Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Books Read, 1995

In 1994, I didn't work, so for the first time, I was able to read more books in a year than Manfred, Sr. He protested that it wasn't a competition. He had a point; I would have read voraciously no matter what, but the competitive aspect gave me that little extra frisson of pleasure.

My victory status was short-lived. In April of 1995, I got a job working 6 hours a day, 6 days a week, and it really cut into my reading time. There was no way to sneak and read on the clock at my job. Believe me, I tried several times! As Merle Haggard said in one of his songs, I was rolling downhill like a snowball headed for Hell. Well, my reading totals were, anyway. 40 measly books for 1995! I swore and sulked. Manfred, Sr. reminded me that it wasn't a competition. Whatever.

1. The Good Husband -Gail Godwin (novel) [I think one of the main characters is dying, and her husband takes care of her. Another woman also becomes her caretaker, and she and the husband develop feelings for one another, but they're too well-bred to do anything about it till the end of the book]
2. Talk Before Sleep -Elizabeth Berg (novel) [Is one of the characters dying in this novel? I have a vague memory]
3. The Prodigal Women -Nancy Hale (novel) [First published in the 1940s. Out of print right now. It's time for this novel to be rediscovered]
4. Postcards -E. Annie Proulx (novel) [Loyal Blood accidentally kills his girlfriend, and goes on the lam for around 40 years. He sends postcards from the west back home to his family in Vermont. They also write postcards for a variety of reasons]
5. A Tremor Of Bliss: Contemporary Writers On The Saints -Paul Elie, editor (essays)
6. Flying in Place -Susan Palwick (novel) [???]
7. Violet Clay -Gail Godwin (novel) [The writing seemed a little stiff, the characters cardboardish. This was an earlier novel of Godwin's and I don't think she'd really found her voice yet]
8. Friends For Life -Meg Wolitzer (novel) [Cute. Fun]
9. Who Will Run The Frog Hospital? -Lorrie Moore (novel) [I really love Anagrams, one of Moore's earlier novels, but couldn't warm up to this one. I kind of dislike the title as well]
10. The Nun's Story -Kathryn Hulme (novel) [This was a re-read from my high school days. What can I say? I love this book, although Sister Luke seems a little too intense to be true]
11. Three Nuns -Sarah Harris (nonfiction) [bad writing style]
12. Holy Company: Christian Heroes And Heroines -Elliot Wright (essays) [An assortment of Christian heroes and heroines, each one a chapter and arranged by the Beatitudes. Lively, informative and enjoyable]
13. A Map Of The World -Jane Hamilton (novel) [Alice is taking care of her friend's kids one day. She turns her back for a moment and the 2 year old drowns in the pond. Her troubles are just beginning though, as she is accused of child abuse by a student she has seen at her job as a school nurse. The book is divided into three sections. Alice narrates the first and third, and her husband narrates the middle one, which seemed a little jarring. Otherwise, an enjoyable but bleak and depressing read]
14. A Right To Be Merry -Sister Mary Francis, P.C.C. [Life in a Poor Claires convent. Although it's a little perky, it was a relief after book after book about what's wrong with being a nun and why nuns were leaving convents in hordes around this time]
15. The Book Of Ruth -Jane Hamilton (novel) [An earlier novel by the author of A Map Of The World. Ruth is saddled with two of the most unsavory characters in recent modern fiction: Her mother, May, whose mean mouth proves to be her undoing, and her husband, Ruby who is very much on the scuzzy side of life -- the way Ruth/Hamilton describes Ruby, you wonder how Ruth could even inhabit a room with him, much less get pregnant by him twice. So dark and depressing but so well-written]
16. Duplicate Keys -Jane Smiley (novel) [A mystery/suspense novel; one of Smiley's earlier efforts. Not my type of book]
17. The Screwtape Letters -C.S. Lewis (novel) [Recommended by a clergyman. A series of "letters" from Screwtape, a master tempter-tactician, to Wormwood, his incompetent apprentice. This is the only Lewis writing I really like]
18. The Virgin Suicides -Jeffrey Eugenides (novel) [I didn't like it. The narration seemed all wrong to me]
19. The Stone Diaries -Carol Shields (novel) [This interesting and original novel follows Daisy from her childhood to her first short, strange marriage, to her second marriage with an older man she's known since childhood, through widowhood and old age. The photos at the end of the novel of the characters are disconcerting]
20. Mariette In Ecstasy -Ron Hansen (novel) [Mariette's a nun. She's having visions. Is she just high-strung, or is she faking? No one really knows what to make of it all. The other nuns are awed and a little jealous]
21. Dancer With Bruised Knees -Lynne McFall (novel) [???]
22. Ladder Of Years -Anne Tyler (novel) [Delia just walks away from her home one day and makes a new life for herself away from Baltimore and her doctor husband and their children. When the family writes the missing person's description, they can't even get her basic stats right]
23. The Basketball Diaries -Jim Carroll (memoir) [muddled and boring]
24. Splendora -Edward Swift (novel) [???]
25. Kristin Lavransdatter -Sigrid Undset (trilogy of novels)
26. The Information -Martin Amis (novel) [???]
27. Madame Bovary -Gustave Flaubert (novel) [How did Flaubert manage it? He wrote a novel about a complete 19th century airhead that readers find themselves sympathizing with. The key is his no-nonsense non-flowery writing style. It packs a bigger punch than if he'd written in the overblown, flowery, romantic style that Emma herself was so fond of reading]
28. The Republic Of Love -Carol Shields (novel) [???]
29. I, Asimov: A Memoir -Issac Asimov (memoir) [Entertaining and very readable memoir by the prolific writer]
30. One Writer's Beginnings -Eudora Welty (memoir) [Wonderful depiction of her childhood in Jackson, Mississippi; I think it flags a little at the end, when she's in college then working]
31. The Liar's Club -Mary Karr (memoir) [??? I feel a little guilty, like I should remember reading this book. Okay, re-read list!]
32. Bogart: In Search Of My Father -Stephen Humphrey Bogart (memoir) [Intelligent and thoughtful]
33. Sights Unseen -Kaye Gibbons (novel) [???]
34. Diary Of A Fat Housewife -Rosemary Green (memoir) [Former beauty queen struggles with her weight. Each diary entry starts with her weight. She has a big-time eating disorder. By the end of the book, she's made some good progress, but she's stalled at 208 and still struggling, so I liked that it wasn't all wrapped up neatly and she's in a size 4]
35. Three Women At The Water's Edge -Nancy Thayer (novel) [Thayer's got a nice touch when she's writing about domestic details]
36. Travels With Lizbeth -Lars Eighner (memoir) [Eighner, a homeless guy with a dog is living on the streets of Austin, Texas. He has several chances to be un-homeless, but the condition is that he part from his dog, Lizbeth, which he refuses to do. This book really stuck out in my mind. I'd read it again, anytime. Highly recommended]
37. Last House -M.F.K. Fisher (memoir)
38. Among Friends -M.F.K. Fisher (memoir)
39. Stay Me, Oh Comfort Me -M.F.K. Fisher (memoir) [What I really wanted to read when I was reading all these M.F.K. Fisher books was How To Cook A Wolf, which she wrote and published during WWII and food rationing, but couldn't find a copy. I haven't yet, and I still want to read this book! I love M.F.K. Fisher's writing style...feel like I could just melt into her prose]
40. The Van -Roddy Doyle (novel) [re-read]

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