Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Seattle Public Library, our Book Club and The Spinster

I will rant a bit on how ridiculous the "rebranding opportunity" for Seattle Public Library is to spend half a million dollars on changing its name by one letter in a venture that has nothing to do with books or programs to further reading and learning as stated in their new brand statement. Take the survey:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PBTWRN2
And who goes to the Libraries? I go to my branch of the Seattle Public Library but not to the Libraries. It sounds pretentious and inaccurate. If it is their desire to expand into plural libraries, why not pay to reciprocate fully with the King County Library System so we can place holds with them. And there's no getting around the sickening waste of money by an organization that is annually strapped for funds. Madness prevails, or marketing models. Next they'll call it Amazonlibrary or Googlibrary like the sports arenas. Don't even suggest it.

This year we have a good selection of book club titles, international and domestic, new and old, to make up our reading list for this year which are listed below. The voting session went smoothly and quickly and probably deciding on dates was the most challenging use of our time. Helen's heavenly sour cream lemon pie was the reward for our endeavors.

Lispector, Clarice. Near to the Wild Heart (Brazilian) - October
Maxwell, William. They Came Like Swallows (American) - November
Doyle, Brian. The Plover (American) - December
Daoud, Kamel. Meurault Investigation with Camus' The Stranger (Algerian)- Jan
Vasquez, Juan Gabriel. The Sound of Things Falling (Colombian) - February
Zink, Nell. The Wallcreeper (American but German setting) - March
Mitchell, Judith Claire. A Reunion of Ghosts (American) - April
Gadda, Carlo Emilio. That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana (Italian) - May
Ferrante, Elena. My Brilliant Friend (Italian) - June

Last night I read The Spinster by Kate Bolick which is particularly enjoyable in its memoir sections, alternates with biographical and academic info and includes a good bibliography (my weakness:  more books to read). The narrator explains her own decision to live alone in spite of a long-term relationship and her fascination with literary figures from her Northeastern MA background who demonstrate how the "demands of domesticity can limit women's literary production". She describes five women and their lives and references others to support her thesis: New Yorker essayist and short story author Maeve Brennan (Alice Munro called her 1972 story, "The Springs of Affection,""one of her favorite short stories of all time.") Vogue editor and novelist Neith Boyce, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edith Wharton and feminist writer ("The Yellow Wall-paper") Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I put the book aside for a moment and then when it became overdue, gobbled it up in an evening. That happens to me often with library due dates which my former profession instilled in me as "suggestions" rather than gospel, so I fund my Seattle Public Library rather than add to the bursting-at-the-seams volumes in my own.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Trust the hype, it's been a while since I read a 780-page book in 5 days and actually suffered pangs awakening and realizing it was over. I'd finished it after almost a week of constant company.  No more The Goldfinch to fall into and evade most other activities. And what will become of Theo? of Pippa?  They are still in their twenties when the book ends but the story of their meeting, their sublime disastrous connection precludes a future or does it? Theo's almost hopeful final thoughts close the story as he adds his "love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them."  Tartt has succeeded in keeping me enthralled from the events at the museum and their tragic aftermath and the glaring descriptions of Las Vegas living and youthful drug exploration on into serious addiction to the vagaries of curating and exploiting antique furniture.  A 14-year-old boy is possessed by a 17th C painting of a captive goldfinch, an actual work of art by Fabritius. "if a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don't think 'oh, I love this picture because it's universal.' 'I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.' That's not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It's a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes you...an individual heart-shock. Your dream...yours, yours. I was painted for you."  The book spoke to this reader.

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Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Folded Clock: A DiaryThe Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits is self-absorbed and absorbing, reflective, boring to some but not to me, diary of a young woman's thoughts with each date starting "Today I..." and continuing with an anecdote or meditation about her life, i.e. I walked by here when I was on my way to have an affair with the man who became my second husband, or I swam for hours on the last day of our Maine vacation in t he little town where I have summered most of my life, or I went to see my therapist who did not answer the door or I fought with my husband when we were in Berlin. and she continues to muse on these beginnings for a few pages before we willy nilly move on to another date, not necessarily chronological. As a writer, and one not given to this kind of introspection, I found her entries fascinating. I listened to the book on CD and my husband did not share my enthusiasm even though she's funny at times and off the wall with her neuroses. It was a voyeurish excursion but the worries and obsessions about aging and death and friendship which concern her are shared by many women and I was sorry to have the book end. I'd buy another installment.

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The Green Road by Anne Enright

The Green RoadThe Green Road by Anne Enright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Green Road was sheer poetry, some of the best writing I've enjoyed in a long time. Anne Enright is the kind of writer who makes me want to toss my pen, she is so good and her work appears effortless:   "Rome was 1962, an audience with the Pope, a man on a little Vespa, so handsome he would cut you, with a fat brown baby on his knee. Oh and Roma, Roma! The unexpected piazzas, the sprays of orange blossom, an old codger on the tram who stank of garlic so badly -- Rosaleen should have realised that morning sickness was setting in. Dan was conceived in Rome. And Dan loved garlic! There was no end to the mysteries of Dan.". The story of a family told through the lives of each of the grown children and their mother in Ireland, it ends with a family Christmas which is a stunning chapter on the trauma and tragedy faced by many on the enforced holidays slated to be joyful, and the priceless litany of groceries brought in by the striving-to-please daughter Constance as she unloads almost 500 Euros of foodstuffs to please all, forgetting the coffee. Poignant, funny, and deeply affecting, the book is a top choice for me this year. Knausgaard is next or maybe Elena Ferrante.

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