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Andrew Solomon’s ‘The Noonday Demon-An Atlas of Depression,’ which won a National Book Award in 2003.  Hadn’t read anything self-helpish in awhile, but the dense Grey Cloud has been with me for a month or so, and I thought it might help, and assumed it would be well written.

Sarah Manguso’s ‘The Guardians’ is a memoir about her grief process after her friend dies unexpectedly.  Since I’m kind of a student of Grief I thought it would be interesting and informative.  It appears to be.  We shall see.

Yesterday I got a book that the author contacted me about on Twitter and I was so disappointed.  I thought it was nonfiction and it was not.  I’m not wanting to read it but hopefully I will pick it up.

So, on to a little reading!

Last night I read this book.  It is the first novel of a writer named Jan Ellison.  She didn’t ask me to review it, but I enjoyed it so much I wanted to tell you about it.  It is a suspense novel, but mostly it is a novel about love, the nature of love, how fluid it is.  The book was incredibly moving.  I read this review at The Rumpus.  I wasn’t expecting the book to be as well written as it was, mainly because it is a first novel and I didn’t know of the author.  However, when I researched a bit I found out she is a very accomplished writer.  Her first story won the O. Henry prize!

I mentioned the book was moving.  I could feel how much this mother loved her children, and others in her life.  It is written in the form of a letter to her son, which is unusual, but didn’t take anything away from my enjoyment.  I think it was more enjoyable because her first person made it so relatable.  I could have been that young girl, and middle-aged Mom.  It spans the course of about 20 years.  She is about 8 years younger than me, but close enough in age for me to relate to what the world was like during the times she writes about.

I actually read it through the night, and was too lazy to go downstairs to get a highlighter, but there were quotes in the book that I wanted to remember and reflect upon, so I dog eared many pages.  Also, I read and enjoyed a well known and successful contemporary novel last week.  Since I don’t read a lot of fiction, the contrasts stood out, in terms of how well the book was written, how fleshed-out the characters were.  I sure didn’t feel like tweeting and blogging about it after I finished it, although I enjoyed it.

Love, love, love.  Yes, it is about family, secrets, trust.  But it is mostly about love.  To me, anyway.  If you are a woman, you probably have felt the rush of a risky relationship, and how it makes you feel about yourself.  There was so much introspection in this book.  I highly recommend it.

How Many Times

2013/10/04

have I been in a situation with a person or persons where I was uncomfortable and not having fun and remained because I was afraid to say no, I don’t want to be in this situation?  It’s hard to believe it could still happen at my age.  It has weighed on me terribly this week, but I must let it go.  Because I’ve obsessed over this, it has been difficult to write.  However, fuck it.  I can’t let this make me not write.

So, I was at a yard sale last weekend and got a book–The Granta Book of the American Short Story, edited by Richard Ford.

This is the 1992 edition.  The first story I read was Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. 

Certainly I have read this story before.  However, I’d forgotten it.  I only recognized it because I recognized the photo of Shirley Jackson when I looked it up.  According to wiki, it has been described as a “chilling tale of conformity gone mad”.  You definitely know something bad it going to happen early on.  What eventually happens is quite chilling.

I think went to the beginning of the anthology and started reading the stories in the order they are in the book.  I will list the name of the story and the authors I’ve read thus far.

A Day in the Open by Jane Bowles

A Distant Episode by Paul Bowles

Blackberry Winter by Robert Penn Warren

O City of Broken Dreams by John Cheever

The View from the Balcony by Wallace Stegner

No Place for You, My Love by Eudora Welty

The State of Grace by Harold Brodkey

The Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud

I liked all of them.  None really knocked my socks off.  Blackberry Winter and No Place For You were visceral, you could feel the weather as it was described, which of course also set the mood.  I think my favorite was Brodkey’s State of Grace.  It was introspective.  The others definitely had an element of abstraction about them.  I also liked A Distant Episode.  It was interesting culturally, describing a life and culture that is anathema to me.

All of the stories so far take place mid 1940-s through early 1960’s.  The book has stories by some of my favorite writers, including John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates and Kurt Vonnegut.  I remember in high school I read a short story in textbook by John Updike.  That sparked my interest in him and his books.  I have no memory of the story from high school.

Well, that’s it for now.  Will keep you posted on the stories.  I love not only 20th century writing, but also biographies of the writers and other players, as you know.

 

 

 

Sanctuary, etc.

2013/09/18

I have read only 2 books in full since I last posted.  The first was The Art of the Steal’ by Christopher Mason.

The other was ‘Sanctuary’ by William Faulkner.

Steal’ was about the price fixing scandal involving Christie’s & Sotheby’s.  I’m surprised I didn’t read more about it when it happened.  There are a plethora of books and longreads on it now.  It was interesting, satisfying.  I always like to read about what really happened.  It’s been a few months so of course I don’t remember the details.  Couldn’t tell you the name of 1 character.  But I know I enjoyed it.  I read it in a weekend.

‘Sanctuary’ was interesting.  It was easier to read than As I Lay Dying, but not as satisfying,  At one point I felt the prose was just too flowery and laughed out loud.  Seriously, our 8th grade English teachers would have fussed about some of those run-on sentences, too many adjectives.

One thing I did find quite interesting in the book is the realness of southern towns that were gritty, city-like back then.  Almost Dickensonian, not that I’ve ever read anything by Dickens, although I was the maternal Mrs. Bedwin in “Oliver” in high school!  I wish our public transportation was as good now.  I’d love to live in a place where I could hop on a train and get to another part of the state.

My cousin, Virginia, who passed several years ago, was coming of age during WWII.  I know this is after the period of this book, but she would talk about traveling from Sanford to Belhaven on the train as a girl.  I read a book that said the car companies bought out the railroad companies and pulled up all the tracks.  Now we have the interstate!

But I digress.  I know I must read more books.  I have been reading a lot of long-form magazine articles, which is a great way to absorb information and enjoy good writing at the same time.

Okay, will blog more often.  I will leave you with a pretty picture, because I like visuals.  Here is one of the countryside in western Hanover County, VA.

Riding by a field

Riding by a field of wheat

Reading

2012/06/24

I got a Nook a few months ago. I use it every day and love it. I try not to buy many books on it, because they arw so nuch more expensive than used print books. There are many free or lower priced books, and I think I’ve read 12 of them.

I also read a few print books I rediscovered during our move. I read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, and The Great Gatsby. Loved both, especially Gatsby.

I discovered this wonderful writing genre. Well, I have enjoyed this sort of writing–long, nonfiction essays and articles, for a long time reading Vanity Fair, Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker. A few times I purchased the best crime writing anthology for a given year, a collection of well written true crime articles.

I found this website, longreads.com, that culls magazine articles and essays from many sources each week, and I love it! I have read so much the past month or 2. Sometimes I feel like all I do is read, besides working and cleaning house. At times I feel lazy, but I’m learning a lot! There are also literary criticisms which have inspired me to read something I may have forgotten, or rediscover a writer I love, like J.M. Coetzee.
R

I found this website, longreads.com, which is

Have you ever heard of white privilege?  As a white person, it can be hard to take.  However, it must be acknowledged for real racial healing to occur in our society.  For those of you who may not understand, white privilege is being born white, therefore never having to deal with being a minority.  As whites, we already have a “step up” in opportunity.  As a product of a working class family, this was difficult for me.  I didn’t always see a lot of opportunity.  However, we need only look around us at the characters on our television shows, the spectators and owners of professional sports teams, the ceo’s of businesses, the majority of people in government, especially the federal government, the majority of public servants like firefighters and policemen, to see that white people are the majority.  That is not because white people are the majority in our society.  Since white men started bringing Africans over and enslaving them, whites have not always been the majority in every area of the US.

I saw “The Help” yesterday.  It had some redeeming qualities.  It was entertaining.  There was a tone of racial reconciliation, but more for the white heroine of the film, rather than the black maids.  She could move on and pursue her dream of writing, while the maids are still stuck in Mississippi.  The acting of Viola Davis was extraordinary.  She was able to evoke some of the very real psychic pain that comes from years of being oppressed and un-free.  There was also the Hollywood fluff aspect, which was distracting.  That said, this film was adapted from a book by a white woman with a black maid.  Therefore, I wouldn’t expect a lot different.  I might point out if this was a film written by a black woman about a black woman it probably wouldn’t have been made.  I may be wrong, but show me how many films by and about black women have been made.  Yes, half a handful.

I recently read a book about the 1927 Mississippi River flooding.  Many blacks were forced to work for free, backbreaking work, to keep the levees in the lower Mississippi from breaching.  It was a vain attempt because the river management program was designed by competing white men, and doomed to fail.  Many blacks were forced to live for months on top of the levees.  Planters, who didn’t want to lose their labor force, prevented them from leaving the area even when rescue boats came for them.

I’m reading now Cane River by Lalita Tademy.  This is more realistic than ‘The Help’, in terms of the experience of African Americans.  I’ve just started it.  Tademy researched her ancestors, who came from the Lower Mississippi area.  It is the story of her foremothers, beginning with Suzette, who was a slave girl.  She was impregnated at age 12 or 13 by a friend of her master’s family, a Frenchman.  The novel speaks acutely of Suzette’s confusion and feelings.  Her work for the household began when she was 7 or 8.  Slavegirls and boys were never allowed to be children.  I have much more to read.

I’ve often taken issue with the idea that Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson were in love.  I think the fact she bore children by him is well established.  However, she was a slave.  She had no choice, she had to allow him to have sex with her.  I’ve realized this awhile, but after reading about Suzette’s experience in ‘Cane River’, I wondered about the age difference between Hemings and Jefferson.  Jefferson was about 30 years older than Hemings.  She was born about 1773, about the time Jefferson was writing the Declaration of Independence (a liberating document for white men).  Hemings was his daughter’s slavegirl.  She was in France with Jefferson, and enjoyed some of the trappings of high society there.  However, she was a slavegirl.  Jefferson had sex with, or dare I say raped, his daughter’s slavegirl, over and over.  I know that sounds harsh, but it was probably her reality.

As whites, we have to accept that while there may have been fondness, even love, between maids and the babies they cared for, slavegirls and their child masters, they were still slaves.  They could be killed for not agreeing with every word a white person said to them.  They had to work 12 hour days, 6 & 1/2 days per week.  They had to get up before their masters did to cook their masters’ breakfast. They had to submit to every white person’s sexual whim.

We also have to read our history.  While former slaves had some opportunity and protection during Reconstruction, it lasted only about 7 years.  The ensuing cultural climate enabled blacks to be enslaved all over again.  Many, I daresay most, whites still considered them unequal to themselves.  There were lynchings, rapes continued.  Remember Strom Thurmond and the maid he raped?   That child, now an elderly lady, was vilified for coming forward just a few years ago!

Blacks were paid below minimum wage.  My own aunt had a store, and black people worked there.  None had insurance, but she paid their doctor bills, made sure they were fed during hard times, etc.  However, even in the 30’s-50’s they had no opportunity to be free.  This was an economic prison for them.

Well, I’ve wanted to write about this issue, and some of the films and books I’m taking in are helping me form my words.  Thanks for reading.

The first, Disgrace, I mentioned in my last reading post.  I had just started it.  It is written my J.M. Coetzee, a South African writer.  It was excellent.  I’m always pleased when I find good fiction.  I rarely read fiction.  I went to the library and checked out another book by him called Elizabeth Costello, which I will start tonight.  Actually, I checked out 3 books at the library, and started the first few pages of each, which determined the order in which I would read them.

The first book was Facing the Wind by Julie Salamon.  I just finished Shake the Devil Off by Ethan Brown.  Both of these books were about men who became mentally ill and killed their loved one(s).  In the first, it happened in about 1976, and it was an interesting study in the question of sanity, and redemption and remorse for me.  I felt like, deep down, the protagonist was a sociopath, who truly didn’t have remorse for what he did.  Even though he was found not guilty by reason of insanity, he never demonstrated appropriate remorse.  He seemed to think he should go on with his life, and he pressed to get his law license back since he was found not guilty.  He seemed narcissistic.   It was a very sad situation, and the book was pretty good.

Shake the Devil Off was very well done.  I love books that pay a lot of attention to the sociology of crimes.  This was about a gruesome murder perpetrated by a Kosovo & Iraq war vet in post-Katrina New Orleans.  The writer is an excellent journalist also, and it was an excellent book, well researched.  It was also very sad. 

I’ve read several books about people who were either soldiers in the wars in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, or journalists embedded with soldiers.  The interesting dichotomy is how we really don’t act like a country at war.  It’s the longest voluntary (military) war our country has fought, and we civilians act like it isn’t going on.  We are very removed, unless we are the family of a soldier, or a soldier.  It’s so sad to me.  We’ve sent all those young people over there and forgotten them.  It’s hard for them to deal with civilian life, because it is so separate and alien from the life they’ve been living on the front lines.  I so wish we never went there.  I can’t stand how many lives have been destroyed because of it.  I knew we shouldn’t go, to either place.  We could have accomplised so much more from the air.  Of course, then I think about what we did from the air in Japan toward the end of WWII.  I wouldn’t want that, either.

Whatever, once these soldiers have served we need to take care of them in every way possible.  Many of them are really suffering, and not just physically.

I’d say the Coetzee novel moved me because of its prose-just beautiful and artful.  It was an excellent story.  Shake the Devil Off revived a lot of my grief about the wars, and the waste of life, money and potential.  No one should be put in the position these men and women have found themselves in.  It’s very sad.