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.
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!
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.
Thoughts by J.Robt Lennon, Graywolf Press 2021, 231 pages
Genre/Theme: Adult Lit / Trauma and Memory
Type/Source:Tradeback / Jessica the Blue Stocking sent it to me and I’m sending to Amy
What It’s About: Our unnamed protagonist finds herself renting a room after moving to a new neighborhood and embarks on finding a job and a place to live. She explores the subdivision, has adventures, purchases a smart device who attempts to keep her out of harms’ way, and she makes friends with a small boy and a crow. Sort of. She and the crow are more like acquaintances. She bluffs her way into a really strange job as a Phenomenon Analyst with experience in quantum tunneling. Then the windy weather picks up and she starts to remember things. It is truly an odd tale told strangely. Like a fever dream.
“Our Lady (of Perpetual Forbearance) shunned any adulation for her good deeds. Her followers took it to heart. They were so devoted to ignoring her achievements that they completely forgot she existed.”
Thoughts: Yet our MC is endearing somehow. I loved the way that her thoughts and actions were often in juxtaposition. Oh yea –there’s a puzzle that the boarding house proprietors want her to work on. The puzzle shifts with her memories. The whole thing was deftly and creatively told. I was along for the ride.
The situations and the memories and the angry fights with the bakemono, as well as the image of the puzzle suggest that she has experienced severe trauma of a car accident and suggests trauma of a failed marriage involving children. At least or at most, that’s what I got. The ending suggests hope but doesn’t offer much explanation.
My initial reaction to this scene was annoyance. How dare these disturbing alternate realities interrupt my seduction of this beautiful, smoky man!
Rating: Four slices of pie. Apple pie
“I left a slice of pie in my desk drawer,“ she said mournfully. “It’s probably halfway to the moon by now.”
What It’s About: “Three sisters marry very different men and the choices they make determine whether they will flourish, be tamed or be repressed. Lucy’s husband is her beloved companion; Vera’s husband bores her and she turns elsewhere; and Charlotte’s husband is a bully who turns a high-spirited naïve young girl into a deeply unhappy woman.” (From the online catalog.)
She understood as never before that God helps those who help themselves. It was not, as she used to interpret it, that God will only, he can only help those who help themselves. It was true of human help too.
I’ve had this book on my tbr for awhile now. Since I first discovered Persephone and thus discovered Whipple. Compelling. Comforting. Real. I have a friend I tried to arm wrestle to send this to me and I promised I would send it back to her unharmed, unmarked, as pristine as I found it but she wouldn’t part with it. Couldn’t take the risk. (I don’t blame her!)
Then/When I decided to check the Interlibrary Loan option at my library and wa la! They could get a copy! Unfortunately, it came in with 3 other books on 14 day loan that I had requested for TOB. SO I had to read those first, giving me only 1 week to finish this before it’s due date. But committed I was, emboldened to finish on time! AND, I was daring myself to read it with enjoyment in mind and not just to be done with it.
I gave myself a 65 page daily read consumption requirement — having a weekend helped a lot. And I finished it a day early; two days actually, if by due date, I have til end of day to return? I’m so proud of myself.
I did enjoy it, I wanted to sit and read. I managed to read through exciting television blasting in the room, I read in the car as a passenger, I read in 10 minute breaks here and there and I read while eating lunch. I know, I know, most readers do these things but I was on a mission and I enjoyed it so much.
Her vanity extended beyond the grave. Oddly enough, she was younger by several years than people had thought.
Lucy was the glue, the worry wart, the person who selflessly cared for everyone else. They married off the youngest sister — no, they “didn’t stop” Charlotte from being besotted to a jerk; she wouldn’t be told he was not a good catch. The pretty sister married someone who she thought she could walk all over and burn his money. Lucy married someone she could be friends with, that she was comfortable with and was a decent guy overall, if not the most impressive. (He could be … insensitive and unsupportive in voice but allowed Lucy to be Lucy and supported her decisions in action.)
Let the train-wrecks reach their doomed conclusions. Lucy could only pick up the pieces.
Immense forces of evil were at work in the world, but the well-disposed, those who wished for good were passive.
At the start of the 4th quarter… I mean, at about 75%, I realized that this is TOO OVER THE TOP! I mean come on. How could these 3 be sisters? of the same mother and father and environment, yadayadayada. They were SOOOOOO different from each other and they didn’t TALK to each other?
I don’t have sisters. I would assume that sisters would share more hardships and advice. Maybe not. “The Times!” Heck, I don’t know. Private business was private business. But I think DW went a bit to the extreme to capture everything that can go wrong in a marriage, all fault to everyone. Mainly, she just wanted to shine a light on the hardships and trapped feelings and realities of women, methinks, to not realize their strengths, to subsume to the society expectations and patriarchy. But, again, YOWZA. And sadly, SADLY, we still see these situations.
It was a fascinating look into the internal monologue of bad decisions. And love, there is still love and hope in this story.
Rating: Four slices of pie and extra real whipped cream. The only pie mentioned was pork pie. Because British.
“I can’t write fiction. Fiction seems trivial. Fact is too terrible.”
From DW’s diary while attempting to write this novel.
Number of pages: 3159, number of hours: ~31 ♦ Total pages for year-to-date: 3159 ◘ total hours: ~31
Audiobooks: Five Tuesdays in Winter, Matrix, some of Beautiful World Where Are You? (back and forth with eBook), and When We Cease to Understand the World (4)
Hardcovers: The Sentence, Intimacies, The Mermaid Chair, The World Played Chess (4) Tradeback: Giovanni’s Room, In Concrete (2) Paperback: Sonnets from the Portuguese (1) eBooks: Beautiful World, Our Country Friends (2)
I did not give Our Country Friends good due. In the throes of TOB chasing, I was impatient with what I wanted to read with the timing the library was throwing them at me. I attempted to read the first chapter, read the last chapter and flip through the middle but got lost and then frustrated. I got the sense I was supposed to like Vinod and I did like app developer (though the app? what WAS that? I couldn’t figure out how that was to work. Dark arts or black magic…) The MC, his wife, the Actor — blech. Ed seemed interesting. Long story short, I think I would have liked it if I was sitting by a pool, in a beautiful setting, with all the time in the world… I will have to read another book by this Shteyngart. (I have Lake Success and Absurdistan on my tbr.) Three slices of pie, YES to pie mentions! No flavors – just a “cutie pie” about a pregnant Corgi and a “slice of pie” reference.
I will share thoughts on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets when I post the first edition of my Poetry Posts for this year. Right after I finish Rachel Long’s My Darling From the Lions.
I gave three stars to the translated work When We Cease to Understand the World. It’s supposed to be fiction but reads LIKE history, nonfiction. I listened to the audio which I believe helped me get through it. I may have struggled with print. BUT, that said, I might have rushed through the listen as I was wondering “what the heck *IS* this?” Pretty sure my spoof attempt of a review on goodreads was cynical and disrespectful. Maybe I was looking for the awe in all the wrong places. It’s a wild ride, for sure! Three slices of pie. No pie mentioned.
Intimacies by Katie Kitamura was a quiet introspective novel set in The Hague. I thought it captured a mystery of place, of people, of relationships, of risk in an off-balance slightly tense way. I’m not sure how memorable it will be in a few months, I’m still perplexed about some things. But I did not mind reading it. I did not need to jump to the end, jump around the middle, etc. I was a straightforward read. Whew! I’m sure I totally missed a ton of stuff and the TOB will set me straight. LOL. Four slices of pie. No pie mentioned.
But When the World Played was a read-the-first-then-the last attempt and it fit that method well enough. This was a book club book about a father that receives a diary from a Vietnam Vet that he met 20 years prior when he was in high school working construction. He reads the diary, reads about the horrors and the loss of faith the man experiences and at the same time, he is helping his son, a college freshman, deal with tragedy. I just didn’t have the time to read all the books from the library by their due dates. Giving this one three stars and don’t know if any pie was mentioned.
February is LetterMo. I’m thinking of applying an alphabet theme to each day required to send a note. I’m committing to using only paper/stationery/postcards in house. Additionally, I’m taking a Facebook/Instagram break. I have the TOB books and a Classic that came through from the ILL which I didn’t expect so soon, They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple. (YAY! but WHY NOW?!?!)
Currently listening to Libertie, currently reading All’s Well. Have Subdivision in the house (Thanks Jessica!), assuming I can get The Echo Wife easy enough (on hold at Libby, will probably drop tomorrow?), and will likely have to burn my Audible credit on The Confession ofCopeland Cane. Should be able to be a #TOBCompletist, no problem.
Thoughts by James Baldwin, Vintage Books/div of Random House 2013 (orig) 1956, 169 pages
Challenge: Classics Club 50, part 2 & #BookSpin for January
Genre/Theme: Adult Fiction / Americans in Paris
Type/Source:Tradeback / Purchased Indiebookstore
What It’s About: Wow.
Since I have no idea how to approach a review, I’m going to provide the Jhumpa Lahiri quote on the back of the book:
A novel of unique emotional intensity and exceptional beauty, hypnotic intimate, harrowing. A portrait of a man torn between a woman and another man, groundbreaking for its time, it remains a transcendent novel.”