Tuesday, July 11, 2006

'Good heavens!' said Frog. 'That thing is Toad!

Alice Hoffman has been very hit-or-miss the past few years.

The first book of hers I ever read was Practical Magic, and it was, well, MAGIC. It made me laugh and cry, it was spooky at times, it was just wonderful, and had just enough of her unique magic realism touches that it felt…luminous.
As I am wont to do with authors whose books I enjoy very much, I then tried to read all her early and other stuff. I’ve done this with AS Byatt, and with Margaret Atwood, and with several other lesser writers, and I am ALWAYS disappointed. As I was with Hoffman. I could see the talent and the spark, but mostly I found her other books clumsy, clich├ęd, and/or scattered. Illumination Night, Turtle Moon, White Horses, Property Of - all disappointing. Blue’s Diary was more than disappointing, I outright disliked it. Here on Earth and The River God were readable but not what I wanted or expected from Hoffman. I knew what she was capable of.

Then, within the past few years, I read The Probable Future. Three generations of Sparrow women are blessed – or cursed, depending on how you view things - with unusual gifts – Elinor perceives when people are lying; Jenny sees other people’s dreams, and Stella can foresee a person’s manner of death. Probable Future was the enchanting, haunted mix of modern reality and disconcertingly strange history that is a hallmark of Hoffman’s best work.

And then, on Saturday, I plucked The Ice Queen off the New Books shelf. The protagonist, whose name we never learn, is a librarian who is struck by lightning. I have a bit of a thing for books peopled by or starring librarians. But it’s also so much more than that. I read it in one giant gulp, Saturday night, staying up waaaayy too late in order to finish.

Albeit in a quote from a review of Seventh Heaven, Publisher’s Weekly hits the Alice Hoffman nail squarely on the head: “...she tells more than a compulsively readable story. She does magic, she unsettles you and she leaves you feeling emotionally purged and satisfied.

Honestly, after I turned the last page, I wanted a stiff drink and a cigarette.

Now I am manfully plodding through Laurie R. King’s Night Work, one of her Kate Martinelli mysteries. I would enjoy it more if I didn’t dislike Kate’s lover so very much, but I find Lee insufferable and annoying. In lieu of a Mary Russell novel from King, though, it’s better than nothing.

But then. THEN! A co-worker sent me the following article, “Caution: These Books May Make you Skip Work!” by Nancy Pearl, and now?
My list grows ever longer.

Also? I am borrowing Literacy and Longing in L.A. from Gina, because it’s so very nice and comforting to know I am not alone in my illness.


As if Arnold Lobel (of Frog and Toad fame) needs *anything else* to recommend him:

Books to the ceiling
Books to the sky.
My pile of books
Are a mile high.
How I love them!
How I need them!
I'll have a long beard
By the time I read them.

- Arnold Lobel


Something stupid happened over the weekend, and I am so very angry that I cannot concentrate on anything, let alone blog entries. So if my posts are a bit sparse for the next few days, please forgive.


Gina said...

I would wear a t-shirt printed with that Lobel verse. :-)

Sarah Louise said...

Me too! And you may read my review of Literary and Longing in L.A. from Sunday, y'know, cuz I blog on the weekends...

Paula said...

I love that verse!

jess said...

I'll take a t-shirt, too!

I didn't much like The Probable Future. Something about the characters and the way the whole story was layed out. Definitely entertaining, but something rubbed me wrong. It's the only one of hers I've read.

I'm afraid to even click on the Nancy Pearl link. Book Lust and More Book Lust were DANGEROUS. Although, actually, I think she was the one who recommended The Probable Future. So maybe I shouldn't trust her afterall...

yt said...

I dropped Alice Hoffman years ago but never admitted it, thinking there must be something deficient about me. So glad to know other, more considered opinions, also found much of her work disappointing.

Sarah Louise said...

Oh, and I liked Turtle Dreams. I didn't think it was literature, but I did like it.

Joke said...

Any event which gives rise to the sort of anger that interferes with bloggy duties richly merits a nervous "uh-oh."


Suse said...

I'm ordering a t-shirt too please.

And I'm not touching the uh-oh except to ask if the bus is still an option?

Loretta said...

I'm leaving the Cape this Saturday and I haven't packed a thing - except a suitcase of books.

And our first stop - the bookstore.

Katya said...

I have two copies of the River God for some reason and haven't been able to read either. I'll try Probable Future though.

I also need a t-shirt with that verse as do several friends of mine.

I'm sorry about the incident and hope things resolve themselves soon.

julia said...

I heard Nancy Pearl interviewed on Morning Edition yesterday morning. I was frantically scribbling down book titles as I navigated the back roads. I think I need to make a trip to the library again.

Badger said...

I am "uh-oh"ing with Joke.

And I'm thrilled to see that the Nancy Pearl article mentions one of my favorite books (Katherine Dunn's Geek Love) and one of the books sitting right now on my to-be-read pile (Donna Tartt's The Little Friend, which I bought in hardback for 99 cents at the late, lamented 75% Off Bookstore and haven't read yet because it's bigger than the OED).

Lazy cow said...

I loved Turtle Moon and think it's her best (along with Seventh Heaven). Then there was a long line of duds, and I enjoyed The Probable future too.
Like the Lobel verse too, but I want a t-shirt that says "Leave me alone, I'm reading".
Hope the 'stupid thing' was too terrible and you're back soon.