Last year, I read Relish by Lucy Knisley and it made me all fired up about reading more graphic novels. Granted, Knisley's book was pretty much tailor...moreLast year, I read Relish by Lucy Knisley and it made me all fired up about reading more graphic novels. Granted, Knisley's book was pretty much tailor-made for me; I loved the illustrations and, of course, the whole food thing. But I thought that if there were books like hers out there, I definitely wanted to experience more of them.
It's been a busy few weeks to the start of the new year, and so although one my new year's resolutions was to read more graphic novels, I've definitely been behind. Then my sister told me about one she read, explaining that she thought I would particularly appreciate the final story in the book. My local library doesn't carry it, and the same day I was going to order it online, it showed up in the mail, a gift from my sister.
I love her explanation for the title: "The title 'Infinite Wait' is a very elaborate inside joke. Normally I do not like the pretentious, lyrical titles of little to no substance or direction, but the idea of someone plucking this book from the shelf, expecting the next New York, literary elite effort and finding a comic book of jokes and rude words is highly amusing to me."
I spent much of the book wondering if this woman is so genius that she actually comes up with the clever and biting answers as her avatar in the book in real life, or whether she relates what she wishes she'd said via the comics. In either case, I'm not sure it really matters much as the message is eventually conveyed either way, but if it's the former it makes me want to be her friend even more.
Industry is about Wertz's non-comic-book related jobs over the years, and how she talked (and drew) her way into her dream job. The Infinite Wait is how she fell ill with lupus, and her process with the disease. The final story, which is the one for which my sister gifted me the book, A Strange and Curious Place, is certainly the one to which I can most relate. Wertz writes about how, throughout any traumatic or needful times in her life, she's turned to books and libraries for the first help. This has also always been my method for dealing with life's challenges, as well. The story is endearing, sweet, and explains better than I probably ever will the sometimes inexplicably emotional connections we have to books.
I will be reading more of Wertz's books. I saw that my library has only one other (Drinking at the Movies), and I went down to see it and the larger graphic novels section. And here's the unfortunate thing: I approached that section, thinking I might walk away with far too many books than I can handle at this time (really, just a couple would be too many with my current schedule), but I didn't. I browsed through the graphic novels, and the only other one that seemed to follow the same sort autobiographical theme along the lines of Wertz's and Knisely's books, was Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. Maybe the selection was just poor, maybe all the graphic novels that might appeal to me were checked out. There are others on my radar and, I realize now, they're all of an autobiographical nature.
My sister's kindness gave me the opportunity to read a book I might not have discovered for some time (even if I'd ordered it online, it might have gone into the to-read pile... a gift from my sister always gets top priority.) I want more graphic novels like this!(less)
I wondered if I was a fraud of some sort for wanting to read the memoir of a writer for whom I actually haven't read any of her books. I've hovered ar...moreI wondered if I was a fraud of some sort for wanting to read the memoir of a writer for whom I actually haven't read any of her books. I've hovered around her, intrigued by her novels when I worked with them in the bookstore, but failed until now to actually commit to one.
But I'm glad to have read her memoir before exploring her backlist. Although, as she says, "This is not quite a memoir. Rather, it is the view from old age..." Although the structure feels just a bit cobbled together, I mean this in only the most positive way. The sections in my ARC (provided by Penguin/Viking) are labeled Old Age, Life and Times, Memory, Reading and Writing, Six Things. In each section, she skillfully blends social history with her own history and her involvement in and feelings about the events. Old Age, for example, includes her very personal perspectives about both the positive and negative effects of aging, and also the broader context of Britain's (and the world's) aging populations, and how elderly people have been viewed through time by different cultures. I loved her insights into how the elderly are often perceived by the younger generations, saying that while it's easy for an older person to get caught in the loop of commiserating on their own lives and stories, the reality is that they are still here with us, and should strive to be a part of what is actually happening around them, in real time and real life.
Since my copy is an ARC, I can't really quote Lively's insights in my review, which is the first time with an ARC that this restriction has truly frustrated me. I've worked around this before, but her observations are so insightful and so cleverly formed, one wants to quote from her endlessly, to make sure that her brilliance is best imparted.
Lively's writing is intelligent, elegant, affecting. Although I'd hoped that Reading and Writing would relate more of her day-to-day techniques for writing her stories, I was easily mollified by her revelations of books that have inspired, influenced, and shaped her own writing. I am now walking away not only with a list of her novels to check out but also books and authors I'm only vaguely familiar with or haven't even heard of (which is saying a lot for me), that I'd like to explore, based on her illuminating descriptions and patronage.
My favourite section of the book is the final one, Six Things. In this, she presents six seemingly random objects from her home and explains their provenance, their effect on her life, why they're her favourite things. Photographs are included. This is where the title comes from: one object is an ancient Egyptian sherd (yes, sherd - not shard - a broken piece of pottery), on which two small black fish dance. Another is a pebble of blue lias, inset with two spiraled, fossilized ammonites. She balances such ancient treasures with more common objects, like the duck kettle holders from Maine. These lovingly described objects made me think about those items that I personally have chosen to keep around, despite a tendency in the last decade to ruthlessly cull my own possessions to a minimum. Some are also potential treasures in the minds of others, but some are trinkets, valued only by myself because of my emotional history with them.
Deeply enjoyable, witty, and with philosophical insights I'll be considering from some time to come.
Brosh seemed to take such a hiatus from the site for so long (it was pretty scary there, for a while, that her last entry for months on end was the in...moreBrosh seemed to take such a hiatus from the site for so long (it was pretty scary there, for a while, that her last entry for months on end was the incredibly insightful entry about depression), that I'd sort of forgotten how very much I love her.
If you like Hyperbole and Half as much as I do, you really can't go wrong buying the book, despite that probably at least half (?) of the sections are previously published - it's lovely and hilarious to revisit them. Also we have what is, to my knowledge, a new dog story.
But Thoughts and Feelings definitely wins, hands down.(less)
(I'm displaying the majority of the review without spoiler masking primarily because some of the theories are pretty much already hinted at in the syn...more(I'm displaying the majority of the review without spoiler masking primarily because some of the theories are pretty much already hinted at in the synopsis or addressed early in the narrative, even if you know nothing when you pick up the book, as I did.... but if you don't even want to know these things, don't read further...)
So I went in knowing almost nothing; just the synopsis for the book and a couple of very brief glances at reviews. But the honest truth is that I was rooting for a theory involving some sort of supernatural force being involved in the Dyatlov Incident and although that would have been interesting, I probably would have, at the same time, found the book easier to dismiss.
But while the ultimate theory (very convincingly) presented by Eichar may not be "supernatural" - at least in the surface, shallow way we often use the word today (view spoiler)[(the theory really could be considered supernatural in these traditional definitions of the word: "of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe" or "departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature") (hide spoiler)], the conclusion is more terrifying and compelling than any thought of aliens spotlighting the tent. Really. I'm serious.
For about the last thirty percent of the book, I was so fascinated that while reading, I drove (though I did limit myself to reading while at red lights, I did pray for those looong red lights), making dinner, and a Scrabble game which the other players insisted I join but which most certainly would've been more enjoyable and civil for them if I hadn't. Without a whole lot of detailed scientific data, Eichar still manages to convincingly debunk the primary theories about the incident, even going so far as to disregard the alien attack theory while also still explaining why the probable factual experiences by other hikers/skiiers/locals (lights in the sky) which contributed to the alien theories, weren't valid in the incident.
Those things which we still don't fully scientifically understand or, for a lay person who may know nothing whatsoever about a theory, can be just as frightening and mysterious as alien interference or KGB operative forces hunting the group in the night.
If you want to experience this book the same way I did (highly recommended, if you've the ability to completely disregard the rest of your life), I definitely admonish you not to give in to the temptation to Google stuff as you read - and don't audiobook it, if one even exists, because the photographs are easily the second best argument for reading the book.
Eichar does an excellent job of making the reader care about and know the ten hikers, and an equally excellent final section of positing what their final, terrifying hours must have felt like. I, for one, am thoroughly convinced of his conclusions. And never, ever, EVER want to embark on such an expedition (view spoiler)[(because I'd also like to point out that, within this theory, we're definitely not safe now, with all of our modern times and fancy equipment, and warm gear, and scientific explanations, unless we were to follow them to the letter and NOT DO THIS expedition! (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Sure, this book is about Spain and cheese and wine. And even, as the title says, betrayal and revenge, but it's in those that the reader discovers tha...moreSure, this book is about Spain and cheese and wine. And even, as the title says, betrayal and revenge, but it's in those that the reader discovers that what this book is really about is the stories we tell: the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we tell other people, and the stories we tell about the stories we've told other people... and how we think they've perceived them.
Every person's story in this book - from Ambrosio's story of betrayal to Julian's counter-story, and especially to Paterniti's own story - illustrates how the stories we tell, whether to ourselves or other people, shape how we view ourselves, others, and the world - and it doesn't much matter, in the end, how true or authentic to reality those stories really are. All that matters is how true we think they are.
It's somewhat convoluted, when you really think about everything Paterniti relates, from his own experience with the whole story, to Ambrosio's story, to the village's stories, and even the local and regional histories and how they play out in the contemporary dramas. But Paterniti skillfully plans out and reveals the bits and pieces at the right times.
I debated as to whether to give this book four or five stars - I'm pretty stingy with my five stars - but ultimately it was his beautiful writing throughout the book that will keep it top in my mind for some time to come. Paterniti shares his admiration throughout the book for Ambrosio's engrossing storytelling but he, himself, seems the enthraller, with writing like this, about his daughter, May:
She was nearly fourteen months old, this little girl with fine strawberry-blond hair and round eyes who had blossomed from that fleshy, swollen-eyes, wailing lump to this burgeoning nymph, this shiny, ever-alert creature who seemed to miss nothing. Even her squalls were fantastic, fits of tears and high emotion. She was still light, but heavier than when we'd arrived.
If I feared anything, this is what I feared: We were all growing so fast. And here was my daughter, her limbs reaching farther, her eyes focusing higher. Now her mind sparked and glimmered, her mouth motored on. Her gaze was so intent, it seemed to belong to an old woman from another time who had seen it all, and was seeing it all again. She wiggled and giggled, shouted her holas and aguas, burst into tears, and waddled with such determination and brio as to have earned a new nickname, Goosey. When we inevitably brought her into our bed during the night, she slept between us, plugging fingers into both of our belly buttons, then falling fast asleep.
So, this is annoying - now I have to add Hemingway to my roster of writers of whom I pretty much want to read everything they've written?
I read him w...moreSo, this is annoying - now I have to add Hemingway to my roster of writers of whom I pretty much want to read everything they've written?
I read him when I was younger - much younger - but now I'm glad I stopped after The Old Man and the Sea because by this book I sense that I'll be better served reading Hemingway with the benefits of age.
I didn't love everything about it, and I'm surprised how much this is supposed to be about Paris, when it's so much more about the writing process and relationships, and lots of name-dropping with a bit - and only a bit, this is Hemingway, even if he was young - of star-struckness (Joyce).
I was briefly angry at the end because of what he wrote about the dissolution of his first marriage. Hemingway, of what little I know about him, is, I think, variably referred to as a sort of man's man or even a misogynist. I know he had four wives, I know he oogled women. His personal life is his own, and surely many men frequently oogle women - it's just become unacceptable to admit it out loud. But, according to the somewhat cryptic rant at the end of this memoir, Hemingway felt he had absolutely no culpability in his ultimate actions - that he was targeted, and tricked, and betrayed. The last person in the world who was responsible for Hemingway's affair was Hemingway himself.
But will I read him again? Yes, because I enjoyed the writing here very much, and he might make me mad again but I'll probably enjoy the journey anyway.
Oh, and, by the way, Hemingway recounts his experience with F. Scott Fitzgerald's penis. His penis. If you want to know why, you'll have to read the book.
It's sad to think that if I weren't headed to Iceland in five weeks from now that this book never would have come across my radar. Even if it had, it...moreIt's sad to think that if I weren't headed to Iceland in five weeks from now that this book never would have come across my radar. Even if it had, it could have been years before I managed to get around to it, and that would certainly have been a loss.
Moss' experience with and exploration of Iceland is just incredibly fascinating. She deftly weaves together her and her family's own intimate experiences, cultural and sociological traits, financial stuff, archeology, history, Icelanders beliefs and fascinations with the Little People, and epicurean and nutritional frustrations. She never allows any of these elements to overshadow the others, and even throws in some simple, beautiful moments of reflection on Iceland's incredible landscapes.
It's not all lovey-dovey, I assure you; her criticisms of Icelandic driving, alarm over the crime rates (and a general lack of seeing it by those outside of Iceland), Icelandic pride and (to foreigners) their disgust over second-hand belongings, and intrigue about the reckless abandon with which Icelanders allow their kids to explore and experience their environment, allow constant surprises and fascinating glimpses into a country that felt more foreign and strange to me with each chapter.
It took me much longer than it normally does to read a book of this size, which is due in part to my own time being spend out hiking in training for my own trip to Iceland, but also in part to the dense (in a good way!) and fascinating writing and observations.
What a fantastic narrative! Very highly recommended. (less)
One of the drawbacks, I suppose, to being a hyper-aware Sedaris fan, is that when a new collection of his work is released, I find I've already read a...moreOne of the drawbacks, I suppose, to being a hyper-aware Sedaris fan, is that when a new collection of his work is released, I find I've already read about a third of the book.
Although I've been excited for this release for months, I became a bit concerned as the day approached because many of the reviews I read were critical of the inclusion of many fictional pieces with the essays - pieces so cleverly written that apparently many reviewers had issues with believing they were one of Sedaris' fact-based pieces for several pages before realizing they are not. After not really enjoying Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, I was nervous about these inclusions. But perhaps because I'd read these reviews, perhaps because I'm very familiar with Sedaris' work, perhaps because Sedaris is skilled at subtly alerting us to such pieces, I only read more than a page or so without identifying one of these pieces one time. And I enjoyed them, anyway, feeling that they only added to the collection.
As always, Sedaris is simultaneously hyper and depressing, simultaneously cutting and heartbreaking. I sense, amongst my friends, that Sedaris is typically either beloved or dismissed, and it's easy to see why; it takes a certain kind of person to appreciate and not be annoyed. I remain, with almost all of his essays, an admirer. (less)
I stumble across graphic novels similar to this sort all the time and think I should probably read them more often, because they seem a great match fo...moreI stumble across graphic novels similar to this sort all the time and think I should probably read them more often, because they seem a great match for me.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book... which, oddly, makes me hesitate as to whether I will enjoy the others nearly as much. That makes no sense! you say. The illustrations are beautiful and welcoming, the story lines are endearing and honest. But at the heart of these stories is the single, initial draw to me: FOOD. Most other graphic novels have a different primary focus, hence, my concern.
This NPR review says it well, the whole essence of why this narrative is so enjoyable: "Lucy Knisley isn't a food hipster. She's a food nerd. Which is to say: she doesn't lecture. She enthuses." In fact, not only does she not lecture, she makes a couple of declarations at which even committed foodies could take offense, including (to give examples from opposite ends of the spectrum) a guiltless enjoyment of pâté, and an equally guiltless passion for fast and processed foods (in moderation, at least).
As Knisley says, and the NPR review echoes, if you're a person who lives to eat rather than eats to live, (and are open to another food lover potentially having different ethical views from you), you may also love this book.
Strangely, despite the definite front-and-center presence of books in this memoir, they also seem almost like an afterthought, a very nice embroidery...moreStrangely, despite the definite front-and-center presence of books in this memoir, they also seem almost like an afterthought, a very nice embroidery to the more important story about Schwalbe's mother and her impressive life. This is as it should be, and I enjoyed how well he explained how some of the books they read related to their particular situations and also to life in general. Very enjoyable. (less)