Sunday, January 03, 2021

The Reads of December

 For some reason-- holiday spirit? -- I was in an amiable reading mood during December. I met my goal of 59 books, then tacked on another one. 60 isn't a big number, but its roundness pleases me.

Also: I finished Ducks, Newburyport! Still can't thank Care enough for bringing this book to my immediate attention, and then...and then...she brought it to my mailbox!

So here's what I read in December. I'll do the numbering to reflect how many books I'd read so far:

56. Ducks, Newburyport - Lucy Ellmann. Novel. This is my favorite read of 2020. It just fit the zeitgeist so well.

57. Who Was Jules Verne? - James Buckley, Jr. Nonfiction. More and more, I'm fascinated with this series, especially the editing. What gets mentioned. What doesn't get mentioned. What kinda-sorta gets mentioned. Kinda-sorta showed up in Jules Verne's story and distracted me to no end. I ran to Google without stopping. Later in his life, Verne was enjoying the fruits of his successful writing career buying homes and building boats and hosting Nellie Bly as she was recreating a trip around the world in 80 days. Suddenly, Verne's nephew shows up in the book and shoots Uncle Jules in the leg. The pain and the recovery are addressed in full, but the nephew disappears, just as abruptly as he appeared. WHY? WHY DID HE SHOOT HIS UNCLE? Google revealed more: the nephew was apparently nuts, and put in a mental asylum. Also: he shot at Uncle Jules TWICE. He missed the first time, then the second shot got Verne in the leg. I don't see why this information couldn't have been shoehorned in. In addition, there was some read-between-the-lines stuff about Jules Verne's son being a disappointment to his father.

58. Who Was Bruce Lee? - Jim Gigliotti. Nonfiction. I liked this biography of Bruce Lee so much! I hardly knew anything about the martial arts master and actor who shattered Asian stereotypes on film.

59. Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, The Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy - Leslie Brody. Nonfiction. As soon as I found out this book was out, I was one big long red scream of WANT! Luckily, the planets aligned; my birthday was also in December, and my friend was casting about for ideas for a present. So many interesting revelations in this biography! Like Gloria Vanderbilt (at roughly the same time) Louise Fitzhugh was at the center of an acrimonious child custody battle in Memphis. She found out all the details as a teenager, when she worked a summer job at a newspaper. She fled the south as soon as she could, and went to New York City. She lived openly as a lesbian, and was remarkably well-connected in artistic and literary circles. My eyes nearly popped out when I read that one of her partners was Constance Ford, who played Ada on Another World for decades. In spite of the richness of detail and the thoroughness of Leslie Brody's research, Fitzhugh comes off as elusive -- there were no diaries, so the reader doesn't quite get intimacy, immediacy with this fascinating woman. Kudos to Leslie Brody for first-rate spy work.

60. The Autobiography of Malcolm X - Malcolm X/Alex Haley. Nonfiction. Based on interviews Alex Haley conducted with Malcolm X for about five years, Haley organized and edited his material into a cohesive autobiography, which he explains in an extended epilogue.  Both are fascinating: Haley's collaboration with Malcolm X, as well as the actual the story of Malcolm X, who rose from poverty in the south to being a hustler in the larger northern cities like Detroit and New York, then after he was arrested and sent to prison for ten years, turned from an embittered convict to an educated, eloquent follower of Elijah Muhammad, and upon his release from prison, a leader in the Black Muslim movement, then after being cast out, finding larger truths after a pilgrimage to Mecca, then returning to America and living as a marked man. He was constantly questioning and growing and evolving and Haley captures it all in the interviews. This book has motion. It fairly pulsates. 


raidergirl3 said...

Ada from Another World? Very cool little detail. My grandmother always watched Another World, as did most of the Maritime provinces.
Happy New Year Bybee!

Bybee said...

Happy New Year, Raidergirl3! I liked Ada. She was the voice of reason in a soap opera world.

Sam said...

Happy New Year, Susan. I hope you have a spectacular 2021 in every way possible. I haven't spoken with you much in the last few months, so it's always good to see a new blog post. Take care of yourself.

Bybee said...

Thanks, Sam! I'm following your reading on goodreads with great interest. Happy New Year!

Care said...

YAY Ducks! Winner of the Care's Books & Pie 2020 Pie in Literature Award.

Ruthiella said...

I thought Ducks was amazing too. A work of genius.