Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"I need a latte, a cappucino, and tonight I think I'll have a little vino." - The Coffee Song, Ralph's World

Library books I walked downtown after work to pick up yesterday:
The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf - highly recommended by Gina and everyone else I know who has read it.
Death by Pad Thai – a collection of food essays by famous writers. This proved to me that my dislike of Emperor’s Children was not a fluke – Claire Messud’s essay was pretentious and overwritten, not to mention boring - and the only one I couldn’t finish.
The White Darkness - another polar exploration novel
Population: 485 - I think this was a recc from Lisa Jean, whose book blog I am enjoying
Wrestling with Gravy and Talking with my Mouth Full - I have no idea where all these food books reccs came from. But I love reading about food, almost more than I enjoy eating it.

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I started reading Charlotte’s Web to Primo two nights ago. H warned me to expect floods of tears; I suspected he was right. But we settled into the gentle progress of the story, the down-to-earth farmers an amusing contrast to dreamy Fern, and Wilbur’s animal friends providing a humorous counterpoint.
The public schools were closed today because of the scant two inches of snow we received. So this afternoon, after lunch out and several hours at The Center for Creative Play (where I was the only mom with her nose buried in a book and my child was the only child in the reading room, sigh), we all came home and tried to nap; Primo curled up on the couch to read and finished off Charlotte’s Web. At least he was quiet – Seg and Terzo refused to nap, choosing instead to lie in their respective beds and talking to themselves for an hour, preventing me from napping as well.

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You know, the Shopaholic & Baby book was not nearly as bad as Shopaholic & Sister; in fact, it was appreciably better, if only because the plot wasn’t nearly so far-fetched. I mean, people do have babies all the time – in fact, I personally was insane enough to have three. But I digress. Becky Bloomwood’s annoying shopping habits are as usual at the forefront. I have to admit that I have never understand the brand-name allure of most consumer goods; why would I spend a thousand dollars on a Coach purse when I could buy a purse at TJ Maxx for fifty bucks or less (and then spend the remaining $950 on books)? But once you get past that, the book is funny, her relationship with her sister is developed, and the incident(s) leading to the obligatory misunderstanding/confrontation are actually real as opposed to all in Becky’s head, and fairly entertaining. The usual letters from Becky preface each chapter, and are amusing; her predilection for exaggerating is showcased in a very funny chapter at a baby expo. Overall, a fun, fast read – possibly my second favorite of the series, after the first Shopaholic.

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If Rebecca at Illiterati hadn’t mentioned that Daniel Alarcon was a friend and former classmate of hers, I never in a trillion years would have picked up Lost City Radio. But I did pick it up and found it riveting. Radio is an elegantly written little book about the effect of war on ordinary people. The book evoked in me a nagging sense of unease; when I read the blurbs on the back cover and one of them called Radio a “fable,” that struck me as exactly the right descriptor for this book. It reminded me in some ways – its almost surreal plotting, its cast of characters whom you never quite figure out, the abrupt ending that doesn’t resolve anything - of Caryl Churchill’s brilliant play about the fall of the Ceausescu regime in Romania, Mad Forest.

When I worked at the Public, the theatre staged Mad Forest on this bizarre but absolutely perfect, cobbled-together-looking set adorned with twelve-foot-tall religious icons and crazy, swaying chandeliers, and a naked man playing the vampire’s dog. The show was co-produced with a theatre somewhere in the Northeast, and the cast was, to a person, amazing. I sat through bits and pieces of the show while we did touch-up and tech, and then I watched the entire show at least four times during the run. It was incredible, and, not to take anything away from the excellent cast, much of it due to Churchill’s exquisite script. Her wordplay, her allusions, her sense of timing and plotting and history, make her, in my opinion a premier playwright, possibly on the scale of Tom Stoppard and early Stephen Sondheim. And Radio had the same feel: secrets and whispers and lies, all tangled together and topped with double-crossing/ed secret agents, an unstable, lying government, and an unreliable narrator.
I heartily second Rebecca’s recommendation.

4 comments:

TLB said...

So glad you liked it. Daniel is a mighty talent.

Lazy cow said...

I hated The Emperor's Children too, but I thought that was just me. So bloody pretentious. Am in a reading slump (5 books started, 5 abandoned) but I.must.not.write.down.any.more.recommendations. It's time to read what's on my shelves! They all do sound fascinating though. Maybe I'll just write them down and look them up another day...

Lisa Jean said...

Wrestling with Gravy came from me too. I'll be interested to hear what you think. I was kind of ehh about it. Population 485 though was wonderful, I am a big fan of essays and these were both funny and heartbreaking.

Glad you like my blog--I'm having so much fun with it.

ssheers said...

Which should I read first: The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf or The Sparrow ???