Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Few Books – Bits: Reaction & Reflection

I haven't been going to the second hand store book section as much lately but thought I was due a visit. One book did catch my eye: First I saw Flannery O'Connor's name in bold letters stare back at me from the book spine. I examined the book: She adorned the cover, a photo of her on her Georgia home porch. A book of commemorative essays to honor her on her seventy-five year day of birth*: Flannery O'Connor: In Celebration of Genius edited by Sarah Gordon. I've often heard O’Connor’s name but never knew anything about her and didn't read any of her stories. I checked out one of her short story collections from the library some time ago, but didn't feel ready, so I returned it unread.

I was intrigued by this book of commemorative essays, so I bought it. I am still reading it and am thoroughly enjoying it. When I finish, I look forward to reading O'Connor's stories. I don't think it will be easy because it sounds as though she takes her readers to disturbing places, but my feeling is it's well worth the trip.

*The book was written in 2000. O’Connor’s birthday: March 25, 2000.

One book that I abandoned after 70 or 80 pages was one I had high hopes for: An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender. I appreciated the quirkiness of the characters at first and actually became fond of one in particular. At times, the way that Bender describes things is beautiful and poetic. But overall, the writing style did not work for me after a while. It didn’t seem to have a natural constant flow for me; and I did not relate with, nor really care for the main character. I became bogged down with the ax, that seemed a character all it’s own. It was just too much, almost a forced magic realism. I wanted so much to like it.

Another quirky book that I did like very much, even though one could say there wasn’t much plot to it is: The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano. I first saw this book in Barnes and Noble and decided to try a sample on Kindle. I was hooked. Was it the imperfect and quirky characters that I was drawn to? The feeling of not fitting in and being at the mercy of bullies? I can't say that the book was a page turner. I can't even say that there was a full story here, but something about it kept me there; perhaps it was the dull feeling of guilt that the protagonist had for having abandoned his sister and the awkwardness of the second protagonist for her bum leg. Both were scarred physically and mentally and for this I suppose it kept me there. I felt something for these characters and wanted the ending to be one way, but it turned out another more unclosed way, which makes sense, really, because that is how real life can be--where you go along in parallel and then the ways drift off into directions you have control of, yet that feeling of not having control is there too. It was a satisfying read and somewhat disturbing, with moments of normalcy, but not much.

The Brothers Karamazov is back on my radar. I have a feeling this is going to be part of my fall and winter reading.

I also enjoy children’s books and one that I had the pleasure of reading recently was No Roses for Harry! by Gene Zion. I remember Harry from childhood. My mother brought home the other book, Harry the Dirty Dog by the same author. I came across Harry again when I was trying to find any available e-book or audio on the library website, so that I could test it out on my Kindle. When I saw the audio, I had to check it out and listen. It then prompted me to check out the hard copy—to connect with that aspect of my childhood. No Roses for Harry! is a charming story with complimentary illustrations by Margaret Bloy Graham.

A book I enjoyed very much was Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray. I wasn't sure if it was going to pull me in when it was recommended to me. This turned out to be a delightful story about a woman who loves baking and resorts to cake, both in mind and baking as her way of dealing with stress. Other family conflicts are added to the mix and the story continues unfolding with deft movement and memorable characters. Complete with a handful of cake recipes, one that stood out was a sweet potato bundt cake with rum plumped raisins and a spiked sugar glaze. Treat yourself to a warm slice of cake. I think that anyone that reads this book will be able to take something from it. It’s a fun read and so much more.

Searching around on the Amazon Kindle store, I came across The Journal Keeper: A Memoir by Phyllis Theroux. As a Journal keeper myself, I am enjoying this one very much. It's relatable, the writing is vivid and reflective, and I also enjoy when she shares quotes and the books they are from and how she weaves them into her journal. One book that I recently ordered that she quoted from is an autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran: And There was Light: Blind Hero of the French Resistance. I may not have come across this book, if not for her mentioning it. I enjoyed Helen Keller’s The World I live In, and this book made me think of her. I am interested in reading Lusseyran’s autobiography to be allowed a window into his vision of the world after losing his sight and of learning a little bit about his experience of being a significant part of the French Resistance. It’s a part of history I know nothing about and this will be a digestible way for me to learn from his perspective. I am also looking forward to his writing because the sample that Theroux chose was beautiful and the few pages I have read so far make me feel happy that the book found me.

No comments: