I saw RULES OF CIVILITY by first-time author Amor Towles dismissed by one reviewer as “The Great Gatsby meets Breakfast at Tiffany’s, as told by Mary McCarthy.” Is that a criticism? Quite a mashup, I say. And I also think this first novel is more original than that. I really enjoyed this romantic ride through an interesting year (1938) in the life of an independent young woman trying to start her career in Manhattan. Great dialogue and settings, some surprising plot twists, and a very sympathetic central character: what more do you want? And I dare you to finish the book (with Kleenex nearby) and not go back and reread the opening chapter where Katey walks through a Walker Evans photo exhibit and spies the two photos of Tinker, sending her mind back in time. A wonderful opening to a very engaging and adult slice-of-life story.
There are many nice passages in the book; I liked this one particularly:
“In our twenties, when there is still so much time ahead of us, time that seems ample for a hundred indecisions, for a hundred visions and revisions—we draw a card, and we must decide right then and there whether to keep that card and discard the next, or discard the first card and keep the second. And before we know it, the deck has been played out and the decisions we have just made will shape our lives for decades to come.”
Enjoyed Katherine Bouton’s NYTimes review of THE LONGEVITY PROJECT and the study’s fascinating conclusions. Bouton does a good job of telling you a lot about the book and the authors, but still encourages you to read the whole book (now that’s a good book review).
Most people assume biology is the critical factor in longevity. Or maybe outlook: if you’re cheerful, optimistic, happy, exercise a lot and are able to handle stress you have a great shot at living longer.
Most people would be wrong.
Turns out: “The findings clearly revealed that the best childhood personality predictor of longevity was conscientiousness. The qualities of a prudent, persistent, well-organized person, like a scientist-professor—somewhat obsessive and not at all carefree.”
Judging by the above description, I’m destined to live a very long life. I knew all that prudent behavior would pay off! (Although I’m really not so sure that living to age 90+ is any sort of payoff, especially when no matter how “prudent” I’ve been there ain’t enough money and SS past age 80!)
That’s a bit of a joke, but I finished Open by Andre Agassi the other day and cannot get it out of my head. What an excellent autobiography—insights, drama, revelations, snark, inspiration, humor, celebrities, money, and lots of pulled muscles. Best part is: we didn’t have to wait for Agassi to get old and/or die before reading this exceedingly juicy story. Co-author J. R. Moehringer (author of his own excellent autobiography The Tender Bar) deserves big props for what he drew out of his subject: openness.
Am joining a twitter book club discussion at 9 pm tonight via The Book Studio #tbc. Olive Kitteridge’s author Elizabeth Strout and thousands of other tweeters will be there, too. They’ve introduced me to a new tweeting service, www.tweetchat.com, and we’ll see how that goes. Book club chat in 140 characters—should be interesting…
In case you’re wondering, I loved Olive Kitteridge, the book. (The character of Olive—a difficult New England schoolmarm dealing with modern-day changes—is more of a challenge.) Thanks to friend Alex for recommending…
A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert (about a family’s women over 100 yrs; really well written review by Leah Hager Cohen in the 6/14 NYTimes Book Review); and Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan (about 4 Smith grads; reviewed EVERYWHERE).
Note to self: spend less time on computer, more time reading my huge stack of books!
This is the second novel my friend Mimi gave me to read a while back. (See the other book review here: http://tinyurl.com/kmrc3x) I was a little reluctant to pick up this one: It tells of a 50-year-old female Harvard professor’s descent into early onset Alzheimer’s disease and the words “heartbreakingly real” are blurbed on the cover.
But I’d heard the story behind the book—a self-published iUniverse novel that had been picked up big time by Simon & Schuster—and was curious. There’s nothing amazing about the prose but I truly couldn’t put this book down. It’s a wonderful study of a smart, interesting woman and her family as they make their way through a bewildering world, very reminiscent of the books of Jacquelyn Mitchard, Sue Miller, and Anna Quindlen. Somehow, Genova makes the gradual takeover of the disease engrossing rather than off-putting. A neuroscientist by training (now a mother/writer), Genova understands both the science and the heart of Alzheimer’s.
It’s a dread disease and no one wants to read about it—but somehow I found myself devouring this story four nights in a row, wondering how it was going to turn out, hoping against hope…
No, this isn’t a new book but it happens to be the one my friend Mimi gave to me and said, “Tell me what you think of it!”
This 2002 novel is set in the Ozarks area of Missouri during the final years of the Civil War. Spirited and beautiful 18-year-old Adair must endure a forced eviction from the family home and then a betrayal by a fellow traveler that lands her in a hideous women’s prison in St. Louis. She falls in love with her interrogator, a Union major, but is obsessed with escaping from prison and reuniting with her family. The second half of the book is her harrowing walk home through enemy territory. (I must also mention that there’s also a heroic horse named Whiskey.)
My summary makes this sound like a YA adventure story, but due to the poetic and unsentimental writing style of Paulette Jiles this is, rather, a haunting, disturbing displaced persons war story, complete with jarring violence and raw emotions. It reminds me of March by E.L. Doctorow and Cold Mountain by Charles Frasier. For some reason Enemy Women didn’t become as well known as those two books, but it has the same impact. Graphic civil war stories are hard to read before dropping off to sleep….