Tuesday, August 04, 2020

May, 2020 Reads

With a bit of a calendar flip, you're into the time slip and nothing will ever be the same...

Here's what I read long, long ago in May, 2020:

 The Brooklyn Follies - Paul Auster. Novel.
This was the very last 2  books I bought while living in Korea. A new English used bookstore called Ebony & Ivory had opened in Cheonan, and I couldn't find it and couldn't find it. Complained to my bookworm buddy Paul Cunningham and he took me there. I picked up The Brooklyn Follies and he commented that it was decent. I also purchased Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy Hughes. I was charmed by The Brooklyn Follies. It feels kind of Damon Runyonesque but more for 21st century sensibilities. A large portion of the book takes place in a bookshop in New York City. Brooklyn. I think the novel was probably meant as a valentine to the last days before 9/11.

 Songs for the Missing - Stewart O'Nan.  Novel.
The story is not new, unfortunately. A young woman, just weeks away from going off to college for her freshman year, goes missing. While heartbreaking and horrifying, O'Nan concentrates on the grim, practical tasks that fall to her family, then the endless waiting for closure. Told in a matter-of-fact, muted style. It was even more effective than if there had been outbursts of emotion on every page. I almost DNF'ed it. A difficult read, but very well done.

Who Was Abigail Adams? - True Kelley. Nonfiction/Biography.
Abigail Adams is most famous for being the wife and mother to two U.S. presidents, but the voluminous amount of correspondence with John Adams she left behind shows that she was so much more. She was considerably more forward-thinking than the Founding Fathers, for she opposed slavery and supported women's rights. Raise a glass to the first Second Lady as well as the second First Lady! Damn, I feel as if I need to go and listen to 1776 again.

The Lost Landscape - Joyce Carol Oates. Memoir.
Oates writes with great respect and affection about her mother and father, Carolina and Fred Oates, and the positive impact they had on her life. Except for an early chapter (bizarre, humorous) about a chicken that toddler Joyce was attached to, this doesn't feel like an Oates book. Love and sunlight seem to radiate from every page.

Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years - Julie Andrews. Memoir.
This second volume of Andrews's memoir picks up as she is pregnant with her daughter, Emma and on her way to meet with Walt Disney about Mary Poppins. Since Andrews is expecting, she tells Disney and figures she's out of the running. Disney tells her that it's okay, they'll wait. The rest is of course, Hollywood history. Home Work covers a large portion of her Hollywood career and meeting and falling in love with director Blake Edwards, and their blended families. Much of the book involves traveling from location to location and all their homes -- Julie makes it sound quite stressful. Also interesting were allusions about her slightly dysfunctional birth family that make me want to read Home, the first volume of her memoir. Also looking forward to volume 3.

Redhead By the Side of the Road - Anne Tyler. Novel.
How do I love Anne Tyler? Let me count the ways. I love that every novel takes place in or around Baltimore. I love her quirky main characters with their real hearts and hurts -- they aren't just billboards for quirk. I love the up-to-the-moment feel of each book. I love the messy warmth and confusion of her families when they get together. I love the sideways, gentle, homely and often spot-on way the characters speak. I love it when the main character ruminates, and I love the unexpected character who is often a foil for the main character. All of this and more showed up in Redhead By the Side of the Road, Tyler's latest novel. Micah Mortimer, 40ish, is a self-employed tech expert who goes through life at a slight remove, trying not to make any mistakes. (I loved his ongoing commentary with Traffic God. I could relate.) But it's never that simple in a Tyler novel. His girlfriend breaks up with him for a careless remark, and a young man (the son of an his college girlfriend) who's convinced that Micah's his father shows up at his door one day. Being in the Tylerverse is never a bad thing, but it was even better in 2020. Speaking of 2020, Will Anne Tyler produce a book set during this time?

My Dark Vanessa - Kate Elizabeth Russell. Novel.
Vanessa goes away to boarding school in 2000 when she's about 15, and is drawn into an inappropriate relationship with her English teacher. They continue to communicate years after high school, and his unhealthy influence over her life finally gets some much-needed cracks in it when another student (by now it's the twenty-teens) armed with better knowledge about predatory behavior and more support brought about by changing attitudes decides to bring charges against the teacher. Vanessa slowly begins to realize that the teacher manipulated her skill in interpreting literature, urging her to apply nuance to a situation that should not ever be nuanced at all. Although My Dark Vanessa was an uncomfortable and often infuriating read, I read it all in one sitting.

Next: June, 2020

1 comment:

Care said...

I've read and enjoyed Songs for the Missing - I think O'Nan delivered. I read it as a readalong if you want to see what others said, too: https://bkclubcare.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/songs-for-the-missing/

YES! To Abigail. What a woman.

I need to read more Anne Tyler.

I want to read, I think? I think I want to read.. My Dark Vanessa. But it actually sounds too creepy for me.