for those who are in or around sane

Friday, September 5

august books

august is a very good month for reading. either you've got time to burn at the beach, time to burn at the park, time to burn at the library or, if your job takes a turn for the busy and removes your excessive summer spare time, you have boring long cross-country flights and rush hour commutes.

tolstoy lied - rachel kadish
tracy is an early 30's up-and-coming, un-tenured professor at a reputable new york city college. she's single, set in her ways and content. she rolls up her sleeves and diligently takes the reigns of her academic future without bucking the system. she's smart, feminist and intrigued by the issue of love as a cop-out happy ending and questions the idea that love is necessary for happiness. tolstoy's famous opening line for anna karinina has her contemplating a possible first published work as a secure, tenured prof: "all happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in it's own way."

is this a lie? can't happiness be obtained and considered unique in it's own right? tracy's theory is the thread that weaves the story of her own life and conquest for tenure and love. she meets a man and they fall immediately and deeply in love. i had high hopes that this novel would stay away from the sex in the city glow/misunderstanding/separation/reconciliation/glow circle that has been the rage for all chick lit of late. for one, kadish's grasp of the english language is beautiful. she chooses her words carefully and challenges the reader's vocabulary. however, i dont believe this is quite clever enough to overcome the pitfalls of almost all chick lit books. Namely, the heroine doubts herself, has a funny ironic fall (literally), enjoys the banal, sexless advice of a male friend and in the end.... i wont spoil it, but suffice to say, it's not a surprise.

this was a fun higher-lit chick book that got me through a plane ride. i enjoyed the language and the academic arguments. the main character's overwhelmingly obvious flaws were prosaic and at times, infuriating. not one i'd put on my best-of lists, but not one i'm disappointed in reading.


when you are engulfed in flames - david sedaris
sedaris' newest collection of short stories again reads like a page in a grandiose, pee-your-pants hilarious memoir. he's reached that half century mark and his writing has matured, even if his sense of humor has not. which is not a fault in any way - in fact, his immature rants about his partner hugh, his obsessive need to be special and his passion to find the unique in the mundane only grow richer. this one got me through the return flight, and as every other sedaris book, article and npr piece, i highly recommend it.

the most striking story is a collection of "diary entries" about how he quit smoking. most of this piece was printed in the new yorker earlier this year. it's in this set of stories that we find the title. it's a simple mistranslation on a sign about how to "stop, drop, and roll" in a particular foreign country. this odd twist of words captures the irony, passion and wit that fits so lovingly into sedaris' repertoire.


unaccustomed earth - jhumpa lahiri
my audiobook for the month was lahiri's newest collection of short stories. the themes surround indian families integrated in the usa. characters are rich with faults and intrigue, and the plot lines are subtle and striking. if you liked her first book, interpreter of maladies, you'll enjoy her second showing. i do like this one better than her novel, the namesake, but i think she needs to stretch her limbs a bit more for future stories. the ethereal glow surrounding each plot can get a bit overdramatic, and while each character's story is unique, it's not quite different enough to make me think twice. i enjoyed the narration immensely - it alternated between a male and female voice, but was uncomplicated. a good one for long car rides to and from work, and for cooking in the kitchen.

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3 Comments:

Blogger 10lees said...

Sounds like some good books, I am glad you had lots of time to read and thanks for the warning about Tolstoy Lied - it sounds a lot like Love Walked In, but Love Walked In has a much better ending (reccommended for you!).

2:17 PM

 
Blogger Kevin said...

Hey, mind if I borrow your Sedaris book? It's ok to say no, I know some people aren't cool with that. I want to read it because I've liked everything so far of his, I just hate paying over $20 for a book I'll have read in a week.

3:27 PM

 
Blogger dr gonzo said...

i do lend out books! i am a firm believer in the idea of library and so am always willing to share something that is worthwhile.

3:38 PM

 

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