Suddenly I have lots of books to read – the result of tax refund plus trip to San Francisco’s Green Apple Bookstore plus too much insomnia combined with a ready credit card and Amazon.com.
First it was Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, one of my all-time faves, Patron Saint of Liars) about her friendship with Lucy Grealy (a poet who wrote an autobiography about losing part of her jaw to childhood cancer). Patchett’s book chronicles this intense friendship of a sort that, truly, only childless women can have, yet of course, my heart leapt in recognition – and with the recent departure of one of my best girlfriends, I was especially vulnerable to great bouts of tears while reading it. (Therapy via novel-reading? Novel therapy?)
Last night, I finished The Post Birthday World by Lionel Shriver (one of my favorite authors; see Checker and the Derailleurs). This book tells the story of a woman who’sin a happy, loving relationship, but unexpectedly falls in love with another man. The first chapter ends with her on the verge of kissing him, then the rest of the book follows two paths: the one in which she kissed him and the one in which she didn’t. I half-expected it to read poorly despite my love of this author’s work, but the back-and-forth flowed easily, keeping me in suspense – sometimes I’d start to skip a chapter to see what was coming, but always stopped and went back to reading it properly. Both storylines unfolded realistically with neither one being the “right” path – just different. The whole book spoke to those crossroad moments in which our choices end up defining our lives and who we become, but not in the sense that we have only one true path – that whatever path we end up on has good and bad, and life is this big tangly beautiful thing.
Sigh. I wish I could write about writing better. Everything sounds too cliché, too much like a review. I’m best writing about doing rather than feeling. But how to write about the action of reading a book? “I stretched out on the couch, a glass of wine already polished off, a cup of tea cooling on the table. I bunched the pillows behind me, pulled the flannel comforter over, placed another pillow on my lap for propping purposes and began. Some time later, tea now cold and forgotten, I laughed. An hour later, a tear dropped down my cheek and I smudged it off, then snapped at my snoring husband to stop doing so. Despite my best efforts, by 11 p.m. my eyes refused to focus. I closed them for a moment, then awoke at 3 a.m., light still glaring overhead, teeth unbrushed. It was a very good book.”
Next on the list is How to Think Like a Pancreas by Gary Scheiner, which is supposed to be an accessibly scientific look at diabetes care. Plenty of good reviews and the title’s good, so I have high hopes. Riding the bus has enabled me to read much more – so nice! – and I’ve finished a couple books of short stories, too; The Safety of Objects by A.M. Holmes is in that very sparse style that I admire and can’t do as well as I’d like.
I also read Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts by Julian Rubinstein, which is about a Romanian Hungarian hockey goalie bank robber living in Budapest in the late ’90s – wildly fun. Next on the list is Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin by Marion Meade, about “writers (Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker and Edna Ferber) running wild in the ’20s.” Yes, so far reading has been the best motivator for riding the bus – global what?!