26 October 2012

Eight is Enough


In the midst of preparing a manuscript that: A) is the culmination of nine months of research, and B) has a final draft deadline of 12/31/12, I am not very favorably inclined to try to come up with clever ways to string together (or even write) reviewlets for the eight books I have read so far this month.

So here they are in the order from the books I liked best to the books I liked least.


I wish I had this edition.
Crucial Conversations by May Sarton
Long married couple Reed and Poppy separate when Poppy realizes she has wasted too much of her life living for others. The collateral damage is much less their children then their closest friend Philip who has been like a third member of their marriage--but in a benign way, not in a Charles, Diana, Camilla way. Or at least it is largely benign for Reed and Poppy, perhaps less so for Philip who left much of his life undeveloped (perhaps a lot like Poppy) because of the satisfaction he got from his close friendships with Reed and Poppy.  In the Pantheon of Sarton books (all of which I love) I would put this in the high middle.

The House on the Cliff by D.E. Stevenson
From the author of Miss Buncle's Book. Need I say more? Well it is much less clever and more conventional than MBB, but I still loved it to pieces. Poor London actress inherits a mansion on a cliff overlooking the sea. Defies expectations by keeping the house and making her home there. Trusty, helpful servants. Trusty, helpful, and ultimately amorous soliciter. Ne'er do well former object of infatuation leaves protagonist with instant family. Ooops, I might have said too much. But honestly you can see this stuff coming down the pike from a very long way away. Loved it!


A House and Its Head by Ivy Compton-Burnett
It says a lot about the other books I am reviewing here that this ICB is so far up the list. There were moments of this book that I loved. And much of ICB's writing--which is 99% dialogue--was funny and charming. And I am pretty sure I liked it better than the only other ICB I have read (Manservant and Maidservant) which I also enjoyed to a degree. But my overall thought when I finished was that perhaps after two of her novels I don't have to read any more. I still have two others unread in my library, but I am not so sure I will get to them anytime soon.

Fisher shows us how she feels.
Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher
I put this one on my Century of Books list for 1987, not only because I assumed it would be a quick, fun, read, but also because it seemed to really capture a slice of pop culture for the year in question. I was right on all accounts. It was a quick, fun, read. And it definitely felt a lot like 1987. A semi-autobiographical novel about a young Hollywood actress going through rehab and figuring out how to live sober. Who knew Princess Leia could write.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
I liked many things about this coming of age/coming out story set against the looney backdrop of Jeanette's Pentacostal evangelist mother. There were moments that were funny and uplifting and maddening. This book would have rated higher for me if it hadn't contained a fantasy story within the story. That never sits too well with me. My eyes kind of glaze over.

The Bachelors by Muriel Spark
I love me some Muriel Spark, but I didn't love this one. I liked the initial character introductions and had a soft spot for a few of them. But then it just became too much about spiritualist circles and fraudulent mediums. Even then I could have been kind of interested but I felt like Spark may have taken it all a bit too seriously despite the satire involved.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
I loved, loved, loved, Eco's novel Foucault's Pendulum which I have read two or three times. When I first started The Name of the Rose, I thought I was going to like it in a similar fashion. I was wrong. I can see why many find this book wonderful, perhaps if I had been in a different mood I might have as well. Instead I kept thinking I would rather go back and re-read Foucault's Pendulum.

The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
The "greatest novel of the Mexican Revolution", written in 1915, bored me to no end. It might have had to do with my complete ignorance of Mexican history, but I think it is more likely that I was just bored by the episodic nature of the book as well as the rootin', tootin', shootin' kind of vibe it gave off. I might have also expected something of only 149 pages not to feel like it took me a year to finish.
         

7 comments:

  1. Re your comments on Eco, I think it is so so true that mood can totally determine reception to a book. It's a shame too, when a negative mood ruins a book. On the other hand, sometimes I have re-read books that I LOVED (because I was in a good place at the time) and later wondered what the big appeal was. It seems it was the state of the reader, not of the text!

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  2. I'm a big fan of May Sarton too. I think I have read just about everything. Have you read Eco's latest? I have it, but I keep avoiding it.

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  3. Jill: I think you are right.

    Ted: I still have some Sarton left to read which is wonderful. I think, with the exception of reading Focault's Pendulum again, I am done with Eco.

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  4. Foucault's Pendulum is one of my favourite books but I also liked The Name of the Rose. However, if you do compare the two, I guess you would feel that the latter is much darker, heavier and less playful. I've also got Oranges are not the only Fruit on my shelf to read but am currently reading Winterson's Weight. She's such a brilliant writer.

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  5. I think you might be the only person I know who doesn't either love or hate ICB!

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  6. Sakura: Although The Name of the Rose centers on a library, I think Foucault's Pendulum is better fodder for bibliomaniacs.

    Simon: Well I am happy not to be in the hate camp.

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  7. I adore Carrie Fisher. She seems "real" to me. I appreciate real.

    Good luck with the manuscript. I know it will be great. Just keep at it with Lucy by your side. She'll keep you grounded.

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