Saturday, January 28, 2012

We the Animals by Justin Torres

I read about this book here, and put it (among others) on hold at the library. This list could keep me reading all year. There are so many books!

But I read We the Animals, and loved it. It's one of those short tight little books with just so much in it.

Ugh. Okay, since finishing it, I've read a bunch of other stuff, so my impressions of it are fuzzy. But I loved it, read it fast, engrossed, and am excited to read more by Torres.

It's a book about family, about three boys and their dad and their mom:
A brass-handled mirror lay on the bureau, and as soon as Ma raised it to her face, tears came and sat on her eyelids, waiting to fall. Ma could hold tears on her eyelids longer than anyone; some days she walked around like that for hours, holding them there, not letting them drop. On those days she would trace her finger over the shapes of things or hold the telephone on her lap, silent, and you had to call her name three times before she'd give you her eyes.

And towards the end, one of the brothers--our main brother, the narrator--turns out to be different. His brothers "smelled my difference--my sharp, sad, pansy scent."

Also the brothers are halfies, with a white mom and a Puerto Rican dad.

I liked this book so much. I should've written about it right away.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Anne Fadiman

I just finished Anne Fadiman's essay collection, At Large and At Small. Lovely. So nice to read "familiar essays" on a wide range of topics, and whether you care about the subject or not before you start reading, she gets you so interested. I put a biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge on hold because of her. A specific biography, but yeah. And I want to read more Charles Lamb now because of her.

Essays about ice cream, being a night owl, Procrustes (I didn't know who he was either), mail, coffee, and a bunch more. Plus none of these essays are about just one thing.

She also published Ex Libris, another collection of essays, and she edited Rereadings, seventeen essays by different writers revisiting books they love. These are both great. The first book I read by her, and the book for which she is best known, is The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, a really important book about culture and communication, among other things. It's on my fifty favorite books list, and I hope to teach it at some point. I do think every American should read it, and lots of people who aren't. It's one of the best books I've ever read about people trying to communicate across difference, and how hard that can be, even when everyone wants the same thing--in this case, for a sick little girl to get better.

Yay 2012, reading good books.