I sat down to start this last night. I was excited to read about geological studies in the park, tourist impacts, political struggles, fire philosophy...moreI sat down to start this last night. I was excited to read about geological studies in the park, tourist impacts, political struggles, fire philosophy, and carnivore impacts.
Unfortunately, the book starts in 1805 and only goes as far as 1877. Doug Smith isn't even in the index.
That's not to say it's not a good book; it's just not the one I was looking for.(less)
I have got to cut back on the memoirs of depressive, suicidal, female authors with writer's block.
In my defense, that's not really what I expected fr...moreI have got to cut back on the memoirs of depressive, suicidal, female authors with writer's block.
In my defense, that's not really what I expected from Dorothy Parker's biography. Before reading this, I had read some of her poetry and short fiction, and one quote from her book reviews (about Winnie the Pooh). I also knew she had a reputation for wonderful zingers. Based on that, and the inviting title of this book, I expected something maybe a little light, a little funny, maybe poignant.
It seems that most people throughout Parker's life (and after) expected that of her. And sometimes she delivered. But the real Parker was much deeper, much darker, and much more human. She struggled with her identity her whole life. She married the same man twice, but it's not the love story I always thought it was. She could be wonderfully kind to your face and then wittily cutting the minute you walked away. She struggled with writing, with money, with love, with drugs, with success, and with alcohol. Her life is a wonderfully compelling read, because that's the kind of person she was. Not always kind or wise, she was always witty, always funny, and always compelling.
I took a special, personal delight in her love for her dogs. Particularly her dachshund Robinson.(less)
I get the impression that this book was designed for people who don't usually read books. I'm not trying to be snarky (or not really), but the format...moreI get the impression that this book was designed for people who don't usually read books. I'm not trying to be snarky (or not really), but the format is totally disorienting. I started reading it as a Kindle book and was so confused by all the jumping around between photos, sidebars, inset boxes, and captions that I checked out the library book, figuring it'd be easier to read. It really wasn't. The pages, rather than being straight text in blocks are divided into three text columns a la People magazine, with photos and pull-quotes inset into the page, and tidbits printed in the margins.
I'd much rather just read a book. There was some interesting information in here, but it was very thin and shallow. The best thing the book did was to describe the often-disorienting fate of the American heiress who married an English nobleman. She'd been bred and reared to attract an Englishman, but was woefully unprepared to actually be married to one. The sense of loneliness, disappointment, confusion, and misplaced expectations was very well done.
However, the rest of the books was mainly a gossip column about who married (or was slept with or hunted or snubbed) whom, how much money everyone was worth, how much everything (the dress, the house, the wedding) cost, who was or wasn't invited, and what everyone said about it. What wasn't touched on (and what I found appalling) were all the obviously corseted women including one seven months (!!!) pregnant. I'd have been interested to hear more about the physical ramifications of corsets (because I know there were some) instead of all this fluff.
It was mildly entertaining and could be amusingly snarky in portions. But overall, this really isn't a book I'd recommend.(less)
This was a difficult book to read. Mostly because Sheldon's was a difficult life to live.
Raised by eccentric, charismatic parents, Sheldon had amazin...moreThis was a difficult book to read. Mostly because Sheldon's was a difficult life to live.
Raised by eccentric, charismatic parents, Sheldon had amazing early adventures including several safaris to Africa, back when that just wasn't something women did, especially not small, young, pretty, blonde, girl children.
Early prone to confusion regarding her sexual identity, impulsive behavior, mood swings, and depression, Sheldon struggled with adulthood. She alternated between viewing her childhood as a paradise lost and as the crucible that had nurtured her neuroses. She lived life bravely, rawly, and loudly.
The events of her life—service in WWII; explorations into art, espionage, and teaching; her heartbreaks; and her brilliant career as James Tiptree, Jr.—make a fascinating framework. But it's Sheldon's inner voyages that make the book so captivating. And not always captivating in a good way.
Phillips is a perfect biographer. Intuitive, insightful, and analytical when it comes to her subject, but she manages to remain a little aloof. She doesn't canonize or fall in love with Sheldon. She sticks to the story and offers comprehensive context.
Sheldon was early tempted by suicide. In many was, her life was a life of suicide deferred. I wasn't expecting the end when it came, but her murder of her husband, consequent phone calls, and then suicide was one of the hardest scenes I've ever read. All the harder for it being true.
This isn't an easy book. It's not a fun read, though it has very fun moments. It's dark and deep and raw and true. Which is just what Sheldon would have wanted.