I enjoyed every minute of it. It was a divine post-holiday diversion. I loved the characters that Gilbert invented and I liked the metaphors of botany that she used to convey personality, divinity, sensuality and humanity. The NYTimes is right: “The Signature of All Things” is one of those rewardingly fact-packed books that make readers feel bold and smart by osmosis. [I like feeling smart and bold]. There were moments that it felt very: Poisonwood Bible meets Eat, Pray, Love - but I loved both so it didn't matter.
My next two books are THE THINGS THEY CARRIED and RUDE BITCHES MAKE ME TIRED. I love the juxtaposition of these two. The first is "a semi-autobiographical account of a young platoon in the Vietnam war on a battlefield without a front, dodging sniper fire and their own misgivings." I am reading it because the author is visiting Wilmington for a keynote lecture in two weeks about the process of transforming actual experience and events into fiction. He's going to talk about how to tell a story. Here's quote that I found of his:
Abstraction may make your head believe, but a good story, well told, will also make your kidneys believe, and your scalp and your tear ducts, your heart, and your stomach, the whole human being.
I'm reading the second because I love Celia Rivenbark. And I want answers! According to her publisher's site:
Rude Bitches Make Me Tired will provide answers to all your mannerly questions as Celia discusses the social conundrums of our day and age, including:
- Navigating the agonies of check splitting (“Who had the gorgonzola crumbles and should we really care?”)
- The baffling aspects of airline travel (such as “Recline Monster” and other animals)
- The art of the visit (always leave them wanting more . . . much more)
- Gym and locker etiquette (hint: no one wants to talk to you while you’re buck naked)
- Office manners (“Loud talkers, cake hawkers, and Britney Sue’s unfortunate cyst”)
- And much more!Good manners have never been so wickedly funny!
I am also proud of my uncle, John Formy-Duval. He reads far more than I do and also writes about what he reads far better than most. He sends out a list of his favorite books each year (this time marks his ninth installment). He marked a milestone in August 2013: his 200th review for ABOUT.COM with Joyland, by Stephen King. Here are his picks for 2013:
Allan Gurganus. Local Souls is a trio of novellas set in a town very like Hillsborough, NC, now his home. This was the best book of the year, filled with humor and prescient observations on local people.
Lee Smith. Guests on Earth is set in Asheville, NC and explores mental illness with grace and compassion and gives us a brilliant mixture of real and imagined characters, including Zelda Fitzgerald. Smith and Gurganus are neighbors.
Jhumpa Lahiri. The Lowland, nominated for the National Book Award, explores the relationship between brothers, one who has immigrated to the US and one who has stayed in India.
Tracy Chevalier. Burning Bright, features a family who have moved to 18th Century London and their efforts to make new lives for themselves. Along the way, their daughter meets William Blake and his wife and learns of at least one of their eccentricities. It is not one you are likely to have read about in a literature class, but it is true.
Stephen King. Joyland may be a less harrowing SK novel, but it was short which made for better writing and plot development. And, it was set at a fictional summer carnival at a beach near Wilmington, NC.
Robin Nagle. Picking Up is for you, especially if you liked Robert Sullivan’s Rats, which was featured in 2005. He studied rats in NYC for a year. Robin, a professor of anthropology, became a sanitation worker in NYC and has written a delightful (yes) book about the experience.
John Rosengren. Hank Greenberg: Hero of Heroes recounts the life of the “Hebrew Hammer,” the original “Hammerin’ Hank.” He did not receive the level of vitriol that Jackie Robinson did, but ….
Elizabeth Spencer. Starting Over is her latest collection of superb short stories, each of which involves new beginnings in some way. A couple of her stories are taken directly from her youth. Her first novel was published in 1948(!) and at 92 she is still amazing us.
Pat Conroy. The Death of Santini marks his professed last time writing about his parents. This memoir explains why Conroy has written about his family in all of his fiction. It will make you angry, bring you to tears, and leave you with a better understanding of the demons which compelled him to write.