Sunday, June 23, 2013

Things I Love, Things I Hate, Things In Between, Volume 5

It's been awhile. Time to vent.

Most people love this book.
It didn't work for me.
Thing I Hate: Reading Slumps
They shouldn't occur, but they do. Mother Teresa had her crisis of faith, and occasionally I get bogged down in books that don't inspire me. It's not entirely unexpected, as I've been traveling almost nonstop for the last two months and removed from my regular routine. I started reading Philipp Meyer's The Son, a new novel which is generating huge praise from booksellers and critics, and one which has been compared to both the works of Cormac McCarthy and Lonesome Dove. I loved American Rust, Meyer's first novel, but this one didn't work for me. Weirdly, I was bored and the characters seemed flat to me. It's obvious that Meyer did his homework (this is a novel spanning 150 years of Texas history), but the most interesting sections--the ones focused on the abduction of a white boy by Comanches--seem like barely fictional retellings of the more engagingly written history, Empire of the Summer Moon. Some of my bookseller friends claim that The Son should win the National Book Award or Pulitzer. They said the same thing about Yellow Birds last year.

Thing I Love: Breaking the Slump
I don't have any magic trick to breaking the reading slump except to keep reading and trying different books.  I am in between sales conferences for work, which means that I have more of an opportunity to explore (fewer homework books). I picked up a novel coming out in 2014--yes, we read way in advance--by Evie Wyld. I loved Wyld's first book, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, a novel of fathers and sons set in rural Australia, about war and memory and family. Wyld is one of those up and coming writers, one of The Daily Telegraph's best British writers under 40, and After the Fire won several awards. Her new book is called All the Birds, Singing; when I picked it up, I had no idea what it was about. How does this sound? An Australian woman is living on a British island as a sheep farmer (rancher?). She is alone except for a dog named Dog. She has a past she's avoiding as much as she's avoiding the other residents of the island. And one by one, something is attacking her sheep. An animal? Something more sinister? I'm only about a quarter of the way through, but I'm hooked. The book has an eerie tone that's perfect for holding my interest.

Thing I Hate: Migraines
Yeah, so that's not saying much. Who loves a migraine? Gianna and I both suffer from them. I'm aware of my triggers (mostly flashing lights and fatigue), but too many early morning airport trips and a flickering bulb at the airport breakfast taco place created a monster two weeks ago. When I don't catch them in time, my headaches linger for a few days, and my nerves are shot. I drop things. Like my phone. Into the toilet. I had these grand plans of posting pictures from my travels this season, from snowy Colorado to swampy New Orleans to the majestic Grand Canyon, with lots and lots of bookstores mixed in, but that plan went down (into?) the toilet. Sigh. At least it was just water in the toilet, but I still lied to the woman at the cell phone store when I bought a replacement, saying that I dropped my dead phone in dishwater. I'm not ashamed. I'm not proud.

Thing I Love: Ice Cream
Gianna, it's your turn to bring me dessert. I think a waffle cone would be nice. Something chocolaty.

Thing In Between: Black Swan
This movie sort of stinks, but I like the soundtrack (perhaps because it's all just music from the ballet). It's the opposite of Titanic, which is only bearable if you mute it. It's too hot to go outside. I'm channel surfing as I work on this blog piece. Is it obvious? I met Natalie Portman once. She's about four feet tall.

Thing I Love: Cloud Atlas
I recently watched the film version of Cloud Atlas (see: hot, channel surfing) after holding out. Since I love the book so much, I hesitated to view a film version. Actors I love starred in it (Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw who was Q in the last Bond movie, and my crush Jim Sturgess), but it also starred Tom Hanks. I don't dislike Tom Hanks, but when was the last time you were able to sever the "that's Tom Hanks" thought and just see a character? When Meryl Streep played Julia Child, you just saw Julia; that's what I want in a movie. That said, with the interwoven stories and having the same actors playing multiple characters, the Hanks factor was a non-issue. I was surprised how much I actually liked the movie, and it's an excellent echo of what makes the book so phenomenal--virtuoso storytelling and mind-blowing novelistic structure coming together to tell a story of freedom from oppression and finding hope. I love this book, and I appreciate the movie for reminding me of it.

Thing I LOVE: Postcard books filled with book covers
A few years ago, Penguin published a collection of their classic book covers as postcards. Just recently, New Directions did the same with the iconic covers of Alvin Lustig, one of the greatest book cover designers ever. I love these images. I hope that other publishers follow this trend. Pretty please?


  1. Totally unrelated to your post. Did you know you sell Liz & Gianna dog bowls and women's underwear?!? That's awesome! I ordered two of each.

  2. I had no idea! (I knew.) Please just don't send us pictures of any underwear modeling, 'kay? We will post pictures of the pooches though.