Monday, November 22, 2010

Joyce Carol Oates

This is a collection of sixteen stories by one of my favorite authors that explore how the power of violence, loss, and grief shape both the psyche and the soul. Many of the stories in "Sourland" revolve around the theme of women whose husbands have recently died, which is pretty dark and depressing and made me not really want to keep reading because this is a possibility it will happen ...and will happen one day given a 50-50 chance that I go first. Oates' writing draws on emotion and if recently widowed I would put off reading this one for awhile.
Jose Saramago's
The Cave

Very depressing story about an elderly potter who lives with his daughter Marta and her husband Marçal in a small village on the outskirts of The Center which is a huge complex of shops, apartments, and offices to which the old man delivers his pots and jugs every month in exchange for a small income. On one of these trips, he is told not to make any more deliveries. No explanations. But Cipriano is persistent and unwilling to give up his craft.   He tries his hand at making ceramic dolls which surprisingly The Center places an order for hundreds, and Cipriano and Marta set to work-until the order is cancelled and the three have to move from the village into The Center. When mysterious sounds of digging emerge from beneath their apartment, Cipriano and Marçal investigate, and what they find transforms the family's life. Filled with the depth, humor, and the extraordinary philosophical richness that marks each of Saramago's novels. I highly recommend this book as one of the best I have read in a long while.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lillian's Diaries: Whispers from Galena's Past
By Sheryl Trudgian Jones

A good friend of mine has edited the diaries of her ancestor, Lillian Trudgian. At age sixteen, Lillian started these diaries which are full of detailed description about the lives of her and her family and rural life in general.

Lillian not only recorded the chores and hardships of everyday life, but she also recorded births, deaths, marriage and all the important events in a family's history. I loved reading about the social events they attended, the visiting of friends and neighbors, the trips to do shopping in Galena.

My great-grandmother was born and raised in Cambridge, Illinois, and I am sure that if she had kept any type of journals the events would have been similar. Lillian's Diaries take us to another time and another in Illinois where life was simpler in so many ways, yet much more difficult in other ways. Killing of animals for food doesn't sound too appealing to me, but it was what Lillian and her family had to do to survive, like most people who lived in rural America in that era.

One thing that stood out to me about Lillian's diaries is that she did little, if any, complaining about all that she had to do, and she rejoiced in the little things.
by Stephen King

My husband I listened to this via audio CD in the car while on vacation last week. While it's not up to the same standards of Salem's Lot and It, Cell was the same gruesome King writing.

As usual, the story is an apocalyptic one that starts out in Boston and heads on up to Maine and other areas of northern New England. The chaos all starts when someone somewhere triggers "The Pulse," which was a signal sent out over the global cell phone network. Instantly, anyone who was using a cell phone at that moment turns into a mindless killer. Civilization predictably crumbles as the "phone crazies" attack each other and any unaltered people in view.

The hero, Clay is thrown together with middle-aged Tom McCourt and teenager Alice Maxwell and they attempt to make their way north, following the "flocks" of zombie-like humans while plotting along the way how they will try to stop them. Clay's other motives for moving north is to try to find his son who he hopes had not used his cell phone when "the Pulse" occurred.

In the end Clay does find his son, but I do not like how this story concludes and leaves the reader hanging. I have been disappointed in the ending of King's last few books. I don't know if I will bother reading any more of them since they haven't been bringing anything new.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein was always looking for something fresh and new and this experimentation with language will leave most confused and wondering what the heck does this all mean. In TENDER BUTTONS, Stein changes the meanings of words and uses them in sort of a linguistic art project.

While I still can't break the code, if there is one, it's still fun to read and to try to figure out. Objects, food and rooms come into a new perspective. With a sense of humor, Stein plays with her readers to help them partake in an imaginative experiment that requires us to leave behind what we know and create something new. (And don't try to take this book too seriously, which is what I did when I first read it at the university and hated it.)
Murder on the Orient Express
by Agatha Christie

I had seen the film adaptation of Agatha Christie's mystery novel, Murder on the Orient Express many years ago and had always meant to read the book but never got around to it until recently. Once again, as with most film adaptations, the book was far better than the movie.

Who-dun-its have always been a favorite genre of mine. I love to try to figure out the mystery by analyzing a large cast of interesting characters. The setting of this story is also intriguing -- an elite passenger train traveling through an exotic landscape. . . then gets stranded there while the story is told.

Hercule Poirot, a private detective and retired Belgian police officer, boards the Orient Express in Stamboul after he is summoned back to London. The train is unusually crowded for this time of year, and soon after the journey begins, it is discovered that someone has murdered nasty businessman, Richard Widmark. At the same time the train becomes stranded by an avalance which dumped snow on the tracks. Much to Poirot's puzzlement, everyone on the train seems to have a motive for the killing. I am not going to say anymore in case you haven't read it. I don't want to give anything away because it's just too enjoyable to try to figure out who the culprit really is, and a total surprise ending.

An oldie but a goodie.