Thoughts by Elizabeth Taylor, Virago Modern Classics 2006 (orig 1947), 304 pages
Introduction by Sarah Waters
Challenge: Buddy Read with Laila of Big Reading Life; Set At or By the Sea Category of #ReadICT
Genre/Theme: Adult Fiction; quiet small British seaside village post-WW2
Type/Source: Tradeback / Purchased at Watermarks Indie bookstore
What It’s About: This story focuses on the inter-relationships of the neighbors living directly on the harbour; from the doctor’s family, the pub workers, the widowed proprietor of a tourist wax museum, the librarian, the vicar, etc. The pivot view to all begins with Bertram, a painter who has moved to the area for the season: to catch the right light off the sea, to capture the perfect seascape, to be “an artist”. He fancies himself a man-of-the-people as he rudely? comically? insinuates himself into the neighborhood. A lot of life happens in this book.
“Always intelligent, often subversive, and never dull, Elizabeth Taylor is the thinking person’s dangerous housewife. Her sophisticated prose combines elegance, ice wit and freshness in a stimulating cocktail – the perfect toast to the quiet horror of domestic life.”
Thoughts: I love this author. True, her stories do not have a lot of action exactly, but they have drama! and depth and comedy, beautiful sentences and interesting glimpses into every character – the good and the bad, the endearing, the appalling. Ah, not really! not that much appalling exactly. Well, maybe. (One more reason I love classics – humans have always been dastardly and behaved badly, amiright?)
“I know who to,” Beth said, shocked to find herself ending with a preposition. But she was much thrown out by the surprise of it all.”
Rating: Four slices of pie. LOTS of whipped cream. Shepherd’s Pie mentioned
“Forking up shepherd’s pie with an expression of contempt.”
Thoughts by George M Johnson, Macmillan Audio 2020, 5 hours 12 minutes
Narrated by the author.
Challenge:What’s in a Name: Color category
Genre/Theme: Nonfiction, essays, LGBTQ+
Type/Source: Audiobook / eLibby
What It’s About: This is a collection of essays detailing the author’s growing up in a loving family and also identifying with interests more socially conditioned to be typically girl things – like double-dutch jump rope at recess. They talk about trauma of bullying, wanting and fearing being different, identifying as queer, how much their Nanny provided in love and support, their education from a black perspective, and their sexuality.
The memoir is a firsthand account of trials, tribulations, and triumphs that have made George M. Johnson into the person they are today.
Thoughts: I learned a few things! Important work – they’re willing to share and I am willing to know more and do more about how to promote respect for all humanity and be a good human.
This book was requested via my library because school districts near me have banned it. I wanted to know why and I wanted to show community support for books and marginalized people. I believe a couple of things when the topic of books and age appropriateness is discussed; 1) if a kid reads something they don’t understand, they look it up and/or ask a trusted adult to explain more, or 2) they just skip over it because they don’t understand it or it’s just not relevant to them to relate to. They aren’t groomed or seduced or corrupted. If a kid is seeking out this book, they just might need it and it would be best for all to be able to discuss and pour love not judgement onto the situation. Education, education, education. I respect the parents that take the tough questions and build trust rather than promote fear and shame. Love and respect. Stand up to hate. Have the tough conversations.
Genre/Theme: Adult Fiction, Berlin/Cold War, Based on a true story. Inspired by real events.
Type/Source: Audiobook, Audible
What It’s About: Bob was a senior in college, majoring in economics with dreams of moving on to law school, when he was drafted into the US Army. The year was 1959. After basics in Oklahoma and proving more than competent in shooting, he is sent to a US base in Germany. He is voluntold into the spy game and is eventually captured, enduring 4-5 months in a GDR communist prison camp.
Before impersonating a US economics student studying post-war economics with a German professor who regularly travels into East Germany, he meets a German nurse named Luisa who through circumstance, personal moral courage, and her determination to get her grandmother out of East Berlin, becomes a resistance fighter.
We get his side of the tale and hers. This is a historical post-WW2 story documenting the building of the Berlin Wall. If communism doesn’t scare you, read this.
Thoughts: Despite the note on my gr progress that I found it to started with few emotional hooks and that it felt rather fact-based more than emotional-story, I ended up liking this very much. I cannot but admire the faith and convictions of Bob and also Luisa; I loved their friendship, I was very touched by the ending. A really lovely story that hit hard in a good way and at the right time.
My favorite was … The City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, followed very VERY closely by The Slow March of Light by Heather B Morris. Chouette was the most artsy (and musical) and creative and just wild! If you like unsettling books, I recommend.
“My tiny important job of the day is to crimp pie crusts.”
Locations and travels:
A few of these were based in the US or England and then traveled around the world
Slow March was set in cold war Berlin
The Last Thing He Told Me started and ended in Sausalito CA with much of the action in Austin TX
City of Girls was NYC
Chouette was CA but also forest fantasyland somewhat.
She was a bright, energetic, pie-faced fourteen-year-old, who always dressed in the most outlandish costumes.
-City of Girls
For challenges, I added one more category for the What’s in a Name 2022 “Speed” with the SLOW in the title, The Slow March of Light by Heather B. Moore – and still hope to add a single post review of this soon. It was a scary book with a hopeful “Wow, good humans DO exist” ending that really touched me.
I’m excited to have completed the personal to me challenge of reading Truth & Beauty with The Autobiography of a Face. Interesting story of friendship, of writing, of memoir and who owns the telling.
As a refrain offered in Chouette, “It’s time to tell.” Ellman’s essays would certainly agree with that.
Pie was mentioned in five of this month’s reads: Things Are Against Us had many pie mentions! Which is not at all surprising if you had read Ellman’s prior book Ducks, Newburyport about a pie baker. And of course, the only reason I have a kids book read was because PIE is in the title. Chouette, City of Girls, and The Last Thing He Told Me round out the pie offerings.
Now it is May and I’m doing a buddy read with Laila of Big Reading Life of The View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor. It is going to be GOOD, I just know. Looking forward to it! This was also a SPIN book for Litsy in May – yay me for having more reasons to read it (besides it being a classic for my Club 50.)
What was YOUR favorite book of April?
May 3 is Raspberry Tart Day, May 8 is Coconut Cream Pie Day, May 13 is Apple Pie Day, and May 20 is Quiche Lorraine Day – which is in a pie crust, so I call it pie.
“Just go sit inside and get yourself a piece of pie, okay?”
“I literally couldn’t want a piece of pie less,” she says.
And BECAUSE, I am out of practice. (see? My first self-doubt question is to wonder if I need that comma after my all-caps “BECAUSE”. I don’t, do I. Not a question, but now I have to leave it or you wouldn’t have much of a clue what I was talking about. )
Because I am out of practice, I need to just open a blank post and start free-associating.
So this is what I am doing!
First (since the above is epilogue) I will shout out a big WOO HOO to Amy for being a super dooper book friend by text.
We just texted and had a lovely conversation about books and doing-what-makes-you-happy and somehow after that, the convo devolved to Twitter and capitalism.
How do you spell SAY-Lah-VEE. ?
How old were you when you discovered that french words were very much not what they looked like spelled?!
I still recall the day when I found out what “hors d’oeuvres” were/was/WHAT?!
I knew then that I would NEVER learn French.
Ok, where were we? Trying to get the CARE back to putting words into the internet! I miss it! Yet everytime I sit to write a post, I just can’t. I can’t remember the steps, I can’t recall the process, I don’t desire the whateveritwas. The ooomph, motivation and the want to… THERE. but not the mechanics, and the overcoming of the hump of just-doing.
I really can’t quite figure it out.
I loved LOVED City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert.
I have loved her authoringabilities since that book that everyone hated that I can’t at this exact moment recall. WHAT IS THAT?! Peace Love Pie? no…. Love Pray Eat? EAT PRAY LOVE! ok, whew
I thought that was total wonderfulness.
SO I especially, vocally veraciously loudly follow Elizabeth Gilbert because she is T.A.L.E.N.T-ed in the kinds of books I like to read. I don’t know how else to describe them but I’m gathering a list of authors that fit my MUST-READS: Ann Patchett, Elizabeth Strout, Rachel Joyce, Kate Atkinson, Liz Moore, Kate DiCamillo, … oh, I’m SURE there are MORE. (Tell me who I’m missing.)
Just heard that Elizabeth McCracken has a movie rights optioned on her book The Giant’s House which I have yet to read. Might have to put that on my May —- no! June list.
Here is my May list:
OK then myFriends, let’s encourage each other to contribute when we can and validate our thoughts and opinions of beauty and art cuz, GOLLY, it can be a struggle with the evil Putin being evil, and other mind-boggling disregard for humanity.
ok, then. I’m working on finishing 2 more books this month and then writing an April recap. Be kind!
Am inspired to read a new translation of Beowulf by Maria Dahvana Headley, one of the judges this year. MANY if not most of the judgments were excellent.
Pie was mentioned in four of this month’s reads. A history of PYREX mentions pie, all kinds of pie and multiple paragraphs cover a summer expedition to eat pie across the country, squash pie in Parnassus on Wheels and this from WRtT:
April 3 is Chocolate Mousse Pie Day, April 5 is Empanada Day, April 28 is Blueberry Pie Day! I don’t think I made any pie in March. I just wasn’t feelin’ it.
Collection #1 by Elisabeth Barrett Browning, Bard Books Avon Hearst ~1950, 96 pages
Beloved, my Beloved, when I think That thou wast in the world a year ago, What time I sate alone here in the snow And saw no footprint, heard the silence sink No moment at thy voice, . . but, link by link, Went counting all my chains, as if that so They never could fall off at any blow Struck by thy possible hand . . . why, thus I drink Of life’s great cup of wonder! Wonderful, Never to feel thee thrill the day or night With personal act or speech,—nor ever cull Some prescience of thee with the blossoms white Thou sawest growing! Atheists are as dull, Who cannot guess God’s presence out of sight.
(Annoyed and afraid. Afraid to utilize my Goodreads Librarian status to update this edition and I’m not sure why… I probably should. Please feel free to shoot me a vote of confidence to update the publisher/date/add illustrator/estimate of date published blahblahblah…)
Anyway, I didn’t find many of these sonnets romantic. Mostly confusing or boring. I just don’t have an appreciation for this “story”. What I really want to know is what exactly did EBB suffer from and what exactly did she and her love enjoy once they escaped Papa’s overbearing captivity! Did she thrive in Italy? I am missing some key details and am probably just nosy for juicy gossip. Oooops.
I enjoyed the first few lines of her most famous one, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” but mostly these bits were obscure and non-impressive. Sorry not sorry. Probably makes me a heathen or something.
Still. I’m glad to have read these. No pie, three stars.
Collection #2 by Rachel Long, Tin House 2021, 79 pages
Black Princess! Black Princess!
… We’re keen to avoid any awkward questions, should they arise, about how a yogi single mother could afford to send her daughter to a good school. But, all verified, she’s through! Now, we must comb through your hair. Just joking! We’ve attended training on that issue.
. . .
I found many of these poems confounding? if that isn’t too strong a word. But I appreciate the sense that she really owns these poems. I sense a delight, no hesitancy, some attitude and spark.
*Or more. I’m not tracking, I’m just reading. I’m not limiting this experience to one poem a day – that is only the minimum.
Thoughts by Xóchitl González, Flatiron Books 2022, 349 pages
Challenge:Recommended by a friend.
Genre/Theme: Adult Fiction, Puerto Rico Independence, American Dream Pursuit
Type/Source: eBook/Libby Library – 14 day loan
Rather than be irritated, she thought, she should focus on the infallible hilarity of the ultra-wealthy to be penny-wise when it came to compensating human sweat, and dollar-foolish when it came to everything else. She shouldn’t be irritated at all, she counseled herself, and instead laugh her way to the bank.
What It’s About: Olga is a high-achieving owner of a wedding planning business to the wealthy of NYC. Her every move is calculated to take advantage of opportunities to make money and gain status. Her brother is a US Representative from and for Brooklyn. Their father is dead from HIV drug-use and their mom is a fugitive revolutionary-mercenary.
New York had a shocking way of spiraling into chaos whenever met with precipitation, as though the entirety of its infrastructure was actually made of sugar and the water triggered dissolution.
Thoughts: I won’t lie, this was hard to get into. The first third had me pushing myself to keep reading and I wouldn’t give myself permission to DNF because a friend recommended it to me. A friend that I greatly admire. Then I began to wonder, ‘What *IS* this? a love story? A whodunnit tale of treachery? (I was worried that the romantic interest was going to be a bad guy — spoiler: he is a good guy.) A family drama child abandonment story? or an incitation to Revolution, on the part of Puerto Rico?
Yes, and I support PR being granted statehood. The status of this island and these citizens is unjust; to be dependent and taxed, without representation.
She was less uncomfortable than she thought she would be, the realization of which made her uncomfortable.
However, all the stories do come together and I admire this as an author’s strong debut, in mostly– for me– what it accomplishes and addresses, a passionate statement in support of Puerto Rico. I learned a lot more about Puerto Rico.
If your rights are less because you’re born in one place, not another, how meaningful are those rights in the first place?
I’m a completist! I finished The Echo Wife and The Confessions of Copeland Cain on the same day last week and I’ve been working on this post ever since. I want to update with my thoughts about all that …
Let’s share my thoughts of the TOB books so that I can remember them at Tourney Time. Which is SOON. It starts on March 8. First, let’s present my list of favorites, best to least: 1. The Sentences by Louise Erdrich 2. The Trees by Percival Everett 3. Matrix by Lauren Groff 4. Subdivision by Robt J Lennon 5. All’s Well by Mona Awad 6. The Book of Form & Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki 7. The Confession of Copeland Cane by Keenan Norris 8. Intimacies by Katie Kitamura 9. In Concrete by Anna Garreta 10. Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke 11. No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood 12. Beautiful World Where Are You by Sally Rooney 13. When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut 14. Nervous System by Lina Meruane 15. Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart 16. Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge 17. The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey 18. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
NOTE: these middle positions shift up and down if I contemplate further. Suffice it to say, I won’t really be upset about any of these winning. For me, the tournament is about how others react (and beautifully explain) these books, the ideas, the craft, the art. THE DISCUSSION. It’s all terribly subjective and I’m here for it. _________________________________________________________________________
The following THOUGHTS are most recent to first read. ________________________________________________
The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey, eBook, 253 pages This book was a failure for me. I didn’t care for it. I finished it, but I thought it uneven and not quite believable. Maybe it was that it diverted far from what I was hoping and expecting. For all the moral quandaries on the ethics of cloning, it really didn’t hit hard on the big questions for me. And it seems heavy-handed for what questions it did explore … which now, a few many days later, I forget what they are. Identity, I think. But mostly just more on the never-ending story of how men are pigs. I thought many of the main character’s head-thoughts were said over and over and over again. I get it already. You are upset about your marriage. You are unsure about this clone of yourself, yadayadayada blah blah blah. I’m sure that I’ll totally change my mind when the Commentariat has a go at this one!
The Confession of Copeland Cain by Keenan Norris, audiobook 11.2 hrs
Let me share the blurb:
BOOK BLURB: (Cope) is just a regular teenager coming up in a terrifying world. A slightly eccentric, flip-phone loving kid with analog tendencies and a sideline hustling sneakers, the boundaries of Copeland’s life are demarcated from the jump by urban toxicity, an educational apparatus with confounding intentions, and a police state that has merged with media conglomerates – the highly rated Insurgency Alert Desk that surveils and harasses his neighborhood in the name of anti-terrorism.
Recruited by the nearby private school even as he and his folks face eviction, Copeland is doing his damnedest to do right by himself, for himself. And yet the forces at play entrap him in a reality that chews up his past and obscures his future. Copeland’s wry awareness of the absurd keeps life passable, as do his friends and their surprising array of survival skills. And yet in the aftermath of a protest rally against police violence, everything changes, and Copeland finds himself caught in the flood of history.
I really enjoyed this. Cope is very endearing and thoughtful and working on being his best. It has some comic moments, too. It might need to be said that it is brutal and shines the spotlight on harsh reality, too. Recommended. π
I attempted Libertie via eBook from the library. I just could not get into it. I put aside and then came back to it on Audible audio. I got about half way and skipped to the end. Read others’ reviews. Felt I got it. Call it a partial-DNF. I might have missed the middle to last quarter. I was not a fan. To recap what I think it was about: a young girl whose mother was a black female doctor in a free black town in New York who assisted the Underground Railroad. Libertie grew up with expectations of pursuing her own medical degree and assisting mom. She didn’t subscribe to that plan. Between 2 and 3 slices of pie.
Time to chat about ALL’s WELL! I thought this delicious. BUT ONLY!!!! Only after the horrid hard difficult painful PAINFUL first part that discussed the pain of ongoing cumulative on-going ever-present pain. Did I mention it was sickeningly painful? It was. Just painful; all the reviews talk about how visceral it was. I’m not sure if ‘visceral’ is the right word but it was powerful. But then! the cartoon birds of happiness played and the tone shifted and I thought it was WOW. Fantasy elements aside, I thought it brilliantly executed and was on board for the rest of the show and how it played out. This was very much a book that was felt, both bad and good in the body. Well done Author, Author!
Intimacies by Katie Kitamura, Hardcover (Library) 352 pages Quietly powerful. Our protag moved to The Hague, taking at job interpreting for the international war crimes tribunal. Fascinating! but it was her working through the worlds of being an immigrant, making friends, working at what she was working on, and starting a relationship, etc.; these elements formed the power of the story.
I should have liked When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut and translated by Adrian Nathan West, narrated by Adam Barr, 5 hours and 40 minutes. I appreciate all those who loved it but … I don’t know. Maybe I should have read the print and not listened. It is interesting to me that this and Matrix had lots of fact vs fiction disgruntlement and what that MEANS. (I don’t know what it means!) Three slices of pie. (I don’t know if it mentioned pie, either! If anyone has the eBook… go check real quick, wouldya?)
(Dec 2021) Nervous System / Lina Meruane Tb (2021,228) *** 122 Several People Are Typing / Calvin Kasulke A (2021,3.45) **** 120 The Book of Form and Emptiness / Ruth Ozeki A (2021,18.5) π ***** 118 The Trees / Percival Everett Tb (2021,309) π ***** 117
Challenge:Classics Club, CC50_part2, WiaN – inspired by Ann Patchett
Genre/Theme: Adult Fiction, Southern Lit, Grief
Type/Source: Tradeback/Book-A-Holic purchase
What It’s About: Laurel is the daughter of the “Optimist”. She is in her mid-forties, and her mother has been dead over 10, maybe 15 years already. Last year, her father the Optimist up and married Fay, who is maybe forty but probably only late 30s and looks even younger.
Let’s just say that Fay is a piece of work. The southern ladies would say, “Bless her heart”. Actually, I don’t think they even bother with that. All the menfolk think Fay is tender and helpless and to be pitied. The women, not so much.
UGH. (Fay really appalled me.)
Father dies, Laurel manages (by which I mean that she “processes”), Fay annoys and despairs.
Thoughts: Please please please let me know your thoughts if you have read this. I wrote on a Litsy review:
So very much to think about! Packs a punch and not only because it is about grief but about personality, society expectations (and burdens) and perception. Would be a terrific book club book.
Rating: Four slices of pie. Probably on me that I kept getting confused who was who at the funeral. Could be a fiver.
You’ve got pies three deep in the pantry, and an icebox ready to pop.