I’ve been doing a lot of reading, but not a lot of blogging, so once again, I’m combining reviews into one posting.
Cheerful Money, by Tad Friend: This is Tad Friend’s (a New Yorker writer) autobiography about growing up in a WASP family. It was very interesting to me, because I come from a Jewish immigrant family, the farthest from WASP you can get. My takeaway is that WASPs can be pretty messed up. On the one hand, proper and straightlaced, and wealthy. On the other hand, excessive alcohol use, much divorce, bizarre “black sheeps,” and stinginess despite the wealth. Like most everyone, Friend is ambivalent about his WASP environment. He loves the traditions and eccentricities and laments the fact that his kids won’t experience the same upbringing. However, sometimes he would like to be able to openly express an emotion. Cheerful Money is an entertaining anthropological study of a dying breed.
Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby: Nick Hornby is one of my “must read” authors. Yes, I know he’s been accused of writing “lad lit,” but then I love chick lit. At least good chick lit. And Nick Hornby is good. I read and loved High Fidelity, About a Boy, A Long Way Down, and How to Be Good. Juliet Naked is about a Annie, a woman whose boyfriend Duncan is obsessed with aging and reclusive indie rock star Tucker Crowe, who is relatively obscure but obsessively followed by his hard core fans. Annie and Duncan’s relationship is on the rocks, and Annie develops a relationship with Tucker Crowe, unbeknownst to Duncan. Juliet, Naked is light but sweet. Coincidentally, I had just seen the movie Crazy Heart, which is also about a washed up singer-songwriter who finds redemption in a younger woman. And in case I have any younger readers, my 16 year old daughter read Juliet, Naked and liked it so much that she’s moved on to High Fidelity.
Hot Springs, by Stephen Hunter: Not my normal genre, but to be quite honest, my husband has been bugging me to read it forever, and I thought that if I read it, then he’d read Tree of Smoke, which I’ve been wanting him to read. No such luck, although he swears he will read Tree of Smoke eventually. Anyways, Hot Springs was great. It’s about Earl Swagger, an ex-Marine just back from World War II and not quite ready for civilian life. He gets pulled into a plan to clean up Hot Springs, Arkansas, which is a mecca for gambling and prostitution and is run, no surprise, by gangsters. There’s politics, gangsters (Bugsy Siegel plays a role), family strife, personal strife, and lots of action and violence. The sympathetic characters, especially Earl, are what make the book better than the average action novel. My husband tells me there are other books featuring Earl, and some featuring his son. Something to look forward to.
Other books I’ve read, to be reviewed sometime in the near future, perhaps:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot — in a word, great. A must-read. Nonfiction, but reads like fiction.
Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen — engrossing, but worth all the hype that Jonathan Franzen’s been getting? Not so sure. Actually, has a lot in common with Juliet, Naked, reviewed above.
Elements of Style, by Wendy Wasserstein — fun, chick-lit. Nothing brilliant but doesn’t need to be.
Nemesis, by Philip Roth — it’s by Philip Roth, it’s about a public health epidemic. Do you think I wouldn’t read it? A short novel, but heart wrenching.
Neither Here Nor There, by Bill Bryson — another of my fave authors. Bill Bryson is hilarious. This is his account of traveling through Europe.
Fever Pitch, by Nick Hornby — yet another of my fave authors. Think I’ve read everything he’s written by now. Fever Pitch is an autobiography of sorts, told through Hornby’s soccer (football) obsession. Can’t imagine how they made it into a cheery American love story movie.