January 2002

I did a lot of reading these past couple of months, and I plan to do as much or more in the next couple. In preparation for a novel I'm about to begin, I'm reading piles of first person comic novels with impeccable literary credentials. Breakfast With Scot by Michael Downing This little gem of a comic novel is easily and enjoyably devoured in a single afternoon.

Misconceptions by Naomi Wolf You can read everything I think about this book in the San Francisco Chronicle book review section. Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik I swear I almost moved my entire family to Paris during the course of reading this terrific book of essays. I had read them before as they appeared in The New Yorker, but there was something especially wonderful about immersing myself in Gopnik's Paris for an extended period of time. Look at Me by Jennifer Egan I know Egan is a terrific writer. Her language is beautiful. But I simply find nothing even remotely interesting about models. Blame that on the fact that I'm a mere five feet tall. I read three quarters of the novel and then decided that I'd had enough. The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzwell This is a wonderfully complicated trick of a first novel. The writing is engaging and the story is fun. I've decided to believe that all the library details are absolutely correct, especially the Lord of Misrule. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks I just love a good novel about the plague. In the Fall by Jefrey Lent I know without checking that the flap copy of this novel calls is a "sprawling family saga." Okay, I was wrong. "American family epic." Same thing. I enjoyed this novel tremendously, although I had the same problem with it that I have with all multi-generational tales. Just when I was really getting interested in a specific character, he or she would grow old and die. Shopgirl by Steve Martin I didn't want to like this book, really I didn't. I mean, isn't being a hugely successful movie star enough? Does he really get to push my husband off the bestseller list, too? But, alas, I thought it was a sweet little novella.

Disobedience by Jane Hamilton I'm so fantastically opposed to infidelity that I usually have a problem even reading about it, but this novel is an exception. I loved it. Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison I wanted to love this book, because it was recommended to me by someone whom I admire tremendously. That's all I'm going to say. The Distant Land of My Father by Bo Caldwell I found the Shanghai parts of this novel to be wonderfully interesting. I had zero interest in the life of the Los Angeles adolescent.

Tomcat in Love by Tim O'Brien Everyone in the world thought this was an uproariously funny delight. What's wrong with me? I gave up halfway through. Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland This novel faces the inevitable comparison to Tracey Vreeland's Girl With a Pearl Earring. I give the latter the nod, although I enjoyed this one enough to read it in a day. Niagara Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken I haven't enjoyed a novel so much in ages. Her writing reminds me of my husband's... The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland Read what I have to say about this novel in the San Francisco Chronicle's book review. Dreaming Artemisia by Clara Hennen Funny coincidence -- reviewing Vreeland's book about the Italian Baroque painter and then reading a friend's manuscript about the same woman. I'm sure Clara's book will be published. It's terrific.