A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I. Loved. This. Book. Backman's tone is dry and reserved, but his heart is clearly in the right place! Having visited AFS family in Norway, I could visualize the "neighborhood association," which added appeal. This is, in many ways, a small, simple book, but it presents a lot of important ideas about people, community, love, grief, and decency. "A Man Called Ove" is the book I've been recommending to everyone I meet lately. My book hangover is severe, but it's worth it.
*Highly* recommended. Buy a copy (in hardback, even!) to give to someone worthy of it after you finish.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This is the first of the two "Books by Swedes from the MDIHS Library Which Don't Involve Perversion Or Murder". Not sure I got the modifiers in the right places, but: both Bivald and Backman are Swedish "every day" writers, and their books leapt off the shelves and into my bookbag.
Unfortunately, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a mess. It's too long, too ornately plotted, too naive, and too dull to succeed, much as its cover, its intent, and its author are appealing. The story of a reclusive young book seller who ends up in a dead-end town in Iowa (?) and whose vision of creating a bookstore ends up rejuvenating the town tackles topics of (wait for them. . . .) bisexuality, homophobia, religious and racial bigotry, economic renewal, risk-taking, alcoholism/addiction, depression. . . . and I think I missed out on a few. While it's possible that one novel could handle all those (Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone springs to mind as a possible contender), TRoBWR reads like the young, inexperienced bookseller actually wrote the text: it's clunky; characters are poorly and awkwardly developed; the letters that supposedly tie the plot together are 1. boring and 2. unconvincing as letters in the first place, and, most damningly, there's a lot about sex in the book but the author is terrible at describing attraction, lust, and/or conversations about them OR encounters involving them.
That said, the idea is charming, and the story of rebirth and redemption is appealing. As I read, I kept imagining an ambitious 14 year old girl, encouraged by voracious reading, filling page after page in a college-ruled notebook: I cheered her on, but I did a lot of skimming and I also wondered who thought her youthful efforts warranted a full-on, published novel?
An understandable attempt in need of a firm editor.
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Well: it's a lovely Saturday morning, and although I have plenty of reading responses to The House on Mango Street waiting in my bookbag, I don't have anything SUPER pressing to do. I started this entry outside in the sunshine, accompanied by the old Zeus who enjoys a lot of sunshine on his old bones, but the bugs are here and the sun was actually too hot!
A few ideas, points, and comments.
1. I found this young woman's work and writing to be compassionate and insightful.
2. I found this event to be terrifying, and I plan to make some donations to organizations that support a woman's right to control her body and make her own decisions in response. Staggering. The fact that the anti-choice female governor vetoed the bill is a surreal wrinkle in this whole bizarre situation.
3. On the lighter but still related side, I found this video to be entertaining, though I do think it could've followed up with some pictures of what the men's feet looked like after the day of high heels.
4. I also did some blog reading outside of my usual collection, and I discovered that I have marked preferences for tone and content. I don't mind a chatty style or tone, but I'm not looking for the airy, run-on babbling of a tween mind. Too many exclamation points, run-on sentences, and/or emoticons, and you've lost me. (Not that you probably mind.) In addition, I don't want a blog to be a thinly disguised advertisement: one of my favorite baking blogs went that way for a while, and I am happy to see that the weekly "These are the latest things I think you should buy" posts are gone. Or maybe my grump adblock software deletes them? Anyway: don't market to me, and don't pretend that if you're a professional lifestyler, you understand or have anything helpful to offer the average human mom/woman/wage slave in the world today. Reading about what a professional instagrammer has to say about "squeezing in a workout before a meeting" as directed to a full time mother or average woman in the the world today is staggeringly false.
Honesty is crucial: that idea of prettying up our lives to impress others and pass on the FOMO experience is so. . . . yesterday? so "me before I turned old enough to realize some key truths"? so "reality TV"? Take one look at Mason Dixon Knitting and their wonderful posts featuring sock puppets encouraging people to start or finish a pair of socks and you'll see the power of the InterNET, as Ove (see review above) would call it, in its unvarnished truth. Fun.
Enough, though, as I am sounding like Ove himself. Without Sonja.
5. My life this May has been full of reminders of fortune and joy: family challenges and good news out of bad; some projects at school that are promising to be joyful, impressive, fun, and creative; lovely weather and burgeoning gardens full of flowers; good food and exercise and people.
**ETA: I have been sort of involved in a book exchange on Facebook that involved me sending out one book to someone I sort of know and . . . . receiving no books. That's fine, actually, because I have tons of books in stacks all over my somewhat bookshelf-free house. BUT: I just was thinking: if some people read this blog because of the book reviews, would some of those readers like a book? So: here's an offer: if you'd like me to send you a book, leave your mailing address in a comment, and I'll send books to the first five people to do so. You can give it away, pass it on, keep it forever--and maybe there won't be any comments so I can keep all my books (umm. . . .), but I'd like to try that. (I considered doing that with a skein of yarn per comments, but that would be truly difficult, I think!). So: comment away, if that seems fun.