Wednesday, May 08, 2013

April 2013: And I Read

I'd like to thank my friend Becka for sending me these earrings. I'm pretty sure they have accentuated my reading superpowers as well as making me look a trifle cuter.

1. One For The Money - Janet Evanovich.  Count me in at long last.  I'm a Stephanie Plum fan.

2. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything - Joshua Foer.  This book was fascinating.  I thought it was going to be one of those "look at the weird thing I did for one year" books.  While there was that element, Foer also delved into the history of memory-making, how a well-trained memory was once something prized, why it ended up getting a bad rap, and how we now have almost everything that used to be in our minds on some external source.  Bring back memory training!  What I really need is to build a memory palace that holds all my students' names.  Not only do I have an ageing brain and lots of students, my students' names are 98% Korean with variations on a handful of one-syllable names.  I'm sure it can be done, though.  My first memory palace, which I built for the Pulitzer fiction winners, is still holding together after one month.

3. The Star Machine - Jeanine Basinger.  I waxed eloquent about Basinger in an earlier post.  Since then, I have learned of another movie upon which her commentary can be heard: Jezebel (1938) starring Bette Davis.  Must watch and listen.

4. French Milk - Lucy Knisley.  A few years ago, Knisley and her mother went to France and lived there for a few weeks over the holidays.  Knisley recorded every detail -- the day trips, the museums, their apartment, the people that popped in to see them during that time, and most of all the food!  Wow and wow. French Milk contains both photographs and drawings, so readers will appreciate her artistic talent even more.  I could have done without the pages and pages of Knisley having her quarter-life crisis several years too early, but hey, that's also what happened during the trip.  I'm looking forward to reading her follow-up, Relish.  You go, Lucy.  Keep that food theme going, and if you're worrying about getting close to 30 -- don't.

5. Silent Stars - Jeanine Basinger.  I wish I could give myself a 1910s or 1920s brain so I could appreciate silent films more.

6. I Do and I Don't: A History of Marriage in the Movies - Jeanine Basinger. Was it Borges that said when an old person dies, it's like a library burning down?  Probably not, but it sounds like something he would have said. When Basinger dies (way, way WAY in the future, I fervently hope) it's going to be like the most beautiful film palace in the world burning down.

7. A Land More Kind Than Home - Wiley Cash.  Since I was still in silver screen mode when I read this book, my mind flashed to Robert Mitchum.  In this horrific tale of religion gone terribly wrong, I imagined the crazy and controlling Pastor Carson Chambliss as a combination of two of Mitchum's characters: Harry Powell from The Night of the Hunter and Max Cady from Cape Fear.  This is a damn scary story, and I admire Wiley Cash so much for his choice of narrators.  It would have been more fun to have written from Chambliss' point-of-view, or the misguided young mother of Jess and Stump, or even poor, autistic Stump himself.  Those choices would have been understandable, but it would have been too much heat and too much beating readers over their heads.  I thought I was done with southern fiction, but Wiley Cash proved to  me that I'm not.

8. The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too - Annie Jean Brewer.  Ever since The Complete Tightwad Gazette came into my life, I've been a sucker for books like this.  Annie Jean Brewer is the  rawboned, cast-iron skillet of a gal version of Amy Dacyczyn.  She doesn't seem interested in the 19th century farmhouse with an attached barn.  Just the necessities, ma'am. It's a crash course in successful hardscrabble living in the 21st century. Many of her tips concerning technology are extremely helpful, not to mention up-to-date. You may not agree with everything Brewer suggests, but she provides plenty of food for thought.  I admire her guts and gumption.

9. Bless The Beasts and Children - Glendon Swarthout.  A group of misfits at an overpriced "cowboy camp" set out on a secret mission to rescue some buffalo that are being slaughtered for fun and profit. During their quest, the novel spirals forward and backward, giving readers a look at their backgrounds and their early and humiliating days at camp.  I was surprised to learn that Glendon Swarthout wrote this book as an "answer" to  The Lord of the Flies.  (Boys left to their own devices doing something noble rather than something evil.)  I am currently looking for a copy of another Swarthout novel called The Shootist.  I remember seeing a copy a few years ago at What The Book? in Seoul and picking it up and ultimately putting it back on the shelf and going on.  Do you suppose my forehead ever gets tired of me smiting it?

10. Two For The Dough - Janet Evanovich.  I was happy to see more of Grandma Mazur. She was played by Debbie Reynolds in the movie version of One For The Money!  I love Debbie, but it just didn't feel right. Anyway, kudos to Evanovich for bringing Lula back after her brush with death in the first book.  Since it's early in the series, I am hopeful that the very attractive Ranger will get more page time and Morelli a little bit less.

11. Marbles - Ellen Forney.  This graphic novel is Forney's chronicle of how she has struggled with being bipolar. She presents the manic side of herself first, and draws and writes about it so fetchingly and creatively that the reader begins to agree with her about being reluctant to medicate. I cannot lie -- I loved that version of Ellen and was sorry to see her disappear.  That part of  Marbles is the strongest and most vivid, but Forney's skill is even more in evidence as she presents the "down" side of her illness and in the subtle shadings of difference in the way she draws herself as she improves, then has a few frustrating setbacks, then improves again.   Both educational and entertaining.  I'm really getting into memoirs presented in the graphic novel format.

12. My Mortal Enemy - Willa Cather.  I consider myself a Willa Cather fan, but I sure don't like this sour novella about a petty middle-aged woman's disillusionment.  It should have stayed rolled up in Cather's typewriter or gone to its deserved rest in her wastepaper basket.  Better yet, she should have sent it to Edith Wharton and let her straighten it out.


Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I loved French Milk. I'll definitely have to read Relish. Cute earrings too!

Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader said...

I'm so curious about French Milk, I'm going to have to pick that up :)

I loooove the earrings! Adorable!

Susan said...

Yaaay for Stephanie Plum! I've read all 18 and some of them are downright hilarious - laugh out loud on the bus funny :-) Grandma Mazur is priceless. And there is more Ranger, don't worry! Much more :-D

Awesome reading month, book-twin. Th bi-polar graphic novel sounds interesting.

Susan said...

PS The earrings! They are beautiful! Adorable!

ettible said...

I have "Moonwalking" in my queue. Especially excited about the "bad rap" of good memories since I have a great memory for faces and am always embarrassed when I remember someone who can't recall me and acts like I'm obsessed with him or her. "French Milk" also sounds too good to resist.