Illuminated by my Reading Lamp


Some time has passed since writing about my reading…a couple of months.  Some great books and some ok books.

It was at my friend’s prompting that I picked up Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.  If you are expecting the same in the movie, you will be disappointed…quite a different story all together…less in the way of character development and a sort of collapsing of events to move the film along.  Kevin Spacey who is doing a tremendous job in House of Cards, was well suited for the part of Jim Williams.

As a result of reading the book, my dear friends, Mary and Pat, are at this time, down in Savannah, after Myrtle Beach, exploring the places and settings of this book.  I hesitate to refer to this one as a novel. In fact, the three of us had quite a discussion about the  genre, perched somewhere between travel journal, mystery, crime story and historical piece, it is both fascinating and haunting in places.

In the meantime, I am thoroughly enjoying Mary’s missives about this journey of friendship and the posting of photographs.  Magical, indeed!

I think I’ve written briefly about My Mother’s Ghost by Fergus M. Bordewich.  I read this one in November and relished it for a couple of months.  Do you ever luxuriate over a book?  This book was one that I very much needed at the time and not only in its complete honesty around the loss of a mother, but in its huge connection to First Nations in the United States.  I highly recommend this one.

Wally Lamb’s We Are Water was a quick read I include a brutal review here.  Yes, I agree. “In lieu of emotional complexity, Lamb offers disclosure.” I find that confessionals are becoming more and more popular. I still think Lamb offers up an interesting piece of writing.  I think that he uses a unique device when he writes each character’s personal point of view through the progression of the journey.  I also enjoy hearing Anna’s voice…I feel a tremendous RELEASE.  For me, the resolution feels familiar, yes, but still satisfying.  I would have to say that She’s Come Undone remains my favourite by this author.

Kim Echlin’s The Disappeared was excellent!  This is my kind of book.  And when I write that and I speed beyond the words, I wonder what my kind of book is.  Never mind.  This one just appeals to me.  In the past, I went goo goo over Elephant Winter.  I just think that Echlin writes with such profound honesty, that it would be impossible not to glean something special from her writing.  The reader receives the special gift of the intimacies of a situation and The Disappeared, set in Cambodia, was heart wrenching.

This book moved me to educate myself about what had actually happened during this dark period in history where the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot were concerned.

A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman by Joan Anderson was a light book, one that might have had unrealistic results.  If only things might end up so ideally for each of us.  I think that along the way, Anderson offers us fine advice for qualifying our own lives as women as valuable and important.  I enjoyed some of her daring experiences in order to find her way back to herself, after losing that in relationship and family.  Descriptions of swimming with seals and of hard work alongside fishermen were colourful…these I enjoyed.  However, having read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift of the Sea, this memoir can not compare.  While I think we can relate to the struggles, I think that the resulting euphoric conclusion in this particular account is not often the result of the search…the hard work…the change.

Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir edited by William Zinsser is fabulous! The authors include Russell Baker (Growing Up), Jill Ker Conway (The Road from Coorain), Annie Dillard (An American Childhood), Ian Frazier (Family), Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Colored People), Alfred Kazin (A Walker in the City), Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes), Toni Morrison (Beloved), and Eileen Simpson (Poets in their Youth) and their candid reflections on writing memoir are invaluable.  This is a must-read for anyone exploring the idea of memoir.  Most authors, while pretty consistently nervous about the idea or process, suggest to ‘begin’…just that, ‘begin’.

I treasure my reading time in the same way that I do my art and my writing.  Every book is a treasure in one way or another.

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