Sunday, October 21, 2018

Nine and Nine

These are the nine books I read in September:

1. Homesick for Another World - Ottessa Moshfegh. Short story collection, and the best one I've read in years. Make that decades.

2. Girl [Maladjusted] - Molly Jong-Fast. Slight but saucy memoir written when Jong-Fast was in her 20s. I first became aware of her on Twitter where her posts are lively, pungent and frequent, just the way I like them.

3. Eat Stop Eat - Brad Pilon. One of the pioneers of intermittent fasting. A lot of science, but if you struggle with that sort of writing, as I do, it's worth the effort.

4. Educated - Tara Westover. This memoir of a girl from a strict, survivalist Mormon family who went from almost pure ignorance to study at Cambridge had me nearly breathless with horror at close intervals. Every time she went back to the mountain to see her family, I was screaming, "Don't go there! Stay away!" Educated has all the tension of a well-executed novel, which is probably why many readers doubt Westover's veracity. I don't doubt her. The details are extremely specific, and Westover is painstaking in her exploration of memory, comparing her own experiences with her siblings'. Don't miss this one. Excellent read.

5. Giant: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Edna Ferber and the Making of a Legendary Film  -Don Graham. I bought this book because I like behind-the-scenes gossip about moviemaking, and also because the dust jacket is extraordinarily gorgeous. The 1955 movie's main claim to fame is that it was James Dean's last appearance on film. I started watching Giant after reading this book, but had to pause after an hour. It feels really slow and ponderous. Thumbs-up to Graham's look at it, though. I would like to read the novel, although Edna Ferber is kind of a mixed bag for me.

6. Humans of New York - Brandon Stanton. A wonderful book-long photo essay that shows occupants of New York beautifully captured, shining out their humanity and truth. A visual feast.

7. Unbecoming - Rebecca Scherm. I liked this novel better than I thought I would. Kept getting enjoyable whiffs of Gillian Flynn and Patricia Highsmith. The ending was a little disappointing, but overall, a good read. I like being surprised out of my assumptions.

8. Heroes of the Frontier - Dave Eggers. After what has been a rotten year, Josie hurls herself into the Alaskan wilderness with her two young children in tow. I'm not sure what Eggers is trying to accomplish in this novel, because Josie's journey is more about good luck than good management. Maybe a modern spin on Jack London? In spite of my puzzlement, I did enjoy the book; I even enjoyed Eggers' sometimes long-winded rantiness via Josie about the modern world.

9. Can You Ever Forgive Me? - Lee Israel.  In the spirit of Catch Me If You Can, Israel cool and unrepentant, recounts her stint as a literary forger when her career of writing bestselling biographies suddenly tanked. I can't help admiring her creativity and audacity. This episode in her life has been made into a movie starring Melissa McCarthy; I MUST see it. I also want to check out Israel's biographies of Tallulah Bankhead and Dorothy Kilgallen.  A fast, entertaining read.

Common Bonds:

Giant was based on an Edna Ferber novel.  Ferber was one of the literary lions Lee Israel forged in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Educated and Heroes of the Frontier: Raw, sometimes unforgiving wilderness terrain.

Homesick for Another World and Can You Ever Forgive Me? Moshfegh and Israel have similar hardboiled, audacious writing styles.

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