Saturday, April 28, 2007

April: Eyeballs In Overdrive

After last month's paltry intake, April turned out to be a terrific reading month. 7 books finished -- a good number for me. Here are reviews of 4. I'll post the others later. I'm sweating over a hot review of How To Cook A Wolf.

The Measure Of A Man -Sidney Poitier
Poitier is interesting when he writes about his early life in the Bahamas, then his subsequent move to Florida, where he encountered hardcore racial prejudice for the first time as a teenager. Glimpses into his movie career leave the reader wanting much more. His analysis on which character, the mother or the son, "owns" the play, A Raisin In The Sun, was fiercely intelligent. The book needed to be more tightly edited. It feels slightly disjointed, and Poitier has a tendency to ramble a little.

Confessions Of A Failed Southern Lady -Florence King
If you've never read Florence King, you're in for a treat. Start with this memoir of her growing up in the 1930s and 40s in Washington, D.C. with her hilariously unconventional extended family which included her British father, a musician and bookworm extraordinaire; her chain-smoking tomboy mother who raises cussing to a fine art (in one of her milder epithets, she refers to Florence's prissy grade-school teacher as "a Friday turd at Saturday market".); and her dowager grandmother who is convinced that a woman's not a "real woman" unless she's in delicate health "down there".

Since Granny is also staunchly convinced that the tomboy and the bookworm would muck up Florence's upbringing, she arrives months before the January, 1934 birth and never leaves, determined to mold Florence into a true Southern lady. Does she succeed? Florence remarks, "No matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street." Confessions loses a little steam when Florence grows up and goes off to graduate school, but King losing steam is not like lesser writers losing steam. She's brilliant. It's a relief though, when Florence returns home to Herb, Mama and Granny toward the end of the memoir.

So far, this is my only re-read of the year. Make that re-re-re-read. I LOVE THIS BOOK! Another King book I strongly recommend is With Charity Towards None: A Fond Look At Misanthrophy.

Outsider -Diana Palmer
They were married for only one night. The next morning he left her abruptly and they haven't seen each other for over five years. Sarina tells herself that she doesn't love Colby but when they both end up working at the same company, her bosom can't stop heaving, she can't stop blushing and her long blonde hair can't help falling out of its bun when he's in the room (which is damn often for 2 people who have sworn to avoid each other).

I don't understand. The man is ruggedly handsome, but he's as dumb as a box of rocks! Sarina has a child who's almost five, and Colby thinks she belongs to someone else because his treacherous ex-wife assured him that he was sterile.

Really, Colby! Even though you have that prosthetic hand now, it's still got fingers upon which you can count! Also, let's look at the facts: You're part Apache and the little girl, Bernadette, looks like you. (Colby: "Is her father Hispanic or something?") In addition, you've got a mysterious ESP connection with Bernadette: She knows exactly how you lost your arm in Africa. Furthermore, you get cravings for pizza when Bernadette mentions to her mother what she'd like for dinner. In conclusion, your ex-wife has shown herself to be an extreme bitch and a consummate manipulator. She broke the news to you that you were sterile? Uh, Colby, most people consult with a doctor. Even the brick of Colby-Jack cheese I'm hoarding in my freezer is sharper than that.

To keep the reader from napping while Colby recovers from Ralph de Bricassart Syndrome, Diana Palmer has the star-crossed couple fight a few times, then fall into bed a couple of times, although of course they never intend to. Fall into bed, that is. When they do get there, we find out that there's about 76 different ways to refer to Colby's remarkable male endowment without once saying those words. [Note to myself: Move thesaurus over to bedside table.]

Even though Colby's knuckles (both the prosthetic and the real) drag the ground till late in the story, at least he talks like a guy. The other men in the story talk like a fantasy of how most women wish men would talk --warm, concerned, gushing about their wonderful wives and kids nonstop and complimenting the other guys on their wonderful wives and kids with a little bit of work detail thrown in and nothing about last night's game. Yeah, right.

Speaking of work, both Colby and Sarina have secrets they're afraid to tell each other: Will Sarina still love Colby when she finds out he was in the CIA? Will Colby still love Sarina when he finds out that she's not really a low-paid secretary, but a DEA agent? Will they both be SOL?

Damn. I didn't like this book, but I've got an urge to write my own romance now. (Maybe something with expats bouncing off of each other...)

The Annotated Charlotte's Web -E.B. White, Peter F. Neumeyer
It was so great to revisit this classic novel, and read Neumeyer's thoughtful notations in the margins. Even better were the selected E.B. White essays at the end of the book. "The Death Of A Pig", about an ailing pig on his farm that he tried unsuccessfully to nurse back to health, is a masterpiece of language and brevity. Neumeyer also gives a favorable mention to a biography of E.B. White; I'll have to track it down.


jenclair said...

Okay, I'm going to have to look at Confessions, you've gotten me interested.

However, I will have to stop laughing at your review of Outsider before I do anything else! That is the most entertaining book review I think I've ever read!

kookie said...

I've never read Florence King, but you do make her sound interesting. I have noticed that in many, many memoirs the author's childhood is more engrossing than their college years. Wonder why.

Literary Feline said...

I agree with Jenclair. That Outsider review was hilarious, Bybee!

Jill ONeill said...

I do enjoy reviews with a sense of the ridiculous. One would think writers would learn to step back and think about some of their narrative ploys.

maggie moran said...

Cofessions sounds so good!

darkorpheus said...

Heehee. Love the take on Outsider.

And I've been wondering if I should pick up the Florence King book for my Southern Reading Challenge. I think my mind is made up. Yes!

Thanks for the laughs. It was fun!

Booklogged said...

Outsiders may not have been worth reading, but your review was absolutely fabulous. Fabulous and funny, funny, funny. Thanks for the laughs.

Anonymous said...

I have a copy of Confessions and frankly just had it stored away for BookCrossing, but now I think I might actually have to read it first!