Liz and Gianna are two of a dying breed--traveling sales reps for book publishers--who sell books in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and the Deep South. Since we're constantly on the road hawking books, we must find ways to amuse ourselves. So here we've decided to share our anecdotes, adventures, favorite books, and efforts in making the world (or at least these few states) a more literate place to inhabit.
Bronze Medals! It's like Belgium at the Winter Olympics! (I actually have no idea how Belgium performs in the Olympics. They could be horrible. I just like the idea of Belgium.)
I have a deep love and appreciation for the Florida
Everglades. In fact I lived in Pembroke Pines, Florida, for quite a while…and
sadly that huge town was once part of the Everglades. When they were building
it up one would see alligators chugging along the backyards of new homes. I
hope they took a contractor or two with them on their travels. The Everglades
are a rich, mysterious, beautiful place. The locals that live nearest the heart
of Everglades National Park (also known as Shark Valley, no...there are no
sharks but plenty of gators) can be, in the nicest terms…characters. I think
Susan Orlean did a great job of writing about the people that live in and
around Everglade City in The Orchid Thief. Anyway, the Everglades is a truly
special and amazing place and if you’re going to write about such a place, man
you better nail it.
Yeah, Russell nails it in Swamplandia! So many great things
have been said about this novel (yes, another first novel on our list – though Russell
did write an outstanding book of stories called St. Lucy’s Home for Girls
Raised by Wolves – based on Liz’s life), that I will only say a few things. One, you aren’t going to
find a more original plot. You will not find a group of characters like these who
not only are strange but completely human and lovable. [Gianna is strange and lovable but possibly not human, I'm strange and human but not exactly lovable.] The book revolves
around the Sawtooth family who own a struggling alligator wrestling farm, and
if you don’t come out the other end of this book adoring this family, you have
a heart of stone. You won't find a smarter, wittier book this year. You just
won’t. Okay, I will leave it at that, but you haven’t heard the last about this
The Sense of an Ending
I think this is the third or fourth time I've written about The Sense of an Ending on our little blog. What more is there to say? Is it a surprise that the Man Booker Prize-winning novel is my #3 pick of 2011? Probably not. This book is pretty much perfect. Short, tightly plotted, great characters, and a holy shit ending that smacks the reader upside the head. It's a book that begs for discussion. It's a literary novel that will appeal to book groups. Did I mention that it's really, really, really good?
The Sense of an Ending is part Dead Poets Society, part A Separate Peace, part The Graduate. It's a story about friendship and love and the secrets kept. It's a story about betrayals and the over-intellectualizing of emotions and human relations. Four friends, particularly Adrian and Tony, bond while in prep school. Adrian, the genius of the bunch, goes to the elite university, while Tony goes to the respectable college. There Tony meets a girl, one who is more cultured, more worldly, and in his mind, too cool for him. He also meets her family. Tony and his girlfriend visit Adrian at school. Months later, after Tony and the girl break up, she begins dating Adrian. Flash to the present: Tony is notified that he's inherited Adrian's journal after his friend's death. What the journal reveals about Adrian remains a mystery though; the ex girlfriend from 20 years earlier won't relinquish it. The plot twists keep moving a philosophical novel, and here is Julian Barnes at his absolute best.