Saturday, November 7, 2009

Speaking of blogs....

Not that we were, but since you're here reading mine, I'm guessing you probably know of a few other good book blogs (erm, a few good book blogs. saying "other" implies mine is good. Ha!)

I'm still reading I See You Everywhere and it's growing on me. I'm actually off to bed now because I'm too tired to even stare at the TV screen. Perhaps I'll squeeze in a few pages before my brain checks out completely and find myself more invested.

It's always disheartening when a book doesn't suck you in immediately, but how much of that is the writer's issue versus your own overblown sense of expectation. I feel that way about John Irving; since reading Prayer for Owen Meany, I have just not felt any of his work resonate in the same way. Not his fault. I just fell so deeply in love with that Owen Meany's story that nothing else Irving has created since has struck as much of a chord with me.

So, good book blogs? thanks!

Friday, November 6, 2009

I'm Just Not That Into You...

I love Julia Glass. Her debut novel, Three Junes, was one of the best books I've ever read. I KNOW I will love this book. I'm sure of it. But I cannot get into it.

I started it three nights ago. I got to page 14 before I fell asleep. Last night when I picked up on page 14, I had no idea what I was reading, so I went back to the first page and started over. As I get ready to go to bed and read now, I am trying to remember what I read last night. Something about an old aunt dying, a trip home and tension between two sister, whose personalities and lives are completely opposite of one another's. That's all I've got.

I am always so disappointed when I don't feel connected to a book immediately; especially if it is by an author I adore. I heard Julia Glass speaking on an NPR show recently and just fell in love. So I feel like I'm letting her down by not immediately engaging with her work the way I did with Three Junes. Which really is weird--I mean, do I, as a reader, have any obligation whatsoever to the author? Probably not.

But I hope when I write tomorrow I can report that somewhere on page 15 or 25, I hit my stride and find myself immersed in the world Glass is creating on the page.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Praise of Bookstores

I hate to admit it, but I am a flat out sucker for a Borders or Barnes and Noble. I want to be all "down with the big book chains!!" in a righteous Meg Ryan "You've Got Mail" kind of way. I wish I was in love with "The Book Shop on the Corner," but give me a "Fox's Books" type of store, please. Yes, I'm hanging my head in shame.

This morning, as I wandered through Borders with my grande chai (for the first time this season, in a holiday cup!!! Yay!!), I decided to call one of my best friends, Tress. She picked up her end, and as I meandered through the newly configured holiday-sized stacks, we chatted about our lives. What was up in them, and down in them.

As the conversation got more in depth (you know how girlfriends are, right? Well, if not, read Wednesday Sisters), I found myself sitting in the self-help section--IRONY--in a well-worn, utterly comfortable leather chair. Tress and I batted ideas back and forth, exchanged some deep thoughts (ha!) and had some laughs. I may as well have been in my own living room, for how comfortable I felt sipping my tea and having an intensely personal conversation with one of my closest (yet farthest) friends.

On Tuesdays, I head to Barnes and Noble after my WW meeting. I sit in their cafe, reading blogs, writing in my blogs, drinking my tea and enjoying my place in the world. It is another home away from home.

No worries, I do more than chat on the phone and hog free wi-fi; I give these stores oodles of business. But it's not that I can run in to the store, find a book and buy it that makes these places so special to me. It's the sense of hominess I feel there, and that I can go into any Borders or Barnes and Noble, pretty much anywhere in the country (world?) and feel "oh, this is familiar. This makes me feel safe."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NABLOPOMO FAIL. But a kick ass book

Yeah, I know. Three days into NABLOPOMO and I blew it on this blog. Well, in my defense, I was rocking a big fat sinus infection and was hopped up on Robitussin with codeine; so chances are I wouldn't have had much of any coherence or interest last night.

I am *this* close to being finished Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. I have so enjoyed Janzen's voice, humor and brutal honesty as she examines her roots, her rebellion against those roots and the eventual appreciation and respect (at a distance, of course) she finds for the belief system that in so many ways shaped her life.

Throughout the hilarious style of her writing--the endearing, adoring way she pokes fun of her mother, the sarcastic and self-deprecating multiple-choice quiz boxes, and her development of her very own 12-step program--she interlaces insightful and deeply philosophical snippets of the person she truly is, beyond the self-effacing "I'm such a goofball! How could I be anything else with this life?! Ha Ha!" image that so much of her book portrays. Take this passage, for example,

"But I have come to believe that virtue isn't a condition of character. It's an elected action. It's a choice we keep making, over and over, hoping that someday we'll create a habit so strong it will carry us through our bouts of pettiness and meanness. Until recently I dismissed Niccolo Machiavelli's brutish philosophy that the ends justify the means, but lately I've begun to question that. If in the service of choosing virtuous behavior we need to practice some odd belief, where's the harm? Don't we all have our weird little rehearsals and rituals? Sure, from a ratiocinative point of view, the intervention of angels on the wall seems an unlikely way to achieve virtue in praxis. Or take the case of the nuns. Insisting that you are the bride of Christ is pretty wacky, in my opinion. So is the bizarre corollary, giving up sex on purpose. Yet these choices, odd as they are, harm nobody. It seems to me that there are many paths to virtue, many ways of creating the patterns of behavior that result in habitual resistance to human badnness....

At this stage of my life, I am willing to accept not only that there are many paths to virtue, but that our experiences on these varied paths might be real. We can't measure the existence of supernatural beings any more than we can control our partners. And anyhow, I don't want to measure supernatural beings or control my partner. What I want to measure, what I can control, is my own response to life's challenges," 175-176)

But when she's not waxing philosophical? Freaking hilarious. I have about 10 pages left to read and I'm bummed. I wish this book were 500 pages long.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Comfort Read

For one of the two book clubs I've joined, I read Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table. In keeping with the reading public's recent love affair with all things cooking (thank you, Julie Powell and Julia Child), this memoir is about how Reichl's life was shaped by food.

One part cookbook, one part travel guide, one part family drama, the book is entertaining on many fronts. Reichl's search for connection and community resonates with this reader, having found myself moving at a pretty steady clip for the past few years.

Reichl's love affair with food began not with an adoration over the one perfect dish, but from the concern for the well-being of anyone who came in contact with her mother's cooking. Apt to throw all things into the stew pot at once for dinner (including meat past it's safe-to-eat-by date), Reichl's mother is the foil against which Reichl's journey is set. Just as some children of Republicans rebel by becoming liberal Democrats, or children of sheltering teetotalers rebel by sneaking out of the house and binge drinking, Reichl rebelled against her mother's disastrous kitchen creations by developing a love affair with good food, food created with love and with history, not just tossed together from half-rotten ingredients as a backdrop for her manic-depression.

Good book. Entertaining, super fast read. I'm not sure it's one that will stick with me forever, but I'm finding more and more that memoir fascinates me; how someone picks the theme of their life and the moments that illustrate those themes is thrilling to me.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I'm Still Reading.

I'm not sure what has kept me away from this blog for THREE months. I've been reading. And reading some fantastic books. But for some reason, I've ignored this blog. I'm sure there's some deeply rooted psychological reason, but eh. I'm not going to sweat it. I'm just going to jump right back in.

I won't bother going back through everything I've read in the past few months right now. But as I have committed to participating in NaBloPoMo with all three of my blogs, I might revisit books I've read since July at some point.

Since I last wrote, I moved to a new location: from Los Angeles to Northern California. Which means making new friends. Again. This time I've decided to attempt to make new friends through literature. I've joined two reading groups that I will meet with for the first time this month. Hopefully one will resonate with me and I'll find a little place for myself. If not, I might attempt to start my own book club. Because seriously. A girl has GOT to talk about books.

I expect that this month, in addition to talking about what I've read in the past few months, I will write more about each book I'm reading, rather than waiting to complete a book and talk about it in its entirety. Maybe I'll write about a character, or a passage, or something that stuck out in my mind from the night before's reading. I'm not sure. Of all three blogs, this will be the most challenging one to keep up with.

Right now I'm reading Mennonite In a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen. It is truly hilarious and poignant and wonderful so far. Janzen is in one breath hilariously self-deprecating as she talks about the end of her marriage (her husband leaves her for a man he met on and in the next breath waxing philosophical on the concept of G-d. I'm loving it, and I'm sure I'll be talking a lot more about it. It's for one of the two reading groups meeting in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks for checking back in!