Monday, October 21, 2013

lots of books, all crammed in

The reading, of late:

Death of Riley, by Rhys Bowen. Slight mystery set in nineteenth-century New York. It was okay; nothing memorable.

Armadale, by Wilkie Collins. Oh, Wilkie. It's no Woman in White, but it's still delicious. There is actually a chapter entitled "The Plot Thickens" (ironically, that particular chapter caused very little to thicken). It starts very, very slowly, but once the villainess showed up I couldn't put it down. She is wonderful. Melodrama! Coincidence! Disasters at sea! Foreboding dreams! A kick-ass female character! Fabulous stuff.

Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge, by Eleanor Herman. A book about royal mistresses through history. It contained some interesting and juicy stuff, but Herman came across as so incredibly judgy about sex that the book's topic seemed a virtually nonsensical one for her to choose. (She also includes a postscript about how her second marriage has worked where her first didn't because of what she learned from royal mistresses: always put the man and his interests first, basically, and never show him you're having a bad day. Gaaaaagh.)

A Serpent's Tooth, by Craig Johnson. A solid entry in his Walt Longmire series, although the instant the male characters start remarking of a female character, "Have you noticed that she's a bit emotional lately?" I rolled my eyes back into my head. I will have you know, writers, that I have been female for almost thirty-seven years, and a good majority of that time I have been emotional as hell while also, amazingly, not being pregnant. A female character could be emotional because she has family concerns, or financial worries, or her job is preoccupying her, or for any of the reasons that a male character might not quite be himself either. But noooo, it's always that she got knocked up. (I refuse to consider that a spoiler, because the first time someone mentions it is roughly ten pages in, and if you have read any books before it's completely obvious what Johnson's point is.)

Pym, by Mat Johnson. This book is insane. And insanely good. The premise is that a fired English professor discovers a manuscript proving the historical veracity of Edgar Allen Poe's Narrative of Gordon Pym (which is recapped deftly, so you don't have to have read it), and puts together an all African-American crew to travel to Antarctica and look for the locations Poe describes. Johnson is an amazing and hilarious writer, and his riffs on literature and being black in America were my favorite part of the book. The plot is utterly deranged, although never less than engrossing. I tore through this and would highly recommend it, even though a dog disappears with no explanation (given its potential fates, I was frankly relieved to be spared detail).

The Fallen, by Jessy Mackenzie. Mystery set in South Africa. Should have had potential but was just dull and over-long.

Zelda: A Biography, by Nancy Milford. I knew very little about Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald prior to reading this, other than that they seemed like exhausting people to be around. This book certainly reinforced that, but in a compassionate way. They were so, so young, after all. The last third dragged, given that it was just endless excerpts from Zelda's novel Save Me the Waltz, which was kind of a hot mess, but I found the book interesting overall.

Mind's Eye, by Hakan Nesser. Scandinavian mystery. So dark and cold. I don't feel the urge to continue with the series.

Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes, and Cads, by Joni Rendon. My Early Reviewers book, and rather fun. Short, dishy little chapters, perfect for bathroom reading. From the cover and the blurb, it seemed like it was all going to be about ladies' men, but equal time is given to homosexual and bisexual writers, which I appreciated.

Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier, by Hampton Sides. Essays from a writer I love about the craziest aspects of America. Some are from the early 1990's and haven't aged as well as one would like, but Sides' writing is never anything but great. The essay about Santa Fe, where he lives, had me on the verge of packing the car and heading west; and the last section, with three essays about 9/11 and the Iraq war, was wrenching. I cried.

So what have I been doing lately? Other than reading my butt off, clearly. Well, Berowne is almost completely moved in, which is utterly wonderful. I have been dealing with anniversary-emotions: October 17 was the day Claudio left, and even though it's been three years and it was 100% for the best, every late October I get smacked with a big ol' dose of You Are Not Good Enough and there are a lot of ranting journal entries and some crying. (I believe I actually said, and meant, "Anyone else would have done everything better than I have!" to Berowne, who was kind enough to not laugh. Much.) 

But things are good. The dogs are happy and getting more walks; I am being fed by a ridiculously good cook; the dryer and the porch railing are fixed. In three weeks I get married again, which is madness and also just about the easiest decision I ever made. No complaints around here. 

1 comment:

  1. For the record, at least one of your readers also laughed at the "Anyone else" line, probably for equal parts absurdity and recognition!