Saturday, July 2, 2016

July 2, Saturday: In that odd Way Summer Saturdays Are. . .

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn AcademyThe Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another strong work by Hattemer (her first published book, I think)--interesting characters and a good level of quality writing, but not as absorbing or nuanced as Land of 10,000 Madonnas. Although she drops some plot lines and doesn't develop some potential ideas as fully as they deserve, it's still an original and worthwhile read and an entertaining piece of y.a. writing.

And now for something completely different: BenedictionBenediction by Kent Haruf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finished Benediction around 11 pm on June 30 with the cats curled around me as I wept on the couch. It's powerful and sad--but saying that is obvious in the way that saying books about humans' relationships with their dogs are sad: the likelihood is that the dog is going to die. In Benediction, Dad is dying from the start: this is NOT a spoiler--and the power of the novel is in its steady attention to the small things that make life lovely, valuable, and memorable. I think the novel could be 100 pages longer, as I wanted to hear more about Lorraine (I felt that the one misstep in the story is the sudden mention of her own loss, though it might be the subject of another of Haruf's novels), about Frank *of course*, and I just wanted to hang out a bit more with these people.

It's not an easy, fluffy book (Marilynne Robinson's people could talk to these folks easily), but it's memorable and deep and calm, somehow. Recommended for a valuable experience when you feel ready for it.

Weird note: I bought a copy from the EPLibrary book sale (of course). The paperback is gorgeous: great cover, nice feel in the hands. My copy, however, was full of highlighting: probably 1/3 of every page had been highlighted in yellow through the entire story! I'd love to know the reason for that painstaking approach to reading a work of fiction that ended up in a book sale.

Second note: my students often complain about Sandra Cisneros's refusal to use quotation marks around dialogue in House on Mango Street. Well, I chuckled to myself when I noted that Haruf avoids them as well, and also shuns speaker tags like "he said," and "she commented" as well. Fun to note that bridge.

Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1)Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Abandoned this one. It was fascinating at first, but then the storyline became 1. too ornate, with complex switching between characters, each of which had a huge backstory, most of which I wasn't terribly interested in (in which most of I was not interested????), 2. too predictable: it's an adventure story, and actually reminded me a lot of LA Meyer's Bloody Jack stories!, and 3. too long!!! I guess that laps back to the first point, but I just felt that the mental work it took for me to ingest the story was greater than the story actually deserved--and so, with a world of stories out there begging to be ingested, I put it back on the "to the book sale!" pile. And so the great cycle continues.

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