Friday, February 9, 2018

This Week's Bookbag: The Library Strikes Back Edition, Feb. 3-9, 2018

What a week it has been over here in the lap of literary luxury! If you'll remember, last we met, lethargy, illness, and inertia had led me down a dark path that ended in a reading slump of sorts. I started to regain momentum at the tail end of the week, though, and even had a blueprint for the book week to come. Well, surprise, surprise! My grand plans were obliterated (in a good way) due to dashing into the library at just the right moment. 

In the Bookbag Last Week: 

Because I spend approximately 5 kajillion dollars on books in any given month (it's the new releases obsession! someone please hook me up with ARCs...I promise to read and review them all!) and cannot justify that kind of spending what with things being as they are, I pledged at the end of the year to always try and obtain copies of the books on my want list at the library.  Sometimes, this works well, especially when I find that sweet spot in which the library acknowledges that it will have the book but the book has not yet been released and so I get first dibs. Other times, not so much: I'm user #109 on 22 copies and by the time the book finally arrives, I've forgotten why I wanted to read it (or I've snuck off and purchased it instead). And then, every once in a blue moon, I'll walk into my local library to scoop whatever is waiting for me on the hold shelf up...and lo and behold! there will be one of the super sought after books just sitting there on the new releases shelf, ripe for the plucking. My eyes light up, I clutch my hands together like Pepe le Pew when he runs into his fluffy tailed lady love, and then - no sudden movements - I slink over to the shelf and grab that book! And then, if I'm really really lucky, I look around and it's as though I've been transported into that Tootsie Roll commercial of my childhood except whatever it is I think I see, becomes a book irresistible to me.

You can see where I'm going with this (I hope). 

I walked into the library this weekend and all of the magic happened! And so I walked out with all of THESE ==>

AND THEN, I attended my friend P's annual book swap last Saturday and came home with MORE BOOKS:

I've been happily drowning in books ever since. Since I couldn't decide which ones to read first, though, I'm sort of reading them all and only have one proper review to share with you: Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid. Tin House published it, and I really like their profile and approach, so even though I hasn't heard of this title, I gladly dove in anyway. It's definitely worth a read:

Pretend We Are LovelyPretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Noley Reid’s debut is a strange, enchanting book. The larger tale of the Sobel family just sort hovers and breathes, a weird counterpoint to the characters who populate it, each one so distinctly alive and in motion.
I don’t think Reid had a plot in mind when she wrote much of this book - but that’s okay, I think, because the vivacity of the narrators takes up most of your attention, and their own individual small stories build a bridge upon which the story makes successful crossing. In any case, the writing sparkles and the emotions live themselves right off the page, offering the reader access to worlds in which grief and hate have simmered so long that it’s seeped into the very atmosphere. Love is hard to find here unmolested - there’s a lot of searching, though, and the ways in which the daughters, especially, try to gain access to that which they most crave can break your heart a little. Reid manages to draw the myriad broken pieces of this family back together in the end (although whether that will last remains a mystery to me), which changes the tenor of the story altogether. It’s a complicated, interesting tale, and one I’m glad that I encountered. As a writer and a reader, I found much to eat.


Next week, expect a slew of reviews, because I'm about 80% on five or six books. (Are you already full of delicious anticipation?) In the meantime, I have other treats for you to nosh. 

Five Things This Week:
This section replaces the random bits and pieces portion of my earlier posts. It's an homage to Granta's Five Things Right Now feature, which I stumbled onto early in the week and then fell happily into for at least several hours.  I hope you take the time to check it out for yourself!

1. Ursula K. Le Guin's No Time to Spare

When Le Guin died a few weeks ago, I felt guilty about not having ever read the work of such a towering and confident imagination. Even more than that, though, I felt curious about her as a person and a writer, especially after reading a couple of interviews in the wake of her death. And so it came to pass that I purchased her last work, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters. As far as I can parcel out, this is a collection of essays from her blog and other online contributions, and that suits me perfectly. I'm on a bit of a kick to see the guts of what make writers tick. You can certainly sit down and read this book all at once, I suppose, but why would you? That would ruin the magic of dipping in again and again, reaching for a little wry consideration about the most pedestrian or portentous topics. Buy a copy at your local bookstore and reward yourself with an essay or two every night. Want a sneak preview of the goods? I fished around and found an excerpt here

2. I may as well admit it: I'm no sophisticate when it comes to music. I don't even like it much - the days spent searching for just the perfect song are long behind me. I can't read or write or concentrate much at all anymore when there's noise of any kind - an ingrained habit grown worse with age and chemo brain - and so when am I going to just sit around and listen to stuff? Even when there are those blank spaces, I'd rather find an audiobook. But music finds me anyway. This guy, Jesse Manley, though - he deserves to be discovered by people who appreciate good music. I heard him and his band when I went to see a Wonderbound production in December, and despite myself, I sort of fell in love. It's not too plinky, not too twangy, easy on the hipster but evocative and a little strange. Jesse Manley and his band will be playing History Colorado's Tiny Library Series in February, and if you're planning to be in the Mile-High City, come and see them - for only $13, can you really afford not to? - and then tell me what you think.

3. Rachel B. Glaser's impossibly perfect four page history of the world, "Pee on Water." All the literary cool kids are rolling their eyes, maybe, because Glaser's mini-masterpiece has been around for at least 7 years, but I have zero time and energy for pretentious hipsters and do not care that I am late to the Glaser party. At least I'm at the party now! Anyhoo, someone sent me this as I was struggling through the problem of how to write a single narrative that encompasses...oh, everything, and even said it reminded them a little of an essay snippet I'd written. I am, of course, no Rachel Glaser, but the kindness of my acquaintance made me happy. In any case, you're missing out on life if you skip this mini take on a colossal story. (Note: Just skip the intro in the link. It's sorta bunk.)

4. All the episodes of "Eureka."  If you think I know nothing about music, oh boy! I'm a babe in the woods when it comes to tv. I rely heavily on everyone else to curate considerations for me, and even then, I'm loathe to take a trip into some new show I've never seen. I don't know why. It's such a commitment, I suppose. All those hours when I could be reading, or sleeping, or lecturing my children...television is at the back of the pack for me. But this show is the good stuff. A good-natured guy winds up as sheriff in the most amazing of towns: Eureka, a secret settlement where the US government has stashed all the brilliant people and put them to work dreaming up all sorts of things that usually require a PhD in physics. I love the clash of pragmatism and genius on display there, the constant reminder that genius isn't about the brainpower that you have - it's what you do with what you've got that matters. Anyway, it's funny and thoughtful and weird, and I really hope you watch it. 

5. This glory-be clip from behind the scenes of "The Greatest Showman," in which Hugh Jackman promises not to sing but then just can't help himself. If you're wondering whether your significant other, best friend, work colleague, or similar was a theater kid, just turn this on and sit back. If they jump up and join in with tears sprouting from their eyes, you have you have your answer. The joy this engenders...I'm addicted!


In My Bookbag This Week: 
The book bag is full almost to bursting right now, due to all the book bingeing; I really hope I don't split the seams. I don't know exactly what I'll have digested enough to tell you about next time, but here is the definitive list of all the books I'm actually in the midst of reading right now:

1. The Tender Bar: A Memoir by JR Moehringer
2. When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams
3. The Nothing by Hanif Kureishi 
4. The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers
5. The Grave's A Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley
6. The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
7. I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Ferrell
8. The Mayor of Mogadishu by Andrew Harding

That should just about do it for me today.  Any bets on how many of these I manage to finish? Any suggestions on which ones you're most looking forward to reading the review? Anyone out there reading any of these? Let me know!!

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