Wednesday, May 06, 2020

April, 2020. Fourth Month, Four Books

O, my fellow bookworms. I am compelled to tell you about my dreams. For a couple of nights, people were working on books in my R.E.M. state. In the first dream, the pandemic was finished, and Mario and Chris Cuomo decided to co-author a book. For some reason, they were still in Chris Cuomo's basement.

The next night, I dreamed that Alex Trebek and his wife, Jean, had moved to a seaside village in South Korea, and Alex was working on a book. What makes the second dream feel very Squeeeee! and I clairvoyant? is that a couple of days after my dream, Alex Trebek announced that he'd written a book which will be published in July of this year.

Since then, I've been trying to think before bed who I'd really like to write a book, but nothing has come of it in spite of my dogged planning. Isn't that the way it always goes?

During my waking hours, these are the four books I finished in April:

1. The Mirror & The Light - Hilary Mantel. The 16th century is so far back in time, but Mantel makes it feel so current, maybe even more than she intended. Real life seemed to explode on the page: Henry VIII reminded me of a prominent political figure. The plague was a constant threat. Someone sent Thomas Cromwell a leopard. As in the first two books, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, I admire how Mantel seems to get completely into Cromwell's brain. It's not just what he thinks in response to others (although these internal musings are often funny) but also the elaborate machinations. Keeping all those balls in the air at the same time took so much concentration that he underestimated his enemies. Cromwell's sudden downfall and last days are difficult reading. Mantel's trilogy ranks up there with my favorite historical fiction.

2. Who Was Nikola Tesla? - Jim Gigliotti. Much to my surprise, this turned out to be my favorite in the Who was...? series so far. So well-written. A terrific balance of the inventor's accomplishments and eccentricities.

3. Alice Adams: Portrait of a Writer - Carol Sklenicka. The author of this biography also wrote the Raymond Carver one, which was published back in 2009. Both are first-rate. I had a wrong idea about Alice Adams as a writer. I thought she was frothy and shallow and snooty, and avoided reading her work. I feel terrible about that now. She was none of those things, and passionately dedicated to her craft. I put all of her novels on my wishlist. Thanks so much to Carol Sklenicka for a beautiful and perceptive portrait.

4. Janis: Her Life and Music - Holly George-Warren. This biography of Janis Joplin was so enjoyable, so readable! Yes, Joplin was a hellraiser and took a lot of drugs and drank a lot of Southern Comfort, but George-Warren also documents how Joplin was ambitious about her music career. She emerges as having been ahead of her time. All biographers have themes. Sometimes they work and sometimes they choke the narrative, but Holly George-Warren chose hers with an expert eye. I recommend this biography wholeheartedly.

Speaking of biographies, did you see that Benjamin Moser's biography of Susan Sontag won the Pulitzer Prize in that category? I squealed like a fangirl.


raidergirl3 said...

Did the book talk about Tesla’s pigeons? Lol
Hank green has a great YouTube video about Tesla I love to show my physics classes; love Tesla!!

Marg said...

I am very much looking forward to reading The Mirror and the Light.