What I Happen to Be Reading At the Moment

"A thirteen-year-old is a kaleidoscope of different personalities, if not in most ways a mere figment of her own imagination. At that age, what and who you are depends largely on what book you happen to be reading at the moment.”

 

While not 13 anymore, the desire to read almost anything and everything in order to read for fun and for experience is still around. I'm currently working on my PhD in a physical science, but I love to read and books are one of my non-science hobbies.

Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn

Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn - Caroline Moorehead

(This is the part of the review when I kind of freak out because I made a resolution to rate AND review all the books I read in 2015 which means I'll have to say something intelligent starting NOW...)

Martha Gellhorn, since I picked up [b:Travels With Myself and Another|925368|Travels With Myself and Another|Martha Gellhorn|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1336639927s/925368.jpg|910377] for fun off a shelf in my favorite hometown bookstore, has been kind of a hero to me. She runs around in war zones, reporting, generally kicking ass, and writing about it. Her reportage gets older and, for lack of a better word, grumpier, as she gets older, so naturally I wanted to move on to her letters.

Overall, this volume of Gellhorn's letters track when she first dropped out of college to go to Europe until her death in 1998. The Spanish Civil War, her years with Hemingway (and naturally the fall out from her association with him, including a few notable letters to publishers and friends objecting to the way she's portrayed in memoirs mentioning E., and she generally refers to him), and her later reporting in Vietnam before a semi-retirement in Kenya and England.

Her terse, journalist style is on display here chronicling her opinions on her affairs, marriages, and her adopted children.

These letters are best taken after reading some of her journalism and Travels With Myself and Another since it they much more sense in context of her life. There were some surprising discoveries I made (I still haven't read a proper biography, preferring her own words to the analysis of others up until now) about Gellhorn's life. An informative and interesting read.

Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures

Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures - Mary Ruefle Superb series of poetic lectures/essays on poetry, literature, reading, theme, and Emily Dickinson. I would have underlined whole pages if I hadn't borrowed the book from a friend.

Totempole

Totempole - Sanford Friedman Review to come...I need to let my thoughts on this digest a little more.

How to Build a Girl

How to Build a Girl - Caitlin Moran The introduction tried to make it obvious that the main character, Johanna, is not the author (Caitlin Moran), but frankly, it's just the same difference between Nancy Mitford's novels and her own family's biography. There are parts so heavily lifted from Moran's young life (growing up poor on a council estate and a juvenile love of "self abuse") previously discussed in her other books, [b:How to Be a Woman|10600242|How to Be a Woman|Caitlin Moran|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1405909800s/10600242.jpg|15507935] and [b:Moranthology|15726395|Moranthology|Caitlin Moran|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1340899303s/15726395.jpg|21403525], that it's obvious where a lot of the inspiration comes from. The Johanna's voice is even startlingly similar to Moran's tone in her columns.

That being said, where art fails to imitative life might be some of the more interesting parts. Really, this novel boils down to the expression of a fantasy that every young, awkward, plump, nerdy girl has: finding your niche and also trying on being someone else for a while. It's interesting in that regard, but, as with Nancy Mitford, I prefer the non-fiction to the fiction (even if that line is throughly blurred).

The Salinger Contract

The Salinger Contract - Adam Langer Light thriller material, based in the world of literature and post-housing crash America. Not too bad, but not the best thriller in the world either. I still managed to finish it in a few days, though.

Paris Stories

Paris Stories - Mavis Gallant, Michael Ondaatje Let's face it, everyone needs some Mavis Gallant in their lives.

Expats in Europe, post-war malaise, stories of those left out and discontent with society, all with a fantastic ex-pat Canadian flair. Also, supremely well constructed short stories on par with the best.

We Are Not Ourselves

We Are Not Ourselves - Matthew   Thomas 3 stars feels a little generous because the first 300 pages I really wanted to give up. All the hype surrounding the book made me doubt myself a little (maybe something really interesting is going to happen in the next 50 pages?) which of course was a mixed decision. The latter half of the book was worth it, but by then I really was wishing pain and tragedy on the characters just so they would do something a little more interesting to do and talk about. There's nothing wrong with middle class striving, it just needs to have something a little richer than the striving to talk about in a novel.

After about 350 pages, some significant developments happen that totally change the tone of the novel. Eileen has always been a caretaker for her family members, and the novel later on expands more deeply on this theme. However, the issues with constructing the novel (and there are some issues, I thought, with the last 50 pages as well) both in plot and point of view really detracted from it.

That being said, this is fairly good for a first novel. There are lots of pitfall and the pacing is atrocious, but the characters were interestingly drawn and the actual mechanics of the writing were pleasant. Nothing too inventive or fancy, but it did the job perfectly. Now, if someone could just take a red pen to the whole thing, that would be totally awesome.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories

The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories - Ernest Hemingway Just too many hunting stories to be a well-balanced Hemingway collection. "Snows of Kilimanjaro" is wonderful, just all the other manly war and hunting stories seemed over the top all at once. I mean, that's what Hemingway is known for but it became repetitive.

What We See When We Read

What We See When We Read - Peter Mendelsund A beautifully designed book that considers what we see/experience/interpret when we read. Fascinating and wonderful to look at.

The Summer Book

The Summer Book - Tove Jansson, Thomas Teal, Kathryn Davis Give me all the Tove Jansson now, please.

A Fighting Chance

A Fighting Chance - Elizabeth Warren Clearly a political biography, but more literary where it counts.

Case Histories

Case Histories - Kate Atkinson A blend of literary fiction and crime genre tropes, overall I think I'll continue with the series. This is quieter than most crime fiction I tend to like, but Kate Atkinson executed it well.

Poems of the Sea

Poems of the Sea - J.D. McClatchy Nice variety of poets from different eras, though nothing too experimental. When you're stuck inland for months at a time, this is the book to read.
"The Greek Coffin Mystery" by Ellery Queen
"The Greek Coffin Mystery" by Ellery Queen

Arguably the most important words in modern American detective fiction!

Signed edition of "Living With a Wild God" from Porter Square books.
Signed edition of "Living With a Wild God" from Porter Square books.

All books should come shipped like this. 

 

A bit of brown paper and a post card (complete with handwritten thank you note). 

 

Also, my copy of Astonish Me arrived today from Harvard Book Store. 

 

It's been a very Boston sort of day for book deliveries. 

The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World - Nancy Jo Sales The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox - Nina Burleigh Lazy B: Growing up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest - Sandra Day O'Connor, H. Alan Day Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court - Sandra Day O'connor Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS - Rebecca Eaton, Patricia Mulcahy One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey, Robert Faggen The Road Through the Wall - Shirley Jackson, Ruth Franklin

Tucson Festival of Books

Held annually in Tucson, AZ, usually over the first weekend of Spring Break for the university students, this year the Festival of Books was Saturday, March 15 to Sunday, March 16. 

 

I went on Saturday. Basically, the best day ever.

 

Or, at least one would think. I was not in serious go mode for most of the day so I missed book talks by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Materpiece's Rebecca Eaton because the lines filled up. I still managed to get signed copies of their books, which was still neat. There are some serious author event goers who started lining up bright and early!

 

I did make it to a panel discussion about crime and popular culture with the authors of two of the books tagged in the post, Nancy Jo Sales and Nina Burleigh. Both journalists knew each other, and it was fun to hear them talk both as friends who were catching up and as being prompted by the moderator. There were a lot of the same well trod out concerns about young women, their sexuality, and crime (which frankly I am so bored of it's not even funny). However, I found something interesting in what they were saying that the moderator never followed up on, so I bought their books. Both are great: very critical but not sensationalized versions of the true crimes they write about. An excellent antidote to In Cold Blood in my pantheon of true crime reading (not like I do all that much, but I thought it would be fun to expand my crime fiction reading horizons). 

 

I'm already excited for next year's Festival of Books, because I will be prepared for the mega-talks as well as trying to hunt down smaller and more manageable small panels as well. 

 

Also, PENGIN BOOK TRUCK EVERYONE!!

 

 

Currently reading

Native Son
Richard Wright
The Great Glass Sea
Josh Weil
The Elder Edda
Anonymous, Andrew Orchard