How books can make things better

bridge.jpgLet’s be honest. America is quickly becoming a shithole country. The steady drone of stupidity coming from Washington, D.C. is deafening. And it’s February in Michigan with all the dreary gray that comes with it. And, of course, there’s what happened yesterday in Florida.

But today’s book was read before a teenaged gunman killed 17 people as they sat in class. It’s interesting, as people across the country ask why, how relevant Thornton Wilder’s 1926 classic “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” still is.

Continue reading “How books can make things better”

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Sherman Alexie writes a poetic memoir, and a moving study of grief

love.jpegA few years ago, during a trip out West, I discovered Sherman Alexie. An American Indian writer of verse, short stories, novels, screenplays and essays, his books were in just about every bookstore and souvenir shop west of the Mississippi. I saw his books so many times that I thought I’d better get one.

So glad I did. I bought “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” and felt like I’d read it before, as the stories seemed familiar. It was probably because I’d seen “Smoke Signals,” a movie Alexie based on this series of interconnected stories of life on the reservation. I liked what I read, and did some research on Alexie, finding essays here and poems there, finding myself touched or enlightened by every one I read.

So when I saw he had a new book out, I jumped on it. “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” is a memoir, peppered with poems (see below), making it a unique book in more ways than one.

Continue reading “Sherman Alexie writes a poetic memoir, and a moving study of grief”

Coming in from the heat with a classic spy novel

spy.jpgThough I’ve been reading like a dervish, assuming they read, it’s been so beautiful outside I haven’t trapped myself at my computer to post about them. We’re in the middle of a heat spell, so I thought I’d stay in the air conditioning and play catch-up.

In the month-plus since I’ve posted, I have good and bad, new and classic, thrillers and cozies. Now it’s time to get moving on the blogging.

This year’s Classics Challenge includes a category for which, I think, a challenge like this was made: A book by an author you’ve not read before. In my Sisyphean task to eliminate books from my shelves and the boxes in the basement, I chose to read John LeCarre, whose novel “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold” has been collecting dust since I shoved it in a sack on Paper Bag Day at a local church’s used book sale lo these many years ago.

Continue reading “Coming in from the heat with a classic spy novel”

‘My Father, the Pornographer:’ Great title, better memoir

my-father-the-pornographer-9781501112461_lg.jpgI’d never heard of Chris Offutt before I saw the title of his newest book, but I had been familiar with some of his work.

A writer with credits on two TV shows I watched for a while, (“True Blood” and “Weeds”) I had likely been intrigued by the characters Offutt created and laughed at his dark, twisted humor.

Both are present in spades in “My Father, The Pornographer,” his new memoir of his childhood growing up in the hills of Kentucky, the son of a man who made his living writing pornography.

It’s the kind of honest memoir, like “The Glass Castle,” “Angela’s Ashes” and, well, um, hmmmm… are there others? that makes you wonder how some people make it through.

Continue reading “‘My Father, the Pornographer:’ Great title, better memoir”

Hey Classics Challengers: ‘The Good Earth’ is a great gift

So people sometimes ask me, “What’s the point of your Classics Challenge?”

I usually say something like, “It’s important to expand your reading list. You can’t just read the same authors over and over, there are so many great books. You have to explore…” blah blah blah.

Good EarthNow I can boil my argument down to one book: “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck. Continue reading “Hey Classics Challengers: ‘The Good Earth’ is a great gift”

‘Salt Sugar Fat’ will make you rethink what you put in your mouth

As someone who can’t eat dairy—one test, years ago indicated I wasn’t lactose intolerant and not allergic to milk, yet my body can tolerate only a token amount before I have to race to the bathroom—I actually get angry when I go out to eat.

salt sugar fatMy wife and I scrounge up the cash, choose a restaurant and feed the kids, only to end up challenged by a menu on which most items have cheese or dairy as a key ingredient. “Why do they have to bury everything under cheese?” I whine to my long-suffering wife. She’s sympathetic, but she’s also heard it all before: “Why do people need cheese stuffed into their pizza crust?” I shout at the television. “Can the average Pizza Hut customer discern the delicate interplay of the five carefully selected cheeses on their revolting-looking Five-Cheese Pizza?” I ask in response to a radio commercial. “The Pioneer Woman put an entire brick of cream cheese into her freaking mashed potatoes!” I tell my children at the dinner table to let them know the horrors that face them when they leave the loving bosom of home. Continue reading “‘Salt Sugar Fat’ will make you rethink what you put in your mouth”

Speaking of remarkable things

Two beautiful things came together last week in a way they so rarely do for me: A Sunday afternoon with nothing much to do and a book I did not want to stop reading.

if nobody speaksIt was the perfect way to read a novel I stumbled across on a website and immediately requested from my library because I loved the poetic title. (I choose many books that way, oddly.) It’s called “If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things” and it’s the first novel by Jon McGregor. Published in 2002, it was nominated for the Booker Prize. It’s a remarkable novel. Continue reading “Speaking of remarkable things”