Mar 06

March 2006 Books

March 5, 2006
Wickett’s Remedy by Myla Goldberg

I’ve been interested in reading this for a while, as I Ioved Bee Season very much. Gael, as usual, came through for me and I polished it off with much relish. The historical perspectives came off as authentic to my ear and I was interested to know that many of the newspaper articles included in the narrative were originals. The several stories meshed together pretty well although when I finished the book I found myself wondering if that was it…the ending seemed incomplete to me for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on. I didn’t quite understand the margin thing at first…I thought it was because I had an advance reading copy or something…but I enjoyed the snarky asides quite a bit.

March 14, 2006
Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres

I don’t know why it took me so long to start this; I think I thought it would be too heavy for a bus book or something. Anyway, it’s a very dense and layered story, happening in a very specific time and place (Turkey during World War One) and reading it made me realize how little I know about world history; one of the dubious privileges of being an American, I suppose. I loved many of the characters, especially Rustem Bey and Abdulhamid Hodja. I liked the friendships between the Muslims and Christians and the descriptions of the village life of Eskibahce…I thought in those sections of the stories that the love story between Ibrahim and Philothei was probably the weakest link, but it was still pretty good. The context of the story is sad and horrifying, but I have to say the whole thing really makes me want to visit Turkey now…I am fascinated by the mix of people in the book and I wonder if it’s still like that there.

March 17, 2006
The Love Of A Good Woman by Alice Munro

March 20, 2006
Hateship, Friendship, Loveship, Courtship, Marriage by Alice Munro

March 22, 2006
Open Secrets by Alice Munro

I’m going to count these three sets of short stories by my beloved, amazing Alice Munro as one because they really all do work so well together and it was such a pleasure to sink down into the worlds she makes. One reason I love re-reading (which I really haven’t done too much of since I started keeping track of what I read) is that sense of relief when you know it’s a good book and you know you’re going to like reading it but you still find something new every time. I can’t pick out just one of the stories in these three collections as my favorite because they are, almost all of them, so entirely brilliant. It’s nice just to swim in them for a while…I still don’t have her latest, Runaway, but it was great to feel a sense of luxury that comes with just being able to keep reading her, keep reading her, for almost as long as I wanted.

March 24, 2006
An Alphabet For Gourmets by M.F.K. Fisher

I found this on 50 Books and was intrigued by the idea…I’ve heard M.F.K. Fisher’s name and I knew it had to do with food but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from her. It turns out I like her writing style more than I like her writing subject, I think…I just couldn’t relate very well to vignettes about caviar in Paris between the wars, or perfect bottles of Chateau Lafitte in the Swiss mountains. I mean, I’d like to be able to relate to those things, very much, and I guess it’s a testament to her writing that I could even figure out what Chateau Lafitte is (booze, right?). Anyway, I’m a huge fan of acerbic, so I liked this just fine, even though I didn’t always understand what was going on or what the point was. I was also drugged up from getting my wisdom teeth out, that may have had something to do with it too.

March 26, 2006
Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search For Everything In Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert

My lovely friend Anne-Carolyn gave this to me for my birthday, and initially I was a little suspicious because I’d read some negative reviews about it and was pretty sure that it wouldn’t be my cup of tea. But then I got my wisdom teeth out and it was right there and so I ended up reading it pretty much straight through. I had some problems with the writing style, which I suspect were because her style is similar to my own in that it sounds like someone talking and I was projecting or something. Either that or I’m jealous. Yeah. I’m jealous because I want someone to pay me to find myself in three countries, for real. Some of those reactions to her writing and her situation made me roll my eyes a little but I also reacted pretty strongly to some of the spiritual thoughts and experiences she had and I’ve been thinking about them since I finished it.

March 27, 2006
Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres

I just burned though this, read it one day. It’s weird…she writes, in some ways, very dispassionately about some stuff that is clearly very close to the bone, as would make sense in a memoir. She is also clearly very bitter about her experiences, but interestingly she doesn’t write bitterly, if that makes sense. In fact as I was thinking about this book today I realized that she gets something about being a teenager really right, and maybe it’s that dispassionate style that gets across the alienation of difference that’s so key to so many people’s experience of being a teenager. On a completely different note, the racism depicted in this book made me uncomfortably aware my own racism, which is quite a feat, I think. And I found the descriptions of the Dominican Republic, what there was of it, matched up pretty well to my own hazy memories of being there as a teen missionary. The religious stuff…which is the real meat of the book, and which I see I have completely neglected to indicate as such…also made me sort of exquisitely uncomfortable for reasons I can’t quite articulate. I am hard pressed to say whether I liked this book, but I guess since I literally couldn’t put it down there must have been something compelling about it. I just can’t figure what that one thing was yet, I guess.

March 30, 2006
My Fundamentalist Education: A Memoir Of A Divine Girlhood by Christine Rosen

This seemed less like a memoir than just a really long description of…school. I guess, unlike Eat Pray Love (which I am still talking a lot about even though it’s still sort of driving me crazy to think about everything in that book). I guess it had less of a plot or story arc…which is weird to even notice because it’s not like most of life does, right. Most of life is like this book: you go to school and you learn some stuff and you notice that your family is different from other families and you start to grow up and think differently about the stuff you’ve learned in school. There’s no second act denouement or anything, for most people…I guess because sometimes it’s really hard to understand when the second act is. Anyway. Let’s return to the subject of the book itself: going to a Christian school in Florida in the eighties. Now, I didn’t go to a Christian school but I was heavily involved at church for pretty much all of the eighties. In Florida. So, lots of points I recognized…I laughed out loud every time I recognized a little Florida thing, like catching anole lizards and making them bite onto your ear for earrings, or finding alligators in untoward places like garages and swimming pools. (I have never found an alligator in a swimming pool but rumor had it that there was one living in the library pond and I know for a fact there’s a saltwater crocodile in one of the Quiet Gardens lakes). I also laughed whenever I recognized a praise song that I used to sing (“It only takes a spaaaark….” and “Jehovah Jireh! My provider!” made me snort on the bus) or when she wrote about some of the same things I used to do in that part of my life, like underlining certain Bible verses or being concerned about atheists in Communist Russia. (In youth group we played a game called Church Underground where you got to run around having secret meetings of two or more and elude the KGB officers, or something). People are always really surprised to hear I was a Teen Evangelist back in the day so it’s really rare I get to talk about it with someone who gets it and doesn’t think it’s all just ridiculous brainwashing or whatever. The pleasure of reading this book was in learning that there’s someone else out there who understands Florida, and understands Christian fundamentalism, and who ended up leaving both but still has some love and affection for those things, just like I do.