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Archive for October, 2009

New Blog

So I’ve started a new blog devoted solely to writing and reading. Not sure if I’ll be maintaining both blogs or if I will slowly let this one go. In the meantime, you can visit me here.

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Books Read in September

“A Prayer for Owen Meany” a novel by John Irving
Okay, so I came a little late to this particular party. This novel has been on my to-be-read list for years and years. Both of my sisters have raved about it for years and years. And I’ve tried to read it for, you guessed it, years and years. But I could never quite get into it. Could never get past the first fifty pages or so. Determined to read it, I suggested it for my book club and had the entire summer to read it. Turns out I didn’t need the entire summer. Turns out I can’t figure out why I couldn’t get past the first fifty pages. I was hooked from that fabulous first sentence: “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice–not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.” I mean, what a great first sentence. Irving even says, “ I may one day write a better first sentence to a novel than that of “A Prayer for Owen Meany”, but I doubt it.” The entire noel is encapsulated in those few words and they reel the reader in. Who doesn’t want to know about this small boy with the wrecked voice who killed this boy’s mother and made him believe in God? Owen Meany is one of the most captivating characters I have ever had to pleasure to encounter. Lesson? Never give up on a book.

“Paper Towns”
a YA novel by John Green
I fell in love with his previous two books. This is his latest. Just as I was able to get a library copy, the paperback edition came out. While I enjoyed it, I wasn’t quite as enamored as with his other novels. There was still a truly engaging voice and some laugh out loud lines like: “Talking to a drunk person was like talking to an extremely happy, severely brain-damaged three-year-old.” But the popular girl with mysterious deep angst just didn’t ring true this time for me. I liked it but am okay with not owning my own copy.

“The Glen Rock Book of the Dead” a memoir by Marion Winik
I ordered this little gem after it was recommended by Heather Sellers for a writing class I took with her. It is barely a hundred pages but each page is powerful. It is a series of portraits of people Winik has known who have died over the years from the eye doctor to the counselor to the nurse. Each portrait is tender and raw and each one pierces your heart leaving you a little breathless. It left me reeling with ideas of my own portraits and how to write about people in such a way that they as well as you are revealed. Riveting.

“Miles from Nowhere” a YA novel by Nami Mun
Joon is thirteen, her father has left, her mother has retreated to a place that Joon can’t reach so she sets off on her own out into the world of NYC in the 1980’s. It is not a pretty journey. Mun’s prose is raw yet poetic as we follow Joon from a shelter to strip clubs through addiction to a place fragile place of hope, I found myself underlining sentences like: “The dress tongued the floor behind her as she walked up to Lana…”

“Livability” stories by Jon Raymond
The last story in this collection, “Train Choir” is the basis of the movie “Wendy and Lucy” with Michelle Williams. Amazing but sad story. Not sure I cold watch it as a movie. All of the stories feature characters who struggle against the inertia of their own lives whether it’s a man who invites the Mexican landscapers he hired for the day to a feast he’s prepared or a recent widower. We are allowed such emotional access that we want to look away but like passing an accident it is hard to shift our gaze. And that is Raymond’s strength as a writer, he doesn’t avert his gaze nor does he wallow in what he sees.

“Normal People Don’t Live Like This” a novel in stories by Dylan Landis
I read a review of this in More magazine and had to get it the day it came out as it is similar to a novel in stories I have been working on for years now. Both feature an adolescent girl growing up in the seventies. I learned something about structuring a novel in stories. Every story doesn’t revolve around Leah. The stories follow Leah Levinson and the dark world of girls’ lives murky with secrets and sexuality. Beautiful and hypnotic.

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