Wednesday, August 01, 2012

June and July: Reading

I was working then I was traveling and I was reading but I couldn't get the words out about it all.  Now here we are in August, and I think I can speak.  It'll be a bit Tweetish, but I don't care.  It's summer; my brain is broiling.

June Reading
1. Sweet Thursday - John Steinbeck.  Steinbeck being lovable and goofy.  It's like a comic strip, but you still feel for the characters.  You know the 1982 movie Cannery Row?  It's based more on this one than Cannery Row.  I'm glad the movie caught that cartoony feeling, but I'm sure audiences didn't know what to make of it all. Starring Debra Winger as Suzy and Nick Nolte as the Steinbeck-ish character, Doc.  Very nice!

2. The Fault In Our Stars - John Green.  Griffin and Phoenix for the young ones.  Tearjerker.  I told/ordered all my English majors to read this book when it's translated into Korean.

3. American Pastoral - Philip Roth.  I broke up with Philip Roth so hard.

4. Are You My Mother? - Alison Bechdel.  It's very meta.  There's a lot going on with mothers and daughters, dreams, therapy, Virginia Woolf and an early 20th century shrink named Winnicott.  It's hard to keep up sometimes, but I like it that Bechdel trusts us to make the effort.

5. Running In The Family - Michael Ondaatje.  Ondaatje's memoir about his family in Ceylon caught me in an exuberant mood as I prepared to go on vacation.  Now vacation is over and I'm feeling the opposite of exuberance, but the richness of the language and imagery has stayed with me.  It's like my own 'invincible summer'.

6. Fun Home - Alison Bechdel.  It's amazing how Alison Bechdel can examine her memories to the point of pain and create such exquisite art from them.  Most of us would fall into darkness and cut ourselves to ribbons on the shards of remembrance.

7. When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead.  I wasn't wild about the A Wrinkle in Time shout-out; I was more interested in the subplot in which the mother gets a chance to be on the $20,000 Pyramid.

8. Drifting House - Krys Lee. She's so lovely.  I hope this collection of short stories about the many aspects of being a modern-day Korean, both in Korea and abroad, gets all the attention it deserves.

9. Number the Stars - Lois Lowry.  During WWII, a family in Nazi-occupied Denmark gets the opportunity to be heroes on a small scale by hiding their Jewish neighbors. Some of my students read this book for their Newbery report and raved about it, so I had to see for myself.  My Newbery reading is turning out to be quite rich and satisfying.

July Reading
1. Heartburn - Nora Ephron. I read this book when it first came out, and when I reread it, it was very different.  I remember it as being very funny and witty.  This time, I was much more aware of the sadness and anger simmering barely below the surface.  This time I was struck by how stinkin' rich Mark and Rachel are!  This time, I was also trying to figure out who was who in this roman a clef.  I'd forgotten about how Rachel loved New York and loathed Washington, D.C.  Finally, I didn't realize till now that this was the book that made me a fan of key lime pie.

2. I Feel Bad About My Neck - Nora Ephron.  I'm not a big fan of audiobooks, but Nora Ephron read her own book, and I'd really love to hear her commentary in her own wry, New York-accented cadence.

3. I Remember Nothing - Nora Ephron. In her final book, Ephron tackles ageing (again), illness, divorce, death, her conflicted feelings about her mother and Lillian Hellman.  Strangely enough, in this era of there's-no-such-thing-as-too-much-gutspill, she doesn't mention her own cancer battle.  There are plenty of hints for those reading with hindsight, as I was, but Ephron maintains a friendly but steely reserve.  I will always love and respect her for that.

4. Growing Up Amish - Ira Wagler.  I started reading this one last summer, and forgot about it. Happily, I picked it up again this summer, finished it and discussed it briefly here.

5. Lamb - Christopher Moore.  Yeah, he farts around and there's a ton of puerile jokes, but Moore studied the Gospels closely.  At certain brief points, you can tell he's not joking around.

6. Caddie Woodlawn - Carol Ryrie Brink. The winner of the 1936 Newbery Medal.  The story of a tomboyish girl and her family living in 1860s Wisconsin, based on Carol Ryrie Brink's grandmother's stories.  Very enjoyable slice-of-pioneer-life with a little touch of Frances Hodgson Burnett towards the end.  I'm ashamed to talk about what really preoccupied me about this book.  Oh well, here goes:  Would it be terribly wrong to say that I found Caddie Woodlawn's father, John, incredibly hot?  I enjoyed it whenever he popped into the book, and was sorry to see him out of it for pages at a time. I also kind of hated it when he was kissing and comforting Mrs. Woodlawn in one of the chapters.  The second thing was author Brink's second name.  Ryrie.  How do you say that?  Mr. Bybee and I studied it and decided that Ryrie rhymes with Bybee.  We said it over and over again in Scooby-Doo voices:  "Ryrie.  RY-REE.  Ruh-roh."

7. Canada - Richard Ford.  One of the best opening lines ever:  "First, I'll tell you about the robbery our parents committed, then about the murders, which happened later."

8. The Three of Us - Georgette Jones. The daughter of country singers George Jones and Tammy Wynette reminisces about her parents, as well as her own life.  All were stormy, as benefits country royalty.  Georgette worked as a nurse for a while, but decided to pursue a career in country music a few years ago.  I checked out some of her videos on Youtube, and she's a really good singer.  I actually prefer her voice to Tammy's. This book surprised me with its deft ghostwriting and careful research.

9. License to Pawn - Rick Harrison.  Fans of the History Channel will recognize Harrison's name from the TV show Pawn Stars, which features him, his father (Old Man), his son (Corey/Big Hoss) and Corey's childhood friend, Chumlee working at their family business, The Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas.  Rick talks about his early life, the protocol of working in a pawn shop, some of the characters and objects that have come through those doors, and how he pursued the idea of turning the business into a reality show.  An enjoyable and informative read.  The other Pawn Stars principals get their own chapters in the book as well.   I love this book.  I love the show.  My mom thinks Rick is cute.  I think Old Man is cute and curmudgeonly.  Time for a trip to Vegas.

10. Our Valued Customers: Conversations From the Comic Book Store - Tim Chamberlain.  Hilarious!  Here are some of my favorite snippets that accompanied the cartoon drawings of customers:
"He reads Marvel *and* DC.  You just can't trust that guy."
"If Catwoman is so smart and together, why not knock off all that burglar shit and get a REAL job?"
"I just can't be with somebody who doesn't have room for Edward and Bella in his life."
"Fantasy football is just D&D for jocks."
"I wish there were comic book police and I could call 'em and be like, "HEY, they're fuckin' up Batman with a dumb story!  GET 'EM!"
"That movie's gonna suck, and Thor's lame, anyways.  He's not a superhero.  He's just an old Bible character."
"My son Trevin only reads books that are based on movies.  That way he already knows how they end and he won't get too anxious."
"If I ever get married and my wife doesn't want a Star Wars wedding, I'm gonna dump that chick on the spot."

June and July.  It was fun.  Time for some serious reading, though.  If I can.


Unapologetically Mundane said...

I can't believe my library actually had the ebook of License to Pawn. Just downloaded it! I also love those guys, so thanks for mentioning it. No Our Valued Customers, though, unfortunately.

fantsmacle said...

You got a lot of reading finished. When do you work and grade papers? How many books so far this year?

Jennifer Hartling said...

Oh my word I love your posts :) I've read a few of those..including License to Pawn which was a hoot. I've a soft spot in my heart for Caddie W since I'm a Wisconsin girl as well.

Care said...

Number the Stars in taught in our high school but I've only read the middle (while I was a sub); I really should find out how it ends.

Unruly Reader said...

I've been on a Nora Ephron spree, too. Fantastic stuff

Ryan said...

I loved Lamb. It's one of those books I've carried with me over the years that just won't go away.

John said...

This article is really worth reading, it has too much details in it and yet it is so simple to understand, Thanks for sharing the picture it has great detail in it and i really appreciate your true artistic work!

High School Diploma

Susan said...

Despite the heat you've done well, book-twin! Did you like the Ford book? I have got to read Home by Alison Bechdel, I had it out from the library but didn't have time to finish it. I like how your phrase it," most of us would cut ourselves on the broken pieces of our memories" (more or less). Nicely said!

Susan said...

Just saw your review of Canada, Sorry about that! lol off to read it now....