Friday, February 25, 2011

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Or "OK, Margaret. Write A Bad Book. I DARE You."

The first book I picked up after The Glass Castle was Tom Robbins's Jitterbug Perfume. I read about 120 pages of that one and then I reached a point where - true story - the very sight of the book filled me with such anger and ill wishes for the world that I couldn't stand to have it in my house anymore and I joyfully threw it back into the Return Book bunker at the Logan Square Library. Although I didn't get to add a book to my 2010-2011 book list, I did get to add a new Least Favorite Author to my Forever And Ever list, so it wasn't a total loss. I know a lot of people love this book, and love Tom Robbins. I am not one of them. I welcome discussion on this topic.

Next I read about 3/4 of the book Fever 1792 by Laurie Halse Anderson. I would recommend that one to anyone who likes historical fiction and/or young adult fiction (DOUBLE BONUS for fellow lovers of historical young adult fiction). It takes place during this huge fever epidemic in, you guessed it, 1792 in Philadelphia - an event that I hadn't known anything about prior to picking up this book. It was highly interesting and enjoyable. Then one of my friends took suddenly ill with the flu and passed away, and I haven't been able to revisit this book, whose plot contains nothing but people suddenly taking ill and passing away. I'd still recommend it for any of you interested parties out there, though. Laurie Halse Anderson is a champion young adult historical fiction writer - the kind that makes me want to take up being a young adult historical fiction writer myself.

Book number three I reached for was Alias Grace by my ladylove Margaret Atwood, who I can count on to write a stunning yarn every single time. And I'll be goddamned if she didn't blow me away again.

Alias Grace is based on the story of Grace Marks, a Canadian Lizzie Borden of sorts who became a media sensation in the mid 1800s after she and another hired hand murdered their employers. Atwood's retelling is extensively researched - the time period, the people involved, the facts about the case itself - as much as this particular event can be. There are huge gaps in the real information where Atwood has "felt free to invent," as she says in the Author's Afterward. So is it historical fiction? Fictional history? BRILLIANT?!? Yes.

I was talking to my sister about this book, and I heard myself say the sentence "If I could only read one author for the rest of my life, I would pick Margaret Atwood." And as I heard myself say it, I realized it was true. This woman is a master, and Alias Grace encompasses so much of what I love about her writing.

I'm on a kick for sure now. Just got The Penelopiad at the library, which Sanchez has been hyping up for months now. I'm 30 pages in and already in love. Get ready.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

All the Pretty Horses

I wanted to like this novel. But I also wanted to stay awake while reading it. Neither one of these things happened.

Crime? Oy Vey!

This is a pretty inventive book. I'll give Chabon 6 arbitrary points for his use of the Yiddish language and 8.5 arbitrary points for the originality of his setting. However: Take the same elements of this story, drop the Jewish subtext, and make the characters unique to, say, Laredo, Texas, and this book becomes just another crime thriller. And nothing too special, at that.

The Fortress of Solitude

Dylan Ebdus is too cool for Brooklyn. But he cannot escape its hold on him. Even if he discovers a magical ring found on a dying homeless man's finger than gives him the power of flight. Something about that ring, man.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gone, Baby, Gone

I picked this up for our trip to Fla. (cuz you know Dad's not going to read it!) as I needed something a little on the mindless side to pretend to read while really listening to everyone's constant cellphone chatter by the poolside. (WHY can't people be quiet anymore???) Mystic River was far, far better but this was enjoyable, if you don't mind the first-person-hokey-sounding-trying-to-be-funny-but-not-detective-type story. Maybe it was a great read or maybe I was more interested in the fat New Yorker in the brown tubby swimsuit chattering on and on and on and on about how she needs a sweatshirt in the cold Flaaada weather and how her grand-dahwtah is studying too hard up theyah in college. Whatever!! Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"He no longer saw the face of his friend Siddhartha. Instead he saw other faces, many faces, a long series, a continuous stream of faces - hundreds,

thousands, which all came and disappeared and yet all seemed to be there at the same time, which all continually changed and renewed themselves and which were yet all Siddhartha. He saw the face of a fish, of a carp, with tremendous painfully opened mouth, a dying fish with dimmed eyes. He saw the face of a newly born child, red and full of wrinkles, ready to cry. He saw the face of a murderer, saw him plunge a knife into the body of a man; at the same moment he saw this criminal kneeling down, bound, and his head cut off by an executioner. He saw the naked bodies of men and women in the postures and transports of passionate love. He saw corpses stretched out, still, cold, empty. He saw the heads of animals - boars, crocodiles, elephants, oxen, birds. He saw Krishna and Agni. He saw all these forms and faces in a thousand relationships to each other, all helping each other, loving, hating and destroying each other and become newly born. Each one was mortal, a passionate, painful example of all that is transitory. Yet none of them died, they only changed, were always reborn, continually had a new face: only time stood between one face and another. And all these forms and faces rested, flowed, reproduced, swam past and merged into each other, and over them all there was continually something thin, unreal and yet existing, stretched across like thin glass or ice, like a transparent skin, shell, form or mask of water - and this mask was Siddhartha's smiling face which Govinda touched with his lips at that moment."