Monday, April 14, 2008


Speaking of Speaking

I might as well mention Speaking of Faith by Krista Tippett (Viking, 2007): Many interesting ideas but they all relate to conversations she's had on her radio program (natch: the book is about her experience in conversation with deep thinking moderates of many faiths--the NPR version--maybe originator, I don't know--of CBC's Tapestry); after a while it just seems like one generality after another and I just want to hear the actual conversations. So I'm done.


Another From the Reading List

Amy&Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout (Random House, 1998): With a blurb from Alice Munro on the back cover (not sure if this is a recommendation to me or not...). I was simultaneously listening to an audiobook by the same author which I was not loving, partly because the reader wasn't always able to see to the next line of text while reading the end of the current line, something I hate because it creates weird skips over meaning. (The worst case of this I ever heard was in The Master Butchers Singing Club, read by the author, Louise Erdrich. It was painful!) Anyway, because I was not loving the one title, I was reading the other with one eyebrow raised; in the end, though, Amy&Isabelle won me over. It didn't take the pleasant way; Strout didn't soothe the reader, the way, say, Elizabeth Berg often does; the characters are left with the pain they have inflicted on each other unhealed; moved past, a little, but there, still. It was very real, I thought.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Skim, and Skimming

I'm doing a lot of skimming, skipping and half-reading of books these days, because of work. I know I'll be coming across books that aren't suitable for my purposes but I wish I could finish. Those I will recommend. So far, there have just been a couple that weren't suitable but that I didn't particularly want to finish, either. Those I won't mention... but I might mention others like those, if they really get on my nerves!

Two un-work-related reads: Skim, by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood, 2008): a graphic novel that I am returning to the library before my daughter finds it in the house. There is stuff in here that she would find very disturbing. (Falling in love with a teacher. Kissing a teacher! The pervasive nihilistic mood. She has no context for this!) This is a high YA, which the publisher's website acknowledges, sort of: it's recommended for ages "14 and up" but grades "7 and up"; there's no way I'd give this to a 12-year-old to read. (see reasons above). The reviews praise the book on various levels and I guess I can see what they are talking about but I, for one, would like never to hear or read about Holden Caulfield again, EVER! That damn book irritated me when I had to read it in high school and almost every reference to it irritates me now. I have a vague idea why--it's packed into my under-the-mental-bed drawer with all the other stuff related to the glorification of adolescence. Which is a STAGE, people, that you're supposed to GROW OUT OF!

Friday, April 04, 2008


Living by the The Book

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs (Simon&Schuster, 2007): Husband ordered this on his birthday bookstore gift card. It's a stunt, and no doubt very interesting to people who don't know much about one or either of the Bibles the author delves into (Jewish and Christian). But since I wasn't learning very much (due to childhood Bible saturation in a Christian denomination that loved the OT, plus a life-long interest) I had time to notice how carefully the author skirted around the most obvious truth about Bible rules and regulations: most of them have to do with how the COMMUNITY is supposed to conduct itself. He seems terrified of the group--even though his most "spiritual" (whatever that means--transcendent, maybe?) experiences arrive in group settings. Also, BTW, his approach to child rearing (at least on two counts, eating and discipline) is totally whacked-out. He's raising a boy who will not be able to watch TV without eating, and who will think that hurting people doesn't matter, as long as you Band-Aid a "sorry" onto the wound.

However, he's a good writer and the book was a pleasant read. I enjoyed his forays into the fringes of Judeo-Christian religiosity. He let people speak for themselves and kept his judgements to a minimum--and admitted when he genuinely appreciated people.

Bro by Robert Newton Peck (HarperCollins, 2004): Short, spare and sweet. Not a wasted word, not one extra gesture. This is one disciplined writer! It would be a very interesting exercise to compare this, side by side in every aspect, to Hope Was Here. They are both folksy (they concern plain American folks in a certain place and/or time) and they both deal with love and self-sacrifice, and family members finding and drawing close to one another. Why do I like Bro so much better? Why does it seem more true?

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