Saturday, September 01, 2018

Nine Books, Eighth Month

Nine books! Not too bad.

I tried for that tenth book, but

couldn't...quite...reach.

Here's what I did read in August:

1. Dad is Fat - Jim Gaffigan. I warmed up to this memoir slowly. Not too fond of the chapters before Gaffigan and his wife were parents, but when the five (!) kids came along, it was comedy gold. I also have his book, Food: A Love Story. Audiobook, read by Gaffigan.

2. Priestdaddy - Patricia Lockwood. In this memoir, Lockwood and her husband move from Savannah, Georgia back in with her parents in Kansas City. Her father is a Catholic priest who received a special dispensation to become a priest even though he was married and had a family. They are all rather unconventional to say the least. Lockwood's writing is the star of the show. She does wondrous things with language.

3. Heartbreak Hotel - Anne Rivers Siddons. A coming-of-age story about a Southern young woman coming to grips with the changes sweeping the South during the summer of 1955.

4. My Year of Rest and Relaxation - Ottessa Moshfegh. Moshfegh has somehow become my favorite writer. Last year, I read her novel Eileen and was amazed. Enjoyable whiffs of Jim Thompson and Patricia Highsmith. In her latest, the unnamed narrator wants to hibernate for a year. It's weird and darkly funny. Brilliant. Fun fact: The picture on the cover is from a portrait by the French painter David. The US cover has been altered slightly -- the young woman's nipples have been airbrushed out. I think it's because of Amazon, but I'm not sure. It is rather a US thing, isn't it, to be scandalized by women's nipples?

5. Conviction - Juan Martinez. The prosecuting attorney in the Jodi Arias trial tells about bringing her to justice. The writing style seemed flat and forced.

6. 90s Bitch - Allison Yarrow. Yarrow goes back and explores the decade that seemed in retrospect (media, culture) to hate the hell out of women. After Anita Hill, it was all Down Hill. Read and remember. Get pissed, get woke, stay woke.

7. The Road to Little Dribbling - Bill Bryson. This is Bryson's follow-up to Notes From a Small Island, and man, it was a hard go. When did Our Bill become such a cranky old man? If he does a follow-up to At Home, I'm sure his recurring phrase will be "Get off my lawn!" Audiobook.

8. Fast Diets for Dummies - Kellyann Petrucci, Patrick Flynn. OK, I read this book because I'm interested in the concept of intermittent fasting. They go on and on too much about Paleo, though. My body is very WTF? to me when I try to do that.

9. Amy Falls Down - Jincy Willett.  Amy, a fiction writer who is rather obscure, falls down on New Year's Day (also her birthday) while trying to plant her Christmas tree and cracks her head on the birdbath. The same day, she gives an interview that she doesn't remember and it leads to her being rediscovered. Tart, lively prose laced with irony. I laughed out loud several times. I see why David Sedaris is one of her fans!

Common bonds in this month's reading:

Dad is Fat and Priestdaddy: Catholic upbringing. Memoirs. Five children.

Dad is Fat and My Year of Rest and Relaxation: Getting around in New York City.

Heartbreak Hotel and My Year of Rest and Relaxation:  Both protagonists are exceedingly attractive. Shitty boyfriends. Both take to their beds when life starts to suck.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Amy Falls Down: Lots of unkind but very witty observations about people they encounter.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

The Nine of July, 2018

Here are the nine books I read and listened to during July:

1. No Ordinary Time - Doris Kearns Goodwin. A portrait of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt during the WWII years. I audiobooked this one. Found out too late that it was abridged, but the late Edward Herrmann's narration was everything.

2. The Good Daughter - Karin Slaughter. Oh no. No. Did not like. The premise was intriguing -- two sisters, their defense attorney father and a violent crime in their past that collides with the title character's present -- and I appreciated the whiffs of Flannery O'Connor and Harper Lee, but the whole thing was so overwritten and bloated.

3. A Raisin in the Sun - Lorraine Hansberry. I finally read this classic 1959 play about a Chicago family trying to move out of the inner city and all of the stumbling blocks that come from forces both outside and inside. I was impressed and moved by Hansberry's description of her characters and other aspects from the stage directions. I wish she had lived out a full lifespan, because she would be a majestic driving force in so many different art forms.

4. Kitchens of the Great Midwest - J. Ryan Stradal. Audiobook. The story of Eva, a woman with a once-in-a-lifetime palate that she seemed to have inherited from her chef father and wine connoisseur mother, is a delight. The book is structured in chapters featuring characters that all played a part in Eva's life. It's like a recipe, of sorts, which works because food is a recurring theme. It's funny and poignant. The narrators -- one male and one female -- are on point. I can't believe I hemmed and hawed about reading this book for a couple of years. One of my favorites for the month.

5. The Letters of Sylvia Plath Vol. I 1940-1956 - Sylvia Plath. Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil, eds. I finally finished this huge tome of letters written by the youthful Sylvia. This volume takes the reader up to October, 1956. Sylvia Plath is keeping her marriage to fellow poet Ted Hughes a secret because she's afraid of losing her scholarship to Cambridge. They are living apart and finding the situation untenable. I wish I could freeze time at this point and leave them in love and trembling on the cusp of fame. Vol II 1956-1963 comes out soon. September in the UK and October 30 in the US. Steinberg and Kukil are brilliant editors. It was such a relief to read Sylvia's words without all the choppy ellipses.

6. Killing and Dying - Adrian Tomine. I was so pleased to find this graphic short story collection. I've been a big fan of Tomine's since I read Shortcomings. He's described as the graphic novel Raymond Carver, and that seems to be apt. The title comes from a story about a would-be comedian.

7. Lover of Unreason - Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev. A biography of Assia Wevill, the woman who is best known for her part in the breakup of Sylvia Plath's and Ted Hughes' marriage. By the time she entered their lives, she was on her third marriage and had a history of infidelities. From her history, one would have predicted that Hughes would have been another scalp in her belt, to put it crudely, but she met her match. I began Lover of Unreason absolutely despising Assia, but by the end, I was surprised to feel deep sympathy. This is for readers who want to know the rest of the story -- what happened after the events of February 11, 1963.

8. Born a Crime - Trevor Noah. Noah's memoir would be entertaining in any form, but I'm glad I got the audiobook. He is so funny and such a great narrator. The people in his life, especially his mother, spring to life. The book is also educational because the reader gets thumbnail sketches of South Africa's troubled history and sharp observations about the hateful, convoluted, contrived system that was apartheid. This was my favorite read (listen) for July.

9. The Bell Jar: A Novel of the Fifties - Linda Wagner-Martin. I'd forgotten how dull literary criticism can be. The Bell Jar is so vibrant, but you'd never know it from these essays about the book that are as dry as Shredded Wheat.

Although I only read nine for July, I'm pleased with the list, which seems like a good mix, if you don't count my Plath obsession.

Get a load of this: A friend actually told me that I couldn't count the books I listened to because I didn't read them with my eyes.  I took a deep breath and explained without swearing or screaming that the books were merely coming through one of my other senses and still had to be processed by my brain. Any book processed by my brain was going into my reading journal. The End.

Hours later, I realized I'd forgotten to mention people who read in Braille.

 But really. Sheesh.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Booklahoma And Everything After



Every month is a bookish month in my universe, but July was bookish-bookish. It's been a stressful spring and summer on the Mom front, so it's obvious that I sought solace and relief from stress in bookstores.

My Spawn (AKA my son AKA that bookworm I made that one time back in 1984) took me around to Gardner's when I visited Tulsa. I love the feel of Gardner's. It's so comfy and sprawling with that sweet smell of book dust but it's insanely organized. I always go in with the idea that anything is possible as far as treasure-finding goes.

He also introduced me to a new bookstore in the downtown area called Magic City Books. What can I say about perfection? I was reminded of another sublime experience -- my trip to Prairie Lights in Iowa City back in the late 80s or early 90s. Clean, pristine, tasteful, quirky...I loved it, and can't wait to visit again. I bought some books and the cool t-shirt pictured above. I offered to buy The Spawn one, but he turned me down. His bookish light shines so brightly, he has no need of apparel that accentuates the fact.

The following books are the deluge that was July.

 I must be stern with myself and rein in during August. 

Yeah, right.

True Grit - Charles Portis. The 50th anniversary edition. Now I have three copies of the novel. One of my great finds at Magic City Books.

Fevre Dream - George R.R. Martin.  Borrowed from The Spawn.

Conviction: The Untold Story of Putting Jodi Arias Behind Bars - Juan Martinez. This case happened while I was in Korea, so I'm not really familiar with it. All part of my True Crime reading spree. Bought at Barnes & Noble.

The Good Son - Jeong You-Jeong. I am over the moon when a Korean author breaks through and has a bestseller in English. Looking forward to reading it. Another purchase from Magic City Books.

Born a Crime - Trevor Noah. I can't say enough good things about this audiobook. Narrated by the author. Smart, sharp, funny, moving -- but those are just words. Have a listen for yourself. I'm loaning it to The Spawn when I see him again soon. Bought at Barnes & Noble.

Coming To My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook - Alice Waters. This memoir by the godmother of the foodie movement is on my 100-book resolution list, so I was quite excited when I found it at Barnes & Noble.

The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South - John Edge. I'd never heard of this book, but Magic City Books cast a spell over me and I had to have it. I love books about food. Someday I'm going to compile a list of all my foodie reads. The Potlikker Papers won the James Beard Award.

My Life in Middlemarch - Rebecca Mead. A BIG SCORE from Gardner's! I've been dancing around this book since it came out in 2014. Since I'll be reading Middlemarch again next year -- once every ten years since 1999 -- I might set this aside and make it my last book of 2018 or the first of 2019.

They Went Thataway - Malcolm Forbes. I got this 1988 capsule look at famous people's demises for a friend. He's been reading through, and was especially troubled about Hemingway taking his life with a shotgun. "There's no way a person could survive that!" he exclaimed. Well, no. That was probably Hemingway's take on it.  I'm going to borrow this book when my friend is finished with it. Found it  on Gardner's  bargain rack.

Cell - Stephen King. I wish I hadn't bought this audiobook. I quickly realized my mistake after a few chapters and bought Born a Crime. Usually I love to listen to Uncle Stevie on long trips. This time, no. Zombie novels aren't my thing. To make matters worse, I chose it over a book I really wanted to listen to. It was a memoir called Educated by Tara Westover.

Oh, well. Even bookworms can have missteps. I regret not buying My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh from Magic City Books. I haven't found it here in Sedalia. To add to the misstepping, I bought Eileen by the same author for five bucks at Wal-Mart and discovered when I got home that I have it on my Kindle. Read it last year and loved it. Enjoyable whiffs of Jim Thompson and Patricia Highsmith. So impatient to read the new one. Why did I pass it up? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyy? I had it in my hand, I opened it, I smelled it, I tasted...no, not that, but you get the idea.



Another thing I'm miffed at myself for is not checking out Gardner's audiobook section. I don't know for sure if they have one, because I went right instead of left when I came through their doors and stayed right. Which seems wrong now.

Returning home from Tulsa, my book-buying engine was still fired up. 

In addition to the abovementioned Eileen, I bought the children's classics The 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith and Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. Both are on my 100-book Resolution list. They are on my Kindle. I never realized how much less expensive children's books are. Perhaps I should make it my main genre. Nah.

Browsing a book about the best of cult fiction, I came across the title Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse. Are you there, Amazon? It's me, Susan.

Always on the hunt for an audiobook, I bought Dad is Fat by comedian Jim Gaffigan from Reader's World in Sedalia. I thought this was another bad buy, but after a sluggish start, it's growing on me. If you're a parent and you don't take yourself too terribly seriously, you'll enjoy this one. Especially as Gaffigan's five (!) children get older in his stories.

Right after finding Dad is Fat, I looked at the biography/memoir shelf and gasped aloud. Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood was beaming out at me with attitude. People have been recommending this book to me since it came out.  O my Fellow Readers, you know me. This book ticks all my boxes. Lockwood, a poet bends language into the most beguiling shapes and having an unconventional family to write about adds to the hilarity. I'm trying to read Priestdaddy slow, to savor it, but one chapter calls for another. My ribs hurt from laughing. My neck hurts from nodding in admiration for her quirky prose. It's not too often I get that pleasure/pain thing going on while reading.

My final buy was a book from Dollar Tree, Here and Now, a small collection of letters between Paul Auster and J.M. Coetzee over a three-year period. I like writers. I like it when they like each other.

I shopped more than I read, but I had a good month with that, too. Next post.

Monday, July 02, 2018

My 100-Book Resolution: Midyear Check-In

If only...if only I weren't so constantly beguiled by the shiny and new books dangled above me like a mobile over a baby's crib, perhaps I would have made more progress on this resolution list.

Actually, I'm surprised that I've read or made attempts at 20 of them. Almost 21, when I finally finish the gargantuan The Letters of Sylvia Plath Vol. I. These efforts are highlighted in red.

I'm feeling ambitious once again, but to say that I'm going to hunker down and blow through this list while ignoring everything else would be foolish. Still, I'm wondering: Just how much of a dent I can put into the 100 before December 31? My bookworm blood is fairly singing.

I'll do another check-in at the end of September.

1. Caroline: Little House Revisited - Sarah Miller (fiction)

2. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy (fiction)

3. Helter Skelter - Vincent Bugliosi (nonfiction)

4. Songs for the Missing - Stewart O'Nan (fiction)

5. The Cooler King - Patrick Bishop (nonfiction)I

6. Ride the Pink Horse - Dorothy B. Hughes (fiction)

7. Pachinko - Min Jin Lee (fiction)

8. Our Souls at Night - Kent Haruf (fiction)

9. The Witches - Stacy Schiff (nonfiction)

10. The Great Influenza - John M. Barry (nonfiction)

11. The Nix - Nathan Hill (fiction)

12. Unfamiliar Fishes - Sarah Vowell (nonfiction)

13. Drama - John Lithgow (nonfiction)

14. I'll Be Right There - Kyung-Sook Shin (fiction)

15. The Aquariums of Pyongyang - Kang Chol-Hwan (nonfiction)

16. Testament of Youth - Vera Brittain (nonfiction)

17. Gilligan's Wake - Tom Carson (fiction)

18. Vein of Iron - Ellen Glasgow (fiction) DNF almost right out of the gate. The writing style jarred. It seemed cloying and overly dramatic.

19. None But the Lonely Heart - Richard Llewellyn (fiction)

20. Underground - Haruki Murakami (nonfiction)

21. Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink - Elvis Costello (nonfiction)

22. Upstairs Girls - Michael Rutter (nonfiction)

23. Wishful Drinking - Carrie Fisher (nonfiction)

24. The Sellout - Paul Beatty (fiction)

25. White Trash - Nancy Isenberg (nonfiction)

26. Earth - Emile Zola (fiction)

27. From Scratch: Inside the Food Network - Allen Salkin (nonfiction)

28. A Taste for War: The Culinary History of the Blue and the Gray - William C. Davis (nonfiction)

29. M Train - Patti Smith (nonfiction)

30. Clockers - Richard Price (fiction)

31. Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest - Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr. (nonfiction)

32. Destiny of the Republic - Candice Millard (nonfiction)

33. The Devil All the Time - Donald Ray Pollock (fiction)

34. Saint Mazie - Jami Attenberg (fiction)

35. The Letter - Kathryn Hughes (fiction)

36. The Woman in Cabin 10 - Ruth Ware (fiction)

37. All the Missing Girls - Megan Miranda (fiction)

38. LaRose - Louise Erdrich (fiction)

39. The Dead Republic - Roddy Doyle (fiction)

40. Pox - Michael Willrich (nonfiction)

41. The Orchardist - Amanda Coplin (fiction)

42. Soaring with Vultures - Dan Kelly (fiction)

43. The Essex Serpent - Sarah Perry (fiction)

44. The Living - Annie Dillard (fiction)

45. The Tree of Man - Patrick White (fiction)

46. Heads in Beds - Jacob Tomsky (nonfiction)

47. Rainbow's End - James M. Cain (fiction)

48. What Happened - Hillary Rodham Clinton (nonfiction)

49. The Hard Blue Sky - Shirley Ann Grau (fiction)

50. October, 1964 - David Halberstam (nonfiction)

51. A Mother's Reckoning - Sue Klebold (nonfiction)

52. James Baldwin: A Biography - David Leeming (nonfiction)

53. West with the Night - Beryl Markham (nonfiction)

54. The Getting of Wisdom - Henry Handel Richardson (fiction)

55. The Nutmeg Tree - Margery Sharp (fiction)

56. No Sweat - Michelle Segar (nonfiction)

57. Mary Olivier: A Life - May Sinclair (fiction)

58. All the Rage - Courtney Summers (fiction)

59. The Art of Discarding - Nagisa Tatsumi (nonfiction)

60. The Warmth of Other Suns - Isabel Wilkerson (nonfiction)

61. Traveling Sprinkler - Nicholson Baker (fiction) DNF. Got halfway through this short novel and had to quit. Blather.

62. Three Many Cooks - Pam Anderson, Maggy Keet, Sharon Damelio (nonfiction)

63. The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead (fiction)

64. The Sympathizer - Viet Thanh Nguyen (fiction)

65. All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr (fiction)

66. Martin Dressler - Stephen Millhauser (fiction)

67. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love - Oscar Hijuelos (fiction)

68. Elbow Room - James Alan McPherson (fiction)

69. The Optimist's Daughter - Eudora Welty (fiction)

70. The Confessions of Nat Turner - William Styron (fiction)

71. All the King's Men - Robert Penn Warren (fiction)

72. Journey in the Dark - Martin Flavin (fiction)

73. In This Our Life - Ellen Glasgow (fiction)

74. Years of Grace - Margaret Barnes (fiction)

75. Scarlet Sister Mary - Julia Peterkin (fiction)

76. One of Ours - Willa Cather (fiction)

77. Mary Poppins - Travers (fiction)

78. 101 Dalmatians - Dodie Smith (fiction)

79. My Brilliant Career - Miles Franklin (fiction)

80. Ironweed - William Kennedy (fiction)

81. Hard Times - Studs Terkel (nonfiction)

82. The Group - Mary McCarthy (fiction)

83. Turtles All the Way Down - John Green (fiction)

84. Loving Robert Lowell - Author??? (nonfiction)

85. The Wine Lover's Daughter - Anne Fadiman (nonfiction)

86. Home - Marilynne Robinson (fiction)

87. A Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin (fiction)

88. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo - Amy Schumer (nonfiction)

89. Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen (nonfiction)

90. The Letters of Sylvia Plath - Sylvia Plath (nonfiction)

91. The Forsyte Saga - John Galsworthy (fiction)

92. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning - Margareta Magnusson (nonfiction)

93. Coming To My Senses - Alice Waters (nonfiction)

94. Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray - Adam Federman (nonfiction)

95. The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters - Laura Thompson (nonfiction)

96. Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell - David Yaffe (nonfiction) DNF. Found the book overwritten which seemed to distance the reader from the subject. I wish that JM had written her own memoir.

97. The Reporter Who Knew Too Much - Mark Shaw (nonfiction)

98. Home is Burning - Dan Marshall (nonfiction)

99. The Lost Art of Housecleaning - Jan Dougherty (nonfiction)

100. Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren (fiction)

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Midyear Check-In

I neglected poor Blob for the month of June, but other than that, how am I doing with reading goals? Pretty well so far. Back in January, I set a goal of 57 books. I've read 37, a nice mix of fiction and nonfiction. Some interesting reading trends. Why so much true crime?

Here they are, with brief comments when the bookworm spirit moves me:

1. Caroline: Little House Revisited (fiction) What an interesting idea; to rework Little House on the Prairie from Ma's point of view.

2. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (nonfiction) I laughed, but I felt worse after reading it.

3. Rotten Ralph (children's literature) For me, Ralph is Everycat.

4. The Great Influenza (nonfiction) One of my more challenging reads this year.

5. The Cooler King (nonfiction)

6. The Girls in the Picture (fiction) I love me some Old Hollywood.

7. Off the Cliff (nonfiction) I want to know everything, everything about Thelma & Louise. Does that make me weird?

DNF: Reckless Daughter (biography) The writing style achieved the opposite effect and put Joni Mitchell at a remove. I reluctantly and regretfully took this one back to the library.

8. Our Souls at Night (fiction) This one hit closer to home than I expected. Age and illness get us all in the end, but even knowing that, we should vigorously pursue life. And damn the neighbors.

9. Pachinko (fiction) One of my favorites. I looked forward to reading this multigenerational family saga of Koreans living in Japan and I was not disappointed.

10. Swearing Is Good for You (nonfiction) I was really f@#%ing bored.

11. Ten Days in a Mad-House (nonfiction) Nellie Bly was a cool customer. This one's old, but in no way has it aged or lost its savor.

12. Helter Skelter (nonfiction) Unpleasant, but rewarding. I'm glad I finally read this true crime classic.

13. The Six: The Lives of The Mitford Girls (nonfiction) An ardent portrait of a family that I'm glad I had the opportunity to finally learn about. A fun and absorbing read.

14. The Warmth of Other Suns (nonfiction) Everyone should read this book about the Great Migration in which African-Americans fled the South, but skip the last chapter in which author Isabel Wilkerson defends her research and writing choices. She didn't have to! The book is brilliant!

15. The Getting of Wisdom (fiction) An Australian classic from 1910. A coming-of-age story. Laura -- oh God, you just cringe for her!

16. The Stranger in the Woods (nonfiction) The story of the "hermit" who alternately annoyed and terrorized campers in rural Maine for almost three decades. Well-written and researched. Really enjoyed this one.

17. Turtles All the Way Down (fiction) John Green's latest didn't exactly thrill me, but I was interested in the OCD aspects of the book.

18. Pippi Longstocking (fiction) I was surprised at how much I remembered of this Swedish children's classic. Loved it just as much as when I was nine.

19. World Enough and Time (fiction) Based on the real life "Kentucky Tragedy" of the 1830s. A long read, but the writing is gorgeous, even when Robert Penn Warren fell into melodrama and couldn't get up. One of my favorites for the year.

DNF Traveling Sprinkler (fiction) What a bunch of disjointed blather. I was terribly disappointed. Nicholson Baker is capable of so much better.

20. In This Our Life (fiction) One of my Pulitzer fiction reads. I didn't like it at all. There would be a bit of dialogue, then after that, the character would go into his or her head for about a page, then someone would speak, and then muse about what he or she had just said. It was torture.

21. Not My Father's Son (memoir) Alan Cumming is not only a good actor, he can flat write. A favorite read.

22. October, 1964 (nonfiction) I loved the story of the Cardinals and the Yankees as they met up for the World Series.

23. Life Plus 99 Years (memoir) A self-serving piece of crap by Nathan Leopold (as in Leopold and Loeb). Definitely shaped with more than one eye on the parole board. There is also a preface by Erle Stanley Gardner, the author of the Perry Mason mysteries, arguing for Leopold's release!

24. Compulsion (fiction) The lightly fictionalized version of events in the Leopold and Loeb case. Much better writing than Life Plus 99 Years. Quite psychological. I was reminded of another fictional take on a real crime, An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser.

25. The Crime of the Century: The Leopold & Loeb Case (nonfiction) A straightforward telling of events.

26. The Teammates (nonfiction) A deceptively simple story of three teammates going to visit a fourth, who is dying, but David Halberstam has an eye for the color, as gold prospectors say.

27. Less (fiction) This year's Pulitzer winner. I didn't think I'd love it -- was still smarting about Lincoln in the Bardo -- but I actually did.

28. Wishful Drinking (memoir) I really miss Carrie Fisher.

29. Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest (nonfiction) A striking portrait and vigorous defense of the famous Confederate general.

30. Woe To Live On (fiction) I finally FINALLY got this novel read! Set in Missouri, there were many towns referenced that are right around here. Gorgeous prose. The last lines are so beautiful and heartbreaking, I didn't know what to do. I finally took a picture of the page with my phone.

31. Destiny of the Republic (nonfiction) The true story of how James A. Garfield was assassinated by a madman (also his story), but Garfield's doctors were the real killers. Excellent pacing. This book is so good. Go out and read it right now.  No, seriously. NOW.

32. The Optimist's Daughter (fiction) This short novel, a Pulitzer winner from the early 1970s, reminded me of Anne Tyler, but much more muted.

33. Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer, 1953 (nonfiction) Details the real-life events depicted in the first half of The Bell Jar. Through interviews with the other guest editors of Mademoiselle, the reader sees the vibrant girl who loved fashion and Dylan Thomas before she became trapped in her own dark legend. This book had a strange effect on me. I went out and bought Plath's favorite lipstick shade, Cherries in the Snow by Revlon. Can't believe it's still available!

34. Calypso (essays) David Sedaris's latest. The title essay is already on its way to being a classic. I laughed so much at it, I broke out into a sweat with rivulets and everything. David's father's aging and his sister Tiffany's suicide darken the prose, and I hate it when Hugh and David argue. Somehow, it feels like mom and dad fighting. Still, I didn't want the book to end. I will be reading it again this year. Join me.

35. Birthday Letters (poetry) I'm still reading the monster-sized Letters of Sylvia Plath Vol. I, and I was trying to enlarge my focus, or something like that. I recognized that many of the poems, written by Ted Hughes and addressed (most of them) to Plath riff off of the poems in Ariel. Although some of them are like candid snapshots. He even mentions the red lipstick.

36. In Cold Blood (fiction? nonfiction?) I never know how to categorize Capote's book. Still the gold standard of true crime writing. Horrific events + Capote's delicate prose = an unsettling experience.

37. No Ordinary Time (nonfiction) A beautiful and sympathetic portrait of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt during WWII.  I audiobooked this one. It was slightly abridged, which was annoying, but the late Edward Herrmann was reading, which was everything.

I just counted, and I believe that my nonfiction reading is ahead of my fiction reading. Unusual.

Next post: Not done with my midyear reflections. I'm going to take a look at my 100 Book Resolution and see if I've stuck to it and if I've put any sort of dent into it.

Friday, May 25, 2018

If The Book Isn't There, I'm Not There

Where am I? Doesn't matter; I've got a book on the go. Here's what with me right now:

At home:

The Collected Letters of Sylvia Plath - Sylvia Plath. This one doesn't get much farther than the patio because it's heavy. 1400 + pages. Four-and-a-half pounds. Not easy to read in bed or in the recliner. My best spot is at a desk or table where I can lay the book. I've had it for a little over a week and it's already showing signs of wear and tear...well, not tear. More like splash from a frozen strawberry lemonade. As for the contents, it's fascinating to read Plath unedited. Even the seemingly minor details.

A Book of American Martyrs - Joyce Carol Oates.  I've only just started this book. I keep it on the table in the kitchen, reading bits while waiting for coffee to brew or toast to pop up.

In my purse:

My Kindle. I started Tess of the D'urbervilles, but I'm stalled. I think it's because I know I'm going to be furious with all the men in Tess's life.

A paperback copy of The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty.  Of course there must be a paper book if something were to go wrong with the Kindle, right? I had to find a skinny book. My new purse is a lovely gift from my mom, but it is narrow at the opening and widens towards the bottom. It's a triangle! Not the best shape for toting books around, but that makes me more creative about finding my reads.

In the car:

My current audio book, Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard. I like to find errands to run unaccompanied so I can enjoy listening to this book. The narrator, Paul Michael, is particularly good. He has a firm, resonant Midwestern timbre for the fated James A. Garfield, a fine, peppery Scottish accent for the restless genius inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, and a flat, whiny Snidely Whiplash tone for Charles Guiteau, Garfield's assassin who was both a master manipulator and batshit crazy. Author Millard has structured a compelling narrative within an elegant prose style that feels scholarly but doesn't feel overstuffed with research.

For future audio encounters, I'm hoping the new Stephen King book, The Outsider, as well as David Sedaris's newest Calypso, will be journeying back and forth to the grocery store with me soon.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

RIP Mr. Roth

I thought Philip Roth would keep writing and living forever. He had an intensity for me that other writers didn't, even though I liked most of them much better. Philip Roth gave me an uneasy feeling that crept into my dreams. Here's an example from back in 2009:

My Strange Philip Roth Dream