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As of my "maternity leave," here are the stats of the past year: 74 books reviewed 9 guest posts 4 independent bookstores 3 d...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Broom of the System: A Novel

Nothing screams, "I've had a few days off!" like picking up David Foster Wallace. This is his first novel, The Broom of the System.

1990. Cleveland. Lenore Beadsman is working at the switchboard of Frequent and Vigorous publishing company. Her beloved great-grandmother has just disappeared, with two dozen others, from her nursing home; chances are good she led the break-out. Lenore is dating the ever-neurotic Rick Vigorous of the previously mentioned publishing company. Her cockatiel, Vlad the Impaler, has suddenly started repeating her roommate's breakup speech rehearsal which is not ladylike to say the least. Nothing in her world is going her way, and dealing with this triptych of crises may very well be the end of her.

I do enjoy some DFW, although if you have yet to read his work, I would suggest being gentle on yourself for your first time. He is a lot to take in; just look at Infinite Jest if you doubt me. I could only read 30 pages or so at a time because reading DFW is like drinking an oatmeal stout--it is incredibly delicious and the finest of brews, but it is heavy and dense and requires you to savor it.

However, taking the time to savor it allows you to revel in the genius that this man embodies. He is the pinnacle of intelligent absurdism in my eyes, which is the only kind of absurdism with which I can put up. The man can craft a sentence that is an entire paragraph, and by the time you are finished with it you feel like you have been knocked cold. He has this way of making your brain sore because he has worked the muscle so deeply. I prefer this kind of workout to the physical one.

So back to the story. I adored Lenore. She holds her exasperation well, and she is the kind of girl who takes herself seriously yet can't seem to figure out why no one else takes their life seriously. She takes the world in and acknowledges, if only to herself, that everything is just a little bit nuts. The story in itself is quite nuts, and DFW creates such insane characters that I simply love. The nursing home director, Mr. Bloemker, is a bumbling oaf who can't quite explain why so many of those in his care are missing, yet he knows enough to tell Lenore that her ninety-something great-grandmother probably led the charge. The sub-story about Lenore's father, Stonecipher, the baby food magnate, and his long-time battle with rival Gerber, is funny and absurd and sincerely ridiculous.

If you have yet to give DFW a run, try out Consider the Lobster first for a bunch of essays, then pick up this book. If you have a sharp sense of humor, you will sink your tentacles into this one.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right:

Also, give Consider the Lobster a chance:

Monday, April 28, 2014

Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace

It's David Foster Wallace Week here on Sassy Peach, because I have always loved the man's wit, intelligence, and writing style. This book is kicking off the week because it was one of the loveliest portraits I could have even seen of the man. This is David Lipsky's Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace. 

The year is 1996, the month is March. Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky is sent to interview the newly-crowned literary phenom David Foster Wallace (DFW) on the last leg of the Infinite Jest book tour, the book that will ultimately become one of the greatest-known literary achievements in contemporary history. The pair shoot the breeze about the book, the sudden burst of fame, pop culture, teaching, and everything in between.

This transcript is a raw portrait of a man with a one-of-a-kind genius mind whom we all lost too soon. I have loved DFW since I first picked up one of his pieces. (It was Consider the Lobster, in case you care.) I fell madly in love with his extensive use of the footnote and the level at which his mind worked and wrote (always on "high," if you will, and not in the drug sense--in the volume sense). I felt that I was drinking a high-end cocktail (stirred, thankyouverymuch) that needed to be sipped, not slurped or sucked down with a straw. His mind worked on such a level that it often takes two or three reads to get it all processed in my brain. And I love it, every single second of it.

This particular work is different, of course. It is the transcript of his conversations with Lipsky which brought out the conversational side of the man whom I picture so clearly from his work. Sometimes I felt I knew him before this, and other times I felt I was getting a whole new picture of the man. You know how a person can have 6 pictures taken of him or her at different times in the year and in each he or she looks like a completely different person? That was what this interview felt like for me. It made me fall all the more in literary love with the man.

He has such on-point observations about life. At one point he talks about getting older, and having the fame come to him at a later point in his life. He says, "I think I work harder now. I think--I don't know what you were like. I think when I was twenty-two or twenty-three, I pretty much thought every sentence that came off my pen was great. And couldn't stand the idea that it wasn't" (p. 32). Yes, DFW, yes. I understand. You punched me in the gut with that observation. I was the same way, too.

When he talks about why he needs to be alone I feel the most connected to him. See, it's hard to be so dedicated to your work and still find the space to love another person. He says: "It's just much easier having dogs. You don't get laid; but you also don't get the feeling you're hurting their feelings all the time" (p. 98). He later says, "I think if you dedicate youself to anything, um, one facet of that is that it makes you very very selfish. And that when you want to work, you're going to work. And you end up using people. Wanting people around when you want them around, but then sending them away. And you just can't afford to be that concerned about their feelings" (p. 293). I tear up when I read that, because I just get it. The truth hurts the tiniest bit.

He takes a pragmatic view about television and its effect on us as artists: "We sit around and bitch about how TV has ruined the audience for reading--when really all it's done is given us the really precious gift of making our job harder. You know what I mean? And it seems to me like the harder it is to make a reader feel like it's worthwhile to read your stuff, the better a chance you've got of making real art. Because it's only real art that does that" (p. 71). Those words bring joy to my heart as I read them over and over again. It just means we have to work that much harder--and work doesn't scare me.

When he spoke about Infinite Jest, I swooned. He talked about the length of the book and how it was originally a million times longer (my estimate). You have to read the story yourself in the book to truly fall in love with the man and his dedication to the art he created. You need to read the book anyway. Because. DFW.

All of this book, really, felt to me like a gift--and a true literary orgasm of which I haven't experienced before. I rarely quote books, especially on this blog, but I wanted to capture these moments for me to refer back to as I need to remind myself what it feels like to be human. I only wish that we could see what 2014 DFW would bring to our world. My heart aches for that.

Kindle version on the left, hard copy on the right.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Terms & Conditions: A Novel

I love an irreverent piece of work, and Terms & Conditions by Robert Glancy fills those shoes. 

Frank can't remember anything. He has been in a car accident and apparently was "agitated" even before then. He remembers that he is a lawyer who focuses on terms and conditions, but other than that he is a tabula rasa. As he heads back to work his memories start slowly coming back--he remembers that he hates his wife (she wrote a book that makes him irrationally angry--why is this?), he hates his older brother (he is a jackass, but is he more than that?), and his youngest brother is off running around the world for fun. Maybe it wasn't an "agitation" at all--maybe he had had enough and wanted to just start over.

I was so thrilled with this book. I fell so in love with it that I couldn't put it down. I adored Frank almost as if he was a very real person. I felt for him, and I wanted him to come to terms (and conditions?) with the life he really no longer needed to live. I hated his wife with him. I hated his brother with him. I wanted to fight to keep the family company on the strait and narrow with him. He deserved all of this, and I wanted to work with him to get it. The injustices he faced as a man who was so easy to walk over were sad and heartbreaking, and to be able to watch Frank come to terms with this as almost a completely different person was really amazing and moving.

What I found the most delightful about reading this book was exactly this--watching Frank take ownership over his life and to be able to critically examine who he was prior to the accident and to make a decision regarding whether or not he wanted to be that person anymore. How many of us get that opportunity? It's such a gift, to be able to take those terms and conditions you have been given and rewrite them to make your own life exactly what you want. Of course this book was uproariously written and I enjoyed it immensely, laughing out loud on trains and wanting to get back to it any time I had to put it down. More than that, though, it was an exploration of a gift Frank has been given, which is to find how you can game the very system you put in place. Make your own terms and conditions.

Hard copy only below.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Art of Secrets: A Novel

This book was like whoa. I was so pleasantly taken with James Klise's The Art of Secrets

A fire destroys Saba Khan's home while she is at a tennis match--it was arson. Her family loses everything, but she becomes popular and gets to live in a Chicago high rise donated to her family so it's, you know, a trade off. A sister and brother team decide to throw a fundraiser for the Khans and begin collecting junk to auction off. One of the pieces of junk happens to be a long-lost painting by a local famous artist worth hundreds of thousands. How will the money be divvied up? Why are the sister and brother so willing to give so much? What really happened to the Khan's home? What will the aftermath be of their tragedy?

This story was told through multiple perspectives--Saba's journal, the brother and sister's experiences, through meetings with a reporter, through accusations and honest letters. It was an astounding way to tell a story that kept me thoroughly entertained and full-on immersed. I absolutely loved it, and I knew from the moment I saw the switch in the book that I would be hooked. Klise is adept at switching perspectives and keeping his reader engaged--it was seamless and authentic.

I also really adored the story. It was suspenseful without being a thriller and it was a young adult book without being young. It was appealing and lovely and funny and startling. Klise asks hard questions of his characters--who they are, what they want, and what their intentions may or may not be. Fingers are pointed throughout the story, and you often wonder if maybe the one or ones at fault are the ones you would least suspect. Or maybe not. You just really don't know--and you can't wait to find out.

Klise asks some tough questions of his readers. Is popularity worth it? Sometimes. Is wealth worth it? Is it better than the alternative? Sometimes. Is a humble and simple living an easier way to be? Sometimes. Is honest the best choice? Sometimes. Is telling little white lies for the greater good all right? Sometimes. Will we all be OK in the end? Sometimes.

Only the hard copy below.

Monday, April 21, 2014

House of Sand and Fog

I saw this movie (based on the book) many years ago and found it absolutely stunning, so while I was at my favorite bookstore ever, Read It Again, while I was home visiting I picked up Andre Dubus III's House of Sand and Fog for my plane ride.

A former Iranian army colonel, having fled with his family to America, sees a better life for himself and his children in the purchasing of a property at auction. It is the last of his savings, but he can triple the price and change careers. The house used to belong to a broken young woman who feels it was taken from her unjustly--and although it might have been, the events that lead to their explosive confrontation may leave them all shattered and empty handed, in more ways than one.

This is not a book you race through in order to find out what is at the end; the journey is far more important than the destination. It is a masterpiece of pathos, one that follows the story arc though until the bitter end and allows the characters to become who they were always meant to be. It is a truly astounding piece of work.

I read Dubus's The Garden of Last Days a few years ago and was just blown away at his remarkable prose. He writes in such an intelligent undercurrent that it feels as though you are being given a gift, one that is just for you and thoughtfully picked out, the right size and the right color and the right shape and you just don't know how the person could have known it's exactly what you wanted. He has this way of crafting his sentences so that they draw you in and hook you before you even know what is happening. It is like getting drunk on mulled wine--it is just too good to put down and too addicting to walk away from.

House is a truly stunning piece of work, one that I just found myself mentally weeping over time and again. I had such sympathy for Kathy even though she is not a sympathetic character. She loses her house because she ignores the notices from the county tax register. It is her fault even though it was a bureaucratic mistake, and she can't seem to ever take responsibility for being an adult. It is what I loved best about her. She has little to no grown-up functioning about her, cleaning houses to make ends meet and unable to admit to her family that her husband left her months ago. It is sad and pathetic, yet painfully raw.

I also very much wanted Behrani to keep the home even though I also felt Kathy's pain and wanted her to have it as well. I know what it is like to want to make a better life for myself, and I recognized this doggedness in Behrani and I very much understood his stubbornness to not give in even though he could have easily just given back the home. It is heartbreaking to watch the events unfold, to watch Kathy's lover Lester made decisions that are reckless and quasi-romantic only to watch them blow up in his face, in Kathy's face, and cause him to lose everything he loves. It is a train wreck you see coming and can't stop watching. That may be the most remarkable thing about Dubus--you don't want to turn away.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Price of Paradise: The Costs of Inequality and a Vision for a More Equitable America

You do not have to know me long to know how passionate I am regarding income inequality and how it effects the education of our children. So when I saw David Dante Troutt's The Price of Paradise: The Costs of Inequality and a Vision for a More Equitable America I practically begged for it.

When Rational Mom and Rational Dad make big-ticket decisions such as what neighborhood in which to live, which schools for their children to attend, and how to get the most for their middle class lifestyle, they often make decisions that they feel are in their personal and fiscal best interest. The problem with this comes in economic realities of creating opportunity for those who are "deserving" and denying it to those we view as not. The desire to segregate ourselves (in the most loose sense of the term, regardless of your in-group) from "others" has led to economic inequality as well as a willingness to overspend even when we don't think we are. Creating an "otherness" has moved us so far from the American Dream that it begs the question--does it even exist in present day USA?

I found myself overwhelmed with excitement by this book. Troutt has done a superb job in putting together a treatise that is readable for the every-man but still makes clear the economic ramifications we face as a nation by our unwillingness to share. I am not talking about Robin Hood here and sharing our money, and I am also not taking about raising taxes for provisions. Troutt's argument here is that by creating and perpetuating a divided America, a fractured state of what the American Dream really means, we have created a nation that is more divided economically and racially than ever, and the circumstances that come out of these divisions affect every one of us whether you see it or not.

I am of course glossing over many of his points, which you can read for yourself when you get the book, because it is meticulously researched and both clearly and logically argued. One section flows into the next, and the argument continues to build until it is fully formed and jaw-dropping in it's honest, rawness, and frankness. If you aren't called to action after finishing this book then I am not sure what will move you. This goes beyond just helping others "move up the ladder;" it's also about helping ourselves. A more equitable America will serve you and me as much as it will serve the millions we will never meet.

There are many things I have learned about the human brain, the most important being that we think we are rational and logical creatures (we want to think we are!), but the reality of us as human beings is that we are the most illogical, irrational, un-thought-out creatures we will ever meet. We are more likely to "rationalize" based on emotion than on logic yet we will call that emotion logic. All of this adds to Troutt's work that while we think we are being Rational Mom or Dad, we are often doing just the opposite--without even realizing it.
Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir

Christmas break last year found me at Read It Again, a fantastic used bookstore in my home town of John's Creek. I picked up The Year We Disappeared by Cylin Busby and John Busby on a whim to escape some family time. 

Cylin lives a normal life for a nine-year-old. Her family does their thing in the summer is going great. That is, until her father is shot through his window on the drive to work. It is clearly a hit – her father, a local cop, is known for his take-no-prisoners attitude with the local shady organized crime guys. Suddenly Cylin goes from having the usual childhood mid-1970s freedom to being under 24 hour armed guard, a prisoner in her own home. When the police realize the gunman is still on the loose, the Busby family has to disappear – and fast.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. You know me, anything with crime and I'm sold. Even better? Having to disappear. I found the toggling between Cylin and her father's perspectives to be an interesting storytelling concept. I read in the back of the book an interview with them both where they said they found it interesting that their family story could be remembered so differently depending on where you were standing at the time. Cylin was a child and remembers being confused and frightened, while John remembers being angry and wanting revenge. The use of both of their perspectives allows the reader to understand the shock and pain that occurs when a family member is a victim of the crime.

This was a super great read for my break, and I'm happy it popped up in the used bookstore. It was a different time but still a story that is frightening and raw in its exploration of fear, confusion, and ultimately forgiveness.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity

I have been a Joel Stein fan for many years (I love his editorials in Time), so I picked up Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity this weekend for a good laugh and entertainment.

Joel has been blessed with a beautiful son who will soon no longer be tiny and will start asking his father to teach him how to throw a baseball and fight lions. Sounds normal, right? The only problem is that Joel is the least manly man he knows. He sets out to become more masculine by joining firefighters, learning to enjoy scotch, and camping with Boy Scouts. Hilarity ensues. 

I have been a Joel Stein fan for some time. When I still subscribed to Time (read: when I wasn't a grad student) I used to look forward to finding his editorial on the back page. I saved quite a few because I just get his humor and I really enjoy it.

So, it will surprise you none when I tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is classic Stein--the overeager lifetime learner and his exasperated wife, always thinking her husband is two steps behind. I appreciated the easiness of this book; it was funny, lighthearted, and witty while still having substance and a sense of humor that you must appreciate for what it is. I love the quickness of Stein's wit and his self-deprecation. It made time fly by.

What I appreciated most of all in this book, however, was that we left with a moral. Even though Stein is a witty guy and he gets himself into some scrapes that are guffaw-inducing, we leave the book with a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man. Sure, firefighters are buff and strong and all around studly (I mean, that's just a personal opinion), but what truly makes a man is what is in his heart. It could easily come across as cheesy, but in this case it just comes across as honest. You don't need to build your own house or shoot animals to prove your masculinity--you only need to accept who you are.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Circle - Dave Eggers

Soooooo...yeah. It is not often that I find myself super creeped out by a book that is equal parts funny and riveting, so I would say Dave Eggers' latest, The Circle, is a win on all counts.

The world's most popular and powerful social networking company is The Circle. It has eclipsed all that we know into one amalgamation of transparency and communication. When Mae is hired to work in the customer experience department, it's the job of a lifetime. She embraces her new job full force, acquiring a new additional monitor at her desk on almost a daily basis. She shares her every move and embraces her new life, including her geeky crush and a mysterious stranger who strikes her family. The only problem? What happens when you share too much and your life becomes not your own?

Holy hell, what an amazing piece of work. Seriously. I am shaken to the core by this novel. Eggers has this lovely, lilting style of writing that is enrapturing and funny and erudite and super meta, and then he pairs it with a story that is frightening and soul-stiring and seems almost as if it could come true next year. It is an incredibly juxtaposition of style and content that it removes any rule you may know, understand, or embrace about content dictating style. Whoosh.

I was completely sucked in by Mae's experience at the Circle, from the moment she walked in until the moment she made her ultimate decision. Hell, even I wanted to work at the Circle; I almost put in a job application before I remembered it wasn't a real place. (Yet.) Things start to get frighteningly dystopic at the end, a way in which you might not even describe as dystopic, but I am choosing my words carefully here...which was amazing. Just...incredible.

Well...it even gets crazy in the beginning-middle. I started to become suspicious early on, and I was rooting for Mae's privacy from the very beginning. But here's the funny thing about privacy--it's only as present as you want it. Even for us and our book of faces obsessions; we must realize that loss of privacy is just one simple click away. How easily forgotten.

The ending will come as a bit of a surprise even if you can figure it out. It was not a sucker punch so much as it was a knocked-over-by-feather. I was in such shock from the book as a whole that the end was not surprising, in fact, it could easily be said it was expected; rather, it was normally astonishing. I think it was because regardless of how many signs pointed to the end, I hoped against hope it would go a different way. The fact that I was so affected (I had dreams about this book, y'all) is a testament to its greatness. Pick it up.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Astonish Me: A Novel

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead initially attracted me due to the premise of a generation in the professional dance world. I find everything about it fascinating. 

Joan is a talented dancer, enough to be a member of a celebrated company yet not enough to ever become a principle. She is best known for helping her lover, the astonishing Arslan Ruskov, defect from Russia in the late 1970's. When she feels her life spinning out of her control, she seeks out the love of an old flame, finding herself pregnant and settling for marriage, giving up her professional career. As her son Harry grows, she discovers his talent for dance and trains him. However, as he becomes more talented and focused, his success brings him closer to finding out a secret that could ruin everyone's lives.

I was beyond pleasantly surprised as I found myself unable to put down this book even as I needed to exit the subway to get places like home and work. Shipstead crafts an intriguing story that kept me hooked both with the narrative and the characters. I particularly loved the relationship Joan and Jacob, her husband, had with the neighbors next door. You know them--they are the ones that feel they need to keep up with the Jonses not in material goods, but in worthiness. Gary, the husband, was the one who was always not given a shot. He was gifted, don't you know, but was never encouraged and was always bored in school, which is why he ended up with a less-than-stellar job. Life is just unfair for these kinds of people, never realizing that it might be them. This juxtaposed so well with Joan and Jacob, each of which faced their own demons on the inside but appear to be so calm and collected on the outside.

When I finally put two and two together and figured out that there was a secret and that I knew what it was, I found myself racing to the end of the book just to be able to make sure I wasn't crazy and to hope and pray and keep my fingers crossed that it just wouldn't be true. I came to care so deeply about the Bintz family that I couldn't bear the thought that a mistake so huge, a lie so big could tear this family apart while still yielding such promise. Argh. WHY, MAGGIE?!? WHY MUST YOU DO THIS TO ME?!?

So, yeah. It's absolutely worth the read. If you love dance, pick it up. If you love a good story, pick it up. If you have a secret, find a better way to keep it, then pick this book up.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories

This collection of fiction and non-fiction by a young woman struck down in her prime was a lovely testament to life and to love. This is Marina Keegan's The Opposite of Loneliness

Marina graduated just two short years ago from Yale, already on her way in life with a play accepted to the New York Fringe Festival and a job at The New Yorker. Her promising young life was cut short by a car accident five days after graduation. This collection of her work, both fiction and non-fiction, assembles the oeuvre of a talented young woman who had so much ahead of her.

I was very taken wit Marina's writing style in the fiction section. She has a beautiful young voice and owns who she is (or was) as a writer, and the pain and oblivious folly of youth comes out so clearly in her work. I was particularly taken by two stories; the first was "Baggage Claim," a fairly short story that took place in Scottsboro, Alabama. The beauty of a conversation between two people that holds so much weight and unspoken feeling was what I want to read more of. There is honesty in what isn't spoken, and for a writer to get this across to her readers is simply lovely.

The other story I loved was "Hail, Full of Grace," the tale of a woman who has come back for the holidays with her adopted infant and baggage to bear. The subtle feeling that was expressed through the realization of having to face your past was palpable. Marina seemed to understand (way beyond her years) the pain of the decisions that you may not regret on a daily basis but that come back to haunt you when you least expect them. This story was gut-punchingly subtle in its laying the soul of the past bare for all to see.

In the non-fiction section my absolute favorite story was "Stability in Motion," Marina's ode to her car that helped her become who she was. Her personification of her transportation was lovely and thoughtful, and it was worth an exploration of how we treat the inanimate objects that keep us moving forward everyday in life. We take for granted everything around us in the blessings of our first world existence--do we ever stop to be grateful for all that we have?

It's heartbreaking to think that we will never be able to watch Marina grow as a writer and to see her maximize her potential as a storyteller. However, let it be known how grateful I am that she was on this earth long enough to give us a taste of her talent, her voice, and her openness to the world. More than that though--I am thankful for her willingness to share.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right:

Friday, April 4, 2014

I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-star

I am one of those people who happens to recognize character actors, and I have been a long-time fan of Judy Greer. I swiped her memoir, I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-star as fast as I was able to click "request."

You run into her on the street in Los Angeles. You know her! You have seen her in a movie! What movie did you see her in? She is that actress, the one you have seen one million times in all sorts of movies but you can't quite place her--she is the best friend, the sidekick, the co-star. She also happens to be a genius performer. This book of essays covers everything from her ridiculously normal childhood, to her being "discovered" in college, to her days of living in the sketchiest parts of LA, to her eventual trip to the Oscars. The whole ride you will laugh along with her, as she takes her life as seriously you should, but don't.

There were many times I found myself snorting (snort-laughing, if you will) on the subway train or the back of the bus on the way to campus. {If you heard it, sorry about that...no, wait--I'm not. It was worth it.} As I said in the intro to this post, I love catching Judy in everything that she does. She is incredibly morphable (yes, that is a made-up word) and she is just delightful to watch. She can in turn be vulnerable, sassy, and honest. This book is exactly as I imagine she is in real life. That is, if I didn't already feel as though we are besties.

My most favorite part of this book is when she discussed meeting her husband and falling in love with him, and then getting to know his children, her now step children. I love how honest she is in these chapters while still being true to her everyday attitude of humor. If in no other part of this book, she comes across as so truly un-celebrity, especially in light of a certain celebrity's recent comments on how easy it is to be anything other than a movie star. Judy makes it clear how much she loves what she does and how much she doesn't take it for granted, and it makes her all the more down-to-earth and lovely.

The chapter where she attends the Oscars is hilarious. Like, snorting funny. I don't want to tell you too much because there is a little spin at the end that will make it all the funnier, but it is worth the read. I agree, Judy--Spanx are a miserable yet necessary evil. Besties forever?

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

In the Background: A Novel

Devin Wright's In the Background is a haunting and twisting novel that explores the complexities of the human condition. 

Death, just as life, is a complex mixture of who we are, what we wanted to be, and all of the missed opportunities in between. An artist is choosing to leave this life, albeit metaphorically--but why? As he works to make sense of his life and his world, we explore what is happening in his mind that has led him to his ultimate choice. It may be something much closer to home than ever suspected.

I enjoy picking up a book that has so much to offer and has the guts to explore the intricacies of the human condition with no holds barred. It takes cojones to dive deep into the soul of a man so distraught he has nothing to live for with no hesitations and no holding back. The reasons for any choices we make as humans are illogical, irrational, and difficult to understand, and a willingness to own those as a writer is a lovely gift to his or her readers.

Wright has a poetic lilt to his writing that still has the sharp corners and clean lines of a modern piece. His main character is clearly a man in pain, wrestling with his own demons while still being aware of how he looks to the outside world. The story begins at the end and then works its way back, which I found to be an interesting convention that allowed me as the reader to understand the confusion that was happening in his mind. What is ultimately the human condition? Is it the capacity to love and to be utterly torn apart by it? Or is it the capacity to hold on to a sinking ship and survive in spite of it? Ultimately--does it matter? Or we all just supposed to survive?

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.