I liked her first memoir, but this one is a kiss-and-tell, more more accurately, a screw-over-and-tell story of her disintegrating marriage and all th...moreI liked her first memoir, but this one is a kiss-and-tell, more more accurately, a screw-over-and-tell story of her disintegrating marriage and all the things wrong with her spouse. We all make mistakes, we all do things we're not proud of, but this particular airing of her and her ex's dirty laundry was not enjoyable for me. Left a bad taste in my mouth. (less)
I've just discovered Tom Wakefield. I don't know why I've never come across him before and I can't remember now how I learned about him. I started out...moreI've just discovered Tom Wakefield. I don't know why I've never come across him before and I can't remember now how I learned about him. I started out reading "Lot's Wife." I'm not done with it yet, but this one came in at the library before I'd finished that one and I thought I'd take a glance at it, but then I was instantly hooked and put "Lot's Wife" on the back burner for the moment.
A series of vignettes about his early childhood in a mining village during and after WWII, these stories bring to life his family and the many people who are part of his life. the word that comes to mind most when thinking about Wakefield's style is tender. He's not Pollyanna-ish in any way, but he treats each person with such dignity and acceptance, even those with deep flaws, that it's hard not to follow suit. He believes in the integrity and goodness of people, despite how they might seem on the surface. I love the story of the two lesbians in his village who play on the local darts team with the men. It's understood that it's not safe for them to play at "away" games, but they are loved and respected at home. If some other team comes and loses, and then makes nasty comments to the women, the locals, especially the women, come to their defense. Other stories I enjoyed were the one about him befriending an Italian POW, the one about the love his quiet and hard-working father has for his pigeons, and the one about his mother's response to VE day. There is darkness under the surface in some of these stories, darkness as viewed by a child who senses it but doesn't fully understand the complexities of the adult world. There are also wonder, and joy, and passion.
I was sad when the book was over. I've begun "War Paint," and I can see that it's helpful to have read "Forties' Child" before Wakefield's other books because it's fun to see how he uses real people and events from his past in his fiction. Highly recommend.(less)
I know of both children's authors, but somehow I didn't find this story of their love and careers as interesting as I thought I would. I read the firs...moreI know of both children's authors, but somehow I didn't find this story of their love and careers as interesting as I thought I would. I read the first few chapters and skimmed the rest, learning enough to know that I probably would have found Krauss immensely irritating and would have liked Johnson. Not sure why there were together, but it was apparently as success for both of them. (less)
Arranged in chronological order, these short stories show Capote's evolution as a writer, moving from more imitative styles to his own voice. As with...moreArranged in chronological order, these short stories show Capote's evolution as a writer, moving from more imitative styles to his own voice. As with most collections, some of the stories are better than others. Reading the first one, "The Walls Are Cold," almost made me quit. The walls weren't the only thing cold, as the story seemed detached and stilted. But it was very short and a couple stories in, "The Shape of Things," drew me in with Capote's gift for dialog and his understanding of the poor and the misfit. In fact, most of his stories revolve around poverty, mental illness, or desperation, and yet he overall effect somehow isn't depressing.
The star stories for me were: "Jug of Silver." The chilling and rather gothic "Miriam." "Children on Their Birthdays," which begins with this lure: "Yesterday afternoon the 6-o'clock bus ran over Miss Bobbit. I'm not sure what there is to be said about it; after all, she was only ten years old, still I know no one of us in this town will forget her." The popular and autobiographical "A Christmas Memory," which was produced for TV with Capote as narrator and Geraldine Page as the elderly cousin, Miss Sook. "The Thanksgiving Visitor," which also features the charming Miss Sook. I smiled when, in a list of foods often served for breakfast I read, "...fried squirrel (in season)..." I had no idea squirrel had a season.
I've read Maugham's memoirs and his nephew Robin Maugham's (annoying & spiteful) bio of him, but Hastings had unprecedented access to materials th...moreI've read Maugham's memoirs and his nephew Robin Maugham's (annoying & spiteful) bio of him, but Hastings had unprecedented access to materials that no one has before. The result is a thorough and sympathetic but clear picture of the man who was the best-selling British author of his time; celebrated, wealthy, and intensely private. When Maugham was in his twenties, Oscar Wilde was prosecuted and imprisoned for his homosexuality and that colored Maugham's whole life. Although many people close t him knew he was gay, he kept a low profile and when he was older, he burned most of his correspondence and asked friends to do the same. Of course, many didn't and the result is that Hastings can tell us quite a lot about his sexual life. But that isn't what interested me about this biography.
When I was in college in the 80's, studying for an English degree, Maugham was never mentioned. In fact, I think he's still left out of the English canon of literature. I had read several of his novels in grade school because they were on my grandfather's shelf and I read anything I could get my hands on, and he continues to be one of my favorite authors. I was so surprised that such a popular (in his time) and high quality writer was ignored that I wrote an essay defending him for my university's English department newsletter. It wasn't because he was gay. It wasn't because he was often classed as a misogynist (which I don't think he was). It wasn't because his prose or topics were dated. Many of the so-called dead white male authors in the canon meet one or more of these criteria. I think this biography finally answered the question for me.
For most of his life, he was hailed as a success. His plays and stories were best-sellers and made lots of money. He was highly social and had many friends. But toward the end of his life, Maugham was surrounded by people who wanted his money and his approbation, and many manipulated him for those things. He began to lash out, sometimes indiscriminately, through his fiction and in other ways. At some point, public opinion turned against him. And I think that distaste, and in some cases misunderstanding, persisted. Thankfully, he seems to be enjoying a small resurgence of popularity. I hope many people read his books. My favorites are The Razor's Edge, Of Human Bondage, and the Ashenden stories.
A few things I learned were new to me. First, I knew that his long-time companion Gerald Haxton was mad, bad and dangerous to know, but I don't think I quite understood just what a flawed and mean person he was. Same with Alan Searle. What an a**hole! And Syrie, Maugham's wife; I knew the bad side of her (who wouldn't with his fiction and non-fiction portrayals of her in his books!), but Hastings is fair and balanced in her portrayal of Syrie and I understood and sympathized with her more.
All in all, it was a quick read for me, even at 640 pages, and I plan to buy my own copy to add to my two shelves of Maugham books. (less)
I picked this up at the library thinking it was going to be stories for, you know, boys. I have a boy; he likes stories. Anyway, it turned out not to...moreI picked this up at the library thinking it was going to be stories for, you know, boys. I have a boy; he likes stories. Anyway, it turned out not to be that at all, but I checked it out anyway and I'm glad I did. I've read a few reviews here and there are a variety of complaints from the author being too introspective (which is, to me, what separates a memoir from an autobiography) to wanting to know more about the dad (I imagine he prefers his privacy). I didn't agree with these criticisms.
In the first few pages, you learn that Martin's (the author's) dad has attempted suicide and then you find out why: He was sexually molested as a child, he was a closeted gay man for the whole of his 39-year marriage, and he sought out hundreds of anonymous sex partners at parks & rest stops. You're thinking this book might be about homosexuality, right? No. I mean yes, but not really. It's about what happens when someone you have loved and trusted for many years turns out to have been lying to you the whole time, turns out to be a different person than you thought you knew. Martin is unflinchingly honest in detailing the phases he goes through in coming to terms not so much with his dad's sexuality as with his dad's long-term dishonesty and with trying to figure out who his dad really is. He's aware that when his dad was young, you didn't admit you'd been molested, you didn't seek help, and you certainly didn't admit if you were a gay man. He sympathizes. He gets why. And he has no qualms about homosexuality. But he also feels betrayed and the results of this feeling can be ugly.
"This American Life," the NPR radio show, did a great segment a few years back about psychopathic liars. Martin's dad is far from that, but the effect is the same, making his son (and his wife, I'm sure) go back compulsively through all his memories to look at them through this new lens, to make sense of it all. Martin has young sons himself and he starts scrutinizing his relationships with them and asking himself whether he's always been honest. And through all this, he's also maintaining a relationship with his mom, whom his dad still really loves.
It was an engrossing read, with some interesting tangents. I learned more about Walt Whitman than I knew before and I got a book recommendation for my young son. There were interesting quotes from various literary and non-fiction sources. On the whole, I recommend it. More so if you've been betrayed yourself by someone who was dishonest with you in the long-term. (less)
In the late 50's, when her children were, I believe, 2 or 3 and 9, she and her husband took them to England for an extended trip during which they vis...moreIn the late 50's, when her children were, I believe, 2 or 3 and 9, she and her husband took them to England for an extended trip during which they visited places relevant to the many children's books they had all read. Some of them are books you don't hear much about these days (such as Kipling's "Puck of Pook's Hill," "Johnny Crow," and Caldecott's illustrated verses), but many are familiar: "The Wind in the Willows," "The Tailor of Gloucester," "The Chronicles of Narnia," and "Swallows and Amazons," for example.
Joan Bodger eventually became a world-class oral storyteller, but this book keeps us at a bit of a distance. I learned why later. Still, I really enjoyed hearing about their adventures and mishaps trying to find King Arthur, Toad Hall, and Beatrix Potter's farm.
My one warning is don't do what I did and read about her before you read the book. Just enjoy the book for what it is. By knowing what happened after the book, it was hard for me not to read into every page the signs of the future. (less)
After reading the engrossing and well-written Cazalet series, which is the saga of a family before, during, and after WWII, I wanted to know more abou...moreAfter reading the engrossing and well-written Cazalet series, which is the saga of a family before, during, and after WWII, I wanted to know more about the author. I enjoyed reading about her own life, which she used as a model for the series. (less)
Fictionalized memoir of a girl growing up in colonial Trinidad, then moving to Britain at age 12 to go to school (which almost all colonials did), and...moreFictionalized memoir of a girl growing up in colonial Trinidad, then moving to Britain at age 12 to go to school (which almost all colonials did), and finally, going to the US to learn to be a teacher. The most interesting parts of this book for me were the picture of turn-of-the-century Trinidad and the look at what it was like to be a teacher in the US in the WWI era. She teaches kindergarten and shows the conflict between the ideas of Frobel (who invented kindergarten), which sound quite Waldorfy, and the newer methods, which sound more like Montessori, following the children's interests. The thread that holds the memoir together is that the main character wants to be a writer and tries in various ways to get there. A sweet, if somewhat dated portrait of a "bluestocking" woman trying to make her way as a working writer in a bygone era. (less)
While I like his sketches of Paris in the 1920's, he wrote them much later, when he was embittered and not kind to people who had been his friends. Sa...moreWhile I like his sketches of Paris in the 1920's, he wrote them much later, when he was embittered and not kind to people who had been his friends. Sara & Gerald Murphy were devastated when this was published, especially as he had been a kind of uncle to their young children. The first time I read them, I didn't know much about the time or the people, and I read it as non-fiction. But it's a memoir and one that skews many things. Really, I guess I give it 2.5 stars. A good companion book to balance this would be Sara and Gerald.(less)
Poor Christopher. It must've been hard to live in his literary twin's shadow. Despite the hint of bitterness and melancholy, I enjoyed this memoir of...morePoor Christopher. It must've been hard to live in his literary twin's shadow. Despite the hint of bitterness and melancholy, I enjoyed this memoir of the childhood of the real Christopher Robin. (less)