Thursday, December 20, 2007

Books I Read in 2007, Part II

[This time, withOUT an annoyingly self-pitying intro!]

11. Three Junes by Julia Glass: I loved (like LOVED) the first two Junes, which may be why I was so disappointed by the third, rather mediocre June. (One book, three sections. Guess which month they’re each set in?) By the way, my timing in reading this book was intensely weird, considering that I read the parts about the death of a father, his cremation and his memorial service, on the airplane both to and from, yes, you guessed it, my dead father’s memorial service, after his cremation. Spooky.

12. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon: This was the pick of my synagogue's book club. And I had such high hopes, since several people whose opinions I really respect read and loved it. Whereas I...didn't. Well, I read it. I just didn't love it. Or, really, like it. I thought the language was fun, though I had the constant feeling that I was missing so many puns by not being enough of a Yiddish maven. And it seemed like it was going to be a really great plot, until it veered in the last third of the book into places that I literally couldn't follow. I seriously had no idea what happened at the end of the book, even after finishing it. So, yeah. I wasn't quite as enamored of it as so many other readers were--including more than half the compilers of Top Ten lists in major newspapers. Which is to say, never mind me. I apparently don't know what I'm talking about.

13. My Sister from the Black Lagoon by Laurie Fox: No, seriously. They published this? What a waste of an advance. I'd picked it up at because it was about mental illness, and I'm always up for a good Crazy Person story, being one myself. But it wasn't a good Crazy Person story. It was a very BAD story, and hardly about the Crazy Person at all. It's been a long time since I disliked a book quite this completely--probably since I read Carrie Fisher's The Best Awful. [TC shudders just from recalling that one...]

14. Rashi’s Daughters, Book II: Miriam by Maggie Anton: Another pick from my synagogue book club; the second in a series. (I wrote about the first one in Part I of this list.) I found this volume simultaneously fascinating and infuriating. So many gay Medieval Jews (the fascinating part) treating their wives atrociously (the infuriating part). Of course, to even say this is to ruin the experience for anyone who, like me, comes to this book with no information on what it is about, and assumes--based on Book I--that it will be more variations on the same Talmud, wine and romance theme. Uh, no. Not so much. But that's OK, because I liked this version--with its themes of Talmud, lust, and foreskins--a whole lot more.

15. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: Fascinating. Great execution of a really interesting concept. This is the sort of book I would have liked to have read with a group...not a book club, though, but rather a literary crit class. Because I feel as if I missed a lot of symbolism and threading and foreshadowing (and post-shadowing, too) in this very complex novel. I could have used a guide of some sort to help me get more out of it. I think I would have liked that. Even so, I enjoyed it greatly, and recommend it highly.

16. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: Nothing will be gained from hearing me go on and on about Jane Austen and how much I adore her, because really, where's the novelty in that? But I do. The only interesting thing I have to say with regards to this book is to recommend reading it the way I read it: through DailyLit. If you haven't ever checked out DailyLit, do. Plenty of free books to be had there. And how strange to have Austen appear suddenly on my laptop, amidst the penis enlargement and Vicodin ads. It made my day, every day. Now I just need to decide what to read next...

17. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: There is a section early in this book, in the part about Italy, where she talks about antidepressants and her feelings about them, and damn if she didn’t basically rewrite everything I’ve ever written on the subject myself. But enough about me--even if that similarity did raise every hair on my body in eerie recognition. Gilbert does a great job with this memoir. The whole book is really...I don’t want to say inspiring, because I really felt, the whole time, like she is in such a different place in her life than I am in mine, and thus I wasn't 'inspired' to try to be like her in any real way. ‘Searching for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia’ isn’t really something you can do when you have two kids under the age of 11, you know? And yet I have the feeling that somewhere in there, there’s a way I can make her journey mine. I just need to think about it a bit more.

18. Away by Amy Bloom: Yet another synagogue-book-club read. The writing is almost edibly gorgeous, though distancing, and I felt as if I understood almost every other character in the book better than I understood Lillian. And, oh, wasn’t the last fifth of the book taken almost directly out of a Harlequin Romance I once read? There is likely more to say, but really, all I could think of through most of the book was this: Why is there an enormous bowl of fruit on the cover? What did I miss?

19. Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh: Ooooh, that Kimble guy is a big freaking jerk. And boy did he remind me of my dad in a lot of ways. And wow did I not need THAT for my bedtime reading. Nonetheless--despite the soap opera-ish aspect of the story, and the similarities to my father, and the somewhat disappointing end--it's a good book. Written well, executed well. A quick, good read. Didn't rock my world, but didn't waste my time. And that really isn't meant to damn with faint praise. It's meant to simply praise.

1 comment:

Tamar said...

I felt the same about Three Junes. Liked the first June, adored the second (thankfully longest) one. Meh about the third. Don't see why it was needed.

Didn't read the Chabon. It sounded like it emphasized the parts of his writing I don't love. Plus, I was suspicious based on the tale of the writing, which involved multiple burned drafts, rarely a good sign.

BTW, about your last post -- it's been decades since I read anything by Potok, but I truly loved The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev back then. Have you read either of them?

(And you read romance novels? Heh. I wonder how many of us do in semi-secret. Though I'm getting less secret about it all the time... and I've actually never read Harlequins.)