On my nightstand:
Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. I will have to let you know about both in a future post.
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren – I saw the not so great 2006 film eons ago (note, the 1949 film won the Academy Award so probably more worth checking out). The book is infinitely better. Man can Warren write!! The novel justly won the Pulitzer Prize in 1947. It is rated as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century by Modern Library. Set in the 1930s South, it describes the dramatic rise to power, as state governor, of Willie Stark, aka Boss – one of the greatest characters of any modern day novel. Boss is loosely based on Louisiana Governor Huey Long.
Southern Provisions: The Creation and Revival of a Cuisine by David S. Shields – this book was wisely recommended to me by my friend Don Lindgren, owner of Rabelais Books in Biddeford, Maine. It is dense with information regarding America’s quintessential cuisine.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee – I placed an advance order for this book with one of my favorite independent bookstores in Maine. I feel good about supporting them, I don’t feel good about supporting the publisher and what I believe is elder abuse. Let’s set things straight. No way do I believe Harper Lee intended for this book to be published. She wrote it for herself and maybe at one point planned to publish it and did not and then the publisher swooped in told everyone she was on board – only for us to find out later (too late) Lee was deaf and blind at the time and her protective sister had passed = she was absolutely taken advantage of. Her first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is the treasure readers seek out and find but a handful of times in life. The book speaks to you if you let it if you know how. To Kill a Mockingbird means everything to me and Go Set a Watchman doesn’t really get going till about halfway through if at all. And yes, there is the racism. I will say this – Atticus Finch is found to be flawed, but I do not believe he is a racist so much as a victim of his geography and time. His story is very complicated and very simple and this post is not the place to delve into it – and frankly I don’t believe I have the right. That the great Finch could ever be seen as weak I think was too much for Lee. Please do NOT buy this book. Check it out of the library, borrow it from a friend. Do not support the publisher. Ms. Lee did not mean for it to be released. Show her and Mr. Finch some respect. Sadly the book will sit on my shelf a reminder of sad times and advantageous people with none of the vision or great character Lee had.
What about quality? Check out what reviewer B.D. McClay wrote “What about quality? Did Lee’s editor, Hohoff, cut down a work of great literary genius? No. Watchman is an undeniably bad book, structurally unsound, with no real plot and not even a real ending. It shows everywhere the signs of having been written by a person who thought primarily in short stories (as Lee had up until that point). It has long and awkwardly inserted digressions into childhood that are meant, I think, to provide its thinly sketched Maycomb County with some texture, but instead just feel dropped in from some other book.”
Light in August and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner – Absolute brilliance. Without a doubt, this Nobel Prize laureate from Mississippi, was one of the greatest American (not just Southern!) novelists ever. He turns storytelling on its head. He creates his own rules and let’s things happen – they pour out – the words – his words – sing. It is a wonderful thing to read Faulkner.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain – Yes, I finally read this classic novel about boyhood in 19th century rural South. Finally. Even after checking a copy out of the library it took two renewals before I finally sat down and read it in two days. The illustrations are a delight.
Sweetwater Creek by Anne Rivers Siddons – One of my first trips back to the library I picked up the three books Siddons had written in the last decade (about the time I stopped reading her books for no reason, having read and loved everything she’d written up to that point). I love this book. It reminds me of her early works. Emily Parmenter is the epitome of a strong Southern ARS gal and the South Carolina low country sparkles. It may be a bit of a formulaic coming-of-age story to some, but not I am guessing to any Southern belle.
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo – Inspired by the Chinese ghost stories she read as a child, Choo sets her novel in 19th-century Malacca, the British colony in what is now Malaysia. A beautiful young poor woman (cue Jane Austen) is asked by her opium-addicted father if she would like to become a ghost bride. Thus begins her adventure into a world of evil spirits and not-quite-human heroes. I so enjoyed this book I picked up a copy of Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, a collection of several hundred supernatural Chinese tales – some of which inspired Choo.
The Witching Hour (First in series of Mayfair Witches Saga) by Anne Rice – I almost listed this in the “bad” section, but the first half was really good – so… The nearly 1,000 page
novel tome spans several centuries and multiple generations in the lives of the New Orleans based Mayfair family. Each generation is cursed by a protective spirit. You’ve got enormous wealth, beautiful architecture, crazy people, the roaring Twenties, incest galore, sailing…. It’s a good summer beach or snowy winter read. Note, by the ending I was DONE. Definitely not reading the other two books.
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald – READ IT!!! Check out the NYT review here. All I am saying. A gift to readers.
Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy by Kathryn Miles – Well written! I found myself fascinated by weather folk and learning about Superstorm Sandy in a completely different way. Read it!!
Burnt Mountain and Off Season both novels by Anne Rivers Siddons – my favorite Southern novelist needs to put down the pen. The former I found unreadable and the latter I enjoyed all the way till the end. Trust me, just Google “ending of Off Season” for the rants. I have loved reading tales by Anne River Siddons since a stranger who knew just enough about me to know I would love Siddons gifted me her copy of Colony (a marriage of South Carolina’s Low Country and the coast of Maine), That this endowment happened while on a schooner sailing across Penobscot Bay in my young(est) adulthood only amplified my affection for Siddons writing. She has gifted us Southern gals with so many wonderful tales. I want her to walk away the extraordinarily classy woman she is before things get worse (as in these two novels).
Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin is an indulgent boorish read the NY Post calls a bunch of lies – and fyi I believe them for once. The publicist of this book calls her Dian Fossey (without actually knowing anything about her) and Martin thinks of herself as a Jane Goodall – AS IF! What I get for turning to In Style Magazine for my airy summer read.