Thursday, May 19, 2022

Heartbreak: a personal and scientific journey

Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific JourneyHeartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey by Florence Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting exploration of physical and social ramifications of heartbreak in which the author explores advent of her own Type 1 diabetes diagnosis after her husband of 25 yrs leaves her. Skilled science writing entwined with personal experience make the story compelling.

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The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the tart, tender and unruly

The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly (with Recipes)The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly by Kate Lebo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Compelling essays, sometimes humorous, always helpful about the difficulty of preparing and growing fruit intertwined with rich tales of family and the author's own health challenges and how fruit might help, including a handful of delectable recipes. Love the title.

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A Room of One's Own

Amazed that I didn't read this earlier. My copy looks like I've had it since high school and that well may be true. Extant for almost 100 years, Woolf's signature ironic and wry skills heralding the need for a room with a locked door and an income is a classic. As is the tragic old ballad about Mary, Queen of Scots: Yest're'en the Queen had fower Marys The nicht she'll hae but three There was Mary Seton and Mary Beaton, And Mary Carmichael and me Woolf cleverly uses her narrator Mrs. Beton or Mrs. Seton to espouse her revolutionary ideas for women artists as the reader is escorted through colleges, libraries and dining halls (banished from some, welcomed in others) and wraps up with another of the old ballad's namesake's, Mary Carmichael, as example of a woman author. They showcase the centuries of difficulties women have had to endure to be creative. "...this pitting of sex against sex, of quality against quality; all this claiming of superiority and imputing of inferiority, belong to the private-school stage of human existence where there are 'sides'..." I was surprised at how prescient the book is and once again, I mean to read more of her work.

Mercy Street

Mercy StreetMercy Street by Jennifer Haigh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Highly recommended: Suspenseful, read-aloud writing, incredible characterizations, and as prescient as possible given its theme of a woman who works as a counselor in an abortion clinic. As Ron Charles wrote in the Washington Post, "Mercy Street carefully sketches out the geography of poverty, that invisible realm that lies just beyond the horizon of middle-class life. Without condescension or sentimentality, Jennifer Haigh describes people who aspire to live in a double-wide trailer, who must decide between paying the water bill and the cable bill, who feel the humiliation of using food stamps. Indeed, that life was Claudia’s adolescence, a background that makes her particularly attuned to the logic of the clinic’s poorer clients."

He goes on "Claudia’s mother, who had no particular interest in parenting, took in foster kids expressly to get extra cash from the state. Haigh never pushes on this theme, but she doesn’t need to: It’s clear that Claudia’s early exposure to the multitude of children unwanted by anyone and carelessly warehoused by the government has made her determined to present women with real reproductive choices."
The descriptions of snowy NE weather and roads, and conversations among the wildly varied cast of characters were on the mark, as, I imagine, were the strange mental meanderings of the gun freak haunting the Internet. Reminded me a bit of The Beans of Egypt, Maine Fine work.

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Real Estate: A Living AutobiographyReal Estate: A Living Autobiography by Deborah Levy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a worthy successor to Deborah Levy's last memoir, The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography as she attunes to her singlehood, considers the patriarchy, travels to France and Greece and Germany, converses with friends, reminisces about her South African childhood, and dreams of her un-real estate house, a rich imaginary figment she embellishes with objects throughout the book. Her writing is warm and familiar no matter the topic. Her characters lively and varied and useful challengers of her ideas. She writes beautifully of places, living spaces, reading matter, and her daily swims. Favorite quotes: (1)When a woman has to find a new way of living and breaks from the societal story that has erased her name, she is expected to be viciously self-hating, crazed with suffering, tearful with remorse. These are the jewels reserved for her in the patriarchy’s crown, always there for the taking. There are plenty of tears, but it is better to walk through the black and bluish darkness than reach for those worthless jewels. and (2) The line that means the most to me in the entire play is Hamlet’s reply when asked what it is he is reading. Words, words, words.

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Monday, May 2, 2022

Ride the Pink Horse

Ride the Pink HorseRide the Pink Horse by Dorothy B. Hughes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dorothy B. Hughes can turn a phrase and keep the tension at high ebb. The Chicago swell's visit to a Santa Fe-like town in the middle of Fiesta as he hunts down "the rat" is a treat and a fine writing model.

“He didn't pay any attention to anything but the white-and-silver girl down in front. She belonged here; she was like something holy, like one of the altar candles, like an angel. He didn't pay any attention to the altar. There were priests up there chanting the litany; their white-and-gold benediction vestments draped over the red velvet chairs. There was a choir of seminarians singing. Singing the responses. Their faces were foreign like the town; brown Mexican faces, somber, and their voices, unaccompanied were like a heaven choir. He didn't care about that. He hadn't come here to pray; he'd come with a gun to keep his eye on a rat. He wasn't going to be sucked in by holiness.”

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