13 May 2008

April Book Report

I know, it's nearly the middle of May, and I'm just now getting around to posting about things I read in April. Such is life when you are an international jet-setting celebrity. Also when you just take forever to get your act together ... anyway, it was a good month for reading!

Strange Pilgrims : Stories, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, was the first thing I read for the Short Story Challenge. Actually, I've been reading it for a couple of months - a story here, a story there. I had not been aware of this collection, until I saw it on another person's list for the challenge. I have read some of Garcia Marquez's work and really enjoyed it, so I thought it might be a good thing to delve into for the challenge.

What a great collection of stories! The overall theme is that of South Americans visiting Europe, and how they are strangers there, even though connected by heritage. The edition I read was translated by Edith Grossman, and I can only think that she really knows her stuff, since the writing was beautiful, lyrical, and sad, and made me wish I could meet Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to see if he is as wonderful in person.

I really can't choose a favorite story, but here is one of my very favorite passages in the book, from the first paragraph of the story "Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane":

"She was beautiful and lithe, with soft skin the color of bread and eyes like green almonds, and she had straight black hair that reached to her shoulders, and an aura of antiquity that could just as well have been Indonesian as Andean. She was dressed with subtle taste: a lynx jacket, a raw silk blouse with very delicate flowers, natural linen trousers, and shoes with a narrow stripe the color of bougainvillea. 'This is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen,' I thought when I saw her pass by with the stealthy stride of a lioness while I waited in the check in line at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris for the plane to New York. She was a supernatural apparition who existed only for a moment and disappeared into the crowd in the terminal."

It only gets better from there. I am so glad I found this collection, and can see myself reading the stories again and again.

"Why I Live at the P.O.," from The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty. This is another one for the Short Story Challenge, and I chose it because I read it in college, and it is one of my favorite short stories ever. First of all, the title is a great one, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, doesn't it just make you want to read the story??

The narrator tells the story of how things start to head south when her sister Stella-Rondo comes home to stay, leaving her husband and bringing a child who she claims is adopted. The family dynamic changes, as Mama, Papa-Daddy (the grandfather), and Uncle Rondo make a fuss over Stella-Rondo and her daughter, to the point where whatever the narrator says or does is seen as critical of her sister. In the end, she decides that the only way she will get peace and quiet is to move out of the family home to the post office, where she is the postmistress for the small town. The dialogue is really funny, and Welty makes the narrator someone you understand, and root for against the family and their accusations. I enjoyed this story as much this time around as the first time I read it.

In This Our Life, by Ellen Glasgow. This was the next book on my list for the Book Awards Reading Challenge. Winner of the 1942 Pulitzer Prize, it is the story of two sisters, Roy and Stanley (guess mom and dad wanted sons ...) - one good, quiet, and nice; and, one who is a party girl, and wants to see the world while having a good time. Things start to go downhill for everyone when the party girl steals her sister's husband, and they leave town together. They head to Baltimore, where they eventually marry and set up housekeeping. The eventual ending of the story leaves you thinking about how there was never a way for there to be a happy ending for anyone in the family.

I chose this book because I thought I could get it from the library. But though I requested it, it still has not arrived as of today. There were some copies available on Amazon, but I was waiting out the library copy, so I didn't order it. The finally, as April was winding down, I found out that a movie had been made, starring Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, and George Brent, so I got it from Netflix. I had read several summaries of the story, and thought seeing the movie would be better than nothing. The movie was well done, if melodramatic, and in some ways really brought the characters to life - I mean, who isn't mesmerized by Bette Davis chewing the scenery in a dramatic role? So, though I didn't have the chance to read the book (yet), I got the sense of the story, and saw a "killer" movie in the bargain.

Rise and Shine, by Anna Quindlen. I always think I don't like Anna Quindlen. She seems like one of those people who thinks that if you haven't devoted at least part of your life to motherhood, you don't get it. But whenever I read something she has written, I end up liking it. And I do think she is a good writer. So maybe I like her after all. Go figure.

Anyway, this is the story of two sisters, Bridgette and Meghan, who live in New York City. Bridgette is a social worker, and Meghan has a morning news/talk show, where "Rise and shine!" is her trademark phrase. The book covers a period of time in the sisters' lives where an unfortunate utterance by Meghan when she thinks her microphone was turned off, derails her career entirely. As the story unfolds, Meghan's life seems to fall apart more and more, as her husband walks out, and her son - the light everyone's life - is tragically injured.

I thought this was a pretty good read for the most part. The sisters' relationship was interesting to me, and the characters all change and some of them grow considerably during the course of the book. It's not my favorite book ever, but I would say that it is worth a look.

The Purrfect Murder, by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown. OK, it's not rocket science, and it's not even the most intricately drawn murder mystery series, but I really enjoy reading about the characters in Crozet, Virginia, and their animals, who all talk to one another in these books. The animals - pets and otherwise - make clever and often very amusing observations about the humans, and the relationships in a small, rural town are actually quite interesting.

In this particular story, the town ob-gyn is murdered, most likely because he was known to have peformed abortions. The killer starts sending blackmail notes to women in the town who have had abortions, threatening to expose them. The depiction of a small town gossip mill is quite accurate and the small town politics involved is really pretty interesting.

The incestuous nature of powerful families is part of the story, and the clash with the "nouveau riche" who move to the town is always interesting. True, many of the characters are stereotypical, but I have to say that I have met plenty of people just like them, so I can't really fault Rita Mae Brown for that. I mostly enjoy the characterizations of the animals, and their conversations with one another. Corny and unsophisticated, yes. So sue me!


Knitterary said...

Funny, I always expect to be annoyed by Anna Quindlen, too. I wonder why? Her books are usually enjoyable, but there's something about her persona.

Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

Sometimes having a glimp into people's lives is kinda depressing don't you think? Maybe that's why I enjoy science fiction so much - not so much familial angst. 100 years of solitude by GGM - I remember enjoying this book I might have to check out his short stories.

Mistrmi said...

I like Anna Quindlen. In fact, when I found out that Hannah was a girl, I imagined the little unborn baby would grow up and be the next one.

Go figure.

Lorraine said...

Bridget- I like Anna Quindlen as well. Remember One True Thing? It made people think about how we take others for granted, and when faced with a crises- we get an appreciation for the people close to us.

Anonymous said...

So, all you librarians read serious literature? In my three weeks between SLIS spring semester and summer school I plan on reading nothing but bubble gum for the mind! And then I have to read "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and kiddie lit all summer. Hurray for alcohol!

Carol said...

I always enjoy your reviews. I really like Bette, she's always been one of my all time faves!

Anonymous said...

Cozy mysteries can be well written too.

I've always been put off by Anna Quindlan too but the book does sound like a good read.