Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Conventional opinion is the ruin of our souls. - Rumi

OK, the long-promised book post.

What I am reading:
Mountains of Madness – HP Lovecraft
The Silver Wedding Anniversary – Lee Harris
The Doctor’s Daughter – Hilma Wolitzer (yes, she is Meg Wolitzer’s mother) – I so wanted to call out sick today from work so I could go lounge up at the coffee shop and finish reading the second half completely uninterrupted except to freshen my latte. Alas, duty called. Especially since I am missing work Saturday due to a wedding.
Life and Death on Mount Everest – Sherry Ortner

What I’ve read:
Tales from the Crib - Risa Green – this started out very weakly, but quickly got funny and endearing – just like the heroine. I have read every single baby/motherhood book ever written – or at least it feels this way – this one isn’t bad.
My Latest Grievance - Elinor Lipman. You know, Lipman is getting predictable. I thought Alice Thrift was just a one-off boring novel, but this one – eh. It was ok – I really enjoyed the parents’ characters, but the rest – I might not have been able to write it but I could have told you what Lipman was going to write.
I Should Have Stayed Home: The Worst Trips of Great Writers - Roger Rapoprt & Marguerita Castanera, eds. This was oddly entertaining. But then I also enjoy reading about disasters on Mt Everest and cannibalism on the high seas.
On the Road to Emmaus: Stories of Faith, Doubt, and Change - Mark Collins. The author is the husband of a friend of mine, and I enjoyed getting to know him better. Light but fun and interesting reading.
The Sex Lives of Cannibals - J. Maarten Troost. This is the book that inspired Blackbird to live in Tuvalu. Ahem. An entertaining read. I look forward to his new book. The Culinary Art of Nymphomaniacs. KIDDING! It’s really called Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific. I know, I like mine better, too.
Eat Cake - Jeanne Ray. Pistachio cake. Cake, cake, cake. Gosh, how I adore cake. ‘Nuff said.
The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan - Wendy McClure. Funny but not much more here than is on her website.
Dinner with Anna Karenina - you know, no matter what the horrible and sordid secret is in a novel, I can remember only ONE TIME it being really and truly horrifying (that was a Caroline Graham novel, the first of hers I read). So I had a tough time getting as worked up about the events in this book as was necessary to get through it. So, no, I did not finish it. But I felt compelled to warn you.

What I have been trying to read:
The Bowl is Already Broken by Mary Kay Zuravleff. I WANTED to like this book, I really did. An agent for the author - or maybe it’s her editor – sent it to me, to review. On this blog. I wish I had glowing and fabulous things to say. But I do not.
My initial reaction, after trudging through about a hundred dreary pages was this: most of the characters are caricatures; the main character, Promise, needs to grow a backbone; her husband Leo is a milquetoast, and her children are neurotic and irritating. This changed a bit throughout the book – I did develop a reluctant liking for her husband Leo. Only to find Promise increasingly annoying. The scene with her daughter Lydia and the velvet pants was *beyond* neurotic and irritating – at that point I didn’t get why Leo didn’t run away screaming. Or beat them senseless. Or something.
I did like Promise’s mother, a practical and rooted kind of woman. Except for the fact that apparently and for no discernible reason – although by this point I was skimming – she named her daughters Promise and Honor. But a book about her, I might find more interesting.
Also, I admit, I seem to find Asian art yawningly boring – sorry. The author is clearly quite knowledgeable about her chosen subject area, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world gives a fig. A little bit is fine, sets up atmosphere, whatever. The main character has to have a job, yes? But when she waxes eloquent about how the tiny brush strokes are made – the eyelash of a newt or the tail feather of a hummingbird, or whatever the heck it was – WHO CARES? I do not. And I venture to say most people won’t. There’s a fine balance between knowledge and accessibility. That balance is not achieved in this book.
The work/political aspects of the novel – even more jaw-achingly boring. I read to escape that crap, which goes on in everyone’s workplace, so unless it’s funny – or at least believable so I can wholeheartedly hate someone for the heroine – spare us. The same goes for the underappreciated/overworked mom angle - yeah, we moms are all underappreciated and overworked, but I want a new take on it – or at least an interesting, humorous, intelligent take on the same old crap – to hold my attention throughout a book this long.
Mary Kay Zuravleff’s not a bad writer – not at all. She has an elegant style, but she’s very wordy and tries a bit too hard sometimes. She obviously loves her subject matter, but the passion just doesn’t translate.

Now I am off home, to prepare for the Great Wine Tasting Event of the Century, hosted by H tomorrow night at our house. We have to move the new kitchen table out of the entryway and hide six extra chairs somewhere. Among other things. But I won't be able to recaulk the second-floor windows or paint the bathroom or re-tile the powder room in one night, so hide the chairs it is.


Carolyn said...

That was a funny book review.

The comment about the Asian art descriptions made me think about my husband's love for Stephen King.
My husband loves the way SK describes things down to the zit on the dog's butt.

Me, not so much. I'm like "get to the point already. Time's a wasting."

Needless to say, I don't read Stephen King.

Katya said...

carolyn: I've always said that SK needs a really good editor -- someone who will take out a lot of that crap and make him leave it out.

bb: I'm off to the bookstore tomorrow to get I Should Have Stayed Home -- I think I will like that one.

Suse said...

Golly, I guess that agent won't be sending you any more books to review eh? Although it's refreshing to read an honest opinion.

By the by, my father recently turned down the offer of a part in a film written by Stephen King, starring William Hurt. Is he insane, or what?

Miz S said...

Wine tasting, eh? What time should I be there?

Sarah Louise said...

Glad to hear someone else's thoughts on lipman's my latest grievance. I couldn't figure out what the title referred to exactly and though I couldn't predict the end, it took me at least a week and a half to slog through. I wonder what happened--she used to be SO GOOD!

and it was nice that I'd at least heard of more than one of the books and that I actually recommended one of them!

Hope the wine tasting goes well...

jess said...

I'm shocked & appalled that I don't have anything to say about any of those books...so I'll just sit back and drink my coffee and place some holds at the library. Cake...mmm...

jess said...

I'm shocked & appalled that I don't have anything to say about any of those books...so I'll just sit back and drink my coffee and place some holds at the library. Cake...mmm...

weirdbunny said...

My daughters middle name is honor. She started off life as honesty grace. My mother hated it, and people thought I was mad, so in the end we registered her gwen honor. I've always liked those names like paitence and grace. But there's loads of kids called grace now so I'm glad we didn't keep that name.

Carolyn said...


Thank you for letting me know I'm not the only one who finds him way too wordy!

Katya said...

AND I like him and still find him too wordy! He said in a interview once that he remembered his grandfather saying to him something like, "Steve, you can't open your mouth without letting everything spill out, can you?"

Lazy cow said...

I've the Lipman on my bedside table, but I'm waiting for your recommendation: the doctor's daughter from the library.
Asian art - puh - give me Breugel any day!