may-july 2011 reading

Reading My Father by Alexandra Styron — Depressed people are hell to live with, although probably not quite as hellish for everyone else as they are to themselves. Alexandra Styron is the youngest daughter of William Styron, author of Sophie’s Choice and several other novels as well as Darkness Visible, a memoir about what turned out to be only his first bout with depression. His daughter’s book is interesting primarily I think if you’ve read Darkness Visible, which ends with Styron coming out of his depression and once again beholding the stars, which is a nice way to end a book (thanks, Dante!) but not, sadly, as it turns out, a true one. You might also enjoy it if you like reading about the sort of crazy lives of ridiculously wealthy people.

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen — I look forward to a new Sarah Dessen novel the way a kid looks forward to a holiday involving candy. So sweet, so yummy, so something you shouldn’t probably overdose on.

R Hard Laughter by Anne Lamott — I reread early Anne Lamott novels whenever I’m having a hard time, and her splendid nutty northern California families always, always make me feel better. Hard Laughter is a funny book about a woman whose father is dying from cancer. I am not kidding.

Through the Cracks by Barbara Fister — Our June mystery selection. As soon as I heard I was going to be in charge of a mystery book discussion group, I knew we’d read one of Barbara Fister’s novels. This one has a terrific setting mostly on Chicago’s west side, a kick-ass protagonist, and enough social justice content to make me happy.

R All New People by Anne Lamott — I think this is my very favorite of her novels. It’s framed with the story of a woman going back to her hometown, but the novel itself is her recollection of childhood, and of growing up in a time when suddenly people’s parents were divorcing and kids were doing drugs, and everyone has a messy and complicated but somehow wonderful life.

The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron — As I’ve noted, I’m not a mystery reader by nature, but I’m often surprised by how much I end up liking the books for our mystery book discussion. This one, about a game warden in Maine with an estranged alcoholic father now suspected of murder was great.

R Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott — I read this a long time ago before I ever even thought of being a mother. Now that I am going to be one, I thought I ought to reread it. You will probably like it even if you are not, like me, a Jesus freak who loathes George Bush (this book takes place during the reign of the first one) because it is so very funny.

Black and White by Dani Shapiro — I have, rather astoundingly, read three novels based on the lives of people who had a photographer parent or friend of a parent who took photos of them that are either artistic or pornographic, depending on your point of view. The others are Miranda Beverly-Whittmore’s The Effects of Light and Kathryn Harrison’s Exposure. Harrison’s differs from the other two in that the photographer is a father, not a mother or a woman, but all three deal with grown women attempting to come to terms with having had a childhood and coming of age that was intensely private made into very public art. One would think there would eventually be a limit to the amount of psychological territory one could explore in such a story, but I’ve enjoyed all three books and would happily read any of them again.

Wrecker by Summer Woods — A three year old boy goes to live with his uncle up in far northern California after his mom is busted and sent to prison, but he ends up being raised by a bunch of people on a commune next door. There’s an underdeveloped plotline wherein his uncle is a logger and one of the commune dwellers goes off to be a tree spiker, and I was hoping for more of that story, but even without it, it’s a pretty good book.

The Suicide Index by Joan Wickersham — I was interested in this memoir for both personal (my father killed himself, too) and writerly (how would a book written as an annotated index work?) reasons. I think Ann Marlowe did more interesting things with the index concept in How to Stop Time: Heroin from A to Z, but it also works well for these sort of differently written mini essays that attempt to sort out unanswerable questions.

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine — Sort of an update of Sense and Sensibility: a New York City matron is divorced by her husband and unceremoniously dumped from their apartment, and so she and her two adult daughters (one sensible, one silly) go to live in a rundown beach cottage in Connecticut. I laughed and laughed.

3 thoughts on “may-july 2011 reading”

  1. Thanks! Yeah, just books I’ve read. I never do get out any more, so I have no idea what’s actually happening. I think you’d like the Alexandra Styron book.

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