Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Set in northern Wisconsin in 1907, Ralph Truitt has been alone for 20 years. Plagued by despair and loneliness, Truitt decides that he does not want to be alone anymore. He places a personal ad for a wife and chooses Catherine Land from the responses. When Catherine steps off the train, Truitt knows immediately that she is not who she claims to be. I will not say any more so as to not give away too much of the plot, but it was a fantastic read. There is a beautiful paragraph towards the end that I think really sums up the feeling of the novel without giving anything away:
"It was a story of people who don't choose life over death until it's too late to know the difference, people whose goodness is forgotten, left behind like a child's toy in a dusty playroom, people who see many things and remember only a handful of them and learn from even fewer, people who hurt themselves, who wreck their own lives and then go on to wreck the lives of those around them, who cannot be helped or assuaged by love or kindness or luck or charm, who forget kindness, the feeling and practice of it, and how it can save even the worst, most mishappen life from despair. It was just a story about despair."
While I usually prefer happier fair, this was such an absorbing story. The characters are so flawed, but so real. And despite their flaws, they are incredibly interesting. The plot is unpredictable and the writing is quite good (see paragraph above). There is also some good fodder here for book groups, but there is quite a bit of sex, so keep that in mind. Goolrick says in the author's note that this book was influenced by a photo essay he read in 1973 called Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy. He says this book paints "a haunting, cinematic portrait of a small town in Wisconsin at the diseased end of the nineteenth century." You know I'll be checking that out. Stay tuned.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The America Booksellers Association has announced the winners of its Indies Choice Awards. For Best Indie Buzz Book (Fiction): The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. For Best Conversation Starter (Nonfiction): The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell. For Best Author Discovery: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. For Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book (Fiction): The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
British novelist J. G. Ballard died this Sunday, April 19th. Ballard was probably best known for his novel Crash, an exploration of sexual fetishism connected to automobile accidents, and his semi-autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun, about his childhood internment by the Japanese during World War II.
The American Library Association has released its list of most challenged books of 2008. Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner makes the list and Tango Makes Three tops the list again.
In publishing news...Dan Brown's long-awaited continuation of the Robert Langdon series will be released September 15th and is titled The Lost Symbol. The publisher will print 5 million copies in the first printing. Kate Jacobs' third novel in her Knitting Club series will be released in November and is titled Knit the Season. Stephen King's next novel will also be released in November. Under the Dome is a story about a small town in Maine that is mysteriously sealed off from the rest of the world by a dome. The novel comes in at about 1000 pages and took King 25 years to write. Hugo Award-winner Greg Bear will be writing a trilogy based on the popular video game Halo. Margaret Drabble claims she is retiring from writing.
In movie news...film rights for Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger have been sold. Nicole Kidman is said to be bidding on rights to Chris Cleave's Little Bee. Brad Pitt's production company is producing the adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love, starring Julia Roberts. Peter Jackson is directing the adaptation of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. He says that this is one of his most difficult movies to date. Really? More difficult than all the orcs, elves, hobbits, wizards and magical rings? Warner Brothers decided to give Harry Potter fans a break and release Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince two days early. The film will now open July 15th instead of the 17th. The Soloist, based on Steve Lopez's novel, will open this weekend, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx.How dysfunctional is your reading? Take this quiz at the Guardian to find out. I'm borderline.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The popularity of the Green movement has led to a huge increase in "green" books, especially regarding food. In the past few years, books like Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, Marion Nestle's Food Politics and Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation have become incredibly popular and have led to the publication of many other titles that examine the physical, ethical and environmental impact of food. In preparation for an upcoming book talk, I have been reading quite a few of these books, so I will be blogging about them over the next few weeks.
When it comes to seafood, I know there are some fish you should avoid, but I can never remember which ones. Or why. Taras Grescoe covers everything you need to know about seafood in his book Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood. Grescoe explains the various reasons we need to be careful about the type of fish we consume. With regards to environmental impact, many species have been overfished and many methods of capture are harmful to the ocean. Farmed fish often have a very negative impact on the environment as well. With regards to health, some species have higher levels of mercury, and some farmed fish have high levels of antibiotics and other contaminants. Grescoe very clearly outlines the issues and at the end provides a breakdown of what is and is not OK to eat.* Fascinating information about the seafood industry and fishing practices. The figures and statistics are staggering and will surely make you think twice the next time you eat fish. This is a great read for someone who wants to eat more conscientiously. And if you don't care, then you really need to read this book.
*Basically: the larger, longer-lived species of fish such as grouper and swordfish have been overfished and have higher levels of mercury. These are big no-no's. Most of the fish in the Atlantic ocean has been overfished as well, so go with Pacific. Farmed fish is usually ok if it's organic. Wild-caught is often ok if it is "local," meaning North America. Many other countries continue to overfish and use catch methods that are destructive to the ocean environment. The good news: the wild-caught Alaskan salmon is all good.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
"She shook the last of the water from the potatoes. The skins came off easily, like a shawl sliding off a woman's shoulders."
Ugh. After a while I found myself only half-listening and by mid-way through the book I realized I did not want to listen to this anymore. But, because I was determined to finish the book, I thought I would at least skim the rest of the print. The individual stories of the students in the class aren't bad, and I found myself wanting to find out what had brought them to this cooking class, until I got to Tom's story. Tom was deeply in love with his wife, who died of cancer. For a moment I thought I might actually continue reading after I read this moving paragraph:
"After the weeks and months of watching, of life suspended in the bottomless well of Charlie's illness, the world seemed absurdly practical. There were bills to pay, a lawn to mow...Incoming phone calls reverted to casual check-ins from friends; no longer was he the source of grim updates. The hand-delivered meals from helpful neighbors slowed and then disappeared. He went to the grocery store without wondering if she would be there when he returned, the churning in his stomach replaced by a more certain and deeper ache. She was nowhere and everywhere, and he couldn't stop looking."
But on page 133, the ridiculousness returns and that did it for me. If you really want to know what happens, you can read the book, but let's just say that it was the manner in which Tom disposes of his wife's ashes.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Amanda Foreman’s biography Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire chronicles Georgiana’s rise to fame, as well as the demons she faced in her personal life. Foreman draws on an abundance of primary sources to recreate the lives of these wealthy aristocrats. Numerous letters between Georgiana and her mother, as well as Bess (her best friend and husband’s mistress) have survived and provide much of the insight into what Georgiana was thinking and feeling at the time. Foreman also quotes from the daily newspapers, which followed the movements of Georgiana and her contemporaries much like People magazine does with today’s celebrities. The narrative does get bogged down from time to time with Foreman’s description of politics. Georgiana was heavily involved in the Whig party, so it is expected that the author would include some discussion of this topic. However, she provides a depth of detail on the rival parties, their histories, and their members that may be more than the average reader really wants to know. Because I was more interested in Georgiana’s relationships, I skimmed over much of the politics to get to the good stuff. But overall, Foreman paints a vivid portrait of 18th century aristocratic society and provides an intimate look at a fascinating woman.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
In the meantime, here are some things you may find of interest...
Al Gore has written a follow-up to An Inconvenient Truth titled Our Choice. While An Inconvenient Truth was focused on spreading the truth about global warming, his latest book will offer ways that we can fix the problem. Due out in November.
Science fiction writer Robert Jordan, who passed away in 2007, left the last installment of his Wheel of Time series unfinished. The novel has been finished by Brandon Sanderson and will be published in three separate volumes. The first volume is due out in November.
An assistant of the late Michael Crichton found a completed manuscript in Crichton's computer files titled Pirate Latitudes. The adventure story is set in 17th century Jamaica and will be published in November.
Andy Garcia is co-writing and directing a movie about the last years of Ernest Hemingway's life. Anthony Hopkins and Annette Bening are in the running to star. How great would that be? They would be perfect for those roles.
Fox has acquired film rights to adapt Alan Weisman's The World Without Us. This will not be a documentary, but a fictional feature based on the ideas in Weisman's book showing an event that would lead to man's disappearance. How uplifting.
Sana Krasikov's collection of stories titled One More Year has won the $100,000 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for emerging writers of Jewish literature. Dalia Sofer, author of The Septembers of Shiraz, has won the $25,000 Sami Rohr Prize Choice Award.
The Bookstall in Winnetka has several very famous authors coming this month, including Alexander McCall Smith on April 29th! Take a look at their website for a list of all the authors appearing.