Thursday, June 01, 2023

May, 2023 Reading: Finally Finished Tess!

May was the Getting Stuff Done month, reading-wise. Instead of floating like a butterfly from book to book to book, I stayed with the ones piled up on the coffee table. However, my book buying tendencies ran amok. Amok af. I know the reason: Bookstore anxiety. I fear that if I don't buy something when I go into a bookstore, it will fail.

Seven books read this month. 6 out of the 7 were library books. 

Books bought -- I'd tell you the number, except that I don't know the number. Somewhere between amok and infinity. The corner curio cabinet in the living room had to be repurposed as a bookshelf. I like it better this way. The knickknacks that were there before never looked quite right, although the cat found them attractive. She now probably thinks that I'm tearing her playhouse down room by room.

Here are my books read for May:

1. The Farewell Tour - Stephanie Clifford. Novel. In 1980, Lillian Waters, or "Water Lil", as she is known, is a 58-year-old country music singer trying to make a last comeback after a diagnosis of polyps on her vocal chords. As she travels across the country, her life story is told in alternating chapters. There's also a mystery surrounding her early years in Washington State and an abusive but shadowy older sister. Good details about country music throughout the book. Good storytelling.

2. Madly, Deeply - Alan Rickman. Diaries. In spite of the footnotes, I didn't always know what or who Rickman was talking about, but I still enjoyed his musings. My favorite thing was his incisiveness about why a movie worked or didn't work. 

3. Abridged Classics - John Atkinson. Humor. So much fun. Classic novels distilled down to a few words. Favorite examples: 

War and Peace/Everyone is sad/It snows. 

Moby-Dick/Man vs. whale/ Whale wins. 

Robinson Crusoe/Old-timey Gilligan's Island. 

Mysteries of Udolpho/Gothic Scooby-Doo. 

The Canterbury Tales/ Medieval version of  "99 Bottles of Beer" with sex and poop jokes. 

Ethan Frome/Farmer's life can't possibly get any worse./Hey, a sled!

 Jane Eyre/Workplace romance gets fiery. 

Charlotte's Web/Clever web designer saves a pig.

4. How to Keep House While Drowning - KC Davis, LPC. Self-Help. (Funny aside: I was initially interested in this book because I thought it was a novel with one of those quirky and evocative titles.) KC Davis conceived this book a couple of years ago. She gave birth during the pandemic, and the support systems she'd set up for herself suddenly vanished. Did I mention she also had a toddler? She was in survival mode, and this book is for people who are in that mode whether it's from new parenthood, isolation, depression or they just don't know how to keep house. I appreciate her assertion that rest is important, there's no such thing as laziness, care tasks are morally neutral, and my favorite maxim of hers: "Anything that's worth doing is worth doing half-assed." The 5 things tidying method is the perfect hack for making sense out of chaotic surroundings. Another valuable tip is to try to do things for your future self. Life can get overwhelming, so I'm glad I read this one.

5. Writers & Lovers - Lily King. Novel. I read Euphoria a few years ago and absolutely loved it, so when this book came out, I was wary about reading it, fearing disappointment. I shouldn't have worried! Now I want to reread Euphoria and then go romp around in Lily King's backlist. 

6. Forget the Alamo - Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford. Nonfiction. Although the seemingly flippant title might be off-putting to many, this book is thoughtful and well-researched as it examines the origins of the Alamo and how the defenders grew to nearly mythical status. What were they defending? Were they really heroes? Should the Alamo be a shrine? Is there a richer, more nuanced, and more inclusive story to tell? The authors tackle these questions and bring the reader from those first Southern men who struck out for Texas up to present-day San Antonio. And Phil Collins, too! A captivating read.

7. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy. Novel. It took YEARS, but I finally finished this book. Wondering if Hanya Yanagihara read this, studied this as she was writing A Little Life. I suspect she's a bit of a Hardy girl since the main character in A Little Life is called Jude. Anyway. I despised Alec D'Urberville. That was easy; he is a moustache-twirling villain. A slimy bastard. A stock type. But who I really hated was Angel Clare, the "nice guy" Tess falls in love with after her bad encounter with Alec. Also frustrating was Tess's streak of fatalism and her dogged insistence on suffering so that she wouldn't do anything further to inconvenience Angel Clare after her confession of being a "fallen woman" on their wedding night. But yeah, Angel is the real villain of the piece. Tess was well-rid of him and didn't know it; that's the tragedy. When all is read and done, this may turn out to be my year for reading classics, but I'm not sure. It's going to take me a while to recover from this one.


Sam said...

You really stuck with it out this month, Susan. That's a pretty wide variance in reading material - and it sounds fascinating.

I am not sure I want my Alamo myth to be shattered since I've held on to it since I was a small child and became the proud owner of a Davy Crockett coonskin cap, but I know there's a lot more to the story than what is presented there by the keepers of that particular flame. I'm near Washington-on-the-Brazos where all the rest of the Texans met to write their declaration of independence from Mexico in 1836. I've done tons of reading on that period and I still walk the grounds every couple of years by myself just to walk the same little road that so many Texas heroes walked - some not long before losing their lives in the fight. I know some of the story, but I guess I'm reluctant even now to completely shed my blinders.

Bybee said...

Sam, Have you read Gates of the Alamo? I heard that it was good and it's at the local used bookstore beckoning to me.

Sam said...

I recommend it, Susan. Stephen Harrigan is one of my favorite writers of popular history books, and I do remember really liking this one. Gave it 5 stars on Goodreads as I recall.

Bybee said...

Thanks, Sam!