Monday, August 4, 2014

August 5: New Books and a New Month!

Well, Goodreads is down right now so I will write here and then hope to post backwards. We'll see.

Finally finished the book Lyle gave me with the words, "You have to read this. It's good and so sad." Indeed Amanda Vaill's Everybody Was So Young is both of those things: good, in terms of being thoughtful and detailed, and sad in that it sketches a time that has been lost, and also the story of a couple who suffered great losses but kept going through their long lives, trying to be good for something. It's the biography of Gerald and Sara Murphy, two Americans born into wealth who became inspirations, friends, supporters, and members of the artistic and literary expatriate community around Paris in the 20s and 30s. The most moving aspect of the book for me, especially in light of Hemingway's 4? 5? wives and the Fitzgeralds' destructive relationship was their love for each other: they supported and cared for each other throughout their lives, anxieties and doubts and tragedies notwithstanding.

Fascinating also to consider what we've lost in turning away from letter writing: how will our biographers recreate our records? The voices from the letters are strong and clear--it's a rare text or email that will meet that level of reflection!

Vaill digs deep and pulls together a variety of sources and information, and her writing is generally effective. There's an occasional sentence like the following: "Such politicization had begun to drive a wedge between some of the Murphys' circle: Dottie Parker, in particular, had stopped speaking to Bob Benchley over "some labor issue," although she claimed it was because "I told her not to make those ingenue eyes at me as she was no longer [an] ingenue," Benchley reported to the Murphys." (283): while the gist of the sentence is clear, the whole "she said/he said" relationship is so convoluted that it would surely have been better to have rewritten the whole thing. However, Vaill's sense of respect for the principals is clear, and makes the book not a People-magazine expose, but a thoughtful evaluation of bonds and relationships, personalities and roles.

A few more dates might've been helpful, but overall, Everybody Was So Young is an excellent book. Students of American literature, take heed!

The Legacy of Elizabeth PringleThe Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I bought this audiobook from Audible on the rec. of Karen of Cornflower Books, whose taste I generally appreciate. In the long run, however, I found it uneven: in the beginning, it's too sad, with two parallel stories of women who are dealing with the inevitable losses of old age; then it becomes too predictable, with WWi and WWII stories that we've all heard before and miraculously "I knew he was The One" relationships; it winds up with a big helping of "spooky-wooky" "I could feel her spirit near me" intimations and that revelation of the hidden secret that we had no idea had existed from the very beginning of the tale. So. I guess I'd say that there are some interesting/lovely aspects of the story, and the narration is beautifully done. However, my "okay" rating remains. Overall, it became an annoying book.

Thief of Time (Discworld, #26)Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nate really likes this one; As usually, I loved the narration and the creativity behind it, but (probably because I listened to it in fits and starts as we shared ipods) it lacked the zest and overall continuity of the best of Pratchett's writing. He does have a strong sense of what makes humans both lovable and annoying/dangerous, and he presents the Auditors as completely lacking those characteristics but slowly developing them. Who knew chocolate could save the world?

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