Purgatory and Race. Because summer.

This Sunday I am actually reviewing newer books!

I am always debating with myself about if I need to niche blog to get more readers.  But I can’t.  I just love to read widely and I am gravitating again toward some reading challenges this year.  Admittedly, the books geared toward white women problems suck me in the most and some of the ones outside my favorite genres can feel like a slog, but very often I am glad I have read something outside my genre or picked up an award winner to see what the fuss was about.

lincoln in the bardo.jpg

Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders

Now, Audible let me know, in its full Audible marketing glory, that this book is as much a performance piece as it is a book.  The last book that was marketed more as a performance piece was Their Eyes Were Watching God and hands down, that was absolutely the case. I became a believer.  I also want to hang out with the Audible staff.

I saw Lincoln in the Bardo at the library in hardcover and I didn’t even pick it up.  I caught it on audio available at my library (Overdrive…if you have not tried it as part of your local library and you love audiobooks…seriously…get it together ;)) and I am sure something would be lost by just reading. It is like the Her Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen and how I mostly prefer them in audio because of Katharine Kelgren’s artistry with the cast of British characters.

And in case you cannot read further without knowing, a bardo is the period where a soul is between death and rebirth.  So, to me, purgatory.   The voices are souls caught in the graveyard where Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie is buried after succumbing to typhoid and Abe comes in to visit him continually and open his casket and look in on his body as a way to wrestle with that special soul crushing grief of burying a child. There are stories of people’s lives and what is unrealized that makes them stuck, against the background of the Civil War, interwoven with a heartbreaking narrative that very much humanizes the ill-fated sixteenth POTUS.

And it took me way longer to pick out David Sedaris’ voice than I care to admit.  I have listened to him in person and on the New Yorker fiction podcast. He is a major narrator and I forget that his voice is as effeminate as he is.  But he fits the character perfectly.

I still think Their Eyes Were Watching God is the best narration of a book, but this is a close second.  And I have to also admit it took me awhile to catch onto a few things, like their word for casket, and what was always going on, but my focus has also been crap lately and I feel better that my staff has admitted theirs to be on equal footing.


the sellout

The Sellout, Paul Beatty

Last summer, when the Man Booker Prize longlist rolled out, I perused it with my dad for something we both might like to read.  The Sellout never had an appeal to me in the blurb, in fact I have since bought four of the long listers since, but then it won.  I bought it for us to read only because it won and after The Luminaries I’ll put some faith in the selection committee.

It’s absolutely hilarious and I know I will have to read it again. The prologue felt a little frenetic to me, and it almost lost me the night I picked it up out of insomnia, but I pushed through it.  I told my father to start with Chapter one and then circle back to the prologue when he is done because the prologue makes more sense once you have read it.   Like, if you want to explore the modern state of race relations and laugh like hell, this is it.  I hope my father likes it, as he can abandon the likes of Stephen King when the one character he likes dies and he is a bit more old school than myself. And it is heavy on psychology metaphors which makes perfect sense to me with my doctorate in it, but I don’t know how much the layperson knows about basic psychology, so how funny it would be.  But it’s a biting and entertaining satire that the whities need to stay on track with racial sensitivity.  And I mean that.

Delightfully, I also took a week off in the coming week.  I am still a staycationer, with being able to have my son in school while I relax/catch up on house or life stuff.  Write in Dunkin Donuts or something.  Read compulsively and live the dream.  Hopefully train, but motivation lately has been a little rough.  Family trips will be forthcoming…when he is just a tiny bit easier.



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