Townhouse Books

Monday, October 31, 2005

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell : Susanna Clarke

It's as though I've been enchanted. I know deep down that the sometimes wavering quality of this book does not warrant my utter obsession over it, but nonetheless obsessed I have been. The plot: Two magicians destined bring magic back to England in the 1800s. Intertwining stories, cruel fairies, folk lore and mythologies galore, random footnotes mostly worth reading, extraordinary magic, a Raven King, shocking turns of events, English manners, humor, darkness and delight all over.

That book near left me giddy.

Except when I left it behind on a trip. I was leaving Minneapolis last Sunday, and on the way to the airport with a wail of despair I suddenly noticed I'd left the book on my friends' couch where I had been reading it before packing. I'd so been looking forward to two and a half hours of uninterrupted reading on the flight. It was too late to turn around, the airport did not have the book, a desperate attempt to find it at Target late that night yielded no results. Luckily I bought it on Monday. If you have not read this and are interested in being part of the book exchange, let me know and I'll send out a copy to you.

Labels:


Search Worldcat

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Cat's Eye : Margaret Atwood

Although I'd read a handful of Atwood books in the past, I'd always avoided this one because I didn't like the cover. Turns out the cover is a painting by the main character, a 50-something woman named Elaine Risley who returns to her hated hometown of Toronto for a retrospective of her work at a gallery. I still don't like the cover, but I loved this book. Part of the book is told from Elaine's present day, but most of the book centers around her twisted friendships with girls at age 9 and how those weigh on her as she grows and how she does or does not get past them. Atwood is a powerful thinker and writer, and she frequently would throw a random sentence at the end of a paragraph that would just stop me short with wonder, but felt like an idea that was just simple to her and off the top of her head. (I already returned the book to the library so sorry I have no examples.) She's great at imagery and pointed detail of the relationships, clothes, food, styles, marbles from the '40s and '50s such that I recommended it to my mother and my aunt this past weekend after listening to them reminisce about their school uniforms. I highly recommend to all.

Labels:


Search Worldcat

My Year of Meats : Ruth L. Ozeki

I bought the book used last year, thinking it was going to be a slightly higher-level piece of chick lit and had it queued on my shelf since then, saving it for a rainy day. It turned out to be much better than I thought it was going to be, and I learned even more about the foul cattle industry and the DES given to cows and women. Her characters were real and wonderful. The plot meandered too much and felt a little soap-boxy, but I still took a lot away from this book. (Sorry, I drafted a blog post of this but waiting too long to finish. Forgot a lot already).

Labels:


Search Worldcat

Monday, October 17, 2005

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?: Lorrie Moore

If anyone's talked to me recently, you've heard about this book. And then you've heard about it again the next day, and probably again when I saw you the week after. I've got Anagrams and, although it's a great piece, it brings me down. Like, a lot. For some reason, Frog Hospital doesn't.

A basic plot summary could go: a woman is in Paris with her husband, and reminisces about her youth while experiencing the slow dissolve of her marriage. But her youth...

The protaganist grew up in a small town near the Canadian border (Moore constructs a great sense of place) and had an incredibly close, obsessive frienship with another teenage girl. The book explores the intensity of teenage friendship, its dissolution, the protaganist's escape from her small-town past, and even her first introduction to romantic love. These are common themes (the teenage-girl intensity of the friendship is drawn particularly well) but Lorrie Moore is her own thing. People often talk about authors having a singular voice, but Moore really does. She is precisely her own thing.

I'm starting to gush. I can't do her justice, so I'll leave you with something from the book:


The frogs. Years later, I would read in the paper that frogs were disappearing from the earth, that even in the most pristine of places, scientists were looking and could not find them. It was a warning, said the article. A plague of no frogs. And I thought of those walks up the beach road I'd made any number of times in the sexual evening hum of summer, how called and lovely and desired you felt, how possible, even when you weren't at all. It was the frogs doing that.

Labels:


Search Worldcat

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Perfect American:Peter Stephan Jungk; Michael Hofmann



The Perfect American is a fictionalized biography of Disney by a former employee. The immigrant employee works hard making animation cells for Disney, but then he gets caught up in an attempt to discredit Disney for his politics. Disney who will harbor no dissidents fires him as soon as he hears about the plot. Wilhelm Dantine goes to great lengths after this to stalk Disney until the day he dies. It is hard to say what Dantine is hoping to achieve through this cat and mouse game. Half the time Disney is hardly aware of his existence. You end up really just wanting to tell Dantine to start a new life and stop worrying about the past so much.

It was interesting to hear a lot of details about Disney's life. It almost makes me want to check out a real BIO and read it to compare. I especially like Disney's conversations with Abe.

Labels:


Search Worldcat