Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Very Quick February...

"Then I've been drunk, too," admitted Francie.
"On beer?"
"No. Last spring, in McCarren's Park. I saw a tulip for the first time in my life."
-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Some things to say before I get to the books:

1. If you've been around me at all in the past, say week or so, you've heard me say this undoubtedly more than once but, how on EARTH is it MARCH already?! I mean really... where did January and February go?! Maybe because I've had a super good January and February whereas usually they are the worst months (especially February) and I've had this weird luck that I keep expecting to run out, but seriously. March?! But I shouldn't complain because, I'm ready to bring on the spring which will hopefully be full of lots of outside things, pretty dresses, and places to wear them.

2. On that note, March is looking to be a pretty big one too--I mean, how could it not be when you have the season premiere of Mad Men AND the opening of Hunger Games all in one weekend?!

3. I've been reading like a fiend lately and I don't expect that to end any time soon! It's getting to be about that time where my soul craves a little Kerouac and I can feel the "eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry" of Ginsberg race through my veins (yes, spring always makes me think of the Beats). Good weather always makes me hungry to read more and I have some wonderful things on the pile for this month, I think.

But let's get to this month's round-up. And this month was weird and wonderful, that's for sure. A very mixed bag--something for everyone:

-The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta: Several people had told me that this was in their queue to read and I had noticed in on a few of the "best of" lists I saw around New Years, so I thought I'd give it a try. Upon opening it, I had no idea what it was about, and I think that only added to the awesomeness of the experience. But, because this is what this blog is for, here's a my little synopsis and plug: The story takes place after the Rapture, only it's not your typical rapture in that it is seemingly random--the people who are taken or disappear were not necessarily the most religious or even the best people in general. The story centers on a small American town and the people who have to deal with being left behind. There are organizations that pop up because of the rapture and people who both take advantage of the situation as well as people who are taken advantage of. It's a really interesting post-modern story that actually kind of freaked me out. But I highly recommend it! If you liked White Noise by Don DeLillo, you'll like this one!

-The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson--Well, I just went from one weird, engrossing book to another, didn't I? This was definitely on a lot of people's "best of" lists from last year and rightly so. The Fang family consists of Caleb and Camille Fang who are very dedicated performance artists and their children Annie and Buster (often referred to as Child A and Child B) who are forced to become part of their parents' twisted but engrossing artwork. When Annie and Buster grow up, they try to find ways to distance themselves from their parents, but there is a stranglehold that keeps them coming back. A amazing commentary on the power of family (whether we like it or not) and the notion of what art means, this is a well-written and fascinating book! Read this one if you liked Room or The Night Circus although it's very different from both!

-Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean--Most likely, you who are reading this knows how I feel about dogs (if not, here's a hint: I don't take too terribly well to them nor they to me), so I was kind of not sure if I wanted to read this one. But, I love Susan Orlean and she always finds this crazy-awesome story behind things (see The Orchid Theif), so I picked it up (aka I waited 3 months for it to come to me at the library) and it was pretty worth it. Although this might seem to be just a book about how a dog became famous, it's actually more about the ways that entertainment in America has changed from silent movies to talkies to television and how one must adapt or die. The original Rin Tin Tin was raised by Lee Duncan who found him during the war in France and rose to movie and television fame. Rin Tin Tin seems to have this amazing pull over people and severely changed the lives of those who really wanted to see him on the screen for years to come. Orlean does a fabulous job of telling this sort of odd story and almost made me understand peoples' fascination with dogs. Another interesting aspect is her inclusion of the history of dogs in America and how the notion has changed over time--pretty interesting! If you liked The Orchid Thief also by Susan Orlean, you'll be sure to like this one.

-Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan--After reading Maine by Sullivan last month, I was told by a friend that I would like her first book Commencement even better, and I actually think I agree! Now, you have to understand that I am a sucker for books about female friendship (come to think of it, I should just make a list for the best books on female friendship... there's an idea..) so if you're not, then I wouldn't read this book. Commencement follows four girls who become friends while they are living down the hall from one another at Smith. Though these girls are very different from each other, they become a family and go on to remain friends after graduation. This book is filled with surprising twists and some pretty accurate depictions of female friendships. I loved the way Sullivan tells the story and the fact that there were some similarities to some of the best friendships I have! If you liked Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (who didn't?!) or anything by Julia Glass, this is the book for you.

-Then Again by Diane Keaton--I've always liked Diane Keaton because she's quirky and funny and has this amazing staying power. In her memoir, she combines the journals of her mother (who died of Alzheimers a few years ago) and her own insights and past letters and journals to weave together the story of mother and daughter. Keaton talks about her fame and her breakthrough with Annie Hall but moreso about her childhood and her relationship with her quirky, semi-dysfunctional family. Her writing is not perfect by any means, but she writes with emotion and conviction. I will say that for some reason, this book made me miss my mom though my relationship with my mom doesn't mirror that of Keaton and her mother. She does a great job of bringing forth this previously unsung personality of her mother into the open and exposing her for the very real person she was. I liked it, but am not sure if I would recommend it. But, if you liked Me and My Shadows by Lorna Luft (about her mother Judy Garland) or The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok, you may like this one.

And that was it for February. I really adored The Leftovers, The Family Fang, and Commencement and would recommend those highly! Next on my list is The Invention of Hugo Cabret (and obvious nod to my love of the movie) and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (because I need to get going on reading 5 books from my to-read-before-I-die list!).

Sorry that this wasn't the most captivating of posts, but I wanted to make sure that I shared what I've been reading before it got too far into March!

Happy March, everyone! I hope that your luck has been leading you to lovely readings! :)