Some of My Favorite Books

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cut that meat! Cleaving by Julie Powell

Cleaving, Julie Powell's second book, is about her butcher internship at a small butcher shop in upstate New York. I imagine after her crazy success with her first book, Julie and Julia, she had more time and money on her hands than she knew what to do with. She used this butchering business as a diversion. That and an affair and overindulgence in wine. She could have just as easily done something different, like counting cracks in the sidewalks of Manhattan or watching paint dry so I suppose it was at least useful, but man, she's one self-indulged freak!

It was a little difficult to read all about her cheating on her husband, and staying with him, and him cheating on her, and the way this D character treated her and how pitifully she pursued him. Oh brother. And all that meat talk wasn't that pleasant to me. I mean, I hate to cut the fat off steak to make stir fry, and forget cutting up a whole chicken. Those suckers go in the crock pot or the oven if they even make it home. But it wasn't as bad as My Year of Meats, which just begged to gross people out. It was a very good novel but gross as hell, in parts.

 What grosses you out?

Book ReadCleaving
Author:  Julie Powell
ISBN: 978-0-316-00336-0

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Half Broke Horses, the winner by a head

Well, I did something I hardly ever do. I started reading one book then started another before finishing the first one. Shame. The first book? The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver.

I know! I love her books, usually. I'm having trouble loving this one though. I started it, liked it okay but never really got absorbed in the storyline. Those darned foreign settings. They trip me up nearly every time. This one is set in Mexico and the U.S. I don't know what it is. I guess I just can't relate.

Anyway, I saw Half Broke Horses on the New Books table at the Phoenix library when I was picking up some movies on the reserve shelf. I grabbed it! I loved The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. If you love memoirs (I do!) and you love larger than life tales (I do!), I think you'll love it. So, I figured I'd also like Half Broke Horses. I did.

The cover calls it "a true life novel," because it's based on Walls' maternal grandmother's life but she wrote it in first person and filled in the blanks, the details when she really didn't know exactly what was said or some of what happened. But this was as good as The Glass Castle, in my opinion. The book covers Lily Casey Smith's life from when she was about 10 years old till the 1950s. The woman was incredible. We have nothing to complain about.

I zipped through the book, then went to the Scottsdale library to pick up some movies (yes, I watch a lot of movies) and saw Cleaving, sitting on the New Non-fiction shelf, by that narcissistic whiner Julie Powell (Julie and Julia). So, I sat down to read a little to see if I could stomach it; it's about her new-found love--being a butcher. Yick. I hate cutting up meat, but I have to admit, I got sucked it. So, now I'm reading it. I must be in a memoir mood.

We'll see if in a few days when I finish Cleaving if The Lacuna opens up to me again.

Book ReadHalf Broke Horses
Author:  Jeannette Walls
ISBN: 978-0-670-02165-9

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert -- Life Sentence or A Good Thing?

Committed. The word, when I first saw it on the cover of Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book, inscribed on the inside of a gold wedding band, struck me as hilarious. I mean, committed. It's a humor book, surely! Committed. A life sentence. Penance for being stupid. That's my take on marriage these days. For me.

And Gilbert, who is best known for that little book a few years back--Eat, Pray, Love--I think felt (feels?) the same way, to a degree. The subtitle after all is "A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage." Maybe that was added by an editor? Maybe she really does buy it. I don't know. She admits she never planned on marrying again. Ever.

But as it turns out, she and her man that she met in Bali (at the end of EPL), "Felipe" (his real name is Jose, at least that's what I found from a quick Internet search) HAD to get married. Not because she was preggers or anything. No, if they wanted to stay together in the United States, they had to get married (if SHE was approved and if he successfully jumped through 50 or 60 hoops). It was that or he could no longer enter the United States because he was born in Brazil, and Homeland Security started cracking down big time on foreigners and how long they could stay in the U.S., or if they could be here at all.

So, Gilbert spent the next 10 months trotting the globe with Felipe/Jose reading books about marriage, talking to women everywhere she went about marriage, generally researching the institution of wedded bliss (tongue firmly in cheek) to write this book. One example of something she came across was when they were living in Southeast Asia, somewhere. They visited a woman who explained that her friend had to leave the village and go live in the city because she got divorced. The woman said, "A marriage is best when there is only one captain. It is easiest if the husband is the captain." See? That right there makes me feel sick because obviously I'm my own captain, and once I realized that and made peace with it, I got a lot happier. She didn't convince me. I think marriage is a made-up convention that works for some people and not so much for others. I'm one of the others.

Book ReadCommitted
Author:  Elizabeth Gilbert
ISBN: 978-0-670-02165-9

Monday, May 10, 2010

Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving -- His most autobiographical novel yet?

If you are as big a fan of John Irving as I am and you've read his latest novel, you might have shook your head throughout, thinking, "Hmmm, that's what he did. Yep, he did that too."

Last Night in Twisted River is the story of John Irving's writing life. The years match. The books match. The long time between book publications match. His writing style matches; he writes the last sentence first as did Danny Angel in LNITR.  Angel doesn't sign books; he writes them. Neither does Irving.

I'm not so sure about the rest. I'm not so sure about these themes:
  • semicolons:  Did he use them as much previously as the writer Danny Angel [who is obviously Irving]? I don't know though he used a wonderful smattering of them in this novel.
  • farting dogs
  • cooking
  • a cursed left hand
  • a naked sky diver
  • big women, lots of big women frequent this novel
  • bears:  Irving finally included bears again. His early novels nearly always had bears and wrestling. I was glad to see bears back in this one.
All in all, I loved this one. Some of the characters who are bigger than life--Ketchum, Six-Pack Pam, Amy--are reminiscent of Melony from The Cider House Rules (his finest book, my favorite book of all time) and T.S.Garp.

Book ReadLast Night in Twisted River
Author:  John Irving
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6384-0


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