Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thankfully Reading Weekend

I've been fortunate. I've been able to spend not just the weekend, but the whole week Thankfully Reading. Here's a quick review of what I've finished this week:



There you have it:  Seven books in seven days. And what did I take away from the experience of reading all these books?  Here are a few quick thoughts:

Old Gringo was agony for me to read. Carlos Fuentes came to Houston a few weeks back and I drove in to see him. He was pretty much as I'd expected. An achingly handsome eighty-year-old man who writes poetic novels. And who sees life as experienced mainly through his manly body parts. This may work for his male readers. This may work for the parts of Old Gringo told from the point of view of his male characters like Pancho Villa and one of Villa's generals and even Ambrose Bierce. But it did not work for me when it came to reading the parts of the story told from the point of view of Harriet Winslow, a starting-to-age American school marm who takes up with Bierce and the Villa general. Agony to read.

I'd planned to read Old Gringo, the book I'd bought at the reading, and then watch the video. I fought my way to the end of the novel, loathing every page. And then went hopefully to the video. When I took the DVD from its envelope, I discovered the DVD had been snapped in half. (Could it be that the video was as horrifying as the novel and the previous viewer lost it?)

(I was intrigued by the surprising resemblance of author Carlos Fuentes to Gregory Peck,
the actor who plays Old Gringo in the video.)

On to other reading this week...The 1000 Journals Project was a Best Of selection from the 1000 Journals Project, a project where 1000 empty journals were sent out in the world to be filled with clever observations and smart drawings and photographs. I can only hope this was not a true Best Of; in a word, I was underwhelmed. Reading through this book reminds of an interview I once read with a bartender. The bartender admitted he'd gone into his work in hopes to hearing (and stealing) the Great American Novel from his patrons and found instead he heard the same old banal stories every night, told with all the vulgarity and limited vocabulary you might expect from drunks who frequent bars.

I was offered a copy of The Tapestry of Love from the author. The author had sent me her previous novel last year and I found it to be a small but competent romance. I hesitated from requesting this book, but decided the French rural setting would compensate for the requisite romantic plot. And here I have sad news: It did not. The first eighty pages were absolutely nothing but the French rural setting and it just was not enough. The romance was tossed in during the last few chapters. I just did not care about the woman who came to France to make tapestries or her sister who pops in and then disappears or the man who lives next door and romances both the tapestry woman and her sister or even the old French farm couple down the road. I didn't even care about the rural French setting.

The two children's books from the 1001 Children's Books You Must Read list were, happily, time better spent. The Good Master is the story of a boy who lives with his family on a farm in Hungary. His city cousin comes to stay with the family to recuperate from illness and the boy and his cousin have a number of adventures, including a kidnapping by gypsies. The copyright date of 1935 brings a feeling of authenticity to the story of a boy who genuinely plans to spend his life growing food and has no real need to learn to read or write and his cousin who grows to love the country and persuades her father to abandon his life in the city and return to his roots in the country. And The Story of Tracy Beaker was absolutely delightful. A book of diary entries written by a young girl in foster care. Could have been sad (and was, at times) but was also hilarious and true.

Two books left to review and I'm glad to tell you that I liked both of these. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe would work for you, I say tentatively, whether you like science fiction or not. It was about time travel. Sort of. And father-son relationships. Well, relationships in general, maybe. Anyway, I liked it, even if I didn't understand one word about the time travel parts. It did not really matter. My favorite science fiction book in a long, long time (although, I feel compelled to add, also my only science fiction book in a long, long time).

And, finally, my favorite read of the week, the month, maybe the year...Let the Great World Spin. I wish I was a deeper reader and a better writer, a person who could share with you all the wonderful thoughts you can take away from this book and all the brilliant ways the author used the metaphor of the wirewalker, stepping out over the slums and magnificent high rises of 1974 New York City, stepping out over the sad group of mothers who lost sons in Vietnam and the streetwalkers, stepping out over the noble priest and the hippie artists. I wish I could. All I can do is sigh and say again and again how much I liked it and how you should read it.

(I was able to pair the reading of Let the Great World Spin
with the documentary Man on Wire,
which was quite lovely in itself.)

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25 comments:

reviewsbylola said...

I am so envious of all the reading you got done!

readerbuzz said...

It was a good reading week. Quantity-wise, anyway.

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Seven books in seven days! That's awesome ... congrats! Very glad to hear you liked Let the Great World Spin, which I have out from the library now and am looking forward to reading.

readerbuzz said...

I will eagerly await hearing what you think of LGWS. Very curious now to see what others think of it.

JoAnn said...

I just loved Let the Great World Spin... definitely one of my most memorable reads this year!

Vasilly said...

What a ton of reading! Too bad half the books didn't live up to your expectations. Let the Great World Spin sounds like a fantastic read. I'll definitely add it to my TBR pile. Have a great week!

readerbuzz said...

I just could not accept Fuentes' take on this woman character, Harriet. A manly man's look at this woman. Very irritatingly and irredeemably sexist. I'm quite angry about it.

Yvonne said...

You did an amazing job of reading this week!

Erica Woolridge said...

Whoa, that's a whole lot of books! I would be scared to commit to that, good on you for sticking with it even though some of them were disappointing.

Molly said...

I am sorry to hear that the 1,000 Journals Project was not more captivating. I have become quite interested in journaling (wish I could sketch along with it, but alas, I am severely lacking in those talents) and I love seeing how others capture their daily environment.

Hope you have a great return to the workplace this week after such a relaxing time off.

Biblibio said...

I'm one of those readers who wasn't so impressed by Let the Great World Spin. I liked it well enough - it's an okay book - but I felt there were too many flaws dragging it down. Time has also hurt it. I remember the faults far more clearly than I remember the virtues, leaving a less-than-positive impression in my mind. But to each his own, right?

I'll be honest, the book that sounds most interesting here is The Good Master. I have a strong affinity for older books, plus the Hungarian setting seems like it would really suit me (the last Hungarian kid-oriented book I read was positively excellent). What a delightful, productive reading week!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I tried Let the Great World Spin but never made it past about page 3! I keep hearing how good it is though. I did read all of Tapestry of Love, because I kept waiting for something to happen... As you know, it never really did! A lot of people liked it, but it didn't do much for me either!

Mystica said...

A good reading week for you and I like that Thornton cover so very much!

21tiger.com said...

Wow, you're an animal!!! :D A book per day~~~~
Well done!!

TheBookGirl said...

You may have hated reading some of those books, but I loved reading your post!
I have not read any of these, but in all honesty, the two children's books sound the best to me :)

Amy said...

Wow, what a great reading week! I'm glad you had some good ones in there to compensate for the bad :)

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

What a great week you had in books Deb....especially considering the busy week must of us had.

Suzanne said...

Wow, what a great reading week! Although you had a few you didn't like (and it's hard when that happens- especially when it's a treat to set time aside especially for reading!) At least you ended on some positive notes- I have Let The Great World Spin sitting on my Kindle, ready to read one of these days! I am so glad that was one of your favorites! Thanks for sharing your amazing week!

Laura said...

7 books in 7 days, that's pretty amazing. I enjoyed Let the Great World Spin, too.

Louise said...

7 books in 7 days is very impressive. I'd be able to do that with picture books but not much else. I'm jealous of your two kids books. I'm really keen to read some Jacqueline Wilson, I've never read any of her books, and I just suspect that I will really like her writing and humour. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed this one.

MissMeliss said...

Some of these sound lovely, some not so lovely. Sorry you were disappointed in Old Gringo - are you like me, and MORE disappointed when a "notable" or "classic" novel doesn't live up to its hype?

Enjoyed experiencing your week of books, though.

Eva said...

OMG, your line about Carlos Fuentes made me laugh so hysterically my sister had me read it out loud. I've only read one Fuentes, and I really want to try The Old Gringo, so I hope I get along with it better than you. ;)

Marie said...

Great work! I want to read the Charles Yu book soon. My husband just finished it and loved it. I'm glad you liked it too and I'm sure I'll enjoy it! :-)

Em said...

So there seems to be mixed opinions about The Tapestry of Love. I read two reviews saying it was an enjoyable book (although not a major book) and I was tempted by the idea of that foreign person settling in rural France. I might still get it if I come across an affordable copy.

Kathleen said...

Lucky you! I am hoping to carve out some reading time this weekend.