Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Books I've read since the babe

I've accomplished some serious reading since the boy came--between nursing and naps he leaves me a lot of time to sit here flipping through page after page of (mostly) brilliant literature, save a few occurrences of merely mediocre literature.

Here's what I've tackled thus far in the past three weeks:

Cash: the autobiography
Johnny Cash
I'd already read this before, but it's one of those great musical autobiographies that warrants rereading (plus, my kid's name is cash, it just makes sense). Cash does a fabulous job of recounting stories from life on the road--like Jerry Lee Lewis's constant preaching about rock and roll singers all going to Hell--and of relaying that smoky, wise voice he's so well-known for.

Memoirs of a Geisha
Arthur Golden
I'd had this book for a number of months after borrowing it from my sister-in-law but never reading it. Before it had never peaked my interest enough to even pick it up. My, what a difference it makes once you're stuck at home all-day every day, feeding a newborn hour after hour. Memoirs of a Geisha? suddenly sounds riveting! I'm not sure if it was the cabin fever-induced delirium, but this novel was actually good! I read it in about three or four days and could barely sit it down long enough to fall asleep at four in the morning while I was, you guessed it, feeding a newborn. Golden makes the streets of world war-era Japan vivid and colorful, with bright descriptions of Imperial gardens (coincidentally, the name of my grandmother's subdivision) and hand-painted watercolor-esque kimonos. The movie version? not so good.
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
Haruki Murakami
This collection of short stories was a birthday gift from my friend Tim that, once again, had yet to look appetizing enough to pick up. Although Murakami isn't my favorite writer, his dry, twisted sense of humor was enough to get my attention. The "poor aunt" story is hilarious, but most of his randomness was a bit too much, even for me. I wish I read Japanese because I imagine this book makes much more sense when read in its original language. Then again, maybe not. Coincidentally, his novel Kafka on the Shore was on everybody and their brothers' best books of 2005 list, so I guess I'll be picking that up one of these days.

The Road
Cormac McCarthy

This book is freakishly fantastic! Though you wouldn't know it from looking at this particular list, I don't really like reading fiction. If someone had tried to explain to me what this book was about--a father and son trying to survive against cannibal pirates in a world covered in ash--I would've grimaced and gone back to my creative non-fiction, but this novel is actually quite good. I'd love some explanations from McCarthy--like, what exactly happened to the earth and how old is the son?--but I don't think those are necessary to the narrative. I'd love to see a visual of this ash-covered earth, but I must admit that watching a father and his son travel an empty road for two hours doesn't exactly sound like entertaining cinema.

The Color Purple
Alice Walker
Even though I own this book I hadn't read it until last week. I had finished The Road in about a day, so I was desperate for something to read during the boy's middle of the night feeding. Even though I'm not much of an Alice Walker fan, this book wasn't so bad. Hmmm . . . maybe that's why it won both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. Just a hunch.

Best American Nonrequired Reading, 2005
ed. Dave Eggers
I looooove the Best American series. The essays and short stories are my personal favorites, but this newer series is equally fantastic (this year there's even a new graphic novel series). And while I'm not always much of a fan of fiction, nor of Eggers, this collection is pretty good. I got tricked a lot into thinking certain pieces were nonfiction, and suddenly became turned-off to the narrative. However, that's more because I'm a snob than because of the stories themselves. The Al Franken piece is hysterical and made the entire book worth reading. Now I just have to wait until the library orders the 2006 edition.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Davis Sedaris
If I could write like David Sedaris I'd love myself. This man is, hands down, the funniest writer . . . ever. I'm sorry, it's true. And while much of this collection is nowhere near as funny as his usual New Yorker contributions, they're still worth a read and good for a laugh. Coincidentally, I just realized that this book, the Murakami novel, and The Road all have covers designed by Chip Kidd, my favorite book jacket designer. How odd.

I'm desperate for more good reads. Any ideas?

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