August 2004

I can’t even remember how long it’s been since I’ve updated this book log. I’ve been busy. I’ve been juggling two books, and now the teleplay to the Mommy Track TV series, which may or may not happen on Lifetime. I’m also in a fit of semiconstant panic about the election. My current horror is that the moron “anarchists” will play right into Karl Rove’s hands by engaging in violent demonstrations during the Republican Convention. Nothing will send swing voters over to Bush’s camp like the image of some idiot tossing a Molotov cocktail through a New York City storefront. Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett Reading this book was a strange experience in many ways. Amanda’s death was, and still is fresh in my mind, and reading about such raw grief was hard. There were other, well, psycho, Lucy Grealy seemed through Ann’s eyes. The symbiotic intensity of the relationship, how much it seemed like one person gnawing another’s limbs and the other proudly, happily extending her arm to be chewed. Anyway. Worth the read, definitely. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy Well, of course I had to read this next. I’m not sure she was quite as brilliant a writer as others (and she herself) seemed to think. There’s so much missing from this story, but it’s pretty incredible nonetheless. Harsh and compelling as all hell. I read it in like a day.

The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett Now, this novel I just loved. Loved. I can’t really explain why, but I was completely swept up in it. I promise I’m done with this Ann Patchett/Lucy Grealy tear, by the way, though I did read this horrible article by Lucy Grealy’s sister in the Guardian that just made me feel sorry for everyone. It seemed so gratuitously mean, and that clearly the person she is angry at is her sister. In any case, none of this is any of our business and should be fought out in a living room somewhere, with slammed doors and bitter, recriminatory emails, not in the pages of major newspapers. Picturing Will by Ann Beattie I read this book because I am writing a novel about a little boy named William, and freaked out when I saw this. It’s pretty good. I hope I don’t suffer horribly by comparison. Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene He is just so awesome. Everyone should read Graham Greene. I can’t believe it took me until now to read this book. Crossing California by Adam Langer I got not one, not two, but THREE free copies of this book. I guess Riverhead is really pushing it hard. I liked it. It was funny, especially the Jewish rock band guy. Goodbye Without Leaving by Laurie Colwin She’s a wonderful writer, and it’s tragic that she died so young. Country of Origin by Don Lee This is a pretty good novel, although if the writer gave me one more descriptive sentence about the main character I was going to track him down and tattoo “show, don’t tell” onto his ass. Riven Rock by T.C. Boyle I love the sense of period in this novel. The insane character was fabulous, but I wished for a bit more with the female characters. The Seventh Beggar by Pearl Abraham I adored her first novel, and this one left me a little confused. I’m not so much into the whole mysticism thing. But she’s a terrific writer. What Was She Thinking by Zoe Heller Excellent unreliable, nasty-as-hell narrator. I enjoyed this novel tremendously, although I really didn’t feel the attraction for the young boy, and I think it’s possible to get that across. My kids had this 15 year old babysitter once who was absolutely beautiful, and had I been a totally different person with no scruples, and no marriage...which is to say, I’d never do anything, but I understand that the attraction exists, and I think there must be a way to describe it. Now someone will probably report me to the Department of Social Services.

Gone by Helena Echlin Helena is a lovely writer, and I liked this book very much. My three year old and Helena became fast friends at a party last month.

Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif This book is appallingly bad, and the Booker people are out of their collective minds. I mean, good GOD. What are they thinking, putting this tripe on their short list? With the overblown metaphors and the ludicrous political diatribes? Will someone please let me know if I write like this so that I can become an underwear saleswoman? The Bigamist’s Daughter by Alice McDermott She may be one of my favorite writers ever. This isn’t Charming Billy, and the ending isn’t quite as satisfying as you’ll want it to be, but it’s still a marvelous book, and after Map of Love I needed something to cleanse my palette of the lingering horror.

Jack by A.M. Homes This is a great novel for young adults. It’s got a fairly typical Y.A. narrator of a certain familiar kind (you know, more honest and “real” than the adults around him), and the prose is accessible. I'm going to make Sophie read it. The Tenants of Moonbloom by Edward Lewis Wallant I loved this novel. I loved it, and I was rooting for Moonbloom so damn hard. Man, you just despair for the world sometimes, and for the tiny efforts of one small man. Life with Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse This is actually three novels in one, and no one should read three Jeeves novels in a stretch because they are all the same. They’re terrific, and very funny, but ultimately, the joke is exactly the same: Jeeves is smarter than his dopey boss and solves the problem, and his dopey boss agrees to stop wearing some hideous piece of clothing of which Jeeves does not approve. I mean, they are funny. Really funny, sometimes. But not all at once.

Hello to the Cannibals by Richard Bausch I hereby declare a moratorium on men of a certain age writing from the point of view of young women. I will not allow it anymore, because those of us who are women (even if the fact that we are approaching our fortieth birthday with terrifying inexorability precludes us from calling ourselves young) find too many embarrassing mistakes, the kind of things that make us fling a novel across the room in frustration. Plus--enough with the shifting time periods. Unless they are really and truly related, all they do is distract from one another. Will someone please remind me of this if I ever convince anyone to buy The Bloom Girls? In Babylon by Marcel Moring This novel is very, very European. By which I mean, if I were smarter and more sophisticated, I probably would have loved it.