Wednesday, October 31, 2007

From the Bookshelf

I've been accumulating a pile of books as I finish them. Time to put them away somewhere. But first some quick reviews. Here's what I've been reading lately.

Cage of Stars, by Jacquelyn Mitchard.
I really enjoyed this author's first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, a book that catapulted the author into fame. But this book was a total disappointment. It's about a murder committed by a schizophrenic in a Mormon community. The narrator is the sister of the victims. She witnessed the murders. Sounds like it ought to be compelling? It's not. It matters little that the family is Mormon. I suspect that the author thought a novel about Mormons might be a hot ticket. The voice of the young narrator is unconvincing, stilted, and not at all the voice of a twelve-year-old child. When her parents decide to forgive the murderer who, by the way, recovers from his single moment of schizophrenia and is released from the facility for the criminally insane and reunites with his faithful wife, I was left unconvinced. Nothing about this book rings true.

Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me, by Pattie Boyd with Penny Junor.
Surprisingly readable memoir in spite of the occasional strangely constructed sentence. Takes you behind the whole Beatles' era scene. An incredible amount of alcohol and drugs and infidelity. Music, fashion, mansions. Pattie Boyd was married to George Harrison but was wooed away by Eric Clapton. Not bad, Pattie! She was the inspiration for three great songs from the era: Harrison's "Something" and Clapton's "Layla" and "You Look Wonderful Tonight."

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece, by Jonathan Harr.
I give it an okay+. I thought this hunt for a lost painting by the famous painter would have more intrigue than it did. But it was readable and I learned a bit about the art world and restoration and fraud.

Digging to America, by Anne Tyler.
I find Tyler's novels quiet but lovely and written with nice touches of subtle humor. This novel was no exception. It's about two couples, one American, one Iranian, who adopt babies from Korea. So lots of culture mixing. Raises the question of what does it mean to be American? What is that exactly? Good mixture of happy and sad. I liked it a lot.

The Best American Poetry 2007, edited by Heather McHugh.
I felt let down by this year's collection. Didn't find too much that knocked me out. Of course, there were some knock-outs. My four favorites were Elaine Equi's "Etudes," Julie Larios' "What Bee Did," Natasha Saje's "F," and Charles Harper Webb's "Big." I'll end with Larios' poem, originally published in The Cortland Review:

What Bee Did

Bee not only buzzed.
When swatted at, Bee deviled,
Bee smirched. And when fuddled,
like many of us, Bee labored, Bee reaved.
He behaved as well as any Bee can have.

Bee never lied. Bee never lated.
And despite the fact Bee took, Bee also stowed.
In love, Bee seiged. Bee seeched.
Bee moaned, Bee sighed himself,
Bee gat with his Beloved.

And because Bee tokened summer
(the one season we all, like Bee, must lieve)
Bee also dazzled.


  1. Wow. I usually avoid the BAP chatter (it's a traditional Christmas gift, so I won't have it on the shelf for another 7 weeks), but the disappointed reviews are all over the place this year.

    Love what you're doing with the blog. If I ever start posting with any frequency again, I've got a list of things to steal from you!

  2. Hi David. Good to know it's not just me re the 2007 BAP. Thanks for the nice words about the blog. And please, do steal away.


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