Wednesday, July 30, 2008

You Gotta Read This Book!

Over the weekend I finished reading The Street by Ann Petry. My God!

Did I love it? No, this is not a book one can love. Did I learn? Did I cry? Did I feel outrage, despair, empathy? You bet. This was a novel to be read one chapter at a time. I honestly could not do more than that. Each chapter left me wrung out for the main character, Lutie Johnson.

So let me over simplify:
  • Lutie married for love.
  • He cannot get a job because he is black.
  • They do their best, raising foster children as income until her irresponsible father causes the children to be taken from them.
  • They have a mortgage that must be paid.
  • Lutie goes to work for a wealthy white family in Connecticut; she is away for weeks at a time to save every penny.
  • Her husband finds another woman because Lutie is away supporting them because he cannot find a job.
  • She moves in with her father, studies hard, and gets a low level civil service job.
  • She moves out because her father and his girlfriend are bad influences on Bub, her son.
  • Because she is a single working mother, Bub is forced to spend long hours alone.
  • The crazy building super uses her son to try and win his way into her bed. This sets off a chain of events that leads to nothing but heartache.
  • Junto, a white man who owns everyone and everything, wants her. This sets off a chain of events.

I loved the language. The description of Harlem and its people was vivid. The characters, so simple on the surface, carried layer upon layer to the story. Lutie's story was the constant; Petry interwove the tales of Mrs. Hedges, Bobby Smith, Junto, Min, "Supe", and Bub. Each vignette created a tapestry of Lutie's street. Its poverty, prejudice, and perversion. The frailties of the weak, and the sheer determination of Lutie.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Just Sitting on My Ass...

Is it possible to read too much? I finished another book: Now You See Him by Eli Gottlieb. Now, I normally do not like to link to Amazon for my book reviews, but the second reader comment comes closest to my own opinion. I selected this novel from an NPR review (the same as Mudbound). It was hyped as "intelligent" and a "literary page turner". Why do I not note red flags?

A middle aged man, stuck in the complacency of his marriage, his friends, his family - is sunk into the depths of...despair? angst? dysfunctional sex? misplaced loyalty? I cannot say I enjoyed this one. It was an easy read finished in two days without effort, but tiresome. How entertaining is it to read the ramblings of a man confused about his marriage, confronting his elderly parents about their childhood treatment of him, or his memories of childhood twenty years after the fact? There are secrets. Really good secrets. But for me, it just fell flat.

I left the house long enough yesterday to purchase a matching zipper and thread for the vest. Time to bite the bullet and do some sewing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Turning Leaves

Just a quick update on the reading front:

Mudbound by Hillary Jordon was returned to the library yesterday. This one was selected on the basis of the linked NPR review. Although a great premise, it somehow failed. Did she write this piece for the gut wrenching ending? Can an author take you that far just for a predictable reaction?

You know before you read Mudbound, that it cannot end well. Any novel set in the deep South during the 1940's cannot lead to happiness. Add to that a cast of characters who are stereotypical old South and those who have just returned from WWII fresh from the wonders of an "integrated" Europe, you know it will be tragic.

This next one is a MUST read. The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney is by far one of the best novels I have read in ages! Stef Penney is a British screenplay writer well in control of her pen. This novel is a murder mystery set in the Canadian wilderness of the late 1860's. The remote area is still under the control of the Hudson Bay Company, and its outposts play a critical role in the plot. Without over-reaching, Penney writes of the murder of a French trapper and how it affected the lives of so many. Each character has their own story that resulted in their struggles to eek out a life in this barren country. Like Mudbound, it tackles multiple themes and subplots, but Penney handles it in a way that is not contrived, nor forced.

And not only tons of reading, but lots of knitting as well! The KnitPicks slipped stitch vest is finished - I will post a photo once the zipper is in. The entrelac bag is ready for felting. And February Lady is on the needles. I had a false start on Friday, but I finished the yoke yesterday, and have just started the lace section.

And best of all...SmartyMags has Little Girl and Omar back!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Buzz Kills

Have you ever had a really crappy day? You know. The kind where nothing goes right. Allow me to vent:
  1. The contractor finished the bathroom. He did a horrid job. The job that made me decide to hire him was wonderful. Like out of a magazine gorgeous. I cannot explain his sudden lack of skills. He is my daughter's BF's dad. Say no more.
  2. I bought tickets for Wicked. My daughter asked me to buy these tickets. She gave me a list of available dates. I called before ordering to double check they were still good. Yeah, you know what happened as soon as they were ordered.
  3. I stopped at the signal near the busy Wilson Farms. I try to leave the opening to the WF lot open for people coming and going. Four people benefited from my thoughtfulness. The guy behind me with the horn? Not so much.
  4. The retractable awning went haywire. I tried to be responsible and not put off the repair. After calling, hubby informed me it was not broken, just stuck. Call them back and do not let them any where near the house.

Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Crying Wolf?

Based the the recent news I have decided that it is best to not become mentally ill and then require physical care. It may also be wise to avoid Hartford, CT. Are we, as a nation, truly becoming desensitized to the world around us?

Check out my bookshelf. I just finished reading Five Skies by Ron Carlson. Three men, all hurting, all at different stages of their lives, bond during a small construction project on a remote section of a ranch in Idaho. One reviewer described it as a "thinking man's novel" and I would agree. The syntax is not "New York Times Bestseller", the characters are round and all experience growth, and the setting and plot are perfectly intertwined. Pick this one up. Who knew men with hammers and big machines were so multi-dimensional;)?