I read Drawing Down the Moon by Shawn Keller Cooper for an online book club and it was OK. About 3 sorority sisters who meet have 20+ years who failed to keep up with each other, hashed out a few misunderstandings from college, got caught up and supported each other once again. Setup for sequels, for sure. Mostly a reminder that we ladies need our women friends. It was OK. It mentioned pie!
A light pale yellow like the inside of a coconut cream pie.
I was recommended to read Summer of a Thousand Pies; a middle school story of family, new connections AND PIE! and it was terrific. What I didn’t like is that I had to download a unique reading app (Glose?!) to get it read; involving sign up of accounts and new passwords, annoying, time-consuming. Ugh.
So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Read it. (I listened to it but want to reference the print version.) Do I want to talk about race? It’s uncomfortable, it’s scary, I know I have bias and it is troublesome. I usually do NOT want to talk about it and I want to be prepared when I do.
I’ve got less than an hour on my audiobook from the library, How Not To Get Shot And Other Advice From White People and I’m learning more than I expected and reinforcing what I do already know and appreciate. Honestly didn’t realize who the author is — D.L.Hughley — and it was interesting to dissect my own reaction to my own question, “why did I choose this?” Why not? I think that is why I got it. Because I wanted variety and views from all spectrums. (And it was available first.) I recommend. And he mentions pie!
A Thousand Mornings is my latest poetry selection that I completed. I admit, I had high expectations and she might have suffered for that. Very good, but not as good as I wanted? No pie.
But how weird that almost half of the books I read this month had THOUSAND in the title?
June means Strawberry Rhubarb Pie!
June 9 actually is Strawberry Rhubarb Pie! Day but the restaurant we went to for dinner was not with the program, apparently. So I had to settle for this amazing Banana Cream Pie:
Get ready for July Pie! We will see a few pie holidays, beginning with Pecan Pie Day on July 12. The Pi Approximation for us math geeks is 22 July and Pie & Beer Day is July 24th.
Challenge: Pop-Up Book Club!
Type/Source: eBook/Amazon for Kindle
Why I read this now: A friend recommended it because it was her current read.
MOTIVATION for READING: I have always wanted to read a Bohjalian but always got stumped by which book to start first. And he keeps churnin’ em* out! So when J— told me she was reading The Red Lotus and thought it would be fun for a Pop-Up Book Club choice, I said,
But that was because I’ve already spent a bunch of cash on books when pandemic-ordering from favorite indie bookstores and have SO MANY BOOKS I NEED TO READ NOW. I was afraid to send more $$$ out to books when I have way-overblown by annual spend amount**. But that’s OK. I bought it.
(I also bought THIS: for another book club and I need to read it by mid-June.)
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Rats. The plague as a weapon. An emergency room doctor who happens to have a cute fun boyfriend invite her tag along on a biking tour in Vietnam….
So Alexis (ER doc) has this cute boyfriend (the cyclist) and it is early in the relationship, early enough that no one has said, “I love you.” It’s good, it’s fun. Vacation trips are romantic. He has a sentimental reason for going to Vietnam. UNTIL WE ALL FIND OUT it is a LIE. Why would he lie? But then, we don’t find out about the lie until he goes missing.
But he LIED! But he is missing. NOT GOOD. Not good at all. So many things pointing to utter destruction…
THOUGHTS: Pacing is good. An appropriate amount of tension-build. A few clues but nothing to make me roll my eyes to distraction. Sure, a few convenient connections that almost produce an eye-roll, but I’m invested enough, so not quite annoyed, and then rolling along without annoyance I will let the little things slide. (THRILLERS ARE SO *NOT* MY THING) Heck, Mr B has an impressive vocabulary — he earns a few positive points. All the characters are likable and have admirable qualities presented in the perfect way to make me admire said characters. OR/AND, all the obvious villains are villainy …
I even got teary-eyed when the two Moms meet and overcome negative expectations! That scene worked and amused me at the same time.
Plausibly enough presented that I can overcome my doubts. So….
RATING: I gave it 4 stars in goodreads but rounded up from 3.5. NO PIE MENTIONED. Which, upon reflection, is just fine for a book about rats and the plague…
Still!! I should probably give it only 3 slices of pie because NO PIE!
* The font for author name is bigger than the font for the book title. If not careful, he might become an “AUTHOR I WON’T READ”… But he seems so nice on Twitter.
Edition 1 was only a few days ago. When I said the next collections were slim, I didn’t lie.
Poetry Goal 202o: to read a poem* every day.
Collection #3 by Tracy K. Smith, Graywolf Press 2007, 89 pages
Smith was 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States.
Very impressive poems and quite varied. Between referencing an old John Ford movie (The Searchers) to an imagined party crashing by Frank Zappa, Smith takes us on a stimulating journey. Across politics and myths, kidnapping and murder, love and desire.
This is a poem about the itch
That stirs a nation at night
This is a poem about all we’ll do
Not to scratch —
+ . . .
I was impressed but I didn’t quite feel it in my heart. All very heady.
Collection #4 by David O’Connell, The Providence Athenaeum 2013
Now this was really good! I connected, this had life and grit. This also had mythology selections (history) plus the terrors of now; some with a touch of wry humor.
The bomb will wait forever for its purpose.
Outside my room, she screeches, It’s the bomb!
which means, it’s cool
that men urge calm while earning ribbons
riding bronco bomb.
+ . . .
*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 Lauren Acampora, Grove Press 2019, 289 pages
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Gift from a Friend, to be repaid in kind
Why I read this now: Coincide with Author Event
MOTIVATION for READING: Blurb sounded good!
Page 283: “What a sweetie pie”, the woman would say, and Shelby would say thanks as if the sweetness were her doing.”
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Two friends since grade school reconnect at a high school reunion. One is an actress, a rising star. The other is unhinged.
What goodreads says: “In small-town Michigan, Abby Graven leads a solitary life. Once a bright student on the cusp of a promising art career, she now languishes in her childhood home, trudging to and from her job as a supermarket cashier. Each day she is taunted from the magazine racks by the success of her former best friend Elise, a rising Hollywood starlet whose life in pictures Abby obsessively scrapbooks. At night Abby escapes through the films of her favorite director, Auguste Perren, a cult figure known for his creative institute, the Rhizome. Inspired by Perren, Abby draws fantastical storyboards based on her often premonitory dreams, a visionary gift she keeps hidden.”
The story has a low-level hum of dread, a creepiness that is expressed well in the narrative with Abby telling Elise what is happening – a present tense feel yet immediate past. We can only sense, “this ain’t gonna end well.”
page 198: I understood that you were gone. I saw that you’d never return to me fully, that we’d forever remain on parallel tracks, never to mesh again, no matter how I twisted and swerved.
October 2019 Author Event at Brown University, along with poet Jennifer Franklin. I didn’t have a chance to purchase works prior to the event but have both author’s books on order now…
THOUGHTS: Oh the ending! NOT what I expected but I am impressed. The clues are all there, no lost threads but an exclaimed “OMG! WOW.” from me, thinking in my head that the author was quite clever; fabulously pulled together.
Very smart, imaginative writing.
Four slices of pie.
Page 145: As you spoke, I felt a spiking sensation under my skin. I didn’t want to hear any of it. I tried to tune out your words while I studied the black stone in my hand. I marveled at its weight and warmth. It was solid and eternal, not of this world burning with the patience of the ages. It would outlast your folly and my pain. It would outlast everything.
So…, my friend who invited me to the event gave me her book and thensonow I’m ordering the book to give back a copy to her since she is friends with the author and now they have another good excuse to get together — so Lauren can sign HER book! too funny. Things we do… Thanks Kim for inviting me to this.
Distance can create longing. It can open up the gap into which all must fall.
Challenge: Tournament of Books
Genre: Contemporary Lit, ghost story or time travel or both
Type/Source: eBook/Library to Kindle
Why I read this now: Available as download
MOTIVATION for READING: Tournament of Books, and Ruthiella being enthusiastic for this title…
Electricity is not digital. It does not come in discrete packets, but floods the air and flows through conductors and shoots from the hands of mad scientists in silent movies. If it is futuristic at all, it is a past version of the future, temperamental, unstable, half-alive.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: This will be hard! I am not good at describing (I usually just do not want to tell) plots of stories. So, copy&paste pieces from the goodreads blurb, I will:
Two ambitious young musicians are drawn into the dark underworld of blues record collecting, haunted by the ghosts of a repressive past. It’s a ghost story, a terrifying murder mystery, a timely meditation on race, and a love letter to all the forgotten geniuses of American music.
I would add that it could also be a tale of obsession and revenge or maybe redemption.
WHAT’s GOOD: It’s tense. It’s unsettling. On that regard, the author got it right.
Marconi was right and certain phenomena persist through time, then secrets are being told continuously at the edge of perception. All secrets, always being told.
What’s NOT so good: It’s confusing at times, but that is the point. When you blend timeframes of the past with the now; blend emotions and physicalities of past bodies with those here and now, you are going to get some confusion.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I thought it a fun wild thoughtful horrifying ride.
He becomes theatrically still, even his stillness a form of motion.
RATING: Four slices of pie. Porkpie Hats!
He had been staying with friends in California and was sporting—I think that’s the word—a porkpie hat and an army jacket and vintage Nike sneakers and two fistfuls of silver rings.
Thoughts by Elif Batuman, Penguin Press March 14, 2017, 423 pages
Challenge: Tournament of Books 2018
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Hardcover / Library
Why I read this now: It was available at the library (now why I checked this title as opposed to any of the other titles I still have yet to read? no idea…)
MOTIVATION for READING: My reading pal Ruthiella loved it. I saw many other didn’t. I wondered where I would fall on that love/hate divide.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: It’s about Selin who is a freshman at Harvard in the mid 90s, trying to fit in. Or is it? About ‘fitting in’, I mean. She both wonders about it but never obsesses about it (like I did in college.) She’s trying to figure out what to major in, how to achieve what she thinks she wants to ‘do’ in life. She wonders about a lot of stuff. Love, travel, language, words. She has odd thoughts and thinks in a clever witty style.
The author says “part of it (this book) is about discovering email and being really awkward with it.”
Batuman’s bio on goodreads says that her writing has been described as “almost helplessly epigrammatical.” I have to admit, I had to look up epigrammatical to make sure I knew the word correctly and I must say I agree. (I also had to look up parvenu and sinecure; these are words that I have to look up every time I encounter because I have worn pathways in my brain requiring me to mistrust my own definition.)
WHAT’s GOOD: Oh the deadpan humor is fabulous. I would temper that though and say it is MY kind of humor and I know very well that it wouldn’t be many of my friends’ kind of humor. I laughed out loud a lot.
There is a satisfying pie scene. Winner so far of my 2018 Pie in Literature Award. It’s still early, though. Plenty of books to get through yet.
What’s NOT so good: The color of that cover. Yuck.
If you want to read the range of reactions, clicking on that ugly book cover above will take you to goodreads.
Type/Source: eBook and Audio / Amazon
Why I read this now: It’s a hot book right now!
MOTIVATION for READING: This story is getting lots of praise and I wanted to get in on that.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Starr is a sixteen year old black girl who lives in a depressed area of a big city and attends a prep school in a predominantly white area. One night after a party, Starr is given a ride home by young black male friend and he is pulled over by the cops. He is shot and killed; Starr has to navigate this event up close and personal. Her cultures clash, her identity is fractured; she is scared and angry.
WHAT’s GOOD: Thomas decided to give the world this gift of fiction, a story, in response to and an exploration of the Black Lives Matter movement. It isn’t a story specifically addressing the movement, rather a situation that stresses the realities and the complications that many blacks face in our country. Where to live, where to go to school, how to navigate threats to body and soul?
“We have a sustained problem in America,” Thomas said. “When officers take off that uniform they’re no longer a ‘blue life’ – I can’t take my black skin off. I wanted this book to explain why we say those three words.”
FINAL THOUGHTS: I thought it extremely well done on so many levels – a gripping read, a sympathetic character, believable and complicated supporting cast members, a forceful not-unreasonable emotional tone, great pacing. It offers humor, some punches to the gut, a candid look at humanity.
“Pac said Thug Life stood for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody. T-H-U-G-L-I-F-E. Meaning what society gives us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out. Get it?” – Angie Thomas
Thoughts by Marilynne Robinson, Farrar,Straus and Giroux 2008, 325 pages
Challenge: What’s in a Name: Building category
Genre: Literary Fiction
Type/Source: Hardcover / Used Bookstore Raynham MA
Why I read this now: Because I wanted to.
Kindness takes more strength than I have now. I didn’t realize how much effort I used to put into it.
MOTIVATION for READING: Because I loved Gilead. I love the quiet powerful books.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Gilead is a fictional small town in Iowa and the book of the same name is about a Congregationalist minister contemplating some key elements of his life as he looks back on relationships and pivotal events. This book is a companion piece to Gilead, with other characters’ viewpoints and stories featured more prominently. Where Gilead was about Ames, this book is about Jack and his sister Glory, children of Ames’ best friend Robert. I suppose that is more than you need to know and yet doesn’t tell anything at all.
There was a barely restrained glee about him, as though he felt he had done something, or had done nothing, to excellent effect.
WHAT’s GOOD: Oh.
Sentences. Provocations? Emotions.
What’s NOT so good: What is not so good for me is having to read all the reviews that say this book is boring. They said that about Gilead, too. I was never bored so that claim rings false. I should respect those who make it but I don’t have to like it.
As a matter of courtesy they treated one another’s deceptions like truth which was a different thing from deceiving or being deceived.
Sure, Jack smiles too much and glances at Glory a lot. But it felt so true. Such a different time. What would a bum son look like in now times? Would such a degenerate be so good to his father? Was he good? What IS good? Takes my breath away. And poor Glory. Ugh. Trapped in our roles, are we? I can’t write a review, I can only ask more questions.
She used to ask yourself, What more could I wish? But she always distrusted that question, because she knew there were limits to her experience that precluded her knowing what there was to be wished.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Beautiful. Sad. Contemplative. Aching.
“She said you hated cream pie, but I was certain I remembered you had a special fondness for it, and she made it on my say-so, despite her reservations.”
“It’s pretty leathery by now,” she said.
“You see, she’s trying to prejudice you against it! You’d think we’d made a wager of some kind!”
Jack said, “I like cream pie.” He glanced at her.
RATING: Five slices of pie. Apple pie.
He asked for a look at the pie before the top crust went on – “more fragrant than flowers!” – And for look at it afterward, on the edge had been fluted and the vents were cut.
The kitchen began to smell of pie baking.
That odd capacity for destitution, as if by nature we ought to have so much more than nature gives us. As if we are shockingly unclothed when we lack the complacencies of ordinary life. In destitution, even of feeling or purpose, a human being is more hauntingly human and vulnerable to kindnesses because there is the sense that things should be otherwise, and then the thought of what is wanting and what alleviation would be, and how the soul could be put at ease, restored. At home. but the soul finds its own home if it ever has a home at all.
Thoughts by Frank Delaney, Paladin Grafton Books 1987, 191 pages
Challenge: I traveled to Dublin for Spring Break! I brought this along…
Genre: Nonfiction/Literary Analysis/Travel
Type/Source: Tradeback/Sent from a friend
MOTIVATION for READING: Let’s back up to when I first had this book in my hands. It was January 2011 when I signed up for the “Jousting with Joyce” readalong. I never finished Ulysses and I have no record of what page/episode I stopped on.
So anyway, dear friend Jeanne sent me THIS book out of the blue back in 2011 and I have been treasuring it ever since, thinking “Some day, I will conquer Ulysses“. Rather, I was able to make a trip to Dublin happen instead.
Now I am even more eager to read it (Ulysses), to be honest.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Delaney chats with obvious affection for Joyce and his tale of Ulysses. He organizes his ‘Odyssey’ by the same structure as Joyce does in Ulysses and walks the reader through the story and what it might mean, then and now. This not a step by step walking tour of Dublin. It’s subtle – and it is also 30 years old so many things have changed from 1904 (year the book is set) and 1922 (year Ulysses was published) and 1987.
FYI, Ulysses follows two characters, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus – not always together, on walkabout through Dublin, basically. Joyce has stated that his book is a blueprint with which to rebuild Dublin if need be. Ready?
A sample of Delany’s words with Joyce’s:
Sandymount Strand, ineluctable as sin, sweeps wide and grey and beige, stippled with gulls and aeroplanes and lighthouses and ships and lone Dedalus-walkers. “Signature of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack the nearing tide, that rusty book.” Most of the thoughts in Stephen’s mind as he walked along Sandymount Strand were triggered by that ineluctable modality of the visible.
So for the ‘now’ of 2017, many signs and plaques identify Joyce’s locations and landmarks — these are not mentioned in Delaney’s book. Perhaps a map of these IS published by the James Joyce museum which I did not visit. I really let my wanderings and Joyce connections happen rather than seek them out. It was a vacation with the Husband who though sympathetic and/or amused, he did not share my enthusiasm. “He indulged me occasionally” would be the best way to put it. So, it was happenstance and sudden delights, when I found a Joyce marker.
WHAT’s GOOD: Photos from turn of the century (late 1800s – early 1900s and some 1987.) Opportunity to consider how Dublin has changed in 30 years and 100+. But the best of the book is the author’s delight in talking about and sharing anecdotes and explanations of what Joyce was attempting with Ulysses.
Another paragraph of Delaney praise for what Joyce attempted in Ulysses:
“The Oxen of the Sun episode is the most difficult to read in Ulysses. All Joyce’s linguistic interests are on exhibition and he gives a foretaste of what was to come in Finnegans Wake. That it exhausted him is certain: in several communications with friends, he referred to “the Oxen of the bloody, bleeding Sun” and he admitted freely that the control of all the ideas, the mathematical nine-part divisions, the embryonic development and the endless parodies were almost as much as he could master. He managed brilliantly.
What’s NOT so good: Of course, I wanted better maps… LOL.
I failed this book as I do most travel books. Tedious to look at when I can’t relate, and too late for visits once I can. I admit, one of our favorite pub visits was to Bruxelles because it was around during Joyce times and is in a photo of Delaney’s book. I didn’t get any pics of our Guinness nor Irish Whiskey while there, unfortunately.
As typical, I now flip through Delaney’s guide and only want to go back to Dublin and see it all again, find the past anew.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I am more willing to attack Ulysses some day. I do feel that it will require patience and a light touch – not taking it too seriously.
“Joyce said once, not without sadness, to Nora: “The pity is the public will demand and find a moral in my book, or worse, they may take it in some serious way, and on the honor of a gentleman, there is not one serious single line in it.”
I am keeping this book as a guide when I do tackle Ulysses because of the same structure and the explanations, motivations, and landmarks in words.