Saturday, October 3, 2009

Oct. 3: Book Reviews and Updates. . .

Wow. It's October third (I think. I frequently get weekend dates wrong. . . ) and a cold but sunny Saturday morning, although both the forecast and the wind that turns the leaves upside down promise differently come noontime. I'll have to check the laundry I hung out yesterday and start finishing it off in shifts in the dryer, I fear. I was at the Me. Conference of the United Church of Christ annual meeting all last weekend, so there is a laundry backlog that the "possibly heavy at times" rain is not going to help me with. AH well.

Yesterday I took a personal day from school, partly because I knew this weekend would be busy, and partly because I could! I managed to finish my February Lady Sweater and my meeting socks, prep for Elder's varsity team spag. feed and overnight, go to Shirley's 20% off yarn sale, and clean my car. . . I also just reveled in the fall light that flooded the house at midday, and took Zeus for a lovely walk in it too. A nice day.

I have had a flurry of reading lately: still trying to cut down on my computer time, I've found a vein of good books. . . some on CD, some on real paper. Here they are, in some kind of order, I think.

--The Help, by Katherine Stockett. I think I mentioned this one before: it's written in a variety of voices, primarily several black women who work as "help" in Alabama in 1963, and one white woman who works with them to write a book about that experience. It recreated a time period I had not experienced with impressive reality, I thought, much like Water for Elephants did. The characters were developed and the plot kept me involved. Oddly enough, it echoed Mockingbird, the Harper Lee biography I read last year, tho they are not much alike in many ways!

--Marilynne Robinson's linked novels, Gilead and Home. I listened to Gilead, having read some of it about 2 years ago, and then read Home in great gulps over the past week. They are beautifully written, devastatingly sad books that remind me of my grandfathers, raise key issues of faith and forgiveness, and are worth rereading. The first one, Gilead, has many passages that are . . . dull, or at least incredibly convoluted and specialized in focus: discussions of predestination, sin, abolitionism. . . . and I can see how I didn't finish the book the first time through. While listening to it (and this time I thought the cd succeeded in spite of the reader, who was a bit pedantic), I'd find my mind drifting. . . and then I realized that possibly Robinson did that on purpose, since Ames, the narrator, is frequently daydreaming, resting, or pondering, and he drifts away himself. Home, on the other hand, is much more traditionally structured, and moves faster, though it really tells the same story as Gilead of the homecoming of a much loved but very prodigal prodigal son. The conclusion of Home is more decisive and more devastating, though also more hopeful, than the ending of Gilead, but together they are powerful, unforgettable, and well worth reading--or listening to. Wow.

--Finally, sandwiched in there, I read most of Strength in What Remains, by Tracy Kidder, a biography of Deogracias, a young man who survives the genocides in both Burundi and Rwanda, and gets to the US with $200 and no English in 1998 (?). By the end of his story, he's working for Paul Farmer's Partners in Health, which links with Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains, but this book is much more Kidder-oriented--not in a bad way at all, just that Kidder plays more of a narrative role, trying to explain how Deo's experiences come across to someone who meets him and what it's like for Kidder to travel to Burundi with Deo. It's an enlightening but terrifying story, and raises questions about genocides, but also survival and coping. It certainly provides the emotional aspect that I felt was totally missing from Ishmael Beah's book (Long Way Home? Long Walk Home? )about his role in the genocide, so maybe they'd make a good pair. . . with a hefty dose of Prozac and hopefulness on the side. Adopt two kittens and read these two books and maybe you'll make it out okay.

--And now I'm rereading a fluff book, a Brit chick lit book, The Reading Group. I think I deserve a little leaven, don't you?

Whew! Muchas literas (ahem). . . maybe I'll take some pics and wedge 'em in, but I have to go fetch down laundry and then go for a run with Younger. Hope your days allow some admiration of the out-of-doors!

1 comment:

AnnL said...

Once again, I am SO LAME in comparison to your amazing literariness! I'm reading Susan McCallum-Smith's short stories, SLipping the Moorrings- as with any collection, some are stunning, some less so, but definitely someone to watch.
I agree -Gilead is to be listened to not read. I listened to it and felt as you did. Now I'll find Home and listen to that! I downloaded Julie & Julia but haven't listened to it yet...need to.. love you -- Ann