Things to Read - Spring Reading (for Grown Ups)

I haven't posted about grown up books in awhile, so I figured I'd summarize some recent reads. What about everyone else? Any good suggestions for spring?

Housekeeping - I first learned of Marilynne Robinson's novel, Housekeeping, while perusing Flavorwire's list of the "new classics". Two of the compilation's contributors considered it one of the great books of the 20th century.

Housekeeping is sort of an odd novel, not much happens (despite the fact that the plot covers several years) and things seem to move slowly, or not at all. Almost like a memoir. By the end you realize that the pacing was purposeful in that conclusion seems almost hauntingly destined (how else could things have been?). Nothing truly bad happens (or does it? I can't decide) nor does anything even vaguely good happen. Life and personalities form through something along the lines of ambivalence. I can't say I loved this novel, but yet, I know it will stick with me much more than several novels I have loved. At it's heart, the story really dissects the concept of family - what it means to stay together and, also, what it means to go away.

I am the Executioner - This book of short stories has been on my Amazon wish list for years now. Seriously years. But somehow it never quite made it to the top. Anyways, now that I've finally read it, I can vouch for the fact that Parameswaran's short stories make for some fantastic (yet odd) reading.

The collection starts off with “The Infamous Bengal Ming”, in which the narrator, a tiger, accidentally murders his trainer and an infant all while trying to help. Um . . . I wasn't quite sure what to make of this, but Parameswaran's wonderful imagination and writing had me intrigued, so I kept reading. The stories run the gamut from super odd to everyday problems (a wife wonders if her life would be easier without her husband, then he chokes and dies, leaving her to contemplate if thoughts can really kill someone). All of the stories seem to mock the characters, while also empathizing with them - not an easy trick. And, really, I'm not quite sure how Parameswaran pulls it off. But wow, reading them was fun.

The Interestings - I tried to read this book three times and kept losing interest, mainly because the first chapter just isn't very good. But since I usually like Meg Wolitzer (esp. The Position), I decided to power through and soon I couldn't put the book down.

The Interestings centers on a group of friends, all artists of some sort, who meet at a creative camp for teenagers. The novel follows them throughout their lives, as one Interesting, a cartoonist, becomes uber-famous, while the narrator of the novel, Jules, comes to terms with her own artistic averageness.

Wolitzer switches the novel's timing between modern day and the past, which works well for the book, creating a sense of mystery (you know x happened, but you can't wait to find out WHY it happened). Further, this narrative also assures that the cliches of the first chapter are toned down (Wolitzer writes more believable adult characters than teenage characters). A good read.

The Optimist's Daughter - I picked this up for our trip to Charleston, mainly because I've never read Eudora Welty before and also because (cheesy as it sounds) I wanted to read a classical southern author while in the south.

Similar to Housekeeping, this is a slow read, where not much really happens. The novel centers on the days surrounding the funeral of a popular and loved judge as told through the perspective of his only child, a daughter. Perhaps because I too am an only child whose father recently died (is three years recent? it still seems recent), this novel struck something in me, especially as his daughter goes through her mother and father's old possessions and letters, trying to figure out how to process/what to do with the lives of the deceased.

A Good Fall - Ha Jin's novel, A Free Life , was one of my favorite reads over the past few years. So I've been meaning to read some of his other work for awhile now. And this story collection, which documents different Chinese immigrant experiences, did not disappoint.

The narrators vary from young to old, legal to illegal, but when combined they present a fascinating picture of what it means to be part of a society, but still not really belong.

1 comment:

  1. Oh these all sounds so interesting and I'm so desperate for new reading material! I read 'Housekeeping' for a college class. THAT BOOK. Stays with you. It's a quiet marvel.



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