March 2004

I have a cold and I'm grumpy, so forgive me if that comes out in this month's write-up. I'm off for two weeks at the MacDowell Colony so I will have many many novels to write about in a couple of months and will be in much better spirits. A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother by Rachel Cusk The writing is beautiful, the book is totally me, and I loved every minute of it. I was screaming, "Amen! Amen!" until right near the end. And then she lost me. She can't leave the house for more than an hour without calling to make sure the baby is okay? Oy. That's the guilt talking, sweetie. If you weren't feeling so awful about your ambivalence, you'd be fine about leaving. Just go! The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht I liked this novel. All the music stuff was quite interesting, and Philistine that I am I did learn quite a bit. The "mystery" part didn't do much for me, though. Sleep Toward Heaven by Amanda Eyre Ward A lovely novel by a Readerville writer

Old School by Tobias Wolfe I enjoyed this tremendously, despite the fact that he beat me out for the Northern California Book Prize. I'm kidding. Not about enjoying it. Wolfe is a remarkable writer. His sentences are often quite simply perfect. Simple. And perfect. Green for Danger by Christianna Brand I read this old classic to learn about plot construction. The plot was awful. A bunch of people thrown in a room, essentially. And the "story" consisted of musing about who done it. Boring. Very very boring.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini This novel about Afghanistan is devastating. It boggles the mind how that country has just turned to dust and blown away. Horrifying. I couldn't put the book down. The Liberated Bride by A.B. Yehoshua The problem with reading a novel translated from a language you know is that you keep untranslating it. Anyway, this book is very good. Remarkable insights into contemporary Israeli society. And the most loathsome main character I've come across in a good long while. I hated him.

Shosha by Isaac Bashevis Singer I know I was supposed to be swept up in this novel. I was not supposed to find it tedious. Family History by Dani Shapiro Shapiro is the kind of writer I think I could aspire to be. She writes very well, with strong plots. She'll never win the Pulitzer Prize, but her books are well-constructed and her sentences are fine, sometimes even lovely. So this is my goal. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf I love Virginia Woolf so desperately. She's my favorite writer, and I can't quite believe it, since I so loath stream of consciousness, or the very idea of S of c. The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer This book is delightful, beautifully written, and John Updike thinks Andy is a better writer than Nabokov and every bit as good as Proust. So there.

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros This book was good, but I find the victim thing a little much sometimes. Colors Insulting to Nature by Cintra Wilson Man, this book was funny. Vivid seems almost an understatement.

Embalming Mom: Essays in Life by Janet Burroway This woman is one of the best writers out there and it is a CRIME that she is not better known. Go buy this book. If you can only buy one book, buy hers, not mine. Apprentice to the Flower Poet Z by Debra Weinstein This was a fun, light read. Zippy and cute.

Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje This writer deserves a Nobel Prize. This book is lovely. Letters to a Fiction Writer edited by Frederick Busch Some of these are interesting, especially the ones not meant for the collection. I liked Janet Burroway's and Tobias Wolfe's. Most were pretty tiresome, though. Madras on Rainy Days by Samina Ali You know how much of a sucker I am for novels about this part of the world. So I loved this. It also helped me escape from a loathsome Club Med vacation.