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Showing posts from December, 2011

The Leisure Seeker--Michael Zadoorian

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Sometimes you're browsing through the fiction in the library and for no reason at all a book falls off the shelve and into your hands.  You look into it, evaluating, wondering.  You're caught by a sentence on the first page, or perhaps your eye crosses a paragraph further on in the novel and you're caught.

I have many such experiences, but, like most blind dates, they don't work out.  You take them home for a leisurely read and you wonder, "Now what exactly did I see in this book?"  I bring home piles of books every week.  In fact, I am single-handedly responsible for keeping the library funded in my county--I keep those books and other materials moving in and out at a pace defying imagination.  Bring home two bags with thirty potential candidates and wind up returning sixteen of them the next week.  The others age well on my to-be-read shelf, but eventually they too make it back to the library--mostly unread.

Michael Zadoorian's book was one such blind …

Shockaholic--Carrie Fisher

I've read the previous memoir, Wishful Drinking and. . . well. . . I suppose enjoyed is not quite the right word for my experience with it--although my recollection of it was enough to make me pick this up when in the library.

This continues the story begun in Wishful Drinking and the title refers directly to Carrie Fisher's treatment for near suicidal depression and related psychiatric problems.  While the book does talk about and illuminate this aspect of her life, it doesn't stop there and dwell on things.  Indeed, the most substantial part of this book is a loving and in many ways compassionate memoir of her later life with her famous father Eddie Fisher.

I don't follow celebrity news or entanglements, so it came as something of a revelation to me (not of the fireworks and sudden dawn variety) that Elizabeth Taylor was, for some small part of Ms. Taylor's life, the step-mother of Carrie Fisher.  And you all say, "Well, duh!"  Told you I wasn't con…

The Death Cure--James Dashner

Mr. Dashner rounds out the trilogy begun in The Maze Runners and continued in The Scorch Trials.  These are of the YA genre that seems to have escalated in popularity in recent days--bad adults put young people in serious danger for some perceived good or order in society.  It is understandable why they appeal to young people, because we all remember the times when the adult world was out to subvert us and to harm us "for our own good."  But it does become a trifle tiresome after a while, and this third book of the series bears this out.

While the series ends, it doesn't seem finished.  This last book seemed somewhat overlong and rambling without really getting to a critical point.  Mr. Dashner seemed not to know where he wanted to be with the book--Teen Angst or ZA (Zombie Apocalypse--for those not up on the terminology).  As a result, the book seemed a bit of a muddle to me.

However, if you've read this far, you'll want to finish out the series, so enjoy.  A li…

Crossing to Safety--Wallace Stegner

I should preface the bulk of my comments by saying that I finished this book on the way home from a trip to Austin.  When I completed it my initial impulse was to hurl it across the room.  My secondary impulse was to want to shred--eviscerating it, destroying it page by painful page--to inflict upon it some of the relentless damage it inflicted upon my psyche in the reading of it.  All of which is to say I had a very personal and substantial reaction to it.  If one follows Harold Bloom's notion that great literature "reads the reader" then I am left with the interesting quandary of wondering whether I want to know what it found out in the reading.

Crossing to Safety is the chronicle of two couples.  They meet in depression era America in a university setting and the story follows them as one couple, affluent and gracious, welcomes the other couple into their family circle. We see the couples in good times and in bad for each of them--through loss of job and success as a w…

The Lost City of Z--David Grann

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I had read about this book last year when there was a huge amount of hype.  I'm highly allergic to hype--I break-out in all sort of unpleasant spots and rashes.  I stayed far, far away for fear of the hype-allergens.

Strolling through the Library looking for books to support my son in his study of the civilizations of Peru, I saw this.  The hype had died down, everything was safe for approach, so I grabbed it off the shelf opened it up and fell in.

Fell in completely--so much so that midway through reading I went out and purchased the book.  For those of you who as children read the "lost worlds" novels of Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and most prominently H. Rider Haggard, this is a treat beyond imagining.  It tells the true story of a Amazon explorer who was dedicated to the task of finding the legendary lost city of Z.  Sometimes called El Dorado, sometimes thought to be completely impossible, the Lost city of Z became the personal obsession of Percy Harr…

Great Consolation from the Jewish Tradition

from Seven Prayers That Can Change Your Life
Leonard Felder

If you look underneath the cumbersome English phrase "gratefully acknowledge" and just focus on the feeling of the Hebrew words Modeh/Modah, it's almost like the sensation of kvelling, a Yiddish word that means "to feel joy in your entire being." Kvelling expresses a sense of fullness or completeness because something wonderful is happening or because you feel loved and connected to a best friend, a beloved partner, or a child whose joyfulness makes you feel alive.
Tonight I am kvelling, and I don't know why.