Wednesday, April 29, 2015

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Early Warning

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Early Warning (Last Hundred Years: A Family Saga #2) by Jane Smiley

Synopsis from Goodreads:
From the Pulitzer Prize winner: a journey through mid-century America, as lived by the extraordinary Langdon family we first met in Some Luck, a national best seller published to rave reviews from coast to coast.

Early Warning opens in 1953 with the Langdons at a crossroads. Their stalwart patriarch Walter, who with his wife had sustained their Iowa farm for three decades, has suddenly died, leaving their five children looking to the future. Only one will remain to work the land, while the others scatter to Washington, DC, California, and everywhere in between. As the country moves out of postwar optimism through the Cold War, the social and sexual revolutions of the 1960s and '70s, and then into the unprecedented wealth—for some—of the early '80s, the Langdon children will have children of their own: twin boys who are best friends and vicious rivals; a girl whose rebellious spirit takes her to the notorious Peoples Temple in San Francisco; and a golden boy who drops out of college to fight in Vietnam—leaving behind a secret legacy that will send shockwaves through the Langdon family into the next generation. Capturing an indelible period in America through the lens of richly drawn characters we come to know and love, Early Warning is an engrossing, beautifully told story of the challenges—and rich rewards—of family and home, even in the most turbulent of times.

Publishing May 5, 2015 by Knopf.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Teaser Tuesdays: She Got Up Off the Couch

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel

"I slept in my clothes all summer, so I could just hop up in the morning and go. I was working on simplifying my life, which I had discovered would be done very easily if I ceased to do the following: washing my face, brush my hair, brush my teeth, wear shoes."

Zippy is somewhat neglected, but very happy. It's funny to hear a kid about 10 years old talk about the need to simplify her life, although she's taking things a bit far.

Book Review: She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel

I enjoyed Haven Kimmel's first memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, very much. So when I ran across this book on sale, I snapped it up. After all, that first book ends just her mother, who has basically been lying on the couch, reading novels, watching TV, talking on the phone, and eating chips for all of Zippy's young life, gets up off the couch. It was screaming for a sequel! How can we not know what or why she finally got up and decided to do something!

And do something she did. She decided to go to college. She took a test and managed to get exempted out of the first two years of school. Then she applied and got in. Her husband was not supportive. She at first got rides from fellow classmates. Eventually she got a driver's license, and saved enough money for a falling-apart car (and what she does for money to maintain the car is pretty ingenious.) She excelled in college, and went on to get her Master's degree. Which to a certain extent solves the question of how someone as erudite and well-educated as Haven is, got to where she is from having been raised nearly feral, often hungry, having a lot of fun but not being well supervised or cared for. In this book we also see that her older sister, who also gets married young, does a lot to help raise Zippy and make sure she is fed and clothed and bathes occasionally.

The book is told from the point of view of 10-year-old Zippy, not from the adult Haven, so she often doesn't seem to understand the import of certain details she relates to readers, although readers understand what's going on with the adults around her. As before, Zippy is antic, wild, wants to be unbathed and unschooled, but despite herself, she does get the schooling she needs and she is cared for, even if not always very well cared for. She is obviously well loved, and quite resilient given her family circumstances which instead of seeing them for the poverty that they are, instead she sees as a glorious excuse to be horrifically messy and free. If you can look past the neglect and her parents' serious flaws, Zippy found her childhood delightful, and in this book she has the bonus of a mother she can look up to who values education and overcomes many obstacles to get one, likely inspiring her daughter's own future opportunities. Each chapter is written more as an individual essay rather than a smooth single narrative, kind of like David Sedaris, but they are more or less chronological and this is a great memoir for lovers of the genre.

I bought this book at Borders.

Monday, April 27, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Children by David Halberstam
Here is Where: Discovering America's Great Forgotten History by Andrew Carroll
Grant Writing For Dummies by Beverly A. Browning

Up next:
The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician's First Year by Matt McCarthy
On Folly Beach by Karen White
Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers by Deborah Cadbury

Friday, April 24, 2015

Book Beginnings: She Got Up Off the Couch

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel

"The couch in the den was the color of the crayon people called Flesh even though it resembled no human or animal flesh on Planet Earth, and the couch fabric was nubbled in a pattern of diamonds."

Makes sense that she'd start the book with the couch. Zippy's mother had been ensconced on the couch for all of Zippy's childhood up until now. And when she finally got up, she made sure it counted: she went to college.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I Don't Like Poetry But...

April is National Poetry Month and each year I am bombarded with poems and poets that have me fast-forwarding through my podcasts and skimming my emails. I've often said I hate poetry. And last night, I had to admit something that few people know about me. There are actually a handful of poets that I like.

In fact last year I was thrilled when I was able to explain to my husband the significance of "Ozymandias" by Keats when he was watching the last episode of Breaking Bad. I have a treasured collection of poems by Emily Dickinson that I will never get rid of no matter how many book purges I go through (and I know that most of her poems can be sung to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas.") In college, I loved the poetry of Sharon Olds and Mary Oliver.

I hate romantic poetry. I hate anything sappy or maudlin. Funny, I like. Or rip-your-heart-out visceral. I like narrative. I like to be able to understand the poem without a great deal of gymnastics (I believe with poems, even more so than books, that the difficulty of understanding indicates a great failure on the part of the writer, not the reader.) I like a good symbol. I never seek out poetry. I don't remember the last time I read a poem by choice (I suspect I was a teen.) But I really should stop saying that I hate poetry. It's reductive and untrue. It's just the easiest thing to say that stops a conversation I don't want to have. But that's not a good reason.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: A God in Ruins

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

A God in Ruins: A Novel by Kate Atkinson

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Kate Atkinson's new novel tells the story of Ursula Todd's beloved younger brother Teddy - would-be poet, RAF bomber pilot, husband, and father - as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge is facing the difficulties of living in a future he never expected to have. A God in Ruins explores the loss of innocence, the fraught transition from the war to peace time, and the pain of being misunderstood, especially as we age.

Proving once again that Kate Atkinson is "one of the finest writers working today" (The Chicago Tribune), A God in Ruins is the triumphant return of a modern master.

Publishing May 26, 2015 by Little, Brown and Company.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Teaser Tuesdays: Keeping the House

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Keeping the House by Ellen Baker p. 88

"The ballroom was hot-packed with soldiers and girls, swirling, turning, swinging, stomping, to music as glint-bright as the trumpets, trombones, saxophones, of the band on the red-spangled stage under blazing lights. More than one of the uniformed boys was inclined to life his partner above his head, then swing her down suddenly, legs knifing between his legs, then just as quickly lift her up face-to-face again, his smile bright in her vision."

This is in 1943 during WWII. I can almost hear the bank and see the dancers dong the jitterbug or the swing. It's such a visual description.

Book review: Keeping the House by Ellen Baker

I don't read family sagas often, and yet I like them. I think it's the usual length associated with sagas that puts me off. But I should get over that! This book was pretty great.

Dolly moves to Pine Rapids, Wisconsin, in 1950 when her husband buys a car dealership with an army buddy. A traditional 50s housewife, Dolly tries hard to find solace and satisfaction in cooking her husband interesting and varied meals (which she tracks on her calendar, noting what he liked and what he's had recently so as not to repeat too often), cleaning the house meticulously, and becoming involved in the town's various women's organizations, like the sewing bee working on a quilt to auction off for charity. At the bee, she notices the house next door, a gorgeous old Victorian up on a hill, which is falling apart. Next to her ranch house, it seems stunning and she just knows she could be happy there. She inquires after it, to see if perhaps her husband could buy it, and becomes sucked in by the story the neighbors tell of the Mickelsons.

Starting in 1896 with Wilma and John moving to John's hometown so he could help his father run the family businesses, the Mickelsons' stories are told in flashbacks. We meet their children and grandchildren, learn of Wilma's stunning piano prowess and her unhappiness, of certain suspicions the neighbors had about what went on there. Dolly decides to check out the house as she knows her husband would never buy it if it isn't in good condition, and one day while cleaning it, she is surprised when the Mickelson's black-sheep grandson, JJ, returns, an alcoholic not dealing well with his losses from WWII, but he's happy for Dolly's company and begins to tell her the rest of the story. Eventually he comes to the shocking event that caused the entire family to abandon the town and the gorgeous house, leaving it to rot. Meanwhile, Dolly comes to realize some things about herself and her marriage.

I know this is a long description, but it's a long book! But it reads smoothly, even with multiple time-jumps, and I found it hard to put down. A bit soap-opery, there were several cases of unrequited love, running after someone in the rain about to leave on a train, misunderstandings, flirtations, and lies. I enjoyed it thoroughly! It's a slightly old-fashioned style of book, just in that these long family sagas aren't really in style right now, but it is a great book for a rainy afternoon, and you won't forget the Mickelsons or Dolly quickly.

I bought this book at Bibliofeast in 2013 from Park Road Books, as the author was there, to promote her more recent novel.

Monday, April 20, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Children by David Halberstam
Here is Where: Discovering America's Great Forgotten History by Andrew Carroll
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Up next:
The Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen
A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders
Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Book Review: The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart


Mark has been dealt a crap hand in life. At twelve, he's already beaten cancer multiple times. And yet it's back. Again. So he decides to take matters into his own hands. He knows what he wants to do is crazy, but he promised his grandfather right before he died that he'd climb Mt. Ranier. And now that Mark sees his own death as imminent, this last wish strikes a new chord in him of necessity. So he sets off with a plan, some cash, his dog Beau, and his camera. Naturally, things don't go according to plans.

Meanwhile, back at home, his best friend Jessie is worried that she might know where he's gone. She's torn, not knowing what is the right thing to do: to tell or not to tell. To betray him, who might need to be betrayed, or to keep her word and possibly regret it for the rest of her life. His parents are understandably going through hell, but Jessie's loyalty is to Mark.

Through alternating chapters and occasional haiku, both Mark and Jessie's stories are told and we see this decision through very different eyes. Dealing with grief isn't just a struggle for the survivors. This is a book that will stand the test of time to sit alongside classics such as Bridge to Terebithia. It's a beautiful story of friendship, love, loss, loyalty, a great dog, and seeing that we're never truly alone in our struggles.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I got this book for free at a Scholastic-sponsored cocktail party at Winter Institute.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Book Beginnings: Keeping the House

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Keeping the House by Ellen Baker

"'Well, this is it, love,' John told Wilma as he helped her out of the coach and onto the wooden platform at the Pine Rapids depot."

Isn't it interesting when you bring someone to your hometown for the first time, and they don't love it as much as you do? Why do we think that they would? (But we always seem to think that.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Spinster

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own by Kate Bolick

Synopsis from Goodreads:
“Whom to marry, and when will it happen—these two questions define every woman’s existence.” So begins Spinster, a revelatory and slyly erudite look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single. Using her own experiences as a starting point, journalist and cultural critic Kate Bolick invites us into her carefully considered, passionately lived life, weaving together the past and present to examine why­ she—along with over 100 million American women, whose ranks keep growing—remains unmarried.

This unprecedented demographic shift, Bolick explains, is the logical outcome of hundreds of years of change that has neither been fully understood, nor appreciated. Spinster introduces a cast of pioneering women from the last century whose genius, tenacity, and flair for drama have emboldened Bolick to fashion her life on her own terms: columnist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton. By animating their unconventional ideas and choices, Bolick shows us that contemporary debates about settling down, and having it all, are timeless—the crucible upon which all thoughtful women have tried for centuries to forge a good life.

Intellectually substantial and deeply personal, Spinster is both an unreservedly inquisitive memoir and a broader cultural exploration that asks us to acknowledge the opportunities within ourselves to live authentically. Bolick offers us a way back into our own lives—a chance to see those splendid years when we were young and unencumbered, or middle-aged and finally left to our own devices, for what they really are: unbounded and our own to savor.

Publishing April 21, 2015 by Crown.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Book review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

It's surprising I put off reading this book for so long. It's right up my alley. But I like to read books for my book club right before we discuss them (I have a terrible memory) and I knew it was going to be on one of my book clubs' lists (it turns out both of them have picked it!)

A.J. Fikry owns a bookstore on a tiny island off the coast of Massachusetts. He had bought it with his wife, who died. Since then he's been lonely and grumpy. His beloved and wildly expensive copy of Edgar Allen Poe's "Tamerlane" is stolen. He drinks heavily. One day, a small child is found in his store, along with a note that the mother would like her daughter to grow up in a bookstore. Of course, this changes Fikry's life. He adopts her and his outlook on life improves.

Multiple secondary characters fill out the story, with Fikry's sister in law and her husband (an author), the local town sheriff, a publisher sales rep, and a few others who enrich and expand Fikry's life, and who change much themselves over the 16+ years the book covers. The author does sometimes necessarily skip large chunks of time to cover that much ground in a short book. (It took me about 3 hours to read.) And the ending is very tidy, almost too much so. But the book is overall delightful and very bookish and charming.

I will say though that as a light beach-read type of book, it didn't stand up well to the scrutiny of book club. Some gaps and other flaws were pointed out that I can't unsee. That said, I will still highly recommend it. But I am not looking forward to when my other book club also discusses it in a couple of months (sigh).

I bought this book at Quail Ridge Books & Music, an independent bookstore in Raleigh.

Teaser Tuesdays: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin p. 52

"Funny world, right? Someone steals a book from you; someone else leaves you a baby."

This sounds unlikely, but it's literally true. Fikry was robbed of a book worth many thousands of dollars, and then a baby was abandoned in his bookstore. He doesn't like aphorisms so I won't point out how sometimes we seem to be given things with one hand while things are taken away with the other. (But really the loss he is suffering isn't the stolen book, it's his deceased wife. He'd take her over the valuable book any day of the week.)


Monday, April 13, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Children by David Halberstam
The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

Up next:
How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I've Learned from Reading Too Much by Samantha Ellis
Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron
Irrationally Yours: On Missing Socks, Pickup Lines, and Other Existential Puzzles by Dan Ariely

What Books Would I Regret Not Having Read Yet If I Die Tomorrow?

I was listening to an episode of The Readers recently (I'm about a month behind) and Simon and Thomas were discussing which books they've put off reading but really want to, that they'd regret not having read if they were to suddenly die. Simon was saying he hasn't read all of Daphne DuMaurier's books (his favorite author) because he's been saving some of them to savor, instead of blowing through all of them fast. I was out walking, and I was thinking, "Yes! I do that too!" Particularly, when I first discovered David Sedaris and Bill Bryson and Anne Tyler, I whipped through all of their available books so fast that in retrospect, I find it hard to tell one from another. They just mush together into one lovely but frustrating 2000-page block. I have learned my lesson and I don't do that anymore. Which means the opportunities for me to have not read books by beloved authors is even greater. I worried that when I got home and checked out my GoodReads' To Read list, I'd be horrified at what I'd find.

But instead... not so much. I went through the whole list. I reordered my To Reads. It's crazy how many books at the top of my To Read list have been there for several years (part of my hatred of being told what to read, even by myself.) It's true that I haven't read many of Anne Tyler's books since that binge back in the late 1990s (although I do own most of them.) But I'm not feeling that compulsion. I kind of feel like I've read enough of her books to get it. I don't really need the rest, even though I'd probably enjoy them. As for classics that I've been dying to read and haven't yet, I didn't find much of them either. I have several Dickens novels on my list, but I'd be okay if I never tackled those. The one that is truly embarrassing is The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. This was a college graduation present from my advisor. In my defense, it went missing for several years (got boxed into a box of things that otherwise weren't necessary and basically went into storage. I looked for it for many years. It turned up a few years ago when I was finally going through those old boxes and purging some stuff. Then, it got loaned to my best friend for a while after her book club read Never Let Me Go, which she loaned to me and I also haven't read yet. She recently returned Remains, so I can tackle it this year.) Also in college I was supposed to read the Juvenilia of Jane Austen for my Jane Austen seminar, but due to my professor's pregnancy, we got a little behind and skipped it (but I've hung onto it.) I'd read it, but it's also got Charlotte Bronte's juvenilia, which I'm less interested in. I'm not sure if I should just read half the book, suck it up and read the whole thing, or continue to look at it on my shelf. Those books are probably the ones that I've hung onto the longest.

But I was very pleasantly surprised! Sure, I'd love to finish reading all of Geraldine Brooks's books, and of course most of the hundreds of books I own (or have on my wish list), I do want to read. But I was expecting this task to make me feel bad and guilty and worried, and it did the opposite! I have read everything that I wanted to read before I die, and now everything else is just gravy! What are the odds of that?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Book Beginnings: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

"On the ferry from Hyannis to Alice Island, Amelia Loman paints her nails yellow and, while waiting for them to dry, skims her predecessor's notes."

Naming the sales rep "Loman" feels a little heavy-handed, but other than that, I really liked this opening. I've been Amelia. I have taken the ferry to visit bookstores on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket as a sales rep. And yes, some bookstore owners are certainly this cantankerous.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

YA Dystopian Novels... Are Teens Preparing for What's to Come?

I just read a book about Iran, set during the early 1980s revolution, and 2011 (The Children of the Jacaranda Tree), and it occurred to me that this book sure reads like a dystopian novel, even though it's partly historical (recent history but history nonetheless) and not in the future at all. Most dystopian novels are considered to be futuristic (although some, like 1984, have gone from the future to the past). But in a lot of ways, they present societies that seem to have devolved, not evolved.

A major theme in YA novels is presenting teens with big issues that can happen in life, allowing teenagers to prepare (preparing to deal with death and sexuality and adult relationships are mostly what we think of in those areas.) Sometimes the preparation is simply seeing another person (character) go through the bad thing and how they deal with it. Other teens might truly think more deeply on the topic and figure out what they themselves would do in the character's shoes. Some might read a lot of books on a particular topic to see how different people deal with it.

To an average American adult, the worlds in contemporary dystopian novels like The Hunger Games and The Giver seem so distant from our current world, that they feel like fantasy. Adults often dismiss these dystopian novels as too unrelated to our modern world to be useful, that kids are scaring themselves unnecessarily or that they are extremely pessimistic views of things that could only happen way, way in the future. But are they? Or are dystopians yet another novel type that is preparing young adults for a possible big issue they could face in the future?

In certain parts of the world, it's not unheard of to wake up one day and be afraid for your life if you listen to Madonna or wear blue jeans (just read Persepolis). We've seen first-hand a modern society of well-educated and involved citizens stood on its head by a small religious sect that uses torture and fear to control the population. That's not a fantasy that could
never happen--it's happened. In Iran and other places.

The popularity of dystopian novels (which is waning--realistic is the current rising trend in YA) perfectly coincides with the second Gulf War... coincidence? Or does it reflect what's in the news every night? Are the teens reading these books much smarter than we give them credit for? And is the waning of this genre's popularity due to natural cycles and trends, or is it due to the U.S. pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan? We often don't look deeply enough to give understand the reasons behind the trends, particularly when the trends involve teenagers.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: On the Move

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks

Synopsis from Goodreads:
An impassioned, tender, and joyous memoir by the author of Musicophilia and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

When Oliver Sacks was twelve years old, a perceptive schoolmaster wrote in his report: "Sacks will go far, if he does not go too far." It is now abundantly clear that Sacks has never stopped going. From its opening pages on his youthful obsession with motorcycles and speed, On the Move is infused with his restless energy. As he recounts his experiences as a young neurologist in the early 1960s, first in California, where he struggled with drug addiction and then in New York, where he discovered a long-forgotten illness in the back wards of a chronic hospital, we see how his engagement with patients comes to define his life.

With unbridled honesty and humor, Sacks shows us that the same energy that drives his physical passions--weight lifting and swimming--also drives his cerebral passions. He writes about his love affairs, both romantic and intellectual; his guilt over leaving his family to come to America; his bond with his schizophrenic brother; and the writers and scientists--Thom Gunn, A. R. Luria, W. H. Auden, Gerald M. Edelman, Francis Crick--who influenced him. On the Move is the story of a brilliantly unconventional physician and writer--and of the man who has illuminated the many ways that the brain makes us human.

Publishing April 28, 2015 by Knopf.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Book Review: So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures by Maureen Corrigan

I misunderstood what this book was about, based on NPR interviews with the author. I thought the whole book was about how The Great Gatsby was out of print and it came back into print due to remaindered copies being given away to GIs in WWII. (In fact, my mother gave the same summary when I saw her Tuesday night so I'm not the only one with this mistaken impression.) Instead, that is the story of one chapter (and not entirely accurate as it was an edition especially published for the soldiers and sailors, not remaindered copies, that were given out. How did it get on that list? No one really seems to know.)

Instead the book is a biography of The Great Gatsby. It goes over Scott and Zelda's life, identifying events that may have influenced parts of The Great Gatsby's story, tells the story of its publication, its revitalization, and renaissance. In its biography of Fitzgerald, I admit that I gained a lot of sympathy for a man I'd unfairly lumped in with Hemingway as a drunk, misogynistic ass. Instead, Hemingway bullied Fitzgerald, who was drunk, but otherwise was an optimistic, striving young man who never felt like he was good enough. He had high aspirations, but they almost never panned out. In fact, he died believing his novels were all failures. The last royalty check he received was for $13.13 and the secretary noted that all of the books bought during that period were bought by Fitzgerald himself. Aside from the sky-high ambitions and the alcoholism, he even reminded me a little it of me and my friends in New York in our twenties.

Ms. Corrigan almost has persuaded me to reread the book. I did see the Baz Luhrmann movie a couple of years ago (not impressed but liked the music) so that at least had reminded me of major plot points and minor characters. Otherwise, the discussions of symbolism and meaning might have been frustrating. I do appreciate how she loves the book partly because no matter how many times she reads it and teaches it, there's always something new to learn, to notice, and I can see how important that would be for a teacher. Personally, the last chapter was my favorite. She went back to her old high school in Astoria. Astoria is mentioned in the novel a few times (although mostly as a neighborhood to travel over on the Queensboro Bridge [and yes, we know the Queensboro Bridge actually goes over Long Island City, not Astoria, but Fitzgerald got that wrong.]) I used to live in Astoria. These high school students are reading the book for the first time, and seeing it through 16-year-old eyes. Ms. Corrigan can't remember her own first impression of the book (other than that she didn't much like it.) And so this is the next best thing. And impressively, one of the students makes an observation that is fresh to Ms. Corrigan, proving again why she loves the book. I also really liked the discussions of his extensive revisions and his work with his editor (the famous Maxwell Perkins).

Had I known this book was going to be so much about the content of The Great Gatsby and about Scott Fitzgerald, I don't know that I'd have read it, but I'm glad I didn't know. Because I enjoyed it thoroughly. It's rare to read a book analyzing a novel by an academic that is so compulsively readable (It may in fact be the first one, it's so rare!) This book should be required reading for all English majors.

I got a free autographed book at Winter Institute 2015!

Teaser Tuesdays: So We Read On

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures by Maureen Corrigan p. 86

"With every passing month of his New York odyssey, Fitzgerald grew more anxious about his failure to set himself above the crowd. He'd moved into a rented room at 200 Claremont Avenue, near Columbia University."

I gained some sympathy for Fitzgerald, who in the past I'd lumped in with the misogynist Hemingway, in this book. He seemed just like a usual young adult, moving to New York with great aspirations that weren't realized. He soon had to move back home to Minnesota with his parents.

Monday, April 6, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Children by David Halberstam
Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani

Up next:
Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule by Jennifer Chiaverini
Meet Me in Atlantis: My Quest to Find the 2,500-Year-Old Sunken City by Mark Adams
Manhood: How to Be a Better Man-or Just Live with One by Terry Crews

Friday, April 3, 2015

Book Beginnings: So We Read On

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures by Maureen Corrigan

"Forget great. The Great Gatsby is the greatest--even if you didn't think so when you had to read it in high school."

When I was in high school, I remembered that pretty much everyone loved it, and the smarter the kid was, the more he loved it. As an adult looking back, I think we didn't understand it much, and said we loved it in order not to seem dumb. I was impressed when my younger brother did not like it, as I thought that actually showed some critical thinking.




Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Day in the Life

Trish at Love, Laughter, and Insanity created this event for bloggers to share what a day in their lives is like, and it looked like fun so I thought I'd join in, too. This was my day, Tuesday March 31:

7:30 a.m. Wake up. I normally get up between 8:00 and 8:30 so I'm a little grumpy. But I have an early appointment, so it must be done. This is also when my husband leaves for work so he makes sure I'm up. I lie in bed and read emails and look at Facebook until my cat Turkey jumps on my chest for petting. (He's only interested in petting early in the morning and late at night.) Get up, get dressed (try three different outfits), brush hair, put on makeup. Go downstairs, eat breakfast, start dishwasher, and return upstairs to brush teeth.

8:45 Drive to Starbucks. Order Earl Grey tea.

9:00 Meet with a client. Discuss outstanding issues, make decisions, talk about what books we're currently reading.

9:25 Drive home. Meeting was surprisingly efficient. I wouldn't have minded staying longer and chatting, but this means I can get more work done!

9:40 Start work. Check emails. Check Goodreads. Start writing this blog post. Send 11 emails, read several enewsletters, write 3 Facebook posts for my business page.

11:30 Edit a manuscript. This one is on hardcopy, which is unusual these days, so I was able to step away from the computer and sit on the couch. Yes, I do still need to occasionally look things up in the dictionary or on Wikipedia, but my phone is fine for that.

12:45 Eat lunch--Greek yogurt, giant pretzels, trail mix.

1:15 Go for a walk. My right calf is really tight from PT yesterday but I'm hoping it'll loosen up while I walk and listen to podcasts.

3:45 Walked 8.5 miles. Couldn't go very fast because of my calf but it's gorgeous out! Now back to email, Facebook, Mint (did some expense reconciliation), FitBit, podcast syncing.

6:20 Edit a manuscript. Started the editorial letter. The beginning of editing is always slow as that's when I'm pointing out a lot of detailed issues that don't need to be pointed out throughout. I do hope I can speed up though or this will take forever.

7:00 Dinner. Made myself spaghetti. Husband made his own thing that I wasn't interested in.

7:30 Got mail, took trash to curb, let the kitties outside for fresh air (we only let them out supervised. Turkey tends to get himself in trouble).

8:00 Watched half of Dancing With the Stars and worked out (I feel inspired by the professionals' bodies and by seeing some of the celebs lose weight over the season. Have you seen Rumer Willis's abs?)

9:00 Husband came back from his walk and we switched to Emperor of All Maladies which is great.

10:00 Went to bed, read.

12:00 Lights out.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Visiting Hours

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder by Amy E. Butcher

Synopsis from the publisher:
With echoes of Darin Strauss’s Half a Life and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild comes a beautifully written, riveting memoir that examines the complexities of friendship in the aftermath of a tragedy.
Four weeks before their college graduation, twenty-one-year-old Kevin Schaeffer walked Amy Butcher to her home in their college town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Hours after parting ways with Amy, he fatally stabbed his ex-girlfriend, Emily Silverstein. While awaiting trial, psychiatrists concluded that he had suffered an acute psychotic break. Amy was severely affected by Kevin’s crime but remained devoted to him as a friend. Over time, she became obsessed—determined to discover the narrative that explained what Kevin had done, believing that Kevin’s actions were the direct result of his untreated illness. The tragedy deeply shook her concept of reality, disrupted her sense of right and wrong, and dismantled every conceivable notion she’d
established about herself and her relation to the world. Amy eventually realized that she’d never have the answers, or find personal peace, unless she went after it herself. She drove across the country back to Gettysburg—the first time in three years after graduation—to sift through two hundred pages of public records: mental health evaluations, detectives’ notes, inventories of evidence, search warrants, testimonies, and even Kevin’s own confession.

This is Amy Butcher’s deeply personal, heart-wrenching account of the consequence of failing her friend when she felt he needed one most. It’s the story of how trauma affects memory and the way a friendship changes and often strengthens through seemingly insurmountable challenges. Ultimately, it’s a powerful testament to the bonds we share with others and the profound resiliency and strength of the human spirit.

Publishing April 7, 2015 by Blue Rider Press.