Thursday, January 31, 2013

Arcadia, by Lauren Groff

This is another book I put on hold at the library because it was on lots of end-of-year lists, talked up by writers I like. As has been my M.O. lately with the end-of-year lists book, I figured I'd get it from the library, look it over, and maybe read it.

I was totally engrossed from the moment I saw the cover, okay? I started reading and couldn't stop, finished it relatively quickly (though it turned out to be surprisingly dense going!), then put Groff's other two books on hold. Reading The Monsters of Templeton now, her first novel, and I'm not nearly as engrossed--but it does feel very first novel, maybe that's a lot of it. The other book, Delicate Edible Birds, is apparently a collection of stories connected to The Monsters of Templeton. We shall see. But she's a good writer, and I love her storytelling.

Arcadia is about a little boy who grows up in a commune in western New York, and the first part is his story told when he's five. Then it's his story when he's a young teenager, then it's his story after the commune falls apart, when he's older and living in NYC--it goes on from there. Bit, the boy, is a compelling main character, and his life is fascinating.

I've been feeling good about all the contemporary adult literature I've been reading. Good stuff.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Adoption (film)

I love the library for so many reasons, not least of which is the random movies I bring home off the shelf. Then, of course, I watch these random movies and have to return the ones I put on hold unwatched, because they have holds on them.

Tonight I watched Adoption, a Hungarian movie from 1975. Directed by Marta Meszaros, apparently an important and very prolific woman director, this was a great little movie, the story of a forty-three-year-old woman, Kata, who really wants a child, so decides she wants to bear her married lover's child.

There is another woman who is also central to the film--a girl (maybe 15 or 16) living in a local orphanage (state home?) who becomes close friends with Kata, moving in with her for a time.

I could tell the whole plot, or I could not. Anyway, that's a lot of it. I liked this movie so much. I'd suggest seeking it out.

The Suicide Index, by Joan Wickersham

I read another one of Wickersham's books recently--a great collection of stories, The News from Spain, that was on a bunch of the "best of the year" lists from 2012. I loved The News from Spain, and wanted to read more by her, but I didn't know if I could handle The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order, though it sounded fascinating. But I put it on hold at the library, and figured I'd see how I felt about it when I picked it up.

This is Wickersham's memoir about losing her dad to suicide, I think when she's in her late 20s (though I don't think she ever actually says). It's written broken up into segments as an index, with headings such as "Suicide: factors that may have had direct or indirect bearing on: expensive good time" and "Suicide: day after: concern that he will be viewed differently now."

I did read it all. I couldn't stop. & those of you who know me, know that my own father killed himself when I was 19.

A lot of what she said rang so true. A lot of it didn't. Our fathers were different people, and we had different relationships with them, of course... like one idea she keeps returning to, is that "Suicide destroys memory . . . When you kill yourself, you're killing every memory everyone has of you. You're taking yourself away permanently and removing all traces that you were ever here in the first place, wiping away every fingerprint you ever left on anything." I don't agree with this, it's not how I feel about my dad. It's interesting to me--one thing (out of many) that I've been annoyed about over the years is that I never got to have an adult relationship with my dad. Okay, no conclusion to draw there. Just stating it.

I read this book quickly, urgently, finding things I vehemently agreed with and vehemently disagreed with. With sympathy for Wickersham, sympathy for myself, for both our losses and the ways we're still feeling them.

I'm glad she wrote it. Glad I read it. It's not the book I'd write, but I'm glad she did.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Illusion, by Pierre Corneile, Freely Adapted by Tony Kushner

I checked this out of the library a long time ago. I don't remember why--if someone recommended it, or it might've just been because I'm a long time Tony Kushner fan. So maybe I just heard about it somewhere and that was enough. I used to read a lot of plays, and lately I've gone through phases, especially of Anne Carson's translations. This is absolutely the kind of play I would've read in high school or college--maybe I even did read it at some point, though not this translation, which, according to the acknowledgements, "contains many scenes and many speeches which do not appear in the French original." Which confuses me--how is it the same play, then?

But I read it yesterday, and loved it. Nice to read a play again. And it's a great story--it would be fun to see a production of this.

Monstress, by Lysley Tenorio

I put too many books on hold that were on end-of-year lists. But I'm loving them. I don't read enough contemporary adult fiction--lots of YA, and a fair number of older books of adult fiction, but yeah. This collection of stories was great. Highly recommended. Tenorio is a Filipino-American writer, and these stories ranged from early 20th century, set in the Philippines, to very contemporary, set in the U.S., and everything between, often wandering. Really varying stories--lots of queers in them, lots of families, lots of relationships of all kinds: lovers, siblings, parent/child. I loved this book. You should all read it.