Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Prayer for Owen Meany, etc.

How is it that I've never read John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany? I've read other Irving, and loved most of it (I have a thing about lost limbs and Irving seems, at times, to taunt me with this), but I'd somehow missed this heartbreaking and beautiful masterpiece. And I'm only halfway through it!

I've been trolling around the website, which is how I came to discover that A Prayer for Owen Meany was one of the 1001 books I should read before I die, or something like that. There were at least a hundred books on the list that I'd never even heard of, never mind read. (did I mention I used to own a bookstore?) Sometimes I think people are making up titles. That said, there are gaps in my reading I intend to fill. What should be next? War and Peace? Virginia Wolfe? I know, I know. I'm working on it.

This past week I also polished off Deborah Crombie's Where Memories Lie. Sometimes, when you're waiting around in a hospital as I was, you need something easy on the brain, which this was. Plus, unlike a lot of literature I love, these light mysteries don't send my emotions ping-ponging all over the place. It's a solid mystery with developed characters, a sense of place, and an interesting plot. I once read an interview with Joyce Carol Oates, whom I deeply admire, in which she said she never has a wasted moment. Meaning she never watches bad TV, or reads anything fluffy. I do wish I could be that disciplined (I also wish I could resist sweets and bread) but honestly, sometimes I just need to give myself a break. Sometimes I need to watch awful TV, and read for the pure pleasure of the story, and put on the radio and dance around to songs about brushing teeth with a bottle of Jack.

Balance, I say. That's what I'm aiming for!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

Last night I finished Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank and I loved, loved, loved it. I'm a huge fan of stories anyway (not that I don't love the novel as well) and these beautifully crafted, deeply moving and somewhat (sometimes more than somewhat) disturbing stories are right up my alley. This would be a great book club selection (if you have an open-minded book club) because there is SO MUCH to talk about. Each story is so perfectly done, so completely of itself, so full of memorable characters and scenes...My favorite, or, the story that will stay with me the longest, is Camp Sundown. The mild setting, the guilelessness of the young main character, the dead-on hysterical way the old folks talk...and, then, we know it's coming, we fear it's coming, we're told it's coming, but still the end is a surprise. Still I'm turning this story over in my head, both for the content (how can Englander get away with writing such a thing?) and for its form.

I loved the collection although I have a feeling there will be people who feel strongly the opposite, and I'd love to hear any and all thoughts!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

When I'm Not Reading...

As many of you know, when I'm not reading, I'm writing. And, because several of you have asked, here's a link to my 2nd place Family Circle Fiction Contest Story: I love this story, which is not something I always say years (or even minutes) after I've written something, so I'm happy it found a home. Before Family Circle, it was submitted and rejected many times (nine, to be exact--I keep track). I say this as a way to encourage those of you who may be discouraged writers (myself, at times, included).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Other stuff besides books

When I don't have my nose stuck in a book, I have it stuck in some other reading material. I used to joke that I'd read anything that stands still long enough. And it was only a little bit of a joke. I read other blogs, websites of authors I love (especially Monica Wood and Ann Hood), magazines (Family Circle, Good Housekeeping), Literary magazines (Glimmer Train, The Sun, Ploughshares), online literary magazines (The Literarian, Narrative, Five Chapters), articles about writing, the Maine Sunday Telegram, the Bridgton News, cereal boxes (the backs and the sides)...This week, I have been obsessed with NPR's three minute fiction. Maybe because I submitted a story of my own for the first time (to NPR, I mean, not ever), or maybe just because I feel a little out of sorts this week and short pieces are about all I can handle...but whatever the reason I've been trolling the NPR website ferociously. Some of the stories I really like (Exit and Heavy are my current favs) and some not so much. I also love reading the comments...not just because I'm voyeuristic (which I am) but because I like the way sometimes people say things that make me think of something in a new way. And isn't that what living life with an open mind is all about? Check it out here:

I also just read Caitlin Shetterly's piece in the Times about her dream house with John Taylor from Duran Duran: I have to say, the more I read of Cait's work, the more I'm a fan. Maybe because she and I are about the same age, this piece really brought me back. I was (and still am) a Bon Jovi fan and I had a life-sized poster of Jon Bon Jovi on the outside of my bedroom door, and a life-sized poster of Richie Sambora on the inside of the door. I never dreamt about marrying either of them (I just wanted to date them both and have them bring me flowers and buy me dinner) because I thought I'd be like my mom's cool friend Gretchen and stay single and childless forever and wear awesome colorful skirts and drink wine. And then, Life has a way of taking you places you never thought you'd go--and then making you realize how grateful you are it turned out the way you didn't plan. :) (at least for me that's what happened)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Marriage Plot

Just finished reading The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides and I liked it. I liked the characters, for all their striving and humanity and failings, and I like the way Eugenides handled mental illness, and love, and infatuation. And I liked the ending, I think...and while I'd like to say more about it, I can't without giving it away. Those of you who have read the novel, I'd love to know what you think of the ending. Was it a cop out? Or so genuine and character-driven you went all-in for it? I feel a little short-changed, but maybe I just wanted something other than what I got...and maybe that's okay.

At any rate, this novel made me want to read Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides, which, somehow, I've missed.