Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Best of 2011 Countdown: #19

We've hit the teens!


Trillin on Texas
Calvin Trillin
UT Press

The truth is that Calvin Trillin hadn’t realized how much he had written about Texas until the University of Texas Press approached him about putting together Trillin on Texas.  You get a feel for his affection for good old Tejas pretty quickly in these pieces.

Larry McMurtry in his bookstore.
He hits on several subjects--politics, food, humor, crime, literature.  Some of my favorite pieces in TOT (I just made that up right now on the spot!) are an essay about a murdered rare book dealer, a piece on scouting books for Larry McMurtry called "Scouting Sleepers" (a must for any book lover – great read), his un-love affair with the Bush dynasty, and my favorite is entitled "By Meat Alone," a search for the best barbecue in Texas. [Does it make me un-Texan if I admit that I don't really like barbecue?]

We miss you, Molly Ivins.
The book closes with the beautiful and touching eulogy he delivered for Molly Ivins at her memorial service. Here is a bit of the eulogy:
 “She was fantastic company. When you caught sight of her at a political convention, you realized that you were going to have some fun regardless of how long the speeches went on. When the Nation magazine’s cruise ship stopped in St. Thomas, the thought of spending the day in what is essentially a shopping mall with sun could be brightened by Molly organizing an expedition looking for what she called, as I remember, slutty shoes.”


Daughters of the Revolution
Carolyn Cooke

Too many people overlooked this slim novel from Carolyn Cooke, an O.Henry winner for her stories.  Daughters of the Revolution is set at a New England boarding school overseen by Goddard Byrd, but he's that sort of headmaster who doesn't see anything wrong with everyone calling him God.  Through an admissions error, the all boys school admits its first female student, Carole Faust.  Oh, and the first woman student?  She's also African-American.  It's 1968, the school--while prestigious--needs money, and, well, God's a bit of a womanizing bastard.
Carolyn Cooke

Carolyn Cooke is a brilliant writer and I really loved this book.  (Here's some trivia for Gianna: Carolyn Cooke worked for Penthouse magazine before getting her MFA.) It's sophisticated, tightly written, humorous and moving.  Daughters of the Revolution reminded me a bit of Kate Walbert's Our Kind (another great book that's worth checking out).  Book lovers are always looking for the great books that slip under the radar; well, here you go.  Also, your book group will thank me too.

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