose it does happen to certain people) How he managed to get into the RAF and learnt to fly 'though under age. How he decided on a career in journalism and after being turned away by every paper in Fleet St he 'happened' to be in a pub where a man from Reuters gave him an introduction to the 'right' person. Of his time as Reuters 'man in East Berlin' when contacts led him to . . . ? . . . which started him on his very successful writing career.

    He witnessed the horrors of the Biafran War when probably millions of people were murdered or starved to death. Another book came out of those experiences. Other 'adventures' led to more books/films etc.

    He railed against the BBC and various Socialist Govts. Moved to Ireland to avoid high UK Income Tax and 'by chance' got to know the then Taoiseach, Charlie Haughey, who 'puts in a word' with the IRA so FF's family wouldn't come to harm. And so it goes on.

    Probably not an easy man to live with but certainly interesting.


    Sisters by a River by Barbara Comyns couldn't be more different.

    Written in a childish way with an odd use of words and many spelling mistakes (was this deliberate?) she describes in short chapters growing up in a family of girls with a bad-tempered Father, a deaf and neurotic Mother, a 'mad' Grandmother and a very bossy oldest sister. She seems to accept all these peculiarities, as children do, and only gradually notices the decay within the house, the screaming rows between her parents, the governesses who come and go, the lack of concern for the children and the solitary life they lead, as neighbours consider them 'odd'. After Grandmother and Daddy die the family are left with huge debts and the girls with little education and no 'training' have to fend for themselves.

    It sounds terrible but Comyns manages to bring in some humour . .. 'though not a lot!

    The River of the title is the Avon just below Stratford which first attracted me to the story.




    friedag thanked vee_new
  • annpanagain
    8 years ago

    PJMama, I have read some of the Hart books and all the Bailey Ruth stories. They are good light fun. I wish I could thought-change my outfits, how handy would that be! I had to physically change "tops" several times before going out for a drive to visit a friend recently as the morning grew progressively hotter.

    We had a sudden return to Summer for a few days so I had to dig out the thin cotton tops again!

  • dandyrandylou
    8 years ago

    by Jonas Agee

    I've read and enjoyed fifteen or more of Anne Perry's mysteries in old England, but never see any mention of her books from anyone else.

    Also enjoyed The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen, The River Wife by Jonas Agee, The Memory of Water by Karen White, Don't Go Home by Carolyn Hart. Did not enjoy The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennes by Rachel Joyce.




  • dandyrandylou
    8 years ago

    by Jonas Agee should have followed last book mentioned.

  • annpanagain
    8 years ago

    I am reading Ngiao Marsh reprints and ordered an old hardcover from Betterworld books of short stories that is difficult to get from the library system.

  • carolyn_ky
    8 years ago

    I have all the Anne Perry books, both the Pitt and the Monk series, and enjoy them. I like her titles, too.

    I have finished the last of the Lydmouth series by Andrew Taylor and am sorry to reach the end. He has written a number of other books, two of which I've read but not liked as well. One bunch features a Ripley-esque main character who robs and kills quite blithely. NOT my idea of a proper mystery.


  • Rosefolly
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    The month is almost over and I see that I have not posted at all. I have been so very busy with the garden I have neglected this forum, but I have done a fair amount of reading.

    Last month I mentioned a superb SF book called Ancillary Justice. I have purchased the two sequels but have not yet read them. I'll get to them, but in the meanwhile I read a 20 year old SF award winner that did not appeal to me when it was new, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. The story is that of an ill-fated Jesuit expedition to a planet with intelligent life. I was nudged into reading it when my book club chose it. I'm so glad. The characters were beautifully drawn and the narrative compelling. I would recommend it with one reservation, that being that some of the material is painful to read. Sensitive readers might want to skip this one. I guess I'm not as sensitive as I thought, because I adored it.

    I seem to be on a (an) SF streak. I tried out two books by another new-to-me writer, John Scalzi. They were Red Shirts (a Star Trek reference) and Old Man's War. He is said to resemble Robert Heinlein as a writer and I can definitely see it. I enjoyed these books but did not love them, and probably will not bother with any more. I seem to be past my Heinlein stage. Well, actually I still like a couple of his juveniles.

    Much more to my liking was The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. The main character is a child whose country has been invaded by an overseas imperial power bent on taking over all the surrounding countries and remaking their cultures, economies, and sexual practices in its own image. One of their methods is to educate bright children of the subject countries to serve in its bureaucracies. Baru Cormorant is one such child. That she will turn out to be a traitor when she grows up is evident in the title, but who does she betray? I found it immensely clever.

    I've also slowly been collecting Golden Age SF short story collections reprinted in hardcover by NESFA. I originally read a number of them in magazine form when I was growing up, but those magazines are long gone. Whether I will re-read them now is a good question, but it comforts me to know that I can, when ever I chose to do so.

    BTW, all of these are actual science fiction and not fantasy, something of a rarity in the past couple of decades. I do like fantasy when it is done well, but it's nice to find some good SF to read.

    Rosefolly

    friedag thanked Rosefolly
  • msmeow
    8 years ago

    Well, I finally finished Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen. I have to say it wasn't my favorite! It was just weird; almost like he was trying too hard, or something. It's hard to explain... :)

    Donna

    friedag thanked msmeow
  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Vee, I didn't know (or had forgotten) Frederick Forsyth was with Reuters. That could explain why I found Day of the Jackal so entrancing. It's the reportage style. Of course, he's not the only ex-journalist to parley his experience into a book-writing career. I'll find his memoir, The Outsider. You are probably right that he wasn't easy to live with!

    As for the Comyns book: I think I've asked you before, but right now I don't remember what you replied. Do you just run across Comyns' sort of memoir or do you purposefully look for them? I usually find that sort of book interesting, myself; but sometimes the impression of UK childhoods of her era seems to be fixed on deprivations -- socio-economically, family conflict, self-centered parenting, less educational value given to female children, etc. It wouldn't show up so often, however, if it wasn't a common reality, I suppose. Do you think so?

  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Rosefolly, I don't read very often the same books and stories as you do; but I always find your posts interesting, and you are missed whenever you don't post for a while. I understand how busy you must be with the gardening, though.

    I still recall your recommendation of "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin. At first I didn't know quite what to make of it -- still don't, actually -- but it sure has had 'sticking power' with me.

  • Rosefolly
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Thanks, Frieda! I do appreciate the compliment. I occasionally read some of the things you recommend. As you say, our tastes are different, but I like taking a walk down a different path once in a while.

    Science fiction is the only genre in which I frequently read short stories. It may be because I grew up reading the old magazines. Also, I think the short story is the perfect way to present a new way of looking at something, which is one of the things SF does well.

  • annpanagain
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Frieda, I don't read those books that describe the kind of family you refer to but wonder if they are written by people of middle-class origin?

    I came from what my grandmother described as "Educated poor!" and had a reasonably happy childhood considering the deprivations caused by the war, plain food and an absent soldier father.

    I would write about happy memories though, living by the sea, kindness of people who didn't have much either, a chance of a good education etc.

    friedag thanked annpanagain
  • bookmom41
    8 years ago

    On a lighter note, I just finished Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. My contrary streak made me resist reading it when all the other librarians were falling over themselves recommending it. Years later, I find it is just perfect for a smart, fun and escapist read. Bernadette's 15 year old daughter, Bee, is writing a book about her mom's disappearance. Bernadette is an anti-social former wunderkid architect who no longer creates, married to a Microsoft guru, battling with a nutsy Seattle neighbor and paying a virtual personal assistant supposedly from India to handle any and all business interactions. She seems to be on her way to a breakdown, and then she disappears... Not a life-changing book, but enjoyable without being mindless. My contrary streak rarely serves me well.

  • reader_in_transit
    8 years ago

    Bookmom,

    As a Seattle resident I enjoyed the insider jokes about the city when I read Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

    Many of the places and persons she mentions exist: the Queen Anne neighborhood, Galer Street, the restaurant Lola, its owner-chef Tom Douglas, the Chihuly lamps, Macrina Bakery, and weather guru Cliff Mass. There is one five-way intersection in Queen Anne that everybody hates (there are a few more throughout the city). True also that people here are crazy about the environment, about parents being involved in the community, and, of course, what Bernadette writes on a letter to an architect friend: "What you've heard about the rain: it's all true". It is.

    Still she was a tad harsh in her portrait of the city.






  • msmeow
    8 years ago

    Bookmom, I think we have the same contrary streak. :) Usually the more people insist that I need to read, see or do something, the less inclined I am to do it. LOL

    Donna

  • kathy_t
    8 years ago

    Bookmom and Donna - I sometimes feel that contrary streak also. I find that when people discover I am a reader, they often want to foist books on me. I remember my undisguised distain when my mother once handed me a book she'd read and said, "This one's not bad." I told her I was not interested in "not bad" books. Thankfully, I'm not so plain-spoken outside my family (and now wish I had not been so rude to my mother).

    By the way, I very much enjoyed Where'd You Go Bernadette also ... and foisted it on few people myself.

  • reader_in_transit
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Agree about the contrary streak. I also postponed reading Where'd You Go Bernadette until last summer, way after everybody here was queuing for it at the library.

    At our library, in fact, you see this long, long list of holds for new books. Some books may have over 300 holds. On the other hand, that tells me I live in a city of readers (grin).

  • woodnymph2_gw
    8 years ago

    Another reader with a contrary streak. Whenever everyone is raving about a book, I usually tend to find it less than stellar: one example: Dan Brown's novels.

    Sometimes it is good to come to a book late: had I read "Smilla's Sense of Snow" when it first came out in the 90's, I don't think I would have appreciated as much as I did this past month, one reason being that since the 90's I've had a lot of history courses and am very aware of Native Peoples and Colonialism issues.

  • michellecoxwrites
    8 years ago

    Rosefolly, thanks for the reference to The Sparrow. I have it on my shelf but have been reluctant to start, but now maybe I will.

    Would it be okay to put out a tiny plug for my debut novel, A Girl Like You, out on Amazon now with She Writes Press? It's a mystery set in the 1930's Chicago. Would love your opinions if you are so inclined. Thanks!

  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I have a friend originally from Seattle who talked me into reading Where'd You Go, Bernadette? in 2013 or 2014. I even wrote a review of it here at RP, but got no responses at all. That must have been because all you 'contrarians' had not gotten hold of it yet. It also might have been because I wasn't particularly enthusiastic about the story or the characters that seemed more quirky than anything else to me. I didn't get the insider jokes or recognize most of the Seattle stereotypes that my friend and Reader_in_Transit have said might be necessary for best appreciation.

    It's amusing to me that most RPers (at least the ones posting in this thread) think they have a contrary streak about books. I know that I'm cussedly stubborn about reading popular and greatly hyped books. :-)

  • vee_new
    8 years ago

    Frieda, re the Barbara Comyns' book. Years ago I read Their Spoons Came from Woolworth's which I think was partly based on some of her experiences married to a poor artist and possibly 'living in a garret'. I did look out for 'Sisters by a River' but only for the 'local' connection.

    I feel in recent years the misery memoir has taken over. Often not well written, by people who have been persuaded to put pen to paper . . . at great length. The violent father, the drunken grandmother, sister 'on the game', uncles in prison, brother in reform school, bailiffs at the door. Where will it all end?

    Ann mentions the works of middle class writers. I suppose their lives were more stable economically but tales of tree-lined suburbs, Sunday afternoon car-trips to local beauty spots and summer days on the family tennis court can be SO boring!

    Living as I do in the country-side I have enjoyed bios/memoirs by others living 'on the land' eg Ronald Blythe or Adrian Bell (father of journalist Martin Bell). Also those slightly nutty accounts of family life: Diana Holman-Hunt's My Grandmothers and I, Emma Smith's The Great Western Beach and Green as Grass or those that tell the stories of 'mad' colonials/Empire builders, of which the UK has more than its fair-share.

    The Slightly Foxed quarterly publication/on line info is excellent for recommendations and excerpts from their reprints.




    Slightly Foxed

    friedag thanked vee_new
  • bookmom41
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Reader-in-Transit, I know I didn't get much out of the "insider" jokes. I'm familiar with Chihuly and it being rainy, and any "normal" parent probably can relate to the school parent loons with seemingly no other life. True confession--I like Craftsman homes and went on realtor.com to look at Seattle houses after Bernadette's anti-Craftsman spiel. Sometimes, I think I'm predisposed to like a book which sends me to the internet to satisfy my curiosity.

  • carolyn_ky
    8 years ago

    Another contrarian here. I worked with and was good friends with a woman who recommended several books and movies to me, all of which I disliked. Consequently, I didn't go see Dr. Zhivago for months and months because she told me how much I would like it. I finally took my mother and an aunt to see it because they wanted to, and, of course, I loved it. I later read the book, but that is one case where I liked the movie better. The book jumped around so frequently, and the Russian names were difficult for me to keep up with.

  • Rosefolly
    8 years ago

    Silly Bernadette. I adore Craftsman architecture.

  • friedag
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Vee, I've bookmarked the Slightly Foxed site. I've read several of those memoirs, including:

    • 84 Charing Cross Road - Hanff (a favorite)
    • My Family and Other Animals - Durrell
    • Period Piece - Raverat (another of my favorites, as you know)
    • The Real Mrs Miniver - Maxtone Graham
    • The Flame Trees of Thika - Huxley
    • Look Back with Love - Smith
    • A Sort of Life - Greene
    • Blue Remembered Hills - Sutcliff

    I just recently acquired Bell's Corduroy because you had mentioned it previously, but I haven't read it yet.

    Hand-grenade Practice in Peking by Frances Wood looks interesting.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Somewhere I have a Virago edition of Comyns' Our Spoons Came from Woolworths. I'm not sure that I've read it, although it sounds familiar.

    I reread Blythe's Akenfield a few weeks ago.

    At any rate, I think you are right that misery is more interesting to a lot of readers than old boring happiness. That seems especially true when readers feel insecure, unhappy or miserable themselves, and the world seems to have gone mad. Counterintuitive, perhaps? Apparently not. I suppose the attraction might be: Well, other people have lived through horrible times and events; maybe my childhood wasn't as awful as theirs and things aren't so bad now, for me, after all. However, some of the memoirs listed above don't dwell on the bad stuff -- hardly mentioning it all, in fact. I don't like cloyingly sweet memoirs -- those I usually throw on the floor and kick under the furniture. The readable ones, in my opinion, strike a happy medium.

  • woodnymph2_gw
    8 years ago

    I've just finished what I consider to be a most unusual memoir: "Unorthodox" by Deborah Feldman. It's the true story of a young woman raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NYC in an orthodox Hasidic community. She was victim to an arranged marriage at 17, limited in her education by Hasidic custom, as a woman, limited in choices of clothing, reading material, and much more. She sneaked library books into her strict grandparents' home and thus acquired limited knowledge of the outside world. When she became a young mother and her arranged marriage was a betrayal, she decided to escape, via taking classes at Sarah Lawrence College in writing. She began a Blog which became this book. She got help, left the close-knit Hasidic community and is raising her son alone, in NYC at present.

    I found the book well-written and fascinating, as I knew little of this sect. It seems that after the pograms in Europe, various rabbis from various villages came to New York City to recreate their former community lives as Orthodox Jews.

    friedag thanked woodnymph2_gw
  • kathy_t
    8 years ago

    Sounds interesting, Woodnymph. Adding Unorthodox to my TBR list.

  • carolyn_ky
    8 years ago

    I have finished out the month by reading The Killing in the Cafe by Simon Brett. I have liked but not loved him through the years for his light mysteries. Probably like the Charles Paris ones best.

  • annpanagain
    8 years ago

    Carolyn, I like the Mrs. Pargeter ones, being a senior myself and begged him to write another. At first he said "Maybe" then he did indeed do a follow up. I shall write to him again for yet another.

    He is very good at returning fan emails, BTW although he is a very busy man.

  • michellecoxwrites
    8 years ago

    Woodnymph - You might also like Uncovered - How I Left the Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home, by Leah Lax, which sounds very similar to Unorthodox. I have not yet read it, but it is getting great reviews!

  • woodnymph2_gw
    8 years ago

    Thanks, michelle. I will look for it.

Sponsored
Interior Style by Marisa Moore
Average rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars58 Reviews
Northern Virginia Interior Designer - Best of Houzz 2013-2020!