Oh man…this book destroyed me. I started reading Jonathan Evison This is Your Life, Harriet Chance yesterday afternoon and I finished it that same evening. This book is one of those perfect combinations of beautiful prose, engaging characters, and a plot that compels you to read. The novel tells the story of an elderly woman, Harriet Chance, who learns that her recently deceased husband won a cruise to Alaska. She decides to go on the cruise in order to fulfill what she believes to be her last wishes. I don’t want to describe too much more of the plot because there were a few delightful and interesting twists.
The last few pages of this novel made me sprout tears. If you don’t want spoilers, do not read the rest of this post.
“If we learned one thing digging up all these old bones, dusting them off, and holding them to the light, we’ve learned this: While the days unfold, one after the other, and the numbers all move in one direction, our lives are not linear, Harriet. We are the sum of moments and reflections, actions and decisions, triumphs, failures, and yearnings, all of it held together, inexplicably, miraculously, really, by memory and association. Yes, Harriet, our lives are more sinew than bone. “ (Evison 293)
This paragraph slayed me. I really loved this book. So far, it’s my favorite book of 2016.
Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth is hard to describe. Ostensibly, it’s a novel about a man named Highway who is a collector and auctioneer of odds and ends. However, the story is broken up with multiple pages of marbled photographs, quotations, drawings, and fortune cookie translations. The text also contains many literary references that only someone who has a degree in English lit would pick up on. The Story of My Teeth was originally written in Spanish and translated by Christina MacSweeney. Normally, the translator is an invisible presence, but MacSweeney provides a final chapter that includes a real and imaginary chronology of the main character.
To be honest, I don’t think I understood this book. I was definitely interested in it and I completed it, but I don’t believe that I fully comprehended it. I wish that this was a book that I had studied during college in a literary theory course. This book makes me want to take notes and highlight! I will probably revisit this book in a few years. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books that don’t fit within traditional limits and are more experimental.
I have always had a hard time not completing a book that I am reading. This week I started reading On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee. Normally, once I begin a book I finish it in three to four days unless it is a very long book. This novel is only 400 pages long, but after a week I was only 50 pages in. I felt like I was forcing myself to read it.
Do not get me wrong, this book is fine. However, it just wasn’t clicking with me. So I decided to just stop reading it and move on to something else.
How do you handle a book that you aren’t enjoying? Do you force yourself to finish it?
The Whites is a compulsively readable crime novel from Richard Price, writing as Harry Brandt. It’s about former members of an anti-crime unit, the Wild Geese, in the South Bronx during the mid-90s. Each member has one criminal that he/she remains obsessed with because this person was never brought to justice. These criminals are referred to as “the whites” as in the white whale. The novel opens with one of the whites found dead. Billy Graves is the youngest member of the unit and the plot revolves around him.
At the beginning, the books seems like a straightforward murder mystery. In actuality this novel, includes two separate narratives that don’t converge until the last fourth of the story. Overall, I found this novel to be surprisingly enjoyable and completely engrossing. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to disappear into the world of a book.
One of the many perks of being a teacher is that I had a three week winter break. During this time, I read close to fifteen books. Since the new semester has started, I’ve been in a bit of reading slump. I’ve started a couple of books and felt no desire to finish them.
In order to get out of my slump, I decided to borrow a couple of graphic novels from the library. One of the graphic novels was cute and entertaining and the other just didn’t jive with me.
I’ll start on a positive note. Battling Boy by Paul Pope is about a city that has lost its hero. A young boy from another world, the titular Battling Boy, is sent to the city to complete a rite of passage and become a hero. The art is beautiful which makes the simple plot more compelling. Overall, I found Battling Boy to be comforting, charming and an excellent solution to my slump.
The other graphic novel, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua, just didn’t connect with me. The premise was interesting. It presented an alternative history in which Charles Babbage and Ada, Countess of Lovelace, solve mysteries in Victorian London using science. The plot was often broken up with long exposition and footnotes. Personally, these additions made the art and the story less enjoyable.
I like reading graphic novels when I’m in a slump because they are fun and easy to consume.