Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Good Reads

So,

I was looking for this book, Laughing and Dancing Our Way to the Precipice, which seems incredibly fascinating – a woman who by accident not only was witness to the French Revolution but ended up exiled in America during the late 18th century, then returned to France under Napoleon, and then to London, and back to France. The result, it sounds like, was being witness to some of the most important events in European history. Turns out the actual memoir version is only available for something ridiculous like $109.00. I guess you can get the Caroline Moorehead scholarly view of it for $18, which might be nice. I’m always conflicted about whether to read the primary source (which can be either interesting or soporific) or the scholarly guide (which can be good but then you’re dealing with an interpreter. Thoughts?

Anyhow, because of my internet search for this, I came up on this site, www.goodreads.com. It’s an online community of book lover/readers who rate books and talk about them. I’m not really one for joining too many “online communities” because too much information WEARS ME OUT!, but this one seemed like a good idea. And you can do little capsule reviews of things you’ve read or are reading. And then they give you stuff to post on your blog. Hence, the below. So you can have some good reads of your own. Friend me, if you sign up.

A Death in the Family A Death in the Family by James Agee



The "Knoxville Summer 1915" portion in the beginning of the book is one of the most beautiful pieces of prose written, probably because I love the Barber piece so much. I've always meant to read this, so I picked it up.


What's Not to Love?: The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer What's Not to Love?: The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer by Jonathan Ames



I like Ames. His stories have a "how did I end up here" quality to them I like. He's a somewhat dispassionate observer of his passions, almost 19th century in his voice. I tend to binge on authors, and he's a current subject of gluttony.


The Alcoholic The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames



Sometimes the graphic novel can boost the story being told, especially when the prose itself feels matter-of-fact. It works for me in this in the same way it worked for me in the outstanding "Fun Home", magnifying the resonance of the story. Ames is brutally honest about where his drinking takes him, and just as honest about his somewhat complicated relationship to doing things about it. And, as with most of his stuff, frank in his dealing with his own complicated sexuality.

On Beauty On Beauty by Zadie Smith


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
She's such a wonderful writer. Howard's End is one of my favorite books of all time. I love that she took it as a template, but also made it her own. Her domestic scenes are unequaled, and I loved the last scene so much I actually hugged the book when I was done with it and sat quietly feeling warm and content. TMI, maybe, but it's true.


Howards End Howards End by E.M. Forster


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I can't even say how many times I've read this book. 7? 8? I even have a special paperback edition that whenever I see I have to buy. It's just about everything all at once. Beautiful balance of character and philosophy. Stellar.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Brilliant exploration of author's complicated relationship with her father, her own coming out and his sexuality. It was a best book of the year for a reason. The graphics only enrich the story, and since Bechdel herself does the drawing they can't be separated from the prose itself. Excellent example of how graphic novels can succeed as well as conventional ones, especially in something like memoir, that even in prose seems imagistic like memory.

View all my reviews >>

2 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Wow. Loads of good recommendations. I think I'm already signed up for Goodreads but can't be sure. I find it overwhelming...

I love A Death in the Family and look forward to looking into your other recommendations.

Glad I stopped by -- and I'm adding you to my blogroll!

Criticlasm said...

Thanks!