Reading Challenge: Recommended

the girl on the train

Another way to read more widely is to read what others ask you to read, however begrudgingly.  I rarely, if ever, ask for recommendations, although I am the first one to blow up some poor shmuck’s comment feed on Facebook when they are fool enough to canvas hundreds of people at a time as to what they should read next.  I will keep in mind what someone wants me to read but it has to depend on my mood when it actually gets cracked.

That is likely why MMD and Popsugar this year want you to pick up a book that someone else thinks you should.

A Book Recommended by Someone You Just Met (Popsugar):

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The Assassins Apprentice, Robin Hobb

A coworker that I trained with and become friends with recommended this one.  The pace at which we meet new people, and especially make personal friends, slows considerably in the establishment of adulthood.  So I am counting this because she harassed me until I read it and I have only known her for two years. I also read it because she read The Martian when I was talking about it at work.  Yeah, I am exciting in real life, too.

The cover of this book is atrocious and I cannot discuss it’s merits until that is said. I find I need so much more encouragement (other bloggers praise, Amazon stars, listed for book awards and dangled in front of me by the publishers I follow) to pick something up if the cover is cheesy.  I showed it to my husband and he said, “sweet deer on the front.”

Hobb writes trilogies and I probably will at some point read the other two of the Farseer Trilogy. The story is good but I am glad there is more to it because I feel like the ending is anti-climactic, on top of the fact that the main character continues to be lonely at the end. He has some reprieves from loneliness but nothing permanent due to the belabored point of his bastard birth. Without a specific origin to assign him a place in the world, he ends up being the projects of a few people. He does not even really have a name throughout.  It is an interesting story and you root for the protagonist as he passes through the many sets of hands who are trying to shape him.  He definitely will need more permanent and stable relationships in the other two books to keep me wanting to follow his story, so hopefully his lack of origin is resolved.

A Book Recommended by a Family Member (Popsugar):

the girl on the train.jpg

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

I didn’t expand an awful lot with this one, even though my sister, who reads mainly nonfiction books, wanted me to pick this up.  It went on crazy ebook sale last year grouped with a bunch of other popular books I was all too eager to gobble up.  Being such a hit, it had already made it to my TBR.  She just got it moved up due to having joined the ranks of those who just could not put it down.  I think she even said she stayed up to read it, which I don’t think is like her with a book.

This book is a page turner from the perspective of an unreliable narrator and a decent twist to it, which made it a huge bestseller in England. I found Gone Girl harder to put down than this one and I would recommend that first, but I would also recommend this as a thriller.

A Book Recommended by Your Local Librarian/Bookseller (Modern Mrs. Darcy):

Murder on Astor Place: A Gaslight Mystery by [Thompson, Victoria]

Murder on Astor Place, Victoria Thompson

I have the pleasure of knowing the library director in my small town, so naturally I cornered her (at an annual local soup contest, no lie) for this recommendation.  Her blanket recommendation is usually Outlander, and seeing as I read Outlander last December as a vacation read to accompany me through binge exercising/crafting, she switched it up for me.  (sidebar:  I have not continued reading the Outlander series because I heard the later books have less sex and more anxiety provoking situations for the characters and she couldn’t deny this fact and she has read the series through at least twice).  But then she was like, what about historical fiction/cozy mysteries and I was like yes and yes.  And I can’t deny I like that the cozies run a few dollars cheaper.  This one is about a midwife in 1920’s New York City who figures out who murdered a society girl who was living under cover in a boardinghouse. I would read more of these, even though sometimes the history exposition woven into the plot seemed to be a little stilted at times.  I mean, I do like the trend of the setting being an active and relevant part of the story, so if it is a little stiff at times, I suppose I could handle that.  I would recommend Rhys Bowen’s Murphy’s Law possibly first, if you are okay with the fact that Bowen’s heroines always struggle to find a consistent place to live and a steady stream of income.  Both Molly Murphy and Georgianna Rannoch of her Royal Spyness series are always living at the brink of ruin.  At least Sarah Brandt in Murder on Astor Place has a consistent and reliable base for life and independence.  And the distinct advantage of straddling between the world of the poor, in the clients she serves, as well as high society, from which she comes.   I am also eyeballing The Yard by Alex Grecian.  But I have more reading list challenges to scale before that.

I am glad that all three of these books were placed in my path with very little soliciting.

Comments/likes/shares/love.

 

 

Putting on Eyres

gothic window

My boss is lovely. Usually.  And although he may not agree he is not so much of a man that he would balk at the assignation.

We experienced a rift in our almost eight years of employer and subordinate relationship when he listened to an NPR piece on the movie adaptaion of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and while trying to remember what it was called said, “you know, that famous novel by Jane Eyre.”  He furiously tried to backpedal when he saw my face, from which I ordered a swift correction that it was Jane Austen, as Jane Eyre arguably never existed save for the written word.

Even though she was never real she is very real as one of our classic Gothic and bildungsroman (coming of age, not belonging, questioning conventions) heroines.  I regrettably did not read Jane Eyre until graduate school when over the summer I began to fill in the gaps of my classic literature exposure (because being a doctoral student the other ten months of the year clearly was not enough).  And I nearly abandoned it because it was so depressing, which I think I noted in a my previous post about getting into Gothic lit, save for one of my favorite humans on the planet who promised me that dead halfway through it would pick up. She also convinced me to stay in grad school on a particularly dark day in my life when I was ready to pick up my toys and go home.

Any good story is worth retelling, and for this post I explored three Jane Eyre inspired stories.

reader I married him

Reader, I Married Him, Tracy Chevalier

This is a collection of short stories commissioned by Chevalier with the prompt being the last line of Jane Eyre: Reader, I married him.  And she amasses a good list of names:  Francine Prose, Audrey Niffenegger, Emma Donoghue, and Evie Wyld, just to name a sampling.  (Sadly I never got such an invitation.  She must have had my email address incorrect or something).  Some of these stories had a link to the classic novel more clearly delineated:  Mr. Rochester’s perspective, a modern take on Jane’s relationship with her friend Helen, Grace Poole’s story, Mr. Rochester effectively gaslighting his hapless bride, a wedding of an unlikely pair, some of the stories I struggled to see the connection.  However, despite how far any writer spun from the original idea, these stories are entertaining and wonderfully written.  Unlike a story collection by one author, this offered different themes and characters and tones. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who claims to be a fan of Jane.

This one came out this spring.  Let’s go back to what I think is the quintessential Jane Eyre other side of the story:

wide sargasso sea

Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys

Who doesn’t really want to understand the perspective of Bertha Rochester and how she came to be spirited from her native tropical island to be locked away in the top of a British manor?  Flavorwire actually turned me on to this prequel to Jane Eyre. We learn that she used to be the beautiful Antoinette, and if you must know, Mr. Rochester is as much of a pawn in the dastardly scheme to unload her in marriage before the fatal truth of a predisposition to illness ignited by a trauma manifested as Antoinette is. She’s an unfortunate impediment to Mr. Rochester’s marital availability, but it is not her fault, and the book brings to light the grief she feels over being taken from her beautiful warm home into a cold and barren one, with little company, floating in and out of lucidity.  Surprisingly, Rochester is also made more appealing, made him a little more worthy of Jane’s ministrations and love (not so self sacrificing as Bronte heroines have had occasion to be) and better explains why he finds our plain Jane so appealing as well.  He has already been singed by the mysterious island flame and is content with a steady, intelligent and kind, if a little self righteous at times governess (although one of the stories in Reader I Married Him will have you believe that Rochester’s love for Jane has lost its luster when finally she returns and assumes the burden of his care, just to make the ending more depressing).  I agree this is a beautiful classic.  I read it in the dead of winter amongst other atmospheric books while crafting and it felt good to be taken from my snowy reality for a time.

Another modern take:

Jane Steele

Jane Steele, Lindsay Faye

I would consider this a spinoff more than a retelling.  Jane has some awareness that she shares similarities to our Gothic heroine, but unlike the first Jane, she is much more apt to color outside the lines.  Her passions urge her to kill, whereas the original Jane would just pack up and disappear.  She is not a serial killer in the traditional, cold blooded and remorseless and senseless killings arising from a neglectful childhood.  Jane’s childhood was neglectful but not in the way that would turn her into a Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dalmer.  She is searching for redemption for her crimes of passion, not crimes of premeditation and cool calculation.  The love interest, Mr. Thornfield, has his own secrets but is a warmer and more lovable character than the at times icy and enigmatic Mr. Rochester.

I found a new author love of Lindsay Faye.  Her razor sharp and hilarious prose, drew me in and I was outright laughing at some of the things that Jane Steele said and observed in her living on a shoestring world.  Gods of Gotham has made it onto the lengthy wish list because it is old school NYC and I want to see if Faye is just as witty, poignant and appealing as she was in Jane Steele.

Other re-tellings that deserve a read?

Comments/shares/likes are welcome!

 

Review: Between the World and Me

between the world and me

Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. We all remember what we were doing when we found out that planes had been flown into the WTC and the pentagon.  I was getting ready for a day of college classes and it was my roommate’s twentieth birthday.  Fifteen years later I have a career, and family and a lovely home and I have the time and resources to cheerily blog about my hobbies. As I am writing this in my own writing space in my home I am watching dawn come over the world by the glow of a candle in a beautiful cut glass candleholder my father bought me from Tiffanys when I was a teenager. I continue to clutch my white privilege in my tiny white hands.

I could have posted this review with some of the dreadful police shootings of minorities this year, back when the issues addressed in this book were right front and center of the national eye, but I absolutely think they still apply when considering these attacks and the country where we continue to live.  It is not just white and black relations, it is all race relations.

between the world and me.jpg

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

When I packed off to my small, predominantly white middle/upper middle class female public college, on Daddy’s bill no less, it seemed like the first task of my liberal arts education core was to demonstrate to me just how white privileged I am.  Sociology, third world studies for a start, and then continuing education in Psychology and serving diverse populations ever since.  When I am doing an assessment on a family I have to be sure to ask what they believe, what makes a good day, what makes them who they are. I have to start with what makes them who they are. And I have to remember myself all the advantages in my own life due to the luck of where and to whom I was born.

This book is letter that he writes to his fifteen year old son about the realities of the world that they are living in as African Americans, as seen through the eyes of his own story.  It is presented in a way that makes you want to listen, not in a way that feels heavy handed or preachy, just matter of fact: the lack of meaning you assign to school when you are struggling to survive, parents who make lamentable and damaging choices over the oppressive fear that they will lose their children if they do not, the lack of recognition that there is a world beyond the anxiety and sadness of his place of origin, the slums of Baltimore.

Before I read this book, when I was circling it, I listened to a New Yorker podcast where they interview Coates.  He does not mind stirring the pot with his views. He does not mind landing a well educated and articulate opinion even if it make us ‘who think themselves white’, which is how he refers to the privileged classes, stumble and stutter over their responses to him. And we need him.  We need this book.

We don’t want to believe that there are dark sides to this world that still exist and that race divisions are alive and well and our fragile national ‘dream’ stands on the backs of invisible forces that we try to pretend don’t really exist still.  He gives evidence of where there is still an unequal treatment and investigation when it is an issue of a white man against a man of color.  Black lives do matter and we have to say it because they for so long didn’t and continue to still not sometimes.

Aside from the message thick in these 155 pages, the writing is artistry.  Coates is in his heart a journalist.  He has a strong message that people will not like and he is clear, convincing, open to discussing his own prejudices and what he has learned along the way.  It is powerful and convincing without being redundant.  He is very careful in his choices of words to depict his most central ideas: i.e., the ‘body’, the ‘dream’.   It is educative and eye opening, even for someone like me who in my professional and personal life consistently encounter issues endemic to race and privilege. I believe that this book won the National Book Award this year not only because of the message but the masterful delivery.

So this goes out to all those who lost their lives and the brave in the 9/11 attacks. You were victims of a world that we are still working on changing.

comments/likes/shares are always appreciated.

2016: 2/3 reading roundup

summer pond

Roundup or breakdown?

All right, so it’s Labor Day weekend.  So it is.  Dunkin Donuts has released its pumpkin coffee already and Tuesday 9/6, I have on good authority, Starbucks will follow suit and roll out the pumpkins.  Let the pumpkin spice manifest.  I can no longer stem the tide.

In three days my almost four year old is getting tossed into the UPK class hosted by his daycare.  Four by December 1 seems so momentous:  it has allowed for soccer and tumbling class participation (they also have a dance team for kids his age but he struggles with red light/green light so let’s just tumble, shall we?), the beginning of free school, old enough to start really playing board games (okay so maybe some of you have three year olds who can effectively get a plastic gingerbread man to King Candy but mine isn’t there yet) and access to the indoor racecar place here, which will be another daily request once he finds out it exists.  He’s been asking to go bowling too.  Maybe we will survive the cold season after all.

Time to check in on reading goals:

Goodreads: I have met my Goodreads goal of 55 books, currently at 65.  I read 73 books last year and only 68 in the rival year of 2012.

Pages: I have 3,741 pages of reading to go to rival my recorded 2012 record.  I need to read 935 pages a month to reach this. About 32 pages a day.  This is not counting that at the time of this post I am dutifully charging through The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.  I tell you now this would be unreachable without audio.

The categories still waiting to be filled in the Trifecta of Reading Challenges:

A book set in the middle east (BookRiot):  Thinking about Reading Lolita in Tehran, The Oracle of Stamboul or Guapa

A book guaranteed to bring you joy (Popsugar): probably The Alchemist

A book written by or about a transgender person (BookRiot):  probably Middlesex if I have the inclination to allow myself to be hypnotized by Jeffrey Eudenides

A biography (BookRiot):  Romantic Outlaws or Empire of the Summer Moon

A Food Memoir:  Yes, Chef or Book of Salt or The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink

A graphic novel/non superhero comic debuting in the last three years (Popsugar/BookRiot): Beautiful Darkness.   That took some research

A Book of Essays (BookRiot):  probably Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.  I know.  How could I not have read this?

A Book of Poetry (Can’t remember):  possibles are Felicity by Mary Oliver, Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich, Good Poems collected by Garrison Keillor

Maybe a book I previously abandoned.  There is a book I should have read in school, but I nerdily read all my schoolbooks, but The Fountainhead was supposed to be read before I started ninth grade and what ninth grader makes it through The Fountainhead I have yet to meet.  I could revisit some books I read in school.  Trust me, though, I have other half read books swirling in my wake.  Like that time I thought I could get through Les Miserables with volunteer audio (Librivox is a great service, don’t get me wrong, but something like Les Mis needs a narrator who can go the distance with you) when I was on maternity leave and acting as a human feed sack for my son is beyond me.  I made it until a lengthy exposition about the current situation in France and knew I was defeated. I get ambitions and sometimes they so sadly fail.  My son gained four pounds in his second month of life and heavy classic novels are not what sustained me then.  I will post someday on the books that kept me going when I couldn’t read about all the fun things my friends were doing on Facebook anymore.  And when I might have lectured my son at six weeks old on how pooping is for daytime, not nighttime.  That really may have happened.

And if you have made it this far into the post you deserve to know I am reading and writing about Halloween themed books this year for the five Sundays of October.

How are others coming along?  Any other suggestions for my as yet untackled categories?

comments/likes are loved.

Reading Challenge: Classic Shorts

the art of war

BookRiot, Popsugar and Modern Mrs. Darcy have really helped me shape my summer reading.  And it needs shape, because with all the books that are released in the summer, not to mention a hefty box of books from my birthday, prioritizing and finding ways to shape my reading into compelling blog posts would be more challenging without them.

This blog was scheduled ahead of time as yesterday I competed in my first triathlon.  It is just a sprint and I just want to finish to say that I am a triathlete.  By the time this posts I will be 24 hours into on the other side of the crippling anxiety that has been making its home in my stomach for weeks.

I digress. I could digress so much. Training has been almost as much a focus of my life as parenting, work, and, of course, reading for the past two months.  So shorts to get through my challenges have been ideal.  All three lists this year featured short books (although I am counting the short books toward other categories than merely that they are short), and I agree that they definitely have their place among the more hefty tones considered classics.

A Nonfiction Book about Feminism/Feminist Themes (BookRiot):

A Room of One's Own (Lions Gate Classics Book 1) by [Woolf, Virginia]

A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf

Many sources have recommended this series of lectures that she gave on women and writing in October 1928.  I was slow to pick it up because of it’s most famous quote about a woman needing money and a room of her own to write, which somehow I found annoying at the outset but less so as this statement was more thoroughly justified.

As a modern woman with money of my own and a room to write in, I agree with these on the surface.  But what was more interesting to me as the lectures continued was that she argues in the end for androgyny in writing.  She wants female and male writers to be both and explore all relationships between people, not just the world of straight men and their relationships or even only the heterosexual relationships between women.

This is particularly ahead of its’ time.  I am aware that the 1920’s in the United States were a time when women were able to do things previously only allotted to men, so in that sense the work is timely, but really the push for androgyny in Psychology was not made popular until the 1970’s with Sandra Bem. I read Bem’s works because I explored sex role and its relation to depression in my dissertation. Woolf was ahead of her time in suggesting that writing should come from both gender perspectives and not only that women need more independence, flexibility in sex role and liberation to be able to represent their lives and concerns in literature.  I liked this a lot more than I expected to.  I spent a Sunday afternoon/evening listening and reading it and ate it alive.

 A Science Fiction book (Popsugar):

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The Time Machine, HG Wells

I like HG Wells for a short dose of culture founding, oft referenced classic literature. This story hurtled HG Wells into science fiction fame. And for my own writing he might be good for a spinoff. This book also makes commentary on social strata and idyllic societies.  Being only a four hour listen and about 112 pages long, it gives a window into the time and world of HG Wells as well as being typical of the science fiction writing of the day. It’s one of those reads that does not take much of your time but makes many more references make sense.

A Book Under 100 Pages (BookRiot):

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The Art of War, Sun Tzu

This was harder to find than one would think.  Every time I thought I had a short lined up, I would find that most editions were really a little over 100 pages (like The Time Machine, or Julie Otsuka’s Buddha in the Attic which was discounted recently and I have been jonesin for an excuse to read) or then I was like, does this really count as more of a short story instead? I love how audible has a channel of short classics now. I feel like they don’t count as books.

But what a good time to get through The Art of War.  At 72 pages, this is all pretty common sense stuff about war, but what we know about common sense stuff is it is not always as common as it may seem.  It’s about how to win war with the least possible strain to the victor, like waging war for short periods of time and understanding your enemy.  I am really excited that I did not marry the guy who told me that it was a helpful guide to successful relationships. I am fine if my husband knows my weaknesses but clearly I don’t need them exploited.  I listened to this during a morning walk.

Next week will be my stats for the first two thirds of my 2016 reading! And then it is time to resist the inevitability of Fall.  More reading challenge progress also on the way.

Comments/questions/shares are always appreciated.

 

Reading Challenge: Death and Mayhem

accidental tomatoes

August is already slipping away.

I feel like I should explain the featured image in contrast to this entry’s title.  Tomatoes say August to me.  Death and mayhem…not necessarily.  But maybe Death and Mayhem will pull in some people, and then maybe others will be like “oh that’s a seasonally relevant picture, what’s all this about death and mayhem?  Wow!  I just can’t stop reading this blog about books that lured me in with pictures of almost ripe tomatoes!”

Summer has always been a good time for me to make real progress with my reading for the year because I have two hour car rides to spend the weekend with my parents.  A portable DVD player and a nap-timed drive have helped to make these possible.

In both of my list dingers this week people die!  The weather is intense and people go to extremes.  Setting plays an active role and the stakes are high.

Popsugar wanted a book that takes place during the summer. It seems that the summer stories that I was combing were coming of age.  I was not in the mood of coming of age stories.  I chose a “summer that changed everything” story but not as in a child sliding into maturity. I have eyed this book for awhile and then I was thrilled to find I had an excuse to read it this year.  And it was on sale for awhile:

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Frog Music, Emma Donoghue

I did not know this book was a reconstruction of true historical events until I got to the notes at the end.  (I knew that right at the get go with Burial Rites by Hannah Kent). Through the book I loved the characters, especially the murder victim Jenny Bonnet, and how she went through the world and then her slowly evolving backstory.  I loved how the main character Blanche changes as a result of her relationship with Jenny.  Blanche is already powerful in her way when the story starts and then finds a new kind of power through her first real friendship with Jenny. I did not know these had been real people with real misfortunes, the history that makes Jenny who she is actually was a real person’s history.  Everyone is living on the edge of starvation and disaster, and then there is Jenny, who meets disaster early on.

Donoghue masters setting and context to make this historical reconstruction really something special.  It is a hot summer in the middle of a smallpox outbreak in an 1800s melting pot San Francisco with different ethnicities than New York boasted:  Chinese and Mexicans rather than Italians and Jews and the Irish wrestling one another for a decent footing in the world.  I love stories in early New York City, that fight to survive in this wholly new and dirty city.

And one more bit for this gripping story: Donoghue did her research about the effects of early neglect on a baby. I have worked with children with this early burden of damage and she knew how to write a child raised in absolute neglect and how the child can make a turn around with the appropriate human contact.  I was just as gripped with how the baby would grow as I was about the changes in Blanche, or the story behind Jenny, or the relationship between her lover Arthur and his companion Ernest.  This book was intense, absorbing, and surprising.  I loved it as a reconstructed historical mystery.

Not sure I am going to read Room, her more famous work.  That seems in no way relaxing. Frog Music was not exactly relaxing but I like a story to engage me on a stage that I can’t quite as closely relate to.  I can understand the intensity of living on the brink of destruction in a hot and ill city full of minorities intellectually and it piques my intellectual curiosity.  A child escaping a room that is all he knows…I don’t know.  My smarts can’t necessarily spirit me through the parts that may be too difficult for my heart on that one.

BookRiot wanted a horror book.  It was actually the first thing that they wanted!

I like Ania Ahlborn, a self pub horror artist who makes my breath catch in my throat, but I had this one on audio and that seems to make anything win lately.  I have not read Within These Walls of hers yet. For my horror pick:

the shining.jpg

The Shining, Stephen King

This is my third King novel.  It reminded me a lot of It, which is not a bad thing. It was more interesting to me than scary, however, I am not sure I am going to watch the movie.  Mayhaps I am being too bold here.

King is adept at spinning out the vulnerabilities of his characters to make them susceptible to the events of his horror plots.  A man struggling with a recovery from a disastrous addiction (although what addiction isn’t really disastrous?), a precocious child with a gift that neither he nor his parents understand and that also fuels the supernatural fires, a wife that wants to make things work for her family.  An isolation that was originally intended to be healing after the family’s rending recent history in a place with a checkered history.  Of course those are a lot of brinks to teeter on.  It is not just about the events of the horror, it is how it acts upon who these characters are.  I was interested in the psychology of the father and son more than I was about trying to figure out why the hotel seemed to want them and how it was going to get them.

I think about King writing in his tub and tapping his cigarette ashes in the toilet as he barfed out his prolifically creative guts as I read the people and the scenarios he paints. I am thinking about reading something of his that could feel different from It and The Shining and Carrie.  Maybe The Stand, or The Green Mile.   I am open to suggestions from anyone who knows a bulk of his work.  Also, interested to know how Doctor Sleep might serve as a sequel to The Shining.

So everyone is dying to be in my reading challenge this time.  And I got a great shot of tomatoes that grew unintended from my throwing rotted vegetables outside rather than in the trash.

Recommendations for another King (I have Misery, too, come to think of it).

Comments/questions/likes/shares are always welcome!!!

Reading Challenge: The Famous Weigh In

still foolin em

And a two-fer!

Popsugar’s list this year seemed to be more focused on more popular reading than the classics:  A book written by a celebrity and one written by a comedian, neither of which I would read otherwise.  I seem to be more into reading about new cultures and parts of the world than popular reading.

I really struggle to care about celebrities and I did not want to read memoirs about the privileged. I really had to root through Goodreads to find a book that I might possibly care anything about.  My father and sister love old school Hollywood and I have had some exposure to that, so I listened to

dropped names

Dropped Names, Frank Langella

The pinnacle highs and the rock bottom lows of the Hollywood existence. It is about individual celebrities but there is the same trajectory for all of them: amazing talent and then a devastating drop into loneliness and obscurity.  People being mocked by others in the industry that they themselves used to rule. These huge and glamorous lives share everyone’s loneliness and basic humanity underneath it all.  I have not coveted the life of a celebrity since I left elementary school and I am good with my obscurity.  Awesome with my common life, in fact.

I really had to push to get through this.  I put the Audible book on  a faster speed.  This would be great for someone who really likes the background stories of the famous, and not become depressed or bogged down by the details.  Langella is honest and a good writer.  Just because this was really not my cup of tea does not mean that it was not well done.

A book written by a comedian was a somewhat easier sell.  I can’t tell you that I don’t have Yes,Please and Bossypants in my kindle files, but they come more highly recommended from my friends than most other celebrity works.   But I listened to the one that also won and Audie Award, which was a criteria from the BookRiot list so I killed two birds with one stone.  My two-fer:

still foolin em.jpg

Still Foolin’ Em, Billy Crystal

I did infinitely better with this one, despite the fact that I am pretty neutral about Billy.  I liked this more because to me it was so much more heartfelt and human.  Billy is spending his life pursuing his creativity, of course, but he is a family man at heart.  He has loved the same woman since he was 18 years old and he is closing in on 70.  No stormy and meaningless affairs but a wife and two girls who he was there for and is now there for at least four grandchildren.  He is open about his wounds from his grief over those he loved.  He loves baseball and does not take for granted that he has gotten to know and live some childhood dreams that he had with baseball.  He is humble and clear that he has taken advantage of rare opportunities. He writes about the panic he experienced with family in Manhattan on the day of September 11.  He writes about what giving away treasured daughters in marriage is like. He is open and matter of fact about the discrimination that he has faced as a Jew, but also makes fun of Judaism. I mean, it is interesting to hear about the joy of getting to be on Johnny Carson, but I can relate to the family and the grief and the poking fun at one’s own traditions much more.

This probably won the Audie because of course he performs it himself, and starts every section with a comedy routine that discusses the era of life from which he will spin his next few chapters of life story.  He is funny, poignant, and performing, and then he is just real.

The heartening aspect of this book kept me much more engaged and I should probably watch When Harry Met Sally again, now that I know the story about how it came to be.  I watched it once when I was fifteen and completely disillusioned about love, which really can happen at fifteen.  I think it’s actually more likely at fifteen because I would like to think I understand a smidge more about human relationships now than I did then.  I hope I can enjoy it more this time.

So, I like the hopeful human stories more than the glamour and the height of genius, talent and creativity. I guess I can get through it when a celebrity has human and loving stories, not just the fame.

Am I alone in this?

Comments/shares/likes are always welcome!