I've been fortunate. I've been able to spend not just the weekend, but the whole week Thankfully Reading. Here's a quick review of what I've finished this week:
There you have it: Seven books in seven days. And what did I take away from the experience of reading all these books? Here are a few quick thoughts:
Old Gringo was agony for me to read. Carlos Fuentes came to Houston a few weeks back and I drove in to see him. He was pretty much as I'd expected. An achingly handsome eighty-year-old man who writes poetic novels. And who sees life as experienced mainly through his manly body parts. This may work for his male readers. This may work for the parts of Old Gringo told from the point of view of his male characters like Pancho Villa and one of Villa's generals and even Ambrose Bierce. But it did not work for me when it came to reading the parts of the story told from the point of view of Harriet Winslow, a starting-to-age American school marm who takes up with Bierce and the Villa general. Agony to read.
I'd planned to read Old Gringo, the book I'd bought at the reading, and then watch the video. I fought my way to the end of the novel, loathing every page. And then went hopefully to the video. When I took the DVD from its envelope, I discovered the DVD had been snapped in half. (Could it be that the video was as horrifying as the novel and the previous viewer lost it?)
(I was intrigued by the surprising resemblance of author Carlos Fuentes to Gregory Peck,
the actor who plays Old Gringo in the video.)
On to other reading this week...The 1000 Journals Project was a Best Of selection from the 1000 Journals Project, a project where 1000 empty journals were sent out in the world to be filled with clever observations and smart drawings and photographs. I can only hope this was not a true Best Of; in a word, I was underwhelmed. Reading through this book reminds of an interview I once read with a bartender. The bartender admitted he'd gone into his work in hopes to hearing (and stealing) the Great American Novel from his patrons and found instead he heard the same old banal stories every night, told with all the vulgarity and limited vocabulary you might expect from drunks who frequent bars.
I was offered a copy of The Tapestry of Love from the author. The author had sent me her previous novel last year and I found it to be a small but competent romance. I hesitated from requesting this book, but decided the French rural setting would compensate for the requisite romantic plot. And here I have sad news: It did not. The first eighty pages were absolutely nothing but the French rural setting and it just was not enough. The romance was tossed in during the last few chapters. I just did not care about the woman who came to France to make tapestries or her sister who pops in and then disappears or the man who lives next door and romances both the tapestry woman and her sister or even the old French farm couple down the road. I didn't even care about the rural French setting.
The two children's books from the 1001 Children's Books You Must Read list were, happily, time better spent. The Good Master is the story of a boy who lives with his family on a farm in Hungary. His city cousin comes to stay with the family to recuperate from illness and the boy and his cousin have a number of adventures, including a kidnapping by gypsies. The copyright date of 1935 brings a feeling of authenticity to the story of a boy who genuinely plans to spend his life growing food and has no real need to learn to read or write and his cousin who grows to love the country and persuades her father to abandon his life in the city and return to his roots in the country. And The Story of Tracy Beaker was absolutely delightful. A book of diary entries written by a young girl in foster care. Could have been sad (and was, at times) but was also hilarious and true.
Two books left to review and I'm glad to tell you that I liked both of these. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe would work for you, I say tentatively, whether you like science fiction or not. It was about time travel. Sort of. And father-son relationships. Well, relationships in general, maybe. Anyway, I liked it, even if I didn't understand one word about the time travel parts. It did not really matter. My favorite science fiction book in a long, long time (although, I feel compelled to add, also my only science fiction book in a long, long time).
And, finally, my favorite read of the week, the month, maybe the year...Let the Great World Spin. I wish I was a deeper reader and a better writer, a person who could share with you all the wonderful thoughts you can take away from this book and all the brilliant ways the author used the metaphor of the wirewalker, stepping out over the slums and magnificent high rises of 1974 New York City, stepping out over the sad group of mothers who lost sons in Vietnam and the streetwalkers, stepping out over the noble priest and the hippie artists. I wish I could. All I can do is sigh and say again and again how much I liked it and how you should read it.
(I was able to pair the reading of Let the Great World Spin