Among the many decluttering books I've read, this one gets an A+ for thoroughness and for sheer missionary zeal for her message; also general kookinesAmong the many decluttering books I've read, this one gets an A+ for thoroughness and for sheer missionary zeal for her message; also general kookiness and perhaps a bit of OCD mixed in. The primary message of the book is that you do *everything* in one go---absolutely every possession. I am not sure if I could have followed her instructions if this was the first time I had done any decluttering. It was a daunting prospect to face my storeroom in particular, but I walked away from the decluttering with a new realization that I didn't have as much truly useless junk as I thought I did. Freeing! Plus for a fan of origami, her folding technique is nirvana for drawer organization....more
This book was a gift, and in my experience, literary gifts are the ultimate crap shoot. I was pleasantly surprised to find 1. it was not milque toastThis book was a gift, and in my experience, literary gifts are the ultimate crap shoot. I was pleasantly surprised to find 1. it was not milque toast and 2. I enjoyed it. The dialog is great, so great I started looking for opportunities to call people 'feckin eejits' so consider yourself warned. I'm going to look for her other previous best sellers since maybe the New York Times is on to something here....more
A quick read that made me laugh out loud many times. Mike Birbiglia is a funny funny man. I'm pretty glad he didn't end up being a break dancer afterA quick read that made me laugh out loud many times. Mike Birbiglia is a funny funny man. I'm pretty glad he didn't end up being a break dancer after all....more
A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean is a novella-length memoir-poem that lays bare the agony of loving people who are exquisitely admirable andA River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean is a novella-length memoir-poem that lays bare the agony of loving people who are exquisitely admirable and at the same time exquisitely self-destructive, lays it bare and redeems it in a river baptism. Technically and emotionally, it is perhaps the best book I’ve ever read. It is emotional without being sentimental or melodramatic, short without being terse, poetic without being gushy, humorous without condescension or ridicule.
It may be sacrilege to say it, but I picked up the book in preparation for a trip not to Montana, but to Wyoming. In my mental library, the book is shelved under the destination “The West” since although that moniker takes in a lot of ground, there are common threads of big sky, rugged ground, and independent and iconoclastic characters that tie much of the literature of The West together.
Maclean describes the rivers and environs with a mapmaker’s detail and native son’s affection: “Paul and I fished a good many big rivers, but when one of us referred to ‘the big river’ the other knew it was the Big Blackfoot. It isn’t the biggest river we fished, but it is the most powerful, and per pound, so are its fish. It runs straight and hard—on a map or from an airplane it is almost a straight line running due west from its headwaters at Rogers Pass on the Continental Divide to Bonner, Montana, where it empties into the South Fork of the Clark Fork of the Columbia. It runs hard all the way."
Maclean’s recollections are peopled with an expressive cast of characters starting with and orbiting around his brother Paul, younger in years but greater in fly fishing artistry. Maclean’s father Norman instilled both boys with love and respect for fly fishing which he likens to a religion. His affection for his brother and his father is expressed in finely observed descriptions of their appearance, moods, mannerisms and ways of speaking.
Women also play a central role for the good and for the bad throughout the memoir. "The women I was brought up with never stood around trying on different lifestyles when there was something to be done, especially something medical."
The secondary characters are mostly deeply flawed but Maclean represents them directly and honestly, with no more censure than they have squarely earned. After his wife’s brother Neal goes “fishing” with a local floozy (identified only as Old Rawhide), passes out face down on a sandbar, and sunburns his backside top to bottom, Maclean dutifully delivers him home. “When we brought him into the house, he looked like something shipwrecked we had found on an island.” Asked to explain Neal’s miserable condition, he says “I wasn’t going to tell her, and I wasn’t going to lie if for no reason other than that I knew I couldn’t get away with it.”
In the edition I read from the University of Chicago press, there are no chapter breaks. Occasional pen and ink drawings of fishing flies serve to break up the pages of text, but the novella unreels in a continuous thread cast out across the waters. These rivers flow endlessly, despite the human desire to stop time, to roll back, to damn the flow and pause. The fisherman is not interested in diving in or floating downstream, his focus is on reading the waters and making sense of the mysterious but mundane forces that cause a fish to hit.
At one point Maclean asks a sympathetic police sergeant what he does to help his brother, also a "black sheep" like Paul. After a long pause, he said, “I take him fishing.”
Reading and rereading, I appreciate the gentle yet inexorable power of the prose, pressing and pulling like the river. Toward the end of the book, Maclean is clearly trying to make sense of events that were tragic but unavoidable. “In the shadows against the cliff the river was deep and engaged in profundities, circling back on itself now and then to say things over to be sure it had understood itself.” The book is a moving contemplation of and testament to his family and fly fishing in Montana....more
Author and librarian Nancy Pearl doesn’t write thought-provoking essays or in-depth reviews of books (at least not in this volume of her Book Lust serAuthor and librarian Nancy Pearl doesn’t write thought-provoking essays or in-depth reviews of books (at least not in this volume of her Book Lust series), but she ranges far and wide with her breezy recommendations, with just enough substance to make you think you should probably read about ninety percent of the hundreds of books she (loosely) categorizes by locale or travel topic (like “Wyoming” or “adventure”). BLTG is a great resource for that first step when looking for a book "about" a place. ...more
The author Greg Holden explains right up front that "Living in the Midwest has given myriad writers a unique depth of character" and he loves trackingThe author Greg Holden explains right up front that "Living in the Midwest has given myriad writers a unique depth of character" and he loves tracking down the settings that influenced his favorite authors. The book focuses on eight states roughly enclosed in a triangle from Minnesota to Missouri to Ohio. His driving tours provide specific destinations to serve as a reference for both well-planned trips and spontaneous "just passing through" visits. My only criticism would be that some authors mentioned on the book jacket are plenty famous already and the sites in the book are not particularly enlightening (like Ernest Hemingway (in Michigan), and a brief mention of Willa Cather with respect to paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago). The strength of the book is the geographic organization of information about a large number of authors homes and fictional settings....more
This is my pick for the best "literary travel guide" out there, primarily because Terri Peterson Smith travels the way I like to---selecting sites conThis is my pick for the best "literary travel guide" out there, primarily because Terri Peterson Smith travels the way I like to---selecting sites connected to literary themes, but editing them for genuine sightseeing value, and making time to take in the local color and eat, shop and sleep well. She reviews a limited list of fifteen destinations which she explains were chosen to be near a major airport, relatively walkable once you've arrived, and offer cultural and literary merit. She doesn't stick strictly to literary sights and usually the itineraries are doable in a long weekend. A great book to consult before you head to one of the locations in the book for reading and sightseeing suggestions, or to read for tips for planning literary travel anywhere....more
It turns out I *do* like memoirs as long they are written by interesting people with relatively functional families and a healthy sense of humor. ThanIt turns out I *do* like memoirs as long they are written by interesting people with relatively functional families and a healthy sense of humor. Thank you, Isabel Allende!...more