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Ursula's Mobile Thread for 2017

This topic was continued by Ursula's Mobile Thread for 2017, Part 2.

75 Books Challenge for 2017

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1ursula
Edited: Feb 27, 2017, 9:19pm Top



(Taken during a sunrise walk with the dog in December.)

Hello, I'm Ursula. I currently live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My thread, though, is mobile because I will probably be moving this year (again). So far during my time in the 75ers (starting in 2012), my husband and I have lived in Denver, Belgium, California, Italy, and now Michigan. It's all thanks to his job - he's a mathematician, which I had no idea would be such a roving profession. I'm an artist and photographer - if you're interested in what I do, you can find links to my shops on my profile. We have a dog - a 9-year-old Australian Cattle Dog named Penny. I have two children: a son who is at UC Boulder (University of Colorado, Boulder) and a daughter who is in grad school at UGA (University of Georgia in Athens).

I read from the 1001 books list, and I have also been reading more current books in an attempt to balance out the male-female ratio in my reading a bit. I get to a decent amount of non-fiction, often on audio.

Currently reading:

    

Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel, A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul, Letters of Note: Volume 2 edited by Shaun Usher

Currently reading in Italian:

Currently listening to:

2ursula
Edited: Feb 27, 2017, 9:46pm Top

📚📚📚 ... January ... 📚📚📚
Evicted - finished Jan 1 (418 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
Wave - finished Jan 2 (audio, 5h 25m) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Waiting - finished Jan 3 (308 pages) ⭐⭐⭐
The Graduate - finished Jan 7 (191 pages) ⭐⭐⭐
March, Book Two - finished Jan 11 (187 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
His Bloody Project - finished Jan 14 (280 pages) ⭐⭐1/2
There Goes Gravity - finished Jan 16 (audio, 12h 17m) ⭐⭐1/2
Tent of Miracles - finished Jan 19 (380 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Half of Man Is Woman - finished Jan 26 (285 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Country of Ice Cream Star - finished Jan 27 (581 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
March, Book Three - finished Jan 28 (246 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
When Breath Becomes Air - finished Jan 31 (audio, 5h 27m) ⭐⭐⭐1/2

Total read in January: 12

📚📚📚 ... February ... 📚📚📚
A Long Way Home - finished Feb 1 (audio, 7h 28m) ⭐⭐⭐
Year of Wonders - finished Feb 8 (308 pages) ⭐⭐1/2
The Unwinding - finished Feb 12 (434 pages) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Interestings - finished Feb 27 (466 pages) ⭐⭐

Total pages read: 4084
Total time listened: 30h 37m

Fiction: 8
Non-fiction: 8

Male: 11
Female: 5

3ursula
Edited: Feb 27, 2017, 9:46pm Top

By Publication Date:

1900s
 1960s
  1963
  The Graduate
  1969
  Tent of Miracles
 1980s
  1986
  Half of Man Is Woman
 1990s
  1999
  Waiting

2000s
 2002
  Year of Wonders
 2010s
  2013
  Wave
  The Unwinding
  The Interestings
  2014
  There Goes Gravity
  The Country of Ice Cream Star
  A Long Way Home
  2015
  March, Book Two
  His Bloody Project
  2016
  Evicted
  March, Book Three
  When Breath Becomes Air

4ursula
Edited: Jan 28, 2017, 6:07pm Top

Litsy A to Z Challenge

A: Amado, Jorge, Tent of Miracles
B:
C:
D:
E:
F:
G:
H: His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
I:
J:
K:
L:
M:
N:
O:
P:
Q:
R:
S:
T:
U:
V:
W:
X:
Y:
Z: Zhang Xianliang, Half of Man Is Woman

1001 Books list

The Graduate
Tent of Miracles
Half of Man Is Woman


5ursula
Edited: Jan 1, 2017, 9:28am Top

Wrap-up of 2016

Total books read: 101
Total pages read: 28738
Total time listened: 246h 10m

Format

Paper: 34
Kindle/ebook: 46
Audio: 21

Unsurprising, since paper books were rare in Italy (I mean, they exist! It's just that I didn't have money to spend and books in English aside from recent bestsellers were hard to find, and my Italian reading is slow so I didn't go through many). Thank goodness for the Kindle and American public libraries or I might not have read much at all.

Fiction/Non-fiction

Fiction: 73
Non-fiction: 28

This is about the ratio I manage every year. We'll see if 2017 has a little bit more non-fiction?

Authors

Female: 45
Male: 56

Way, wayyy better than in previous years. My overall library currently stands at 66.67% male/33.33% female. I hope to improve that by the end of 2017.

Year of Publication

1700s: 1
1800s: 4
1900s: 32
2000s: 64

That's a lot of recent books for me. I think it's partially a factor of trying to balance out the male/female ratio. I hope to read not quite so many recent books in 2017, and hopefully most of those will have been published in the last 3-5 years.

1001 books list

Read in 2016: 27

I have been trying to read about 35 from the list annually, so I fell a little short here. I finished strong, though.

👍👍Best of the year👍👍
(in the order read)

Fiction

    

My Struggle, Book Two: A Man in Love
A Little Life
The Well of Loneliness
The Radetzky March
Dreams from Bunker Hill

Runners-up

  

Far from the Madding Crowd
The Little Red Chairs
City of Thieves

Non-fiction



Between the World and Me

Runners-up

  

Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?
Nothing to Envy
The Worst Journey in the World

6PaulCranswick
Dec 31, 2016, 8:18am Top

Lovely thread topper, Ursula. Great to see you back in 2017.

7The_Hibernator
Dec 31, 2016, 8:52am Top

8Crazymamie
Dec 31, 2016, 8:57am Top

Dropping my star, Ursula! What a stunning topper!

9PaulCranswick
Dec 31, 2016, 9:20am Top



I am part of the group.
I love being part of the group.
I love the friendships bestowed upon my by dint of my membership of this wonderful fellowship.
I love that race and creed and gender and age and sexuality and nationality make absolutely no difference to our being a valued member of the group.

Thank you for also being part of the group.

10FAMeulstee
Dec 31, 2016, 9:25am Top

Beautiful picture at the top, Ursula!
Happy readings in 2017.

11drneutron
Dec 31, 2016, 12:24pm Top

Welcome back!

12Oberon
Dec 31, 2016, 1:52pm Top

>1 ursula: Beautiful photo up to. Looks like you have more snow than we do right now.

13ursula
Dec 31, 2016, 4:10pm Top

>6 PaulCranswick:, >9 PaulCranswick: Thank you for the lovely welcome back. :)

>7 The_Hibernator: For a second I thought "a chicken, how random!" and then I remembered that we are coming up to the year of the rooster. Happy new year to you too!

>8 Crazymamie: Always good to see you stopping by. Thanks, my pictures are all white all the time now, haha.

>10 FAMeulstee: Thank you so much! Happy readings to you too!

>11 drneutron: Thanks!

>12 Oberon: Thank you! I just looked it up, we had gotten 54.3 inches up to the start of today. Of course, it snowed all day today too, so you can add a few more inches to that.

14katiekrug
Dec 31, 2016, 9:13pm Top

Happy new year, Ursula!

15jennyifer24
Dec 31, 2016, 10:48pm Top

Hello from Lansing! Happy reading!!

16ursula
Jan 1, 2017, 8:05am Top

>14 katiekrug: Thanks, right back atcha!

>15 jennyifer24: Hello! I had to look up where Lansing is. I know it's the capital, but I know essentially zero about Michigan geography. Happy reading to you too!

17ursula
Jan 1, 2017, 9:29am Top

I've added in some stats and "best of" stuff for 2016 in >5 ursula:

18BLBera
Jan 1, 2017, 10:48am Top

Happy New Year, Ursula. I love your best reads list.

19scaifea
Jan 1, 2017, 8:19pm Top

Happy new year, Ursula!

20Berly
Jan 2, 2017, 2:13am Top

Beautiful topper!! Hope this is a wonderful year with lots of new fun and friends...and books!

21ursula
Jan 2, 2017, 8:15am Top

>18 BLBera: Thanks! It was fun to put together -- in some ways the beginning of last year seems so far away. I kept thinking "did I really read that in 2016?" Time, what a funny thing.

>19 scaifea: Thank you, happy new year to you too!

>20 Berly: Thank you! I'll drink to that. :)

22Caroline_McElwee
Edited: Jan 2, 2017, 9:33am Top

Happy New Year Ursula. I'll enjoy keeping up with your reading.

23Donna828
Jan 2, 2017, 1:11pm Top

Happy 2017, Ursula. Your beautiful picture at the top looks like a Christmas card. Too bad you will be leaving the UP so soon. I may have missed another opportunity for a meetup with you. I am actually enjoying the virtual travels with you. I wonder where we will end up next?

24scvlad
Jan 2, 2017, 1:43pm Top

Tanti auguri per un buon capodanno!

25streamsong
Jan 2, 2017, 2:06pm Top

Hi and Happy New Year!

Wow - lots of snow! DD and I went snowshoeing the day after Christmas. It was so much fun! And (best of all for me ) no skill required. :-)

26ursula
Jan 2, 2017, 7:55pm Top

Here we go, book number 1!



Evicted

The book looks at evictions and their impact on poor families, specifically in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The reasons for eviction are varied, going beyond just getting behind on the rent, and the disproportionate way that black women are impacted is eye-opening. As he reveals in a section on the end about his methodology, Desmond lived in the same poor neighborhoods as the people he wanted to talk to, which gave him access to the day-to-day in their lives, especially as they eventually came to put some trust in him. At the same time, he also got to know his landlords and heard things from their perspective as well. I felt that he was relatively even-handed with the landlords, putting the blame more on the system that enables people to get rich off the poor than the people themselves. At the same time, I don't feel that he put the poor people he profiles up on a pedestal. They're real people who have made some good decisions and some bad, but the churn of evictions have backed them all into worse and worse circumstances. The idea that anyone would be forced to spend 80% of their income on rent just to live in a decrepit home in a dangerous area is heartbreaking. The fact that so many people have to do exactly that is shameful.

On a personal note, I was reminded of childhood homes my parents rented - although we were never evicted (to my knowledge, and if so, certainly not in the manner described in this book), we did live in homes in complete disrepair, with landlords unwilling to fix things, without heat, and without choices because there was nowhere else inexpensive enough to move to.

27ursula
Edited: Jan 2, 2017, 9:59pm Top

>22 Caroline_McElwee: Good to see you here, happy new year to you as well! I'll be around to visit you too, if I haven't been already (I'm starting to lose track...).

>24 scvlad: Grazie, anche a te e famiglia! Hai dei piani di continuare leggere in italiano quest'anno? Ho cominciato di nuovo i miei studi - guardo i video, faccio gli esercizi, leggo le notizie, e magari presto sarò pronta di scrivere ancora sul blog.

>25 streamsong: So. Much. Snow. I have seen at least one person snowshoeing here on the sidewalks. And for good reason - the snow is usually at least 5-6 inches deep, and often much more. I've heard it's a lot of work, but I'd still like to try it!

28ursula
Jan 2, 2017, 10:01pm Top

>23 Donna828: I got my post numbers mixed up and missed you, sorry about that! I feel like I'm always leaving anywhere - we may be here through the summer, I'm not sure. When would you be up here again? Seems a shame to manage to miss you in two different states. I'm glad someone is enjoying the virtual vagabonding. :)

29LovingLit
Jan 2, 2017, 10:02pm Top

>1 ursula: that tree on the right looks like a cartoon tree! The snow is just so placed. How amazing!

Happy new year, great to follow along with you again for 2017

30charl08
Jan 3, 2017, 4:43am Top

>26 ursula: I found that book to be upsetting - in a good way. It made me realise that although I've had some less than ideal renting experiences, I'd been quite lucky.

My dad has some (to me) crazy stories of being kicked out of houses at short notice ('50s) because the landlords wanted to get the higher rents available from summer visitors. Thinking about it, that might explain why the family has very rarely moved since. My auntie has been in her home for nearly fifty years.

The social housing system here is not ideal, but at least better than the options for tenants experienced in that book.

31ursula
Jan 3, 2017, 10:02am Top

>29 LovingLit: It's interesting, isn't it? That means we got a lot of snow without a lot of wind. Other times it's all plastered on one side of everything, including vertical surfaces like telephone poles and houses. :)

>30 charl08: I agree, it should be upsetting, and infuriating. There have certainly always been times when people have been kicked out or encouraged to leave when higher rents were possible - the fact that the rents have kept getting higher for such terrible accommodations is appalling.

When I lived in the Silicon Valley in the late 90s/early 2000s, landlords had to drop the requirement that your rent shouldn't be more than a third of your income because the housing market was so insane that you'd have to be making a lot of money to meet that. Even when I left in 2008, my rent was approximately 45-50% of my income (before taxes).

32BLBera
Jan 3, 2017, 10:32am Top

Great comments on Evicted; I will definitely try to get to it this year. It sounds like it would make a good discussion book, as well. My book club meets on Friday to choose the year's reads.

33ursula
Jan 3, 2017, 6:14pm Top

>32 BLBera: I think you could have some great discussions about this book. And depending on the makeup of your group, they might be heated. People have such passionate reactions to issues around poverty.

34ursula
Jan 3, 2017, 9:58pm Top



Wave

During the 2004 tsunami, Sonali Deraniyagala was with her family in Sri Lanka. The wave killed everyone - her parents, her husband, her two sons - and left her alive, though quickly wondering why she should be. I tend not to be interested in these grief memoirs, not because of the sadness so much as because they seem to usually be "inspirational." You know, how this person lost everything and managed to just get on with things and see the beauty in life or whatever drivel. This one is raw, and real. Sometimes she's suicidal. Sometimes she's bitter. She spends a lot of time trying not to think about them at all. She finds purpose in letting her anger out, and she sinks into lethargy.

What she goes through is absolutely shattering, and she's shattered. She doesn't have any blithe faith that everything is for the best or that she has learned any great lessons from it all. It's just a terrible, terrible thing that happened to her, and she's learned to limp through the subsequent years and eventually find some sort of equilibrium which allows her to get up every day.

I listened to the audio, and the narrator (Hannah Curtis) was excellent. I had to remind myself that it wasn't actually the author speaking, it seemed so real. I took longer to listen to this than the 5 and a half hour running time would suggest, just because I couldn't listen to more than about a half hour at a time because it was such an intense experience. Recommended.

35rosalita
Jan 3, 2017, 10:47pm Top

Happy New Year, Ursula! I'm looking forward to where your reading and other adventures take you in 2017.

36Berly
Jan 3, 2017, 10:52pm Top

>34 ursula: That sounds absolutely intense!! I see why you could only listen to a little at a time.

37kidzdoc
Jan 4, 2017, 2:48pm Top



Happy New Year, Ursula! Sorry for the late greeting, but I've finally finished with my Christmas and New Year's Day work stretch and now have time to make the rounds.

Great reviews of Evicted, which I'm reading now, and Wave, which I bought shortly after it came out but haven't read yet. I'll have to dig it out of whatever shelf it's buried in.

38ursula
Jan 4, 2017, 5:21pm Top

>35 rosalita: Thanks, and good to see you here! Always something new. :)

>36 Berly: It was. Rationing it out was the smart thing to do.

>37 kidzdoc: No worries, I understand what it's like when you're working over the holidays. I had to stop and think because I was sure my husband wasn't born in the year of the rooster, although he turns 36 this year. But of course, he's a monkey since his birthday is in January.

Looking at the reviews here for Wave, opinions seem to be pretty polarized. But it looks like a lot of the negative reviews were expecting something different from it. Hopefully I've set expectations appropriately - it's really not about the tsunami.

39The_Hibernator
Jan 5, 2017, 12:32pm Top

Wow. I haven't even started Evicted yet. You're ahead of the game!

40ursula
Jan 5, 2017, 3:38pm Top

>39 The_Hibernator: Well, I did start it near the end of December. But yes, for these brief moments I'm ahead of the game. :)

41ursula
Jan 5, 2017, 6:11pm Top



Waiting

Honestly, I'm not sure what I think of this book. It takes place during the '60s and '70s in China, and is about Lin, a doctor who is in an unhappy marriage with Shuyu. She lives in the village they're from while he lives in the city, working in a hospital. He becomes interested in one of the nurses there, Manna, and they begin a non-physical relationship while he tries to divorce Shuyu. The waiting is done by all of them: Manna, who waits for Lin to finally get that divorce; Shuyu, who waits for her husband to come to his senses; and Lin, who waits for his life to finally begin. The whole thing didn't end up anywhere I thought it would, and in fact I'm not sure it ended up anywhere at all. I'd say more about that, but it would spoil the whole trajectory of the story. An odd little book.

42HanGerg
Jan 5, 2017, 6:14pm Top

Hi Ursula! I lost you for a bit but I'm glad to say I found you again! Happy (belated) New Year!

43LovingLit
Jan 6, 2017, 4:47am Top

>41 ursula: those 'neither here nor there' books are difficult to discuss, aren't they? For me one of those could be anything from a 2 to a 4- in different sections!

44ursula
Jan 6, 2017, 7:05am Top

>42 HanGerg: It's so easy to lose people! I'm glad you found me and wandered in again. :) Happy new year to you too!

>43 LovingLit: They really are. And sometimes it's hard to know how you're really intended to respond to some of the characters. Of course, intention isn't everything, and if the author wanted you to feel one way but you feel another, they maybe weren't really successful at what they were trying to do. But, I'm curious in this case what the author was after. I kind of wonder if it is a cultural gap.

45Crazymamie
Jan 6, 2017, 9:35am Top

Morning, Ursula! Sounds like you took one for the team with that last one.

46ursula
Jan 6, 2017, 11:39am Top

>45 Crazymamie: Quite possibly. There were definitely positives to it, but the more I think about it the less I like the characters and the less I like the view on love and marriage. Oh well.

47ursula
Jan 8, 2017, 7:40am Top



The Graduate

This was an experience a little bit like reading Fight Club after having seen the movie - you're struck by how many of the scenes, how much of the dialogue, came straight from the book. It was almost like reading a script. If by some chance you haven't seen the movie (watch it now), the book is about Benjamin Braddock, who has just graduated from college and has now lost all motivation to do anything. He doesn't want to continue on the path he was on, but he doesn't want to do anything else, either. While he's at loose ends, he falls into an affair with the wife of one of his parents' friends, Mrs. Robinson.

Here's the thing: the book has great moments, terrific dialogue, and a bit more establishing background about Benjamin. The movie has Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, "plastics" and a soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel. The book makes Benjamin seem like more of a creep. The movie cuts out some unnecessary stuff and adds a few indelible images. The book is fine, but I say you are getting the best of everything if you just watch the movie.

48Caroline_McElwee
Jan 8, 2017, 8:34am Top

I think it is rare when the movie is better than the book Ursula, but interesting when that is the case.

49scaifea
Jan 8, 2017, 10:24am Top

>47 ursula: Huh. I've never thought about reading the book, but of course the movie is amazing. I'm curious now, though, and may have to add it to the list...

Happy Sunday!

50Crazymamie
Jan 8, 2017, 10:26am Top

Good to know that I don't need to read The Graduate, Ursula. Nice review! Happy Sunday to you!

51ursula
Jan 8, 2017, 9:36pm Top

>48 Caroline_McElwee: Yeah, I think the two I mentioned are the only ones I know of offhand where I think the movie is better than the book. I'm sure there are a few others out there, I just haven't read the books, probably.

>49 scaifea: It's on the 1001 books list, or I doubt I would have even realized it was a book first. The movie is one of my favorites.

>50 Crazymamie: Happy to relieve you of at least one book out there in the world. :)

52ursula
Jan 11, 2017, 6:46pm Top



March, Book Two

Finished the second volume in this series of John Lewis's memoir. This one hit it out of the park for me. It built on everything that had been set up in volume one, and covered so much ground. The freedom rides, the fracturing of the movement, the March on Washington ... It's powerful stuff, and just like when you see the news footage on tv, it seems so hard to believe that this was so recent and yet also that in some ways we haven't come far from it. I'm really looking forward to the final volume, which I will be reading soon both because I already have it out from the library and also because this one ends at such a critical juncture.

53BLBera
Jan 11, 2017, 10:17pm Top

I loved the first one and have the next two waiting - you make me want to pick them up right away.

54Berly
Jan 11, 2017, 11:49pm Top

U--You are reading some awesome books! Yay 2017! Wave sounds intense but worth it. Not sure about Waiting, but I really liked your review.

55ursula
Jan 12, 2017, 5:19pm Top

>53 BLBera: I liked this one better than the first one - I felt that the jumping between the past and present was smoother and less contrived.

>54 Berly: So far, so good ... although what I've read is a lot of one-word titles, oddly enough! Waiting was an odd one - it won the National Book Award, so it has its proponents obviously. I just wasn't entirely sure what I was supposed to take away in terms of gender roles and expectations, and how much of that was culture- and time-period specific. But I did think about it for a while after finishing it, so it definitely made some sort of impression.

56banjo123
Jan 12, 2017, 5:34pm Top

I read Waiting a few years ago, and I loved it. But it was long enough ago, not sure I can answer your question about gender roles.

57ursula
Jan 13, 2017, 7:12am Top

>56 banjo123: I read a few negative reviews on GoodReads that kind of addressed some of my issues, so at least I know I wasn't the only one with them. I just felt like the women were portrayed terribly. The man didn't come off well, but at least he had some sort of character.

58ursula
Edited: Jan 15, 2017, 7:06am Top



His Bloody Project

This story about a triple murder committed by a 17-year-old boy in rural Scotland just didn't grab me. The story is told in 3 parts: a document that was written in prison by Roddy Macrae, the murderer (he freely admits that he killed the victims), a statement by a psychologist after examining Roddy, and an account of the trial partially pulled from contemporary newspaper accounts. It sounds like a great accomplishment as a novel, and in some ways it probably is. I'm sure it's not easy to write in the style of so many different 19th century characters. But there's got to be more to hold it together than craft, and for me, there just wasn't. I liked Roddy's account well enough, but I was progressively more bored by the other two sections. And there just didn't seem to be any point - was he insane? Did he really commit the murders for the reasons he gave? Who knows, and I would add: who cares. It didn't add up to anything at all.

59charl08
Jan 15, 2017, 8:01am Top

I was underwhelmed by this one too, although I'd probably pick up his next book just to see what he does next. The grinding poverty was hard to read, and it took me a couple of goes to get into the story.

I read a recent review that said that the point was that the level of violence at the end against the young girl he liked was designed to undermine liberal assumptions about his innocence/lack of responsibility for the crime. I'm not sure that that convinced me of the point of it all though.

60PaulCranswick
Jan 15, 2017, 8:29am Top

>58 ursula: The book has become something of a cause celebre but I though North Water was better. I found it quite readable and actually liked it reasonably well enough without the ecstasy that it generated in some quarters.

Have a great Sunday.

61ursula
Jan 15, 2017, 9:11am Top

>59 charl08: Re: the spoiler, that might irritate me even more. One of the things that bothered me was that the thing about Flora was brought up briefly at the trial but it didn't go anywhere. I guess that quote makes sense to me because it seemed to serve no real purpose except to make him seem possibly duplicitous, but so what? He would just be duplicitous and boring, not duplicitous and clever.

62ursula
Jan 15, 2017, 10:27am Top

>60 PaulCranswick: I liked the first part, and I realize with just that part it wouldn't have been much of a novel, but I would have rather had the other sections add something to the whole thing, which I didn't feel like they did. I don't read reviews, but I thought that the reception for this one had been pretty positive so I was somewhat surprised to be so disappointed by it.

I haven't heard about The North Water, I'll look it up.

63BLBera
Jan 15, 2017, 11:55am Top

Great comments on His Bloody Project, Ursula. I think I'll pass.

64drneutron
Jan 15, 2017, 4:36pm Top

Yeah, it's on my wishlist - but maybe it needs to drop off. I agree with Paul - The North Water was terrific!

65ursula
Jan 16, 2017, 7:23am Top

>63 BLBera:, >64 drneutron: More time for something else! :)

And thanks for the second on The North Water! I just looked it up at the library - Arctic circle?! I'm all about that; I put it on hold.

66ursula
Edited: Jan 17, 2017, 7:33am Top



There Goes Gravity

Sometimes I listen to audio books that aren't that great because I listen while I'm working anyway and it's a pain to go find something else, and the book I'm listening to isn't actively annoying me. This is one of those books. Lisa Robinson started writing about music at the end of the '60s, working for all the big publications at one time or another and also starting a couple with her husband. She went on tour with various bands, including Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. She interviewed everyone - John Lennon, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury ... and on into the present day, Bono, Eminem, Lady Gaga. She kept obsessive notes, went through miles and miles of cassette recordings. This means she's able to talk with authority about what someone was wearing, what they said, to recite the conversation word for word.

It's a strength, and also definitely a weakness. Sometimes it's funny - she would frequently give a list of what Mick Jagger was wearing in the 60s and end it with "... all at the same time." Sometimes it just makes you realize why interviews are edited. ("I said 'don't you think that's strange?' he said 'not really' I said 'you don't? not at all?' he said 'why would I?' I said 'I just thought....'" You get the idea.) She was an anomaly on tour - a woman, a non-drug user. These things seem like they could be a jumping-off point for something interesting, but they don't seem to interest her much, except to say that it was sometimes an odd position to be in. When discussing interviews in the past, often there are words in there that are no longer appropriate to use, and every time she feels compelled to say "yes... you could say that then." (example: talking to Yoko Ono about being Oriental) This really irritated me, and I wondered if it would have irritated me as much in print. Part of it was her delivery (the book is read by the author) in a flat, sardonic New York tone.

Anyway, there were some interesting stories in the book but there was also a lot of not-interesting stuff, so I wouldn't really recommend it unless you're looking to listen to something light that you can get distracted from for a while and still not really miss anything.

67rosalita
Jan 17, 2017, 9:46am Top

Thanks for your latest reviews, Ursula. I know we make a big deal here on LT about giving and receiving book bullets, but I'm at least as thankful for the reviews that tell me which books to avoid.

68katiekrug
Jan 17, 2017, 3:16pm Top

Exactly what Julia said! It's always a relief when someone doesn't like a book. I mean, I feel bad that they had to read it, but ..... :)

69charl08
Jan 17, 2017, 5:12pm Top

>66 ursula: That book sounds like such a missed opportunity - I wonder if she was never tempted to join in with the druggy music culture...

70BLBera
Jan 17, 2017, 5:26pm Top

Hi Ursula, Yes what Julia and Katie and Charlotte said. >66 ursula: This sounds like one I could skip easily. And it could have been so interesting.

71ursula
Jan 17, 2017, 6:28pm Top

>67 rosalita:, >68 katiekrug: I am glad to be of service! (Not said sarcastically.) There are so many books that it's possible to wonder about, so it's good to get it narrowed down a little. :)

72ursula
Jan 17, 2017, 6:36pm Top

>69 charl08:, >70 BLBera: Yeah, this is I guess where I feel good about narrowing it down for people, haha - it sounded like it could be fascinating (she had the Velvet Underground rehearsing in her living room, fergawdssakes). And I'm not knocking her for being outside the prevalent culture, of course, but it just made it so that she couldn't really address a lot of what was going on around her. Unless they were actively snorting cocaine in front of her, she said more than once that she had no idea if someone was on drugs or not (Eminem at the height of his addiction is just one example).

There were definitely funny moments, like her talking about how Bono would never shut up (you could have guessed that but it's hilarious when she says "the conversation went on for hours, and hours, and hours..."), and the Lady Gaga stuff was really intriguing. But for all the time she spent on tour with Led Zeppelin, I don't remember a single thing of much note about them. Ah well.

73Berly
Jan 18, 2017, 3:27pm Top

U--You never know what might grab someone and I appreciate having book diversity, so thanks for reading outside the box and giving an honest review. It's unfortunate that she couldn't pull off a better book with all the inside info she had. Oh well.

74ursula
Jan 20, 2017, 8:53am Top

>73 Berly: Part of the problem may be that she is friends with several of the major subjects of the book. Hard to tell all the best stories in that case!

75ursula
Jan 20, 2017, 7:01pm Top

It's nice to be back in the US for at least one reason: I can send packages to my kids again! They each got a box this week with some toffee made by Dave's Sweet Tooth and some eggnog fudge made by me. :)

76katiekrug
Jan 20, 2017, 7:33pm Top

Wanna adopt me? Sounds yummy!

77ursula
Jan 21, 2017, 9:14am Top

>76 katiekrug: :) I'm hoping to send them some more goodies before the weather in Georgia especially makes it inadvisable to mail possibly-melty things.

78ursula
Jan 21, 2017, 10:26am Top



Tent of Miracles

A kaleidoscopic view of life in the state of Bahia, Brazil. (It's even more kaleidoscopic when you're like me and don't realize for the first 100 pages that there's a glossary in the back of the book which defines all the Portuguese words.) The frame of the book is that an author, Fausto Pena, has been asked to write a book about Pedro Archanjo, a Bahian writer who has been largely forgotten. But when an American scholar shows interest in his work, suddenly the entire state has decided he's a national hero and must be celebrated. To that end, his works are unearthed and everyone scrambles to be the biggest fan. All of that is presumably contemporary to when the novel was published, in 1969.

Most of the book, though, takes place in Archanjo's time, the early 1900s. He works at the university as a runner, and is friends with some of the professors and reviled by others as a lower life form because he's black. His writings tackle some of the deepest issues in Brazilian culture - folkways including voodoo (also known as macumba and candomblé), and the issues of race relations; his answer is miscegenation for all). As one can imagine, these were revolutionary viewpoints at the time, particularly since there was a police crackdown on the practice of candomblé. Archanjo is a colorful character - a leader in the candomblé rites, the father of many sons who don't know he is their father, an intellectual, and eventually an old man who everyone knows and respects (in the neighborhood, at least). Archanjo is vivid, but even more vivid is the whirling life of Bahia - the mix of races and customs, the orixas and rites of candomblé, the poverty and vibrant life.

I'm not explaining the book well, but it's like falling down the rabbit hole into an entirely different world. It takes a bit to find your footing, but then you're swept up. I did have quibbles - I found the later chapters from the contemporary author writing about Pena a bit of an interruption or annoyance in particular - but I am looking forward to Amado's other books.

(This is on the 1001 Books list.)

79BLBera
Jan 21, 2017, 12:10pm Top

Great comments on the Amado, Ursula. I keep meaning to read more by him.

80PaulCranswick
Jan 22, 2017, 3:06am Top

>78 ursula: I have looked high and low for that one, Ursula. I love your explanation of an Alice like experience reading Amado. I have a couple of his books and will definitely read one of them this year.

81ursula
Jan 22, 2017, 7:39am Top

Although I'm not watching it (the time zones make it essentially impossible), I am continuing to love the results coming out of this year's Australian Open. Today, I wake up to Murray being knocked out. *tosses confetti*

82ursula
Jan 22, 2017, 7:41am Top

>79 BLBera: What have you read of his? He has two more on the 1001 Books list, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands and Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon.

>80 PaulCranswick: He's one of those authors I have always heard people talking about but not gotten to up to this point. I would like to read more South Americans in general.

83BLBera
Jan 22, 2017, 12:15pm Top

I'll have to look; it was for a class a while ago, and I don't have much memory of it -- just that I wanted to read more by him. Maybe Dona Flor?

84arubabookwoman
Jan 22, 2017, 6:34pm Top

I've read Dona Flor, Gabriela Clove and Cinnamon and The Violent Land, and have a couple of others on the shelf. However, the one I've been wanting to read, but have been unable to find is Tent of Miracles, so lucky you!

85charl08
Edited: Jan 23, 2017, 2:42pm Top

I tried Dona Flor and got nowhere. Maybe I'll look for a short one by the author - your review sounds tempting, though.

86Berly
Jan 23, 2017, 1:47am Top

>81 ursula: I know! This tournament is crazy! Both #1 seeds knocked out before the quarter finals and the #2 mens. I didn't get any reading done this weekend because I was watching all the recordings of the matches.

87ursula
Jan 23, 2017, 9:12am Top

>83 BLBera: Sounds likely. I think that is his most popular book? (I'm obviously no expert.)

>84 arubabookwoman: There are a few benefits to the local library having most of its collection originating between the '50s and the '70s, haha.

>85 charl08: This one is not a short one. I feel like I learned a lot about Brazil - if not in strict history, at least I practically feel like I visited the country.

>86 Berly: And I love it, since I'm no fan of the top 2 men. I saw Kerber went the same day as Murray - must have been something in the water. We're creeping toward the possibility of a Federer-Nadal final, which everyone seems to want, whether or not they complained they were sick of seeing those two play each other. I'm conflicted, because I like a few of the other remaining players. At the same time, I have to admit no matter what happens from here on out, it's made of win for me.

88LovingLit
Jan 24, 2017, 5:32pm Top

>47 ursula: wow, I relly want to read this now. I'm going to see if the library has it right now :)

89ursula
Jan 25, 2017, 4:09am Top

>88 LovingLit: It's a quick one, that's for sure.

90ursula
Jan 25, 2017, 4:11am Top

Tennis makes me do ridiculous things like set my alarm for 3:30 AM. So here I am, at 4:09, watching Nadal vs. Raonic. And I don't even consider myself a sports fanatic. :)

91BLBera
Jan 25, 2017, 2:10pm Top

Wow, Ursula. I wish I had watched it; I have a snow day today, so could have taken a nap this afternoon.

92ursula
Jan 25, 2017, 3:26pm Top

>91 BLBera: It was a good one. Closer than the scoreline would suggest. Raonic played very well, but Nadal was not giving him anything at all. In the second set, Raonic had 6 (!) set points but could convert. And from that point on, there was obviously no stopping the Nadal steamroller. But Milos played so well and didn't make a lot of mental mistakes. He's so close to breaking through.

I was frustrated by the chair umpire, however. She gave Nadal a heads-up about the time he was taking between points (not an official warning), which I thought was nice ... until she gave him an official warning - on set point in the first set, I believe. Which is frustrating enough, but the commentators were saying that Nadal was averaging 27 seconds between points, while Raonic was averaging 24. They're both over the limit, so warn them both! Not a single thing was said to Raonic. I really hate the enforcement of that rule.

And yeah, it's nice when you can nap after screwing up your sleep schedule. I slept from 12:30 to 3:30 and then from 7 to 10:30. Not too terrible, although I wouldn't want to do it every day!

93Berly
Jan 26, 2017, 1:52am Top

>92 ursula: Not reading...haven't watched yet. No time today. Hoping to watch tomorrow. Saw Venus and she looked good!!

94ursula
Jan 26, 2017, 4:23am Top

Went to bed last night at 9:30, up at 3:45 to watch Federer-Wawrinka. There may be a nap in my future. :)

I don't think I managed to pick up a book yesterday, except to check a couple out at the library!

95Crazymamie
Jan 28, 2017, 9:23am Top

>92 ursula: Totally agree with your comments on the enforcement of that rule, Ursula.

Hoping that your weekend is full of fabulous! And napping.

96ursula
Jan 28, 2017, 10:01am Top

>95 Crazymamie: Uneven enforcement is bound to happen in all sports, but wow, you can at least make an effort. :)

Thanks for your wishes! Last night I actually slept when I was supposed to, but tonight will be back to the 9:30-3:30 schedule to catch the men's final.

97ursula
Jan 28, 2017, 10:03am Top

Oh hey, I forgot to mention this here .... February is InCoWriMo, aka International Correspondence Writing Month. So you write a postcard, letter, note, whatever, per day and mail it out to someone. Or you can leave them somewhere for a loved one, or a stranger. There are all kinds of options for what you can do, really - you can use it to write a letter a day to someone in the government, or use some of the days for that at least - whatever you want.

But anyhow, I will send you something handwritten in the mail if you want. I still have some slots to fill for the month, so if you send me a message with your address, I will send you some sort of correspondence in the month of February.

98BLBera
Jan 28, 2017, 1:53pm Top

>92 ursula: I hate that rule. And you're right; it is so unevenly enforced that they should scrap it, or change it to 25 or 30 seconds, long enough that if someone is violating it, it really is obvious.

I loved the all Williams final, and am cheering for Rafa tonight. I doubt I'll be up at 2 am however.

I would love a note from you, Ursula.

99ursula
Edited: Jan 28, 2017, 3:14pm Top

>98 BLBera: It's absurd; most of the time people complain that the rules aren't applied to the top players as stringently as to the rest but in this case it's almost the reverse - it only applies to Rafa, or occasionally Djokovic. For fun, I timed some of the points in the Nadal/Dimitrov match. Rafa did indeed take about 24-27 seconds usually. Dimitrov was all over the map, between 18 and 28 seconds, but he was usually at least a few seconds over the limit. But of course nothing was said to him, and Pascal Maria gave Rafa a violation just as he started his serving motion on a break point.

I got your message with your address and added you to my list!

-------

Any other takers out there? The offer is open to anywhere in the world!

100charl08
Jan 28, 2017, 4:25pm Top

What a lovely idea. I do miss postcards. Yes please!

101ursula
Jan 28, 2017, 6:10pm Top

>100 charl08: Just drop me a message with your address and I'll send you something!

102Crazymamie
Jan 28, 2017, 6:33pm Top

Me, too, please. What a great idea - I think I might do it myself.

103ursula
Jan 28, 2017, 8:09pm Top

>102 Crazymamie: Got your message, you're in! :)

It's a really fun idea, and I'm getting a good list of people to write to. It's a good excuse to send something to the kids, to write a note to Morgan, to write to some other folks I normally communicate with via internet, etc. And I'm considering whether I want to/can fit in a couple of notes to be left in public for strangers to find.

104ursula
Jan 29, 2017, 5:27pm Top

>100 charl08: I got your address, thanks! You're on the list for sometime in February! :)

Well, I've finished 3 books and need to write some thoughts on them. February is going to be a busy month with a couple of other projects in addition to InCoWriMo, so I'm glad January has been a pretty productive reading month.

105ursula
Jan 29, 2017, 10:35pm Top



Half of Man Is Woman

Set in the boonies of China during the Cultural Revolution (which is where Zhang spent a good portion of his time as well), the book is about what happens to people under a regime like that. Not just the hard labor, and the loss of family ties, but the loss of self. The main character (who is also named Zhang, although the character's first name is Yonglin) is a poet and therefore condemned as an intellectual, and the novel describes his utter inability to interpret the world anymore - bad enough for any human being, but with an extra layer of trouble for a writer. It's a result not only of being imprisoned and isolated, fed propaganda day in and day out, but also of the constantly shifting priorities of the changing power dynamics in the country. In a very short time, up can become down and right can become wrong. You inform on a neighbor to get yourself out of trouble, but in a few months you are being condemned for having informed because the sands have shifted again.

Zhang sees a naked woman bathing one day and is instantly in some sort of love with her. After that brief glimpse of her, he doesn't see her again for years. When they meet, they begin a relationship, although things are not idyllic. Zhang the author uses Zhang the character's impotence and inability to understand love and relationships to illustrate the destruction of the self under conditions like that, and to contemplate what remains of humanity when you've forgotten what it means to be human on even the most basic levels.

I don't know that it's a great book, really, but I've definitely been thinking about it since finishing it. I found the woman, Huang Xiangjiu, hard to relate to - but whether that is because of a limited portrayal or because she is also stunted like Zhang but seen by the reader without the benefit of an interior monologue is unclear.

106katiekrug
Jan 30, 2017, 2:41pm Top

Just catching up here, Ursula! I love the writing initiative. I'll PM you my address on the off chance you have any more openings!

107ursula
Jan 30, 2017, 5:24pm Top

>106 katiekrug: Not too late! I'll just boot some other loser (not from LT) off the list!

I'm kidding, mostly. I think I can squeeze in a couple of extras. Of course I think that now, but we'll see how I feel about it around Feb. 20th. :)

108katiekrug
Jan 30, 2017, 9:01pm Top

Ha! Fair enough. I won't hold it against you if you tire of the whole endeavor before you get to me :-)

109ursula
Jan 30, 2017, 9:59pm Top

>108 katiekrug: Oh, I wasn't saying I'd bump you! Everyone I actually know gets priority - it's just that I've been finding all sorts of fascinating people I'd like to write to, and I imagine that in a few weeks' time, some of them are going to start to look a lot less fascinating as I contemplate how much I can actually write and mail.

----------

Anyway, on the topic of fascinating things to do with letters, I wanted to point out this site, The World Needs More Love Letters. I'm linking directly to their page for letter requests - basically, someone nominates another person or family who needs some positive vibes - they tell their story and people send letters for them to a central location, and then the whole bundle is delivered to them. It's a great idea, and I can imagine what a terrific feeling it is for those people to receive these letters from total strangers.

110BLBera
Jan 30, 2017, 10:21pm Top

>109 ursula: I love it.

111ursula
Jan 31, 2017, 9:15am Top



The Country of Ice Cream Star

This is a post-apocalyptic novel set in the eastern United States. It seems to be disease again that has wiped out most of the population, and those who remain don't live to be much past 18, because that's when they fall sick with the posies, a disease that will be fatal in a short amount of time. The main character is Ice Cream Fifteen Star, who belongs to the Sengles who live in Massa woods and are somewhat allied with the Christings against the Armies. And that should give you just a bit of a feel for how this book reads. It's in an invented version of English, and you'll have to figure it out and fall into its rhythm to get into the book. But when you do, it has the effect of fully immersing you. Ice Cream and a couple of her other Sengles find a Roo, a white man (they've never seen one) who appears to be in his thirties (well past the age when anyone should be dead), and although he should be the enemy, they aren't entirely sure what to do with him because he is such an anomaly. He quickly learns to speak to the Sengles in their language and starts teaching them Rooish as well. Should they listen to what he tells them?

This is a long book (almost 600 pages), and the world is fully realized, so there are a lot of characters, a lot of actions that happen, a lot of changes of scenery. It's richly imagined and the language never lets you down. In the acknowledgements, the author says that someone helped her cut it down from the original 900 pages, which is good - but the bad is that I found the ending very abrupt. It was almost as if the editing help said, "Hey, you can just stop here." That's my biggest complaint, with the second being that it probably still could have been a little bit shorter. But it's worth reading if you are willing to be patient with the language.

I haven't read A Clockwork Orange, but this actually gives me hope that I'll be able to get through it. I've always been nervous about dealing with the language it's written in.

112BLBera
Jan 31, 2017, 12:43pm Top

I've been wondering about this one, Ursula. Onto the list it goes.

113ursula
Jan 31, 2017, 2:49pm Top

>110 BLBera: I'm going to try to work in at least one letter for that site sometime in February. The batch that's currently up needs to be postmarked by the 11th.

>112 BLBera: It wasn't entirely successful for me, although like I said, the problem was at the end. But it was definitely an experience of giving myself up completely to a different world, and never touching the ends of it.

Here's an excerpt to give an idea of the writing:

"I be the only living Sengle ever seen a roo. Sure they ain’t trouble Massa woods for years until this day. Only jones children, of thirteen and more, still known this fear.

It been a month before, by Tember when the summer still prolong. This night, I gone sleeping at the library, alone except my mare and hound. I like to be alone from Sengles, and I like to take my pony and my hound indoors. Be sweet in separateness to feel their faith. Driver give me talk about this habit – he say I be unmanageable since I got a horse. This saying true, but he ain’t recognize that I be better so.

The library a prettieuse and cleanish edifice. Been a place for books in sleeper times, but now the books is gone. "

114BLBera
Jan 31, 2017, 6:31pm Top

From that example, Ursula, it looks like something one really has to immerse oneself in. Otherwise, the language would be impossible. So, I guess it won't be a candidate for use in a class. Still, it looks interesting.

115arubabookwoman
Jan 31, 2017, 10:15pm Top

After reading your review of The Country of Ice Cream Star, I clicked on it to Amazon to read more, and lo and behold it is now on sale for Kindle at $1.99. So I bought it. Thanks (I think). :-)

116katiekrug
Feb 1, 2017, 1:53pm Top

>111 ursula: - Good review, Ursula. I picked this one up on Amazon a few days ago...

117ursula
Feb 1, 2017, 7:44pm Top

I've started reading A Bend in the River, which is on the 1001 Books list, and I knew that Naipaul had a reputation for racism (and misogyny, and I believe the list goes on), but wow. I am only on page 30 and I don't know if I will make it through this.

It takes place in Africa, told by an Indian man whose family has been living in eastern Africa for generations.

"The slavery of the east coast was not like the slavery of the west coast. No one was shipped off to plantations. Most of the people who left our coast went to Arabian homes as domestic servants. Some became members of the family they had joined; a few became powerful in their own right. To an African, a child of the forest, who had marched down hundreds of miles from the interior and was far from his village and tribe, the protection of a foreign family was preferable to being alone among strange and unfriendly Africans. This was one reason why the trade went on long after it had been outlawed by the European powers.... This was also the reason why a secret slavery continued on the coast until the other day. The slaves, or the people who might be considered slaves, wanted to remain as they were."

"One of the boys or young men from the servant houses wanted to get as far away from the coast as possible, and he had been firm about being sent "to stay with Salim." ... he had made such a fuss that they had decided to send him to me. I could imagine the scene. I could imagine the screaming and the stamping and the sulking. That was how the servants got their way in our house; they could be worse than children."

"I was worried about the neighbours, and trying to get him to tone down the screaming, trying to get him to understand that that kind of showing-off slave behaviour (which it partly was) was all right on the coast, but that people here wouldn't understand."

And this is 1970s Africa, not turn of the 20th century Heart of Darkness Africa.

118ursula
Feb 1, 2017, 7:46pm Top

>114 BLBera: Yes, it's not one to really pick up and put down in short bursts. I could imagine giving an extended excerpt, but it would entirely depend on what you wanted to talk about with the class!

>115 arubabookwoman: Well, it's certainly an experience. And $1.99 isn't bad to give it a whirl, I think. (hopefully!)

>116 katiekrug: Thanks! I'll be curious to see what anyone else who reads it has to say.

119ursula
Feb 1, 2017, 9:24pm Top

Okay, let's talk about January, shall we?

Here's my "books read" layout in my bullet journal, currently with only my January books:



In January, I read 12 books.
My reading was split 50% fiction and 50% nonfiction
Written by 9 men and 3 women
I read 7 paper books, 2 Kindle books, and 3 audio books
It added up to 2876 pages and 23 hours, 9 minutes of listening time.

My favorite reads of the month were both nonfiction: Wave and March, Book Three
My least favorites were His Bloody Project and There Goes Gravity.

All in all, a good start to the year!

120BLBera
Feb 1, 2017, 10:19pm Top

I love the journal, Ursula - you are so talented.

121rosalita
Feb 2, 2017, 6:44am Top

>119 ursula: Gorgeous!

122charl08
Feb 2, 2017, 3:49pm Top

I love your bookshelf diary Ursula. I don't have an artistic bone in my body, otherwise I'd copy it!

123LovingLit
Feb 2, 2017, 4:39pm Top

>66 ursula: this is why I try not to abandon books, that idea that there might be a wee something in there for me.

>117 ursula: I have that on my WL, might be good to read it knowing his issues beforehand. I might not be able to otherwise!

>119 ursula: are you drawing all these in yourself??! it is gorgeous. Now you have me coveting your artwork and considering a poster myself!

124katiekrug
Feb 2, 2017, 10:58pm Top

>119 ursula: - oh, that's lovely!

125Caroline_McElwee
Feb 5, 2017, 6:00pm Top

Lovely journal Ursula.

126lunacat
Feb 5, 2017, 10:12pm Top

>119 ursula: Wow, that book page is truly amazing. I wish I had any kind of skills for things like that. Can't wait to see it with more books on the shelves too :).

127banjo123
Feb 6, 2017, 12:55am Top

Love your 'Books Read" journal!

128ursula
Feb 6, 2017, 7:03am Top

>120 BLBera:, >121 rosalita:, >122 charl08: Thank you all so much! It's fun getting to have a visual record.

>123 LovingLit: I go back and forth on how terrible I am at abandoning books. The merely mediocre is likely to get finished, especially on audio.

I am continuing slowly through A Bend in the River, but unenthusiastically.

And yes, that's my drawing! It would be fun to do a big one, maybe just with the better books over the years, but how to choose? Maybe I'd do all of them after all. Hm.

129ursula
Feb 6, 2017, 7:04am Top

>125 Caroline_McElwee:, >127 banjo123: Thank you!

>126 lunacat: I'm looking forward to filling it up, too. I'm not sure if I'll have room for other "stuff" on the shelves or not. I feel like I'll have to get a little farther into the year to decide.

130ursula
Feb 6, 2017, 7:07am Top

Well, I've been absent here, sorry about that!

As I said above, I'm participating in InCoWriMo this month, and it's taking a good chunk of my time. Particularly because I was surprised to fill almost the entire month with people I know or "know" - I didn't expect anyone to be interested in receiving mail, let alone over 20 people! And then I also wanted to write to some strangers who sounded interesting on the site, so I've been doing two pieces of mail each day so far.

Plus, Morgan was out of town for the first few days of the month so that meant I was extra busy around here.

And I realize I haven't posted any photos at all, when they're usually a fixture on my thread. I'll get it together, I promise. ;)

131LovingLit
Feb 9, 2017, 12:10am Top

Can you tell me what InCoWriMo is?
I only know NaNoWriMo......I'm thinking it is a writing month :)

132sirfurboy
Feb 9, 2017, 5:07am Top

>131 LovingLit: I was wondering that too!

Google told me it is "International Correspondence Writing Month" but I would love to hear more about what that involves.

133ursula
Feb 9, 2017, 7:40am Top

>131 LovingLit:, >132 sirfurboy: I don't think I can explain it better than I did above, so I'll just paste that: "February is InCoWriMo, aka International Correspondence Writing Month. So you write a postcard, letter, note, whatever, per day and mail it out to someone. Or you can leave them somewhere for a loved one, or a stranger. There are all kinds of options for what you can do, really - you can use it to write a letter a day to someone in the government, or use some of the days for that at least - whatever you want."

134sirfurboy
Feb 9, 2017, 9:21am Top

Sounds like a great idea, and sorry for missing that above. Thanks.

135ursula
Feb 9, 2017, 5:21pm Top

>134 sirfurboy: No worries, I realized that could have come across short/snarky. It wasn't meant that way, just honestly didn't think I could reword it better. :)

It's been fun so far - I'm doing 2 a day because I have so many people to write to.

136sibyx
Feb 10, 2017, 8:40am Top

Catching up. I'm so glad you stopped at my thread!

It is indeed helpful to be frank about what we read -- the only time I find it a bit nervous-making is when everyone else LOVES a book and I don't at all.

The Amado is something I need to read.

137ursula
Feb 10, 2017, 9:41am Top

>136 sibyx: It's so easy to get lost in the threads ... I haven't been posting much though, still have a backlog of updates to give. *sigh*

I know what you mean - I often read reviews after the fact and see if I'm just a big dummy who missed the whole point. :) And that happens occasionally, but usually I just don't love the thing that other people did.

I'm excited to read more Amado, but judging by my usual patterns, it'll take me years to read another.

138ursula
Feb 10, 2017, 9:43am Top

Here is the latest reason I've put down A Bend in the River yet again.

He's talking about getting a cup of coffee at a hotel in the town. "It was a tiny old man who served me. And I thought, not for the first time, that in colonial days the hotel boys had been chosen for their small size, and the ease with which they could be manhandled. That was no doubt why the region had provided so many slaves in the old days: slave peoples are physically wretched, half-men in everything except in their capacity to breed the next generation."

139Berly
Feb 10, 2017, 12:24pm Top

Ursula--Thanks for piping up with the computer how-to stuff on my thread. You da best!!!

140LovingLit
Feb 12, 2017, 6:59pm Top

>133 ursula: oh, cool! I am actually a letter writer already. But not a daily one!! I write regular letters to one particular friend in the UK, a person who me and a friend picked up as a hitch hiker over 20 years ago and became fiends with. We both admire the slow, to-and-fro nature of that form of correspondence.

141charl08
Feb 13, 2017, 2:58am Top

I started a message about Naipaul, got very convoluted and then gave up. I am following your reading comments though. I'm not sure why he's seen as so great. If that isn't sacrilegious?

Hope the letter writing is going well.

142ursula
Feb 13, 2017, 8:04am Top

>139 Berly: No problem - it's all stuff I hardly use anymore but I do know it, kind of like that dormant high school Spanish. (Or at least like that dormant Spanish until the Italian came and pushed it all out.)

>140 LovingLit: I don't think I've actually written a letter since I was in college. I like doing it, but it always seems like such a pain to try to find penpals. This makes it easy - you can write to people and they can write back, and there's not really a whole lot of pressure if it turns out not to be a match since there are so many letters going back and forth between so many people.

>141 charl08: I am really having a hard time with this. I had resolved to return it to the library unread, and then I went ahead and renewed it to make another attack on it. Maybe I can get through it figuratively holding my nose. I am also, at this point, wondering what is so great because there is a lot that is less-than-great (and I'm only on page 30 or something).

143ursula
Feb 13, 2017, 12:55pm Top

Okay, I'm giving up on the idea that I will feel like writing "real" thoughts about books anytime in the immediate future and I'll just throw a few lines out there.



March, Book Three

You know this series is great. Read it. This is probably the best book of the three, which is a great way to end it.



A Long Way Home

The basis for the movie Lion. A 5-year-old Indian boy gets lost on a train, ends up in Calcutta, and ultimately in an orphanage and adopted by an Australian family. He eventually tracks down his hometown and his family using Google Earth. The verdict: he spends a lot of time going over and over the minimal memories he has, which is understandable but a little boring. Then he spends a lot of time staring at Google Earth, which is exactly as exciting as you think it is. It's a story that's maybe better condensed down into a 2-hour movie.

144BLBera
Feb 13, 2017, 9:00pm Top

Great comments, Ursula. I agree, Book Three was the best of the three.

I'll wait for the movie.

145ursula
Feb 14, 2017, 7:33am Top

>144 BLBera: I am actually somewhat interested in the movie because it has Dev Patel (from Slumdog Millionaire) in the lead role. I like him, and I have heard him speak about how hard it is to find roles that aren't the typical ones (tech genius, terrorist ....), so he was happy about this one.

146ursula
Feb 14, 2017, 7:36am Top



When Breath Becomes Air

I forgot I listened to this one, which kind of sums it up.

I know there was a lot of love for this book, and the meaningfulness of life when it's going to be cut short, but I am apparently impervious. He seemed like a typical neurosurgeon with a God complex who, when he was struck with lung cancer, realized he wasn't going to be able to do All the Things and Save the World. Which sounds okay, but I don't know that his transformation was really that earth-shattering. Or maybe, because I feel like a jerk judging his level of pain and repentance and understanding, I'll just say that it didn't come through for me.

147rosalita
Feb 14, 2017, 9:35am Top

>146 ursula: I appreciate your honesty, Ursula! I heard an interview on NPR with his wife and it was moving, but I'm not really interested in the book. I think I would have a similar reaction to yours.

148ursula
Feb 14, 2017, 2:35pm Top

>147 rosalita: The wife wrote a chapter at the end, which was pretty good. But I think that more personal stuff would have made the story better. He mentions that they were having marital problems when he was finishing his residency, but really only mentions it. Then at the end she's talking about how everyone who knows them will be surprised to hear about that, but she's glad he wrote about it ... glad he wrote a sentence? I don't know. I guess I would have wanted to hear more about that - what it's like when you are having trouble because he is obsessed with his career and it of course takes a lot of time (I don't want undertrained neurosurgeons!), and then he's diagnosed with something terminal. It's great to decide to stay with him, and in fact to then have a child you'll have to raise alone, but I'd like to know more.

If you think someone is too self-centered and then your life turns into being centered around them because of a disease ... how does that feel? I'm not advocating leaving a terminally ill person, necessarily, and I'm not saying that it's his fault he's got a disease and is now self-centered for other reasons ... I just assume there must be some complicated feelings around all of that. And I get that it's his book, not hers, but he doesn't seem to have given a whole lot of thought to it, except around the idea of having a child. I could have tuned out the times he worried about her getting any time to herself, about her dealing with being pregnant and taking care of a chemotherapy patient, about her own medical career being wherever it was left during all of this, but I don't remember it.

149Caroline_McElwee
Feb 14, 2017, 2:40pm Top

>146 ursula: I did like this book Ursula, but not as much as some people did, and maybe for some of the reasons you mention (I read it last year, so I've forgotten more than the sensation of mild disappointment). It is one that is wavering on the pile for letting go. That said I did give it a 4*.

150BLBera
Feb 15, 2017, 11:45am Top

Great comments on When Breathe Becomes Air, Ursula. Having met several neurosurgeons, I understand your comments, and think I will pass on this.

151Berly
Feb 15, 2017, 11:36pm Top

>146 ursula: >148 ursula: A deep hmmmmmm.....maybe yes, maybe no.....

152ursula
Feb 16, 2017, 8:12am Top

>149 Caroline_McElwee: I get that too, where sometimes my lingering memories of a book don't seem to agree with the star rating I gave it. I can't always remember what caused the disconnect, oh well.

>150 BLBera: Yeah, they seem to be a breed apart. Surgeons in general, but those in particular.

>151 Berly: I can honestly say I have no idea how someone else would react to that one. I am no kind of predictor for other people's experiences. :)

153ursula
Feb 16, 2017, 8:26am Top



Year of Wonders
This starts off as a great story of a village in England during the plague year of 1666. When people start to die, the village rector suggests quarantining themselves until the results of the disease play themselves out. The story is told by a woman who has Patient Zero as a lodger in her household. This part is pretty great - the narrator's voice is strong and believable and the practicalities of dealing with the disease while isolated from everyone else as handled well. Then I felt like things sort of started to get a little melodramatic when events in the village get weirder and weirder - I don't doubt that isolation and being surrounded by death can do strange things to some people, but it was all a little excessive. It was like trying to fit the best stories from the era into a village of 200 people; it just makes it seem vaguely ridiculous.

And then came the last 30 pages or so, in which things just got downright stupid. It was like you started reading an entirely different novel all of a sudden, or the script for a medieval soap opera. I understand the plot needs that were driving Brooks in a certain direction, but how she chose to get there was just completely ridiculous. On the plus side, the ridiculousness comes at the end, so you get to experience the good stuff that would have gone unread if the book had started out as badly as it ends.

154katiekrug
Feb 16, 2017, 10:19am Top

I really like your comments on When Breath Becomes Air. I expect I'd have a similar reaction, so I will keep it on the Not Interested list.

I read Year of Wonders ages ago and remember liking it, but have no recollection of specifics...

155streamsong
Feb 16, 2017, 10:39am Top

Good morning, Ursula!

Great reviews! I just finished March: Book Three, too and agree it needs to read.

Thanks for the review on A Long Way Home. I 'll skip the book, but I am also interested in the movie, since I enjoy Dev Patel, and I've just added to The Man Who Knew Infinity to the Queue.

How's the winter going? I added a video to my thread which may give you a laugh.



156ursula
Edited: Feb 16, 2017, 11:30am Top

>154 katiekrug: Well, if you recognize any part of yourself in my reactions, I'd say you can safely skip it. :).

I liked her People of the Book. I am not surprised to see that this is her first book. The spiral at the end seems a little like she thought that she might not get to write another one so she was going to throw all her ideas in there. It's just too much for 30 pages, and also relies heavily on dumb, dumb circumstances and coincidences.

>155 streamsong: I like Dev Patel, but movies about anything related to math are pretty much verboten around here. I can't think of any subject my husband would rather watch less. People used to give him books about math, but I think at this point they've learned he has no interest.

I'll go check out the video. :)

157BLBera
Feb 16, 2017, 2:59pm Top

Great comments on Year of Wonders, Ursula. For years, I've been wondering what she was thinking with the ending. I'm glad I'm not the only one. It lost at least a star because of that.

158rosalita
Feb 16, 2017, 9:37pm Top

>153 ursula: I agree with your review, Ursula, although I will say that I liked the book very much when I read it and those positive feelings have stuck with me over the years while the ridiculousness of the ending has not. I'm not sure if that says more about me or the book (probably me).

159charl08
Feb 17, 2017, 2:30am Top

I need to reread Year of Wonders. I don't remember the ending at all!

160ursula
Feb 17, 2017, 7:35am Top

>157 BLBera: It's a real head-scratcher, isn't it? But I guess this is just an example of how authors hopefully mature over the course of their novels.

>158 rosalita:, >159 charl08: If you don't remember the ending, best to leave it that way!

161ursula
Feb 17, 2017, 7:37am Top

So I figured I'd share a video I took out one of our windows of the snow-clearing operations for our sidewalk. Usually they use a driveable plow/snow blower, but it's a small one. After the last storm, they had to bring out the heavy equipment. (And yes, that mountain of snow is our front yard.)

Here's the video.

162rosalita
Feb 17, 2017, 7:44am Top

>160 ursula: I do remember the ending; what I meant to say was that when I think about that book, the first thing that comes to mind are positive feelings about the overall book and only secondarily if at all the goofy ending.

>161 ursula: That is a lot of snow! Who is it doing the clearing — is it the city, or your landlords, or someone else?

163ursula
Feb 17, 2017, 7:48am Top

>162 rosalita: Ah, I see.

It's the city. Very, very few homeowners clear their sidewalks. And the city does it .... erratically, at best. So what that means is that many, many days there simply aren't any sidewalks. We live on the main east-west street in the town - the one that leads to the university, in fact. And we are right next to the university. But the sidewalks are completely non-existent for weeks at a time, or are very difficult to traverse (6-12 inches of snow in varying conditions on them).

Even after that thing went through, it left about 4 inches of snow on the sidewalks, which were in heavy tire tracks and then people's footprints, and then froze into an uneven, treacherous disaster. That is typical.

164Berly
Feb 17, 2017, 9:39am Top

>161 ursula: That IS truly a mountain of snow! Wow. I used to live in a cul-de-sac which had an island of grass in the center and in the winter, all the snow got heaped there. We used to make the best snow fort, with tunnels and everything. I bed you could have some fun with that pile!!

165ursula
Feb 17, 2017, 12:24pm Top

>164 Berly: We have an equally large one in the back yard. We could probably build a snow city.

166BLBera
Feb 17, 2017, 3:11pm Top

That is a S-$#load of snow, Ursula. Snow fort! Snow fort!

167Caroline_McElwee
Feb 17, 2017, 3:38pm Top

>153 ursula: >157 BLBera: oh no, disappointing endings... Hate em.

168drneutron
Feb 17, 2017, 7:05pm Top

We could have a 75er snowball battle to end all battles!

169streamsong
Feb 17, 2017, 9:24pm Top

It looks like your house is already in the middle of a snow fort! Any sign of melting?

170LovingLit
Feb 18, 2017, 3:53am Top

>143 ursula: I heard the guy interviewed on the radio whose life this book is about. It sounded fascinating, incredible, sad and not like the kind of movie I could see myself enjoying. Maybe its me being a mother of a 6 year old (I believe t=a similar age to the boy when he was lost), but it would break my heart.

171ffortsa
Feb 18, 2017, 4:16pm Top

>163 ursula: Impressive that the roadway was so pristine. Do you tend to walk in the street instead of the sidewalk? Or am I too much a city folk to realize you drive everywhere?

172ursula
Feb 18, 2017, 9:58pm Top

>166 BLBera: Indeed.

>167 Caroline_McElwee: Yeah ... there's something extra-specially bad when it's the ending that's screwed up. A bad beginning can be made up for, but an ending needs to be forgiven.

>168 drneutron: Sure could.

173ursula
Feb 18, 2017, 10:02pm Top

>169 streamsong: We had a melt last month, actually. I mean, not down to the ground, but a pretty good amount of what was built up melted. This is what has fallen on top of it in the last month.

>170 LovingLit: I never had those sorts of qualms, although I know a lot of parents do.

>171 ffortsa: It was the one day of the winter when the road was actually clear. Normally it's a compacted mess of ice and snow.

You're forced to walk in the street most of the time, yeah. Everyone else drives everywhere, but we don't have a car.

A few days ago we were walking on that street and met a university student coming the other direction, slogging his way through the 2 feet of snow on the sidewalk. He said "good luck with that, the cars weren't paying any attention to me when I tried walking on the street, so I'm up here now." Basically, it's miserable no matter what you choose.

174ursula
Feb 18, 2017, 10:39pm Top



The Unwinding

I've been meaning to get to writing my thoughts on this one for almost a week now. Not that I have a whole lot profound to say about it, but I do have a couple of personal notes to share. First off, I enjoyed reading this book, and I learned a lot. I think it really captured the factors that have created a large culture gap. I don't know that I can really elaborate on that coherently - just that if you have people telling you to do what has always worked, what worked for them ("work hard, get a job and keep it, your work will be rewarded") and simply not understanding that the rules of the game have changed; that the entire layout of the game board has changed - the level of frustration is almost unbearable. Doing what used to work doesn't help you get ahead, but no one seems to be able to tell you what will help, and you're just a victim waiting to happen, whether you end up the victim of bad luck, dying industries, or some sort of scheme. And yet you see the lucky ones getting ahead (way ahead) somehow ....

Now for the personal notes. First up, the trivial: I was surprised (but not that surprised) to see someone I've met come up in the sections about Peter Thiel. Packer mentions the guests at a couple of Thiel's gatherings, and the attendees included Patri Friedman. My ex-boyfriend knew him through poker playing and I met him a couple of times. The book talks about the communal house he had in Mountain View - I've been there! Anyway, that was sort of weird.

The other thing is more about the book itself, and particularly the parts about Youngstown and other dying areas. The upper peninsula of Michigan used to have a lot of mining jobs, and of course the rest of the state had a lot of factory jobs. The collapse of the employment market has lots of ramifications, and one of them just came up the other day my husband's department meeting. The university where he teaches is suffering from drastically dropping enrollment rates. Why? A couple of reasons: 1. Because many cities and towns in Michigan are seeing their populations dwindling rapidly - not just shrinking, but dropping down in stair-steps. Sault Ste. Marie itself has had a falling population since the 1970s, the first couple of decades it fell precipitously (by almost 20% and 5%), and since then it's been going down by between 1-2% every few years. 2. More kids are being encouraged to go to college, but they're not qualified for it. So the enrollment drops if the standards are kept the same. In the department meeting, this was part of the conversation: that the reality will be the university lowering the standards and teaching more and more remedial math classes in order to enroll enough students. They already currently have a frankly unbelievable percentage of students starting out in classes so low that they have to get through at least 2 classes to even start attending classes that actually count for college credit.

And then of course you have these kids coming out of college with a degree and what do they do then? Because again, the old belief that a degree guarantees you a job is just one more of those things that doesn't hold true anymore.

175BLBera
Feb 19, 2017, 11:27am Top

Great comments, Ursula. I will definitely read this. The remedial part speaks to me. As someone who teaches in a community college, we teach a lot of remedial classes. Retention is really poor; students get discouraged because it may take a year before they're ready for college classes, yet they're playing tuition, etc. We've been trying to streamline the process, but it is a difficult situation.

176ursula
Feb 20, 2017, 8:54am Top

>175 BLBera: I'd recommend it.

My husband taught at a community college for a while, too. The depressing part is when he's teaching the same classes at a 4-year university and the students are paying more tuition for the same results - semesters of classes that don't even count. But they're at such a ridiculously low level that they are having to take these classes multiple times before they can even think about taking college-level courses.

177ffortsa
Edited: Feb 22, 2017, 6:16pm Top

>174 ursula:

Doing what used to work doesn't help you get ahead, but no one seems to be able to tell you what will help

Great comments about The Unwinding. So many people, not just from the rust belt but kids graduating college, have no idea what direction to move in. It's heartbreaking.

178charl08
Feb 23, 2017, 5:45am Top

>174 ursula: Seeing someone or a place you know in books still calls me up short. The local town where I have been volunteering popped up in Grayson Perry's recent book about gender. Based on meeting one group of young men, he talks as if they are representative of the place. From the people I've met who are active in the community, they really aren't. I liked the book, and have tried not to completely discount it because of that (and I don't doubt that the young guys he met were as he described). But it did make me question my attitude to the rest of what he was saying. A nicer one was seeing a former colleague credited as a great editor in the acknowledgments of a recent novel. I felt smug by association, even though it was nothing to do with me!

179ursula
Feb 23, 2017, 9:23am Top

>177 ffortsa: As far as I can tell, no matter what "they" say, degrees that are supposed to be gold aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Like a Math PhD, for example. *sigh*

>178 charl08: Yeah, it was totally strange. I mean, Thiel is a weirdo and Patri is a weirdo (seasteading, anyone?) and the Valley is a small place but still, it surprised me. I can see how reading something like you described would make you question a lot of things, though perhaps it's not really fair. Misreading one situation means maybe he misread others? Or maybe not. :)

180ursula
Feb 25, 2017, 2:21pm Top

I have nothing of any real consequence to say, but I figured I'd put in an appearance anyway.

Tonight is the last hockey game of the season for the university. I am a bit sad. I've enjoyed the games, and am slowly learning the game better. Also, I have to be honest, I'll miss ogling the coach. My husband is the best, he puts up with me talking about Coach Hottie (and calls him that too, haha). Morgan knows I'd never leave him for someone older than he is, and Coach Hottie is *gasp* 39.

181ffortsa
Feb 25, 2017, 9:47pm Top

>180 ursula: but a hottie indeed.

182LovingLit
Feb 26, 2017, 1:42am Top

Well, that is not "nothing of any real consequence to say" at all :)

:)

:)

:)

183Berly
Feb 26, 2017, 3:34am Top

>180 ursula: Anytime you have an extra ticket, just let me know. : )

184ursula
Feb 26, 2017, 7:59am Top

>181 ffortsa:, >182 LovingLit:, >183 Berly: You all made me smile this morning! Glad I shared that, haha.

185sibyx
Feb 26, 2017, 10:40am Top

>153 ursula: How terrible for a book to go wrong in the last 30 pages!

Yes, your comments about The Unwinding are excellent. That's a book that I've read so much about I don't know if I will read it! It dovetails with my observations about life in Vermont too -- things are NOT GREAT here and most especially for the younger folk. Unless you have the chops to get into high level cyber work and the like, forget it.

186katiekrug
Feb 26, 2017, 1:25pm Top

>180 ursula: - He'd be worthy of inclusion in The Calendar, if only he wore a collar.

(That sounds kind of dirty...)

187PaulCranswick
Feb 26, 2017, 6:48pm Top

>182 LovingLit: Hahaha

Not got that much to add myself except that I hope your weekend was a good one, Ursula.

188ursula
Feb 27, 2017, 9:35am Top

>185 sibyx: It really is ... I guess I feel better about the experience if they go wrong earlier so at least I can blame myself for not putting it down!

As for the job situation, it's also a matter of what you want to do (and yeah, I know that what your degree is in/what you want to do with your life is not a reliable indicator of what you'll end up doing). My husband has wanted to do research and teach (preferably both, but realized that it might end up being 99% teaching and 1% researching on his own time) - and everyone will tell you there are a million jobs out there. And there are, except that they're mostly for adjuncts. The universities rely more and more on people who are getting paid next to nothing and who have no hope of any real benefits. Like a lot of industries, taking advantage of part-timers. And theoretically, his math PhD could get him into other industries like computers or banking, but there's a certain death of the soul involved in deciding you're literally just going to crunch numbers for a bank for the rest of your life. So we'll see.

It's the myth of "we need more people trained in math and science!" that kills me, because that's not really what they mean, and also because I'm not sure where you're getting them if you look at the level most math teachers are trained (inadequately) and that the administrations only want to hire the barely-qualified because they're cheapest.

Um, oops, rant over now.

189ursula
Feb 27, 2017, 9:37am Top

>186 katiekrug: That had not occurred to me, but now that you said it ...

>187 PaulCranswick: What, nothing to say on the topic of Coach Hottie? Well, I guess I'll forgive you. :)

Weekend is done and dusted and nothing disastrous happened, so that's a success!

190ursula
Feb 27, 2017, 9:38am Top

In book news, I am quite literally counting the pages until the end of A Bend in the River and I am burning with white-hot hatred for Naipaul. I am finishing it because 1. it's on the 1001 books list and 2. I want to fully know what I'm hating and 3. I want to be able to thoroughly understand what laudatory bullshit people had to say about this book.

191rosalita
Feb 27, 2017, 9:53am Top

>190 ursula: Well, I'm certainly going to be looking forward to that review, Ursula!

192sirfurboy
Feb 27, 2017, 10:17am Top

>174 ursula: Looks like an interesting book, and your comments about University standards is interesting too.

193charl08
Feb 27, 2017, 1:11pm Top

>188 ursula: I endorse this message.

>186 katiekrug: Glad I'm not the only one missing the calendar...

194BLBera
Feb 27, 2017, 6:58pm Top

>190 ursula: Can't wait for the review, Ursula.

All I can say is thank God for my teacher's union -- for however long it will still be around. Otherwise, we would be making less than a living wage and teaching 10 hours per day.

195ursula
Feb 27, 2017, 9:19pm Top

>191 rosalita: Ha, we'll see if I manage to do anything more than sputter incoherently after I finish.

>192 sirfurboy: I think The Unwinding is a very interesting book, and it's good to have so many people reading and commenting on it at approximately the same time. And as for the rest, I obviously have Opinions with a capital O about higher education. :)

>193 charl08: Thanks. :) I miss the calendar too! I just didn't find anything for this year that was anywhere near that level of ambiguous sex appeal. Like, everything is trying so hard to be sexy instead of trying so hard to pretend you're not supposed to be judging based on attractiveness.

>194 BLBera: See my comment to rosalita about the future review. ;)

When my husband was teaching at a community college, I couldn't decide if it broke my heart or infuriated me (can it do both at the same time?) that some other teacher was so happy to get hired on full-time after adjuncting for 10 years. That is 10 years with no benefits, part-time income (I think he was one of the many who taught at more than one community college - think about how many hours that involves with class prep, teaching, office hours, bay area traffic....), no job security. And there were another couple dozen people behind him waiting for the next position to open up in a few years. Maybe.

196ursula
Edited: Feb 28, 2017, 6:56am Top



The Interestings

Six teenagers meet at a summer camp in New York in the early 1970s and become a tight group of friends (sort of) for the rest of their interminable lives.

There are a number of problems with this book. One is that the narrative is mostly tied to Jules, the awkward member of the group who feels like she doesn't quite fit in but somehow ends up being BFFs with Ash, who is the daughter of a rich family. Then there's Ethan, the unattractive but talented animator, who is in love with Jules but ends up married to Ash for reasons the reader will never understand. He also carries a torch for Jules for his entire life for reasons that are unfathomable. Also in the group is Jonah, son of a fading folk singer, whose main personality trait is that he's gay. And rounding it out are Cathi and Goodman, who need to be taken together because they have essentially no point except in relation to each other. Goodman is Ash's brother, who may or may not have raped Cathi on a date. Up to that point, what we know about these two is: Goodman is good looking and kind of a dolt. Cathi is pretty and wants to be a dancer, but she won't be able to be one because her boobs are too big.

After that point, what we know is: Goodman falls off the face of the earth to avoid a trial and everyone still loves him for some reason? Ash because he's her brother, Jules and Jonah because he's just so darn good looking that they're still talking about it 30 years later and Jules will actually blush at the thought of him. No, seriously. We also know: Cathi was traumatized and then went on and made good in her life. W.T.F. Why are we reading about these people? No one cares.

As for the rest of them, I didn't really care either. These people all behaved like characters in a novel. None of them were the least bit real. And the writing was just terrible. Within the last few pages of the book, after you've spent 460+ pages with these people and should know them like you know yourself, there is a brief scene in which Ash's (adult) daughter says something about how she (Ash) had been a bad mother. The next line reads: ""That isn't true,” said Ash, who'd been a tremendous mother to both of her children." Who the heck is telling us this? And why do we need a sentence to tell us that, we've had hundreds of pages in which we apparently couldn't have figured that out on our own. (It's true, we couldn't have. Jules says a couple of times that she thinks Ash is a good mother, but there's not much that we're actually shown that hints at it otherwise. She still loves her autistic son; I guess that's a tremendous mother.)

I kept reading it because it was a little like watching a soap opera - it just goes on and on and people enter and exit but nothing really changes. It wasn't that enjoyable, but it also wasn't mentally taxing.

Also, she maybe should be sued for false advertising for that title.

197BLBera
Feb 27, 2017, 11:42pm Top

I loved this book - but I think it speaks more, perhaps to the baby boomers; I saw my childhood in theirs.

198PaulCranswick
Feb 28, 2017, 12:37am Top

>187 PaulCranswick: Ha! Well jealousy prevented my commenting.

>190 ursula: Will look out for your review since you're so undecided! I loved A House for Mr. Biswas but absolutely loathed his book Guerrillas which was both pretentious and dull.

199katiekrug
Feb 28, 2017, 3:44pm Top

I've heard terrible things about Naipul as a person. I thinks he's some kind of super-misogynist. Regardless, I've never been interested in reading his work. But I cant wait to read your take-down of him!

I started The Interestings for a book club a few years ago and didn't make much progress with it. I kept my copy, though, because it seems like something I would like. But maybe not. I love your last line about false advertising :)

200ursula
Mar 1, 2017, 7:41am Top

>197 BLBera: Maybe, and I'm glad you enjoyed it. It's a shame if a book can't speak beyond eras, though.

>198 PaulCranswick: :) I was going to try to finish it last night but couldn't stomach it as bedtime reading so I'll probably finish it today.

>199 katiekrug: I read one interview with him and he came across as a pretty horrible person. I've heard the super-misogynist thing too. But oh, I was not quite prepared for this.

Obviously, I think anyone should give a chance to any book, but if The Interestings didn't grab you in the beginning, I don't think its grabbiness changes a lot over the course of the novel.

201rosalita
Edited: Mar 5, 2017, 9:39am Top

>196 ursula: That is a very fine book rant, Ursula! A nice warm-up for your upcoming dissection of Mr. Naipul. :-)

202Caroline_McElwee
Mar 1, 2017, 11:59am Top

:-)

203LovingLit
Mar 2, 2017, 1:49am Top

>190 ursula: well, you have me intrigued!!! And I want to read that boo one day too!

>196 ursula: I think I heard her talk at the readers and writers festival here a few years ago, she read out a snippet, and I listened as my sister had recommended the book to me. However, I took her recommendation with a grain of salt as we don't typically have the same taste. And I wasn't dying to read it after hearing the author talk either, so I ended up not reading it. It does have a pretty cover though!

204ursula
Mar 2, 2017, 9:01am Top

>201 rosalita: I'm done! I'll gather my thoughts and outrage and post something soon.

>202 Caroline_McElwee: Always nice to see you smiling around here!

>203 LovingLit: My advice re: Naipaul? Don't do it.

The Wolitzer does have a very pretty cover. It might be (a big) part of the reason I picked it up. The other reason is because my male-female ratio is all out of whack this year so far and I'm trying to pick up books by women when I go to the library. Which is harder than it might seem in our little library - the majority of books by women seem to be either romance or mystery so it's hard finding much that interests me.

205ursula
Mar 2, 2017, 9:15am Top

And with that, I'm moving on to the next thread. :)

This topic was continued by Ursula's Mobile Thread for 2017, Part 2.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2017

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