Sunday, January 24, 2010

Home Safe

Sometimes the perfect book hits at the perfect time. I read Home Safe the day after a trip to The San Fransisco Bay Area. Since the book involves that area and Chicago the conflict between those areas for the main character were palpable. And, because I'm struggling with writing group problems, parts of it felt like a message to me: not only to keep on writing, but also not to give up on the idea of a functional and healthy writing group. It was the perfect book for that particular day. But it is also one of the rare BOOKS I RECOMMEND TO MY MOM. Not because the mother daughter issues in the book reflect ours, but because I think she'll also feel like she and Helen and Tessa are just friends you haven't seen in a while.

Home Safe: A Novel Home Safe: A Novel by Elizabeth Berg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Helen, a successful writer, lost her husband, and after a year of emptiness and blank pages. She's turning all the energy she used to spend on writing and hr life towards interfering in her daughter, Tessa's, life instead. Then she finds out her husband was keeping a very big secret which involved removing most of their life savings. Reading this book is like having a long conversation about everything with an old friend you haven't talked to in a while. Helen and Tessa and their muddled relationship jump from the page. Since Helen can't write and is suddenly in more dire financial straits than she was prepared for she takes on teaching a writing class, and the class finally draws her out of herself.This book is one to suggest to most every mother, daughter, grandmother, or person who has ever lost anyone ever. Red Flags: The book groups are unrealistic and not as well drawn as they could be. Since it is a book about a writer other writers may find this jarring. If you don't like tidy endings you may not like this book.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Magical and redemptive

Hoping for blogdemption:
I've fallen off the review wagon. These things happen. The holidays come around, the Law and Order marathons add up, you start actually planning that whole wedding thing, and suddenly you've read 20 books and haven't reviewed a single one of them. If by you I mean me, anyway. This makes writing a blog entry doubly hard because if I don't review books what exactly is this blog here to do? Ideally I'd have found a niche by now. Probably said niche can be found in same place I keep thinking I'm headed before I get distracted by other things and shy of public forums: awkwardness+customer oriented community-based vocation. That is to say: Awkward Librarianism. Again.

So here is an awkward transition to a discussion about pop culture featuring a quote from Sherman Alexie.

This brings me to Magical?

So Paul was certainly not addicted to the present day. on the contrary, Paul believed that the present, past, and future were all happening simultaneously, and that any era's pop culture was his pop culture. And sure, pop culture could be crass and manipulative, and sometimes evil, but it could also be magical and redemptive.
From "The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless" in "War Dances" by Sherman Alexie.

Maybe it is the anthropologist in me, but do you know what I love to imagine? I love to imagine people reading popular contemporary authors being read in classrooms and lecture halls and analyzed as "classics." I think that the Nicholas Sparks and Nora Roberts, as fun and palatable as they are, will not endure to that point. However, I like to think the Nick Hornbys, Sherman Alexies, and Audrey Niffeneggers (well, at least TTW) might just make it to that point.

The truth is, of course, I have no idea what piece of our pop culture will become a piece of future pop culture. It could be someone as yet undiscovered who is discovered to have written amazing pieces about now 10 years after they die. It could be that not a single title published in the past ten years is ever discussed by anyone 100 years from now. The zombiepocalypse may have happened and their may be no one left to discuss much of anything. Or maybe everyone will be reading Harry Potter and Twilight 500 years from now and making vast sweeping generalizations about everyone who was around at the end of the last millennium or the beginning of this one based on Hogwart's Sorting Cap and Bella Swan's insatiable use of adverbs.

But really, this is all just my awkward way of saying that I really liked the collection of short stories in War Dances. I like Sherman Alexie and I hope that his works endure and become part of the pop culture of the ages. Because, his books and stories don't just give me an escape for a few moments, but instead leaving me twisting with the ideas behind them and the characters and situations in them.

Whew, tied it all together there in the end, I hope.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Awkward* Reading in Twenty Ten

More of this.

  • Nonfiction.

  • Graphic Novels.

  • High Fantasy.

  • Bestsellers and book club choices.

  • Essays, articles, books, blogs on writing by writers.

  • Audiobooks. This is one area of my own RA and everyone else's where I have trouble. I know what I like when I hear it but very often it takes a special book to draw me in and keep me listening and that is hard to find.

Less of this.

  • Superhero stories, until someone does something that really surprises me like "Hero" by Perry Moore did.

  • Comfortable fluffy reads (for emergency use only.)

  • Bizarrely addictive blogs where people laud appalling behavior. (I think you know what I mean.)

  • TV. Seriously way too much of my reading time goes to the evil USA and TBS crime drama marathon monster.

  • Blogs about publishing. Why do I obsess about how to write a query letter when I haven't even written anything worth inquiring about?

*The reading itself isn't awkward, but as usual, I am.