Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Happiest People in the World

I don't believe in writer's block. That said, I seem to have some form of it. I generally hand out platitudes like "butt in the chair," and "put in the hours," etc. Good advice. Which I have not been taking. I seem to have hit some kind of creative wall or, um, block. All my stories seem miles away from finished. Perhaps hardly even started. The new novel-ish thing I thought I possibly started seems honestly like just too much work. And the finished-ish novel is floating around out there, hoping for an agent. So, again, I've been reading.

But, I have been reading with diversity in mind. Trying to find the thing that will make me dash to the keyboard or pen and paper and start writing. So far, I'm just enjoying the reading and thinking that everyone else is already doing such a good job of it, maybe I should just be a professional reader.

I'll get over it.

Meanwhile, I just finished Brock Clark's The Happiest People in the World. This past semester at Stonecoast, I had the immense pleasure of hearing Brock read from this novel. If you ever get the chance to do so, you should. Hilarious is not an overstatement. The novel, even if you read it quietly to yourself, is very funny. Brock's reading of it makes it even funnier. But, this is not funny in a lighthearted way. This is the kind of funny that is really sad. About a Danish cartoonist who finds his life at risk because of a cartoon that offends many, the book has the feel of a mad-cap spy novel. And then, as you read on, there's also so much humanity in these characters who cannot seem to get it right, no matter how easy it seems, that you can't help feeling miserable and uncomfortable while still laughing a little. It's that kind of book.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See:'s beautiful. Set in Germany and France during World War II, this is a book with substance, heart, and no easy answers. The characters are complicated, fully rendered human beings, whom I rooted for even when young Werner was loosing his soul, and young Marie-Laure seemed trapped in her blindness. The novel slides and slips through time and place--I'd be interested to hear from people who have read it if they found it confusing at all--in a way I found beautiful and right for the story. Memory plays such a bog role in this novel that it made sense to me that time is not fixed. Last night, a friend asked me if I thought Doerr used too many descriptions. Maybe in the technical sense he could have cut back. But the effect of piles and piles of descriptions is a world I could see, touch, smell, hear. It felt full, even cluttered at times, but I think that was the point. I love the shifting points of view, and the non-linear timeline, and the questions of morality and goodness this book raises. The only thing I didn't love was that it ended. For the first time in a very long time, I feel like I cold have kept right on living with these characters for another two hundred pages (maybe even more). Read this book. It isn't over-hyped. It's wonderful. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Perils of Working at a Library

So, I love my new job. Everyone who knows me already knows that because I haven't stopped saying how much I love it for the past 5 months. I get to work in our fabulous local library. It's like owning a bookstore (which I did for five years) only without the stress of paying the bills. Books all day. Books for miles (almost). So, so many books. And so, I have a stack of six hardcover novels plus two books on tape waiting for me. At least I resisted taking home a few magazines this weekend. Oh, and I borrowed the DVD of the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge. The problem with my new job is that I don't really have time to work there because of all the books I keep coming across that I want to read...

Last week I finished Miranda July's short story collection No One Belongs Here More Than You and this week I read B.J. Novak's One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories. I hadn't necessarily planned to read this on the heels of one another, but it turned out they fit together pretty well. Both collections are funny, sarcastic, irreverent, honest, and a little shocking. Both peel back the formalities of polite society and poke fun at the way we live and the things we value. Miranda July's stories made me squirm and think and then squirm more. B.J. Novak's stories made me laugh out loud in places. In fact, so overtaken was I that I read some of his stories out loud to my husband (which I never do).

Last night I started All the Light We Cannot See, which is a total departure and so far is enchanting and delightful.

I love my new job.