This is a quiet, thoughtful novel set in present-day New Orleans. Robert Olen Butler, an eloquent writer, pulls off a difficult story-line in a way that only a seasoned writer like himself could. Michael and Kelly Hays are divorcing, and the novel works its way back in time to understand how two human beings came to be married and what, over time, made them fall apart. I loved the way Butler doesn't pick sides: he loves both of his characters and he doesn't judge them. Instead, he makes them human, and he marvels in quiet amazement at the way one moment can change everything, how a simple matter of being thirsty and so separating from your group to get a drink of water may be the one thing that enables you to meet the person you'll marry. I also really appreciated how Kelly and Michael both remember the same moments differently; Butler's multiple portrayals of a single event felt true to the fluidity of memory.
This is a novel that ruminates on how difficult communication between two human beings can be, reminding me of a Willa Cather quote I'm fond of: "The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one's own." It's a dark forest, so illuminate it as much as you can. And for goodness' sake, if you love somebody: tell that person. Words cannot capture everything, no, but the lack of words is worse. A lack of words can leave too much room for misunderstanding and miscommunication and can even threaten to drive a stake through a relationship.
I'll save my detailed notes for after the book signing, but not before taking a quick moment and noting that this memoir caught me off guard in the most wonderful way. This is a compulsively readable memoir, sure to have something for everyone.
Also: I feel lucky to have read this book right after I read Cheryl Strayed's Wild. The similarities between books are catching: both women followed their gut instinct to the wilderness, whether it led them to Alaska or to the Pacific Crest Trail; both women experienced and confronted immense grief; and both women were and are strong in every measure of that word. I related more with Wild's gritty emotional heart, but I also anticipated loving Wild. Midnight Sun, Arctic Moon was a surprise treasure, the kind that confirms why we are readers.
Each one of us has maps inside of us. These maps make up our own personal atlas, and they include the daily routes we take, the many places (and people connected with those places) we've visited and loved, as well as the unique interests we seek out in the world in things like art museums, libraries, beaches, and mountains. In Infinite City, a wonderful reworking of the traditional atlas, Rebecca Solnit invites us to ponder our own maps and places while she and the artists and cartographers she worked with reveal 22 breathtaking personal maps of San Francisco.
In my favorite map of the book, Solnit lays out the places in San Francisco where Eadweard Muybridge - the inventor of motion pictures - lived and wandered. Overlaid on the same map are the places where the famous Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo (and one of my favorite movies) was filmed. Other maps include Zen Buddhist centers and salmon streams, sites important to Queer history and locations once (or still) inhabited by rare butterflies, coffee shops and San Francisco's water sources, and so on. Each map is accompanied by an illuminating essay, and Solnit's introduction is a testament to the power of maps.
I read this book out in the wilderness of Chilkat Lake, but was instantly transported to San Francisco. Fans of maps, imagination, and San Francisco, don't miss this one.
This is a heart-pounding read set in Nazi Germany, first published in 1947 but only recently (in 2009) rediscovered and translated in America. Otto and Anna Quangel are two ordinary German citizens until the day they find out their only son has been killed at the front. From that point on, nothing is the same: Otto and Anna, in anger over the needless loss of their son, launch a small and extremely dangerous anti-Nazi resistance campaign. For their chief act of resistance, the Quangels drop anti-Nazi postcards in the hallways and stairwells of office buildings, hoping they'll be read and passed on. Meanwhile, the Gestapo is hot on their trail and being caught would mean certain death for the both of them.
Owing to the fact that he lived in Germany during the Nazi regime and based this book off a real Gestapo file (the real Nazi-resisting couple was Elise and Otto Hempel), Hans Fallada captures with horrific and perfect detail life in Nazi Germany. Fallada's own personal history (covered a little bit in the afterward) is fascinating; I learned he spent time in a Nazi insane asylum and wrote this book after the war in a period of 24 days before he died of a morphine overdose. The back of the book also features the Gestapo file on the Hempels, including a few examples of their resistance postcards.
I've enclosed in the book, as a prize for the first person who checks it out, several Every Man Dies Alone postcards from Melville House. They feature a quote from the book: "The main thing is, you have to fight back."
For a while there, I pressed this book into the chest of everybody I knew and said, "Read this. Shhh, no, no excuses: just read this." This book is onFor a while there, I pressed this book into the chest of everybody I knew and said, "Read this. Shhh, no, no excuses: just read this." This book is one of the best pieces of investigative reporting I've ever read, and is vital reading for any lover of the American West, or anyone concerned with the United States/Mexico border.
This might just be my all-time favorite book. It has lemon drops, dark empty wells, surreal dreamlike hotels, history, pasta, and cats. I love all ofThis might just be my all-time favorite book. It has lemon drops, dark empty wells, surreal dreamlike hotels, history, pasta, and cats. I love all of these things, and - thanks to my discovery of this book - I now love Haruki Murakami. Though he's a Japanese writer, his writing is about as Western as it gets.
Miranda Weiss writes eloquent sentences about adjusting to life in this breathtaking state. Her experiences in Alaska as both a newcomer and a femaleMiranda Weiss writes eloquent sentences about adjusting to life in this breathtaking state. Her experiences in Alaska as both a newcomer and a female mirror my own.