Sunday, April 22, 2007

Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies

Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. Could I have found an author too emotionally high strung and overwrought for even my tastes (I enjoy Augusten Burroughs for goodness' sake)? Or maybe it's just that I don't share her conclusions and would have preferred her to dissolve into an sodden heap and remain intellectually consistent. Anyway, she seems like she would be a great person to know and talk to but she seems a little breathless and disingenuous in this book. I kept rolling my eyes at her histrionics while simultaneously enjoying and sympathizing with her (I did feel like I might know her). But it seems like she discovered faith in order to avoid utter nervous collapse, which while expedient, isn't necessarily valid.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Michael Dorris, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

Michael Dorris, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water. I'm taking time away from writing a lab report to post this, but I've let it sit for too many days and I don't want to forget how much I enjoyed this story. I loved the relationships in this book, the shifting dialogues between the people, and how I found myself sympathetic with even the most hostile of them. It explores the complexity and intensity of mother-daughter relationships and their life-long importance no matter how estranged and distant they become. The character of Christine was amazing - the sort of person I usually unthinkingly despise or discount as trivial and stupid - and she became so compelling and far more self-aware and loving than I would have guessed. It's wonderful when the people in a book surprise you.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Monday, April 09, 2007

Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck

Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck. Somehow, I don't really love novels that focus on cultural differences or exchanges - especially between Japan and America - they seem trivial and a little clumsy, somehow, like people trying to get to know each other who aren't quite fluent in the other's language and stick to things like food and climate. But I couldn't help but like Toshi and his family and the parts dealing with his childhood were lovely. I can't catch precisely what bothered me, but his reactions to the stereotypically nutso Jane didn't really fit, for example. When I got past the first hundred pages or so and had ceased to be annoyed I liked it better because I was attached to the people. So, ok, I thought it was charming, but it didn't convince me.

Monday, April 02, 2007


I recently discovered this incredible site,LibriVox, that has tons of free audiobooks from public-domain works read by volunteers. You can download them as mp3s. We love listening to audio books on car trips, and have been driving up to Flagstaff a lot. Last week I'd listened to Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel (one of my dad's audiobooks - NOT free) in the car on the trip, and even Matthew enjoyed it, so I went on a hunt for more audiobooks. We downloaded Treasure Island, The Wind in the Willows, and Alice in Wonderland. So far the readers have been great - even doing all the pirate voices and everything! Much better than the BBC reading of The Hobbit. I have big plans to introduce my family to Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, and P.G. Wodehouse - we just need a few dozen more road trips. The cds save me from getting carsick from reading on those mountain roads.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Thomas Mallon, Henry and Clara.

Thomas Mallon, Henry and Clara. I don't know why I keep stumbling into historical fiction; it's a genre I don't usually pursue. But this disquieting novel was one of those whose setting doesn't seem to inhibit the story and the historical characters seem to be themselves and not figures brought in from outside. It's the story of the unhappy couple who were attending the theatre with the Lincolns on the evening of the assassination. Mallon writes beautifully and his story, a tragic melodrama, is somehow nostalgic beyond the subject matter. Clara could be transported into a Henry James novel without any rearrangement.