Thursday, October 19, 2006

Books Read, 1994

I'd forgotten that 1994 was a big book-reading year for me. I was a stay-at-home mom that year. Far from feeling bored, I reveled in all that extra reading time!

1. The Interior Castle: The Art And Life of Jean Stafford -Ann Hulbert (biography) [I wrote that I hated this book, but I have no memory of why]
2. Clockers -Richard Price (novel) [All I remember is that the main character is a drug dealer with a bad stomach, which turns out to be an ulcer. He has to drink Yoo-Hoo all the time.]
3. Maybe The Moon -Armistead Maupin [???]
4. Judy Garland: The Secret Life Of An American Legend -David Shipman (biography) [If you read a biography of Judy Garland, read this one and not that loathsome one by Gerald Clarke!]
5. Father Melancholy's Daughter -Gail Godwin (novel) [I really love this novel about an Episcopalian priest's daughter. It embarrasses me to say so now, but I became an Episcopalian for a few years chiefly because of this novel]
6. Love And Reruns In Adams County -Mark Spencer (novel) [If you see this entertaining novel about Lon, a baseball player who was a star in high school but struck out in the minor leagues, and his beautiful first love, Pam, who now works at McDonald's and her second husband, Bobby, who is a little strange, and his ugly mistress, Becky -- get it and read it. These characters will stick in your mind long after you've finished the book.]
7. Love Medicine -Louise Erdrich (novel) [???]
8. Domestic Life -Paula Webb (novel) [???]
9. The Robber Bride -Margaret Atwood (novel) [What I remember is that one of the characters pretends to be friends with the others, but she's a man-stealer and even fakes having cancer!]
10. The Van -Roddy Doyle (novel) [The last novel in The Barrytown Trilogy, and possibly, the funniest. Jimmy Rabbitte, Sr. has been laid off, and he's trying to find ways to fill his time. When his friend, Bimbo is also "made redundant", they find an ancient, filthy and decrepit fish-and chips van, and in their raggedy way, set out to be successful businessmen.]
11. Daphne Du Maurier -Margaret Forster (biography) [I got the impression from this biography that Du Maurier didn't really like writing all that much, and it didn't come easily for her. But she definitely had her moment in the sun with Rebecca!]
12. The Snapper -Roddy Doyle (novel) [The second novel in The Barrytown Trilogy. Sharon Rabbitte is pregnant, and not saying who's responsible. Of course all of Barrytown is dying to know. Also very funny]
13. The Commitments -Roddy Doyle (novel) [The first novel in The Barrytown Trilogy. I saw the movie first, and although the novel is very much like the movie, I slightly preferred the movie. Well, it is about music, so it's best as an auditory experience. Still highly recommend the novel, though]
14. Exposure -Kathryn Harrison (novel) [???]
15. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha -Roddy Doyle (novel) [Doyle is really great at portraying childhood. This seems to be a transition novel for Doyle -- it has some funny bits like The Barrytown Trilogy, but more serious in tone like his follow-up novel The Woman Who Walked Into Doors]
16. Straight Through The Night -Edward Allen (novel) [Chuck Deckle is downwardly mobile. He's a quasi-intellectual who's now working as a butcher for a kosher meat processing company. His co-workers are both mean and stupid and ridicule him at every turn. Chuck's rage is slow-simmering and progressively ugly. A well-written but really bleak novel]
17. She Needed Me -Walter Kirn (novel) [???]
18. Brightness Falls -Jay McInerney (novel) [I have a vague impression that this novel is about the Greedy Old 1980s, and that it's big and bloated like that decade]
19. Animal Farm -George Orwell (novel) [Manfred, Jr. and I read this together at bedtime. Manfred, Sr. was laughing at the satire as he listened, and Manfred, Jr. wanted to know what was so funny, so he got the whole Communism subtext right then and there]
20. The Orton Diaries -John Lahr, Editor (memoir/biography)
21. Old Friends -Tracy Kidder (nonfiction) [Tracy Kidder spends time in a nursing home. Well-written and informative. I'm a huge Kidder fan, although I had to work to get through The Soul Of A New Machine]
22. Skipped Parts -Tim Sandlin (novel) [Although the premise for this novel made my skin crawl a bit, I still thought it was interesting: It's 1960-something. A 13 year old boy and his immature hard-drinking mother have been "exiled" to Wyoming from the south by the boy's grandfather because of the mother's embarassing behavior. The boy meets a girl at school, and they hit it off. Soon, the boy's mother is encouraging them to take it to the max. They do, and soon, these middle-schoolers are prospective parents. Anyway, even though all of this sounds repellent, in the hands of a different writer, I think it might have been good, but actually the writing is pretty dull. What a strange combination]
23. The Devil's Dream -Lee Smith (novel) [I like Lee Smith, but can't remember this novel. The re-read pile is getting mountainous]
24. The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien -Oscar Hijuelos (novel) [???]
25. You Might As Well Live: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker -John Keats (biography) [This biographer asserts that Parker didn't say a lot of those scathing and witty things she's known for, which was a little disappointing. Still, an interesting look at this writer and her times]
26. Black Mountain Breakdown -Lee Smith (novel) [???]
27. Prick Up Your Ears -John Lahr (biography) [Biography of playwright Joe Orton who was the darling of the London stage in the 1960's. He seems to have been a prankish sort all of his life -- he went to prison for a while for defacing library books! Later on, this humor would show up in the plays he wrote, where he's just basically fucking with the audience. He was fond of the fast life and was violently murdered by his (male) lover who committed suicide directly after killing Orton]
28. Kicking Tomorrow -Daniel Richler (novel) [???]
29. Long Quiet Highway -Natalie Goldberg (nonfiction) [Goldberg talks more about her Zen journey here, and how her Zen master influenced her life. Interesting to compare it to #36 for this year]
30. Primitive People -Francine Prose [I don't remember this novel, but I wish I did. I've always thought that Prose was a great last name for a novelist]
31. Different Seasons -Stephen King (4 novellas) [Another loan from my friend Amy, the rabid Stephen King fan. Her favorite of the 4 novellas was Apt Pupil. Mine was Rita Hayworth And The Shawshank Redemption. When I recommend King to the small handful of people who have not read him, I mention this collection and Misery.]
32. For Love -Sue Miller (novel) [???]
33. Sin -Josephine Hart (novel) [I don't remember what this novel is about, but I have an unfavorable impression that it's a piece of crap. I don't know why, sorry]
34. Feather Crowns -Bobbie Ann Mason (novel) [???]
35. The Great Divorce -Valerie Martin (novel) [???]
36. The Empty Mirror -Janwillem van de Wetering (nonfiction) [In the late 1950s, a Dutch guy shows up at a Japanese Zen monastery and stays there for several months, trying to learn the right path. It's not like other Zen encounters that usually sound wide-eyed and so perky and dripping with understanding and enlightenment, no, de Wetering is often grumpy and frustrated, and even at the end, he leaves the monastery, not sure if the whole thing was a waste of time. A quick, humorous read]
37. The Lilac Bus -Maeve Binchy (short stories) [Binchy is great comfort reading. Grab some hot chocolate and an afghan and curl up on the couch]
38. The Light In The Forest -Conrad Richter (novel) [??? I really hate it that I can't remember this novel! I'm a huge fan of Richter's The Awakening Land trilogy]
39.Cadillac Jack -Larry McMurtry (novel) [The great characters you've come to expect from McMurtry against the backdrop of the flea market circuit]
40.Fade -Robert Cormier (novel) [Paul has discovered that he can fade away to nothingness. This is a family trait that his uncle also shares, as well as generations subsequent to Paul's]
41. Marlene Dietrich -Maria Riva (biography) [This is by Dietrich's only child, and it's really well-done, very intelligent]
42.Oh! -Mary Robison (novel) [???]
43.Miss Lonelyhearts -Nathanael West (novel) [An unnamed newspaper writer known only to us as "Miss Lonelyhearts" answers letters for a lonely hearts column, and starts to feel the overwhelming responsibility of saving all those who write to him. His editor, a real bastard, ridicules both his finer feelings and those people who write in to the newspaper, and in the process, destroys Miss Lonelyhearts]
44. Souls Raised From The Dead -Doris Betts (novel) [???]
45. Louisa May: A Modern Biography Of Louisa May Alcott -Martha Saxton (biography) [This seems more like a biography of Bronson Alcott, Louisa's father, with Louisa in there as an afterthought. Saxton tries to assert that Louisa was in love with Thoreau, but her evidence is weak. Also, she gets something about Little Women wrong. It's minor, but it stuck in my craw, and lessened my enjoyment of this biography]
46. In A Country Of Mothers -A.M. Homes (novel) [???]
47.Portrait Of A Marriage -Nigel Nicolson (biography) [Nigel Nicolson is the son of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson. Another interesting and intelligent biography by a child with a famous and unconventional parent]
48.Kate Chopin -Emily Toth (biography) [a little boring in spots, but okay]
49.On Cukor -Gavin Lambert (nonfiction) [interviews with director George Cukor as he discusses his films and respectful thoughtful commentary by Lambert. They both love and breathe film and the shining results show in this book . Great movie stills as well]
50.The Shipping News -E. Annie Proulx (novel) [After I read this novel, I wanted to start afresh in Newfoundland]
51.Mama Makes Up Her Mind -Bailey White (Essays) [When Bailey White writes about her mother, her prose sparkles. When Mama isn't present, she's not as effective. Also, she has a tendency to end all of her essays with a neat little *click* of a conclusion that grated on my nerves after a while]
52.Platforms -Pagan Kennedy (nonfiction) [Funny and irreverent look back at all that was charming and goofy about the 1970s. Great fun to read -- not highly polished -- instead, it reads like a long, friendly zine.]
53.Charms For The Easy Life -Kaye Gibbons (novel) [I wrote that I liked this novel, but don't remember why. Another for the re-read list]
54.Confessions Of A Crap Artist -Philip K. Dick (novel) [Philip K. Dick was well-known in the science-fiction world. He also wrote several mainstream novels, but had less success getting them published. Crap Artist was written in 1959, but didn't see print until the mid-1970s. It was a little ahead of its time, with its minimalist style, the shifting viewpoint, and population of the literary landscape with brand names and TV shows. Entertaining]
55. Blackberry Winter: My Earlier Years -Margaret Mead (memoir) [I really enjoyed Mead's memoir. I'd read it again, anytime! Show me a copy!]
56. How To Reduce Your Risk Of Breast Cancer -Jon J. Michnovicz [A friend who had had an episode with breast cancer insisted I read this book. It was full of good information about diet which is now common knowledge, written in a reader-friendly style. Some recipes are included that are really healthy and also tasty]
57. The Man In The High Castle -Philip K. Dick (novel) [A "what-if?" novel in which the Axis wins World War II, and they divide up the United States. The main character is in hot water because he wrote a "what-if?" novel, imagining that the Allies won WWII. I'm really not a SF/Fantasy reader, but I really like this novel, which won the Hugo award in the early 1960s]
58. The Finishing School -Gail Godwin (novel) [???]
59. A Southern Family -Gail Godwin (novel) [???]
60. Suicide Blonde -Darcy Steinke (novel) [???]

1 comment:

Bookfool said...

I'm still a housewife, after 22 years. I don't like it but my kids always liked having me here and being able to read more is a definite advantage (when not sidelined with migraines - one of the reasons I still don't work)!

I see you had a Roddy Doyle fest, for a while there. I love Roddy Doyle but he must be a slow writer. I also went through several of his books close together and keep hoping he'll come out with more knee-slappers like The Snapper. It was a hoot.