Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Eat the Document

I read about Eat the Document in the NYT's Book Review and the premise intriqued me. I just finished it and highly recommend it. It starts out in 1972 where a woman and her partner "go underground" for antiwar activism that you learn has gone wrong. It switches ahead to the late 90's and you see the woman in contemporary times. The rest of the book goes back and forth between the 20-some year period to slowly reveal the "secrets" of her past. The author, Dana Spiotta, does a wonderful job of capturing the culture of the 70's. One of the links to the past and present is music. Actually the title comes from a documentary about Bob Dylan's 1966 tour when he went "electric". Anyone of a certain age, as I am!, who dates times of their life by songs and albums of the late 60's and 70's will surely enjoy that part of the story. The rest of the story is very well written so that even if you don't remember those times, the characters will take you in and keep you reading.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Present Darkness

I just reread this spiritual warfare thriller by Christian author Frank Peretti. It is as pertinent now as when published 20 years ago, and deserves an encore. I have my reserve in for House, the new epic Peretti wrote with Ted Dekker that's just come out this month. I'll be reporting back!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Samurai's Garden

This is a story set in the late 1930’s, in a small coastal village in Japan with the backdrop of Japan at war with China. Stephen, a Chinese student recuperating in Tamuri, identifies with the complex love story involving 3 friends. One can feel the physical & spiritual growth of Stephen as his life gets entwined with the other characters. Gail Tsukiyama’s characters are always deep and she makes the reader feel, that they have the qualities of the samurais –loyalty, self discipline and respectful behavior and a strong code of ethics. I loved the description of the gardens with the plain almost ugly rocks symbolizing the life of the female character, a leper. As this short story about longing & isolation progresses, you get involved with it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Interpreter of Maladies

Of course this is not a new book. Jhumpa Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000 with this collection of short stories. I read it several years ago and just picked it up again. I usually don't like short stories all that much because they're--well--just too short. I really like more character development and I find I'm just getting into the story and starting to know the character and then--it's over. But these stories are so well crafted that I was very satisfied with the reading. Even in just a glimpse that you're given, Lahiri makes her characters very knowable. If you haven't already read this one, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Year of Magical Thinking

This is Joan Didion's memoir of the year following her husband's death. Her husband was the writer John Gregory Dunne. John died on December 30, 2003 after returning from the hospital where their only child, Quintana, was seriouly ill from pneumonia and septic shock after being admitted for flu-like symptoms. Didion was putting dinner on the table when John died of a massive heart attack. "You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends." Both writers, Didion and Dunne had lived and worked toether for over forty years. Didion, deals with her first year of grief, as a writer. She chronicles her life and her feelings. Though inspired by a tragic event, Didion writes honestly and compellingly. I listened to the book on CD, wonderfully narrated by Barbara Caruso. Didion won the National Book Award for this candid memoir.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


If you read only one book about Amish werewolves this year, make it Kornwolf, by Tristan Egolf. This sounds flippant, of course, but Kornwolf is really shooting for being more than just another monster tale. It’s about belonging and destiny, written in whimsical, often witty prose.

Sadly, the young author took his own life last year. The problem with publishing a book posthumously is that it complicates the editing process. Parts of this book would have benefited from more background research, for example, and a few ends are left uncomfortably loose. Some chapters lose their focus, and the ending will likely frustrate many readers.

Still, Kornwolf is a fun read. In his too-short life the author did meet with some critical success, and seems likely to be remembered as a cult favorite for some time.

Old School

Not the movie with Will Ferrell--although that is very funny in a sophomoric way of course—but the modern classic, dare I say, by Tobias Wolff. He is better known for his memoir This Boy’s Life which was made into a movie starring Robert DiNiro.

A scholarship student in a New England prep school aspires to be a great writer and looks forward each year to a writing contest in which the winner becomes a kind of king for a day as he gets to meet with the famous guest writer who is invited to the school at the culmination of the competition each year. After losing out several years to students who were honored to meet with the likes of Robert Frost and Ayn Rand, the narrator’s (whose name you never learn) learns that his hero, Ernest Hemingway, will be the next guest author. He is determined to win the competition. A slim novel that is beautifully well written and so much more than I am able to convey here.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Grace That Keeps This World

Tom Bailey has written a moving, hauntingly lovely book that will pull readers of both sexes into the life of this family and community in upstate New York. One fateful day-- the start of deer hunting season-- is the center of this story told, in turn, by each person involved. Gary and Susan Hazen's two grown sons have responded very differently to the demanding life of the woodsman/hunter that has sustained their family; the bonds of relationship fit or chafe, but are inescapable. Poetry.

The Grace that Keeps This World is the May (5/15/06 @ 2 pm) book discussion choice at the Twinsburg Library and will feature a session by phone with the author.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Anansi Boys

This is the latest by Neil Gaiman, who is well-known in the comics world for his Sandman series. As it turns out, though, he does pretty well in conventional fiction, too. Anansi Boys is the story of two sons of Anansi, a mischievous Caribbean deity. The narrative is infused with mythology and African folklore, but the real meat of the story is the relationship between the two brothers. Gaiman tells the story in a light, humorous tone that goes well with the plot.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


This is one of the first graphic novels that aspired to be more than just a comic book. OK, it still looks a lot like a comic book -- it has characters with names like Dr. Manhattan, and Nite Owl -- but it also touches on themes much deeper than the dangers of Kryptonite. It delves into the mindset of those who find it acceptable to don tights and stalk the streets in search of wrongdoers.
The book is interesting in that it doesn't necessarily hold these people up as heroes. They dress strangely, sure, but then it was written in the '80s, after all . In many ways the heroes are the weakest characters in the book.
It's smart stuff by some of the best known names in the genre/format. The writer, Alan Moore, was behind the graphic novel "From Hell," which was later made into a mediocre movie. He also wrote "V for Vendetta," which is due to be released as a movie later this year.